Chapter II. In the Zuni Foothills
 

A sudden wail from the guide attracted the attention of the party to him at once. "Now what's the matter?" demanded Tad, hurrying to him.

The guide had thrown himself prone upon the ground and was groaning as if in great agony, offering no reply to the question.

"Are you sick?"

"Si, si, seņor," moaned Juan.

"Where?"

"Estomago-- mucho malo."

"Your stomach?"

"He's got a pain under his apron," diagnosed Stacy solemnly.

"Been working too hard," suggested Ned.

In the meantime the guide was rolling and twisting on the ground, glancing appealingly from one to the other of them.

"Professor, hadn't you better fetch your medicine case and dose him up?" asked Tad.

"Yes, I'll attend to him."

"Give him a good dose while you are about it," urged Ned. "Something that will cure his laziness at the same time."

The Professor brought his case; then, remembering something else in his kit that he wanted, he laid the case down and hurried back to his tent. However, Stacy opened the case, selecting a bottle, apparently at random, drew the cork and held the bottle under Juan's nose.

"Smell of this, my son. It'll cure your estomago on the run."

"Be careful, Chunky, what are you doing there?" warned Tad. "You shouldn't fool with the medicines. You--"

His further remarks were cut short by a sudden yell of terror and pain from Juan.

The guide leaped to his feet choking, gasping, while the tears ran down his cheeks as he danced about as if suddenly bereft of his senses.

"Now you've gone and done it," growled Ned. "He never moved so fast in his life, I'll wager."

Juan was running in a circle now, shrieking and moaning. Professor Zepplin approached them in a series of leaps. He could not imagine what new disaster had overtaken the lazy Mexican.

"Here, here, here, what's the trouble now?" He demanded sternly. "Stop that howling!"

"Chunky's been prescribing for your patient in your absence," Ned informed him.

The Professor grabbed the wild guide by the collar, giving him a vigorous shake. When he released his grip, Juan sank to the ground in a heap, moaning weakly.

"What's that you say? Stacy prescribed--"

"I-- I let him smell of the bottle," explained Stacy guiltily.

"What bottle?"

Stacy slowly picked up the offending bottle and handed it to the Professor.

"Ammonia! Boy, you might have put his eyes out! Never let this occur again. Remember, you are not to touch the medicines under any circumstances whatever!"

"Yes, sir," agreed Chunky meekly, while Ned Rector strolled away, shaking with laughter.

"Drink," begged the patient.

"Fetch him some water," directed Professor Zepplin.

"No, no, no, seņor," protested Juan, gesticulating protestingly.

"What do you want?"

"Guess he wants something stronger than water," suggested Ned.

"Si, si, si," agreed the guide, showing his white teeth in an approving grin.

"You won't get anything stronger than that in this outfit, unless you cook yourself some coffee," muttered Tad.

"That's what's the matter with him," decided Chunky, who had been observing the sick man keenly.

"Guess we drew a prize when we got Juan," announced Walter.

"Give him some medicine, anyway," urged Ned. "He is sick-- let him take the dose."

"Let him have the worst you've got in your case, Professor," added Tad, with a laugh.

A grim smile played about the corners of Professor Zepplin's mouth as he ran his fingers over the bottles in his medicine case. Finally, selecting one that seemed to fit the particular ailment of his patient, he directed Chunky to fetch a spoon.

By this time Juan was protesting volubly that he was "all better" and did not need the medicine. The Professor gave no heed to the fellow's protestations.

"Open your mouth," he commanded.

Juan shut his teeth tightly together.

"Open your mouth!" commanded the Professor sternly. "We want no sick men about this camp. It will fix you in a minute."

But the guide steadfastly refused to separate the white teeth.

"Boys, open his mouth while I pour the medicine down him," gritted the Professor.

They required no urging to do the Professor's bidding. Tad and Ned ranged themselves on either side of the patient, while Chunky sat on the guide's feet. Almost before he was aware of their purpose the boys had pried his jaws open and into the opening thus made professor Zepplin dropped the concoction he had mixed.

The effect was electrical. Juan leaped to his feet as if elevated by springs, uttering a yell that might have been heard a mile or more on the open plain. But Juan did not run in a circle this time. Acting upon the mathematical theory that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, the guide made a break for the spring, howling like a madman. The Pony Rider Boys looked on in amazement.

Juan fell on his knees before the spring, dipping up the water in his hands.

"What did you give him, professor?" grinned Tad.

"Hot drops!" answered the man of science tersely.

"Not that stuff you fed me when I ate too much honey in the Rockies?" questioned Stacy.

"The same."

"Wow! I had ten drops and it felt like a pailful when it got inside of me."

"How much did you give Juan?" questioned Walter.

"Twenty drops," answered Professor Zepplin without the suspicion of a smile on his face this time.

The Pony Rider Boys added their yells to those of the guide, only with a difference. The more Juan drank of the spring water, the more did the hot drops burn.

All at once he sprang up and started for the plain.

"Catch him!" commanded the Professor.

With a shout the lads started in pursuit. They overhauled the guide some twenty rods from camp, he having proved himself fleet of foot. Then again, the fire within him perhaps helped to increase his natural speed.

"I burn! I burn!" he wailed as the boys grabbed and laughingly hustled him back to camp.

"You'll burn worse than that if you ever ask for liquor in this outfit," retorted Ned. "We don't use the stuff, nor do we allow anyone around us who does."

"How do you feel now?" grinned the Professor as they came up to him with their prisoner.

"He's got a whole camp-fire in his little estomago," announced Chunky solemnly, which sally elicited a loud laugh from the boys.

"Give him some olive oil," directed the Professor. "I think the lesson has been sufficiently burned into him "

But considerable persuasion was necessary to induce Juan to take a spoonful of the Professor's medicine. He had already had one sample of it and he did not want another. Yet after some urging he tasted of the oil, at first gingerly; then he took it down at a gulp.

"Ah!" he breathed.

"Is it good?" grinned Tad.

"Si. Much burn, much burn," he explained, rubbing his stomach.

"Think you want some liquor still, Juan, or would you prefer another dose of my magic drops?"

"No, no, no, seņor!" cried Juan, hastily moving away from Professor Zepplin.

"Very well; any time when you feel a longing for strong drink, just help yourself to the hot drops," said the Professor, striding away to his tent, medicine case in hand.

The guide, a much chastened man, set about assisting in getting the evening meal, but the hot drops still remained with him, making their presence known by occasional hot twinges.

Supper that night was an enjoyable affair, though it was observed that the guide did not eat heartily.

"Do you think he really had a pain?" asked Walter confidentially, leaning toward Ned.

"Pain? No. He wanted something else."

"And he got it," added Stacy, nodding solemnly.

A chorus of "he dids" ran around the table, stopping only when they reached Juan himself.