Chapter XXI. The Fat Boy's Discovery
 

"I saw him! I saw him, Tad!"

"Saw who, Chunky?"

"I tell you, I did. Don't you s'pose I know what my eyes tell me in confidence. Don't you to go to contradicting to me."

Stacy had fairly overwhelmed Tad Butler with the importance of his discovery; but, thus far, Tad had not the least idea what it was all about.

"When you get quieted down perhaps you'll be good enough to tell me who it is you saw?"

"The man, the man!"

"Humph! That's about as clear as the water in an alkali sink. What man?"

"The one we saw on the train. Don't you know?"

Tad thought a moment.

"You mean the one we heard talking just before we got to Bluewater?" Butler had entirely forgotten the incident.

"Yes; that's him! That's him," exploded Stacy.

"You say that fellow-- Lasar, that's his name-- is he here!"

"Uh-huh."

"Where?"

"He got off the stage down by the postoffice, just when I was coming up here."

"Was he alone?"

"The other fellow wasn't with him, if that's what you mean?"

"Yes." Tad went over in his mind the conversation the man Lasar had held with his companion, in which the pair were plotting against some one by the name of Marquand.

"Oh, well, Chunky, it's none of our concern. I think we must have magnified the incident. I--"

"He'll bear watching, Tad. He will and it's muh-- muh-- you understand who's going to do it," declared Chunky, swelling out his chest and tapping it with his right fist.

"All right, go ahead," laughed Tad. "It's time some of us get into more trouble. The Professor will begin to think we've got a fever, or something, if we let two days in succession pass without stirring up something."

"I've got an idea," exploded Stacy.

"There you go. It's coming now."

"I'll go tell the policeman."

"Why, you ninny, there are no policemen here. Perhaps there is a sheriff. Hello, here comes the gentleman who gave me the advice that helped me to win those handsome spurs. He's introducing himself to the Professor and Mr. Kringle. Let's go over."

Forgetting for the moment the subject they were discussing, Tad and Stacy strolled over to the camp-fire.

"O Tad, this is Mr. Marquand, Mr. James Marquand from Albuquerque. He wants to know you. And this is another one of our Pony Rider Boys, Master Stacy Brown," said the Professor, presenting his boys.

"Marquand!" exclaimed both boys under their breaths.

"I am glad to know you, Master Butler. That was a very fine piece of work you did this afternoon. You've steady nerves."

"If there's any credit due it is to you. Your suggestion helped me to win the prize. Without it I should have failed," answered Tad generously.

"Which way are you headed?" asked Mr. Marquand.

"Guadalupes," answered the guide. "The boys want to explore some of the old pueblos."

"And I also," spoke up Professor Zepplin. "I understand there is much of interest in them."

"I should say so," muttered their guest.

"I'd like a few moments to speak with you in private, if you can spare the time," said Tad in a low voice, at the first opportunity.

"At your service now, sir."

"No; not here."

"Then come to my room at the hotel. I'll fix it with the others," said Mr. Marquand, observing at once that the lad had some serious purpose in mind.

"My friend Chunky will go with me, if agreeable to you?"

"That's all right. Professor, if you have no objection I should like to have these two young men go to my quarters with me for a little while. I--"

"Certainly. Don't stay out too late, boys."

"No, sir."

"Wonder what they've got up their sleeves?" muttered Ned, watching the receding figures of his two companions and Mr. Marquand.

"You may talk," smiled the latter after they were well started.

"I'd rather not until we are where we shall not be overheard," answered Tad promptly.

All three fell silent. The boys followed their host to his room, apparently without having been observed. The little village was too full of its own pleasures to notice.

"Be seated, boys. I take for granted that neither of you smoke?"

"Oh no, sir."

"Now, what can I do for you? I am sure you have something of importance to yourselves on your minds."

"Not to us specially. Perhaps to you, though," replied Tad.

"Indeed?"

"We may be foolish. If so, you will understand that we have no motive beyond a desire to serve you."

"That goes without saying."

"Do you know a man by the name of Lasar-- Bob Lasar, Mr. Marquand?"

Mr. Marquand started, eyeing both lads questioningly.

"Yes; he is associated with me in a business venture."

"Told you so," interjected Stacy.

"What of him?"

Tad wished he was well out of it all. To be obliged to tell all he knew of Bob Lasar, and to the latter's partner, was rather a troublesome undertaking.

Plucking up courage, Tad briefly related all that he and his companion had overheard on the train as they were approaching Bluewater to all of which their host listened with grave attention and increasing interest.

"The incident probably would not have come back to me again but for certain things that happened to-day," Tad continued.

"Would either of you know Lasar were you to see him again, do you think?"

"My friend Chunky Brown saw him here to-day."

"Saw him get out of the stage in front of this very hotel," nodded Stacy.

"You are right. He is here. Mr. Lasar had stopped off at a near-by town on a personal matter. Can you describe the man whom you saw with him on the train?"

"As I remember him, he was slightly taller than Mr. Lasar, with red hair and a moustache of the same shade."

"Yes, that's Joe Comstock. No doubt about that," nodded Mr. Marquand. "You didn't hear them say what their plan was, then?"

"Not definitely. Only that they intended to rid themselves of you after having obtained possession of your plans for finding the treasure, or at least learning where it is hidden."

"Hm-m-m!"

Mr. Marquand sat thoughtfully silent for several minutes, the lines of his face growing tense and hard. The boys could see that he was exerting, a strong effort to control himself.

"You-- you haven't told them your plans?" questioned Tad, in a subdued voice.

"No. I was going to do so to-night, if Comstock had arrived. He may get in yet."

"But you won't do so now-- will you?"

"No! I thank you, boys," exclaimed their host, extending an impulsive hand to each at the same time.

"Then-- then our information is going to be of some use to you?"

"More than you can have any idea of. You have done me a greater service than you know. I thank you-- thank you from the bottom of my heart! Perhaps, ere long I may be able to show my appreciation in a more substantial manner."

Marquand ceased speaking abruptly and began pacing back and forth, hands thrust deep into his coat pockets. He was a man of slight build, but strong and wiry. He was well past middle age, erect and forceful. Looking at him, Tad found himself wondering how such a man could have gotten into the clutches of two such rascals as Bob Lasar and Joe Comstock. Tad hoped their host would offer some explanation, while Chunky was nearly bursting with curiosity. Mr. Marquand appeared to have forgotten their presence entirely.

"I think we had better be going now," suggested Tad, rising.

"Wait!" commanded their host. "Sit down! I have something to say to you. Then, perhaps, I'll walk back to your camp and have a talk with the Professor. What sort of man is your guide?"

"He's a very fine man--"

"That's my idea. What you heard on the train is borne out by several little things that have come under my observation within the last few days, but I did not think they would go as far as you have indicated. I will tell you frankly, that I expect the treasure which we hope to find to be a big one. How I happened to take these men in with me, in the search for it, is unnecessary to state. However, I am done with them, now, for good. They know that I have not put my information on paper, or else they might have made an end of me before this."

"Is the treasure near this vicinity, Mr. Marquand?" asked Tad.

"About two days' journey. I expect to find it at or near the ruins of an old Pueblo house. You know they built their homes one on top of another. Some of their adobe houses are six and seven stories high. Even if we locate the place, we may experience great difficulty in finding that of which we are in search. How would you boys like to join me? It will be an interesting experience for you?"

"Help-- help you find the buried treasure?" questioned Chunky, his face red with suppressed excitement.

"Yes."

"Great!" chorused the lads.

"I'll talk with Professor Zepplin. Come, we will go over to the camp now."

When Mr. Marquand and the Professor had finished their conference, Tad and Chunky leaned forward eagerly to learn the result.

"Yes," nodded Mr. Marquand; "you're all going to help me find the ancient Pueblo treasure."