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The sun was high over the mountains when Ned awoke on the morning following the adventure with the counterfeiters. Leaving Jimmie, Frank, Teddy and Oliver in their bunks and Dode, the new acquisition to the party, curled up in a nest of blankets, he issued forth from the tent and looked about for Jack, who had been left on guard.
The boy was nowhere in sight at first, then he saw him at a spring which bubbled out of the mountain not far from the corral. It was the water from this spring which brought forth the tender grass upon which the mules were feeding.
Jack looked up with a shout when he saw Ned, and came running up to the camp, carrying in one hand a pail in which three large-sized chickens lay, nicely boiled, carved and washed.
"What do you think of that?" he demanded, pushing the pail up under Ned's nose. "I guess we're some hustlers for sustenance!"
"Where did you get the hens?" asked Ned. "They sure look good to me."
"You couldn't guess in a thousand years!" Jack replied. "So I'm going to tell you, right off the handle! Judd Bradley, the blonde fellow who brought the boy in, came up with them, with the compliments of Mrs. Brady, about an hour ago. He brought the boy up with him, too. What do you know about that?"
"Is it the prince, or is it Mike III.?" asked Ned, with a smile.
"If you leave it to me," Jack answered quite positively, "it is the prince!"
"How does he look and act this morning?"
"Like a kid raised under restraint, now free and full of the de--Old Nick!"
"And Bradley?" asked Ned.
"That's another point! He watches the kid every second of the time, and when the boy speaks a word of French he looks daggers at him! I reckon the son of Mike II. wouldn't be talking French! Nor he wouldn't be here with a chaperon from Washington. We have found the prince, all right, and I'm sorry for it! It makes our work too easy!"
"Don't crow until you're out of the woods!" laughed Ned. "There may be a few adventures in store for us yet! So this seven-year-old boy talks French, does he?"
"You bet he does! Like a native!"
"Where are they now--Bradley and the boy, I mean?"
"Down by the mules! The boy, who is constantly called Mike-- ostentatiously called by that name--wants to ride Uncle Ike! Fat time hell have if he gets aboard of that argumentative brute!"
"Are they going to help eat the chicken?" asked Ned.
"Sure! I told them to stick around until I got the most beautiful chicken pie built they ever touched tongue to. They're going to stay. You go and talk with them while I make the pie. It is going to be a corker--melt in your mouth, make you dream of the old red barn down on the farm!"
"Ever make a chicken pie?" asked Ned.
"Of course not! There's got to be a first time to everything! But I know how. I've got a recipe here which is used by the chef at Sherry's."
"Go to it!" laughed Ned. "I'll take my chances on having canned meat for dinner."
"You just wait!" roared Jack, as Ned dashed down to the spring.
Jack stood a moment, pail in hand, watching Ned washing at the spring, and then went on to the fire, leaving Ned to proceed to the corral and entertain the guests.
Jimmie was just tumbling out of the tent when Jack came up with the chicken. That young man immediately set up a shout which awakened the others and brought them out rubbing their eyes.
"Chicken for breakfast!" he shouted.
"Chicken pie for dinner!" Jack corrected.
"All right!" sighed the boy. "Then I'll cook a couple of pounds of ham and a couple of dozen eggs for breakfast! That ought to keep us alive until you get the pie ready!"
"How do you make chicken pie?" demanded Frank. "I've always wanted to know how to make a pie out of a hen."
"You just watch me," Jack answered, not without a touch of pride, "and I'll show how it is done. Here, young man, don't set down on my dough! That's for the crust."
Jimmie bounded off a camp stool where the cook had deposited his crust-dough on a clean white paper and watched Jack line a six-quart tin pail with the mixture of flour, water and baking powder.
"That ain't thick enough!" he commented. "The crust ought to be an inch thick."
"You go out and feed the mules!" ordered Jack. "When I want any help in making a chicken pie I won't call on you!"
"Anyway," Jimmie insisted, "it ought to be an inch thick."
Jack laid the pieces of chicken in the bed of dough--the chickens having been cooked tender long before Ned was out of his blankets-- and put in salt, pepper, a small piece of butter--out of a glass can!--and then poured in some of the liquid the chickens had been stewed in."
"If there should happen to be a drumstick you can't get in," Jimmie volunteered, "I can eat it for breakfast!"
"So that's why you wanted the crust so thick!" cried Jack. "You wanted to crowd the chicken out so you could stuff yourself with a hen for breakfast! Run along and play you'r a baker's wagon delivering goods on the Bowery!"
"You're the wise little man--not!" Jimmie grunted and set about cooking ham and eggs for breakfast.
"How long will it take that chicken pie to cook?" asked Teddy.
"Couple of hours," replied Jack. "Sometimes it takes longer."
Jack prepared a great bed of coals, drew up dry wood to make more, and set the pail of chicken pie in the heavy double oven to cook.
"I'm making this 'specially light and sweet," he said, poking the coals up to the oven, "because we're going to have a prince of the royal blood to breakfast."
"Where is he?" asked Jimmie, with a grin, "Down by the mules! He brought these chickens to us--or his chaperon did! Rather thoughtful of him! Say, Frank" Jack added, "will you go down to the corral and take a lot of snapshots of the kid? I want to send some home to Chicago, just to convince the boys I've been dining with royalty."
"Dining with Mike III.," Frank laughed. "It is dollars to dills that the boy trying to get on Uncle Ike's back is fresh from the Washington slums!"
"Look you here, little man," Jack began, but just at that moment Ned, Bradley, and the boy appeared on the slope, headed for the camp. The boy was seated on the back of Uncle Ike, who, for a wonder, was marching along sedately, as if accustomed to being made the plaything of children.
"I wouldn't have believed it of him!" Jimmie muttered. "I wouldn't have trusted a kid on that wild animal's back any sooner than I would have trusted eggs to a hay-baler. Uncle Ike's sure going into a decline!"
The boy came riding up ahead of the others and shouted to Jimmie:
"Gardez! A cheval!" he shouted, urging the mule into a trot.
"That's your kid from the Washington slums!" Jack laughed, scornfully. "Talking French!"
"What does he say?" demanded Jimmie.
"He says for you to be on your guard--to look out for yourself--as he is coming on horseback. I don't know much French, but that is easy!"
Bradley hastened to the boy's side and said something to him in a tone which the others could not hear, the lad coloring slightly as he listened.
"He's jawing him for speaking French!" Jimmie commented.
"It looks like it," Jack observed. "Oh, I reckon we've got the prince all right. I wonder when we are going to start back to Washington with him, and if Ned will pinch that blonde beauty who brought him in?"
Uncle Ike stopped at the campfire and stuck his nose into Jimmie's pocket, looking for sugar. Mike III., as some of the boys insisted on thinking of the little fellow, dropped off and seized the animal by the tail and began to pull. Frank ran to get the child out of his dangerous position, but Uncle Ike merely looked around to see what it was that was pulling his tail winked one eye at Frank, and went on searching pockets.
"That mule sure gets my goat!" grinned Jimmie. "What do you think of his standing still while his tail is being pulled?"
By this time Jimmie had prepared breakfast, and the boys gathered about the fire with tin plates on their knees, and devoured ham and eggs, baked beans, and bread and butter and coffee with a mountain relish. Mike III. ate what was given to him at the first helping and then clamored for more. Bradley whispered something in his ear, but the boy pushed him off with a scowl:
"Alles-vous en!" he cried, angrily.
Jack snickered and Frank looked as if he had made a mistake in his estimate of the boy and knew it! Bradley drew the boy away, but Jimmie hastened to replenish his plate.
"Let the kid have all he wants!" he said. "We can cook more. We're going to have a chicken pie for dinner, and he'll like that."
"Seems to me it is about time Jack was looking after that pie," Frank suggested.
"Pretty near forgot it!" Jack admitted, going to the oven and opening the door so as to look inside at the dainty.
Something took place when he did that! The square piece of metal flew back on its hinges with a thump, and cut of the oven flew the cover of the tin pail in which the chicken pie had been tucked. It shot across the fire and struck Jimmie under the ear and then rolled back into the blaze!
"Jerusalem!" cried the boy. "What you shootin' at me for?"
No attention was paid to what the boy said, for at that moment a wave of dough, spotted here and there with pieces of chicken, puffed out of the pail and tumbled over Jack's stooping shoulders and on into the fire, where it continued to grow until the fire half consumed it.
"Catch the chicken!" yelled Frank. "He's running away."
Jack tried to keep the dough in the oven, but it rolled out and covered his hands and arms with a sticky mess. The little fellow screamed with delight.
"Oh, oh, de mal en pis!" he shouted.
"Grab the chicken!" shouted Teddy. "We can finish breakfast on that!"
While the mess was being cleared up, Frank asked Jack:
"How much baking powder did you put into that dough?"
"Only one can!" was the reply, and Frank went away and rolled on the ground!
"Say," Jimmie whispered to Jack, who was scraping the chicken pie off his clothes, "what did the kid say when he pushed Bradley away, and when the pie busted?"
"First he said 'be off with you' or 'let me alone' next he said 'from bad to worse' Or something like that. Look at Bradley. He's calling him down for it, right now. I'm going, to talk French to that kid when Bradley goes away. I'm going to know about this three Mike and this prince business!"
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