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Young Hunters of the Lake by Ralph Bonehill

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"Or when you're caught in a blizzard," added Shep. "Do you remember
that blizzard last Christmas?"

"Will we ever forget it," answered Giant. "Just the same, what
Snap says is true---give me such an outing as this every time.
Some fellows are always hankering after the city---but I never did."

An hour later the young hunters reached the end of the lake, where
a small, rocky watercourse joined that body of water to Firefly
Lake. Here they went into camp, pitching their tent in a convenient
spot among the trees. Over a bright campfire they cooked some
of the fish to a turn, and took their time eating the meal. Then
they sat around and chatted, and Giant told his chums something
which interested them not a little.



The boys were talking about money matters in general and inheritances
in particular when Giant mentioned the fact that his mother had some
money coming to her, but could not get possession of it.

"You know my mother came from France," said the small member of the
club. "She arrived in this country when she was about sixteen years
of age, coming with an uncle, who was her guardian. My uncle's name
was Pierre Dunrot, and he was by profession a teacher of ancient

"No wonder you always get your history lessons so easily," was
Whopper's comment. "It must run in the blood."

"You keep quiet, Whopper, and let Giant tell us about this money,"
interposed Snap.

"After my mother was in this country about six years, she met my
father and married him. My uncle approved of the match, although
he told my mother he wished she had married a Frenchman instead
of an American. They all went to live at a place called Watchville
on the seacoast. My uncle was then writing a great work on ancient
history to be issued in ten big volumes."

"Phew! I hope he didn't want any fellows to study it," murmured the
doctor's son.

"Mother has told me that my uncle was all right in his mind while
I was a little boy and when my father was alive. But after my
father died Uncle Pierre grew kind of queer in his head. My mother
thought it was too much study and she advised him to take a rest.
But he said he must get his big history written and he kept on
writing and burning the midnight oil as college fellows call it, and
it made him queerer and queerer every day.

"One day he went to the post-office for his mail. That was when
I was about nine years old. When he got back he began to dance
around and he caught me by the hands and rushed around the house
like a crazy man. 'A hundred thousand francs! A hundred thousand
francs!' he kept calling out, over and over again. Then my mother
asked him what he meant. He said a distant relative had died and
left him and her a hundred thousand francs."

"How much is that?" asked Whopper, who knew little about French

"A franc is worth about nineteen cents," said Snap.

"Yes, and a hundred thousand francs is about nineteen thousand
dollars," went on Giant. "My mother tried to get the particulars
from Uncle Pierre, but he was so excited she could not, excepting
that half the money was coming to himself and half to her. He said
he would see about it the next day.

"That night there came a violent thunderstorm and our house was
struck by lightning. The only damage done was to one corner in
which was located Uncle Pierre's writing desk. The desk was ripped
apart by the lightning bolt and some of his precious manuscripts
were burnt.

"When my uncle discovered that part of his great historical work
had been destroyed he acted as if he was insane. He was almost
on the point of committing suicide, but my mother stopped him.
She told him to remember about his good fortune in having all
that money left to him, but he only shook his head and said he
would rather have his manuscripts back. At last she got him to
bed, but in the morning he had disappeared."

"Disappeared?" came from the others.

"Yes. He had put on the oldest suit of clothes he had and gone away.
Of course my mother sent out an alarm, and men hunted all over for
him. But he was not to be found."

"But you found him later," ventured Snap.

"No, he was never found. When folks learned how queerly he had acted
all came to the conclusion that he had gone to the river and drowned
himself, and after awhile my mother thought so too."

"And what of the fortune?" questioned Shep.

"My mother tried to find the letter Uncle Pierre had received,
but that was gone too. Then she wrote to France. She learned
that some money was really coming to her and my uncle, but could
not get any particulars. She even employed a lawyer, but after a
year the lawyer gave up, too. There was a mystery about the whole
affair and the solution, it seems, rested with my Uncle Pierre."

"And you never got the money?" asked Whopper.

"Not a dollar of it."

"It's queer you never spoke about this before," said Snap.

"Well, mother doesn't like to speak of it, because she doesn't want
folks to know we had a crazy man in our family. But Uncle Pierre
wasn't really crazy---he was only queer---and that lightning bolt
burning up his beloved manuscripts unset him completely."

"I hope you'll get that money some day, Giant," said Snap. "I
wouldn't give up trying for it so easily."

"When I am a man and can afford it, I am going to France and try
to hunt it up," answered the small youth.

"Does your mother ever say anything about it?" questioned Shep.

"Not much. She hates to think of my uncle. She was very much
attached to him, and to have him disappear like that makes her
shudder and feel very bad."

"Were you living over on the coast when he disappeared?"

"Oh, no, we were living at a place called Bartonville, about twenty
miles to the north of here. My father used to be cashier of the
Bartonville Lumber Company."

"I once heard of a man disappearing and coming home fifteen years
later," said Shep. "But he simply ran away because he had some
trouble with his wife."

"I heard of a case like that," put in Whopper, with a grin on his
face. "That man wanted his wife to make him some gooseberry pie and
she wouldn't do it. When he came back he asked her, 'Maria, will
you make the gooseberry pie now?' and she answered, 'no.' 'All
right,' said he, 'I'll go away again,' and he did."

"That's a whopper all right enough!" cried Snap. "It's about time
you turned up. You have been very quiet lately."

"I never tell anything but the strict truth," said Whopper, meekly.

When it came time to retire, Snap asked the others if they should
post a guard.

"Oh, I think we are safe enough without one," answered the doctor's
son, who was fagged out. "Let's chance it."

"Most of our outfit is on the boat," said Whopper. "I don't believe
anybody will carry it off."

"Let us fix the fire so it will burn the most of the night," said
Giant. "That will scare off any wild animals that may be prowling

Wood was to be had in plenty, and they cut several sticks which
were not very dry and would, consequently, burn slowly. They sat
up until about nine o'clock and then turned in, resolved to be up
at daybreak and on their way once more, directly after breakfast.

It was cozy enough in the tent, which was just large enough to
accommodate the four boys. As they were to remain there but one
night they had not fixed up any couches further than to throw
down some dry brushwood and a few cedar boughs. Giant and Whopper
rested at the rear of the tent and Snap and Shep in front, close
to the half-open flap.

Snap had been asleep about two hours when he awoke with a start.
He listened and heard the bark of a fox not very far from the camp.

"Wish I could bring him down, just for the fun of the thing," he
murmured to himself, and then, reaching for his shotgun, he arose
and tiptoed his way out of the tent.

The fire had burned low and Snap was wise enough to slink into the
shadows, so that the fox might not see him. Just back of the
temporary camp was a big rock and toward this he crawled, keeping
his firearm before him and ready for use.

Several minutes passed, and then he heard the bark of the fox once
more, this time much closer. He strained his eyes to catch sight
of the creature, but the darkness under the trees was too great.

After that fully five minutes passed and Snap had about made up
his mind that the fox had gotten scared and turned tail, when he
heard a cracking of brushwood directly in front of him.

With eyes on the alert he watched in the direction from whence
the sound had proceeded, and at last caught the gleam of two small
eyes as they looked suspiciously at the campfire.

"Now is my chance," thought the young hunter, and raising his
shotgun he took hasty aim and pulled the trigger.

Only a sharp click followed, and all in a flash Snap remembered
that in the evening he had cleaned the firearm, but had not loaded
it. The fox heard the click, caught sight of Snap, and whirling
around made a leap for the woods and was out of sight in a twinkling.



"Well, of all the chumps in this world, I'm the worst!"

Thus it was that Snap upbraided himself for having forgotten to load
the firearm. He knew it would be useless to dash back to the tent
for ammunition---the fox was gone and would take good care to keep
its distance.

Much chagrined over his mistake, the youth turned back and walked
toward the fire. Then he set his gun against a tree and built up
the blaze a bit, for the night was chilly. He was just about to
leave the fire and crawl back in the tent when a voice reached him:

"Who is out there?" It was Shep who asked the question.

"It is I, Snap," was the reply.

"What's wrong?" And now the doctor's son poked his head from the

"I heard a fox and thought I'd shoot him----but he ran away,"
said Snap. He was in no humor to tell about the empty shotgun, for
he did not wish his chum to have the laugh on him.

"Oh, is that all. Say, do you know it's cold?"

"Yes, and that is why I am stirring up the fire," answered Snap.

"Do you know, I had an awful dream," continued the doctor's son.
"It has left me wideawake."

"Better go to sleep, Shep, or you'll be fagged out in the morning."

"I dreamed somebody ran away with our boat and all our supplies,"
went on Shep. "We didn't have a thing left, and we were in our

"You must have been thinking of Ham Spink and Carl Dudder, and what
they did last year."

"Maybe. Of course the boat and outfit are safe," went on the
doctor's son.

"I suppose so---I haven't looked."

"Just take a look before you turn in, will you?"


Shep's head disappeared, and Snap finished fixing the fire. Then
he turned to the lake, where the boat with the most of the outfit
had been left, tied to an overhanging tree.

The craft with its contents was gone!

Snap could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses. He pinched
himself, to make certain that he was awake. It was true---the
craft was nowhere in sight.

At first he thought to arouse the others but then concluded to look
for the boat first. Perhaps it had only broken away and was
drifting close by. If so he would bring it back and fasten it
securely without giving the alarm.

But a five-minutes' hunt convinced Snap that the rowboat with its
valuable contents was nowhere in that vicinity, and then he ran
back to the tent much disturbed.

"Get up, you fellows!" he called. "Get up! The boat is gone!"

At first nobody paid attention, for even Shep was asleep once
more. But then Giant roused up, quickly followed by his chums.

"What's the matter?"

"The boat and our outfit is gone!"


"Why---er---I dreamed it!" stammered the doctor's son. "Am I
awake or asleep?"

"You're awake," answered Snap, and then he continued hurriedly:
"Shep, do you think you heard somebody take the boat while you
were in a doze and so imagined you dreamed it?"

"I---er---I don't know. No, I don't think I did---my dream was so
unnatural. Come to think of it, the boat had wings and flew away.
Now, that couldn't happen."

"Not unless some wizard turned the craft into an airship," answered

All were soon at the water's edge and looking in all directions
for the missing rowboat. What had been left of the outfit had
been stored in the stern and tied down with a rubber cloth, to
keep off the heavy dew. They stirred up the campfire still more,
and each provided himself with a firebrand as a torch.

"This is the worst luck yet," observed the doctor's son, with
something like a groan. "Supposing we can't get our boat and
outfit back---"

"Oh, we've got to get 'em back!" burst out Whopper. "We'll do it if
we have to scrape the lake with a fine-tooth comb."

"I wish it was morning---we can't see much in the dark, even with
the torches," said Shep.

Giant was examining the shore, for the possible discovery of strange
footprints. But he could discover none that looked different
from their own.

"If I was an Indian I might distinguish them, but to me they all
look alike," he said.

What to do next the young hunters did not know. Had they had
a second boat they might have rowed up and down the lake, but
even this move was denied to them.

"Let us go up and down the shore on foot," suggested Snap. "It
is all out of the question to go back to bed---I couldn't sleep
a wink."

It was decided that Shep and Snap should go north while Whopper and
Giant went south. All procured new torches, and each took along
a gun.

"If you discover anything give the old whistle," said the leader of
the club.

The way Snap and Shep had chosen was anything but easy. To the
northward the shore of Lake Cameron was rocky and uneven, with
many gullies and little streams flowing over the rocks. More
than once they thought they heard somebody or some animal moving
but the sound proved to be nothing but the falling water. Once
Shep stepped into a hollow and was scared by the sudden appearance
of several big bullfrogs.

"Wish they were rabbits or squirrels, I might shoot them," he said.

"Well, you can shoot the frogs if you wish," answered Snap. "The
hind legs are as sweet as squirrel meat."

"I know that---but I'm not out for frogs just now. I want to find
that boat."

The two young hunters covered a quarter of a mile when they came out
on a small point of land overlooking the broad lake. As they, did
this Snag uttered a cry:

"What is that out yonder, Shep?"

"Why, I declare, it looks like the boat!"

"Just what I was thinking. How can we get to her?"

"I don't know---unless we swim over."

"Is anybody on board?"

"I can't make out---in fact, I am not at all sure it is the boat,"
was the slow answer.

The object they had discovered was quite a distance out on the lake
and the light from their torches reached it but faintly. The thing
was drifting down the lake slowly, and as they watched it almost
passed from view.

"Here, this won't do," cried Snap. "If it is the boat we must
catch her and bring her in."

"It's kind of cold swimming---this time of night," answered the
doctor's son, who did not relish such a bath.

"Here, you hold my things and I'll swim out," declared Snap, "I
don't think the water is any colder now than in the day time."

He was soon ready for the plunge, and noting the direction in
which the object had last been seen, he waded into the water.
The first touch felt icy, but after he had ducked down and taken
a few strokes it did not seem so bad. He struck out lustily,
and Shep held up both torches, that he might have some light by
which to guide himself.

Snap was a good swimmer, but the object out on the lake was further
away than he had calculated, and it took him fully five minutes to
get in the vicinity of it. The sky had clouded over a bit, hiding
the stars, so he could see little or nothing on the water. On the
shore he could see the two torches that the doctor's son was waving
and that was all.

At last Snap saw the dark object directly ahead of him. By this
time he was somewhat exhausted by his swim and he was glad to
think that he would soon be able to rest. Then he made a discovery
which did not please him at all.

The object was nothing more than a part of a fallen tree, the
trunk resting half in and half out of the water and several branches
sticking out in as many directions. At a distance it looked a
little like the rowboat but the resemblance faded completely as
he got closer.

"Too bad! I thought it was the boat sure!" he murmured. "Well,
I'll have to rest on the log a bit, before I strike out for shore."

He swam up to one of the branches and caught hold of it. He was
on the point of reaching for the tree trunk when an unusual sound
came to his ears.

Then Snap made a discovery that almost took his breath from him.
On the tree trunk rested a big wildcat, it's eyes gleaming fiercely
at the youth in the water!



Snap did not stand upon the order of his going, but went at once.
Without a thing with which to defend himself, he had no desire to
come into contact with such a savage creature as a wildcat, and,
consequently, he dropped back into the water in a hurry and started
back for the shore. He almost fancied he heard the wildcat splash
in after him, and a chill crept down his backbone which was not
caused by the night air.

"Hello! hello!" he yelled to Shep.

"Got the boat?" came back the cry.

"Not much! Get your shotgun ready and fire a shot into the air."

"What's the matter?"

"A wildcat is out here---on a floating log. I'm afraid he's after me."

"A wildcat! Want me to scare him away?"


The doctor's son now understood, and raising his shotgun with one arm
he pulled the trigger.

The report sounded out loudly in the night air and the echoes went
ringing over the surrounding hills.

In the meantime Snap continued to swim for the shore with all
possible speed. Fortunately he came in where there was a sandbar, so
that he could wade to solid ground. When Shep reached him he was
panting for breath.

"I wa---was---never so scar---scared in my, life!" he panted. "It was
only an old tree, and I was going to take a rest on it when I heard
the wildcat. He was a big fellow, and his eyes seemed to bore me
through and through. Maybe I didn't strike out for shore in a hurry!

"I don't blame you," answered the doctor's son. "Did he jump in the
water after you?"

"I don't know."

"And it wasn't the boat?"

"No, I didn't see a thing of the boat."

Snap lost no time in dressing, and in the meantime Shep kept his eyes
open for the possible appearance of the wildcat. But the savage
creature did not show itself, nor did the fallen tree come again
into view.

The report of the gun had reached Giant and Whopper, and they came
up on the run, fearing something serious had occurred.

"We walked along the shore for almost quarter of a mile," said Whopper,
"but we didn't see a blessed thing that looked like the boat. I am
afraid it's gone for good."

"If it is we'll have to go home, and that will be the end of this
outing," answered Shep.

"Oh, we're going to find that boat!" declared Giant. "But I don't
think we'll be able to do much until daybreak."

They followed the shore for a short distance further, and then went
back to the temporary camp. It was now half-past three in the morning.

"It will be growing light in another hour," said Whopper. "I move we
get breakfast and be ready to start off as soon as we can see."

His suggestion was carried out. Snap's swim had made him cold, and
he was glad enough to drink two cups of steaming hot coffee. The boys
had brought some doughnuts along, and these, with the coffee and some
fried fish, gave them a very appetizing breakfast. They took their
time eating, waiting impatiently for the first signs of light in the
eastern sky.

At last it was light enough to see almost across the lake, and then
they looked in all directions for some sign of the missing rowboat.
The craft was not in sight, and once again the party divided, this
time Whopper and Snap going to the south and Shep and Giant to the
north. Each took his gun along, and it was Snap who told them to make
sure the firearms were loaded.

"You never want to go out with an empty gun," he said.

"Humph!" muttered Giant. "Did you ever do such a thing?" But Snap
pretended not to hear and did not answer.

Whopper and Snap covered almost half a mile before they came to
a turn in the lake shore. Here there was quite a good sized cove,
and much to their surprise they saw two large tents standing among
the trees. Nearby was the remains of a campfire, with sticks,
an iron chain, and a big iron pot over it.

"I didn't notice this camp when we came up," said Whopper.

"All the folks here must be asleep," said Snap. But as he spoke
a man came from one of the tents and stared at them. It was Andrew
Felps, the rich lumber merchant who owned much of the land around
the lake and who had treated them so meanly the summer and the
winter previous.

"Hi, you!" roared Felps. "What are you doing around here?"

"Looking for our boat," answered Snap.

"Humph! This is a pretty time to visit our camp, I must say!"

"We didn't know you had a camp here," said Whopper.

"I'd like to know what you are doing here---after my ordering you away
last summer and last winter," went on the lumber merchant, sourly.

"Didn't I say I was looking for our boat?" said Snap.

"Well, if you've got a boat you must be camping up here."

"We stayed ashore over night, that's all. We are bound for Lake
Narsac," said Whopper. "Did you see a boat drifting past?" he

"No, I didn't," snapped Andrew Felps. "Look here," he continued.
"If this is a trick, let me warn you. You can't camp around here,
and that settles it."

"We don't want to camp around here, Mr. Felps," answered Snap. "All
we want is our boat, which got away from us last night. If you saw
anything of the craft---"

"I want you to get out of here!" roared the lumber merchant.
"I won't have you hanging around!"

At this moment two men came from one of the tents. They were Giles
Faswig and Vance Lemon, the lumber merchant's two friends, and the
men who had once tried to get the boys to let them have some
ammunition. They had treated the young hunters so meanly that the
latter had voted not to let them have any powder or cartridges and
this had broken up the outing of the Felps party.

"Hello, those young rascals are out here again!" muttered Vance Lemon,
who was naturally as sour as his name implied.

"Say, I've fixed them," whispered Giles Faswig, with a wink at Lemon.
"I'll tell you about it later. I took a walk late last night, and
I discovered they were camping not far from this spot."

"We are not young rascals!" cried Snap, indignantly. "We are just
as good as you are, and maybe better."

"Bah! don't talk to me!" growled Vance Lemon.

"You thought you were smart last winter, when you refused to sell
us a little ammunition," broke in Giles Faswig. "I haven't forgotten
that dirty trick."

"You know well enough why we didn't let you have the ammunition,"
answered Snap. "You didn't deserve it."

"Humph! Just wait, and you'll find out---" The man did not finish.

"Now I want you two boys to go away---and stay away!" cried Andrew
Felps. "If you are bound for Lake Narsac better be on your way."

"We can't go until we have found our missing boat," said Whopper.
"It must be somewhere on this lake."

"Make them go away," said Giles Faswig, and then he whispered
something in the rich lumber dealer's ear. Whatever he had to tell
made Andrew Felps grin.

Snap and Whopper saw the whispering and the grin, and instantly they
suspected some trick. They well remembered what a rage Faswig had
been in when they had refused to let him have any, ammunition.

"Look here, if you know anything about our boat I want to know it,"
said Whopper, without stopping to think twice.

"Your boat?" repeated Vance Lemon, and then he looked at Giles Faswig,
who winked.

"Yes, our boat," repeated Whopper. "We tied it to a tree last night
and now it is gone."

"I didn't touch your boat," growled Andrew Felps.

"Nor did I," put in Vance Lemon.

"You had better be gone about your business," came from Giles Faswig.
"We didn't come up here to be bothered by a lot of kids."

"We want our boat---and we are bound to get it," said Snap, firmly.

"Well, go find it," cried Andrew Felps.

"We want to know if anybody in this camp knows anything about the

Just then a boy of eight or nine years of age came out of one of the
tents, rubbing his eyes sleepily.

"Uncle Giles," he said, walking up to Faswig, "where are we going
to-day, and what are you going to do with that boat you brought in
when I woke up last night?"



Snap and Whopper listened to the words of the small boy with keen
interest. Instantly they came to the conclusion that the lad must
be speaking of their own craft.

"Hush, Dick!" cried Giles Faswig, hastily. "You go back in the tent
and stay there until these strangers go away."

"What boat did your uncle bring in last night?" asked Snap, walking
up to the lad.

"See here, you leave my nephew alone!" roared Faswig.

"Can't I speak to him?"

"No, I don't want him talking to the likes of you."

"He said you brought in a boat last night when he woke up," came from
Whopper. "Was it our boat?"

"None of your business!" snapped Giles Faswig, and as he spoke he
took his nephew by the arm and turned him back into one of the
tents. "Stay there, now mind!" he added, in a low, tense voice.

"It's a good deal of our business," said Snap, "if it was our boat."

"Come on and take a look around," added Whopper, and started for the
other side of the cove, where a mass of brushwood and overhanging
trees screened a portion of the water from view.

Giles Faswig strode up to the two young hunters and caught Snap by
the arm. The next instant the hand was shaken off violently and the
youth stood before the man with blazing eyes and doubled-up fists.

"Don't you try that again, Mr. Faswig," said Snap, in a cold,
measured voice. "You have no right to touch me."

"And you have no right in this camp."

"You clear out!" came from Andrew Felps. "I don't want you around
another minute."

Faswig stepped in front of the boys and so did Felps and Lemon. All
three of the men looked ugly, and Snap and Whopper did not know what
to do.

"Mr. Felps," began Snap, after a painful pause, "I want you to listen
to what I have to say. Last night our rowboat with our outfit on
board disappeared. I don't know if it drifted off or was stolen.
If it was stolen, and we find it out, somebody is going to be
arrested for the theft."

"Ha! do you call me a thief!" burst out the lumber dealer, in a rage.

"Not at all I am only telling you a few plain facts. We have every
reason to believe our boat is somewhere around this camp. If it
is I want to know if you are going to give it up peaceably, or if
we'll have to send down to town for an officer of the law?

"You---you---" commenced Andrew Felps, and then looked at Giles
Faswig, who had turned slightly pale.

"This may not be a serious business to you but it is to us," continued
Snap. "There are four of us in our party, and if you have our boat,
we can all testify to that fact. Three of us can stay here and watch
you while the fourth goes for the officer."

"Do you think we'd steal a measly rowboat?" asked Vance Lemon, but
he glanced at Faswig as he spoke, and his tone was an uneasy one.

"I don't know what you'd do. But that boy, said something about
bringing in a boat last night, and I want to know if it is our boat."

"How do I know whose boat it is?" growled Giles Faswig.

"Has it got the name _Snapper_ on it?" asked Whopper.

"I didn't notice. I saw a boat drifting on the lake and hauled it
in, that's all," answered Giles Faswig, curtly. "For all I know,
you are trying to get somebody else's property away from me."

"You let us see that boat, and we'll soon tell you if it is ours or
not," said Snap.

"I was out on the shore last night and I saw something drifting by
and drew it in," explained Giles Faswig. "I hauled it back of
yonder bushes. If you can prove it is your property you can take
it, but not otherwise."

"We'll soon find out," answered Snap, and walked over in the direction
pointed out. As he did this, Whopper put his little fingers in the
corners of his mouth and gave a piercing whistle.

"What's that for?" demanded Andrew Faswig, in alarm.

"We want our crowd down here---and some others," said Whopper.

"Some others? Who?" asked Faswig, and now he was also alarmed.

"Some folks who will give us all the help we want," said Snap, quick
to understand the ruse his chum was playing.

"How many people are up here?" asked the rich lumber dealer, nervously.

"Oh, seven or eight," answered Whopper, but did not add that he was
counting in Felps's own party.

Behind a thick mass of brushwood rested the _Snapper_, as the boys'
craft had been christened. The boat was very much as the lads had
left it, but Snap was quick to detect that the painter, which had
before had a frayed-out end, had been cut by some sharp instrument,
probably a knife.

"This is our boat," said Snap, as he looked the craft over.

"Humph, can you prove it?" growled Giles Faswig.

"Yes, and I can prove more if I have to," added the leader of the
hunting club.


"That the rope has been cut."

"What does that signify?" asked Andrew Felps.

"It shows that the boat didn't drift away. Somebody cut the rope and
made off with her."

"See here---" began Giles Faswig, and then stopped short. There was
a shout, and Giant and Shep burst into view.

"Got the boat, eh?" cried the doctor's son. "Good!" And then he
looked curiously at the men, and so did Giant.

"Come on and shove the boat out," said Snap. "We'll talk this over
later." And before anybody could stop him he was in the craft and
pushing out of the bushes.

"Say look here---" began Andrew Felps, but the boys paid no attention.
All got on board the _Snapper_, and in a moment more the craft was
out in the middle of the cove.

"Don't you try to make any trouble for me!" shouted Giles Faswig.
"I simply found that boat adrift and brought her in here for safety."

"And I don't believe a word you say," answered Snap. "I think you
visited our camp and stole the boat."

"And that is what I think," added Whopper.

A wordy war followed lasting fully ten minutes. It was plainly
to be seen that Giles Faswig and his companions were much disturbed,
thinking the boys would make trouble for them. At last the young
hunters rowed away and went back to their own camp. It was now
growing quite light.

"Did you ever hear of such meanness," was Snap's comment. "They
meant to keep our boat hidden until we had left this vicinity.
Then maybe, they'd cast it adrift and say they had nothing to
do with taking her."

"Well, we found out how mean they were last year, so it is nothing
new," said Shep. "You were lucky to locate the craft."

"It was all through that boy," returned Whopper. "I pity him if he
has Giles Faswig for an uncle."

"I think the best we can do is to leave Lake Cameron at once," said
Giant. "We don't want to run into that crowd again."

The others agreed, and by eight o'clock that morning the tent was
taken down and stored away and the journey to Firefly Lake was begun.

It was a clear, warm day, with bright sunshine overhead. The
woods were full of birds that sang sweetly, and being so near
to nature's heart, the young hunters soon forgot their troubles.

The stream leading from Lake Cameron to Firefly Lake was a tortuous
and rocky one, and more overgrown with bushes than it had been
the summer previous. At one point the spring freshets had rolled
in a number of big stones and these the boys had to roll out of the
way before the rowboat could get through. Not wishing to damage
the _Snapper_, they proceeded with care, so by dinner time less than
half the distance to the smaller body of water was covered.

"We won't get to Firefly Lake until to-night," said Snap. "But who
cares? We have plenty of time."

All were hungry for a taste of roast duck, and so they stopped off
long enough to cook a fine dinner. For dessert they had some
blackberries which they chanced to find growing near the watercourse,
and they stopped so long over their midday meal that it was after
two o'clock before the journey was resumed.

"Do you remember the awful windstorm we once struck up here?" queried
Shep, as they rowed along.

"Will we ever forget it," cried Whopper. "Gosh! I thought I was
going to be blown into the next century! Say, did I ever tell you
how it blew my socks inside out?" he added, with a grin.

"Hardly," answered Giant, and laughed.

"Fact, and the next morning I had to turn my shoes inside out to
accommodate the socks," finished Whopper. "Yes, that was a wind to

"Hurrah, Whopper is coming to his own!" cried Snap. "Whopper, what
would you do if you couldn't tell stories now and then?"

"Why, I'd---" began Whopper, and then leaped to his feet. "Well,
I never! Give me a gun, quick! There's a bear!"



"A Bear!"

"Where is he?"

"Let me get my gun!"

Such were some of the exclamations uttered after Whopper made his
declaration that he had seen a bear. In the meantime the youth who
loved to tell big stories had caught up his shotgun and was aiming
it to the right of the watercourse, where there were several big
rocks overgrown with brushwood. He took aim and blazed away. A
grunt followed, and then came a thrashing in the bushes, growing
fainter and fainter in the distance.

"You hit him!" ejaculated Snap.

"Yes, but he is running away for all he's worth," answered Whopper,

By this time every one of the young hunters had his firearm. The
boat was turned to the bank of the creek, and then each youth looked
at the others. Not a trace of the bear was to be seen anywhere.

"No use of going after him," said the doctor's son. "More than
likely he's half a mile away by this time and he'll be so shy he
won't let us get anywhere near him."

"If only we could have gotten a shot at him!" said Giant, wistfully.
"Think of bringing a bear down first lick!" And his eyes glistened.

"We might have crawled up on him, only I thought he saw us," explained
Whopper. "That's the reason I called for my gun."

"I guess he kind of scared you," said Snap.

"Well, I admit I was startled. I didn't think we'd find a bear along
here---I thought they hung up in the mountains."

"They may come down to gather some stuff that grows in this water,"
answered Snap. "They love to eat certain roots, so Jed Sanborn told
me, and sometimes they travel a long distance to get them."

After a little more talk the journey was resumed, and nothing out of
the ordinary came to their notice until late in the afternoon. Then
Shep, who was in the bow looking forward, held up his hand for silence.

"What is it?" whispered Giant, who was next to him.

"Some small animals squatting on yonder rocks," replied the doctor's
son. "I don't know what they are."

The young hunters stopped rowing and took up their shotguns with care.
They allowed the boat to drift behind a screen of bushes on the side
of the watercourse. Then they looked through the bushes with care.

"I know what they are---muskrats," whispered Giant.

"I see two of them," added Shep. He raised his gun and Giant did the
same. Bang! bang! went both pieces, one directly after the other.
The muskrats gave a leap upward and fell with a splash into the stream.

"We hit them, that's certain," said the doctor's son. "But they may
get away."

Eagerly the boys rowed up to the spot where the muskrats had sat.
Around the rocks the clear water was churned up into mud. But on
the surface floated the two bodies of the creatures.

"I don't know what we are going to do with them," said Snap. "The
skins are not very good this time of year."

"I couldn't resist bringing one of 'em down," said Shep.

"Just the way I felt," added Giant.

They continued on their way, and a few minutes later came to something
of a cleared spot along the watercourse. Here Snap leaped up, shotgun
in hand.

"Here's our chance, fellows!" he whispered. "All together."

He pointed to some low trees beyond the clearing. The branches
were thick with quail. All understood and took up their firearms.

"I'll shoot high, Shep can shoot low, Giant to the left and Whopper
to the right," commanded the leader of the club. "All ready?"

"Yes," was the low answer, and the four weapons went off almost as
one piece. There was a great fluttering in the trees and five quail
were seen to drop. Then two others flew around in a fashion that
told plainly they were seriously wounded.

"Come on, we must get them!" cried Giant, and leaped forward. As the
two wounded birds flew close together he blazed away a second time,
and the game dropped like a stone. The rest of the quail were now out
of sight.

"Seven quail!" cried Snap, enthusiastically. "I don't call that half

"I call it very good," declared the doctor's son. "To-morrow we can
have quail on toast."

"Where are you going to get the toast?" questioned Whopper.

"Well, we'll have quail on crackers then," put in Giant.

Stowing the quail away in the bow of the boat, they went on through
the gathering darkness. The sun had gone down over the hills in the
west, casting long shadows across the little watercourse.

"It will be pretty dark by the time we reach Firefly Lake," said
Snap, and he was right. It was cloudy too, and a stiff breeze from
the east had begun to blow.

"We'll have to take care how we pitch our tent to-night," was
Whopper's comment. "Unless I miss my guess, we'll have rain by
to-morrow morning."

"Oh, don't say that!" cried Giant. "I don't want it to rain yet."

"It won't hold off for you or anybody else," returned Snap. "Whopper
is right, we must stake our tent well and allow for the water to run
off---if rain does come."

When they at last rounded the final turn and swept into Firefly Lake
it was so dark they could see little or nothing ahead. But they
remembered the locality and had little trouble in reaching a spot
where they had camped once before. But the snows of the previous
winter had played sad havoc with the fireplace they had built, and
they had to build a fire in the open. While Whopper and Giant
prepared a substantial supper Snap and Shep put up the tent, on a
bit of high ground. Around the tent they dug a small trench, to
carry off the water, should it storm.

"We want to make sure that our boat doesn't get away from us again
to-night," said Whopper.

"Here is a cove---we can haul her up in that," said Snap, and this
was done, and the craft was tied fast to two trees.

Having had but little sleep the night before, all the young hunters
were tired out, and it was not long after getting supper that they
crawled into the tent and went to sleep. On account of the wind they
did not dare to leave the campfire burning, for they knew only too
well how easy it is to set a forest on fire through such carelessness.

At about two o'clock in the morning Giant awoke, to find the rain
coming down steadily on the tent. He crawled to the front of the
shelter and looked out. All was pitch dark, and, somehow, the
prospect made him shiver. The wind had gone down, and only the fall
of the rain broke the stillness.

"This is lonely enough for anybody, I guess," he mused, and crawled
back to his corners. "Shouldn't wonder if we have to stay in came
tomorrow. But I don't care---it will give us all a chance to rest

He struck a match, to see how the others were faring, and as he gazed
around he saw a small stream of water coming in through a hole in
the tent. The stream was falling close to Whopper's head. Just
then Whopper turned and the stream took him directly in the ear.

"Wh---wow!" spluttered Whopper, awakening and squirming around.
"What's the matter here? Has Niagara Falls broke loose, or who's
playing the hose on me?"

The noise aroused the others, and all sat up. By this time the match
had gone out, but Giant promptly struck another and then lit the camp
lantern. Whopper gazed at the hole in the tent ruefully.

"That's too bad," said Snap. "We'll have to mend that, the first
chance we get."

"We can't mend it to-night," answered Shep.

Gracious! Just listen to it rain!

The boys sat up for quite awhile listening to the rain, but presently
they grew tired again and one after another dropped off to sleep.
Whopper found a dry spot next to Giant; and thus they rested until

It was certainly a dismal outlook that confronted them when they
arose for the day. The rain was coming down steadily, and no dry
firewood was to be had with which to cook breakfast.

"We should have put some wood in the tent," said Snap. "We'll know
better next time."

It took a deal of coaxing to start a blaze, but once it got going
to keep it up was easy. They took their time, for traveling in such
a storm was out of the question. The meal over, they washed up the
dishes, and then huddled down in the tent once more.

"This is the only drawback to camp life," said Snap, with a sigh.
"A storm knocks everything endways. But there is no help for it, and
a fellow must take the bitter with the sweet."

The storm continued all day, and the only thing the lads did was to
fish. At this they were very successful, and a fine supper of fresh
lake trout put them in much better humor. They put in a peaceful
night, and the next morning, the storm having cleared away, they set
off for Lake Narsac.



"This is certainly a wilderness!"

It was Snap who uttered the words, as he stood in the bow of the
rowboat, taking in the scene before him. They had left Firefly Lake
five miles behind them and were on the winding stream leading to Lake
Narsac. On one side of the watercourse were rough rocks and on the
other a tangled mass of underbrush, backed up by rocks and tall cedars.

"A fellow could never make his way through such a woods as that,"
said Whopper, nodding in the direction of the forest. "Why, you'd
tear your clothing all to pieces!"

"I can tell you one thing," put in Shep. "I think there must be
plenty of game up here---if only one can get to it."

They had taken turns at rowing and poling the craft along. For
the most part the poling was better than rowing, for the stream
was too full of rocks to admit the free use of oars. Twice they
had bumped on the projections under water, once with such violence
that Giant, who had been standing at the time, had almost gone
overboard. Once they had to carry craft and outfit around a sharp
bend. The boat had started to leak a little, but not enough to
cause anxiety.

Noon found them encamped on a point of land where the stream appeared
to divide into two parts, one running to the northeast and the other
to the northwest. Which branch to take to get to Lake Narsac they did
not know.

"This is a fine how-do-you-do!" was Whopper's comment. "I wish we
had questioned Jed Sanborn about it."

"From what I thought he said I imagined there was but one stream
leading to the lake," said the doctor's son.

"Perhaps there is, Shep; but which is the one?"

"Don't ask me. One looks as good as the other."

"On the map Lake Narsac is to the northwest of Firefly Lake," came
from Giant. "Consequently I should say that we ought to take the
stream flowing in that direction."

"That sounds reasonable," answered Snap, and the others nodded.

Coming along the watercourse they had managed to shoot several
quail, of the sort known by many as partridge, and also some other
birds. Shep had likewise brought down two squirrels. They had
scared up several rabbits, but these had gotten away in the underbrush.

"Let us take a good rest before we go further," said Shep, while he
was eating. "There is no use of our killing ourselves with rowing
when we are only out for fun."

The others agreed, and as a consequence they took a nap after the
meal and did not get started again until three o'clock.

They soon found the stream they were on broad but shallow, and
felt sure it would lead to the lake. They kept on steadily until
six o'clock, and then came to a halt at a point where the watercourse
narrowed and ran between a series of jagged rocks.

"We ought to be getting to the lake pretty soon," was Snap's comment.
"Jed Sanborn told me we could make the trip from Firefly Lake in a
day if we didn't fool along the way."

"Well, don't forget that we stopped for a nap," answered Whopper.
"Perhaps we'll get there before it gets dark."

Having passed the rocks, they found the stream broadening out once
more. The bottom was now muddy, and here and there grew large clumps
of reeds and cattails.

"This seems to be more of a swamp than a lake," was the comment of
the doctor's son. "From what Jed Sanborn said I thought it was a
narrow stream all the way to the lake."

"So did I," added Giant. "I begin to feel that we have made a

"If we have, you're to blame," grumbled Whopper.

"Oh, you were willing enough to come this direction," answered Giant
sharply. "If we are wrong, you needn't blame me."

"It's your fault!"

"Oh, don't quarrel about it," interposed Snap. "We were all willing
to come this way. If we have made a mistake---" He did not finish.

"Don't croak until you are sure we are mistaken," said Shep.

A silence followed, and they moved on, the stream growing broader
as they advanced. It was a lonely spot, and as it grew darker the
loneliness seemed to increase. On all sides were the immense trees
and dense brushwood, while the stream was dotted with little
islands, covered with reeds and rushes and small, thorny bushes.

The sun had gone down, and as the darkness increased the boys looked
at each other wonderingly. This was not at all what they had expected.

"If this is Narsac Lake I don't want to stay here," remarked Shep.
"Why, it can't hold a candle to Cameron or Firefly."

"No wonder nobody comes here," grumbled Whopper. "It's nothing but
a swamp."

"This can't be Lake Narsac," answered Snap. "Don't you remember what
we heard---that it is a very deep lake, set right in among the
mountains. We have made a mistake."

"I see something ahead," said Giant, who was standing in the bow. "It
looks to me like a signboard. Let us row up to it."

"A signboard is just what we want," said Snap, and took up the
oars. Soon they reached the board, which was nailed to a post
set on one of the reedy islands. The board read as follows:

Hooper's Pond S. Hooper, Owner No campingers allowe

"Hooper's Pond!" cried Snap. "We certainly have made a mistake!"

"'No campingers allowed,'" read the doctor's son. "His spelling
and grammar are not very strong but he knows what he means."

"Well, we don't want to camp here," said Whopper in disgust. "Mr.
S. Hooper can keep his pond to himself and welcome."

"I think we'll have to camp here for to-night," said Shep. "We
can't go back to where we took lunch with darkness coming on.
And I am hungry, too."

They were all hungry and tired, and after a brief talk decided to
remain at the pond over night and in the morning retrace their way
to where the stream had forked.

"Shall we camp on one of the islands, or on the shore?" questioned

"The main thing is to find some dry spot," answered Snap. "To me
all the ground around here looks spongy and wet."

They tried several of the islands, but found them soft and uncertain,
and so rowed over to the shore on the west. Here was a little hill,
covered with dewberries, and having cleared a spot, they erected
their tent and built a campfire.

"If Mr. S. Hooper is around he may chase us away," said Snap. "But
we'll take the chance of his not being in this vicinity."

The swamp was full of flies and mosquitoes, and they were glad
enough to keep near the fire, to get rid of the pests. After the
cooking was done they built a smudge, of wet reeds, and this helped
to keep the insects away. But it was not a cheerful spot and when
the boys went to bed all felt depressed.

Snap was the first up in the morning, and while he was getting
breakfast ready, Giant took his shotgun and went off in quest of game.

"There ought to be plenty of wild fowl around a swamp like this,"
said the small member of the club. "I am going to see what I can
bring down before we leave."

"If you bring down much you'll have Mr. S. Hooper in your wool,"
answered Snap.

"I don't believe he is around. And, another thing, I didn't see any

"Nor I. I guess you are safe in bringing down whatever you can
hit. But don't stay out too long."

Giant walked to the other side of the little hill and then along a
cove of the big swamp. Far ahead he saw some birds, resting close
to the water's edge. He felt they might be quail or perhaps some
wild turkeys.

The ground was anything but firm, and Giant soon had to leap from
one dry patch to another. He was half tempted to turn back, but now
he was almost within gun-shot of the game and he hated to give up
the quest.

"I'll go back a bit from the water and come around on the other
side," he reasoned. Then he took to another course, only to find,
presently, that it was worse than the first. He was now between
clumps of reeds, and almost before he knew it one of the clumps
turned over on him, sending him into the water and mud up to his

"Gracious! this won't do!" he muttered, and tried to turn back.
He found the water and mud very treacherous, and in a few seconds
he went down again, this time to his waist. His feet were in the
mud so firmly that he could scarcely budge them. He let out a cry
for help. Then the mud below the surface commenced to sink, and
in a few minutes poor Giant was up to his armpits. What to do he
did not know, and it looked as if he would surely be drowned.



Snap had the breakfast well underway when Shep came out of the tent.

"Hello, you're at it early," remarked the doctor's son. "Why didn't
you call me and I would have helped you."

"Oh, I didn't want to disturb you, Shep, you were snoozing so

"Where is Giant?"

"Gone off to see if he can get some game before we leave."

"Do you want me to help with breakfast? If you don't, I'll try for
some game myself."

"Go ahead---only come back when I whistle," answered the leader of
the club.

The doctor's son was soon on his way, with his shotgun trailing in
his hand. He, too, crossed the little hill as Giant had done.
Hardly had he done this than he caught sight of a wild turkey and
let drive, bringing the game down some distance ahead of him.

"Now I am going to have some fun getting that turkey," he told
himself, as he surveyed the mud and water before him.

It was no light task to bring in the game, and the doctor's son got
both feet wet. But the turkey was a gobbler and of good size, and
he was very proud when he had the game over his shoulder in true
sportsman's style.

"Guess I'll go on a little further and see if I can stir up anything
else," he thought. "If game is plentiful around here maybe it will
pay us to stay for a day or two after all."

He trudged on, and had just caught sight of what looked like some
wild ducks when a cry reached his ears. At first he imagined it
came from behind him, and thought it might be Snap calling him to
breakfast, but then he concluded it came from in front.

"Must be Giant," he told himself. "What can he want?"

"Help! help me!" came presently, in a fainter voice.

"It is Giant, and he is in trouble!" burst from Shep's lips, and
then, without waiting, he gave a loud whistle, repeated several
times. This was the old signal among the young hunters that
assistance was wanted immediately.

Shep broke into a run, or rather a series of hops, for he hopped from
one bunch of reeds to another, until he came close to where Giant was
struggling in the water and mud. The small member of the club was
now almost up to his chin and trying with might and main to pull
himself from the treacherous mass that held him a prisoner.

"What's the matter, can't you get out?" asked the doctor's son.

"N---no!" gasped Giant. "Th---the mu---mud is li---like g-g-glue!"

Much alarmed, Shep looked around for something with which to aid his
chum. Nothing was at hand, but not far off he saw a small sapling
growing. He made towards it, and by a supreme effort pulled the
sapling up by the roots. Then he ran back and threw the top of the
little tree towards the unfortunate young hunter.

"Got hold?"


Shep began to pull, and after a mighty effort succeeded in raising
Giant several inches out of the sticky mud. But try his best, he
could not budge the small lad further.

"It's no go!" he gasped. "I am going down myself!"

"Do---don't le---leave me, Shep!"

"Leave you? Not much, Giant! I'll get you out somehow. But I'll
have to try some other way."

While the doctor's son was looking around for some other means to
employ in the rescue, a shout was heard, and Snap came running up,
followed by Whopper.

"What's the matter?"

"How did Giant get in that hole?"

"I don't know how he got in, but we must get him out," returned
Shep. "Can you fellows help pull on this tree?

"Wait, here is a small rope," said Snap. "I picked it up as I left
camp, thinking it might be needed. We can tie that to the tree end
and stand further back."

The rope was speedily adjusted, and then the three young hunters
were able to brace their feet on ground that was fairly firm.

"Now, hold tight, Giant!" sang out Shep.

"I'll hold as ti---tight as I ca---can," was the gasped-out answer,
for the small youth was all but exhausted by his struggles.

The others began a steady and strong pull, and inch by inch Giant
came up out of the sticky mud. To make his hold firmer he twined his
arms around the slender branches of the sapling.

"He's coming!" cried Snap. "Now then, one more haul and we'll have
him out!"

"Or broken in two," panted Whopper.

The final pull was given, and with a sucking sound and a splash the
small member of the club came to the top of the water. He fell on
the sapling and the others dragged him to a spot where it was
comparatively safe. Then he got up and looked at himself ruefully.
He was plastered with mud from his waist down.

"Never mind---be thankful that you're out," said Shep.

"I---I am thankful," was Giant's answer. "Bu---but I don't want any
o---of S. Hooper's mud. He ca---can have it all himself!" And this
was said so dolefully that all the others had to roar.

When they got back to the camp Giant told how he had chanced to get
into the mud. He was thankful that Shep had come along just in the
nick of time, and thankful that the others had come also. Luckily
he had a change of garments with him, and he lost no time, when he
was rested, in putting on clean clothes and in washing out those
which were soiled.

"After this I am going to be careful where I walk," he said, while he
was eating his breakfast.

"It puts me in mind of the time you and I got in the snow hole, last
winter," said Whopper, referring to an incident related in detail in
"_Guns and Snowshoes_."

"Yes, and I was just as lucky to get out," answered Giant.

After an hour's rest, and a good breakfast, Giant declared himself as
strong as ever. The tent was packed, and soon the young hunters were
on their way from Hooper's Pond.

"I hope we don't make any more false turns," observed Snap, as they
rowed and poled their way along. "I am getting a bit anxious to see
Lake Narsac."

So were the others, and that noon they allowed themselves only half
an hour for lunch. During that time some of the boys went fishing
in the stream and were lucky enough to catch some trout and several
suckers. Once Whopper got a strong pull, but it only proved to be a
mud turtle, much to his disgust.

"Thought I had a ten-pound fish," he said.

The middle of the afternoon found them on a clear, deep stream, which
broadened out constantly as they advanced. This made them certain
that they were nearing Lake Narsac, and they were correspondingly
elated. At one point in the stream they came to a beautiful island,
with elderberry bushes lining the shore and a patch of trees in the
center. As they drew closer they saw several rabbits and squirrels,
but did not get a chance to shoot the game.

"If we run short of food we can come here," observed Snap. "That
game can't get away from the island."

"Shall we stop off now?" asked Whopper. "We'll be sure to get

"No! no! Let us go on!" cried Giant. "We want to make Lake Narsac
by to-night, if we can possibly do it."

The others agreed with Giant, and they kept on until the long shadows
over the mountain to the westward told them that night was again

"Looks as if we'd have to camp in the woods along this river," said
the doctor's son.

"Oh, let us keep on until it is really dark," replied Giant.

"I'd like to see Lake Narsac, I must confess," answered Snap. "But
even if we get there inside of the next hour we won't be able to
see much."

Nevertheless, they kept on, until it was really dark. Then, by
mutual consent, they drew up to the bank of the stream, leaped from
the boat and stretched their limbs.

"We may be less than a mile from the lake, and we may be five times
that distance," said the leader of the club. "I suppose the best
thing to do is to camp where we are."

So it was decided, and once more the tent was hauled forth, and
preparations were made to start a campfire. Whopper and Snap went
to cut the wood. They had just stepped into the bushes when Shep
and Giant heard several wild cries.

"A snake!"

"A dozen of them! This is a regular nest! Run, they are after us!"

And then both boys came running out of the bushes with all possible



It was true, they had struck a regular nest of snakes, and in less
than a minute the camp seemed to be fairly overrun with the reptiles,
which were from a foot to three feet in length.

Now, if there was one thing which the young hunters hated worse than
anything else, it was a snake, and consequently there was a lively
rush to get out of the way of the reptiles. The snakes were dark
brown in color, with lighter stripes, and what variety the young
hunters did not know. They might be poisonous, and the youths did
not care to run any chances.

The snakes seemed to be fearless, and the fact that several were
speedily killed did not daunt them. Whopper cut one in two with
his hatchet and Snap crushed another with his heel. Then, as they
came close to the tent, Shep hit a third with a saucepan and Giant
kicked a fourth into the water. But by this time at least thirty
snakes were in sight, and not knowing what else to do, the young
hunters ran for the rowboat and tumbled into that. One snake went
with Whopper, twined around his foot, but that youth kicked it
loose and sent it squirming into the water.

"Did you ever see the like!" gasped Giant. "Why, the woods must be
full of snakes!"

"We must be close to Lake Narsac," answered Snap. "Don't you
remember what they said about snakes being plentiful?"

"If they are as plentiful as all this I want to go right back,"
declared Whopper firmly. And then he looked up his trouser legs,
to make certain no reptiles had gone above his ankles. The other
boys were also busy, scanning the rowboat, to clear it of possible

The craft was tied to the shore but had drifted several feet from
the bank. They had rushed away so quickly that all of their firearms
were in or near the tent, which was but partly raised, one end
flapping idly in the faint breeze that was blowing. The campfire
had been started with a few dry twigs and cedar boughs and cast only
a faint gleam around in the gathering darkness.

"I didn't know snakes could be so active in the dark," observed the
doctor's son.

"We stepped right into their nest," answered Snap. "First Whopper
went into it and then I followed. That is what made the snakes so mad
and made them come right after us."

"Some of them have gone into the tent," cried Giant. "I just saw
three of them wriggle under the canvas."

"And to think all the guns ar ashore!" murmured Whopper. "What are
we to do?"

"Walk ashore and get them," suggested Snap, with a wink.

"Not for a million dollars! You do it."

"Thank you, but I---er---I'm lame."

"I guess we are all too lame to go ashore among those snakes," said
Giant, with a short laugh. "But we have got to do something," he
added, seriously.

"I move we remain on the boat until morning," said Shep. "Even
if we clear out some of the snakes now, we may not be able to get
at all of them. And who wants to go to sleep with snakes around?
Not I!"

"I couldn't sleep if I tried," said Whopper. "I'd be seeing all
kinds of snakes in my dreams!" And he shuddered.

Fortunately they had cooked some extra fish that noon and this food
had not been taken from the boat. They dined on the fish and some
crackers, and that was all. By this time it was night and the tiny
campfire was a mere glow of hot ashes.

"We might try the other side of the stream," suggested Snap.

"There may be snakes there too," said Giant. "You can do as you
please, I am going to stay on the boat until daylight."

"But what are you going to do when you get to the lake? We must
camp somewhere?"

"We'll hunt up a snakeless place in the broad daylight. The snakes
can't be everywhere."

There seemed to be no help for it, and having anchored the rowboat in
the middle of the stream, the young hunters proceeded to make
themselves as comfortable as possible on board. They had the rubber
cloth, and this they propped up on half-raised oars, making a sort
of awning. They had to rest on the hard seats, with boxes and
bundles between, and it was anything but comfortable. They were
so close together Giant said it reminded him of sardines in a tin box.
A sound sleep was out of the question, and they slumbered only by
fits and starts.

"Now to clear out those snakes," said Snap, when it was daylight. "I
wonder what we had best do first?"

"I have an idea," said Shep. "Let us go to yonder shore and cut
some cedar boughs. We can set them on fire and each take one.
Snakes hate fire, and they'll be sure to crawl away if we advance
with the burning boughs close to the ground."

The suggestion was deemed an excellent one, and they lost no time in
carrying it out. They got the driest cedar branches possible and
set them into a blaze with little trouble. Then they went ashore
with caution, advancing in a semi-circle on the places they thought
the snakes must be.

To their amazement not a reptile was in sight! "Did you ever
see the like?" ejaculated Whopper. "Is this true, or am I dreaming?"

"I know what has happened," said Snap. "The snakes have simply gone
back to their nest."

"Well, leave them there by all means!" interposed the doctor's son.
"I wouldn't disturb their nap for the world."

With caution they moved around the camp, and lifted up the ends of
the tent, and raised their cooking utensils.

"Who wants to stay here for breakfast?" asked Snap, dryly. "Don't
all speak at once."

"Thanks, but I've engaged a place about a mile from here," answered
Whopper. "You can stay if you wish---I'll move on."

It did not take them long to get their things aboard the _Snapper_,
and keeping their eyes open, they moved along the stream. They had
scarcely covered half a mile when Snap, who was at the bow, gave a

"The lake! The lake!"

"Where?" came from the others.

"Right around the bend, on the left. Pull on, fellows, and we'll
soon be there."

Whopper and Shep bent to the oars and the turn mentioned was soon
passed. Then all saw before them a clear, deep body of water, the
farther end lost in the distance. On both sides were tall mountains,
covered with pines and other trees which came down to the water's
edge. The surface of the big lake was as smooth as glass, and just in
front of them they could see the bottom, twenty or thirty feet below.

"What a beautiful lake!" murmured Shep.

"But how wild, and how lonely!" added Giant, after a look around.

"It looks lonely because we are not used to it," answered Snap. "I
felt the same way the first time I went up to Lake Cameron and to
Firefly Lake."

"That's it," put in Whopper. "After we have tramped along the
shore, and rowed around the lake a few times, it will lose a good
deal of its strangeness."

As they advanced they noted that the lake grew deeper and they
could no more see the bottom. But the water was as clear as crystal
and quite cold, showing that the water came, at least in part,
from springs.

"I see a little stretch of sand," said Giant, presently, and pointed
it out. "We might go ashore there for breakfast---if there are no

They turned the _Snapper_ in the direction mentioned, and soon
beached the craft. A hasty hunt around revealed no snakes and the
young hunters felt easier. They made a campfire and cooked a
substantial breakfast, for the meager supper the evening previous
had left them tremendously hungry.

"I feel sleepy enough to take a good snooze," said Shep, stretching
himself. "What's the matter with staying here for to-day, and then
hunting a regular camping spot to-morrow? I guess you fellows are as
tired as I am."

They were tired and the proposal to rest met with instant approval.
It was decided to roast the wild turkey for dinner and to spend
several hours in fishing,---all after a sleep of several hours.

"There ought to be some fine pickerel in this lake," said Snap, and
he fixed his rod and line for that specimen of the finny tribe and
Giant did the same. Shep and Whopper went in for whatever they
could catch. The fishing was highly successful and the boys soon
had all the fish they would want for several days.

"Might as well give It up," said Snap, when a call from Whopper
interrupted him.

"Somebody is coming down the lake," was the announcement. "A
very old man in a canoe."



All of the young hunters watched the approach of the old man with
interest. He was a very tall individual, with snow-white hair and
a flowing beard. He was dressed in a suit of rusty black, and on
his head he wore a wide-brimmed straw hat, with a big hole in the
top. His canoe was of birch bark, light and strong, and he
propelled it with a short, broad paddle.

"I'll wager he is a character," said Snap, as the man drew closer.

"Shall I hail him?" questioned Whopper, as it looked as if the
occupant of the canoe was going to pass without speaking.

"Might as well," was the answer, and the boys set up a shout. At
first the old man paid no attention, but presently he turned his
craft toward shore and came to a halt directly in front of the camp.

"How are you?" said Snap, cordially. A look told him the Stranger
was at least seventy or eighty years old.

"Pretty well, for an old man," was the answer. "Who are you?"

"We are four boys from Fairview. We came up here to go camping.
Who are you?"

"Me? Don't you know who I am? I am Peter Peterson."

"Oh!" exclaimed the boys. They remembered having once heard Jed
Sanborn speak of Peter Peterson as an old fellow who lived among
the hills bordering Lake Cameron. Peterson was a hermit, and
having been crossed in love when he was a young man, he hated the
sight of a woman.

"My name is Charley Dodge," said Snap. "My father owns a share
in the Barnaby saw mill." And then the leader of the club introduced
his chums. In the meantime the old hermit allowed his canoe to
drift to shore and he stepped out and sat down on a rock.

"I know your father," he said to Snap, "and I know your folks," and
he nodded to Shep. "Your father gave me some medicine when I was
sick. So you came up here to go camping?"


"You are pretty brave lads to do that."

"Oh, we've been out camping before. We came out last summer and
also last winter."

"Up here?"

"No, to Lake Cameron and Firefly Lake."

"That's different from Lake Narsac. Don't you know this place is
haunted?" And Peter Peterson looked at the boys very solemnly.

"We've heard something about that, but we aren't afraid," said Shep.

"We are more afraid of snakes than we are of ghosts," added Whopper.
"We met a lot of them just before we reached the lake."

"To be sure you did,--- the river is full of them, and so is the
north side of the lake shore---anybody who has camped up here can
tell you that. But I don't mind the snakes---but I do mind ghosts."
And the old hermit shook his head in a manner to prove he meant what
he said. "I would stay up here to do some fishing and hunting only---"

"Only what?" asked Giant.

"I don't like the ghosts, or spirits, or whatever you may call them."

"Have you seen any ghosts?" asked Snap.

"Well, I've seen something, and heard it, too. I don't know what
it was,---but it didn't suit me," answered Peter Peterson. "But
maybe I hadn't better tell you about it---it might only worry you,"
he continued, thoughtfully.

But the boys wanted to hear the old man's story, and so they invited
him to take dinner with them. During the meal he told his tale,
which was certainly a curious one.

"The first of it happened day before yesterday," said Peter Peterson.
"I was up to the very end of the lake, in a little cove, looking for
wild turkeys. I was tired out and I rested against a tree and went
into a doze. All at once I felt something cross my face. What it
was I couldn't make out. I jumped up and just them I heard somebody
cry out: 'I am dead! Who will bury me!' or something like that. I
thought somebody was fooling me, and I called back: 'Who is there?'
Then, as true as I am sitting here, I heard somebody in the air
laugh at me! I called again, 'Who are you?' And the party, or
ghost, or whatever it was answered: 'They murdered me! Who will bury
me!' Then I got scared and leaped into my canoe and paddled away.
When I was out on the lake I looked back into the woods, but I could
not see a soul."

"Are you sure you weren't asleep and dreamed all that?" asked Snap.

"No, I was wide awake. But that isn't all. Early this morning I
was asleep over on the shore yonder, just where you can see that
blasted pine. It was, I think, about three o'clock, and quite
dark. I heard a cry and I sat up to listen. Then I heard the most
hideous laugh you can imagine. Then a voice called out again,
'I am dead! Come to my grave! He is dead! I am dead! He is
dead!' Then I looked out on the lake and I saw something like a
ghost, only it was yellow instead of white. It moved over the
water like a spirit, and in a few minutes I couldn't see it any more.
Then I made up my mind I wouldn't stay up here any longer. You can
camp here if you want to---I am done with Lake Narsac."

The young hunters of the lake looked at each other. What the
hermit had to say coincided in many respects with the story told by
Jed Sanborn. Certainly there was something queer in these strange
calls, and in the appearance of the ghost or spirit in yellow.

"I must say I don't like this," said Shep, after they had questioned
the old hermit to ascertain that his story was a straight one.
"There seems to be something supernatural about it; don't you
think so?"

"Perhaps it can be explained," answered Snap, slowly.

"We promised ourselves not to be afraid of any ghost," put in
little Giant. "I, for one, don't believe in turning back until
we have seen and heard these things for ourselves."

"I'd like to have my shotgun handy when that yellow ghost shows
itself," said Whopper. "I'd soon find out whether it was real or not."

"I don't think your shotgun would do you any good," answered Peter
Peterson, with deep conviction. "You can't shoot a spirit."

"Well, if I aimed right at it and it wasn't touched, I'd know
it was a ghost for sure."

"That's true, but I reckon when you came to fire on that ghost your
hand would be so shaky that you couldn't hit the side of a barn,"
answered the old hermit. "After I saw that spirit I felt like I
had a chill. I am not going to stay up here another night---it's
bad enough to be here in the daytime."

The old hermit remained with the boys two hours, and then embarked
in his canoe and was soon out of sight down the stream leading to
Firefly Lake. The young hunters watched him out of sight with some
regret. He had told them he did not think anybody was now on the
lake but themselves.

"Well, if we really are here alone we ought not to be troubled by
anybody," was Shep's comment. "Still, it does seem tremendously

"Just listen to the stillness," remarked Whopper. "You can cut it
out in chunks!"

"No use of listening---I can feel it," answered Giant. "But what's
the use of acting like that?"

"You'll give us all the blues. Let's be cheerful," and he began
to whistle a merry tune, and one after another the others joined
in. Then they started to fix up the tent for the night and cut
a quantity of wood for the fire, and this put them in better spirits.
For supper they had some fine fish, baking them to a turn on
some hot stones, in a fashion Jed Sanborn had taught them. They
also had hot biscuits---the first since leaving home.

"I think somebody ought to remain on guard after this," said Shep,
when it came time to retire.

"We don't know what to expect in such a place as this. There are
the ghosts, and the snakes, and unknown wild beasts, and other things
we know nothing of."

"I am willing," answered Snap. "We can divide the night into watches
of two hours and a half each, and draw sticks for turns," and so it
was arranged.

It must be confessed that the boys were a trifle timid that night,
and those that tried to sleep had hard work to close their eyes.
But no alarm came, and when the sun came up all felt relieved.

"We may stay up here for weeks and never see or hear of that ghost,"
said Snap. "I don't believe it shows itself very often."

"Oh, I don't suppose it appears and disappears by the clock, like
a cuckoo," said Whopper. "It will most likely lay low and scare
us to death when we least expect it."

It was the middle of the forenoon before they were ready to embark
on a tour of the lake. They decided to skirt the entire shore, or
at least such a portion of it as looked inviting, and then pick out
a spot for a regular camp. They proceeded slowly, for there was no
need to hurry and they did not wish to miss any spot that might be
of especial advantage.

It was not yet noon when they turned into a little cove, bordered by
low-hanging bushes. They looked ahead, and then Shep ordered the
others to stop rowing.

"I just saw something, back of yonder bushes," he whispered, excitedly.
"I am not sure, but I think it was a couple of deer!"



"Deer!" came from the others.

"Let me get a shot at 'em," added Whopper, excitedly. "That's what
I came for---to bring down a dozen deer or so!"

"Make it two or three dozen, Whopper," answered Snap. "What would
you do with a dozen in this warm weather?"

"Send 'em down to the poor folks of the town."

The announcement that deer were in that vicinity thrilled all the
young hunters, and they at once resolved to go ashore and see if
they could not bring down the game.

"Let us go back a bit," suggested Shep. "We don't want this breeze
to carry our scent to them. If it does, they'll be off like a shot."

The others knew that the doctor's son spoke the truth, and so
the _Snapper_ was turned around, and they went ashore at a point
where the trees were thick. Snap carried the rifle and the others
had their shotguns, and all looked to the firearms to be sure they
were in condition for immediate use. With great care the four boys
started to stalk the deer, as it is called. Snap led the way, and
never was an Indian hunter more careful of his steps. He knew that
the deer's ears were wide open for any unusual sound and even the
cracking of a dry stick would attract their attention.

The journey over the rocks and through the timber was a laborious
one. In some spots the undergrowth was so thick that further
progress seemed, at first, impossible. Once Giant got caught so
completely that the others had to help him free himself. Hardly
a word was uttered, and then only in the faintest of whispers.

At last Snap felt they must be close to where Shep had seen the
game, and he motioned for the doctor's son to take the lead.

"You saw 'em---you ought to have first chance at 'em," he whispered.

"I want you all to fire," was the reply.

An instant later came a faint sound ahead, and looking through the
trees, the four boy hunters saw three deer walking swiftly along.
One was a beautiful doe not more than half grown.

"There is our chance!" cried Shep, excitedly. "Now then, all

Snap wanted to know what animal he was to fire at, but got no
chance to ask, for just then one of the deer raised its head and
sniffed the air suspiciously. Then the two large ones began to run
with the doe at their heels.

Crack! bang! went the rifle and shotguns, as the young hunters took
hasty aim. When the smoke cleared away they saw the doe stretched
on the ground and one of the deer limping forward painfully. The
other deer was out of sight.

"Come on---we can get that wounded one!" cried Whopper, and ran
forward with might and main.

As it happened the wounded deer was the mother of the doe, and
the wound, and the loss of its offspring, made the animal savage.
As Whopper turned towards it, the deer suddenly made for the boy.

"Look out!" yelled Snap, but before Whopper could turn aside the
deer was on him and had knocked him to the ground. Then the deer
struck out with its hoofs, landing on Whopper's shoulder and cheek.

It was a moment of extreme peril, for there could be no doubt but
that the deer meant to kill the young hunter. Shep raised his
shotgun to fire, but was afraid to do so for fear of hitting
Whopper, who was trying to rise.

"He'll be killed!" shrieked Giant, but just then Snap, using his
rifle as a club, struck the mother deer in the side. The creature
rolled over.

Bang! went Giant's shotgun, and the report of Shep's firearm followed.
The deer struggled for a moment, then gave a final kick and expired.

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