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Young Hunters of the Lake by Ralph Bonehill

Part 3 out of 4

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When the boys ran to Whopper's side they found his eyes closed. He
was breathing faintly and that was all.

"Is he---he dead?" asked Giant hoarsely, for Whopper was very dear
to the small youth.

"No, but he is badly hurt," answered Snap. "Shep, run and fill your
cap with water. I'll loosen his coat and collar."

The blood was pouring from the sharp cut in Whopper's cheek and
his coat was torn on the shoulder from the deer's hoofs. When
the water was brought, Snap bathed him tenderly, and Giant fanned
him with a cedar branch. In a few minutes he opened his eyes.

"Ta---take the de---deer away!" he murmured.

"It's all right, Whopper, the deer is dead," answered Snap.

"Oh!" Whopper breathed a sigh of relief.

"I am gl---glad of it!"

"You've had a close call of it," said Shep. "I was scared to
death." And his still pale face showed that he spoke the truth.

It was several minutes before Whopper felt like sitting up. He was
"all of a tremble," as he expressed it, and standing on his feet was
out of the question.

"You take it easy," ordered Snap. "We'll bring the boat around to
that cove below here and then carry you down."

"Do---don't leave me!" pleaded the hurt one. "That other deer may
come back!"

"No danger," said Giant. "But I'll stay with you, Whopper, while
Snap and Shep get the boat."

It was a good half hour before they had the hurt one and the game
aboard the _Snapper_. Here the doctor's son opened up the medicine
case which his father had insisted he should take along, and Whopper
was given a little stimulant, and the cuts on his cheek and his
shoulder were properly plastered up. He was made comfortable on
some cushions in the stern and told to take it easy.

"I had no idea a deer would fight so fiercely," he said, when the
others had resumed their rowing. "Those hoofs were mighty hard
and sharp, I can tell you!"

By one o'clock the young hunters reached a spot that looked good
enough for a midday camp, and going ashore they lit a fire and
prepared dinner. They made themselves a pot of rich cocoa and of
this Whopper partook freely and it seemed to strengthen him

"I think we ought to stay here until to-morrow," said Snap. "It
will give Whopper a chance to recover," and so it was decided, and
the tent was gotten out and erected between two small trees which
stood handy.

That night they treated themselves to venison steak, cut from the
doe, and never was deer meat more tender or sweeter. They also
had hot bread, made by Giant in a little stone oven. In the same
oven Snap made a pan of baked beans, which were put away for
future use.

The entire afternoon of the next day was spent in rowing around
Lake Narsac. They did not linger around the north shore, for it
was wild and uninviting, and they had no desire to make the
acquaintance of the snakes said to swarm there. They spent two
hours inspecting a large cove to the westward, and finally concluded
that this spot offered the best place for a permanent camp. There
was a sandy beach, where swimming would be good, plenty of the
right kind of growth for firewood, and from the rocks some distance
back gushed a spring of cold and pure water.

"This is good enough for anybody," said Snap, after a careful
inspection. "We can use the tent if we wish, or we can erect
a cabin."

"Oh, let us put up a cabin!" cried Giant. "It is such fun building
one. Don't you remember the other shelters we built?"

"If you build a cabin you'll have to count me out," said Whopper.
"I think I'll be on the retired list for at least a few days more."

"Whopper shall be the general boss," cried Snap. He took off his
cap. "In honor of our wounded comrade, I move we call this spot
Camp Whopper. All in favor say aye!"

"Aye!" came from Shep and Giant promptly.

"Camp Whopper it is," said Snap. "Three cheers for Whopper and
his namesake!" And the cheers were given with a will.

"Whopper, you ought to make a speech," said Giant. "Tell us how
grateful you are, how you appreciate the deep honor, and all that---and
then invite us all out to cake, lemonade, ice cream soda, strawberry
shortcake, cocoanut pie, cream puffs, and a few more delicacies."

"Ice cream!" murmured Whopper. "Say, some ice cream would be great,
eh? But we can't have it out here, so what's the use of talking
about it? As for a speech, I haven't got anything to say, excepting
that I appreciate your kindness in naming the camp after yours truly.
When I am a rich man and retired, and own a castle among the Thousand
Islands, I shall surely call it---let me see---Snap-Shep-Giant Villa.
There now, how's that?"

"Fine!" was the cry.

"Hark!" added Shep, a moment later.

"What did you hear?" questioned the others.

"I thought I heard somebody calling. There it goes again. Listen!"

All listened, and from out of the forest behind them came a cry,
followed by a blood-curdling laugh. Then they heard as plain as day
these words:

"I am dead! He is dead! Who will bury me? I am dead! He is
dead! Ha! ha!"



The four boy hunters were so astonished that for the moment they did
not move or speak. The voice seemed to come from the trees behind
the camp, and it was so uncanny and ghostlike it made them shiver
from head to foot.

"It's th---the ghost!" whispered Giant at last. "Le---let's get
out of here!" and he started for the shore.

"Don't run away," answered Snap. "I don't believe in ghosts,
and neither do you."

After that the boys remained silent for several minutes, waiting
to hear that mysterious voice again. But only the mournful hum
of the breeze through a clump of cedars reached them.

"I believe I'll investigate this," said Snap, arising and reaching
for a shotgun. "I don't believe in ghosts, so there!"

"I'll go along," put in the doctor's son.

"Please don't leave me alone!" pleaded Whopper. "I can't go and
I don't want to be left behind."

"Giant, will you stay with Whopper?" asked the leader of the club.

"Yes, but I hope you won't be gone long," answered the small youth,
in a voice he tried in vain to steady.

"If anything happens, whistle or fire a shot," added Snap, and
walked slowly to the rear of the camping place, with Shep by his side.

The two young investigators soon found themselves beside the spring,
and here both stopped for a drink, for their throats seemed to be
suddenly, parched. They looked on all sides with extreme care, but
saw nothing out of the ordinary. Once a bird flew up directly in
front of them, causing them to jump and raise their guns. But they
were not after game just then, so the bird got away.

"We certainly heard that voice, just as plain as day," said Shep.
"What do you make of this, Snap?"

"I am sure I don't know."

"Can somebody be fooling us?"

"I don't know. It's very queer proceedings, that's all I have
to say."

"Listen! I thought I heard it again!"

They came to a sudden halt and strained their ears. Sure enough,
there was the voice again, apparently coming from no place at all.

"I am dead! He is dead! Go away! Go away!" repeated the voice a
dozen times or more, and then it grew fainter and fainter and
presently died out altogether.

It would be hard to tell whether the boys were frightened or not.
They were much disturbed, but they had a strong curiosity to know
what the mysterious voice really was. Had it been night they might
have experienced more fear, but it was still daylight, although the
sun was well over in the west.

Holding their guns ready to shoot anything on sight, they advanced
slowly through the forest, making a circle first to one side and
then to the other. As they advanced they stirred up several birds
and also two squirrels but did not fire at them. Thus an hour
passed, and at last they came back to the spring utterly baffled.

"I can't understand it at all," declared Snap. "There must be some
reason for this."

"It's a trick, that's what it is, and some day somebody will get to
the bottom of it," added the doctor's son.

They returned to where they had left Whopper and Giant. As it grew
darker they built a good campfire and resolved to keep it burning
brightly all night.

"Maybe if this particular spot is haunted, we had better go somewhere
else," suggested Giant.

"I move we stay right here until we find out what that thing means,"
said Snap, stubbornly.

"I agree with Snap," added the doctor's son. "We all know well
enough there are no such things as ghosts. Some day we'll solve
this mystery."

Both Snap and Shep spoke so positively that Whopper and Giant were
reassured. The tent was fixed up for the night, and Whopper was
soon fast asleep. The others took turns at standing guard, but
nothing came to disturb them.

In the morning it was decided to begin building a cabin without
delay. As Whopper could not work he went out to fish, but remained
within easy calling distance.

The young hunters worked all of that week and also Monday of the
next, and during that time nothing came to disturb them. Once
they sighted a deer up the lake shore and went after the game,
but without success. Whopper spent most of his time fishing and
brought in, besides trout and perch, several good sized maskalonge,
although no particular fish as large as the maskalonge Giant had
captured the summer previous.

As the days went by and nothing more was heard of the mysterious
voice, the young hunters grew more confident and almost forgot
about the affair. The building of the cabin interested them very
much, and although the structure was foursquare and plain, it
was waterproof and fairly comfortable. It had two small windows,
and the door opened on the lake side. In the rear a small opening
was left near the ground, and here they constructed a rude fireplace
and chimney of such rocks as they found handy, smearing the cracks
full of clay. Their work on the fireplace and chimney might have
caused a regular mason to smile, but the chimney drew well, and
that was all they wanted.

As soon as the cabin was finished the young hunters moved in and
proceeded to make themselves at home. Then they cut enough firewood
to last for a week or more, stacking it up so that it might keep
dry even in rainy weather. This done, they felt they could now
take it easy, and fish and hunt whenever it pleased them to do so.

A hard rain, lasting a day and a night, was followed by a clear,
warm spell and during that time the boys enjoyed themselves to
their hearts' content. Whopper was now practically well, although
the cut on his cheek still sported several bits of court-plaster.
Every morning the young hunters got up at sunrise and took a
dip in the lake, following this up by a good rub-down, for they
had brought the necessary coarse towels with them. This always
rendered them wideawake and gave them appetites which could not
have been better. They took turns at cooking and baking, and at
washing dishes and keeping the fire supplied with wood. They were
certainly happy, and the time seemed to "fairly fly," as Shep
expressed it.

One afternoon, when Snap and Giant were fishing just below the camp,
both boys chanced to glance down the lake and saw a large boat
hugging the shore. It contained several persons, but was too far
off for anybody to be recognized. The boat remained in sight
several minutes and then disappeared into one of the numerous coves
along the shore.

"More campers," was Snap's comment. "Well, I suppose they have as
much right up here as we have."

"I'd like to know who they are," answered Giant.

"Perhaps they'll come this way later in the day, or to-morrow."

"I always like to know if other hunters are in the woods, and I
like them to know I am there, too," went on the leader of the club.
"Then there is not so much danger of an accident. I don't want
somebody to take me for a deer or a bear and shoot me."

"If we find they are stopping around this vicinity we'll have to
notify them that we are here," answered Giant.

That day went by and also the next, and they, saw no more of the
strangers. Then Shep came in with the announcement that he had seen
four or five deer up the lake shore.

"I am sure we can get one or more of them if we hurry," declared the
doctor's son.

They were all willing to go after the deer, and having shut up the
cabin and kicked out the campfire so that it might not set fire
to the woods should a stiff breeze spring up, they set off on foot,
taking to a deer trail, which ran a short distance back from the
water's edge.

The walking was by no means good, but this the boys did not mind.
The life in the open was making them strong and able to endure
almost anything. Their cheeks were full and round and their complexions
a healthy tan. All felt like whistling and singing, but they
knew they must make as little noise as possible.

If anybody was nervous it was Whopper and the others said nothing
when he dragged a little behind. But all kept on steadily until
they knew they must be close to the spot where the game had been

"Suppose I go ahead and take a look?" asked Shep, and the others
nodded. A moment later the doctor's son disappeared among the
bushes lining the lake shore.

When he came back he said the deer were moving up the lake front
and as a consequence all hands followed with all possible speed.
They kept up the chase for nearly an hour and once saw the game,
but the deer were too far away to take a shot. Then the game
started to run, and speedily disappeared.

"That's the time we got left," grumbled Shep. "Too bad!"

"It can't be helped," answered Snap. "We can't expect to bring
down something every time we go out. If we did that there would
be no fun in hunting."

Then the young hunters started back for camp, never dreaming of
the disagreeable surprise which awaited them.



On the way back to camp Shep brought down a squirrel and Whopper
knocked over a rabbit, so the quest after game was not altogether

The boys had covered a good stretch of ground, and they were pretty
well tired out when they came within sight of the cabin.

"Oh, fellows, look!" screamed Giant suddenly. "The cabin is on

He pointed ahead, and a glance showed his chums that he spoke the
truth. All broke into a run, and they reached the shelter almost
in the time it takes to tell it. Smoke was coming out of the door
and windows, but as yet the fire had gained little headway.
It was confined to some brushwood which had been thrust inside,
against one of the log walls.

"Some enemy has done this!" cried Snap, angrily. "Look out, I am
going to drag this fire outside."

With his bare hands Snap caught at one end of burning brush and
hauled it through the open doorway. As soon as he had done this
the doctor's son leaped into the cabin and kicked out the rest of
the fire. He could stay but a minute, for the smoke almost
strangled him. Then Whopper and Giant went in and made certain
the fire was out. Soon the smoke commenced to clear away; and
the momentary excitement was over.

"Now, what does this mean?" demanded Snap, and his voice was full
of anger.

"It means that we have been cleaned out," answered the doctor's
son, after a hasty glance around. "Look!"

He pointed to a shelf in a corner on which they, had placed some
of their stores, and then to the fireplace, and to the log that
had contained their cups, plates and cooking utensils. Everything
was gone.

"Robbed!" said Whopper, laconically. "What a shame!

"And they were going to burn down the cabin on us, too," added
Giant, bitterly. "I wonder if they touched the boat?"

At this question all ran outside and down to where the _Snapper_
had been tied to an overhanging tree. The rowboat had disappeared.

"Well, if this isn't the limit!" groaned Shep.

"Boat gone, cooking utensils gone, supplies gone---everything
gone but our firearms! Who could have done it?"

"Maybe the Felps crowd," suggested Whopper.

"Or Ham Spink's gang," added Giant. "Or the ghost."

"I don't believe the ghost had anything to do with this," said Snap.
"I think it was either the Felps or the Spink crowd. It looks
just like some of their dirty work."

"Well, this thing was done within the last three hours," came
from the doctor's son. "The question is, what have they done
with the boat and our stuff? Of course, we must get them back."

"We ought to have somebody arrested for this," put in Whopper.

"Perhaps, Whopper, but we've got to catch them first," answered
the leader of the club.

All looked eagerly up and down the lake, and across to the other
shore. Shep imagined he saw a boat pulled up in the bushes on the
other side, but was by no means sure.

"If we can't get our things back we'll have to go home," said Giant,

"I am not going home!" cried Snap. "We've got our guns and some
ammunition, and the deer."

"I wonder if they touched the deer?" All rushed back to where
the big deer had been left, hung up in a cool spot in the forest.
Evidently the enemy had not seen this game, and it was untouched.
Looking around near the water front they found a small box of
salt, a spoon, and some scattered cartridges for the rifle. Evidently
the marauders had left in haste and dropped the things on the way.

"I am glad we have the salt," observed Snap. "Those thieves ought
to have the salt down their throats," muttered Whopper. "They are
altogether too fresh!"

The young hunters walked around the camp for half an hour and more.
They did not know what to do. They were hungry, but in no humor
for eating. They wanted to get on the track of their stolen
belongings, but did not know bow to strike out.

"Maybe some tramps came along and did this," suggested Snap, dropping
on the ground to rest. "Some of that class of fellows would think it
fine sport to clean us out."

"One thing is certain," said Shep, "and that gives me an idea," he
added suddenly. "The boat must be somewhere on this lake, and it
can't leave excepting by the river that runs into Firefly Lake.
Perhaps it would be a good idea for us to go down to the river and
set a watch for the thieves."

"It's a long tramp," answered Giant. "And don't forget the snakes
down there. If we-----"

Giant broke off short as a distant gunshot sounded out. It was
followed presently by a second shot. Then all became as quiet
as before.

"Those shots came from across the lake!" cried Snap.

"Yes, and right close to the spot where I thought I saw that boat,"
added the doctor's son.

Fellows, I believe there is a camp over there, and if we can manage
to get across perhaps we'll learn something about our belongings."

"How are we to get over without a boat?" demanded Whopper. "It's
too far to swim. The water is so cold a fellow would get cramps
before he was half over."

"We might build a raft," suggested Snap, who had been favorably
impressed by Shep's words. "There are a number of logs lying
around that we cut for firewood, and I saw some wild grapevines back
of the spring which will do very well for ropes. We could take off
the most of our clothing, so it wouldn't matter if we got wet."

The proposal to build a raft was approved by all, and they set to
work without delay. It had been after four o'clock when they
got back to the cabin and it was dark by the time the raft was
ready for use. It was a clumsy affair, made of rough logs, spliced
together with grapevine shoots, and it was barely large enough
to carry the four boys. They took off their coats and shoes and
socks, and rolled their trousers up to the knees.

"Talk about a life on the ocean wave!" sang out Whopper. "This
steam yacht would take the first prize at any cattle show, eh?"
And this quaint remark caused a general laugh.

In the center of the raft a small log was set upright, not as a
mast but as a support for their guns, for they did not wish the
weapons or their ammunition to get wet. Nobody thought of crossing
the lake without the firearms.

"We may have to fight to get our things back," was the way Snap
expressed himself. "And our guns may come in mighty handy."

"Let us try to reach a point some distance below where Shep thought
he saw the boat," suggested Snap. "Then we can land and not let
the others know what we are doing. We don't want to rush in on
any crowd that is too large for us. That would simply make more
trouble for us."

Snap's proposal was considered a wise one.

Soon the young hunters had poled the raft from shore and then
they started to propel it across the lake. Two of the boys had
rude paddles and the others cedar branches. The progress made
was not great but it was sure, and they were content.

It was pitch dark when the rude raft struck the opposite shore
of Lake Narsac. They came in among some brushwood and landed
without great difficulty. They donned their socks and shoes, put
on their coats, and slung their guns across their backs.

"We'll tie up the raft," said Snap. "For all we know we may have
to come back to it."

"Oh, I hope not!" murmured Giant.

With extreme caution they picked their way among the trees and
bushes and across the rough rocks. Once Giant rolled over and over
down some of the slanting rocks and would have got a ducking in the
lake had not Snap stopped him just in time.

"Be careful," whispered the leader of the club.

"Don't let go of one footing until you are sure of the next."

They covered a distance of two hundred yards, when Snap called a halt.

"What now?" questioned Shep.

"I see a small campfire---through yonder trees."

"Then there is a party here beyond a doubt!" cried Whopper excitedly.

"You fellows wait here and I'll crawl forward and investigate,"
went on Snap. "It may pay us to go at this as quietly as possible."

"Don't get into trouble," warned the doctor's son.

"If I do you'll hear of it quick enough," answered Snap.

Then with great caution he crawled through the brushwood in the
direction of the distant campfire.



Slowly but surely Snap got closer to the campfire, which was built
in a little hollow and screened from the lake by a wall of rocks.

"They built the fire there so that we couldn't see it from across
the lake," reasoned the young hunter, and he was right.

Presently he was near enough to make out six forms around the
fire. Then he recognized Ham Spink, Carl Dudder, Jack Voss, and
some other of the lads of the town who usually went with Ham and
Carl. One boy, named Ike Akley, was a ne'er-do-well, who had
once set a barn on fire and burned up two cows. For this he had
been locked up, but his father had procured his release by paying
heavy damages.

The crowd around the campfire were eating supper and talking in
such low tones that Snap could not make out what was said. They
seemed to be in the best of spirits, as if something had happened
to please them greatly.

Between the campfire and the lake a large tent had been erected.
Near the tent, on the ground, lay portions of a camping outfit,
and Snap wondered if it could be the things belonging to himself
and his friends.

Suddenly the idea struck Snap to take a look at what might be
near the water, and he moved in that direction. He had to pass
through a fringe of brushwood and then he gained a tiny cove,
well screened from the lake proper by a number of overhanging
trees. Here it was so dark he could see but little. He felt
his way along and soon reached a fair-sized boat, tied to a tree.

The craft was not the one belonging to his party and he was a
trifle disappointed. Then he saw another boat and his heart gave
a bound.

"It must be the _Snapper_!" he murmured and hurried to the second
craft. But this proved to be nothing but a canoe, and again his
heart sank.

"Maybe we've made a mistake after all," he thought dismally, but
continued to move around the cove. To reach one point he had
to push through some more bushes, and in the midst of these he
fairly tumbled over a third boat, piled high with various camping
things. He gave a close look and almost uttered a cry of triumph.

"Our boat, and all of our things! Here's luck at last!"

As well as he was able in the dark, he looked over the articles
in the _Snapper_. The things were in great confusion, showing
they had been thrown in in a hurry. But almost everything appeared
to be there, and for this he was thankful.

Snap's next thought was to go back and tell his chums of his discovery.
But then he reasoned that this would take time and in the meanwhile
someone of the other crowd might come down to the boat and take
away some of the things.

"I'll take this boat around to where we left the raft," he told
himself, and set to work to shove the _Snapper_ into deep water
without delay. This was no light task, for the outfit on board
was heavy, and Snap had to work like a Trojan to accomplish it.

The _Snapper_ safely floated, another idea popped into the young
hunter's mind and made him grin broadly.

"Tit for tat," he murmured, and set to work to float out the other
rowboat and the canoe. Once they were free of the shore he tied
both to the stern of the _Snapper_, and then settled down to row
along the lake shore.

"Hi there!" came a sudden call out of the darkness. "Who are you?"

Snap was startled, but he did not drop his oars nor did he stop
rowing. He was just rounding one of the points of the cove, and
now he saw somebody running toward the point at top speed.

"I say, who are you?" continued the party on shore, and now Snap
recognized Ham Spink's voice.

"None of your business!" answered Snap gruffly and in as heavy
a tone as he could command.

"You are running away with our boats!" continued Ham, in consternation.
"Hi, fellows, come here! Somebody is running away with all the
boats!" he bawled.

His cries soon reached those around the campfire, and a grand
rush was made to the water's edge. By this time Snap had rounded
the point of the cove and was rowing as rapidly as possible in
the direction where the raft lay.

"Stop him!"

"He has all the boats!"

"Who can he be?"

"Must be somebody from that other camp!"

Such were some of the cries uttered. Then someone ran for a shotgun,
but by this time Snap was out of sight around a fringe of brushwood.
He continued to row his best, and before very long gained the spot
where the raft rested. Then he leaped ashore and ran in the
direction of the campfire.

"This way, fellows!" he cried. "I have the boat! Back to the
raft! Back to the raft!" And he gave the well-known whistle.

In a few minutes he encountered Giant and Whopper and learned that
Shep had gone forward, to find out what the cries at the lake front

"We must get him to come back," he said. "You go down to the boats
and the raft and get them ready to shove off on short notice." And
he ran closer to the campfire.

The entire camp was now in wild commotion, for each lad present
understood that all the boats were gone. Ham Spink and Carl Dudder
were in a rage.

"We should have placed somebody on guard," cried Ham. "We were
chumps not to do it."

"I didn't think anybody would be over here so quick," answered
Carl. "How could they do it without a boat?"

"Maybe they had another boat," put in Ike Akley. "We missed it
by not looking around a little closer."

"Whoever he is, he isn't rowing across the lake," said Ham. "Let
us run along the shore and see if we can't get at him some way."

As there seemed to be nothing else to do, this plan was carried
out. The crowd, however, had only gone a short distance when they
literally ran into Shep, who had gone forward as already mentioned.

"Here is one of 'em now," shouted Carl Dudder, as he caught Shep
by the arm. The next moment he received a blow in the chest that
sent him reeling backward.

"Who is it?" asked several.

"Shep Reed. Stop him---he is running away!"

Carl was right, the doctor's son was doing his best to escape. But
before he had gone a dozen steps Ham Spink, Ike Akley and Jack Voss
were on top of him and had borne him to the ground. They did not
treat him any too gently and he was kicked in the side and the
breath was literally knocked out of him.

"St---stop! Do---don't ki---kill m---me!" he gasped, when he
could speak.

"What are you doing here, Shep Reed?" demanded Ham, angrily.

"Came over after our things."

"How do you know we have your things?"

"Well, we thought you'd be just mean enough to take our outfit---you
did something like that before, if you'll remember."


"Will you let me up?"

"We will if you'll promise not to run away," answered Carl.

"That's the talk---let us make a prisoner of him!" cried Ike Akley.

"You have no right to touch me," said Shep. "You did very wrong
to steal our things, and to try to burn down our cabin."

"We---er---we didn't steal any things---we just ran off with them,"
said Ham Spink.

"It amounts to the same thing."

"Then your crowd just stole our boat and our canoe," put in Carl

"Is your boat gone?" asked Shep, for this was the first he knew of it.

"You know well enough it is."

"Where is our boat and our outfit?"

"Didn't you just take that too?" asked Jack Voss.

"Oh, then Snap-----" began the doctor's son, and broke off short.

"Was that Snap Dodge in the boat?" demanded Ham.

"What boat?"

"Your boat."

"I don't know anything about it."

"But you just said-----"

At that moment came a cry through the dark woods:

"Shep! Shep! where are you? Go back to the raft! It is all
right---we have the outfit back! Go back to the raft!"

It was Snap who was calling, and in another minute he appeared
and confronted the crowd that was holding Shep a prisoner.



It was so dark under the trees that for the moment Snap did not
recognize his chum. Then he uttered an exclamation of commingled
wonder and alarm.

"Let go of him!" he cried. "Let go, I say!" and he caught Ham
Spink by the arm.

"Capture him, fellows!" shouted Carl Dudder, and at once several
of the Spink crowd fell upon Snap.

But Snap was not to be made a prisoner thus easily, and hitting
out with all his might he sent Jack Voss reeling to the ground.
Then he hit Ike Akley in the nose.

"Ouch!" yelled Ike, and put up his hand, to withdraw it covered
with blood. "He has broken my nose!" And he fell back in alarm.

A rough and tumble struggle ensued, in which blows were given
and taken freely. Snap was struck in the breast and in the cheek,
but not seriously hurt. In the melee Shep managed to squirm free
from those who held him and he quickly ranged up by his chum's

"What did you say about our outfit?" he panted.

"We've got it," answered Snap. "Come, we had better be going."

"Don't let them get away!" yelled Ham Spink, and made a jab for
Snap. But just then the doctor's son hit out desperately and the
rich youth received a blow in the mouth that loosened two teeth
and caused him to retreat in a hurry.

For the moment the enemy were disconcerted, and taking advantage
of this, Snap and Shep started on a run through the dark forest,
moving as swiftly as the condition of the ground would permit.
The Spink crowd came after them, shouting to them to stop. Carl
Dudder called out that he would shoot if they did not halt.

"Do you think he'll do it?" asked Shep uneasily.

"I guess it's a bluff---I don't think he has a gun or pistol,"
answered Snap, and he was right, for no shot followed.

When at last the two boys reached the spot where the raft had
been moored they found everything in readiness for departure.
Whopper and Giant had strung all the craft together in a line,
making quite a flotilla.

"They are after us---we've got to dust out lively!" cried Shep,
as he and his chum struck the water's edge.

"You can't get in the _Snapper_," explained Whopper. "The outfit
is in such a jumble there is no room."

"You stay where you are," ordered Snap. "I'll get in their rowboat
and Shep can get in the canoe. There will be no hurry, once we
are away from the shore."

There was little time to say more, for a crashing in the brushwood
told them that the enemy was close at hand. They had missed the
trail but now found it again. They came out on the lake shore
while yet those on the water were close by.

"Here they are!"

"They have the boat and the canoe!"

"Where did that raft come from?"

"Good-bye!" sang out Whopper. "Hope you enjoy yourselves. You
can get another boat down to Fairview, if you want one."

"You come back here!" yelled Ham Spink, in great rage.

"If you don't come back with our boats I'll have you arrested,"
put in Carl Dudder.

"Do so, and we'll have your whole crowd arrested for stealing our
outfit," came from Giant.

"And for trying to burn down our cabin," added Shep.

"I didn't burn down your cabin," said Ham, hastily.

"Well, somebody did."

"It wasn't me," said Carl, and he looked at Ike Akley as he spoke.
That boy shifted uneasily but said nothing.

While the talking was going on Jack Voss had quietly slipped off
a portion of his clothing. Now he made a leap into the lake and
swam rapidly for the raft.

"Get back there---unless you want to get hurt!" cried Snap, who
saw the movement. But Voss kept on swimming and soon gained the
raft. Then he took hold of the rope that connected it with the
canoe, untied the raft, and swam with the end of the rope back
towards shore.

"That's the way to do it!" sang out Ham. "Bring the rope in and
we'll pull them back!"

"Pull! pull!" shouted Snap, and he and his chums did their best
to send the two rowboats and the canoe away from the shore. But
the boy in the water had gained a good footing on the rocks and
he held fast.

"Come in here and help me!" he panted, and Ham and Carl prepared
to do so. All had a good hold of the rope when something unexpected

Taking out his pocketknife Shep leaned over the rear of the canoe
and severed the rope that had been dragging the raft. As the
rope parted down went the boys holding on with a loud splash!
All disappeared beneath the surface of the lake and each came
up with his mouth full of water. In the meantime, relieved of
the weight of the clumsy raft, the two rowboats and the canoe
shot out into the lake a distance of a hundred feet or more.
There our friends rested, wondering what the enemy would try to
do next.

In the darkness the water seemed extra cold, and the lads who had
received a ducking could not help but shiver as they crawled to the
shore. They had gained possession of the raft, but they did not
appear to be very happy over it.

"Are you coming back with our boat or not?" demanded Ham Spink,
after an awkward pause, during which our friends remained silent.

"Why should we come back?" answered Snap. "You treated us very

"Well, didn't you deserve it?" came from Carl Dudder. "You shot
off our fireworks on the Fourth of July. We heard all about it."

"Didn't you try to steal our clothing when we were in swimming?"
said Whopper.

"It was a mean piece of business to try to burn down our cabin
and to run away with all we had," said Giant. "Perhaps you wanted
to starve us into going home."

"It was only a bit of fun," pleaded Ham Spink. "We---er---we
were going to return your outfit to-morrow."

"I don't believe it," said the doctor's son promptly.

"Ain't you going to give us back our boat and the canoe?" asked
Ike Akley.

"That depends," answered Snap. He whispered something to his
chums. "We'll let you know to-morrow. It's too late to do anything
more to-night."

"Then you are going to take the boat and the canoe away?" asked
Carl Dudder.

"For the present, yes. Meet us at this place to-morrow morning at
ten o'clock and we'll talk business to you."

"All right---we'll do it," answered Ham, after whispering to his
cronies. "But don't fail to come," he added.

"We'll be on hand," answered Snap, and then he and his chums moved
further out into the lake with the boats and the canoe, and were
soon lost to sight in the gloom of the night.

"Well, this is the worst yet," growled Ike Akley, when he and his
cronies were left alone. "We thought we were going to have the
best of it and now they have turned the tables on us."

"Have they?" came from Ham Spink. "That remains to be seen."

"How?" demanded several of the others.

"Do you think I am going to bed, or sit down and suck my thumbs?
Not much! I am going to do something."

"What are you going to do?" asked Jack Voss.

"Go over to their camp, and after they have gone to bed take all
the boats away---and take whatever else we can get hold of, too.
Then I am going to find a new camp---some place where they can't
locate us very easily."

"How are you going to get to their camp?" asked Carl, with interest.

"On the raft---same as they got over here."

"Hurrah, that's the plan!" cried another of the party. "They'll
think we are over here, waiting for them to show up at ten o'clock
to-morrow morning. Won't they be surprised when they get up and
find the things minus!"

"They may set a guard;" suggested Ike Akley.

"If they do we'll have to make him a prisoner and gag him."

"When shall we start?" asked one of the boys.

"Let us dry ourselves by the campfire first," said Ham. "And
we may as well get something to eat too, for there is no telling
how long we'll be gone."

This suggestion was considered a good one, and the whole crowd
went back to the camp. While some changed their wet clothes for
dry, others prepared a meal and this all took time in eating. Then
all hands went down to the raft and embarked for the other side of
the lake.



The stars had gone under a cloud and out on the lake it was so dark
that Snap and his chums could not see twenty feet in any direction.

"We are going to have our own troubles finding our camp," he said,
after about a quarter of the distance across Lake Narsac had been

"It's as black as a stack of cats," murmured Whopper. "Has anybody
got a lantern?"

Nobody had, and even matches were at a premium. The boys rowed and
paddled on a short distance further and then came to a halt in a bunch.

"I must confess I am more or less turned around already," said
the doctor's son. "Is our shore over there?" and he pointed with
his hand.

"I think so," answered Giant.

"I think it is yonder," answered Snap, and pointed at right angles
to the direction Shep had mentioned.

"And I think it is about between the two," finished Whopper.

"Let us take the course Whopper thinks is right," said Snap. "We
can't be so very far wrong anyway."

Anxious to get back to camp and get some rest, they pulled with
vigor. They kept this up for fully ten minutes and then the forward
boat slid up on a bar of sand, followed quickly by the second boat
and the canoe.

"Here, this won't do!" cried Shep.

"Are we near shore?" questioned Whopper. "I can't see any land."

Neither could the others, and all were more or less worried. They
had struck the sand bar with such force that they had been carried
well up on it when they tried to shove the boats off they, found
the task too much for them. The canoe, however, came away with
little difficulty.

"Shep, you paddle around and see if you can locate the shore,"
suggested Snap, and the doctor's son sent the canoe first in one
direction and then another. He was not afraid to go out of sight,
since he could easily hear their voices in the stillness of the

"I don't see any shore," he announced, after a search of a quarter
of an hour. "We must be stuck somewhere in the middle of the

"That can't be---the middle is far too deep for any sand bars,"
answered Whopper.

"Well, you can hunt around if you want to," said the doctor's son,
rather shortly. The paddling had made him very tired.

Snap and Whopper now got into the canoe, and they went twice as far
as Shep had been. At last they struck a point of land in a
direction they had imagined was far out in the lake. They followed
this up and soon came to the shore, but where they did not know.

"I think we are either above or below our camp," said Snap.

"Or else on the same side of the lake that we started from," said
Whopper. "It would be just our luck to get completely twisted in
this teetotal darkness. It's worse than a pocket in a coal mine!"

They paddled back to the others and told them of what they had
discovered. Then a portion of the outfit was transferred to the
empty rowboat, and another effort was made to float both craft.
At last the rowboats slid off the sand bar, and then they pulled
to the point of land without further mishap.

No one could tell where they were, but Snap, Giant and Whopper
imagined the spot must be half a mile or more below their camp.
They had landed in a wild place, and walking along the shore was
out of the question.

"We might as well stay where we are until morning," said Snap. "If
we try to move in this darkness we may only fall into more trouble."

But the others preferred to get back to camp if possible, and
Whopper volunteered to paddle up the shore, while Shep rowed in the
other direction. If either found the camp he was to whistle or fire
a shot as a signal.

"Listen," said Giant, after he and Snap had been left alone over
a quarter of an hour. "I hear voices!"

Both strained their ears, and from the lake they heard a confused
murmur. Then came the splashing of oars or paddles, and an exclamation
of disgust.

"It is the Spink crowd!" cried Snap. "They are on the lake. They
must have followed us on the raft!"

"Yes, and they are stuck on the sand bar, just as we were," said
Giant, and grinned to himself in the dark. "I hope they have to
stay there!"

The talking out on the lake continued, but presently it died away
in the distance. Evidently the party had freed the raft from the
sand bar and was paddling in another direction.

When Whopper came back he said he had located the camp only a
short distance away. The others then whistled for Shep, who soon
came in, and Snap and Giant told what they had heard.

"We'll get to camp and prepare to give those fellows a hot reception,"
said the leader of the club. And then the two rowboats and the canoe
moved off without further delay.

The camp gained, all of the boats were hauled up into the bushes
out of sight and the outfit was taken back to the cabin. This
had just been accomplished when Giant, who was on guard, announced
that the raft was coming ashore not a great distance away.

"Might as well warn them off," said Snap. "Everybody take his gun,
and we'll take torches, too."

This plan was speedily carried out, and just as Ham Spink started
to leap to the shore he found himself confronted by the four boy
hunters, each with a torch in one hand and his gun held out in the

"Stop, Ham Spink!" cried Snap. "Don't you dare to step a foot

"Discovered!" muttered Carl Dudder, in disgust. "I told you to be

"I want to talk to you," murmured Ham, not knowing what else to say."

"To-morrow morning, at ten o'clock, at your camp," answered Snap
promptly. "That was the bargain."

"But see here-----"

"We won't waste words, Ham. It's ten o'clock to-morrow and nothing

"We want our boat and our canoe, and we want them now," cried Ike Akley.

"It is not for you to dictate, Ike Akley," said Shep. "We want you
to leave and be quick about it. We don't intend to stay up all
night fooling with you."

"Let us have our boat and the canoe and we'll promise not to molest
you again," said Ham, quite humbly.

"To-morrow, at ten o'clock," said Snap, as firmly as ever. "And
let me tell you another thing. If you don't leave us alone now
perhaps you'll not get the boat and the canoe at all."

The Spink crowd wanted to argue, but our friends would not listen.
One of the boys wanted to fight, but the sight of the guns made
him hold back. At last those on the raft put off from the shore
and disappeared in the darkness.

"They are as mad as wet hens," said Giant. "Do you think they'll
come back?"

"Possibly," answered Snap. "We'll have to keep a strict watch."

It was decided that only two boys should sleep at a time, while
the other pair remained on guard, one at either side of the camp.
This plan was carried out, but nothing came to disturb the young
hunters, and all managed to get a fairly good rest after their
arduous doing of the early part of the night.

At half-past nine in the morning they started for the other side
of Lake Narsac in their rowboat, taking the two other craft with
them. They looked for Ham Spink and his cronies but the camping
spot was deserted.

"What can this mean?" questioned Whopper. "Is it another trick?"

"Maybe they are at our camp this minute!" cried Giant. "We ought
to have left somebody on guard."

But he had hardly spoken when they saw a handkerchief waving from
down the lake shore. They pulled in that direction and soon reached
a small, cleared spot. Here the raft was beached and here lay
the whole Spink outfit in confusion.

"What brought you fellows here?" asked Shep, curiously, for he could
see that all those on shore were greatly excited.

"Did you see it?" demanded one of the boys.

"We are going home," declared Ike Akley, and his manner showed that
he was frightened almost out of his wits.

"Let us have the boat and the canoe and we won't bother you any more,"
said Carl Dudder. "You can have the whole lake to yourselves."

"Did we see what?" asked Giant, of the youth who had first spoken.

"The ghost," was the unexpected reply. "It came into our camp last
night and we don't want to see it again. We are all going back to
Lake Cameron."



That the Spink crowd was thoroughly frightened there could not be
the slightest doubt. Even when they told their story many looked
behind them, as if they expected the ghost to pop out of the woods
and clutch them by the shoulder.

It seemed that the ghost had appeared shortly after they returned
to their camp. It came up over the lake silently, a figure in
yellow, with waving horns of red. It had stopped directly in
front of the camp and had waved a menacing arm at the boys. Then
it had disappeared into the gloom of the night.

"It uttered some terrible things," said Carl Dudder. "It said
something about being dead and about being buried."

"Yes, and then it uttered a hideous laugh," said Ike Akley. "I
shall never forget that---it was awful, and it seemed to go right
through a fellow."

"Why didn't you shoot at it?" asked Snap. "That is what I should
have done."

"Humph! I guess if you saw that ghost you'd be paralyzed," said
Carl Dudder. "Why it was enough to make your hair raise on ends!"

"I thought it was coming ashore and murder the lot of us," said
Jack Voss.

"Then you are not going to stay here?" asked Giant.

"Not much! I am going down to Lake Cameron as quick as I can
get there!"

"So am I!" said another.

"You had better go down, too," said a third.

"No, we are going to stay here," answered Shep. "We haven't seen
the ghost, but we have heard those ghostlike voices and we want to
find out what it means."

"Oh, there's a real ghost---I heard about it before I left home,"
said Carl Dudder. "But I didn't think it would visit us."

"I'd stay, only the rest won't," said Ham Spink, thinking he must
put on a bold front before Snap and his chums.

"What are you talking about!" cried Ike Akley, indignantly. "Why,
you were the first to propose going home."

"That's true," said another boy.

"Well---er---I thought perhaps you didn't care to stay," stammered
Ham. "Anyway, I think it is much nicer down to Lake Cameron,"
he added, hastily, to change the subject. "The snakes are numerous
up here, and game is scarce."

"Well, if you are going you can have your boat and the canoe," said
Snap, after a consultation with his chums. "But you must give us
your solemn promise not to molest us again."

The others were perfectly willing to do that, and the rowboat and
the canoe were turned over to Ham, Spink and his cronies. Then
our friends rowed out into the lake and "hung around" until the
others loaded their craft and started away.

"Now remember," called Snap after them. "If you come back and
molest us you'll do it at your peril."

"We won't come back," muttered Ham.

"You can have that ghost all to yourselves," added Carl. "Hope
it visits your camp to-night---I guess you'll be leaving in the
morning just as we are doing." And that was all that was said
by the Spink crowd.

"That ghost must have been something awful to look at," was Shep's
remark, as he and his chums rowed back to camp. "If ever a crowd
was scared they were."

"Well, if the ghost visits us maybe we'll be scared too," answered
Giant. "I don't believe in bragging until I've experienced a thing."

"Giant doesn't want to be like the man who bragged of what he would
do in case of a fire at his house," said Whopper. "He was going to
be calm and careful and do things just so. When the fire came he
was the most excited fellow on the block, and he carried the
feather bed downstairs and then went up again and threw himself out
of the third story window."

The boys were content to take it easy for the rest of the day, and
for the balance of that week they did little but fish and "laze
around," as Giant put it. Shep shot several birds and tried his
skill at cleaning and stuffing them, for he took an interest in
taxidermy. Snap hung up the deer skin to be cured.

On Sunday it rained, and the storm continued Monday and the greater
part of Tuesday. But the cabin was practically waterproof, so
they were comfortable. To pass the time they played games, and
cooked and baked many things which would have caused a chef to
throw up his hands in wonder. They even made some rhubarb pie
from some wild rhubarb found near the camp and this proved to be
really excellent. Once Giant concocted a new dish made of fish
stuffed with beans and flour paste, but this was not voted a
success. Having sufficient sugar they made some candy one evening
and this disappeared as if by magic.

On Wednesday morning Whopper, who had been outside to bring in some
firewood, came rushing to the cabin in great excitement.

"Somebody has been at our game! Some person or a wild animal!"

"How do you know?"

"The meat is gone! Only a few bones remain!"

"Then it must have been a wildcat or a bear!" exclaimed Snap.

All ran to the spot where the meat had been hung up. The tree was
scratched up and there were curious marks in the damp soil under it.

"A bear or a wildcat sure," said Snap, after an inspection.

"Let us go after it---whatever it is," answered the doctor's son.

"Maybe the ghost stole it," suggested Giant, but nobody accepted
this idea.

A hasty breakfast was had, and the boys were on the point of going
on a hunt when there came a call from the lake. A man in a canoe
was paddling toward them.

"It's Jed Sanborn!" cried Snap, and he was right. Soon the old
hunter had beached his craft and was shaking hands with them.

"All safe?" was his first question.

"All safe," was the answer.

"Thet ghost didn't eat ye up then? Thought, by what Ham Spink
said, ye'd be about dead when I got here," and Jed Sanborn smiled

"Where did you see Ham?" asked the doctor's son.

"Down to Fairview."


"Day before yesterday."

"Then they didn't remain at Lake Cameron!" cried Snap.

"They was a-going to, but they got into some sort o' a quarrel
an' that broke the party up," explained the old hunter. "Ham
an' Carl Dudder said the ghost came after 'em something terribul.
Wall, I believe it---after what I see myself," and jed shook his
head slowly. "You ain't had no trouble?"

"We've heard strange voices, that's all," answered Whopper. "We
haven't seen the ghost."

The old hunter soon told his story in detail. It seemed that
Ham Spink and his cronies had told a terrible tale of being pursued
by the ghost, and of hearing awful groans and cries, and this had
alarmed Mrs. Caslette very much and also Mrs. Dodge, and both
ladies had requested the old hunter to visit the lake and make
sure the young hunters were in no trouble.

"This lake is gittin' an awful repertation," said Jed Sanborn.
"If it keeps on, afore long nobody will come here no more."

"We'd like to settle this ghost business," said Snap. "We feel sure
it can be explained in some way or another."

"Well, maybe, but---" Jed Sanborn drew a deep breath. "Don't
you go for to run no unnecessary risks, that's all."

"Oh, we'll certainly try to keep out of danger," answered the
doctor's son.

"Your mother wants you to be partickerly careful," said Jed to
Giant. "She says she wouldn't know what to do if something happened

"Tell her I shall take good care of myself," answered the small
member of the club.

Jed Sanborn told them that everything was going on at Fairview as
usual. He had some letters for the lads, which they read with
interest. He said he would remain with them until the next morning,
and promised to take back such letters as they might write.

"If you stay over you might as well go on a hunt with us," said
Snap, and then he related how their meat had been stolen.

"Wildcats did that," announced Jed Sanborn, after a close examination.
"Two on 'em---most likely mates. It will be a ticklish job trying
to track 'em."

"Oh, we've shot wildcats before," said Whopper.

"Not the kind that's around here, my boy. These are the wildest and
strongest kind. Howsomever, we can go after 'em if you say so.
When do you want to start?"

"Have you had breakfast?" asked Snap.

"Two hours ago."

"Then let us start at once." And so it was decided.



As my old readers know, Jed Sanborn knew all about wild animals and
just how to trail them, and the young hunters followed his directions

"Be sure your guns are in prime condition and loaded," said Jed. "And
as we may be out until nightfall, better take a lunch with you."

"We have it, in our gamebags," answered the doctor's son.

"Good enough."

They were soon on the way, along a small trail leading directly away
from Lake Narsac. It was uphill, but the old hunter knew just how
to turn to make climbing easy, so, although they covered a mile or
more, they were not greatly fatigued.

"I know we came for wildcats, but if ye want some wild turkeys here's
your chance," said the old hunter presently, and he pointed to the
left of the trail. The boys gazed in that direction but saw nothing
unusual and said so.

"The turkeys are in yonder tree," answered Jed Sanborn. "I jest
saw two on 'em movin' around on some branches.

"You certainly have keen eyes," answered Snap, for the distance to
the tree was at least a hundred and fifty yards.

"Have to have, lad, to be a good shot," was the reply.

Not to alarm the game, Jed Sanborn told them to walk with care, and
led the way in a semicircle through the timber. Then he told the
boys to spread out around the tree.

"Fire as soon as ye get a good chance, but not afore," said he.

As they crawled closer they saw the wild turkeys quite plainly.
There was a gobbler and six or seven hens, and they were roosting
on several limbs close to the ground.

"Must be gittin' lazy, to be on their perches so late in the morning,"
observed Jed. "Ought to have been scratchin' fer a livin' hours ago."

"Well, this suits us," answered Whopper. "I'm going to try for the

"I'll take the one below him," said Snap.

"I'll take the hen on the left," came from Giant.

"And I'll try for the one on the right," put in Shep. "What will
you shoot at, Jed?"

Before the old hunter could answer there was a stir on the tree.
The gobbler had heard them and he gave the alarm. Up and out went
the turkeys as fast as they could fly. Bang! bang! went the
shotguns, and several more shots followed. Jed Sanborn had also
taken aim. There was a great fluttering, and down dropped two
turkeys like lead. Two hens fluttered around, and the gobbler
remained in the tree, caught between two branches and breathing
his last.

"Hurrah! let us finish them!" cried Snap, and ran forward. The
next instant he felt one of the wounded turkeys strike his face.
He caught the game by the legs and then received a peck in the
hand that drew blood. Before the turkey could do any more harm
the young hunter stunned it by a blow against the tree and then
finished it. In the meantime the other hen was killed by Whopper,
while Jed Sanborn took his gun and poked the gobbler out of the
tree crotch and despatched him.

"Certainly a good haul, boys," said the old hunter, when the
temporary excitement was over. "You'll have turkey meat enough
to last some time."

"I know what I am going to do with the gobbler, if you'll let me,"
said Whopper. "I am going to send him home to my folks, if Jed
will carry him."

"Sure I will, my lad, and I'll carry some more if you wish," Jed
continued, looking at the other young hunters.

"Let each of us send a turkey home," suggested Snap. "That will
show the folks that we are not starving." And so it was agreed.

Tying the turkeys in a bunch, they put them in a safe place on a
tree and then continued up the mountainside. The recent rains had
cleared the sky and washed the bushes and grass, and the view was
a most charming one. Soon they came to a small clearing and from
this could see over a large portion of the lake's surface.

"It certainly is a wild place," was Snap's comment. "But some
day the lumbermen will get in here, and then you'll see this forest
melt like magic."

"Yes, and half the charm will be gone," added Jed Sanborn. "Not much
left after a saw mill gets started in a place like this."

Noon came and found them well up on the mountain. So far they had
seen no game but the turkeys, nor had they seen a further trace of
the wildcats. They sat down in an open spot for lunch, and rested
for half an hour afterward.

When the hunt was resumed Jed Sanborn turned along the mountainside,
where there were a series of shelving rocks. He had gone but a
short distance when he uttered a cry:

"A bear! a bear!"

"Where?" asked all of the others simultaneously.

"Over on yonder cliff! There he goes!"

The young hunters looked in the direction indicated, and saw a bear
leaping swiftly from rock to rock. Almost before they knew it he
was out of sight. They were too far away to take a shot, much to
their disappointment.

"Any use of going after him?" asked Whopper.

"Not now," answered Jed Sanborn. "He'll be on guard all day. You
can come back some other day if you want to. But be careful he
don't chew ye up."

Again they went on, and now came to a slight hollow on the
mountainside. Suddenly Snap saw something moving cautiously over
the rocks close at hand.

"There's a wildcat!" he cried, and swinging around his gun he fired.
The wildcat was hit in the side but kept on. Then Giant fired,
hitting the beast in the head, and it rolled from the rocks to a
position almost at their feet.

"Is it dead?" asked the doctor's son.

"Dead as a door nail," announced the small youth, after an examination.

"I think that wildcat came from yonder hole in the rocks," said
Snap, pointing to the opening in question.

"If he did there may be more of them there," answered Whopper.
"How can we find out?"

"Might go up, ring the doorbell, and ask," suggested Snap, with
a grin.

"Excuse me, I don't want to walk into any wildcat's hotel," was
Whopper's answer. "I heard of a fellow who did that once, and when
he came out he was still on the inside."

"Still on the inside?" repeated Jed Sanborn.

"Yes---inside the wildcats," and this answer made the old hunter
roar loudly.

"Let us throw rocks into the opening," suggested Giant, and began
to do as he had suggested. They heard a growl, but no wildcats
showed themselves.

"I'll throw a firebrand in," said Jed Sanborn, and cut a dry cedar
bough. "Stand ready to shoot, if anything shows itself."

With interest the boys watched the old hunter prepare his firebrand
and light it. Then he swung it into a lively blaze, let fly, and
sent it whirling into the hollow among the rocks.

Hardly had the firebrand disappeared when there came a savage growl
and some whines, and from the hollow leaped a female wildcat with a
little one in her teeth. After the two came another little one.

As soon as the big wildcat appeared the boys blazed away, and the
mother and her offspring were shot dead. Then Whopper raised his
shotgun to kill the other little one, but suddenly lowered the weapon.

"I can't kill such a baby," he murmured.

"I am sorry we killed the other little one," added Snap, soberly.

"That little wildcat will soon be a big one, so there is no use
of letting it get away," said Jed Sanborn, and he discharged a
shot that immediately finished the last of that wildcat family.
The boys gazed at the small wildcats with interest but did not
want to pick them up and carry them away. Somehow, the killing
of the little creatures appeared to put a damper on the whole
day's outing.

When the party got back to the camp they had the turkeys, several
rabbits and also a number of squirrels to their credit. They
retired early that evening and slept soundly. In the morning
they thought they would arise early but found Jed Sanborn up ahead
of them.

"Your folks will enjoy them turkeys, I know," said the old hunter,
as he prepared to depart, after eating a substantial breakfast.
"They'll be proud to know you shot 'em."

"Well, we are proud of having done so," answered Shep. "Here are
the letters," and he handed over various written communications.

"Now mind, don't let that ghost carry you off," warned Jed, as
he started to paddle away in his canoe.

"I doubt if we even see the ghost," answered Snap. But he was
mistaken, they did see the ghost, and that before very long. And
the meeting led to a tremendous surprise.



"Boys, I move we go after that bear."

It was Snap who spoke, on the morning of the second day after Jed
Sanborn had left them. He was eating breakfast and so were his

"You mean the bear we saw up on the mountain, when we were after
those wildcats?" queried Giant.

"Yes. Somehow, I think we can get him, if we try hard enough. And
it would be a feather in our caps to bring back a bear."

"All right, I'm with you," said Shep. "Even if we don't get the
bear we can climb to the top of the mountain and get a good look at
the country for miles around. Maybe we'll be able to see Fairview."

The proposal to go after the bear pleased all the young hunters, and
they decided to lose no time in getting ready for the trip.

"As there is no telling what luck we may have on the mountain, or
when we'll get back, we had better take sufficient food with us to
last all day," suggested the doctor's son.

The sky looked a trifle uncertain to them, but nobody wanted to stay
in camp waiting for it to rain. They started off about nine o'clock,
taking to the trail they had previously pursued. Snap led the way,
with the others following in Indian file. The leader of the club
had a rifle while the others were provided with shotguns. They
carried with them sufficient ammunition to bring down a dozen bears.

Noon found them well up on the mountain and in the vicinity where
the bear had been seen. On the way they had stirred up some quail
and Giant had taken two shots before the others could stop him,
bringing down four of the birds.

"Maybe that shot scared away Mr. Bear," said Whopper. "If it did
we'll have our tramp for nothing."

"I am sorry---I fired before I could think," answered the small
member of the club. "I'll not do it again."

They now advanced in silence, knowing that a bear has sharp ears and
will run at the first intimation of danger. They kept their eyes and
ears on the alert and their firearms ready for immediate use.

"Look!" said Whopper presently, in a strained voice. "Dodge behind
the rocks!" and he literally dragged Snap down, and the others came
after the pair.

"What did you see?" asked Shep.

"Two bears!"

"Two!" came from the others. "Where?"

"Away up on the mountainside. They were on a shelf of rocks, and
seemed to be looking at something out on the lake."

"Can we reach them with our guns?" asked Giant.

"Might reach one of 'em with the rifle. They were a good distance

"Let us try to get closer," said Shep, who did not want to miss a
chance to aid in bringing down such big game.

"Yes, I don't want to have the only shot," added Snap. "We all
want a whack at them."

With extreme caution one after another of the young hunters looked
toward the shelf of rocks Whopper pointed out. True enough, two
bears were there, looking down toward Lake Narsac. As the boys
watched the game they turned slowly and walked to the end of the
shelf, disappearing behind some bushes.

"I believe we can get at least one of those bears if we are careful,"
said Snap.

"Don't you think it would be a good plan to above the bears by taking
a roundabout route?" came from Whopper. "I think we can shoot down
at them better than we can shoot up. Besides, if we are above them
I think we'll be safer. They can jump down on us easily enough, but
jumping up is another matter."

"Yes, and if we can't kill them with shots perhaps we can knock 'em
over with rocks," said Giant.

As they toiled up the mountainside it grew darker, and they noted
that the sun had gone behind a mass of angry-looking clouds. Far off
they heard a rumbling that betokened a thunderstorm.

"That storm is certainly coming," said Snap.

"It won't be any fun to be caught up here either."

"Perhaps it will pass off to the westward," returned the doctor's
son, hopefully. "The clouds seem to be moving in that direction."

They soon gained a point about on a level with the shelf of rocks
upon which they had seen the bears, but some distance to the southward.
Climbing now became difficult, and they had to help one another up
the steep places. Once Whopper took a tumble and would have rolled
down a long distance had not Shep caught him just in time.

"You want to be very careful," cautioned Snap. "A roll down the
mountainside might mean death."

By the time they had reached a point about a hundred feet above the
shelf of rocks they were so exhausted they had to sit down and rest.
They were now on another shelf, and from this location could look out
over the entire surface of Lake Narsac. Not a boat or a person was
to be seen.

"This is certainly a lonely spot," was Snap's comment. "A hermit
wouldn't wish for a more choice location."

"And he could get plenty of fish and game," added Whopper. "And
berries too, when they were in season."

"And wild grapes, and honey," came from Giant. "But with all that,
who would want to be a hermit?"

"Not I," answered Snap. "An outing like this is all well enough, but
when our vacation is at an end I'll be glad enough to get back home."

A few drops of rain were now coming down, but to these the young
hunters paid no attention. Having gotten back their wind, they
moved along with caution, their eyes wide open for another sight of
the bears. Each wished for the honor of discovering the big game.

Presently little Giant held up his hand for the party to halt. He
pointed to a spot a little below, and to the right of them. There,
on a flat rock, rested one of the bears, gnawing on a bone he held
in his forefeet.

"Where is the other?" asked Whopper, in a whisper.

All looked around, but the second bear was nowhere in sight.

"Might as well get one, while we have the chance," said Snap. "Let
us all fire at him at once. We'll be sure to lay him low. Then load
up as quickly as you can, and we'll see if we can't stir up the
second bear."

So it was arranged, and the four young hunters took careful aim at
the creature on the rocks. It must be admitted that they were
somewhat excited, for a bear is no mean creature to tackle and will
sometimes put up a fierce fight to defend itself. But they steadied
their nerves as much as possible, and Snap gave the order to fire.

Crack! bang! went the rifle and the shotguns, almost together,
and as the smoke cleared away they saw the bear leap up, turn
over and over on the rock, and then tumble down the mountainside.

"We've got him! We've got him!" yelled Giant, enthusiastically.

"Don't be so sure of it," said Snap.

"Oh, I am sure we hit him," said Whopper. "Why, I aimed right
for his head."

"I know we hit him, but that isn't saying he is killed," said Shep.
"Although by the way he rolled over I guess he was pretty badly

Having reloaded, they began to climb down the mountainside in the
direction the bear had disappeared. They had gone less than two
rods when Shep, who was in advance, let up a yell:

"Look out for the hole!"

"Where?" asked the others, but before the doctor's son could reply
the others saw him sinking down. Then they felt themselves going
down also.

"It must be the bears' den!" gasped Giant.

"If it is, we had better beware of the other bear," came from

Down and down slid the four young hunters, until they landed on a
pile of tree limbs and dead leaves. They had gone down in a hole
a dozen feet in diameter and fifteen or more feet deep. This hole
opened into a sort of cave and from the cave came a growl that
fairly made their hair raise on end.

"It's the bears' den sure!" cried Whopper.

"Yes, and I hear the second bear!" gasped Shep. "Get ready to
shoot him as soon as he appears!"

All scrambled to their feet and brought around their weapons, ready
for use. They looked to ward the cave-like opening and waited
anxiously. Would the second bear leap out upon them and give
them battle?



One, two, three minutes passed, and still the young hunters stood
with their firearms ready for use. But no bear showed itself. The
silence was so intense it was positively painful.

"I am sure I heard him," said the doctor's son, presently.

"So did I," added Snap. "I think he must be laying for us, thinking
we are following him."

"Excuse me from going into that cave," came from Whopper. "Why,
if a fellow went in there the bear would be sure to have everything
all his own way."

"And you'd come out and still be on the inside," said Snap, with
a short laugh. "Well, I don't know about this," he continued,
drawing a long breath.

Again they waited. Then the leader of the club grew a little bolder
and approached the mouth of the cave cautiously, holding his rifle
in front of him.

"Snap, be careful," warned Shep.

"Let us get out of this hole and then throw fire brands into the
cave---like we did when we were after the wildcats," suggested Giant.

"It's going to be no easy matter getting out of this hole," answered
the doctor's son.

"Well, the bears must get out."

"Maybe not---that cave may have a back entrance."

Snap walked slowly to the very mouth of the cave and peered inside.
Nothing was to be seen. He picked up a stone and threw it inside.
Not a sound but the falling of the stone followed.

"I believe the bear has gone," he announced. "I can't hear a thing."

"He may be playing a trick on you, Snap," said Giant.

"No, I think he has run away, by some back door, as you might
call it."

One after another the young hunters approached the mouth of the cave
timidly and peered inside. As their eyes became accustomed to the
gloom they made out that the cave was of good size. The other end
was lost in the shadows.

It had now begun to rain steadily, and to keep from getting soaked
they stepped into the mouth of the cave, taking with them several
dry sticks and some dry leaves from the bottom of the outer hole.
These they lit, and used the sticks for torches. They saw at
once that the cave was really a bears' den, for the bones of numerous
animals lay scattered over the uneven flooring. But no bears were
in sight, and this made them bolder and more willing to inspect their

"I believe that bear ran away," said Snap, at last. "For all we
know, we'll never see him again."

"Well, I want to see him, but not at too close range," answered
the doctor's son.

They soon discovered that the cave was very irregular in shape,
running around under the mountain in something of the form of
a double letter S. In some places the roof was far overhead while
in others it came down in sharp rocks that they could readily
touch with their hands.

"A fellow could camp out here, if he wanted to," said Snap, as
he gazed around in curiosity.

"Providing the bears did not disturb him," answered Giant. "By
the way, what are you going to do about that bear we shot?"

"Oh, we'll go after him later on," answered the doctor's son.

"Perhaps he'll get away."

"I think we can trail him by his blood," said Snap. "He was
certainly wounded quite a bit. I think he is dead."

They walked on through the big cave, finally reaching the other
end. Here they saw a small hole, through which the rain was falling.

"That's the way the bear got out," cried Whopper.

"Just listen to the rain!" exclaimed Shep. "I am glad we are under

It was now raining furiously, while ever and anon they could see a
flash of lightning and hear the crack of thunder. All were glad
they were not on the mountainside.

"It's dangerous to be in the forest during such lightning," said the
doctor's son. "We might be struck, or caught by some falling tree."

"We might as well remain in the cave until the storm lets up," said

Around the small hole they found some more leaves and tree limbs,
and after several failures---for the leaves were wet---they succeeded
in building a small campfire. Around this they huddled and ate their
lunch, in the meantime keeping on the alert for the possible
appearance of the bear or of any other wild beast.

The rain continued to come down as heavily as ever after they had
finished their brief meal, and growing impatient they began to
wander around the cave, peering into this corner and that. Soon
Shep found an opening which led to a cave still higher up, and
through this they crawled.

"This must be the second story," said Whopper. "See any bedrooms?"

This little joke made them all smile and put them a little more at
ease. The upper cave was not as large as that below, and from an
opening at one end they could look out on the mountainside. But the
opening was near the top of a cliff, so getting out that way was

"I guess we'll have to climb down again, to get out," said Snap.

He had hardly spoken when there came a blinding flash of lightning,
followed immediately by a thunderbolt that was deafening. The
cave was filled with a curious smell, and Giant and Whopper were
practically stunned for the moment.

"Gracious, that was a crash---" began Snap, when he broke off short.
A crash of another kind outside had reached his ears. A big tree
standing directly over the cave was coming down, split in twain by
the lightning stroke. It struck the top of the cave with tremendous
force, causing a number of loose stones to rattle down on the heads
of the young hunters.

"We must get out of this!"

"The place must be caving in!"

"We'll be buried alive if we don't get out!"

The falling of the tree caused some rocks to shift, and a moment
later one fell close to the opening, blocking it completely. Then
came an other shower of small stones and dirt. Bewildered and badly
frightened, the boys ran to another part of the cave and hugged the
big rocks. At that moment they all felt the cave might be their tomb.

"I---I wish we had never co---come in here," groaned Whopper.

"I'd give all I am wo---worth to be out," answered Giant.

Snap and Shep said nothing, wondering what would happen next. A few
more loose stones came down, and that was all.

"I believe the worst is over," said the leader of the club at last.
"The lightning knocked down a tree and that loosened those stones,
that's all."

"That's all!" cried Whopper. "Isn't that enough? Did you want us to
be buried alive?"

"I move we get out of here as soon as we can," came from Giant. "Rain
or no rain, I'm not going to stay in this cave any longer."

"And I am with you," added Whopper.

"It's a question how to get out," answered the doctor's son. "That
hole is shut by the rock that fell."

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