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Boy Scouts in Northern Wilds by Archibald Lee Fletcher

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BOY SCOUTS IN NORTHERN WILDS

Or, The Signal from the Hills

By

MAJOR ARCHIBALD LEE FLETCHER

Author of

"Boy Scout Rivals; or, A Leader of the Tenderfoot Patrol,"
"Boy Scouts on Old Superior; or, The Tale of The Pictured
Rocks," "Boy Scouts' Signal Sender; or When Wigwag Knowledge
Paid," "Boy Scout Pathfinders; or, The Strange Hunt for the
Beaver Patrol" etc., etc.

Chicago, 1913

CONTENTS

Chapter

I--A CAMP ON MOOSE RIVER
II--THE LITTLE BRASS GOD
III--THE CABIN IN THE SWAMP
IV--LOST IN THE STORM
V--A BOY SCOUT TRICK
VI--THE CAVE OF THE TWO BEARS
VII--AM EMPTY CAVERN
VIII--A TRAPPER'S TREACHERY
IX--TWO HUNGRY BEARS
X--BOYS IN A TIGHT PLACE
XI--THE HALF-BREED
XII--A SURPRISE AT THE CABIN
XIII--A FACE AT THE WINDOW
XIV--A CALL PROM THE DARKNESS
XV--A HUNTING EXPEDITION
XVI--ANTOINE ON THE RUN
XVII--"BOYS UP A TREE!"
XVIII--A PILLAR OF FIRE
XIX--THE SIGNAL FROM THE HILLS
XX--A SIGHT OF THE GOD
XXI--TWO RIFLE SHOTS
XXII--THE TWIN BRASS GODS

CHAPTER I

A CAMP ON MOOSE RIVER

Four Boy Scouts, of the Beaver Patrol, Chicago, were in camp on
Moose river. They were all athletic young fellows, not far from
seventeen years of age, and were dressed in the khaki uniform
adopted by the Boy Scouts of America.

If you take a map of the British Northwest Territories and look up
Moose river, you will discover that it runs through nearly three
hundred miles of wilderness, from Lake Missinale to Moose Bay. The
reader will well understand, then, how far "Sandy" Green, Will
Smith, George Benton and Tommy Gregory had traveled from
civilization.

The camp of the Boy Scouts was situated some fifty miles up the
river from Moose Factory, a trading point famous in old Indian days
for its adventurous spirits and its profits to the factors. Those
who have read the preceding books of this series will doubtless
remember the four Boy Scouts named above. Together they had
visited the Pictured Rocks of Old Superior, the Everglades of
Florida, and the great Continental Divide.

During all their journeys the boys had shown courage and
resourcefulness beyond their years, and because of these qualities
they had been chosen, by Mr. Horton, a noted criminal lawyer of
Chicago, to undertake a difficult and dangerous mission to the
Hudson Bay country.

They had traveled by way of the Canadian Pacific to Missanabie,
from which point they had proceeded to Lake Missinale. Here they
had purchased a "Mackinaw," a great flat-bottomed craft, in which
to transport their tents and supplies down Moose river to the bay
of the same name.

They had made most of the journey in native canoes, which they had
learned to handle with considerable skill, but now and then they
had taken refuge on the big boat, "just to stretch their limbs," as
they expressed it. They left Chicago late in September and it was
now almost the last of October.

Those who live in the Hudson Bay country declare that they have
three seasons in four months, Spring comes in June, summer in July
and August, and autumn in September. At the southern extremity of
James Bay, October may scarcely be called a winter month, although
during the latter part of the month ice and snow are not infrequent.

The sun was setting on the lads' first day in camp as the boys
rested from their labor of dragging in great quantities of both dry
and green wood. Their tents were of double canvas, specially
prepared for cold weather, and their bedding and suits had
constituted an important part of their baggage.

Almost the entire fronts of the tents were composed of fine, strong
silk mesh-cloth. The faces of the boys were well anointed with
grease, and masks of mesh-cloth hung about the tents ready for use.

Mosquitos and an insect known as the "bull-dog" had driven many a
trapper and hunter out of the swampy regions around Hudson Bay.
During the summer it is almost impossible to live in the swamps of
that country at all. By protecting their tents and faces, and
keeping great "smudges" going, the boys hoped to be able to live in
comparative comfort during their stay in that section.

"Look here, Will," Tommy said, as he laid down a great armful of
dry wood, "some one ought to invent some kind of a contraption to
kill these flying pests off by the billion. Here it is almost cold
enough to snow, and we're being eaten alive by mosquitos."

"I reckon it wouldn't do much good to invent a way of killing the
brutes," Will suggested, "as long as the swamps and pools of the
Northwest Territories are turning them out at the rate of a billion
a minute."

"I read a story about how to get rid of mosquitos the other day,"
Sandy said. "It might be a good idea to try it."

"You can always read how to do things, in the newspapers," Tommy
argued. "The only trouble is that the ideas don't work."

"This one will work," declared Sandy. "The way to kill mosquitos,"
he continued, "is to throw a great long rope up in the air. You
let it stay up in the air; that is, one end of it, and grease it
carefully with cold cream and tie a piece of raw beefsteak at the
upper end. That will attract the mosquitos. Then when you get
several millions up the rope, you cut it in two about twenty feet
from the ground and pull the lower end down."

"It'll be the foolish house for yours!" Tommy laughed. "How are
you going to throw one end of a rope up in the air and make it stay
there?"

"I didn't say how to make it stay up in the air," grinned Sandy.
"I just said you had to make it stay up in the air. Then when the
mosquitos get tired of staying up in the ambient atmosphere,
they'll come crawling down the rope and fall off where you cut it."

"I guess your dome needs repacking all right!" laughed Tommy.

"And then, when they come to the place where the rope has been cut
off, they'll take a tumble for themselves, and you stand under the
line and beat their heads off with an axe."

"Poor child!" laughed Tommy.

"If you leave it to me," George declared with a grin, "that story
about how to kill mosquitos came out of Noah's ark on crutches."

The sun was setting over the great wilderness to the west, and the
boys hastened to pile more wood on the fire. The forest was alive
with the cries of birds, and the undergrowth showed curious eyes
peering out at the intruders.

"This beats little old Chicago," cried George, bringing out a great
skillet of ham. "When we live in the city, we've got to eat in the
house and smell dishwater. When you live out doors, you've got a
dining room about a thousand miles square."

"And when you live in Chicago," Tommy continued, "you can't get
fresh fish right out of the brooks. When you want a fish here, all
you've got to do is to run out to the river, grab one in your arms,
and bring him in!"

"Then run out and get one now!" advised Will.

"Perhaps you think I can't!" shouted Tommy.

Seizing a head-net the boy dashed away to the margin of Moose
river. His chums saw him walking about in quest of a minnow for a
moment and then heard the swish of a line. In ten minutes he was
back at the camp with a whitefish weighing at least five pounds.

There is incessant fishing in the wilderness north of Lake Superior
throughout every month of the year. All through the long winter
the ice is cut away in order that the fish may be reached, and
there is every sort of fishing between that which engages the
labors of sailing vessels and men, down through all the methods of
fish-taking, by nets, by spearing, still-fishing and fly-fishing.

Though the region has been famous, and therefore much visited, for
many years, the field is so extensive, so well stocked, and so
difficult of access, that even today almost the very largest known
specimens of each class of fish are to be had there.

"These are the kind of fish the Indians live on during the winter,"
Tommy explained as he scraped the scales from his prize. "Only,"
he continued, "the Indians don't clean them at all. They simply
make a hole in the tail end of each fish and string them up like
beads on sticks which they set up in racks."

"I never did like cold-storage fish," Sandy declared, in a tone of
disgust. "They taste like dry corn meal!"

While the fish cooked and the boys sat in the protecting smudge of
the campfire, the sound of paddles was heard up the river. The
swish and splash came on steadily for a moment and then suddenly
ceased.

"I thought we were going to have company," suggested Will.

The boys listened for a time but no further sounds were heard.

"Now what would any one be doing in this wilderness?" Sandy asked.
"What would any one be sneaking around us for?"

"Perhaps they don't even know we're here!" argued George.

"With that great campfire going?" scoffed Tommy. "Why, they can
see the light of that fire for ten miles or more!"

"That's right," replied George. "I guess that fire wouldn't help
to hide our presence here any."

"Suppose I go and see what's doing?" asked Tommy.

"You know your failings, young man!" Will cut in. "If you go out
in the wilderness to see who's running that canoe, you're likely to
get lost, or come back here after a couple of days with a broken
leg or a busted coco! You'd better stay in camp."

"But I want to know who's sneaking around our tents!" insisted
Tommy. "You come along with me, Will, if you think I'm not
competent to go alone," the boy added with a grin.

Will hesitated for a moment and then providing himself with an
automatic revolver and an electric searchlight, the two boys left
the camp and soon disappeared in the darkness. They had been gone
scarcely five minutes when a shot came from the thicket.

CHAPTER II

THE LITTLE BRASS GOD

After a time George and Sandy heard some one running through the
undergrowth, and the next instant Will and Tommy burst into view.
It was evident that they had been running, for they were panting
and their clothing was disarranged and torn in places.

The two boys hastened out to meet their chums with question marks
in their eyes. Will and Tommy offered no explanation until the
tents had been reached, then Tommy burst into a low chuckle.

"Can you beat it?" he asked.

"What are you talking about?" demanded George.

"What did you see out there?" asked Sandy.

"We didn't see a thing!" declared Tommy.

"You're wrong there!" Will cut in. "We saw the flash of a gun!"

"Some one shoot at you?" questioned George.

"Perhaps not," Will replied, "but I heard a bullet whizzing past my
ear! That's not a very warm welcome to this blooming country, I
take it."

"What's it all about?" asked Sandy impatiently.

"That's the answer!" Tommy declared. "That's all we know about it
ourselves. We hear a paddle splash in the water; we go out to see
what's doing, and we get a chunk of lead plugged at us. That's the
answer so far as I know. Now, how about this fish?"

"Right as a book!" cried Sandy. "I've been taking care of this
fish while you've been out there facing some boy with an air gun."

"Yes," laughed Tommy, "if you want to find boys with air guns, come
out here about three hundred miles north of nowhere!"

The incident did not seem to affect the appetites of the boys, for
they attacked the fish industriously. When the meal was finished
and the dishes cleared away; Will turned to his chums with a sober
look on his face. When he spoke it was with suppressed excitement.
"Do you boys know exactly why we are in the Hudson Bay country?" he
asked, "How much did Mr. Horton tell you?"

"Nothing at all!" Tommy replied.

"He just told us to come with you!" George cut in.

"When I tried to cross-examine him," laughed Sandy, "he said he was
afraid we wouldn't go if he told us what sort of a game we were
mixing in."

"Well," Will went on in a moment, "he told me to tell you after we
got into camp on Moose river."

"Go on and tell us, then," chuckled Tommy.

"I don't believe it's any great mystery!" Sandy interrupted.

"We came here," Will said, speaking seriously, "to find the Little
Brass God. Odd sort of a quest, that, eh?"

"What's the Little Brass God?" demanded Sandy.

"Did you think it was a load of hay?" asked Tommy. "The Little
Brass God is the Little Brass God. Didn't you know that?"

"What does any one want of a Little Brass God?" asked George.

"The Little Brass God," Will explained, "is believed to be
valuable, chiefly for what is contained in his belly."

"So this is a stuffed god?" cried Tommy.

"Has he eaten something he can't digest?" cut in Sandy.

"That just explains it!" Will exclaimed. "He has eaten something
he can't assimilate, and we've been sent up here to relieve him of
it!"

"How did the Little Brass God ever get into the Hudson Bay
country?" asked Tommy. "I should think he'd know better."

"I reckon the Little Brass God had nothing to say regarding his
journey," replied Will. "Two months ago the house of Mr. Frederick
Tupper, on Drexel Boulevard, Chicago, was burglarized. Besides
taking considerable money and silver plate, the thief also carried
away the Little Brass God."

"I don't think any thief in his right mind would do that!" declared
Sandy. "What could he do with a Little Brass God? He couldn't
pawn it, or sell it, or trade it, without its being traced back to
him!"

"Well, he took it just the same!" Will replied.

"How much is he worth?" asked George.

"Not more than five dollars."

"Then he isn't one of those East India Little Brass Gods with his
legs crossed, and his arms folded, and a grin on his face?"

"His legs are crossed, his arms are folded, and there is a grin on
his face!" replied Will with a smile. "But he's certainly not one
of the population of a Hindu temple."

"He's just a common Little Brass God, probably made in Newark, New
Jersey," suggested George. "What do they want him for?"

"They want to search him!" replied Will.

"Aw, come on, tell us all about it!" urged Tommy.

"Well," Will explained with a smile, "the tummy of the Little Brass
God IS supposed to contain the last will and testament of Simon
Tupper, father of Frederick Tupper."

"Gee!" exclaimed Tommy. "Can't he get the property until he gets
the will? Then we'll have to find it, I guess!"

"No, he can't get the property unless the will is found."

"Who stole the Little Brass God, and also the will?" asked George.

"Did he know he was stealing the will when he stole the Little
Brass God?" asked Sandy without giving Will an opportunity to reply
to the previous question. "How'd he know the will was there?"

"We don't know whether he knew about the will or not," answered the
boy. "In fact, we don't know whether the document is still in the
tummy of the Little Brass God. That's what we've got to find out."

"You didn't tell me who stole the Little Brass God and the will,"
insisted George.

"I said it was a burglar!"

"But was it a burglar--a real, genuine burglar?"

"Yes, loosen up!" shouted Tommy. "Did he go there just to burgle,
or did he go there to get that will?"

"That's another thing we've got to find out!" Will answered. "It's
just this way," the boy continued. "We've been sent up here to
find this Little Brass God. When we find it, we'll know whether
the man who stole it was a common thief, or whether he was sent by
interested parties to do the job. No living person can open the
Little Brass God without first learning the way to do it. In fact,
the only way the toy can be opened by one unfamiliar with the
secret is to break it open with an axe! And that would hardly be
done, as the little fellow is rather a cute plaything."

"And so, if the will is there, a burglar stole it. And if the will
is not there, some one interested in the disposition of the
property walked away with it! Is that it?"

"That's the way we figure it out!" Will answered. "And in the
meantime," he continued, "an older will is being offered for
probate. If the Little Brass God fails to disclose the last will,
the property will go to a young man who was intensely hated and
despised by the man who built up the fortune. Simon Tupper will
turn over in his grave if Howard Sigsbee, his nephew, has the
handling of that money."

"I can't see how that's going to get Simon anything!" grinned Tommy.

"Now," George asked, "why do they think the Little Brass God was
brought into the Hudson Bay country?"

"We have traced it to an antique shop on lower State street," Will
answered. "From there to the shabby parlor of a fourth rate
boarding house on Dearborn avenue, from there into the possession
of a French Canadian who hunts and fishes in the Moose river
district."

"That's pretty straight!" George agreed.

"How do they know this French Canadian got this Little Brass God
out of town?" asked Sandy. "You take a French Canadian of the
trapper sort, and get him well tanked, and he'll sell the ears off
his head for another drink of brandy. Perhaps he hocked the Little
Brass God."

"If he did," Will answered, "the search must begin all over again!"

"Who put this will in the tummy of this Little Brass God?" asked
Tommy.

"The man who made it--Simon Tupper," answered Will.

"Did he tell anyone where it was?"

"On his deathbed, he told Frederick Tupper, his nephew, where to
find it. It's a pity the young man didn't remove the document and
file it in probate court. It would have saved a lot of bother."

"But he didn't," George suggested, "and that gives us a fine trip
to the Hudson Bay country."

"When was the house of this Frederick Tupper burglarized?" asked
Sandy.

"On the night following the death of the old gentleman."

"Had the villain of the drama, this Howard Sigsbee, any knowledge
concerning the hiding place of the will?"

"He was not believed to have."

"Do they think he went there and got the will himself?"

"Huh!" objected Tommy. "If he'd gone after the will himself, he'd
have taken it out of the Little Brass God and carried it away with
him. And he'd have made a pile of ashes of it in about one minute,
at that!"

"Perhaps he couldn't open up the merry little chap," Sandy
suggested.

"We don't know whether he understood the secret or not," Will
answered. "All we know is that the Little Brass God was still
intact a week after it had been stolen."

"Then he knew the combination, or he didn't get the will!" argued
George.

"Anyhow!" Tommy laughed, "we've got only about a million or more
miles of country to search over for a little brass god about -----"

"Say, just how big is this Little Brass God?" asked Sandy.

"He's about six inches in height, and three inches across his dirty
shoulders, and he certainly is about the ugliest specimen of a
heathen beast that ever came down the pike."

"What would that French Canadian buy him for?" asked George.

"That's another thing we've got to find out," replied Will.

Tommy was about to ask another question when Will held up a hand
for silence. The leaping flames were sending long streamers of
light into the thicket on either side and over the glistening
waters of Moose river. The circle of illumination extended for
some distance on every side, except at the back of the tents, where
the level ground lay in shadows.

As the boys listened, the soft sound of a moccasined foot came to
their ears. It seemed only a yard away, and yet it was not in
sight. George dashed to the back of the tents, followed by a sharp
cry of alarm.

CHAPTER III

THE CABIN IN THE SWAMP

When George reached the rear of the tent he saw a crouching figure
there. A hole had been cut in the cloth, and the fellow was gazing
into the tent. He was dressed in woodsman's attire, leather jacket
and leggins and fur cap. The gold rings in his ears quivered and
glistened as the light of the fire struck them.

As George rounded the tent the spy turned and ran for the forest.
Without a thought as to the ultimate result, George followed along
behind. For some distance the lad kept pace with the mysterious
visitor, but, of course, it was impossible for him to do so for any
great length of time, as the fugitive was well versed in woodcraft,
while George was not.

After a time George lost sight of the fellow entirely, but could
still keep track of him by the noise he made in passing through the
thicket. It was quite evident that the intruder now believed that
pursuit, had entirely ceased, for he made his way more leisurely
through the swampy growth, and seemed to pay no attention whatever
to the sounds of his passage.

Using great caution, the boy finally gained the hummock and stood
looking at the dark bulk of a log cabin which stood in the center.
He listened for a long time but all was silent inside. Presently
he circled the place and came to a small opening which was more
like a loop-hole than a window. There was a glass pane here, and
through it he saw that there was a fire on the inside.

By this time the lad was shivering with cold, not having taken the
time to provide himself with heavy clothing before leaving the camp
in pursuit of the spy. As he glanced through the glazed opening he
saw a great fire of logs blazing in a rudely made fireplace at one
end of the room. He moved on until he found a door.

"Perhaps the owner of this log mansion will think I'm pretty prompt
in returning his call," the lad mused as he knocked softly at the
door. "But, all the same, I'm going to give him the pleasure of my
company until I can get warm."

There was no response to the knock, and so George opened the door
and entered. There was no one in front of the fire; no one in any
of the rude chairs. The boy stood looking about the room for a
moment and then walked back to three bunks fastened against the
wall, one above the other.

When he reached the front of the sleeping places an exclamation of
alarm came from a bundle of furs and blankets on the lower bunk and
a boy's frightened face gazed up at him. The boy sat observing the
other with evident suspicion for a moment, until his eyes caught
sight of the Boy Scout medals which adorned the sleeve of the lad's
coat.

Then he extended an arm in the full salute of the Boy Scouts of
America, and sat back with a grin on his face to note the result.

"Beaver Patrol; Chicago," he said directly.

"I know you," George said with an exclamation of surprise. "You're
Thede Carson, and you're about the toughest little wharf rat in
Chicago!"

"That's a nice recommend for a patrol leader to give one of his
scouts," grinned the boy. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

"The last time I saw you," George said, smiling at the memory, "you
were diving into the South Branch to keep out of sight of a police
boat."

"I remember that," grinned Thede. "They said I'd been swiping
bananas up in Gambler's alley, and that wasn't true."

"Well, how in the name of all the seven wonders of the world did
you get into the Hudson Bay country?" demanded George.

"Old Finklebaum," answered Thede.

"Old Finklebaum?" repeated George. "Do you mean the old Shylock
who does business under the three balls down on State street? You
can't mean that he had anything to do with your appearance here?"

"You bet he did have something to do with my being here!" Thede
insisted. "You see, it's just this way: Old Finklebaum says to me
one day, 'I'll take the hair off Ikey's head for selling that
Little Brass God!'"

George gave a quick start of surprise at the mention of the very
article the Boy Scouts had come to the Hudson Bay country in quest
of, but checked himself in a second.

"What did he have a--a--what did you say it was?--if he didn't want
to sell it?" asked the boy in assumed surprise.

"He did want to sell it up to that very day," was the reply, "but
no one wanted to buy it. Then a man came into the shop and said
he'd give a thousand dollars for it on sight. So Finklebaum,
having the Little Brass God within a foot of his hawkbill nose,
takes the man's address and says he'll let him know if he hears
anything about the thing in demand. Finklebaum thinks that if the
man'll pay one thousand dollars for it, he'll pay five, and that's
why he loses out."

George's interest was now so intense that the boy ceased speaking
and sat regarding him steadily for a moment.

"What do you know about the Little Brass God?" he demanded.

"Nothing," replied George. "Never saw it!"

"Seems to me you're pretty much interested in it, though,"
commented the boy, rising from the bunk and taking a seat before
the fire.

"I was thinking about Old Finklebaum cheating himself by getting
too gay," answered George. "Go on, and tell me about it!"

"So when this man who offers the thousand dollars leaves the shop,"
Thede continued, "Finklebaum chases out to a dealer in antiques to
make inquiries about the Little Brass God. I guess he thinks it's
some East India idol, or something of that kind, and that his
fortune is made."

"Supposing it should be an East India idol!" exclaimed George,

"It may be, for all I know," Thede replied. "Anyhow, while old
Finklebaum was out trying to find out how much his Little Brass God
was worth, little Ikey sold it for a ten dollar note."

"Oh my, oh my, oh my!" laughed George. "I'll bet there was a merry
old time when Finklebaum returned and found the ten dollar note in
the drawer and the Little Brass God gone."

"Such a racket as never was!" declared Thede, laughing at the
recollection of the scene. "I was in the shop," he went on,
"getting out some articles Mother Murphy had been borrowing money
on, and heard all that took place."

"Go on and tell me about it."

"Old Finklebaum said he was just plumb ruined. He said he'd snatch
Ikey bald-headed, and do a lot of other things to him, if he didn't
walk right out into State street and bring back that Little Brass
God. Holy Moses! You ought to have seen how scared Little Ikey
was!"

"Could he describe the man who bought the Little Brass God?"
inquired George in a tone intended to be indifferent.

"Oh, yes!" replied Thede. "Ikey said the man wore a leather jacket
with a red belt around the waist, a fur cap and rings in his ears.
So Ikey was sent out to find the fellow, and I asked Old Finklebaum
what he'd give me if I'd bring back the Little Brass God. He says
he'll give me a hundred dollars the minute I put it in his hands,
and I ducked down State street in search of this gink with the
rings in his ears."

"And didn't find him?"

"If I had you wouldn't find me up here in this beastly country,"
replied Thede. "That is," the boy went on, "if I had found him
with the Little Brass God in his possession."

"So you really did find him?" questioned George.

"Yes, I ran across him in a saloon down near Twelfth street, and
stuck to him like a bulldog to a cat's back for two days and
nights."

"Why didn't you go and tell Finklebaum where he was, and let him do
the watching? That's what you should have done!"

"Not for mine!" answered the other. "Old Finklebaum would have
taken the case out of my hands, and fooled me out of my hundred
simoleons. I follows this gink around until he becomes sociable
and sort of adopts me. I gets into his furnished room down on
Eldridge court and searches it during his absence. There ain't no
Little Brass God there!"

'"Did you ever get your eyes on it?" asked George.

"Never!" was the reply. "But he acts funny all the time, and I
think he's got it hidden. When he gets ready to come back to the
Hudson Bay country he asks me how I'd like to come up north with
him and learn to be a trapper, so I says that if there's anything
on earth I want to be it's a trapper, and I come up here, making
him think I'm after fur, when all the time I'm after the Little
Brass God."

"Are you sure the man you followed is the man who brought the toy?"
asked George, "You might have picked up the wrong man, you know."

"No I didn't!" replied Thede. "I've heard this man, Pierre,
muttering and talking in his sleep, and I know he has the Little
Brass God hidden. I'll go back to Chicago some day with it in my
possession and Old Finklebaum will pay me a couple of thousand or
he'll never get hold of it again! Won't it be a great story to
tell the boys on State street about the times I'm having up here."

The door opened and Pierre entered, anger flashing from his eyes.

CHAPTER IV

LOST IN THE STORM

"What you do here?" demanded Pierre, standing with his back against
the door and facing George with a snarl of hate and suspicion.

"I got lost!" was the quick reply.

"You go 'way!" shouted the trapper.

"Aw, what's the matter with letting him stay here all night?" asked
Thede. "These boys are hunting and fishing, and the kid got lost
in the swamp. He's all right!"

"He follow me!" insisted Pierre.

"Sure, I did!" George replied, trying to give the impression that
the matter was rather a good joke on himself. "I heard you
smashing through the bushes and I thought you were some kind of a
wild animal, and so I followed you up. I got so far away from camp
that I couldn't find my way back. Then I saw your light and came
here."

"Where your gun?" demanded Pierre, pointing suspiciously to the
boy's empty hands. "You no shoot without gun!"

George drew an automatic from his pocket and held it up in the
firelight. Pierre eyed it enviously.

"We hunt with these things!" the boy said.

Pierre continued to regard the boy with suspicion, for a long time
but he finally seated himself before the fire and began to grumble
because Thede had not been more active in the preparations for
supper.

"It's a wonder you wouldn't come home and get supper yourself once
in a while!" exclaimed the boy, "You needn't think I came up here
in the cold to wait on you, Old Hoss!" the lad added with a wink at
George. "I didn't leave my happy home for any such menial service."

Pierre grumbled out a few sentences in mongrel French and proceeded
to prepare a solitary meal. Thede winked at George and began
cooking enough supper for both of them.

George was thinking fast while the boy was sweating before the
scorching heat of the fire. He was wondering whether Thede had
told him the exact truth concerning his connection with Pierre. He
was wondering, too, whether the boy had told all he knew of the
Little Brass God.

Here were two parties in the Northern wilderness in quest of the
same thing! It occurred to the wondering boy that Pierre might
have been sent into the Hudson Bay country in quest of the
individual who had purchased the Little Brass God at the
pawnbroker's shop.

This, he argued, would be just about what Finklebaum would be
likely to do. On the discovery of his loss, he would naturally
seek some one familiar with the northern country and dispatch them
in quest of the lost prize. In case this should prove to be the
fact, the boy Thede might not have been taken into the confidence
of the two men.

He might be telling what he believed to be the truth concerning the
matter. The advantages to the pawnbroker of this secret
arrangement would be many. In the first place, anyone following
Pierre would naturally suppose him to be the person having
possession of the Little Brass God. This would naturally cause
investigators to entirely lose sight of the real possessor in
shadowing the man sent out to recover the article.

Another point which the boy considered was the possibility of the
Little Brass God having been robbed of his treasure before being
placed in the pawnshop. This idea, however, he soon rejected for
the reason that no one would know better than the man who inspired
the larceny whether the will was still retained in the cavity of
the toy. Had he secured the document, he would be the last one to
offer a high reward for the return of the odd casket in which it
had been contained.

While the boy puzzled over the case, Pierre and Thede sat down to
their evening meal. George was invited to join them in the repast,
but declined on the ground that he had eaten supper not long
before. After the meal was over, Pierre took up his rifle and left
the cabin, scowling at George over his shoulder as he took his
departure.

"He's pretty sore about your being here," grinned Thede.

"I don't know why he should be."

"Perhaps he thinks you've come up here to steal this little Brass
God."

The boy was very anxious to get back to his chums in order that the
situation might be thoroughly discussed. They were in the Hudson
Bay country in quest of the Little Brass God, and here was Thede on
the same mission. It seemed to him that if Pierre had really had
the toy in his possession, Thede would have caught sight of it, at
least,

The more he thought of this phase of the case, the more he was
inclined to believe that Pierre was also in search of the Little
Brass God.

"Pierre will be apt to raise a howl if I leave the cabin alone,"
the boy finally said. "He's fierce when he gets mad!"

"You don't seem to be afraid of him," replied, George.

"I'm afraid of him all right," the other replied, "but I don't
intend to let him know it. I've got one of these billies inside my
coat, all the time, and if he tries any funny business with me I'll
knock his block off!"

"He could cut you into shoestrings while you are asleep!"

"Yes, I suppose so, but be won't do anything of the kind!"

"Well, come on over to camp," urged George. "It isn't so very much
of a walk. I guess we can make it in half an hour."

Thede hesitated, but finally dressed himself for a cold journey,
and fixed the fire so that no damage might be done by it during his
absence.

"How long has Pierre lived in this cabin?" asked George, as the
boys started out. "It looks like an old building."

"I guess he found it standing here deserted and just moved in," was
the reply. "I don't think he knows much about this country."

"Do you think he has any idea that the Little Brass God is in such
great demand?" asked George. "No, I don't think he has."

"Then, why should he keep it hidden away, even from you, three
hundred miles away from civilization? I should think he'd want to
have the thing out once in a while, just to take a look at it,
anyway."

"I should think so," agreed Thede.

The boys made their way over the morass and entered the thick
undergrowth. Now and then George flashed his electric, but he did
not keep it burning steadily for the reason that he did not care to
have Pierre trailing them back to the camp.

"Are you sure you passed this way when you came to the cabin?"
asked Thede as they walked along. "I don't seem to find any trail
here."

"It seems to me I came along here," was the reply. "If it wasn't
so blasted dark, we could tell whether we were going in the right
direction or not, all right!"

As the boy spoke, he lifted a hand to his face and raised the net
which protected his features from the mosquitos, still flying
about, although the night, apparently, was cold enough to freeze
their wings stiff.

"They won't bother you much more," Thede commented.

"How do you know that?"

"Because there's a snow storm coming up!"

"Then we'd better be getting a move on!" advised George. "If we
get caught up here in a snow storm, it'll be 'Good-night' for us!"

"We're going as fast as we can," replied Thede, "but I don't know
whether we're going in the right direction or not. It seems like
we've walked far enough to be at the camp."

In five minutes the searchlight revealed a drift of snow in the
air, and ten minutes later the ground was white. A cold wind blew
out of the north, shifting at times to the west, and the boys
shivered under the chill of it. Still no welcome light from the
camp.

"Can you find your way back to the cabin?" asked George after they
had walked at least an hour.

"We've got to find our way somewhere pretty soon!" the other
replied. "If we don't, we'll freeze to death!"

The boys walked for what seemed to them two hours more, and then
Thede, who was in advance, stumbled over a tree bole lying at the
foot of a gentle slope. He rose rubbing his elbow and turned the
flashlight toward the front.

"I know where we are now," he said. "We're about eight miles from
the cabin. This place here is called Bear Ridge, and it's about
the only collection of rocks and caverns that I know of in this
district."

"Can't we find a cavern to crawl into?" asked George, his teeth
chattering with the cold.

"If we find a cavern," advised Thede, "we're likely to find a
couple of bears packed away in it!"

"I don't care if there are a hundred bears!" grumbled George.
"I'll freeze to death if I stay out in this snow another minute!"

After a long and difficult climb the boys came to a ledge of rock
and crawled into a small opening revealed by the searchlight.

"The beds are all full tonight, I guess," George said shivering.
"I hear Bruin kicking about being disturbed."

CHAPTER V

A BOY SCOUT TRICK

"Where's that fool boy going now?" asked Tommy as George, in
pursuit of the spy, dashed into the thicket.

"What did he see back here that caused him to let out a yell like
that?" asked Sandy.

"I don't believe he saw anything!" Will declared. "He just thought
he'd give us a good scare by pretending he'd bumped into a band of
Indians, or something like that."

The boys looked over the ground in the rear of the tent, and
finally Tommy came to the place where the spy had punctured the
canvas.

"Who made this hole in the tent?" he asked.

The boys gathered around the opening through which the spy had
inspected the interior of the tent, and looked at each other with
wonder expressed on their faces. Tommy was first to speak.

"George must have caught a man here looking in," he said.

"That's why he disappeared so suddenly," Will argued.

"Yes, he was chasing the Peeping Tom," Sandy agreed.

"I wish we knew the direction they took," Will mused. "The boy may
get into serious trouble, chasing off into the forest along in the
night. He should have told us of his discovery so one of us could
have gone with him! We may be able to find him yet."

"Aw, he'll come back before long!" Tommy argued. "He can't make
any headway out there in the underbrush, and the fellow who was
here will probably run away from him before he gets three rods from
the tent."

"I hope so!" answered Will.

"But what was that gink prowling around the tent for?" asked Sandy.
"That must have been the same fellow we heard using the paddle a
short time ago. If it is, he's mighty liberal with his bullets!"

"I'm anxious about that boy," Will broke in. "I wish he'd come
back!"

"Yes, this isn't a very desirable country to be lost in in the
night!" Tommy admitted. "He ought not to have gone away."

"What do you make of this gink prowling around our tent?" asked
Sandy. "Do you think he's doing it out of curiosity, or because he
has an inkling of what we're up here after?"

"Huh! How would any one away off up here know anything about the
Little Brass God?" demanded Tommy.

"Look here," Will argued. "The Little Brass God is stolen from
this house on Drexel Boulevard. Enclosed in a cavity in the toy is
a will disposing of several million dollars worth of property. The
Little Brass God is finally sold to a pawn-broker, who in turn
disposes of it to a trapper known to belong in the Hudson Bay
district."

"That's a fair statement," answered Tommy.

"Now, Mr. Horton, attorney for the man who is in quest of the lost
will, and Sigsbee, the man interested in probating the previous
will, both know of the final disposition of the Little Brass God.
At least, Frederick Tupper knows that it was taken from the pawn
shop by a Hudson Bay trapper, and it is believed that Sigsbee
possesses the same information."

"Of course, they both know about it," agreed Sandy.

"Now, why shouldn't they both send people up here in quest of the
Little Brass God?" Will continued.

"But suppose this man Sigsbee doesn't know anything about the will
being in the belly of the Little Brass God?" suggested Tommy.

"We believe he does know all about it!" said Will.

"And do you believe, too, that he hired a burglar to go and steal
the Little Brass God?" asked Sandy.

"As I said before," Will answered, "we don't know anything about
that. The Little Brass God may have been taken by a burglar who
was simply in quest of plunder. The whole thing resolves itself
into this: If the really, truly burglar stole the toy and sold it
to the pawn-broker, the will is in the ugly little chap's belly.
If Sigsbee hired the burglar he took the will out before the
trinket was sold at the pawn-shop. In that case, he would be the
last one to send an expedition up here to retrieve the toy. And so
you see," Will continued, "that we don't know anything about it."

"Well it's funny that gink should come prowling around our tents on
the first night of our arrival!" Tommy exclaimed. "According to
all accounts, he should have come sneaking into camp looking for a
drink of brandy. The fact that he ran away when discovered shows
that he wasn't here for any honest purpose."

"Well, what are we going to do?" demanded Sandy. "Let's give the
Little Brass God a rest long enough to make up our minds about
George."

"We can't do anything until morning," Will interposed.

"How do you know we can't?" demanded Tommy.

"Because it's dark, and because we know nothing about the country,"
replied Will.

The boys sat before the fire until midnight listening for the
return of their chum. When it began to snow they reluctantly
decided that George had crawled into some temporary shelter for the
night and would not think of trying to make his way home through
the storm.

"You boys go to bed now," Will advised, "and I'll sit up and keep
watch. If you hear me firing how and then, don't think the camp's
been attacked. George may be lost in the woods, and I'll be doing
that to give him the right direction."

"We should have done that before," Tommy suggested.

"Well, get to bed," Will urged, "and I'll run the camp till
morning."

Tommy and Sandy crawled into the tent which stood nearest to the
great campfire and cuddled up in the warm blankets.

"Do you believe Will will stay in camp until morning?" asked Tommy.

"Of course I don't," was the reply. "He'll wait until we're
asleep, and then he'll go prowling around the camp in search of
George."

"That's just about what he'll do."

"What's your idea, then?" asked Sandy.

"Well," Tommy whispered, "George may be out in the snow somewhere,
and it won't take us very long to circle about the camp just to
make sure."

"I got you!" replied Sandy. "We'll get out under the back wall,
and take a little trip with our searchlights."

Half an hour later, when Will, heavily wrapped, glanced in at the
tent preparatory to going out on his quiet search for the missing
chum, ho saw that the blankets were empty.

"The little scamps?" he chuckled. "They've beaten me to it!"

In the meantime, Tommy and Sandy were making their way through the
wilderness traveling in the narrow light provided by the electrics.
By this time the snow was quite deep, and the wind appeared to be
rising every minute.

"We never can get home in this storm if we once lose sight of the
campfire," Tommy said as the two huddled together in the lee of a
big tree.

"That's a fact!" Sandy admitted. "So I guess we'd better be poking
along. Which way is the fire?"

"Why, it ought to be right over there!" replied Tommy doubtfully.

"Over where?" demanded Sandy, with a note of alarm in his voice.

"Blessed if I know!" declared Tommy, sitting flat down in the snow.

The boys walked round and round the tree and made little excursions
in every direction without getting a single trace of the campfire.

"I guess we've gone and done it now!" Tommy grunted.

"Aw, we can find our way back all right enough!" Sandy declared.
"We came north when we left the camp, didn't we?"

"Guess we did," replied Tommy, his teeth rattling with the cold.

"Then all we've got to do is to follow the wind and we'll strike
the tents. That's some Boy Scout forestry sense, isn't it?"

"We'll wait until we see whether it brings us back to camp or not,"
replied Tommy. "If it does, it's all right; if it doesn't, it's
all wrong."

Had the boys proceeded straight north on leaving the camp, they
would have doubtless returned to the lighted zone by keeping with
the wind, if the wind had not shifted to the west soon after their
departure from the camp.

They walked for what seemed to them to be hours. In fact, more
than once they glanced about hoping to get their direction from a
showing of daylight in the sky.

"I don't believe it ever will be daylight again," grumbled Sandy,
"and I move we stop right here and build a big fire."

"Can we build a fire in all this ruck?" asked Tommy.

"You bet we can!" was the answer. "What are we Boy Scouts good for
if we can't build a fire in a storm?"

They cleared a little space in the snow and Tommy brought a handful
of dry bark. Shielding the flickering blaze as much as possible,
the boy applied the match he had struck to the bark. The fire
which resulted could have been started in a teacup.

About this he built a skeleton tent of bits of dry soft wood from
six to nine inches in length. His fire was now as large as an
ordinary kettle. Next, the boys threw larger boughs on the blaze,
and finally succeeded in surrounding it by large logs.

"There's one thing about it," Tommy declared as they warmed their
hands over the blaze, "there won't any wild animals take a bite out
of us as long as we keep near this fire!"

"I wish George would come poking along in," Sandy commented. "I
believe I'll go out in the thicket after I get warm and see if he
isn't somewhere in this vicinity. I thought I heard a call over
there just a moment ago."

"Listen, then," Tommy advised. "If some one called, we're likely
to hear a repetition of the sound."

Sure enough, the call came again as the boys huddled over the fire.
It came down with the wind and seemed to be rapidly drawing nearer.

"That sounds to me like a boy's voice," Sandy suggested.

"Sounds more like a half-breed to me!" Tommy answered.

"He's stopped coming on, anyway." Sandy exclaimed in a moment.

"Perhaps he's tumbled down in the snow!" Tommy argued.

"In that case, we'd better be getting out where he is," said Sandy.

The boys both left the fire and darted out into the darkness,
listening for the call but hearing only the roaring of the wind.

CHAPTER VI

THE CAVE OP THE TWO BEARS

"Bears?" exclaimed George, as the lads listened in front of the
cave, "do you think there are polar bears up here? I think it's
cold enough for the big white variety."

"Put your head inside the cave," Thede suggested, "and you won't be
wondering whether there are any bears here."

George did as requested, and soon the warm animal odor noticeable
in the various zoos of the country attacked his nostrils.

"What kind of bears are they?" he asked.

"I've heard Pierre say there were black and brown bears," replied
Thede. "You know I haven't been in here only a few days."

"I wonder if they'll bite."

"Stick your arm in there and find out," Thede answered.

"I don't believe they'll jump on us if we keep our light going,"
George argued. "Anyway," he went on, "we've got to get somewhere
out of this wind and snow. If we don't, we'll freeze to death!"

Very slowly and cautiously the boys made their way into the cavern.
It was a small place, not more than six feet in width and twice
that in depth, and the electric revealed about all there was inside.

Two black huddles of fur showed under the finger of light, and as
the boys crept on, George with his automatic ready for use, two
pair of surly, pig-like eyes became visible.

The animals stirred restlessly as the boys advanced and finally
began edging toward one side of the cave, as if seeking a way out.

"Get out of the entrance," advised George as soon as both animals
were on their feet, "and we'll give them a chance to escape."

This plan was followed, and, much to the delight of the youngsters,
the animals sprang outside and for a moment disappeared in the
darkness.

"It's a shame to turn the poor creatures out in this storm!" George
declared. "Perhaps they were just entering upon their long
winter's sleep."

"We didn't order them out!" grinned Thede. "It amounts to the same
thing," George responded. "They've gone away, and are likely to
freeze to death."

"If you think they've gone away," Thede replied, "just turn your
light toward the entrance. They're not going to give up their warm
nest without a scrap, and I can't say that I blame them for it."

It was considerably warmer in the cave and, out of the tempest, the
boys were quite comfortable in their thick clothing. They huddled
together at the far end of the cavern, and George kept the light
turned, on the two bears, who were now growling savagely.

"Why don't you shoot?" asked Thede.

"What's the use of shooting until I have to?" demanded George.
"They can come in here if they want to, if they'll only behave
themselves."

"If they try to come in here," declared Thede, "I'll go up in the
air about nine hundred feet."

Although they did not attempt to re-enter the cavern, the bears
kept close to the entrance. It was clear that only the light of
the electric kept them from attacking the boys.

"They'll stay right there till morning," exclaimed Thede, "and
we'll have to shoot them anyway before we can get out. They are
kicking themselves now," he continued with a grin, "because they
let us in here without a battle. I wish we understood bear talk so
that we could learn what they're saying to each other."

"Nothing very complimentary to us," George declared.

As the night advanced it grew colder and the boys moved about in
quest of a more sheltered corner. They could still hear the bears
moving about outside, but paid no attention to them.

"Look here," George said presently, as the search-light rested for
a moment on a break in the rock. "I wouldn't wonder at all if we
could get further under the hill. There's an opening here which
looks wide enough for us to crawl through."

"It's a wonder the bears didn't find it then," commented Thede.

"I'm going to see whether I can get through it or not," George
insisted. "It may be a warmer corner. Anyway, it'll give us
exercise, and that's what we need about this time."

Throwing the spear of light into the crevice, the boy glanced
keenly about. The walls of the opening seemed to be smooth, and to
extend only a short distance. Just below where the walls broke he
could see the brown floor of another cavern."

"I guess it's all right," he said to Thede. "You take the light
and hold it down and I'll scramble in. May as well break my neck
as to freeze to death."

"Let me take your hand, then," advised Thede, "so yon can be pulled
back if you don't like the looks of the new furnished room."

"I'd like to be in a furnished room on Washington boulevard just
this minute," George broke in.

"I wouldn't mind a good box in Gamblers' alley," said Thede.

When all was ready Thede gave one hand to George and lowered him
down to the full length of both arms.

"All right!" George cried in a moment, "I can feel my toes touching
the rock. Let go! You drop down now, and I'll steady you when you
light."

Both boys were soon in the lower cavern and a moment following
their arrival there, they heard the claws of the bears rattling on
the rocks above.

"I've heard Pierre tell about caves in this range of hills," Thede
said, "but I never knew that they had caves two stories high."

As the boy ceased speaking, George suddenly shut off his flash
light and laid a hand on the other's arm.

"What's that for -----"

"Keep still!" whispered George. "Do you see anything?"

"Looks to me like a light," the other replied.

"Looks like a fire, doesn't it?" asked George.

"It certainly is a fire and there's a man sitting in front of it."

The fire showed at the end of a narrow passage, perhaps ten or
twelve yards away. It was blazing vigorously, and the cavern in
which it stood was well clouded with smoke. It was evident that
the watcher by the fire was as yet unconscious of the approach of
the two boys.

"I wish we could get to that fire!" George said with a shiver.

"And why not?"

"I don't think he'd be hiding here if he was keeping open house,"
replied George. "He may be an outlaw hiding from the police. And
in that case he wouldn't relish the idea of his underground retreat
being discovered, even by two boys who want to get warm."

"Anyway," Thede insisted, "I'm going to crawl up close and see what
I can find out. That fire looks good to me."

The boys advanced cautiously, with George a little in advance. The
man at the fire sat with his chin on his breast as if in sound
sleep.

"I don't believe he'd say anything if we walked right in on him,"
Thede declared. "If he does, we can hold a gun on him and invite
him to a more friendly mood."

The man did not move as the boys came on, and George was about to
call out to him when Thede caught him by the shoulder.

"Don't you dare make a motion!" the boy whispered. "Stand still
where you are and look to the little shelf of rock on the other
side of the fire."

George looked, and his automatic and his searchlight almost
clattered to the floor as his eyes rested on something which
glittered like gold in the red light of the fire. He turned to
Thede, and there was a tremor in his voice as he whispered in his
ear.

"Do you know what that is?" he asked.

"I think I know what it is!" was the whispered reply.

"It's the Little Brass God!" whispered George excitedly. "And I'm
going to sneak over there and lay my hands on it before that fellow
wakes up!"

"You never can do it!" advised Thede.

"I've just got to do it!"

"If that is the real Little Brass God, how did it ever get here?"
whispered Thede. "Strangest thing I ever heard of."

"Gee whiz!" whispered George. "We mustn't stand around wondering
how it got here. The thing for us to do right now is to get
possession of it. I believe I can get over there without waking
that fellow up."

"Let me take your gun, then," Thede advised, "and if he moves or
makes any funny breaks, I'll keep him under cover!"

George handed his gun over to the boy without a word and moved on
toward the fire. It was clear that the man was asleep, his chin
resting on his breast, his shoulders supported by a wall of rock.

The thing which glittered on the ledge, now almost within reaching
distance, was unquestionably the Little Brass God, the quest of
which had brought the boys into the Hudson Bay country.

George had never set eyes on the toy, but there was no mistaking
the crossed legs, the folded arms, the paunchy stomach, and the
misshapen, leering face. The boy heard a soft warning whispered
from the opposite side of the room and turned his eyes from a
greedy contemplation of the Little Brass God to the figure of the
man crouching before the blaze.

The fellow had lifted his head, and now sat staring at the boy with
a dumb wonder in his eyes. While the boy looked the expression
changed from wonder to alarm, from alarm to anger, and then the
doubled-up figure straightened and sprang forward.

The boy heard a pistol shot, sensed the acrid smell of powder
smoke, felt a muscular hand grasp the wrist which was extended
toward the shelf of rock, and then a million stars seemed to be
falling from the heavens. There was a roar as of an ocean beating
against breakers, and then a lull during which he heard another
pistol shot.

When the boy regained consciousness, daylight was creeping into the
cavern through an opening much lower down than the one by which the
boys had entered the upper cavern.

The earth outside was covered with a thick mat of snow, and the
trees and shrubs of the forest were bending beneath burdens of pure
white.

The fire had burned to ashes and it was miserably cold.

The Little Brass God was gone!

CHAPTER VII

AN EMPTY CAVERN

Perhaps a dozen yards from the fire, Tommy stumbled at a figure
over which the falling snow was fast drifting. He called out to
Sandy, who was only a short distance away, and the two lifted the
unconscious form in their arms and staggered toward the fire.

"Why, it's nothing but a kid!" Sandy exclaimed.

"Don't you know who it is?" demanded Tommy.

"Never saw him before!" was the reply.

"It's Thede Carson!"

"Not that little monkey of a Thede Carson who's always getting the
Beaver Patrol into trouble?" demanded Sandy. "What would he be
doing up here? I guess you're losing the sense of sight."

"Sure, it's Thede Carson," insisted Tommy.

"Well, I guess he's about all in," Sandy volunteered.

"Get busy then, with your first aid," Tommy ordered. "Get some of
his clothes off and get to work with snow, or his fingers and toes
will drop off as soon as they thaw out."

"I don't believe it's the cold so much as it is exhaustion," Sandy
ventured. "He seems to have been running a whole lot, for he's
still panting, I reckon he just dropped down when he couldn't run
any further."

"I guess that's about right," Tommy admitted. "He doesn't seem to
be very cold. It may be that wound on his head," the lad added,
pointing to a long gash in the scalp which, judging from the state
of the lad's clothing, had bled very freely.

"What do you think of coming away up here in the Hudson Bay country
and picking a member of the Beaver Patrol right out of the woods?"
demanded Sandy. "We seem to find Boy Scouts wherever we go."

The boys worked over the exhausted lad some moments, and then he
opened his eyes.

"Now for the love of Mike!" exclaimed Tommy, "don't look around and
say 'Where am I?' The correct thing to say in these modern days is
'Vot iss?' Do you get me, Thede?"

"Why, it's Tommy!" said the boy.

"Betcher life!" returned Tommy. "Did you run all the way up here
from Clark street? Or did you come up in an aeroplane?"

Thede sat up and looked about for the tents and the boats.

"Why, this isn't the camp!" he said.

"We haven't got any more camp than a rabbit!" declared Sandy.
"We're lost! We've got to wait till morning to find our way back."

"It's a good thing you're lost!" exclaimed Thede. "I don't think I
could have held out until I reached the camp. You see," he went on
with a slight shudder at the recollection of his experiences, "I
left George a long distance off."

"Left George?" repeated Tommy.

"I couldn't bring him with me," answered Thede, with a slow smile,

"Where did you leave him?" demanded Tommy.

"Why didn't he come with you?" asked Sandy.

"Because," replied Thede, "just as he was reaching up to the wall
of the cavern to take hold of the Little Brass God, he got a tunk
on the coco that put him out for the count."

"What do you know about the Little Brass God?" asked Tommy.

"I've seen it!" answered Thede. "It sat up on a shelf on the face
of the wall, with its legs crossed, and its arms folded, and its
wicked face telling me where I could go whether I wanted to or not."

"I guess something's gone to your head!" declared Sandy.

"But I'll tell you we found the Little Brass God!" declared Thede.
"George came to the cabin, and we started out to find the camp, and
got lost in the storm, and brought up in a cave inhabited by two
bears."

Sandy regarded Tommy significantly.

"And we found a basement floor to the cavern, and went down the
elevator and found a man asleep in front of a fire with the Little
Brass God winking at him. Funny fellow, that Little Brass God!"

"You for the foolish house!" cried Tommy.

"Honest, boys!" Thede declared. "George came to the cabin and I
started home with him after Pierre left us alone together. The
storm chased us into a cave, just as I told you, and we kept on
going until we came to the place where the Little Brass God sat up
on the wall making faces at a man asleep at the fire.'"

"Go on!" exclaimed Tommy, at last understanding that the boy was in
his right mind. "Tell us about it!"

"And George said he would get the Little Brass God without waking
the man up. So he gave me his gun, and I was to shoot in case the
man made any trouble. Then, just as George was reaching for the
little Brass God, the man woke up and shot at him, Then the man
shot at me, and I shot at him, and then he got my gun away from me
and I ran out to find you."

"And you left George there in the cavern?" asked Sandy.

"I just had to!" was the reply. "I couldn't do anything with that
giant of a half-breed, and I didn't have a gun and so I ducked.

"Can you take us back to that cavern now?" asked Tommy.

"Sure I can," was the reply.

"Oughtn't we to let Will know where we are?" asked Sandy.

Tommy looked at Thede questioningly.

"Can you tell us how to find the cavern?" he asked in a moment.

"What for?" demanded the boy. "I'm going to take you where it is."

"You're about all in," declared Sandy, "and you ought to go to camp
and rest up and tell Will where we've gone."

"You couldn't find this cave in a thousand years," declared Thede.

While the boys talked the wind died down, and the snow ceased
falling.

Presently a mist of daylight crept into the forest and then the
boys crept out on their journey toward into ridge of hills.

"Wasn't that a dream about your seeing the Little Brass God?" asked
Tommy as they walked along.

"Sure not," was the reply, "we both saw it, didn't we?"

"Well, whoever told you anything about the Little Brass God?"
demanded Sandy. "How did you know there was a Brass God?"

"Old Finklebaum told me. He said he'd give me a hundred dollars if
I found it, so I started in to earn that mazuma."

In as few words as possible the boy repeated the story he had told
George on the previous evening.

"I guess you boys came up here looking for the Little Brass God,
too, didn't you?" the boy asked, shrewdly, after a moment's
hesitation.

"We came up to hunt and fish!" laughed Tommy.

"To hunt for the Little Brass God and fish for the man who bought
it of the pawnbroker, I guess," laughed Thede. "You boys never
came clear up here just to chase through the snow after game when
there's plenty of shooting three hundred miles to the south."

"You say you think that Pierre is the man who bought the Little
Brass God of the pawnbroker?" asked Sandy, as the boys stopped for
a moment to rest. "Is that the reason you followed him here?"

"That's the reason!" was the reply.

"He seemed perfectly willing to have you come?"

"He welcomed me like a long lost brother!"

"Then it's a hundred to one shot Pierre never got his hands on the
Little Brass God! Don't you see how suspicious he would have been
if he had had the little brute in his possession?"

"I didn't think of that!" replied Thede. "Look here," the boy
continued, "I'd like to know what all this fuss is about, anyway.
Why should any one in his right mind give old Finklebaum a thousand
dollars or five thousand dollars, for that piece of brass? That's
what gets me!"

Tommy and Sandy looked at each other significantly but made no
immediate reply. In a moment Thede went on.

"'Spose this should be a Little Brass God stolen from some temple
away out in the wilds of India. Suppose a delegation of East
Indians should be sent here to get it. Wouldn't they murder a
score of men if they had to in order to get possession of it?"

"They probably would," was the reply.

After an hour's hard walking, the boys came to the foot of the
ridge of hills and looked upward. Thede pointed to the cavern
where the two bears had been discovered.

"There's where we went in," he explained, "but the cavern where the
fire and the Little Brass God were is right under that one."

"How're we going to get to it?"

"If you want to take your chance on meeting the bears, you can drop
down through the opening from the floor above."

"But isn't there an opening to this lower cavern?"

"Sure there is! That's the one I ran out of! Say," he continued,
"that's the one we saw the man by the fire run out of, too. You
can see the tracks of his moccasins in the snow. He must have left
after the storm ceased. My tracks were filled."

"In we go, then!" cried Tommy, advancing lip the slight slope to
the Up of the cavern.

"Watch out for bears!" cried Thede.

CHAPTER VIII

A TRAPPER'S TREACHERY

When Will, watching at the camp, found that Tommy and Sandy had
disappeared, he had no idea that they would remain more than an
hour or so.

The long night passed, however, and the boys did not return. When
daylight came, Will built up a roaring fire and began preparing
breakfast.

It was his idea at that time that the boys had come together in the
forest about the time the snow began falling, and had sought in
some deserted shack temporary protection from the storm.

"They'll be back here in a short time, hungry as bears!" he thought.

Presently he heard some one advancing through the snow-covered
thicket, and turned in that direction with an expectant smile.

Instead of his chums he saw a half-breed in leather jacket and
leggins and a fur cap approaching. When the fellow reached the
camp he made a quick and rather impertinent inspection of the tents
before approaching the spot where the boy stood awaiting him.

"Good morning!" Will said, not without a challenge in his voice.

"Where are the boys?" asked the visitor.

"Who are you?" demanded Will.

"Pierre!" was the short reply.

"Why do you ask about the boys?"

Pierre explained in broken English that one of the boys who
evidently belonged to the camp had coaxed his companion away.

"Who is your companion?" asked Will, "and why do you come here
looking for him? Who was it that visited your cabin?"

Pierre laboriously explained what had taken place on the previous
evening, and Will listened with an anxious face.

"And you left them there together, and when you returned they had
disappeared? Is that what you mean to say?"

Pierre nodded.

"He coax my boy away," he said sullenly.

"Is this boy you speak of your son?" asked Will.

"Chicago boy!" was the reply.

"Why don't you go on and tell me all about the boy and about
yourself?" inquired Will. "What's the use of standing there
grunting and trying to make me understand nods and scowls?"

Pierre explained that he had been in Chicago to see the sights, had
fallen in with Thede, and agreed to bring him into the forest with
him. His explanation was not very clear as he talked more mongrel
French than English, so Will was not very well informed at the end
of the recital. Pierre looked suspicious as well as disappointed.

"Well," Will explained to the half-breed after a moment's
deliberation, "I suppose you'll turn in now and help me find the
boys!"

Pierre nodded and pointed toward the campfire.

"Build him big!" he said. "Boys come cold."

Accepting the hint, Will piled great logs on the fire while the
half-breed looked sullenly on. The boy then dressed himself in his
warmest clothing and the two set out together.

"Have you any idea which way to go?" asked the boy.

Pierre pointed away to the south.

"Wind blow that way," he said. "They follow the wind."

Numerous times, as the two tramped through the snow together, Will
caught the half-breed looking in his direction with eyes of hate.

After proceeding some distance, he fell in behind Pierre, and so
the two traveled through the wilderness, each suspicious and
watchful of the other. After walking an hour or more they came to
a place where Tommy and Sandy had built their fire on the previous
night.

There the half-breed read the story written upon the snow like a
book. Pointing here and there, he explained to Will that two boys
had been caught in the storm and had built a fire. He showed, too,
that a third boy had come plunging through the snow, nearly circled
the camp, and came back toward the fire from the north. Then he
showed the tracks of three heading off to the south.

"Do you think one of those boys was your companion?" asked Will.

The half-breed answered that he was sure of it.

"Then that leaves one of the boys still unaccounted for," Will
mused. "It looks to me," he went on, "as if your friend and George
started away together and got lost. Then your boy came back and
found Tommy and Sandy and started away with them toward the place
where he had left George. Is that the way you look at it?"

The half-breed grunted some sullen reply, and the two walked on
together following the trail which led toward the range of hills.

Instead of directly following the trail left by the boys, however,
Pierre turned frequently to left and right, explaining that if
enemies were about it was a trail which would be watched.

They came to the cavern at last, and stood by the dying embers of
the fire. There was no one in sight. Will examined the sloping
surface of snow in front and found no tracks leading outward.

"They must be in here somewhere!" he exclaimed.

Pierre nodded his fur cap vigorously, and the two began a careful
examination of the underground place.

They found many little caves opening from the larger one, but no
trace of the boys. After a time a shout from Pierre drew Will to
his side. The fellow was peering into a crevice, in the rocky wall
which seemed to lead for some distance under the hill.

"Do you think they are hidden in there?" asked the boy.

Pierre explained in his barely understandable dialect that he
thought the boys might have escaped into the inner cavern and
started to make their way out in another direction.

"Then I'll go in after them," Will decided.

Before entering he called shrilly into the cavern, but only the
echoes came back to him. By considerable squeezing, he managed to
make his way through the opening. He then found himself in a
passage-like place, sloping upward. As he threw his light about
the interior, he heard a chuckle in the outer chamber where he had
left Pierre.

He turned in time to see the half-breed rolling great stones
against the mouth of the narrow opening by means of which he had
entered.

"Hah!" sneered Pierre. "You bring me trouble!"

"What are you doing that for?" demanded Will.

The half-breed peered into the opening with eyes that resembled
those of a snake, so full of malice and hatred were they.

"You steal my boy!" he said.

"So this is a trap, is it?" Will demanded.

The half-breed answered by a chuckle of laughter."

"If you don't take those stones away," Will threatened, "I'll fill
you full of lead when I do get out!"

The half-breed patted his gun stock significantly, but made no
reply.

The boy heard him rolling rocks along the cavern floor and against
the opening, and turned away hoping to find some other means of
egress.

It was clear to him that the half-breed thoroughly understood the
situation in the hills. He had no doubt that he had planned to
bring him there for the purpose which had developed. He
understood, too, that if there were other openings to the cavern,
Pierre knew where they were, and would block them as soon as he had
effectually blocked the one by which entrance had been effected.

It was cold and damp in that underground place, but the
perspiration actually broke out on the boy's brow as he considered
the fate which might await him in that dreary place of detention.

He had, of course, no means of knowing the whereabouts of any of
his chums. In fact, it seemed to him possible that they, too, had
been inveigled into a trap similar to the one which had been set
for himself.

The motive for this brutal action on the part of the half-breed
was, of course, entirely unknown to the boy. It will be remembered
that he knew nothing whatever of Thede's suspicions that Pierre
actually had the Little Brass God in his possession.

It was black as ink in the passage, but the boy's flashlight had
recently been supplied with a new battery, and he knew that it
would not fail for many hours, so he walked along with confidence.

In perhaps a quarter of an hour the boy came to a blank wall.
There appeared to be no way in which the journey could be extended
under the hills. The nearest lateral passage was some distance
back.

Realizing that no time should be lost, the lad hastened thither and
advanced to the south end of the cross passage. Here, too, he came
upon a blank wall. While he stood listening a heavy, rumbling
voice came to his ears. There were either crevices in that rocky
bulkhead or the wall was very thin.

Presently the heavy voice ceased speaking, and then a lighter tone
was heard. At first Will could not distinguish the words used, but
directly his heart almost bounded into his throat as he listened to
Tommy's voice saying:

"I'll break your crust, you old stiff, if you come near me!"

So the boys were still in a position to defend themselves! Will
beat frantically on the wall and threw his light hither and yon in
search of some opening through which his voice might be heard.

Directly there came an answering sound from the other side.

CHAPTER IX

TWO HUNGRY BEARS

The Little Brass God was gone!

George, still lying upon the floor of the cavern, stretched his
legs and arms, to see if he was all there, as he mentally commented.

After a time he arose to his feet, clinging desperately to the wall
because of his weakness, and called to Thede, who, as the reader
knows, had left hours before, in search of the injured lad's chums.
There came only echoes in reply to his shouts.

There was a pile of wood near at hand and, gathering numerous dry
fagots, the boy staggered dizzily toward the heap of ashes in the
center of the cave. It seemed to him that the first thing to do
was to get warm.

He was hungry, too, but warmth was the important thing just then.
A few red coals still remained, and a blaze soon grew under the
boy's careful hands. In a short time there was a roaring fire.

After thawing the chill out of his bones, the boy began looking
around for his friend of the night before. He looked at his watch
and noted that it was eight o'clock. His revolver was gone but his
search-light was still in his pocket.

He remembered in a moment that he had handed his revolver to
Thede before starting to cross the light zone in the center
of the cavern. Whatever had taken place during his hours of
unconsciousness, it was evident that he had not been robbed.

It seemed to the boy, as he stood looking through the opening which
gave a view of the forest to the north, that he had lain on the
hard floor of the cavern for countless aeons. He did not remember
what had caused the wound on his head. He only knew that he had
been seized with a sudden dizziness and had fallen, after hearing
pistol shots.

Standing before the fire with the cheerful light of the blaze on
one side and the dazzling light of the sun on the snow on the other
side, the uncanny incidents of the night before seemed like a dream
to the boy.

He even found himself wondering whether he had actually caught
sight of the Little Brass God, leering down upon the watcher from
the wall.

Then he recollected that Thede had first called his attention to
the ugly image whose evil eyes seemed to take on malevolent
expressions in the light of the dancing flames.

"It must be all true, then," he concluded. "The man by the fire,
the Little Brass God on the shelf, the pistol shots, and then a
blank."

He wondered where Thede had gone, and why he had deserted him.

"That's the strangest part of it all," the lad mused. "I had an
idea that the boy would stand by me if I got into trouble, and here
he runs away, leaving me lying unconscious in the freezing
atmosphere of this desolate old cavern. I didn't think it of him!"

It occurred to George as he studied over the puzzle that Thede
might not have been as innocent and loyal as he had pretended to
be. He might have been merely an instrument in the hands of a
cunning man.

"At any rate," the boy pondered, "we have found the Little Brass
God!"

He had not, of course, secured possession of it, but he had learned
definitely that it was in that part of the country. He wondered as
to the identity of the man who sat watching the fire. The light
had been dim, and it might have been Pierre for all he knew. Or it
might have been an accomplice of the tricky trapper.

"Now, I wonder how I'm going to get back to camp," the boy mused as
he piled on more wood and spread his hands to the cheerful warmth
of the fire. "Judging from the time it took us to get here, it
must be ten or twelve miles back to the camp."

"The boys will think I've deserted them, I guess," he added. "If
they knew how hungry I am just at this minute, they'd send out a
relief expedition!"

While the boy warmed himself before the fire a series of growls
came from the entrance to the cavern, and two black bears looked in
upon him.

"Now I wonder if you're the same disreputable citizens that tried
to make a free lunch counter of me last night?" George mused. "I
presume you're hungry, all right, but I'd rather not be the person
to do the feeding this morning. You look too fierce for me, both
of you."

The smell of blood evidently excited the bears to unusual feats of
courage, for they entered the mouth of the cavern and stood
growling and showing their teeth within a short distance of where
George stood.

Only for the great blaze which now leaped almost to the roof of the
cavern, the boy would have been attacked at once. He glanced at
the rapidly decreasing pile of wood, and wondered what would take
place as soon as the fire had died down. He had no weapon with
which to defend himself.

For at least a quarter of an hour the bears and the lad gazed at
each other through the red light of the fire. The bears were
gradually moving forward, and every time the lad laid a stick of
wood on the blaze they seemed to understand more fully that his
defense was weakening.

George thought he had never seen wood burn away so fast. The blaze
seemed to melt it as boiling water melts ice.

Already the blaze was dropping lower, and the pile of wood was

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