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Boy Scouts in Northern Wilds by Archibald Lee Fletcher

Part 2 out of 3

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almost gone. The bears sniffed at the blood stains where the boy
had lain on the floor, and turned fierce eyes on the figure by the
fire.

George estimated that his wood might last ten minutes longer. Then
there would be a rush, a crunching of bones and all would be over.

A rifle shot sounded from the outside, and one of the bears dropped
to the rocky floor, struggled spasmodically for a moment, and then
straightened out and lay still. The next instant another shot,
equally accurate, came and the second bear was dead in a moment.

The boy waited eagerly for the appearance of the man who had done
the shooting. He had no idea who the man might be, and was not
quite certain that the fellow had not taken from him one danger
only to place him in another. Still, he looked eagerly forward to
his appearance.

When the man appeared, a smoking double-barreled rifle in his hand,
George saw a tall, ungainly figure with long legs, a long, slim
body, very high cheek bones, and rather stern and uncompromising
blue eyes.

The newcomer was dressed in the leather jacket usually worn by
trappers in that district, leather leggins, moccasins, and fur cap.
A belt of red leather, probably colored and tanned by some Indian
process, was drawn tightly about his waist. There were gold rings
in his ears which swung an inch down on his brown cheeks.

"Hello, sonny!" the man said, advancing into the cavern, standing
the butt of his rifle on the rock, and leaning on the barrel.

"Say," the boy almost shouted, springing forward and extending his
hand, "that's about the best shooting I've seen in a year!"

"The place to hit a bear," the new-comer replied, "is in the neck,
right about where the spinal cord starts to crawl under the skull."

"It's a good thing you came along just as you did," George stated.
"I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am, and so you'll have to
take that for granted. You saved my life!"

"I'm Antoine," the other said, in a moment, after a casual survey
of the boy. "I'm a hunter and trapper. I saw the bears looking
in, and knew from the smoke coining out that there was a human
being in here, too. Knowing that bears and humans don't mix
remarkably well, I came in, too. That's all there is to it!"

"I guess they would have mixed with me all right in about a
minute," George said with a smile. "I had about abandoned hope!"

"How'd you get here?" asked Antoine.

George related the story of the adventures of the previous night,
omitting, however, any mention of the Little Brass God. While he
talked, there came to his mind an indistinct impression that the
face of the man he had seen sitting by the fire was the face of the
man who now stood before him.

He put the thought away instantly, for he did not believe that the
person who had left him on the floor of the cavern to die of cold
and exposure, or to be devoured by wild beasts, could be the same
who had so opportunely rescued him from death.

"You must be hungry, I take it," Antoine said, after the boy bad
concluded his recital. "Boys usually are hungry."

"You bet I'm hungry!" George replied.

Antoine glanced smilingly about at the two bears lying on the floor.

"Can you cook bear steak?" he asked.

"Can I?" repeated George.

Antoine pointed to the Boy Scout medals on the lad's coat sleeve.

"You have the Stalker and Pioneer medals," he said. "You ought to
know something about forestry."

"How do you know what they are?" smiled George.

"Oh," was the hesitating reply, "I know quite a lot about Boy Scout
work and training. Fine lot of fellows, those Boy Scouts!"

"Right you are!" declared George.

Antoine now drew forth a hunting knife which seemed to be as keen
as a razor and began removing the skins from the dead animals. He
worked swiftly and skillfully, and in a short time the making of
two fine black bear rugs were laying in the sun outside.

"Now," the man said, "you get busy with that steak over the coals,
and I'll tote in more wood. You don't seem quite up to carrying
heavy loads yet. That must be a bad wound."

"I think I must have lost considerable blood," George answered.

After the steak was nicely broiled, Antoine brought water from a
nearby stream, and the boy's head was carefully and rather
skillfully attended to.

"And now," said Antoine, "we'll go to my own home, which isn't far
away."

Without a word the boy followed the hunter through the deep snow
which lay on the slope until they came to an opening in the rock.
Entering, the boy found a very comfortable cavern, almost
completely lined with fur. There was a chimney-like crevice in the
ceiling which permitted the escape of smoke and foul air. Both
inside and outside the entrance were great stones by which the
place might be sealed up from either side.

"Quite a cozy nest!" George ventured, and Antoine nodded.

"We'll celebrate your arrival with a cup of good strong tea," he
said.

The tea was brewed and drank. Then the trapper's face began to
assume grotesque forms. The boy's head swam dizzily. He caught a
cynical smile in Antoine's eyes and dropped back into a drugged and
dreamless sleep!

CHAPTER X

BOYS IN A TIGHT PLACE

"Who's there?" asked Tommy's voice, as Will beat frantically
against the rocky bulkhead against which he stood.

"How do I get in there?" asked Will.

"Go around to the entrance and shoot up this half-breed!" advised
Sandy. "He's got us cornered!"

"He's got me cornered, too!" shouted Will.

"Then I guess he's got the high hand," Tommy answered back.

"Say," Thede's voice exclaimed, "the rock at the end of that
passage isn't more than a foot thick and it's full of cracks, at
that. If you had a couple of big whinnicks, you could smash it
down."

"I can find the whinnicks all right!" answered Will.

"Say!" cried Sandy, "you want to hurry with those whinnicks, for
Pierre is almost standing on his head, threatening to shoot if you
try to break through."

Will collected a number of heavy stones which had fallen from the
walls and threw them with all his strength against the partition.

The cracks widened, and slivers of brittle rock fell away. His
efforts were greeted with cheers from the other side, and he
redoubled them, with the result that in a short time, a passage
between the two sections of the underground chambers had been made.

When Will stepped through the opening he saw Pierre's fur cap
sticking up above a barrier which reached almost to the ceiling.
The long barrel of his rifle protruded threateningly into the room.

"I guess," Will proposed, "that we'd better get out of range of
that gun. It doesn't look good to me."

The boys crowded back into the chamber which Will had recently left
and looked at each other with inquiring eyes.

Pierre's harsh laugh came from the outer room. "You thieves!" he
cried. "You die like bear in a trap."

"What does the old idiot mean by that?" asked Will.

"Search me!" replied Tommy.

"How did he ever get you in here?"

"That's a pretty question to ask of us!" declared Tommy. "How did
he ever get you in here?"

"He came to camp and volunteered to help find you run-away boys,"
replied Will. "He brought me to the hills and tumbled boulders
into the entrance to the cavern."

"Well, he came to our assistance almost as soon as we reached the
hills in search of George," Tommy grinned. "He was so mighty
careful to get us into safe quarters that he led us into this
rotten hole and fixed it so we couldn't get out!"

"What's he doing it all for?" Will asked, turning to Tommy.

"Perhaps Thede Carson can tell you better than I can," replied
Tommy. "You remember Thede Carson, don't you, Will?"

"I seem to see a faint, resemblance in this lad to a boy I used to
know as Thede Carson," Will laughed. "He looks now, though, as if
he had plenty to eat, and a good place to sleep!"

"I have been eating regularly," grinned Thede, "but there's no
knowing whether I'll ever connect with another bear steak."

"He came up here with Pierre," Sandy explained. "Perhaps he can
tell you what the half-breed is up to."

"I don't know any more about it than you do!" replied Thede. "He
didn't seem to like the idea of my associating with George," the
boy added with a wink at Will, "and so he bunched us together and
locked us up."

While Pierre gave vent to hoarse shouts of rage, and many entirely
unnecessary and insulting taunts, the boys explained the events of
the past night. The thing which startled Will most was the story
Thede told about having caught sight of the Little Brass God.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Certain sure!"

"It wasn't the firelight or anything like that?"

"No, it was the Little Brass God!"

"Was it Pierre who sat before the fire?"

Thede shook his head doubtfully.

"I don't think so," he replied.

"Did you see the man's face?"

"Only in the shadows. His chin was on his breast at first, and
then, when he looked up, he turned his head the other way."

"Well," Will said, "we have at least located the ugly little beast."

"Did it look complete and whole?" asked Tommy. "That's one
question you didn't answer when you told me about having seen it."

"Just as good as new," replied Thede. "If it had been opened at
all, the trick was turned by a man who understood the combination."

"And now about George?" Will asked.

"Some one carried him away," Thede declared.

"That's the way I figure it out," Tommy cut in.

"He didn't walk away," Tommy added, "because there were no tracks
his size. There were plenty of other tracks, but none which could
have been made by George's shoes."

"Aw, how do you know anything about that?" demanded Sandy. "We saw
a large moccasin track there, and how do we know that some man
didn't walk behind George and step on all his tracks?"

"Or how do we know that some big chump didn't carry him away in his
arms?" Tommy admitted. "I never thought about the means that might
have been used to conceal the kid's exit. You're the only real
live Sherlock Holmes in this crowd," the boy added with a laugh.

"Then it's a cinch that some one carried him away," Will decided.

"Of course it is!" Sandy answered.

"Look here!" Tommy said after a moment's reflection. "Don't you
boys remember how mussy that cavern looked. We were all so anxious
to chase out and find George that we didn't pay much attention to
the room, but I begin to remember now that it looked as if some one
had shot wild game there and cooked meat over the fire."

"I remember something about that now!" Thede said.

"And there was more blood on the floor than ever came from the
little wound George received, according to the way you describe
it," Tommy went on.

"And I'll bet if we'd hunted around the cavern, we'd have found
bear steak and refuse hidden in some of those odd little nooks."

"I guess that's right," Thede declared.

"Now, about those moccasin tracks?" asked Will.

"Let's go out and follow 'em up!" grinned Sandy.

"Sure!" replied Tommy. "Just bite your way through these rocks and
go out and follow 'em up."

"It's only a question of time when we'll get out," Will insisted.
"That crazy half-breed can't keep us in here forever!"

"If he keeps us in much longer," Tommy declared, rubbing the
waistband of his trousers affectionately, "he'll have me starved
plumb to death!"

"Me, too!" Sandy cut in. "I'm shy a breakfast myself!"

"And I'm so hungry that I could eat snowballs!" Thede said, with a
grin. "I don't think I ever was so hungry!"

"Why don't you go outside and take a shot at that half-breed?"
Tommy asked, looking reproachfully at Will.

"Did he get your guns away from you?" asked the boy.

"You bet he did!" replied Tommy.

"How did he do it?"

"He asked us to lay them aside while we crawled through a crack in
the rock, and then grabbed them. Oh, he's a foxy old fellow, that!"

"Well, we can't get out if we stand here talking all day," Sandy
ventured. "The longer we stay, the hungrier we'll get!"

"What I'd like to know," Will suggested, "is this: Why did he do
it? What spite has he against us?"

"If you leave it to me," Thede replied, "the Little Brass God has
something to do with it! I don't know whether Pierre has
possession of the ugly little beast, or whether he is trying to get
possession of it, but I believe he has a notion that we're trying
to get bold of it."

"Well, that's a good guess," grinned Tommy.

During all this conversation the voice of the half-breed had been
frequently heard, alternately cursing and coaxing the lads to enter
the outer chamber where he could talk with them.

"What do you want?" Will asked finally.

"Come here!" was the answer.

Tommy stepped half-way through the opening and flashed his
searchlight into the apartment beyond.

"That is better!" shouted Pierre,

"So that's what you want?" demanded Tommy. "You want light to
shoot us by!"

"Send the other boy out!" demanded the half-breed. "Send out the
one I brought here!"

"He wants you, Will," Tommy said.

As the boy was about to step into the opening, Thede caught him by
the arm and drew him back.

"Just you wait a minute," he said.

The lad placed a sliver of rock in Will's hat and held it beyond
the opening, at the same time letting the rays of the searchlight
fall full upon it.

"I know that half-breed better than you do," Thede said, as he
pushed the hat out further and further.

When the hat was about as far out as the boy could send it without
risking his own hands, a rifle shot rang through the cavern and the
bullet cut its way through the exposed hat.

"Don't you see?" Thede asked. "He knows you have a gun, and he
figured that you'd fall into this chamber, and that we wouldn't
dare reach over for it. He's a foxy old reprobate!"

"What next?" demanded Will.

"You just wait a minute!" Thede advised. "I think I know a way
out! If we just could get in behind that half-breed and chuck him
into the prison he prepared for us, it would be a mighty fine joke
on him!"

CHAPTER XI

THE HALF-BREED

But the way out was not to lie through undiscovered passages! It
was set by fate that it was to be over the dead body of the
half-breed!

While the boys discussed the possibility of finding an unguarded
exit from the series of caverns, another shot sounded, and then
they heard the rattle and crash of rocks falling upon an equally
hard surface.

"There's something doing, now, sure!" Tommy exclaimed.

"Do you know of any other trappers in this section?" asked Will,
turning to Thede. "It seems to me that that shot came from
outside, and I don't believe Pierre would be throwing down his own
barricade."

"I haven't seen anyone else here," replied the boy, "except the one
we saw in front of the fire last night."

"And that might have been Pierre, for all we know!" Tommy declared.

"You don't know whether it was Pierre or some one else," Sandy
observed, "so we don't know whether there's another hunter roaming
around here or not! I hope there is, so far as I'm concerned!"

The question was settled in a moment. Rocks continued to fall from
the barrier, and in a moment a voice called out:

"Who's there?"

"Four of us!" was the reply.

"Why don't you come out?"

The boys detected a faint chuckle in the voice.

"We're willing!" Sandy answered.

"Well, come on, then!"

Sandy stuck his head out of the entrance and turned his searchlight
on the new-comer. After a moment's inspection of the fellow, he
stepped into the outer cavern.

"You look pretty good to me," he said.

Ho was about to say more when he caught sight of the body of the
half-breed lying just inside the cave.

He turned white and for a moment felt dizzy and faint.

He was unfamiliar with death in any form, and this snuffing out of
a life seemed to him particularly horrible.

In a moment the other boys came out and stood looking down upon the
body. They were all deeply affected by what had taken place,
particularly Thede, who had never received anything but the kindest
treatment from the half-breed until the arrival of the Boy Scouts.

"It was my life or his," Antoine explained.

"Did he shoot at you?" asked Will, "we heard only one shot, save
the one fired by Pierre at my hat."

"He didn't get an opportunity to fire!" Antoine answered. "He had
his gun leveled at my head when my bullet ended his life!"

"Now I wonder," thought Will, "whether it was Pierre who sat by the
fire last night, and whether the secret of the Little Brass God
dies with him! I wish there were some way of knowing."

While these thoughts were passing through the brain of the boy,
Thede stood regarding the new-comer in a puzzled way. Slowly the
impression was forming in his mind that it was not Pierre who had
sat before the fire in the chamber where the Little Brass God had
been displayed.

"I suppose the next thing on the program," Antoine observed, with a
smile, "will be breakfast."

"That suits me!" shouted Tommy and Sandy in a breath.

"Well," Antoine answered, "I have plenty of bear meat, and a few
canned provisions, and plenty of good, strong tea, so we'll adjourn
to the dining room and partake."

"Have you seen anything of our chum?" asked Will.

Antoine smiled, but made no reply.

"Look here," Sandy said, pointing down to the moccasin tracks, as
they emerged from the cavern and found themselves on the snowy
slope, "this man has passed along here before this morning."

"That's a fact!" Will exclaimed. "So he must be the man who
carried off George. If he is, why doesn't he say so?"

"Perhaps he wants to give us a surprise," observed Tommy.

It was only a short distance from the system of caverns where the
boys had been imprisoned to the home of Antoine, which has
previously been described.

When the boys entered, they looked eagerly around in the hope of
finding George, but the boy was nowhere to be seen.

"I thought sure you had found our chum in the cavern," Thede
suggested.

"Why, I thought you boys were all here!" replied Antoine, still
with that odd smile on his face.

"But there is a boy who was wounded in the bear cavern last night,"
Thede explained, "and I left him there while I went after his
friends, and when I came back, he was gone. We thought sure you
took him away."

Antoine made no reply. Instead, he busied himself with breakfast.

In his efforts in this direction Tommy and Sandy were not slow in
joining, and in a short time beautifully broiled bear steaks were
smoking on tin plates which Antoine had taken from a cupboard
fastened to the wall. A pot of tea was steeping over a fire built
at one end of the cavern. The boys eyed this with interest.

"We really ought to be going out in search of George," Will finally
said. "He may be suffering in the cold."

"That's right!" declared Tommy. "I'm going out just as soon as I
finish eating! The lad was carried off by some one, all right, and
be can't be far away!"

"I wonder why we didn't get our revolvers away from that dead man?"
asked Sandy. "We surely ought to have them!"

"I looked for them," Will said quietly, "but they were not there!"

"Then he must have hidden them away somewhere," Tommy declared.
"We laid them down just before crawling through that hole."

"You will doubtless find them in time," Antoine suggested.

"I should think the half-breed would have kept them pretty close,"
Sandy observed. "You don't find automatics like those every day!"

"It strikes me," Antoine said, directly, "that you boys would
better settle down for a little rest previous to going out after
your chum."

"Aw, we don't need any rest!" declared Tommy.

"Not while George is out in the cold!" Sandy cut in.

"Just as you please," smiled Antoine. "And now," he went on, "if
you've all had plenty to eat, I'll bring on the tea. Tea always
tastes better to me when there is no food in my mouth to interfere
with the flavor of it. I have a very fine brand here."

"We've been waiting for that tea!" laughed Tommy.

"You can't lose Tommy when it comes to anything good to eat or
drink!" laughed Sandy. "He's always on watch."

Antoine seemed a long time pouring the tea into the tin cups, which
he had placed on the rough board which served as a table. As he
bent over the teapot, a familiar sound caught Will's ears and he
turned his head aside to listen.

"Slap, slap, slap!"

The boy nudged Tommy who sat next to him with his elbow and called
his attention to the sound. Tommy almost sprang to his feet as he
listened, but Will forced him back with his hand.

"Slap, slap, slap!" came the signal again.

Sandy and Thede were now sitting with knives and forks suspended in
the air, listening wide-eyed to the sound.

"That's the Beaver call!" declared Will in a whisper.

"That means George!" Tommy whispered back.

"Sure!" was the reply. "There's no one else to give the Beaver
call here. I wonder why the boy doesn't show up."

In the meantime, Antoine had been busy over the teapot and had not
noticed what was going on at the table.

"I'm fixing this tea up particularly strong," he said, facing the
boys with a smile on his lips, "so you mustn't wonder if it tastes
just a little bit bitter. There's nothing on earth will do a man
who's been exposed to the weather more good than a strong cup of
tea!"

The man poured the decoction into the tin cups and brought out a
couple of cans of condensed milk and plenty of sugar.

"You see," he laughed, "that I have all the luxuries of an effete
civilization! Put in all the sugar you like, if you find the tea
too strong. I have plenty of it!"

The boys used the sugar and milk liberally, and Will was about to
lift his cup to his lips when the Beaver call came again:

"Slap, slap, slap!"

Although the sounds were faint ones, they caught the attention of
Antoine, who, scowling, turned his face in the direction from which
they had proceeded. In a minute, he arose.

"What was that noise?" he asked.

"Did you hear a noise?" questioned Will.

"I thought I did!" replied the man. "Perhaps I'd better take a
look about the place. There may be intruders here!"

As Antoine moved about, his footsteps in a measure muffling the
sounds which followed, the boys heard a low whisper.

"Don't drink! It's drugged!"

Wondering why the boy did not show himself, and able to understand
his strange conduct only on the theory that he had been gagged and
bound, Will overturned his cup of tea by an awkward movement and
sprang to his feet as the burning fluid came in contact with his
clothing.

Simultaneously the boys all sprang from the table, taking care to
upset the board upon which they had been eating. An angry
exclamation came from Antoine's lips as the carefully prepared tea
was spilled to the floor. In a moment, however, his face broke
into a smile.

"Too bad!" he said, "but accidents will happen. I'll make you some
more! I'll have it ready in a moment."

"We really would like some tea, notwithstanding our awkwardness,"
laughed Will, listening as he spoke for some further sound from his
chum.

"Drugged, drugged, drugged."

The boys heard the whisper floating through the room. Then they
heard a gasp as of some one coming out of a sound sleep, and saw
Antoine springing toward a weapon lying on the floor.

CHAPTER XII

A SURPRISE AT THE CABIN

Will got to the weapon first.

With an exclamation of rage and anger, Antoine drew his hunting
knife from its sheath and lifted it threateningly.

"Keep back!" he said. "Keep back, every one of you!"

"Throw down the knife, then!" Tommy demanded.

Instead of throwing down the knife, Antoine seemed preparing for a
spring. It was evident that he had not yet abandoned the hope of
gaining his revolver. The weapon which Will had seized left his
hand with a swift whirl, and the next moment the knife crashed from
Antoine's hand to the floor. The fellow's wrist had been broken.

He fell back with a groan, but remained inactive only a second.

"I'll come back!" he shouted, and disappeared through the entrance.

Tommy followed him out after having secured Will's automatic, but
he was nowhere in sight on the slope. The tracks in the deep snow
showed that he had turned in the direction of the cavern which the
boys had known to their cost that morning.

"He's gone after our revolvers!" shouted Tommy.

"I'm afraid that's right," Sandy answered, sticking his head
cautiously out of the opening. "He's the man who hid them,
probably!"

"He'll be back directly," Will prophesied, "so one of you would
better remain on guard at the door. If he catches us all inside,
we'll be in the same fix we were when he found us!"

"I'd rather fight bears than a snake like that!" declared Sandy.

A faint voice was now heard calling from some unseen recess.

"Tommy, Sandy, Will!" George's voice called.

Leaving Tommy at the door, the three boys passed around the chamber
pounding on the walls with little rocks and listening eagerly for
further words. At last they came to where a bear skin hung against
a crevice. They drew it abide and saw George looking up at them.

"Vot iss?" asked Sandy with a grin.

"So you heard me in time!"

The boy's speech was low and indistinct.

"If we hadn't, we wouldn't be here," answered Sandy.

"That Beaver call sounded good to us, too!" Will observed.

"What about the tea being drugged?" asked Sandy.

"It put me to sleep in a minute!" declared George. "My head
whirled for a second, and then I was out for the count."

"I guess he thought he had you laid away for a good long time,"
suggested Sandy.

"I reckon I woke up too soon for him," George answered with a faint
smile. "I heard you boys talking, though you seemed a long way
off, and at first I thought it was all a dream."

"We got a feed in that dream, anyway!" laughed Sandy.

"I tried to cry out but couldn't," George continued. "My lips
seemed frozen into numbness. I couldn't move hand or foot for a
time, but finally I managed to clap the palms of my hands together
in the Beaver call, and that seemed to set the blood circulating
through my veins."

"What do you make of it?" asked Sandy.

"If you leave it to me," whispered George, still faint from loss of
blood and the effects of the drug, "I dope it out that this man who
calls himself Antoine is in possession of the Little Brass God, and
he has in some way discovered that we are here after it."

"That's a fact!" exclaimed Will, "you saw the Little Brass God,
too, didn't you?"

"I certainly did!" was the reply.

"Well, was the man who sat before the fire, the same man who gave
you the drug?" Will went on. "Did you see him plainly?"

"I've been wondering about that," George replied. "Sometimes I
think Antoine is the man who sat before the fire with the ugly
Little Brass God leering down at him. Sometimes, I think it was
Pierre who sat there. I can't quite make up my mind."

"If it was Pierre," Will said gravely, "the Little Brass God will
probably never be found! The man who gave you the drugged drink
shot the half-breed to death this morning."

"Then I hope it wasn't Pierre who sat by the fire," Sandy declared.
"We've come a long way after that Little Brass God, and got into
many a mix-up over it, so we've just got to take it back to Chicago
with us!"

"Now look here," Will reasoned, "this Antoine had some motive in
putting us boys to sleep! We don't know what that motive was, but
I think I'm giving a pretty good guess when I say that he wanted to
prevent our interfering with the Little Brass God until he had
arranged to make anything we might do in that line absolutely
worthless."

"That listens good to me, too," declared Sandy. "The man wouldn't
try to drug us unless he had some strong motive for doing so!"

"We're all together once more, anyhow!" Will observed, "and I think
we'd better stay together. I never did like this idea of one boy
sneaking away in the night and leaving the others to guess where he
went to. It isn't safe to go wandering off alone in that way!"

"Yes, I'd talk about that if I were you!" laughed Sandy. "You go
wandering off by yourself more than any of the bunch!"

"I think it's a good thing for you boys that I went wandering off
alone this morning," Will argued.

"You didn't go wandering off alone!" Thede cut in. "You had Pierre
with you? Poor Pierre!" he continued. "I'm sorry for him! I
suppose we'll have to make some kind of a grave and give him decent
burial!"

"Sure, we'll do that!" agreed Will. "But what is puzzling me just
now is this," the boy went on, "how are we going to get out of this
hole with that Antoine watching our every move? He'll shoot us
down just as quick as he shot Pierre if he gets a chance."

The boys took short trips out of the cavern in quest of their
enemy, but were unable to discover any traces of him other than the
tracks in the snow. These led toward the chain of caverns which
the boys had such good reason to remember.

"I think we'd better make for the camp," Will suggested in a moment.

"Why not move over to the cabin?" asked Thede. "It will be much
more comfortable there."

"That's a good idea, too," Will agreed, "except that we'd have to
move all our camp equipage and provisions."

"Well, why not?" asked the boy. "We can rig up a drag and draw the
stuff over in two or three loads."

"We can if Antoine isn't shooting at us every minute!" Sandy cut in.

"I don't believe Antoine will trouble us," Thede answered. "If he
has the Little Brass God, he'll probably make off with it. He's
got to go somewhere to get his injured wrist tended to, and my
opinion is that he'll simply disappear from this neck of the woods
until he makes up his mind that we have gone back to Chicago."

"I hope he won't go very far," Will mused.

"If he does, we'll lose the Little Brass God!" Sandy argued.

"I don't agree with Thede," Will said directly. "If the man has a
secure hiding place in the hills, he'll manage to treat the injured
wrist himself and remain hidden until he thinks we have left the
country."

"It's all a guess, anyway," Sandy exclaimed, "and, whatever takes
place, I vote for moving our truck over to the cabin and settling
down there! We don't want to go back to Chicago as soon as we find
the Little Brass God, do we?"

"We certainly do not!" shouted Tommy, sticking his head into the
narrow doorway. "I haven't had a chance to catch all the fish I
want yet!"

"Well, we may as well move over to the cabin if that's the general
opinion," agreed Will. "I must admit that those tents look pretty
thin to me. I didn't expect snow to fall so early."

"Besides," Sandy urged, "if we live in the cabin, we'll be
perfectly safe from attack. It would take dynamite to make a hole
through those great logs, and the door itself is about a foot
thick!"

"All right," Will replied. "If we find anything left when we get
back to our camping place, we'll move it over to the cabin!"

"The first thing to move will be George," laughed Sandy.

"Oh, I can walk all right!" the invalid declared.

"Through this thick snow? I should say not! We've got to make up
some kind of a sled and give you the first sleigh-ride of the
season!"

"And while we're about it, we can make a sled that we can move the
tents and provisions on," suggested Will.

The boys had little to make a sled with, but they finally managed
to bind saplings together with such cord as they had in their
possession, and so manufacture a "drag" upon which the wounded boy
could be carried back to camp. The lads were strongly tempted to
help themselves to Antoine's provisions before they left, but they
finally decided not to do so, especially as they believed that they
had plenty of their own.

"He'll need them all before he gets rid of that sore wrist," Sandy
laughed. "He won't be in shape to do much hunting!"

"Now," Thede observed, after wrapping George up in one of the bear
robes taken from the wall of the cavern, "I've been thinking that
the cabin is a great deal nearer the camp. Of course I haven't
been to the camp, but I've heard the location described and I'm
positive that it is four or five miles further away from us than
the cabin."

"So you want to take George directly to the cabin, do you?" asked
Tommy, who still considered himself on guard and kept a constant
lookout for Antoine. "I don't see why we shouldn't do so," he
added.

"It isn't far out of the way," urged Thede.

"Then here we go to it!" laughed Tommy. "I'll chase on ahead and
have a roaring fire built there before you get half way to it!"

"Oh, you will?" grinned Thede. "I'd like to know how you're going
to find it! George and I are the only ones in this party who can
find the mysterious cabin in the bog!"

"Well, then," Tommy admitted, "perhaps you'd better run on ahead
and find it, while we come along with the kid!"

It was a long and painful journey to the cabin, but it was finished
at last. When the boys came to the edge of the swamp, however,
they saw a great column of smoke rising from the chimney on the
roof.

"Now do you suppose Antoine beat us to it?" asked Thede.

CHAPTER XIII

A FACE AT THE WINDOW

When the boys came nearer to the cabin, they saw many footprints
dotting the level surface of the snow. They peered through the
window which gave on the side of their approach, but could see no
one moving about on the inside. Save for the great fire blazing in
the rudely-constructed fire-place, the cabin seemed to be
absolutely deserted.

"Suppose you give me a boost through this window," Thede suggested,
as the boys at last stood close against the rear wall.

"Why not go around to the door?" George asked.

"I might get a bullet in my coco when I turned the angle of the
house!" replied Thede. "There's no knowing who's around there."

"That's a fact!" Will agreed. "We've got one wounded boy on our
hands now, and we don't care about having another."

"Look here," George cut in crossly, "if you think I'm too much
trouble, you can just drop me down in the snow anywhere and I'll
take care of myself!"

"Aw, cut it out!" roared Tommy.

The boys laughed so heartily at the idea of leaving their chum in
the snow to care for himself that his mood instantly changed to one
of apology. In a moment, he was all smiles again.

"Now, if you've got that little scrap settled, you can give me a
boost through this window!" suggested Thede.

"Sure the door's closed?" asked Tommy.

"Closed and latched!" was the answer.

The boys had some difficulty in removing the single sash which
protected the opening, but the task was finally accomplished, and
then Thede crawled through into the cottage.

The boys heard him drop lightly to the floor and then followed a
long silence. Presently Sandy clambered up the log wall and peered
inside.

He saw Thede standing close against the wall, gazing down at a
great haunch of venison which lay on the floor.

"If you want to keep that in good condition for eating, hang it out
in the frost," laughed Sandy. "We can't afford to lose that!"

Thede beckoned to him to enter, and the boy dropped down on the
floor.

"Who brought it here?" he asked.

"Search me!" Thede answered.

"It might have been Antoine."

"Aw, he couldn't kill a deer and bring in that big haunch with that
lame wrist of his!" Thede exclaimed.

Sandy looked out of the window and beckoned to his chums to enter.

They gathered around the haunch of venison with amazement depicted
on their faces. The fire still burned brightly, and it was evident
that it had not been long since new fuel had been laid.

"Some one made us a present, I take it!" Tommy grinned.

"But who?" demanded Will.

"It's one of the mysteries of the British Northwest Territories!"
replied Sandy. "Suppose," the boy continued, "we open the door and
bring George in. He must be getting cold by this time!"

"Be careful when you open the door, then," Thede warned.

But there was no one at the door or, at first, within view of it.
There were plenty of tracks, however, which appeared to have been
recently made. George was carried into the cabin, and then Sandy
and Tommy set out to trace some of the foot-prints to their
destination.

"I'm going to know where that fellow went," the former declared.

"I have an idea he'll come back before long," Sandy suggested.
"He's built a nice fire and brought in plenty of venison, and won't
go away and leave the cosy corner just yet."

When the boys came to the edge of the morass, they saw a figure
flitting into the underbrush on the other side.

"I guess we've frightened him away!" Tommy declared.

"Shall we follow him?" asked Sandy.

"Aw, what's the use?" Tommy questioned. "You said yourself, a
little while ago, that he'd come back to get a bite of that haunch
of venison."

"And I believe he will!" answered the boy.

George was made comfortable in one of the bunks, additional fuel
brought in for the night, and then Will, Tommy and Sandy set out to
bring the supplies and tents from the camp.

"Suppose Antoine, or some one else, should bring the Little Brass
God to this cabin," George began.

"I wish we knew whether it was Antoine who sat before the fire last
night," Thede puzzled. "If I could just get my hands on that
idiotic little plaything, I'd sneak back to old Finklebaum and get
his hundred dollars so quick it would make his head swim."

"His hundred dollars!" repeated George. "I thought I heard you
saying last night if you got hold of the Little Brass God, you'd
make him put up a thousand dollars for it!"

"So I would, too," declared Thede. "And he wouldn't pay the
thousand dollars, either, unless he saw a chance to make ten out of
it!"

During the entire absence of the boys George and Thede discussed
the mystery of the Little Brass God. They wondered how it had made
such good time into that country, and puzzled over the strange fact
that they had blundered upon it on the very night of their arrival.

But when at last the boys returned with the tents and a part of the
provisions, drawn along on the "drag," they had reached no
conclusion whatever.

It was all a mystery which time alone could solve!

Although it was now the middle of the afternoon, Will and Sandy
insisted on making another trip to the old camp.

"If we're going to stay in the cabin," Will urged, "we've got to do
the job some time and we may as well do it now."

"I guess you'll have a good load if you get it all!" Tommy
suggested.

The boys insisted that they were able to bring in the remaining
stock and set off through the snow. Tommy and Thede continued to
drag in wood until there was a great stack of it piled against the
cabin. Every time they opened the door, they looked in vain for
the appearance of the man they had seen running away through the
underbrush on the other side of the swamp, but he was not seen.

"I'd like to know what's the matter with that fellow!" Tommy
observed as darkness settled down and the two boys returned to the
cabin.

In half an hour Sandy and Will came in with the provisions which
they had brought from the camp, They reported that quite a large
share of the tinned stuff had been cached in the snow about half
way between the cabin and the site of the old camp.

"We couldn't bring it all in," Sandy announced.

"I hope the man we drove out of the cabin will find it if he needs
it," Will observed.

After a hearty meal they cleared away the dishes and sat around the
fire discussing the situation until ten o'clock. Then they secured
the door and windows of the cabin and crawled into their bunks,
which were remarkably well supplied with blankets and tanned bear
skins.

In the middle of the night the fire died down to embers and Will
arose to pile on more wood. He moved softly about in order not to
disturb the sleep of his chums, and finally sat down by the blaze
to enter anew upon a mental discussion of the mystery which
surrounded them.

Will heard the sash rattling, as if in the light wind which was
blowing, and glanced toward it.

What he saw was not the velvet darkness of the night laying against
the glass. The firelight which shone through the glazed sash
revealed the outlines of a human face looking in upon him.

It was an ugly face, with dusky skin, narrow slits of eyes, and
straight black hair which seemed to wind and coil about the
repulsive countenance as a collection of serpents might have done.

The face disappeared as the boy looked, and Will tiptoed softly to
the bunk where Tommy lay and awoke him with a violent shake.

"Get up!" he said.

"Aw, go chase yourself!" answered Tommy not very politely.

"It's worth seeing," Will assured the lad. Tommy seized a shoe
from the floor, hurled it at the head of his chum, and then rose to
sitting position, rubbing his eyes sleepily.

"What have you found now?" he demanded.

"There's a new one on us!" Will declared.

Tommy opened his eyes wide in wonder.

"Not a new Boy Scout?" he asked.

"We seem to pick up plenty of new Boy Scouts," laughed Will, "but
this isn't a new Boy Scout. This is the Little Brass God given the
power of expression and the use of his legs!"

"So you've gone and got 'em too, have you?" demanded Tommy.

"When I got up to renew the fire," Will answered, "I heard the
window sash to the north rattling. Thinking that I ought to go and
fix it, I glanced that way and saw the Little Brass God looking
down upon me."

"Was he sitting up in the window with his legs crossed, and his
arms folded, and his face making you think of the Old Nick?" asked
Tommy.

"I could see only the head, but the head looked exactly as I
imagine the Little Brass God looks; with the firelight shining on
the yellowish hide, the face gave me the impression of being made
out of brass!"

"You better read another page out of the dream book and go back to
bed!" laughed Tommy. "You've been laboring under strong excitement
lately and I think you need a long rest."

CHAPTER XIV

A CALL FROM THE DARKNESS

"Perhaps you don't believe I saw anything at the window," replied
Will, somewhat indignantly.

"Oh, I don't doubt that you think you saw something at the window."

Will seized a searchlight, grabbed Tommy by the shoulder, and
pulled him out of the door and around to the north side of the
cabin.

The boys were not dressed especially for a midnight excursion in
the snow, and their teeth chattered as they made their way against
the chilling wind. However, they stuck to their purpose and soon
stood under the window which Will had pointed out."

"There!" the boy exclaimed in a triumphant tone. "Now perhaps
you'll tell me I didn't see anything through the glass."

A light snow had fallen during the late hours of the night, and
there, plainly revealed on the undisturbed surface--undisturbed
only for what they saw--were clearly outlined the footprints of two
people.

One had worn moccasins, the other such shoes as might have been
purchased at any department store in Chicago.

"And the tenant came back!" grinned Tommy.

"Then why didn't he come in?" demanded Will.

"Because he's scared of us!"

The boys followed the tracks toward the morass some distance and
then returned to the cabin.

"Whoever the fellow is," Will argued, "he found it necessary to get
a half-breed or Indian guide."

"How do you know that?" asked Tommy. "That may have been Antoine
in the moccasins."

"I give it up!" replied Will. "I don't know anything about it."

"I shouldn't wonder at all if some faithful Hindu had sailed across
the Pacific ocean, and traveled half across the continent, to
rescue a faked Brass God from the polluted hands of an Unbeliever."

"You don't really think there's any of this Hindu temple business
in this Little Brass God case, do you?" asked Tommy.

"Well, the face I saw at the window looked like that of an East
Indian!" declared Will. "His skin was brassy, and his eyes had the
devil's leer in them just as the eyes of the Little Brass God are
said to have."

"Well," Tommy declared with a yawn, "I'm going back to bed!"

"That's what I'm going to do," Will agreed. "If we sit up here
until we solve this new problem, we'll probably never get any more
sleep as long as we live."

Seeing that the door and windows were securely fastened, the boys,
who had been sleeping together, went back to their bunk, and there
was only the crackling of the fire and the roaring of the wind to
break the silence.

Tommy was soon sound asleep, but Will lay awake listening. Again
he heard the window sash rattle, but this time he did not move.

Then he dozed off into slumberland, dreamed that he was on a
tropical island where the perfume of the roses was so heavy on the
air that breathing almost became a task. He opened his eyes
dreamily, saw the fire blazing cheerily, heard the wind roaring
around the corners of the cabin, and closed them to dream the same
dream over and over.

At last he awoke with a start and sensed a peculiar odor in the
room. He lay perfectly still for a moment wondering what it could
all mean, when a voice as smooth and as evil as the hissing of a
snake, cut through the air. He listened but did not move.

"You have hidden it!" the voice said.

There was a long pause and then the voice broke the silence again.

"Arise and come to me."

The next moment the boy heard Thede moving in the bunk above. The
lad first threw his legs over the rail, and Will heard him drawing
away the blankets. Then the boy slipped softly to the floor and
moved, as one who walks in his sleep, toward the north window.

"Come to me, come to me, come to me!" the voice repeated
insistently.

"I'll come to you, all right, in about a minute," Will mused, "if
you try any of that magic business here."

Thede continued to move toward the window, walking with his hands
outstretched, as the somnambulist frequently walks.

When the boy reached the window he staggered back as if from a
blow, then moved forward again, as if bent on leaving the cabin by
way of the narrow opening.

Will raised himself in the bunk, drew an automatic from under his
pillow, and fired point blank at the glass. There was a crash and
the cabin grew cloudy with powder smoke.

Thede sat down on the floor abruptly and began rubbing his eyes.

"I guess I walked in my sleep," he said. "I do sometimes."

The shot had awakened Tommy and Sandy, who came bounding to the
floor.

"What'd you shoot at?" they asked.

"The Little Brass God!"

"I guess you've got the Little Brass God on the brain!'' grinned
Sandy.

"Yes," Tommy cut in, "you've gone and busted a perfectly good pane
of glass when there isn't another one within a hundred miles."

"Did you hit any one?" George called feebly from the bunk.

"I don't know!" replied Will. "I'm going out to see in a minute."

But Tommy and Sandy were out of the door and chasing around the
corner of the house before Will could disentangle himself from the
blanket.

Instead of passing outside, then, he stepped over to the window and
looked out. The boys were there looking over the freshly fallen
snow with an electric searchlight.

"Did I see anything?" asked Will with a note of victory in his
voice.

"Somebody saw something!" answered Sandy. "There's blood on the
snow! Some one found a bullet!"

"I'm going to dress and find out where these tracks lead to!" Tommy
declared. "This is too much mischief for me!"

"Stick your face up in the air," advised Will with a grin.

"Snow!" shouted Tommy with a gesture of disgust. "These tracks'll
be full of the beautiful before we could walk forty rods!"

"That's about the size of it!" agreed Will. "So you may as well
come back into the house and we'll go back to bed."

When the boys entered and closed the door again, it was four
o'clock and they decided not to go back to bed again that night.

"How'd you know there was some one there?" Sandy asked of Will.

"I heard the window sash rattle, then a strong perfume--something
like opium or hasheesh--was forced into the room, then the fellow
on the outside began to work his hypnotic spell."

"You say it right!" exclaimed Tommy.

"It's just as simple as anything you ever read in a daily
newspaper," declared Will. "This Little Brass God we are tracing
up belongs either in a Hindu temple in India, or the Hindus think
it belongs there. At any rate, some dusky old hypnotizer has been
sent after it!"

"You'd better get a new dream book!" Sandy broke in. "Whoever came
to the window tonight, came there to find out what we were doing in
this cabin! That's all there is to that!"

"Whoever came to the window tonight," Will repeated, "came there
for the purpose of hypnotizing one of us boys into telling where
the Little Brass God is hidden!"

"Then he must be about fourteen miles off his trolley," laughed
Sandy. "We don't know where the Little Brass God is hidden."

"He threw an Oriental perfume or narcotic of some, kind into the
room and let out his persuasive language," Will went on. "If you
don't believe he hypnotized Thede, just ask him what he heard just
before he got out of bed."

"I heard some one calling to me," Thede answered.

"What did he say?"

"He told me to come to him."

"And you was obeying that command when you started toward the
window?"

"I guess that's right," answered the boy, "but it's all so hazy
that I don't know much about it."

"And then I fired at the window and broke the spell and also the
pane of glass!" explained Will. "If he comes back here again, I'll
shoot from the outside! We can't be kept awake nights by any East
Indian magic."

"East Indian granny!" declared Sandy.

"You read about such occurrences in the newspapers every day!"
declared Will. "We see people hypnotized and forced to obey the
commands of others, not only in the private parlor but on the open
stage. Sometimes, too, the hypnotic influence is assisted by
strange Oriental perfume. There's nothing extraordinary about it
at all! In fact, there is only one word that describes it, and
that is the word uncanny."

"Fix it anyway you want it!" grinned Tommy. "There's a broken
window, and there's blood on the snow, and we found Thede lying on
the floor when we sprang out of bed. If that doesn't make a good
case of circumstantial evidence, I don't know what does!"

"This Little Brass God is getting on my nerves!" declared Sandy
after a short pause. "We've been up against smugglers on Lake
Superior; up against rattlers and wreckers in the Florida
Everglades, and up against train robbers on the Great Divide, but
this ghost business gets my goat!"

"Perhaps you'd like to go back to Chicago empty-handed?" asked
Tommy.

"Not so you could notice it!" was the reply. "If there's anything
I like, it's nice little Boy Scout excursions like this. All we
have to do to get busy is to get a camping outfit together and
march off into the wilderness. Everything else comes right along
as a matter of course. Everything else, from magic haunches of
venison, which appear when you wave your hand, to Little Brass
Gods, which grin down from the wall one second and vanish in smoke
the next!"

"Aw, come on to bed!" cried George.

"I'm going to sit up and get breakfast!" declared Tommy. "Sandy's
got a grouch on, and there's nothing on earth so good for a grouch
as a slice of broiled venison."

Tommy dressed himself and chased outdoors in order to bring in the
meat supply. He returned without it. The venison was gone!

CHAPTER XV

A HUNTING EXPEDITION

The boys remained at the cabin all the next day stirring out only
for wood and game. Without going, more than a dozen yards from the
habitation, the boys shot three rabbits and half a dozen squirrels.

These were taken about noon, and the boys immediately began the
preparation of a stew. There were a few potatoes left, and these
they pared and sliced into the savory dish when it was nearing
completion.

They expected, every one of them, to receive another visit from the
mysterious persons who had appeared at the cabin on the previous
night, yet they did not talk of what was in their thoughts. They
discussed the sad plight of Antoine, wandering about in the forest
with a broken wrist, and wondered if the cached provisions were
still intact.

The following night was a quiet one. Snow fell heavily, and the
small streams of that section took on icy blankets.

When they awoke the following morning, the sun was shining
brightly, and there were many signs of a pleasant week.

"After breakfast," Tommy declared, as he sent his plate over for
the third helping of the rejuvenated stew, I'm going out and get a
specimen of every wild animal in the woods. Then I'm going to put
them all into this stew!"

"You might put a wolverine into it!" suggested Thede.

"Are they good to eat?" demanded Tommy.

"They're good to eat game out of the traps, I understand," replied
the boy. "Or, just for a change," Thede continued, "how'd you like
an owl in your stew? I guess that wouldn't put you wise or
anything!"

"You seem to know quite a lot about this country," Will suggested.

"Poor Pierre taught me quite a lot during our rambles," Thede
answered sorrowfully.

"Then perhaps you'd better come along with Tommy and me and show us
where to get these different kinds of animals the kid wants to put
into his stew. That will help some."

After breakfast the three boys started out with their automatics.

They crossed the morass to the higher ground beyond and passed
along in the direction of the camp. There might be duck over Moose
river, Thede suggested, and Tommy certainly would want a duck for
his stew. Also there might be wild geese there.

When they came to the place where the provisions had been cached,
they found the surface of the ground broken and the provisions
gone. Not a single can remained.

"Now, we'll have to shoot all the more game," declared Tommy. "We
haven't got many beans or tomatoes left, so we'll have to forage on
the country."

The loss was not considered a serious one, for the boys had plenty
of provisions at the cabin and game was very plentiful.

As they passed through the country signs of the wild creatures of
the woods were numerous. There were few spaces of a length of
twenty-five feet in which the track of some wild beast or bird did
not cross their path.

Thede read this writing in the snow so understandingly that the
boys actually paid more attention to his explanations than to the
discovery of the game he was talking about.

"What crossed there?" Will would ask.

"That must have been a red deer!"

"And this track, here?" asked Tommy.

"Probably a fox."

"Well, what do you make of this?" Will demanded with a wink at
Tommy.

"That must have been a moose, but he passed here some time before
the last fall of snow!" replied Thede.

"Well, what's this wobbly little mark here?" Tommy asked.

"Partridge!" replied Thede readily.

"Well, here's another odd little mark. Looks like some one had
been dragging a rail fence. What's that?"

"You ought to know that!" answered Thede.

"I ought to know lots of things that I don't know!" commented the
boy.

"Well," Thede said with a laugh, "the wild animal that passed along
there was a Beaver!"

"I wonder if he belongs to our patrol!" chuckled Tommy.

"I should think the little fellow would freeze to death," Will
objected.

"Pierre said it was pretty cold for them to be out when he saw
tracks two or three days ago!" replied Thede. "They're building a
dam over on the river some place, and I suppose they think they've
got to finish the job before real winter sets in."

After a long ramble through the forest, the boys came to the site
of the old camp. The snow which covered the ground here had been
well trodden down, and many tracks led in the direction of Moose
river.

"I suppose they've been hunting for deserted provisions," Will
suggested. "I'd like to know who it was that made the search!"

"It might have been your Hindu friend," suggested Tommy.

"Look here, kid," Will said in a moment. "Now that this Hindu
discussion has broken out again, I'd like to know what you think
the chances are for locating that little brown man."

"Well," Tommy answered, "I believe you were right when you said
that the Little Brass God meant something more than intrinsic value
to at least one of the men who are chasing it up. Now," the boy
went on, "if this brass-faced fellow has the sacred idol nut in his
head, he won't leave this section of the country until he finds it."

"That's the way I figure it out!" Will answered.

"And this adds another interesting feature to the case," Tommy
continued. "When we started out we were alone in pursuit of the
Little Brass God. Then we came upon Pierre, and we were just
beginning to believe that he also was in search of the merry little
jigger when Antoine murdered him. Now, here comes a third
interest, and, if you are anywhere near correct in your
conclusions, he comes all the way from India."

"You don't know where he comes from!" Will interrupted. "The
question we want to ask ourselves now is this:

"Have we any chance of recovering the article we were sent after if
we remain in this district? In other words, ought we to settle
down here and wait for things to quiet, or ought we to make an
effort to discover the whereabouts of the two men who have
expressed such decided opinions regarding the value of the Little
Brass God?"

"Meaning Antoine and the alleged Hindu?" asked Tommy.

"Exactly," was the reply. "You see," Will went on, "there's no use
of our remaining in camp here if the person who has the stolen
article in his possession has taken it away."

"I believe Antoine has it!" declared Tommy.

"If Antoine has it, if that was Antoine sitting before the fire
that night, why did he take the Little Brass God there instead of
concealing it in his own cavern?"

"The more we talk about it, the less we know," grinned Tommy.

"Night before last," Will began, "the Little Brass God was in a
cave only a few miles from this spot. I don't believe it has been
taken out of the district! If you boys leave it to me, we'll stay
in the cabin for a few days, and take quiet trips about the
country, particularly the hilly country to the south, in search of
Antoine and the Hindu."

"That suits me!" Tommy declared, "and I know it'll suit George and
Sandy, too! There'll be a lot of fun in tramping about."

"Then why not make a trip to the range of hills right now?" asked
Will. "We can be back long before night."

"I don't know about that," replied Thede who had been listening to
the conversation without speaking. "It's a long way over to the
hills and the snow's deep."

"Then I'll tell you what we'll do!" Tommy exclaimed excitedly.
"We'll get a lot of game and send you back with it, and you tell
the boys that if we don't return tonight, we'll be camping in some
of those caverns in the hills."

"I thought you'd be ready for another runaway night excursion!"
laughed Will.

"I suppose I don't run away when I'm with you!" commented Tommy.

Will only laughed, and the boys began the collection of rabbits and
squirrels and ducks until Thede was pretty well loaded down. They
all walked along together until they came to where it would be
necessary to part company because of the different directions to be
taken.

There Will and Tommy turned toward the south while Thede kept
straight on toward the cottage on the island in the swamp.

"There's one thing we forgot," Tommy suggested as the boys tramped
laboriously through the snow. "We forgot to bring along anything
to eat!"

"Yes, we did!" laughed Will. "Don't you think I'll ever start out
on a tramp with you without plenty of provisions."

The boy opened his heavy coat and revealed inside pockets packed
with sandwiches made of venison steak and bread, with now and then
a sandwich composed of stewed meat and griddle cakes, for variety.

"We won't have to go home tonight, now, will we?" laughed Tommy.

"In Chicago," Will began, "we had a boy in our office we used to
call The-Young-Man-Afraid-Of-His-Bed. You must be related to him,
for I have never known you to go to bed without objecting, or to
get up without thinking how much time you had wasted!"

"Never you mind me!" replied Tommy. "You wait till you get into
some of those caverns in the hills and build a roaring fire, and
I'll show you that you're not the only boy that can provide
provisions."

"You mustn't do any shooting over there!" warned Will. "We might
as well go in quest of the Little Brass God with a band!"

"That's a fact!" agreed Tommy in a discouraged tone.

The boys first visited the cave where George had seen the Little
Brass God grinning down from the wall. There seemed to be no one
within miles of them.

While they talked, however, a shadow fell on the oblong bit of
light which marked the entrance, and a tall figure with one
bandaged wrist, leaning on the barrel of a rifle, stood gazing down
upon them with hatred flashing from his eyes.

"It's Antoine!" whispered Will.

"Yes, and he won't do a thing to us now!" whispered Tommy.

CHAPTER XVI

ANTOINE ON THE RUN

Antoine regarded the boys steadily for a moment without moving a
muscle. Will and Tommy believed that the fellow meant mischief,
and were wondering if they would be able to get their automatics
from their pockets before he could bring his rifle to a shooting
level.

One question had at least been answered. The boys had been
wondering ever since settling at the cabin whether Antoine had not
taken his departure from that country. His presence there at that
time answered this question in the most uncomfortable manner. The
man was evidently there on a mission not to be interfered with by
so simple a thing as a broken wrist.

"Well, boys," Antoine said in a moment, his face relaxing into a
smile which was far more terrifying than the previous look of
hatred, "it seems that we have come together again!"

"Welcome to our midst!" grinned Tommy.

Antoine eyed the lad keenly for an instant and then turned his eyes
toward Will.

"What are you doing in this country?" he asked.

"Fishing and bunting!" was the reply.

"Hunting for what?"

"Do you think we're looking for a forty story skyscraper?" demanded
Tommy.

Again Antoine glanced sharply at the boy, but seemed determined not
to give the slightest attention to his irrelevant observation.

"Who sent you here?" he asked of Will.

"Gee-whiz!" exclaimed Tommy angrily. "Is this the third degree?"

"How long are you going to remain here?" asked Antoine, without
paying any attention to the boy's question.

"Gee!" exclaimed Tommy. "You make me think of the stories of
little Clarence in the newspapers! You're the original little
interrogation point."

"You'd better answer my questions!" thundered Antoine, losing his
temper at last.

Now this was exactly what Tommy had been hoping for. Antoine angry
might prove to be more communicative than Antoine in a pleasant
temper.

"Will you answer a few of my questions?" asked Will, wondering if
it would be possible for him to spring upon the trapper and bring
him down before his rifle could be brought into use.

"If you'll keep that impertinent little gutter-snipe still,"
Antoine snarled, "I'll answer such questions as seem to me to be
worth answering."

"Are you the man who was seen sitting half-asleep before a fire in
a cavern three nights ago?" asked the boy.

The man hesitated for a moment, as if in deep thought, and then
answered with an exclamation of impatience.

"Were you in the cave that night?"

"No, but my chums were," Will replied.

"What did they see there?"

"A man asleep by the fire!"

"Perhaps the man wasn't asleep at all. What else did they see?"

It was Will's turn to hesitate now. He was wondering if he ought
to mention the fact of the presence in that cavern of the Little
Brass God.

At first it seemed to him that he ought to do so, that he might be
able to secure information as to the exact situation from Antoine
by facing him with the fact of the discovery of the ugly little
idol.

Then he reasoned that an acknowledgment that they knew anything
whatever of the Little Brass God would be likely to get them into
deeper trouble, if possible, than that which they now faced.

So the boy decided to say nothing whatever of what George and Thede
had seen shining in the light of the fire.

During this brief time of silence Antoine brought his rifle into a
more menacing position and began stirring about angrily.

"Are you going to answer my question?" the man finally demanded.

"That's about all so far as I know!" replied the boy.

Of course Will was not telling the exact truth, but he believed
that, under the circumstances, he was privileged to shade the exact
facts a trifle in the interest of his own safety.

"What was it you put in the tea you gave George?" asked Tommy with
a mischievous grin on his freckled face.

"I put nothing whatever in it!" replied Antoine, "that is, I put
nothing in it calculated to do the boy any harm."

It seemed to the boys that Antoine's manner was becoming more
conciliatory every moment.

"The lad was worn out, weak from loss of blood, and sadly in need
of attention," the man went on, "and so, after caring for his wound
and giving him a good breakfast, I gave him a mild sleeping potion,
which, as you already know, affected him only a short time."

"You say it well!" grinned Tommy.

Antoine threw an angry glance at the provoking youngster, but soon
turned to Will once more.

"I didn't quite understand the sudden attack the boys made on me,"
he said. "I was astonished when I received the blow which broke my
wrist."

"Who set your wrist?" asked Will.

"There was only one bone broken, and I set it myself!" was the
reply.

"Perhaps we did wrong in taking it for granted that George had
been drugged to get him out of the way, and that we would share
the same fate," Will admitted after a moment. "But, under the
circumstances, I don't see how we could have done any differently."

"I'm sorry you were so precipitous," Antoine said with what was
intended for a suave smile. "You boys, I understand," he went on,
"are now occupying the cabin on the island in the marsh."

"Who told you that?" asked Will.

"No one!" was the reply. "I have been near the place twice since
you took possession.

"Why didn't you call?" demanded Tommy.

Again the boy's question was ignored.

"Did you see any one loitering about the cottage when you were
there?" asked Will. "You were there in the daytime, I suppose."

"Why do you ask that question?" demanded Antoine, giving a quick
start. "Have you been annoyed by people hanging about the cabin?"

Will didn't know whether to relate the story of the midnight visit
or not. He finally decided that the least he said to Antoine the
better it would be for him, so he replied that they had passed two
very restful nights in the deserted log house on the island.

"Did you find it deserted?" asked Antoine.

"It had the appearance of having been recently occupied," replied
Will. "I understand from one of the boys that Pierre formerly
lived there."

"So I understand!" Antoine replied grimly. "The point now is,
whether it was occupied by any one after Pierre left it."

Not caring to tell the exact facts. Will said nothing whatever,
and for a moment there was a rather embarrassed silence.

"What do you say about that?" demanded Antoine.

"Why, I think there was a little fire left when we went into the
place," Will replied, "but that might have been a left-over from
the day before. Those large fires burn a long time."

"And you say that you have not been disturbed at all during your
occupancy of the place?" Antoine continued.

"Now I wonder how much this fellow knows," Will asked himself while
Antoine stood gazing curiously down upon him. "I wonder if he
knows about the people who came there that night? He seems to have
a suspicion that some person is wandering about the country, and
keeping pretty well out of sight. I wish I knew how much he knows."

"Oh, we have slept all right," he finally said, in reply to the
man's question. "A mess of healthy boys will sleep under the noise
of battle!"

"I ask these questions," Antoine said directly, "because I have
seen strange foot-prints in the snow at different times, and it
seems to me that some person or persons are skulking through the
woods and, for some reason known only to themselves, keeping out of
sight of honest men."

"He knows all about that affair at the cabin," Will concluded.
"Now," he went on, "I wonder why he's so very much interested in
these strangers, whoever they are?"

"Oh, come on!" Tommy exclaimed. "Don't stand here all day! We've
got to get back to the cabin before it gets too dark to make our
way through the woods."

The two boys took a couple of steps forward at a venture, without
knowing whether Antoine would oppose their leaving the cavern.

"Well," he said, as he stepped to one side, "if you boys see any
strangers loitering about, I wish you'd let me know."

The two lads amazed departed without making any promise, but they
did not at once turn in the direction of the cabin. Instead, they
plunged through the snow in a southerly direction, after seeing
that Antoine had gone the other way.

"Where are you headed for now?" asked Tommy.

"Just wandering about on general principles," replied Will, at the
same time turning into one of the eaves belonging to the system of
underground passages. "Thought I'd look in here first!"

The lads entered the cavern as noiselessly as possible and looked
guardedly about. A great heap of furs lay on the floor, and two
figures rested upon them apparently lost in slumber.

Tommy pointed to the modern shoes on the feet of one of the
sleepers. Then he silently called attention to the bloody bandage
wrapped about the man's head. He looked at Will inquiringly.

"Do you suppose," he whispered, "that these, fellows are here after
the Little Brass God, too?"

The men seemed willing to answer the question for themselves, for
they sprang to their feet and glared at the intruders angrily.

One of the men was dressed as a trapper, although he did not look
the part. He was tall and angular, with sharp features and keen
black eyes.

His companion was shorter, but equally slender. His eye orbits
were small and oval in shape, his face was a dusky brown, and there
was, somehow, about the man an atmosphere of the Orient.

While the four people glared at each other a step was heard in the
narrow entrance, and in a moment Antoine's face was clearly
outlined against the narrow slit of light.

The trapper took in the group at one quick glance, and, turning in
his tracks, fled precipitately down the slope. Without speaking a
word, the two men who had been found in the cavern, turned and
followed him.

"Now what do you think of that?" demanded Tommy.

CHAPTER XVII

"BOYS UP A TREE!"

When Thede returned to the cabin with numerous squirrels, rabbits
and ducks, Sandy greeted him with a shout of joy.

"This will seem like living in the north woods!" he cried. "We'll
have all kinds of game from this time on!"

"You bet we will!" replied Thede. "I'm some hungry myself, when it
comes to that! I guess I can get a few!"

"You never shot all these!" Sandy doubted, poking the squirrels and
rabbits about with a finger. "You never got them all by yourself!"

"How do you know I didn't?" asked Thede, with a provoking grin.

"Because you couldn't," Sandy answered.

"All right, then," admitted the boy. "We all had a share in the
shooting, and Will and Tommy sent me back with the game."

"Where have they gone?" asked Sandy, a look of indignation
over-spreading his face. "They're always running away and leaving
me to watch the camp! I wish they'd give me a chance sometime."

Thede sat down in one of the clumsy chairs which the cabin afforded
and laughed until his sides shook.

"I don't think any of you boys are famishing for fresh air and
adventure," he said in a moment. "You seem to me to be kept pretty
busy."

"Well," Sandy exclaimed, "they might let me go with them when they
start off on a tour like that. Where have they gone, anyway?"

"They said they were going out in search of the Little Brass God!"
laughed Thede.

"Honest?" demanded Sandy.

"That's what they said!"

"I hope they don't find it!" Sandy exclaimed.

The boys cooked a liberal supply of game for dinner and then began
restlessly walking to and fro over the cabin floor.

"What's the matter with you fellows?" asked George in a moment,
speaking from the bunk.

"Hello, you've woke up, have you?" demanded Sandy. "I thought
perhaps you'd sleep all day! How's your head feel?"

"Rotten, thank you!" answered George.

Sandy took a couple more turns about the room and then sat down by
the side of the bunk where George lay.

"I know what's the matter with you!" George said, directly.

"What's the answer!" asked Sandy, rather sourly.

"You need exercise!" replied George. "You've been ramming about
the cabin all the morning, and I've been wishing for the last three
hours that you'd take to the tall timber."

"Is that so?" shouted Sandy springing to his feet.

"Yes, that's so!" answered George. "I wish you and Thede would go
out for a ramble. If you don't know what else to do, walk over to
the river and catch a fish. That'll go all right for supper."

"You're on!" cried Sandy.

The boys were ready for the trip in a very few moments. It was not
necessary now to provide against mosquitoes and "bull-dogs," for
the sudden cold spell had effectually silenced them for the winter.

"Now don't you fellows come home unless you bring about twenty
pounds of trout," George directed as the two lads opened the door
and disappeared from sight.

The boys had proceeded but a short distance when Sandy called his
companion's attention to a peculiar foot-print in the snow.

"I guess we must be approaching the corner of State and Madison
again!" he laughed. "We come out into the woods to commune with
nature, and find some new party butting in every time we turn
around."

"That's an Indian's foot-print!" declared Thede.

"How do you know that?" demanded Sandy. "You haven't seen any
Indian, have you? How can you tell an Indian's foot-print from any
one else's? That may be a white man's step, for all we know!"

"Nay, nay, me son!" laughed Thede. "I know by the shape of the
moccasin and by the way the fellow walks."

"You know a whole lot of things!" laughed Sandy. "If you keep on
accumulating knowledge, you'll beat Tommy out of his job as the
Sherlock Holmes of the party!"

"Well, if you don't believe he's an Indian, you'd better go and ask
him!" Thede argued. "He's right over there in the thicket!"

Sandy gave a quick start of alarm and put his hand back to his
automatic. Thede motioned him to leave his gun where it was.

"This is a friendly Indian," the boy explained. "I've often heard
Pierre refer to him. He's called Oje, but I don't know whether
that's his name or not. He's said to be the champion fisherman of
this section, and if you really want to get fish for supper, we'd
better get him interested."

Oje was not a very romantic looking Indian, his general appearance
being that of a bear fitted out with about three hides. The boys
noticed, however, that none of the clothing he wore was fastened
closely about his waist or throat. In fact, as he joined them with
a grunt, they saw that the roughly-made garments were nearly all

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