THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE MAINE WOODS
THE NEW TEST FOR THE SILVER FOX PATROL
By HERBERT CARTER
Author of "The Boy Scouts First Camp Fire," "The Boy Scouts in the Blue Ridge," "The Boy Scouts on the Trail," "The Boy Scouts Through the Big Timber," "The Boy Scouts In the Rockies"
A. L. BURT COMPANY
By A. L. Burt Company
THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE MAINE WOODS.
THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE MAINE WOODS
AFLOAT ON THE WINDING AROOSTOOK.
"I tell you, Bumpus Hawtree, I can do it as easy as turn my hand over, once I get the hang of the thing!"
"Oh! you don't say so, Giraffe? Here you've been trying for these three days past, with your silly old bow and stick, twirling away like an organ grinder; and never so much as struck a single spark of fire yet."
"Well, you see, there are a whole lot of things about the thing I don't know."
"Sure there are. You can do everything but the right thing. You spin that stick with the point that fits in the hole you made in that block of wood, like fun; but your fine tinder don't even smoke, as far as I can see."
"Huh! you'll see it do more than that, and before the end of this Maine trip, I'll give you to understand, Bumpus."
"Oh! will I? How kind of you, Giraffe."
"You needn't say that like you didn't believe I'd ever beat it out. I've made fires ten different ways, and you know that. And listen to me—I'm just bound to get one going in that South Sea Island method we've read about, 'or give up trying!' You hear me, Bumpus?"
"No trouble about that, Giraffe. Tell you what I'll do, though, in the generosity of my heart—make a wager with you about that fire business; and it's a treat of ice-cream for the crowd, for the loser."
"I take you on that," quickly snapped back the long-legged Boy Scout who was curled up in the stern of the canvas canoe that was being pushed along by the energetic arms of a sturdy guide, as straight as his name was the opposite, it being Eli Crooks.
"Then let's have a clear understanding," observed the fat lad, squatting rather awkwardly in the bow of the same craft; "say, you other fellows, d'ye hear what we're talking about?" and he raised his voice a trifle, so that the occupants of the two other boats that were close by, might listen; just as if they had not been keeping their ears wide open; for when Bumpus and Giraffe got into a hot argument, there was generally plenty of fun in the air.
One of the other canoes contained three scouts, as could be told from various parts of their khaki uniforms that they wore, even when off on a hunting trip. The clear-eyed fellow who seemed to be in charge of the party was Thad Brewster; one of his companions was known as Step Hen Bingham, because, as a little chap he had insisted at school that was the way his name should be spelled, while the third was an exceedingly wiry boy, Davy Jones by name, and who had always been a human monkey when it came to athletics, climbing trees, and doing all sorts of queer stunts.
In the third boat was a shorter Maine guide, a sort of slow chap who came by the name of Jim Hasty just as the other did that of Crooks; and the scout with him was Allan Hollister, a lad born in the very State they were now exploring; and who assisted the scoutmaster in his duties.
All these six boys belonged to the Silver Fox Patrol connected with a troop of scouts located in a New York town called Cranford. Two more had been unable to take the Maine trip, which had already carried the bunch through some adventurous times in another part of the State, whither they had first gone in order to overtake a gentleman just then moose hunting, and with whom Thad had to get in touch for certain business reasons.
Now they were on the Aroostook River, the three boats, as well as the party, having been transported from Grindstone by rail, and launched at the junction of the Masardis with the first mentioned stream.
One of the guides having been brought up in this region, had promised the boys rare sport, if only they would trust to his judgment in the matter. The trip was of indefinite length, the only stipulation being that they should not go outside the United States, when approaching the New Brunswick border along the great St. Johns River.
All of them seemed to be just bubbling over with enthusiasm and spirits. With a new voyage before them, plenty to eat aboard the canoes, guns with which to secure game, tents provided by Jim Hasty at his home town; and "everything lovely, while the goose hung high," as Bumpus had put it, really there was no excuse for any of the scouts to feel downcast.
In their former trip around the Penobscot region the boys had had the good fortune to be chiefly instrumental in causing the arrest of a couple of fleeing yeggmen, who had broken into several banks, and for whose arrest quite a decent reward was offered. Not only that, but they had recovered valuable bonds and papers, that would undoubtedly cause the bank officials to back up the offer they had made, which was to the effect that two thousand dollars would be paid to the parties returning the said bonds, and no questions asked.
Bumpus had been the one who seemed chiefly concerned over this money matter; for it happened that the fat scout wanted dearly to visit the Far West, and was always talking of California, together with the game to be met with in the famous Rock Mountains. And with this windfall coming to their almost exhausted treasure box, it now seemed as though the Silver Fox Patrol might get away when the next vacation came around.
Giraffe, the boy with the long neck, which he could twist around in a way his comrades despaired of ever imitating, had one particular weakness. He was a regular fire worshipper. They depended on Giraffe to start the fires, whether a cooking blaze or the big camp-fire around which they loved to sit or lie, after supper was over.
Many times did Thad have to caution him about his recklessness in this regard; and his vigilance increased, now that they were in a State where forest preservation was of such moment that a special fire warden, with many assistants, was employed, to see that the laws were strictly enforced; and intending hunters were not allowed to go forth without being accompanied by a licensed guide, to make sure that all fires were utterly extinguished before breaking camp.
Of course, when Giraffe took it upon himself to find out if he could not make a fire after every known method, there was more or less fun for the crowd. But he had proved that his studies in this direction were worth while; for he had used flint and steel, matches, a burning glass for the sun to do the business, and various other methods with stunning success.
But he had thus far been "stumped" as he himself expressed it, when it came to starting a blaze after the formula of the South Sea Islanders. His little bow was made according to directions, and would whirl the pointed stick with tremendous force in the basin that had the hole in the bottom; but thus far, just as Bumpus so exultantly declared, the aspiring Giraffe had failed to accomplish the object he had in view.
"Well, now," remarked Giraffe, "since you've got all the bears and moose in the Aroostook country to listen, suppose you go and explain what we're driving at, Bumpus," when the other boys had declared that they heard the whole argument.
"The wager is cream for the crowd at the first chance," the fat boy went on, with pointed emphasis. "Giraffe says he can start a fire with that bunty little bow of his, and the twirling stick that heats things up, and makes the fine tinder take fire—when you've got the hang of things. He's got to do it before we wind up this particular trip; and at a time when one or more of us are on deck to act as witnesses. Hear that, fellows?"
"What he says are the exact conditions," added the confident Giraffe. "And just make up your minds I'm going to do that same stunt yet. Why, half a dozen times already I've been pretty close to getting fire; but something always seemed to happen just at the last minute. Once my bowstring sawed through. Another time the plaguey stick burst. Then Bumpus had to fall all over me just when I felt sure the spark was going to come in the tinder. And the last time, you may remember, when I sang out that I had it, why, down came that heavy rain, and put me out of business."
A general laugh followed these complaining remarks from the tall scout.
"Looks like you might be hoodooed, Giraffe," said Davy Jones.
"All right, no matter what's the matter, if grit and perseverance can accomplish the business, you'll see it done in great style sooner or later!" cried Giraffe, who could be quite determined when he chose.
"Then let's hope it will be sooner," remarked Step Hen; "because you know him well enough to understand that we'll have no peace of our lives till he either gets his little fire started, or else makes a failure of the game."
"Anyhow," broke in Allan from the rear, "no matter how it comes out, the rest of us stand to have a free feast later on. It's 'heads I win, tails you lose,' for the balance of the Silver Fox Patrol. And in advance, we hand our united thanks to Bumpus; or will it be Giraffe?"
"And," Bumpus went on, calmly; "while Giraffe is worrying his poor old head over that puzzle every time we get settled in camp, I'll be improving each shining hour like the busy little bee, trying out my new gun. Told you fellows, I was going to invest the first chance I got; and here's my brand new double barrel; that's guaranteed, the man said, to knock the spots out of any big game that I hold it on."
"Huh!" grunted Giraffe, who seemed a trifle grumpy on account of having his fire-making abilities made fun of, for he was quite touchy on that score; "chances are, it'll knock spots out of you, first of all, or give you a few to remember it by, if you go and get excited, and pull both triggers at once, as you're likely to do, if I know you at all, Bumpus."
"What in the wide world did you go and get a big ten bore for, when you're such a short fellow?" asked Thad, who had often wanted to find out about this particular subject.
Bumpus, who was fondling his new possession, grinned rather sheepishly.
"Well," he remarked, "you see, Thad's Marlin, and Davy's gun are both twelve guage, and I thought we ought to have variety in the crowd, so I got a ducking gun. Besides, I knew it would be better when I came to shoot buckshot in it, just like I've got in the chambers right now, ready for any old moose bull that chooses to show up. And in fact, fellows, it was the only sort of shotgun I could buy, unless I took one of them pump guns; and I just couldn't think of working all that machinery when I get so rattled, you know."
"Please keep that blunderbuss pointed the other way, Bumpus," said Step Hen.
"Yes, for goodness' sake don't you turn it around here!" called out Giraffe. "If ever you blew a hole in the bottom of this canvas canoe, we'd go down like a stone."
"I'd be sorry for that," remarked Bumpus, still fondling his new purchase lovingly, although he kept it pointed ahead, as directed; "because, you see, we've got a lot of good grub aboard this canoe, and it might get soaked."
"Huh! thinking of the grub before you take me into consideration, are you?" grunted Giraffe; and perhaps he might have said more, only just at that instant Eli turned his head and made a remark to him which caused the long-necked boy to lift his head, and then shout out excitedly:
"A bear! A bear! over there on the bank ahead!"
"Oh! where did I put my gun?" almost shrieked Step Hen, who was forever misplacing things, and then finding them again in the most unexpected places.
"Bumpus, knock him over! There's the best chance to try your new gun you ever saw! Let him have it, you silly!" roared Giraffe.
The fat boy heard all the clamor. He also sighted the lumbering bear, which, after taking one good look at the approaching canoes, turned to shuffle back again into the shelter of the protecting brush, as though he did not much fancy any closer acquaintance with the two-legged occupants.
Bumpus scrambled to his knees. He was trembling like a leaf shaken in the gale; but nevertheless managed to clumsily throw the double-barrel to his shoulder, after pulling back both hammers.
They saw him bend his chubby neck, as though to sight along the barrels. Then a tremendous explosion occurred, as though a young cannon had been fired; and the next instant Bumpus went over flat on his back, among the duffle with which the canoe was loaded, his feet coming into view as he landed among the blankets, and the packages of food, secured in the rubber ponchos to keep them from getting wet.
A WARNING FROM A GAME POACHER.
"Did I g-g-get him?"
Bumpus, as he spoke these eager words, managed to gain a sitting position, though his first act was to rub his shoulder as though it pained him.
There was a roar from all the boys at this remark, and indeed, even the two Maine guides grinned more or less.
"Listen to the innocent, would you?" shouted Giraffe; "when his buckshot tore up the water half way between the boat and the shore, till it looked just like one of those spouting geysers we read about, out in Yellowstone Park. Did he get him, boys?"
Step Hen put his hands to his mouth, megaphone fashion, and bawled out:
"Hey, answer that, Mr. Bear, please; let the poor boy know whether he tickled your tough old hide with one of his buckshot. Because, who knows, fellows, but what it might a glanced off the top of the water, and landed," and he winked at Allan, who was in the canoe with Jim Hasty close by.
"I don't hear any answer floating back," remarked Thad; "and so we'll have to believe that either the bear is lying there, stone dead, or else has skipped out to safe quarters. Bears never can stand being fired at by cannon, they tell me."
"Cannon!" burst out Giraffe at this moment, for he had managed to possess himself of the new gun by pointing to it, and having Eli Crooks pass it along. "Cannon! well, I should smile! What d'ye think he did, fellers? Just exactly what I warned him to beware of, when he saw game, and got excited; pulled both triggers at the same time! Gee! no wonder it knocked him over! I'd hate to have been behind that charge myself; and I've stood a good many heavy ones."
"Ain't we going ashore to see if I did just happen to bowl that old bear over?" whined Bumpus, looking appealingly at Thad. "I'd never forgive myself, you see, if I found out that he had died, and no one even got a steak off him. A scout never wants to waste the good things of life like that, does he, Thad?"
But the scoutmaster shook his head.
"I guess there's no chance of that happening, Bumpus," he remarked. "By now your bear is a quarter of a mile away from here, and running yet."
"Don't blame him," said Step Hen. "That new gun makes enough noise to burst your ear drums, Bumpus. And let's hope you won't ever pull both triggers again. Just practice putting one finger at a time in action. After you've shot the first barrel, let it just slip back to catch the second trigger. It's as easy as tumbling off a log."
"Or going over backward, when you do bang away with both barrels at once," added Davy Jones, wisely.
As they were descending the river the work was comparatively easy for the two guides. They would have their business cut out for them later on, when their plan of campaign, looking toward reaching the Eagle chain of lakes, was more fully developed.
In the beginning there had been three of the paddlers in the party; but a telegram had caught them as they left the train, calling the Oldtown Indian, Sebattis, home, on account of the serious sickness of his wife.
Thad was capable of assuming charge of one canoe, with the assistance of Step Hen and Davy, both lusty fellows. And so they had not bothered trying to fill the gap at the last hour. The chances were that they might have had to take some fellow along who would turn out to be sullen, or else a shirk; thus spoiling much of their pleasure on the trip.
These members of the Silver Fox Patrol had reason to feel proud, because each one of them was at that time wearing a trifling little badge that proved their right to call themselves assistant fire wardens, employed by the great State of Maine to forever keep an eye out for dangerous conflagrations, and labor to extinguish the same before they could do much damage.
It had come about in this manner:
On the train they had formed the acquaintance of a gentleman, who turned out to be the chief fire warden, on his way right then to patrol a certain district that nearly every year boasted of one or more severe fires.
He was greatly interested in Thad's account of the numerous things a Boy Scout aspired to do each day; and as it was his privilege to take on as many unpaid assistants as he chose, just as a sheriff may do in an emergency, the gentleman had with his own hands pinned a little badge on the lapel of each boy's coat.
They were very proud of the honor, and expressed their intention of serving as fire-wardens to the best of their ability—all but Giraffe. He used to shake his head every time he glanced down at his badge, and look solemn. The fact of the matter was, Giraffe had all his life been so wrapped up in starting fires, that the very idea of spending his precious time in helping to put one out did not appeal to him very strongly.
"Jim is telling me that we can expect to see the mouth of the Little Machias River any old time from now on," remarked Allan; "and while I haven't come up this way exactly, to the Eagle waters, I guess he's about right."
"Sure he is," ventured Giraffe, "for we passed the place where the Big Machias joins forces with the Aroostook some time back; and unless my eagle eye fails me, away up ahead I can see the junction right now, where we turn to the left, and leave this dandy old stream. Then the fun begins with the paddles."
"What was that the fire-warden was saying to you, Thad, about some sort of bad man up in this region, that gave the game wardens more trouble than all the rest of the poachers combined?" Step Hen asked.
Jim Hasty was seen to squirm a little; and Thad noticed this as he answered the question.
"Oh! yes, he was warning me to steer clear of one Caleb Martin, a strapping big fellow who used to be, first a logger, and then one of those men who get boats' knees out of the swamps and marshes up here; but who for some years has made up his mind to loaf, and take toll of other peoples' traps, or shoot game out of season."
"Caleb Martin, eh?" Step Hen went on; "seems to me it was another name from that?"
"Well," Thad continued, "he did mention two others who were said to be cronies of the big poacher. Let's see, I believe their names were Si Kedge and Ed Harkness; wasn't that it, Jim?" and he turned suddenly on the smaller guide.
"That's right," answered the other, promptly; "though to be fair and squar' with you, I didn't hear him speakin' o' 'em atall. But I lived up hyar, yuh knows, an' Cale, he's been akeepin' the hull kentry kinder riled a long time now. I'm hopin' we won't run a crost him any, an' that's a fact."
"Sounds like there wasn't much love lost between you and this same Cale Martin?" ventured Thad.
"They hain't," was the only thing Jim would say; and Thad knew there must be a story back of it, which he hoped later on to hear.
"But why should the wardens be afraid of just three men, when they have the law on their side; that's what I'd like to know?" Bumpus demanded.
Giraffe gave a scornful laugh.
"The law don't count for a great deal away up in the wilderness, Bumpus," he remarked, in a condescending way. "All sorts of things are done when men get away off in the Maine woods. They laugh at the law, till they feel its hand on their shoulder, and see the face of a warden close to theirs. Then p'raps they wilt. But this bully of the big woods has had a free hand up yonder so long, that he just thinks he's the boss of all creation. He needs takin' down, I reckon. And p'raps, if we happen to run across him, it might be the mission of the Silver Fox Patrol to teach him a lesson. Queerer things have happened, as we all know, looking back a little at our own experiences."
"We don't want to brag," remarked Thad. "Perhaps the shoe would be on the other foot, and he might kick the lot of us out of his territory. But all the same, let's hope our trail won't cross that of Cale Martin."
They were presently turning in to the left, and starting to ascend the Little Machias; a pretty stream, which some years back used to fairly teem with game-fish, but which, like many another river in Maine, has felt the effect of the continual work of thousands of fishermen, and worse than that, the sly netting at the hands of lawless poachers.
Step Hen was interested in many things that opened to their view as they went on, and his two companions did the paddling; for he had been working quite some time himself, and was entitled to a resting spell.
This was a new trait in Step Hen. Time had been when he would hardly notice a single thing when out in the woods, unless his attention was especially directed to it by a comrade. But it was so no longer; and the way his awakening came about, as mentioned in a previous story, is worthy of being recorded again, as showing what a trifling thing may start a boy to thinking, and observing the myriad of interesting events that are constantly occurring around him, no matter where he may happen to be at the time, in a crowded city, or alone in a vast solitude.
Step Hen had once come upon a humble little tumble-bug, striving to push a ball four times as big as himself up a forlorn road, at a point where there was a "thank-you-mum," intended to throw the water aside during a heavy rain, and save the road from being guttered.
He had grown so deeply interested in seeing the little creature try again and again to overcome the stupendous difficulties that faced it, that he lay there for half an hour, watching; clapping his hands when he thought success had come, and feeling deeply sorry when a slip caused the ball to roll back again, often upsetting the bug, and passing over its body.
The astonishing pluck of the humble little bug had aroused the admiration of the boy; and in the end he had picked up both ball and bug, and placed them safely above the baffling ascent in the road. And after that hour Step Hen awoke to the fact that an observing boy need never lack for something intensely interesting to chain his attention, no matter where he might be. All he had to do was to keep his eyes open, and look. Nature had ten thousand deeply interesting and curious things that appeal to the one who knows how to enjoy them.
And so from that day Step Hen was noticed to be eagerly on the watch for new sights. He asked many questions that proved his mind had awakened; and Thad knew that that half hour when the scout had lain alongside the mountain road down in North Carolina, had possibly been the turning point in his career; for he would never again be the same old careless, indifferent Step Hen of the past.
"There comes another canoe down the river!" suddenly cried Bumpus, who was still squatting in the bow of the leading canoe, industriously rubbing his right shoulder as though it pained him considerably; a fact Thad noticed, and which had caused him to promise that he would take a look at the lame part when they stopped for their midday meal, very soon now.
There was only one man in the canoe that was approaching, and presently Jim Hasty remarked that he knew him.
"It's sure Hen Parry, from up where I used to hold out," he went on to say; and then called out to the approaching Maine guide, as his make-up pronounced the other to be; "hullo, Hen, howd'ye? Glad tuh see yuh. Come closer, and shake hands. How's everybody up to the old place?"
The other dark-faced fellow seemed pleased to his old friend, and immediately gripped the extended hand.
"Guess ther putty well up thar, Jim; an' no need o' my askin' how ye be'n, 'cause yer lookin' prime," he remarked; and then suddenly an expression akin to dismay flashed across his weather-beaten face, as he continued: "By the same token I got er message fur ye, Jim, in case I run up agin ye on my way down to Squawpan, where I gotter meet a party that's bound up huntin'. Ye won't like to hear it, neither, I kinder guess, 'cause it's from a feller ye got no use for."
"Cale Martin?" burst involuntarily from the lips of Jim Hasty, while his face turned a shade whiter under its coat of tan.
"Ther same critter," Hen went on. "He's still runnin' things to suit hisself up thar around the Eagle chain, an' larfin' at all ther game wardens in Aroostook county ter stop him ahavin' his way."
"Why should he tell yuh anything tuh say tuh me; an' how'd he know I was acomin' up this aways?" asked Jim, firmly.
"He sez as how he heerd thet you was agoin' to bring a pack o' boys along up to the Eagles; p'raps it kim in a letter he hed from somebody, I don't know jest how thet mout be; but he seemed to know it, all right, Jim. Sez he to me, 'Hen, ef ye happens to run acrost thet thar measly little skunk what sails by the name o' Jim Hasty, jest you tell him fur me thet if he dares to put his foot up hyar in my deestrick, I'm bound to pin his ears to a tree, and leave 'em thar to give him a lesson.' An' Jim, I guess from the look he had on thet black face ob his'n when he says thet, Cale meant it, every blessed word. And if 'twas me, I'd feel like turnin' back, to take my people another way."
Thad fixed his eyes on Jim's face to see how the shorter guide took it. He realized that Jim was at least no coward, even though he might fear the wrath of such a forest bully as the ex-logger, and present lawless poacher Cale Martin; for he had shut his teeth hard together, and there was a grim expression on his face, as if he did not mean to knuckle under to any such base threat as that.
THE MAKER OF FIRES.
"How about that, Jim; must we turn around, and go back, just because this feller that thinks he owns the whole north of Maine, says so?" asked Giraffe; who was really a fearless sort of lad, and could not bear to be ordered around by a bully.
Jim was looking a little "peaked," nor could Thad blame him, after hearing what a terror this Caleb Martin had been in the community for years; and how even the officers of the law had never as yet dared arrest him, even though there were rewards out for each one of the three men.
"Naw, we don't turn back, if I knows it," said Jim, doggedly.
"Bully for you, Jim!" exclaimed Step Hen, eagerly. "There's eight of us, all told, in the party, and I think for my part that it's a pretty howd'yedo now if we can't stand up for our rights against just three cowards. I call them that because all bullies are, when you come right down to it. My father says so; and I've seen it among the boys in school."
"Yes, Jim," remarked Bumpus, with a grand air, though he immediately made a grimace, as a quick movement gave his sore shoulder a wrench; "we're going to stand by you, through thick and thin, ain't we, fellers?"
"Eight guns in the crowd!" remarked Davy Jones with an air of confidence. "Sure we ought to hold the fort, and then some, if deadly weapons count for anything up here, and I'm told they do. P'raps, instead of pinning your ears to a tree, Jim, this same Mister Cale'll consent to walk back with us, and give himself up to a game warden of the great and glorious State of Maine. We mustn't forget that we're all sworn-in officers of the said State, and bound to assist any game warden who is trying to do his duty, and earn his salary."
Presently the other guide said good-bye, and turning his canoe down-stream, shot away with the current; while the scouts headed up further toward the wilderness that lay around the country of the Eagle chain of lakes, close to the northern border of the State.
They landed presently to have a bite at noon. Thad took advantage of the opportunity to look at Bumpus' shoulder. As he anticipated, he found that there was quite an ugly black-and-blue bruise there, which would cause the boy considerable pain for several days; though he declared that nothing was going to keep him from practicing with his new gun, which seemed like a toy in the hands of a child.
"I'm sure you could not have held the butt close against your shoulder when you fired," Thad ventured, as his opinion.
"That's just what," admitted the other, with a sigh. "Know better next time, though, Thad; and thank you for making it feel easier. But I wish I'd got that bear. How fine it would be to eat steak from a big bear I'd killed with the first shot from my new gun."
"Make that plural, Bumpus, for you fired both barrels, remember," laughed Thad.
They were soon on the move again, and pushing steadily up against the current of the Little Machias. An hour or two passed. The air was not nipping cold at this time of the day; but as the season was now considerably advanced they expected to meet with considerable frost, and even some ice, before coming back once more to the home town.
Lest the reader who has not made the acquaintance of the Boy Scouts in the previous volume, should think it strange that these six lads were able to be away from their school duties for such a length of time at this season of the year, it may be best to enter a little explanation right here.
An unfortunate epidemic of contagious sickness had broken out in Cranford, and as a number of the scholars of the school were affected, the trustees had reluctantly decided that the session between early Fall and New Years must be abandoned. If all were well at the later date, after the usual holidays, school would be resumed. But the health of the community demanded that the boys and girls be separated for the time being.
Just then Thad's guardian, a genial old man who was known far and wide as "Daddy," Brewster, found that he had urgent need of communicating with a gentleman by the name of Carson, who had recently gone up into Maine on his annual moose hunt in the big game country. As he might not come out before January, and the necessity of giving him certain documents was great, Thad had been asked to make the trip.
They had long been counting on a chance to visit the home country of their Maine fellow scout, Allan Hollister; and most of the scouts eagerly seized on this opportunity to carry out the project, though two of the patrol were unable to be along.
And so they were now in a condition to thoroughly enjoy the outing, since Thad had carried out his mission, and given the papers into the keeping of Mr. Carson; receiving a message in return which he had wired to the old gentleman when in touch with a telegraph station.
Thad himself had believed that there was not the slightest cloud along the horizon; and now that this Cale Martin business had cropped up, he began to realize that after all it might not be such clear sailing as they had figured on.
Still, Thad was not the one to borrow trouble, though ready to grapple with it in any shape or manner, once it found them out.
They camped early on that night, because all of them were a little tired; and the location on the shore looked especially fine.
"Hey, look at what Giraffe's going to do!" exclaimed Bumpus, after they had carried part of their things ashore, and were busily engaged in putting up the two big tents supplied by Jim Hasty from his camp stores, such as all Maine guides delight to possess.
"Why, ain't it a part of my business to start the fire every time?" demanded the party in question, who was on his knees; "didn't Thad promise me that job if I'd keep on being careful about startin' fires every-which-way? I ain't had a blessed match on my person since I gave that promise, have I, Thad? And what's wrong about my getting the blaze in my own way, tell me that, Bumpus?"
"But we want supper, and we don't mean to sit around here an hour or two, just watchin' you tinker with that silly old bow and stick, twirling away like you had to saw through to China. How about that, Thad?" and Bumpus turned appealingly toward the patrol leader, well knowing that whatever he said would go.
"Bumpus is right, Giraffe," the other said, kindly but firmly. "You're welcome to spend all the time you want with that contraption, after you've started our cooking fire; but it wouldn't be fair to hold up the whole bunch just to please yourself. Your own good sense tells you that, Giraffe."
Giraffe, of course, had to appear to be convinced.
"Just when I had a new scheme in my head, too, that I just know would have made the fire come," he grumbled, as he hung the little bow on a twig of a tree near by, and produced flint and steel, and a little bag in which he kept tinder, in the shape of tiny shavings which he was always preparing at odd moments; "and before I get another chance to try it, I'll have forgotten the combination, sure. But that's always the way it goes; though don't you dare think Bumpus Hawtree, that I'm going to give up so easy. I'll fight it out this way if it takes all winter."
Being an adept with the flint and steel, Giraffe quickly had his fire started.
"And that's the way it'll be after I've just got that one little snag passed," he took occasion to remark, for the benefit of the fat scout, who was hovering near by. "Everything's easy as tumbling off a log, once you know how. P'raps you remember what a time you had learnin' to ride a bike; and yet now you can cut around corners, and even stand on the saddle while she's going. Well, you wait and see my smoke."
"Huh! that's all I ever will see, I'm afraid," chuckled Bumpus.
But presently Giraffe managed to drift into a more amiable humor. That was when the coffee pot was bubbling on the fire, sending out its cheery aroma; and the last of the eggs they had managed to buy from a potato grower on the bank of the Aroostook were sizzling in the two large frying-pans.
Most boys possess hearty appetites, and Giraffe was no exception to the rule. Indeed, like most lean fellows, he had an enormous stowage capacity somewhere about him, and could dispose of more food on occasion than any two of his mates. Bumpus always declared he had hollow legs, and used them for receptacles, when other places were filled to overflowing. But not one of the scouts could remember the time when Giraffe complained of having eaten too much. Like the crowded street car, there was always room for more.
"Wish we'd struck this section of country an hour or two before dark," Bumpus ventured to remark, complacently, as he sat there with his fat legs doubled under him, tailor-fashion and munching at the crackers and cheese he had made a sandwich out of.
"For why?" asked Giraffe, looking up.
"Oh! a feller might have just taken a little turn around here, and knocked over a deer, or something of the sort," Bumpus replied, with the utmost assurance in the world; just as though such a thing were of common occurrence in his life. "Looks right gamey around here; how's that, Thad?"
"Oh! Jim Hasty told us that much!" declared Step Hen, before the scoutmaster could find a chance to say anything. "Didn't you hear him tell how every season there's been a moose or two killed within ten miles of where we've got our camp right now. But we can't hold up yet to do any hunting; so you'll just have to put a crimp in that sporting spirit you've developed so suddenly, Bumpus."
"Listen to him talk, would you?" exclaimed Giraffe; "and only a little while back you couldn't get Bumpus to even touch a gun. Say, you're a marvel, all right, Bumpus. They'll have you set up as the eighth wonder of the world soon, ahead of the telephone, wireless, moving pictures, and even the talking machine. Edison and all the rest of those old wizards had better take a back seat when you come around."
Joking and chatting, they made the time pass very happily. If Jim Hasty were in reality much concerned over the prospect of his meeting with the ugly poacher who had a bone to pick with him, he at least did not show it outwardly any longer. But then Jim was a man of few words as a rule; and it was hardly to be expected that so hardy a fellow would tremble, just at the mention of a name.
There was room for them all under the shelter of the tents, though as a rule, so long as the weather kept on being fairly pleasant, the two hardy guides declared that they much preferred to wrap up in their blankets and sleep under the stars. Such men become used to what would seem hardships to the city bred person, and in truth think very little of enduring them. And it was by no means cold enough as yet, to drive them into taking shelter under the canvas.
Giraffe had been working away at his fire-making business pretty much all of the evening, and Bumpus had watched him for a while; but growing tired of seeing the other sawing away as if for dear life, he had finally laughed, and turned away.
If Giraffe came near making things "go" that evening, at least once more the glory of a full success slipped away from his eager hands, outstretched to clutch it; for when it came time for them to "shut up shop," as Thad said, and crawl into the two tents, he had not brought about his expected blaze, though his face looked more determined than ever.
Bumpus, Giraffe and Allan occupied one tent; while the other three scouts were assigned to the second. The guides promised to share their shelter only in case of a storm, or very severe weather.
The fire was allowed to die down. If any strong wind came up in the night it would be the duty of the guides to see that burning brands were not carried into the adjacent woods, to set fire to the brown pine needles that covered the ground; and were so full of resinous matter that once ignited they would send a wall of flame down the wind that would do incalculable damage.
Soon quiet rested over the camp. The frosty night breeze sighed among the branches overhead; the owl hooted to its mate deep in the wood; and the hour of midnight, when Thad peeped forth, (and which he knew to have arrived from the position of certain stars overhead), saw the last of the fire vanishing in dead embers.
Thad sought the warmth of his blanket again in a hurry, for the air was now nipping cold, especially after the snug nest had been temporarily abandoned. And he must have gone right to sleep, for he did not seem to remember anything after again creeping under the double folds of the warm woolen covering.
Now, when one sleeps like most boys do, soundly, it is impossible to figure how time passes when awakened in a hurry. So that Thad could not tell what the hour might be when he found himself starting up hurriedly, under the conviction that strange as it might seem at that season of the year, and with the air frosty, there was a storm bearing down upon them, for he thought it was thunder he heard.
Then came a tremendous crash, and the tent swayed, but did not fall; though from the wild shouts that arose close at hand the young patrol leader reckoned the same good fortune could not have befallen the other shelter, because he could plainly catch the howls of Step Hen, Bumpus and Giraffe.
Quick as thought Thad whirled over to the exit, and crawled out. And what his eyes beheld was enough to startle anybody, let alone a boy. If a genuine cyclone had not struck the camp on the Little Machias, then something almost as bad must have dropped down upon them, Thad thought, as he stared, hardly able to believe his eyes, or understand what it all meant.
A TERROR THAT CAME IN THE NIGHT.
Why, the second tent had utterly left the place where Thad remembered they had erected it. He had just a fleeting glimpse of something dingy white careering along over the ground among the trees, and then it vanished.
But there was a high time going on near by, where the contents of the interior of the late tent were scattered around. Blankets heaved, and legs were thrust out, while the owners of the same were screaming at the top of their voices.
"Oh! what is this?" bellowed Bumpus, who seemed to be almost smothered under the folds of his blanket, which he must have had up over his head at the time the catastrophe came upon them.
"It's a hurricane, that's what, and our bally old tent has been carried away!" shouted Giraffe. "Hang on to anything you can grab, fellers, or you may be taken next! Whoop! let her come! I've got hold of a tree now!"
"Not much you have," remarked Thad, "that's my leg you're hanging on to. Let go, and we'll soon find out what happened."
"Ain't it a storm after all then?" demanded Step Hen, as he came creeping out under the canvas of the back of the one tent that had been left standing, with most of his clothes hugged tightly in his grip, as though he did not mean to be utterly left without something to keep him warm, if the worst had befallen them.
Thad had by now gleaned an inkling of the truth. And it was so utterly ridiculous that he felt as though he must soon burst into peals of laughter.
"First tell me if anybody was hurt?" he demanded, feeling that it would be wrong to show any merriment if such should prove to be the case.
"I don't know," remarked Giraffe; "seemed to me something heavy came squash down on top of me like a thousand of bricks. Mebbe it was only the tent pole falling. Guess I ain't hurt much."
"How about you, Allan?" asked Thad, hardly thinking it worth while to ask Bumpus, who seemed to be all right; though he was already beginning to dance around, as the nipping fingers of Jack Frost got busy with his thinly covered shanks, about which he had only his flimsy pajamas over his underclothes.
"Never happened to step on me, though he came within three inches of my back!" replied the Maine boy; and there was something about his words to tell that Allan must already have guessed what had been the cause for all this commotion, and the stealing of their tent.
Bumpus caught at the words.
"What's all that?" he demanded quickly; "was it the work of some mean feller, after all? Hey, is that the way your old Cale Martin gets in his work, sneakin' up in the dead of night, when we're all sleepin' as innocent as the babes in the woods, and snatchin' off our covers before you could wink an eye, or say Jack Robinson? Well, I like his nerve, that's what; and he'd better look out how he keeps on tryin' tricks on travelers. Say, he switched our tent, too!" and Bumpus gave a whistle, as well as his trembling lips would allow, to emphasize his disgust.
"You can thank your lucky stars old fellow," said Allan, "that he didn't plant one of his hoofs square on your stomach."
"Hoofs!" echoed Bumpus, aghast; "say, then it wasn't that old poacher after all, was it? Hoofs? That must mean it was an animal. Looky here, somebody get the fire started again, so we won't shake to pieces while we're hunting our clothes, and listening to the explanation of this latest outrage."
"Oh! let Davy do it," said Giraffe; "I'm nearly frozen stiff myself right now; and besides," he added as a brilliant after-thought, "you know I don't carry matches with me any more. And of course you wouldn't want to wait while I swung my little bow."
"Where's my left shoe?" shouted Step Hen just then; for there never was a time when he could find all his belongings; and in a case of excitement like this it was a certainty that his customary complaint would soon be heard in the land. "Who's gone and took my left shoe? I'm dead certain I had both of 'em when I started to crawl under the canvas. Somebody thinks it smart to keep playin' jokes on me all the time. Why can't they let my things be, Thad?"
"What's that sticking out of the pocket of your coat?" asked Allan, as Davy managed to strike a match, and apply the fire to the only lantern they carried with them on the trip.
"Why, whoever stuck that in there?" Step Hen went on, unblushingly. "Thinks it smart to do such silly things, and have me guessing all the time. Just switch off, and try it on one of the others, won't you?"
Knowing that he must have undoubtedly placed the shoe in that pocket himself in the haste of his departure from the tent that remained, Step Hen did not dare accuse any one in particular; but glared around at vacancy when thus addressing his supposed-to-be enemy.
But they were so accustomed to his failings by now that no one paid much attention to what he was saying. In fact, it would have been a cause for astonishment if twenty-four hours ever slipped past without an outburst from Step Hen in connection with some of his personal belongings, that seemed to have taken wings in the most mysterious fashion, and vanished, although they always turned up again.
"But what sort of an animal was it, Thad?" asked Bumpus, still dancing about, and slapping himself in every conceivable place in order to keep his blood in circulation.
"Ask Jim, or Eli," replied the patrol leader, who was really too busy just then getting some of his own clothes, to bother answering.
So the others turned to the two guides, who, not having removed any of their ordinary garments, did not feel the chilly night air as much as the lads.
"What was it banged us over, Eli?" asked Bumpus.
"Moose bull on the rampage!" replied the Maine woodsman, readily enough.
"A great big moose like that one we shot a while ago!" echoed Bumpus, showing great excitement. "Just my luck. Why, if he'd heard that I had a new gun, and was waiting to see what it could do, he couldn't have been kinder. Just knocked at our door; and when nobody answered him he went away again, and by jinks! carried the door and the rest of the house with him. However in the wide world do you suppose that happened, Eli? I guess you ought to know, because you're acquainted with the queer ways of these woods' critters."
"Never knew such a thing before in all my experience in woods," asserted the older guide, shaking his head. "Fire was out, wind blowing wrong way for moose to smell human critters; and he must a thought he heard 'nother bull on the edge o' ther water, wantin' to fight him. Anyhow he jest natchrally tore right through that tent. It got fast to his horns, and he's been an' kerried it off."
"Oh! what tough luck. If I'd only been on the watch I'd have the honor of shooting the first moose that took to wearin' clothes human way," groaned Bumpus.
"D'ye suppose, then, he's keepin' our bally tent; and won't we ever set eyes on the same again?" asked Giraffe, holding his chilled hands out toward the fire that in Davy's charge had been revived again until it sent out a genial warmth.
"Soon know," remarked Jim, who had a personal interest in the matter, seeing that the purloined canvas belonged to him; though of course he knew that his employers would stand for any loss he incurred while working in their service.
He took the lantern, and started away. Thad had managed to get some of his clothes on by this time, and he hurried after the shorter guide, who seemed to know exactly in which direction to pursue his investigations.
"I can see something ahead there," Thad remarked, presently.
"That's the tent, all right," remarked Jim. "I only hopes as how she ain't too bad cut up now. 'Twas nearly new, and good, and stout; so I guess the ole chap he had some trouble gettin' loose from the same."
They found the tent where it had caught on a sprout, and torn free from the branching antlers of the moose, commonly called his horns.
"Not so bad after all," remarked Jim, when he had examined the extent of the damage made by the tent's being so forcibly carried off. "I kin patch it up easy, when I gits a chance in the boat, to-morry. Guess as haow we gut off right smart, all things considerin', Thad."
And the young scoutmaster was ready to echo these words, when he got to thinking how one of a dozen things might have accompanied the mad rush of the moose through the camp.
They never did know what had really caused his charge; whether some vindictive spirit of rage provoked the huge beast; or that he fancied a rival bull were challenging him to mortal combat, just as in the case of the fellow, whom Sebattis had previously lured within gunshot, with his seductive moose call.
The balance of the night gave them only broken sleep; because of the sudden and rude shock of this awakening. Bumpus hugged his new gun close to his side; and raised his head so often to listen, that both Giraffe and Allan vowed they would be compelled to chase him outside if he didn't get busy, and capture some sleep right away.
Morning came in due time, and they found that little damage had been done by the rush of the moose, beyond some rents in the canvas of the tent.
Once more they started forth, and all that day plodded on, making many miles, and by evening reaching the spot where Jim said they could have their canoes and luggage carried over to Portage Lake by a man he knew, who owned a team and a wagon.
"How far is it across from here?" asked Thad, seeking information.
"Depends on what way yuh go thar," replied Jim, "but I guesses as Nick he likes the three mile carry best. Start fresh in the mornin' sure."
After they had partaken of an early supper Jim went off to find his friend who owned the team, while the others busied themselves getting their belongings in as small a compass as possible, looking forward to what was expected to happen on the following morning.
Later, when Jim came back, he reported that he had interviewed Nick, and made all necessary arrangements with him to take the three canoes, and the stuff that went with them, across the carry in the morning. The boys were expected to walk and if necessary push at the wheels of the wagon, should it get stuck in a creek bed of soft quicksand.
The night passed quietly, and all hands managed to put in plenty of time sleeping, to make up for the loss of the previous one. In the morning the loud "whoa" of a stentorian voice announced the arrival of the expected team. They proved to be oxen instead of horses, and once the canoes, and other stuff, had been loaded on the big low wagon, the journey commenced.
Slow progress was the order of the day. Giraffe grumbled, but it did no good. And it was really noon when they finally came in sight of the lake.
The canoes were gladly launched, a light lunch eaten, the teamster paid off, and then again the voyage was resumed under a favoring sky; for the air was bracing, and so far not a sign of the first snow storm had made its appearance, though the guides warned their charges to be prepared for the worst, as a downfall was nearly due.
A cold wind was blowing from the northwest so that the wise guides hugged the sheltered shore of Portage Lake, since the waves were of pretty good size, and the flying spray would be far from pleasant in such weather.
Finally they reached the place where the lake had its outlet into a small stream, that, after flowing for a number of miles, emptied into the Lower Lake of the great and famous Eagle chain.
On the shore of this lake then, they made their next camp. From the grave manner of Jim, the scoutmaster easily guessed that they must by now have entered the territory where Cale Martin, the slippery old poacher, held forth. Jim seemed to look about him more than before. He also started at the least unusual sound, showing that while he might try to disguise the fact, he was really nervous. Still, he did not give the slightest indication of showing the white feather, or backing down, before a dozen like Cale Martin.
Davy had purchased a little snapshot camera at the town below, and also some flashlight cartridges with which he wished to get some views of the group around the camp-fire at night. No one had made any effort to perpetuate such scenes which Davy declared were the very best part of the whole trip. And now that they had become fairly launched upon the journey he was aching to start into business with his new outfit.
Davy knew a little about taking pictures, although far from being an expert. He had never used flashlight powders, or cartridges before; and after reading all the directions carefully, he declared he felt prepared to take a picture that would be viewed with the greatest satisfaction in the world by all his chums, when this great Maine vacation were only a memory of the past.
So Davy warned his campmates not to be alarmed if there suddenly flashed upon them a great light.
"I'd like to get you all in characteristic attitudes, if I could—that was the way the feller who sold me the camera called it; and he said the best pictures were the natural ones. What I mean is, that if I could grab Step Hen here, for instance, with that silly look of his on his face, saying: 'Anybody seen my camp hatchet around? Funny how it's always my things that get carried off! The jinx never hides anything belonging to you fellers!' I'd have something worth while."
"Oh! come off, will you, Davy; if I thought I looked like you say, I'd let all my traps disappear every day but what I'd kick up a row," and Step Hen assumed an air of indignation with these words that caused a general laugh to go around.
Of course it had to be explained to the two guides, for they were to be in the picture, smoking their pipes contentedly; and apparently Eli telling a story, to which the rest of the scouts were listening eagerly, possibly laughing.
Having fixed things to his satisfaction, Davy disappeared, slipping away from the camp-fire on the side he had decided upon as offering the best natural advantages for a flashlight view.
They could not see him, but guessed that he was working his way toward them as slily as he could; since he had announced that he meant to play the part of an enemy, stealing up to spy upon the camp.
Presently they did manage to get Eli started telling a story; for Thad knew it would be better for the picture if the guides seemed natural, and not on parade.
Meanwhile Davy was creeping forward, intent on reaching the place he had picked out beforehand, and where, without exposing himself, he could set his camera, and then fire the cartridge.
When to his uneducated mind—in the line of photography—Davy had things just about to his liking, he held himself in readiness for what he deemed an extra fine view, when the boys were laughing heartily at the climax of Eli's queer story of a scrape he once found himself in that was really humorous, though at the time it may have appeared anything but that to the actor.
"Now!" said Davy, partly to himself, as he fired his cartridge.
There was a sudden brilliant and dazzling flash, that must have been as fierce as the display of lightning when the bolt hits close at hand. And while those at the fire were schooled to repress their natural alarm, evidently the same could not be said of a looker-on not counted in the bill; for there was a hoarse cry of alarm from the bushes across the way, and the sound of crashing seemed to tell of a precipitate flight.
"What was that?" exclaimed Bumpus.
"Oh! Davy just had to let out a whoop!" commented Step Hen.
"Think again, would you," spoke up Giraffe, who sat there twisting his long neck this way and that, in a comical way, as though seeking to discover the object of the strange outcry; "it came from the other side of the camp from where Davy is."
"Well," said the indifferent Step Hen, as if not wanting to be bothered, "then it must have been some animal that was curious enough to prowl around our camp, and got a good scare, free, gratis, for nothing."
"It was no animal that made that sound, and I leave it to Thad or Allan here," Bumpus insisted.
Indeed, even the sleepy Step Hen sat up and took notice that the two mentioned, as well as Jim and Eli, were already on their feet, exchanging significant looks. Words were hardly needed to proclaim that they deemed the circumstance as one worthy of investigation.
Just then Davy came in, bearing his little camera, and with a grin on his face.
"Got a fine picture that time, I reckon, fellers," he announced, after the manner of satisfied camera fiends the world over.
"Did you give a shout, Davy?" asked Thad, thinking it best to settle that point in the start, before going any further.
"Not that I know of, I didn't," immediately replied the other.
"Did you hear one?" continued the patrol leader.
"Sure I did, and took it for granted that Step Hen or Giraffe had been scared by the fireworks display, in spite of my warning, and squealed," Davy replied.
"That settles it, then," Thad went on, turning to Eli and Jim; "get a torch, or the lantern, and we'll see what it was."
"Wow! this looks some interesting!" exclaimed Giraffe, beginning to show signs of excitement himself.
Eli picked up the lantern, and lighted it. Then he led the way into the bushes at the exact spot where, according to his educated ear, the snort and the crash had come from.
"Keep back, the rest of you," said Thad, "and let Eli do the looking. If he finds anything worth while, be sure you'll all know about it."
A minute later the old guide called to them to come on.
"Bully for Eli; he's lost no time in making good!" exclaimed Giraffe.
The whole party crowded around the old guide, who was on his knees on the ground, apparently examining some tracks he had found. He waved a hand to keep them from crowding too close to him, so as to interfere with his work.
Bending low, Thad could easily see the marks. Some one had been crouching there in the bushes, and spying on the camp. That he could not be an honest woodsman it was easy to guess, for as such he would have stalked straight into camp, sure of the warm welcome that is always extended to a stranger who looks good.
Eli pointed to the impression close to the footprints.
"Thar's whar he rested the butt o' his rifle," he said, positively, and Thad knew it was exactly as Eli declared, just as though he could himself see the actions of the hidden man. "Got on his knees and crawled up to whar he c'ud poke his nose outen the scrub hyar, an' watch us. And hyar's whar he was arestin' on jest wun knee; cause ye kin see the mark o' his foot beyond."
"What was he doing that for?" asked Thad, though deep down in his heart he seemed to instinctively know.
"Wall, I kinder guess naow thet he mout a be'n a tryin' to see how he cud kiver wun o' us with his gun!" replied Eli.
He beckoned to Jim, and that worthy approached. There was a troubled look on the face of the younger guide that Thad could not but notice; and he realized that the affair might not be so great a mystery to Jim as it seemed to the rest of them.
"Take a squint at them hood tracks hyar, Jim; p'raps ye mout sorter reckernize the same," Eli remarked drily.
Jim only needed that one glance, and then he gritted his teeth as he observed:
"Oh! twar him, all right, Eli; I knowed it."
"Wow! and again I say, wow! this here is sure getting mighty interesting!" muttered Giraffe, shuffling uneasily from one foot to the other; while Bumpus, filled with a sudden alarm, started back into the camp, to arm himself with his new gun.
"Do you mean Old Cale Martin?" demanded Thad.
"None other," answered Jim, moodily.
"Then he must have seen you, Jim, sitting here?" the patrol leader went on.
"He shore did," replied the short guide.
"And amused himself covering you with his gun, just as if to say that he could put a bullet in you, if so be he wanted; but he didn't want to, did he Jim?
"Reckon he didn't, sir," the other ventured. "Yuh see, he ain't jest thet mad at me, so's tuh wanter kill me; jest sez as haow I gotter keep away from whar he camps, yuh know."
"Sill, he said he meant to pin your ears to a tree, if he caught you up here; those were about the words your guide friend, Hen Parry, used, weren't they, Jim?"
"Thet's what they was; an' he meant it, too," Jim replied. "Thet's one o' his good points, thet he allers keeps his word. If them game wardens cud ever git Ole Dad Martin tuh say as he never wud kill game outen season agin, they'd know nawthin' under the sun'd tempt him tuh do hit, not even if he was a dyin' fuh a bite o' meat. He ain't all bad, this here Cale Martin."
"But what about you, Jim; seems to me this is taking big chances in your coming up here, when such a lawless character has a grudge against you, and is waiting to put his stamp on you that way. And strikes me, Jim, that you must have had a motive in coming, that was more than just bluff. How about that?"
The young guide glanced at Thad when he said this, and evidently realized that the patrol leader could read his mind better than most people; he looked a little confused; then gave a short nervous laugh, and said:
"Wall, naow, sense yuh sized me up thet away, I'll jest hev tuh admit thet I did hev a notion in comin' up here, 'sides takin' ye through the Eagle Lakes. I hed my orders tuh come, an' from one as I hes tuh mind."
He turned away while speaking, as though not inclined to say more just then in the presence of so many; but Thad made up his mind there was a story back of the strange actions of Jim; and that a few point-blank questions might bring it out. Before he slept he hoped he would find a chance to get Jim to one side and ask him about it; for he had reason to believe the other was ready to confide in him.
"Do you think he'll come back again to-night?" asked Davy Jones.
"Who cares?" remarked a voice at the elbow of the speaker; and turning, they beheld Bumpus flourishing his new double-barrel gun, as though only too anxious for a chance to hold somebody up at its muzzle.
"Here, you keep that cannon aimed the other way, if you please!" cried Giraffe, dodging behind a convenient tree. "You ought to be marked with a red flag 'dangerous—dynamite!' that's what I think!"
"Come, let's get back to camp," remarked Thad. "There's little chance of Old Cale coming back here to-night. He got the scare of his life when that flashlight burst on him so sudden like. I wouldn't be surprised if he thought a rapid-fire machine gun was opening on him; or else that lightning had taken to camping on his trail."
"Anyhow," remarked Allan, "he just couldn't help turning and running as if the Old Nick were after him. And from that we can guess that Cale never heard tell of flashlight pictures."
"Well, can you blame him?" asked Thad. "Makes me think of the old fable, when the lion and the donkey went hunting together. The lion took up his station at the mouth of the cave where some goats had hidden, while the donkey went in; and made all sorts of terrible noises, braying. So the goats ran out, and the lion killed as many as he wanted. When the donkey came out he asked his partner if he had done the job in good shape. 'Fine,' said the lion, 'and you would have frightened me too, if I hadn't known that you were only a donkey.' And that's the way with us, fellows; we were on to the game in advance, or some of us might have taken to our heels too."
"Here, that sounds mighty much like you were calling me a donkey," remarked Davy, trying to display a certain amount of offended dignity.
"Oh! not in the least," laughed Thad.
"If the shoe fits, put it on," jeered Giraffe. "You know they say that wherever you see smoke, there's sure to be fire."
"Not much there ain't," burst out Bumpus, with a grin. "I've seen heaps of smoke started, without a sign of a blaze," and Giraffe subsided into silence knowing what was meant.
"Did you get a good picture, Davy?" asked Thad, as they once more settled down around the fire.
"Seemed like it to me," was the reply. "It was just when you were all laughing at what Eli here was saying. He had his hand up, like he was going to smack it down in the palm of the other, to emphasize a telling point in his story. Say, wouldn't it be a great stunt now, if, when I developed that plate, I found a face sticking out of the bushes across yonder; and Jim here recognized it as belonging to that big terror of the pine woods, Cale Martin!"
"Say, that would be just great!" ejaculated Step Hen; and all eyes were turned toward Jim; but that worthy made no remark, though he must have surely heard what was said.
As the evening grew on apace Thad was watching for the chance he wanted, to get a few words in private with the younger guide. Jim somehow had interested Thad from the start. He never said anything about himself or his folks; but somehow the young patrol leader had been drawn toward Jim. He believed the fellow to be a sturdy chap, clean and honest as any guide ever employed by big game hunters in the Maine woods. And now that it began to appear that there was a little mystery attached to his past, of course Thad felt a deeper interest in Jim than ever.
Perhaps it was accident that took Jim off after a while; he may have just wanted to smoke his pipe alone, and ponder on the strange fate that seemed to throw him once more in contact with the man who had crossed his life trail in the past, and apparently not in a pleasant way either. But somehow Thad conceived an idea that Jim just knew he wanted to have a quiet little chat with him; and was thus making an opening.
Just as he had expected he found the guide leaning against a tree near by. The light from the flickering blaze of the camp-fire reached the spot, but faintly; and Jim did not even show any signs of nervousness when Thad drew near, which was one indication that he had half expected his coming.
Perhaps Jim even invited a chance to bestow his confidence on the young scoutmaster. He must have seen before now that Thad Brewster was no ordinary boy; and when a man has been brooding over something a long time, he often feels like having a friend to whom he may pour out the troubles of his soul, and from whom perhaps he may look for advice.
"Not thinking of changing your mind, are you Jim?" asked Thad, as he joined the other by the tree.
"If yuh mean 'bout goin' back, an' feelin' like a whipped houn' dog, sir, 'taint in Jim Hasty tuh do thet aways. Fact is," the guide went on, with a stubborn ring in his voice, "meetin' up with Ole Cale jest kinder makes me more sot in my mind than ever. I stays with yuh right through, yuh kin bank on thet."
"Well, I only hope he'll conclude to give us a wide berth, and make up his mind that he'd better keep his hands off," Thad went on. "Seems like he doesn't fancy you any too much, Jim?"
This was a plain invitation, and the other so regarded it, for he immediately answered:
"I kinder guess Ole Cale does hate me wuss nor pizen, sir. P'raps he's gut reason fut hit; an' agin, mebbe he hain't. 'Tall depends on the way yuh look at hit. I on'y done what any man o' speerit'd adone, if so be he found himself up agin a stone wall like Cale Martin's 'no, not on yuh life!' meant."
"Then you asked him for something, did you, Jim?"
"Jest what I done, sir; which something war what he happened to keer more fur than anything else on the yarth," Jim replied; and Thad could detect something soft and tender underneath the words, that gave him a clue.
"And that something, Jim?" he went on, invitingly.
"War his darter, Little Lina, ther purtiest an' sweetest gal in all the Maine woods," the guide made answer. "When he sez as haow I never cud hev her with all her carin' fur me so much, I jest up an' run away with her; an' thet's why Ole Cale, he hates me wuss nor cold pizen!"
TAKING A RISK FOR THE SAKE OF LITTLE LINA.
Thad understood it all now, and the knowledge gave him a thrill. He thrust out his hand to the young guide, with boyish enthusiasm.
"Shake, Jim!" he exclaimed. "I just know you did what any decent man would have done. And so you managed to run away with the old man's daughter, did you? Was she all he had?"
"On'y Little Lina; an' he believed the sun rose an' set in her, like. They cud all say as Cale Martin war a bad man, an' he war rough as they make 'em, sumtimes; but he'd a laid down his life fur thet gal, any day. I was dead sorry tuh hev tuh do hit; but I knowed he'd never give in, an' I jest cudn't live without her. We gut outen this deestrict while Cale war off on a hunt, an' I hain't never seen hide nor hair o' him sense. But he sent me word thet ef so be I ever kim back tuh the old stampin' grounds, he hed it in fuh me, all right."
"How long ago was that, Jim?"
"Nigh a yeah an' er half now," the other replied.
"And of course your wife has often wished she could see her father again, Jim?"
The guide groaned.
"Cried her putty eyes out, awantin' tuh see her dad," he admitted; "but what cud a man do 'bout hit, if Cale, he wudn't forgive me? He sent word as haow Lina cud kim back, but me, never; an' in course she wudn't quit me."
"But now, Jim; tell me about who gave you the orders you were saying something about a while ago?" pursued Thad.
"She done hit, in course," answered the other, heaving a sigh. "I knowed the risk I war takin', but I'd do a right smart more fur my Lina."
"Then as I take it, Jim, you don't really want to avoid Old Cale, this fiery father-in-law of yours; in fact, you mean to see him face to face?"
"Got ter," replied the other, laconically; "'cause she sez so. Hit may be I kin do hit on the way up to the lakes; but if not then I'm acomin' back with Eli an' the canoes thisaways, arter yuh gits aboard ther train; an' I'll hang around this deestrict till we meets. Never'd dar' show myself tuh her, 'less I done everything agoin' tuh kerry it out."
"And don't you feel a little uneasy about your ears, Jim?"
"Wall, it wudn't be jest the nicest thing agoin' tuh lose 'em; but she sez as haow Ole Cale, he's bound tuh cave when he hears what I gotter tuh tell him."
Evidently Jim had said all he meant to, and Thad took the hint.
"Well, all I want to say is that I admire your nerve, Jim; and the lot of us will stand back of you if you get in any trouble," he remarked, earnestly.
"Hit's right nice in yuh tuh say thet, sir, an' sure I 'predate hit," the guide went on to say, with a tremor in his voice; "but arter all, I guess thar hain't goin' tuh be any row, if me'n Cale, we kims tergether. I'm willin' tuh resk it. But I must say as haow I don't like the ijee o' him asettin' thar in them bushes, aimin' his gun at me. But Cale Martin's a squar man, as wudn't shoot daown another without givin' him a show. An' I guess he jest done it fur fun."
So Thad went back to the fire, and sat down. But he did not join in the merry talk that was going around. His thoughts were wholly given up to Jim and his story. He liked the short guide more than ever; and in the same proportion detested the big Maine backwoodsman whose daughter Jim had run away with.
Presently some of the boys complained of feeling sleepy, and arrangements were made for passing the night.
Both Jim and Eli declared that it would be only the part of wisdom to keep watch. There could be no telling what deviltry Cale Martin, assisted by his two congenial spirits, Si Kedge and Ed Harkness, might attempt to do. Perhaps, thinking that it would reflect on the guides if they annoyed the party whom Eli and Jim were convoying into the Maine woods, they might even try to set fire to the camp, and thus spoil the entire trip.
When morning came Thad and Allan had taken their turn at standing sentry; but none of the other scouts were called upon, because the leader did not have the greatest of confidence in their ability to remain awake, not to mention hearing, and comprehending, any sounds that might arise, and which spelled danger.
A consultation in the morning showed that only once had there been heard suspicious sounds. It was while Allan held the fort; and he declared that to the best of his knowledge they were far distant voices on the river. But although he listened carefully, and was prepared to give the alarm if necessary, nothing further developed that might be considered a peril to the camp.
The boys were feeling pretty good that morning. They had most of them enjoyed a fine sleep, and were as active as young colts.
Davy in particular seemed to be full of animal spirits; and when he felt like it, there was no end of the capers the athletic gymnast could do. One minute he was hanging from his toes from a high limb, looking like a monkey; and the next he had let go, whirled over three times in the air, and landed lightly on his feet on the soft ground; after which he would make his little bow, just like the celebrated performer in the great and only Barnum's Circus, after he has thrilled the audience with one of his marvelous acts.
Bumpus sat and watched all these performances with open mouth. Secretly the fat boy aspired to imitate Davy in some of his antics; though Giraffe always scoffed loudly at the absurd idea of a heavy weight like Bumpus trying to play the part of a nimble ape.
Several times had the ambition of Bumpus got the better of his judgment, and he had endeavored to follow in the wake of the active member of the party; but always with disastrous results; so that for some time now he had taken it out in gaping, and wishing, and longing for the time to come when he could get rid of his surplus fat, so that he might be nimble like Davy.
Giraffe during breakfast was unusually silent and sober. Thad guessed where his thoughts were straying, and consequently it did not surprise him in the least to overhear the tall boy muttering to himself, while he shook his head stubbornly:
"I c'n do it all right; I just know I can!"
Step Hen amused himself watching a sharp-eyed little striped chipmunk stealing some bits thrown aside from the camp meal. Time was when Step Hen might have been guilty of trying to hit such a fair mark with a club or a stone; but that was in the past. He would not have lifted a finger now to injure that innocent little creature for worlds; but sat there, deeply interested in observing every movement it made, just as if it were a pet.
Jim seemed to be himself again; at least when Thad looked toward him inquiringly, the guide nodded his head, and smiled. Evidently Jim had slept over his trouble, and decided that he was doing the right thing. For the sake of Little Lina he was ready to go right along, taking big chances of losing his precious ears; for only too well did he know that Old Cale was a man of his word; and that he must have meant everything he said to the messenger who bore the threat to Jim.
Davy was wild to develop the film upon which he had taken that snapshot picture on the preceding night; but there were a number of obstacles in the way of doing that. First of all, there were five other exposures on that roll, as yet untouched; and as a clinching argument, Davy had not bothered bringing a developing tank, or printing outfit along with him, fearing that they would take up too much room.
And so he would have to be content to wait until they reached some place where a photographer held forth, who would undertake to do the job, for a consideration.
Of course the picture of that breakfast would hardly be complete without Step Hen suddenly breaking forth in his customary strain:
"Where's my—oh, here it is, on my head, of course! How queer that I should forget I put it there," and he had to actually take his hat off, and look at it, as if hardly able to believe his eyes, and that for once his anticipated difficulty had been smoothed over so easily.
Davy joined in the general laugh that greeted this outbreak; then he walked gravely over, and insisted on feeling of Step Hen's neck.
"Hey! what you up to, now, you Jones boy? Keep your paws off me!" exclaimed the object of this solicitude, suspiciously dodging.
"I only wanted to make sure that the connection was sound still," retorted the other; "because some fine day, all of us expect you to lose your head."
"Well, I've seen you lose yours more'n a few times, when you got flustrated and excited; and it didn't seem to hurt much," Step Hen retorted.
"There's a big difference in heads," remarked Davy.
"I should say there was," replied the other, meaningly; "and the gray stuff that's in 'em, too. Some are hollow, like a punkin; while others, mine for instance, are just crammed full of thinks."
"Well, I'd advise you to use a few of the thinks trying to remember where you put your belongings; and quit accusing the rest of us of playing tricks on you; or a silly little jinx of stealing things." Davy went on, shaking his finger at the careless scout.
"If all you fellows are done eating, perhaps we'd better get a move on us," suggested the scoutmaster; of course Thad was really only the assistant, for according to the regulations governing all troops of Boy Scouts connected with the parent organization, there had to be a grown-up acting in the capacity of scoutmaster; though Thad had passed an examination that entitled him to receive his commission as assistant, from the headquarters in New York City.
As this gentleman, a Dr. Philander Hobbs, had been unable to get away with them on this trip to Maine, he had relegated his authority to the shoulders of Thad; a proceeding that was greatly relished by the other five scouts, because they liked to feel that they were depending on themselves, with no grown-up along.
Accordingly there was a movement among the campers. Tents had to come down, and be stowed away; and all the material connected with the cooking department made into as small a compass as possible.
All of them worked but Giraffe, who was on his knees near by, doing something that Thad could easily guess the nature of. Knowing the stubborn qualities in the angular scout Thad felt sure that none of them would know any peace until Giraffe had finally managed to strike a clue, and effect the end he had in view, of making an actual boni-fide fire after the way known to the South Sea Islanders, with his little bow, his sharp-pointed stick set in a hole made in a block of wood, and his inflammable tinder, backed by indomitable energy, and "get there" spirit.
And for the sake of harmony in the camp, Thad really wished Giraffe would hurry up, and solve the knotty problem.
Inside of half an hour they were all packed, and ready to make another start in the direction of the Eagle chain of lakes to the north.
THE LONG-DRAWN HOWL OF A CANADA WOLF.
"All ready!" sang out Thad.
Some of them were already settled in the canoes; but Giraffe still remained, kneeling on the shore.
"Come, we've waited long enough for you, old Slow-poke!" called out Bumpus, who was the partner of the tall scout in the canoe paddled by Eli.
Very slowly did Giraffe approach, his eyes turned beseechingly on Thad.
"Say, that's the way it always goes," he declared. "I was just getting on to it the best ever, and if I only had half an hour more, I'd made my fire as sure as I'm Conrad Stedman. I've got her all figgered out; and by noon I'll be twisted in my mind again, and the whole combination lost."
But Thad only shook his head.
"Couldn't think of it, Number Six," he declared. "It was one part of the agreement made with you that on no occasion were you to delay the balance of the party. All ready; Bumpus, give the signal."
Bumpus was a natural musician. He could play "any old instrument," and extract very good music from banjo, guitar, violin, or even an accordion; he also had a fine voice that often aroused the enthusiastic acclaim of his comrades while sitting around the fire of evenings.
Of course, then, he had been made the bugler of the troop as soon as the organization was commenced. It had not been deemed just the right thing for him to fetch his musical instrument along while the Silver Fox Patrol chanced to be in the Maine woods on a hunt; but then that was no bar to Bumpus, who could put his hands to his mouth, and give a splendid imitation of the reveille, assembly, taps, or any other military call.
So Giraffe had to climb into Eli's canoe, looking very much discouraged. Really, it did seem as though an evil spirit took especial delight in baffling him, just when he seemed in a fair way to reach the goal of his present ambition. As he had once before complained, he had even had his tinder soaked by a sudden shower, and just at the critical moment when he felt sure it was about to burst into a successful blaze.
But one thing was sure, these successive defeats only served to make him shut his teeth harder together, and resolve that nothing would ever prevent him from getting that fire, if it took him a year. He might be beaten once, twice, or fifty times; but there would come a day to the patient plodder when the door of opportunity would open for him. And surely success would stand for a great deal more if he had to work like this for it, than if easily attained.
Before noon came they had arrived at the place where the stream ran into the Lower Lake of the Eagle Chain; and when they stopped for lunch, it was upon the shore of this beautiful sheet of water.
Thad had been secretly keeping an eye on Jim. He knew that the guide must feel more or less anxiety, despite his brave outward showing. And when Jim thought no one was observing he would look out of the tail of his eye at every clump of bushes that seemed any way suspicious, as long as they were upon the river.
And hence, it was doubtless a positive relief when they started out on the broader water of the lake; for after that he would only have to watch one shore.
About one o'clock they again started. The air continued cold, but bracing, and this made paddling a pleasure, up to a certain point.
All of the scouts took a hand at it, even Bumpus, and received more or less valuable instruction from the two guides, as to how the paddle should be worked in order to have as little "lost motion" as possible; and at the same time secure the greatest amount of benefit. But when after half an hour of labor, they found their muscles beginning to tire from the unaccustomed motion, the boys considered themselves lucky to be able to turn the paddles over once more to the canoe men, who were used to the job, and could keep it up steadily all day, if need be.