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Title: The Go Ahead Boys in the Island Camp
Author: Kay, Ross
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE GO AHEAD BOYS IN THE ISLAND CAMP

BY ROSS KAY

Author of “The Search for the Spy,” “The Air Scout,” “With Joffre
on the Battle Line,” “Dodging the North Sea Mines,” “The Go Ahead
Boys on Smugglers’ Island,” “The Go Ahead Boys and the Treasure
Cave,” etc., etc.



PREFACE

Every one who loves outdoor life knows the charm and the pleasures of
camping. To look back on the days passed in a tent by the shore of some
forest lake or stream is a source of never-ending enjoyment to those of
us who have had that experience. In this book I have tried to describe
the adventures of four boys who spent a vacation camping in the
Adirondacks, and who indulged in water sports of various kinds while
there. Many of the episodes are true or at least founded on the
experiences of former boys who enjoyed them. If the boys who may read
this tale will derive some of the pleasure in hearing about them that
the real boys did in participating in them I shall feel repaid.

                                                            --Ross Kay



CONTENTS

  · CHAPTER I—MAKING CAMP
  · CHAPTER II—A MISHAP
  · CHAPTER III—JOHN HEARS SOMETHING
  · CHAPTER IV—SETTING SAIL
  · CHAPTER V—THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS
  · CHAPTER VI—ADRIFT
  · CHAPTER VII—AN UNEXPECTED MEETING
  · CHAPTER VIII—A PREDICAMENT
  · CHAPTER IX—DANGER
  · CHAPTER X—WAIT AND SEE
  · CHAPTER XI—WHAT GEORGE DID
  · CHAPTER XII—A CHALLENGE
  · CHAPTER XIII—THE OUTCAST
  · CHAPTER XIV—TALKING IT OVER
  · CHAPTER XV—PREPARATION
  · CHAPTER XVI—GRANT MISSES
  · CHAPTER XVII—GEORGE’S STRATEGY
  · CHAPTER XVIII—A CLOSE MATCH
  · CHAPTER XIX—A CLOSE SHAVE
  · CHAPTER XX—GEORGE SURPRISES HIS FRIENDS
  · CHAPTER XXI—HOW THE PLAN WORKED
  · CHAPTER XXII—A STRANGE PERFORMANCE
  · CHAPTER XXIII—AN UNEXPECTED HONOR
  · CHAPTER XXIV—IN QUEST OF GAME
  · CHAPTER XXV—THE WORM TURNS
  · CHAPTER XXVI—AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER
  · CHAPTER XXVII—CONCLUSION



THE GO AHEAD BOYS IN THE ISLAND CAMP



CHAPTER I—MAKING CAMP


“Here is the place to put the tent, String.”

“I think this spot is better.”

“Not at all. It’s higher over here and consequently we won’t be flooded
by every rain that comes along and besides that, the flies won’t be so
apt to bother us.”

“All right, just as you say.”

The boy addressed as “String” had been named John Clemens by his
parents. He was six feet three inches tall, however, and extremely thin
so that the nickname applied to him seemed quite appropriate. At any
rate his friends thought so and that was the name by which he usually
was called.

Talking with him and arguing about the location of the tent was Fred
Button, a boy as short as John was tall. He was so small that the
nicknames of Stub, Pewee and Pygmy had all been applied to him, the last
one sometimes shortened to Pyg much to Fred’s disgust. He had found out
long ago, however, that there was no use in showing his irritation at
this for it only served to increase the frequency with which the name
was applied to him.

These two boys, together with two of their friends, were pitching camp
preparatory to spending a summer on one of the Adirondack lakes. Grant
Jones was one of these boys and the other was George Washington Sanders.
Grant was the most serious-minded of the four and everything he did he
did with all his heart. As a result he was a leader not only on the
athletic field but in his studies as well. The other boys usually came
to him for advice and looked up to him in many ways. The fact that he
was of a serious nature, however, did not mean that he was not
oftentimes just as full of fun as anybody.

George Washington Sanders having been named after the father of his
country, had acquired the name of Pop. He was often in mischief and took
especial delight in teasing his three friends. It was almost out of the
question to be angry at him, however, for he never lost his temper for
more than a moment himself and was always bubbling over with spirits and
fun. He was the life of any crowd he was in.

While the argument between John and Fred was in progress Grant and
George approached.

“What are you two arguing about?” demanded Grant.

“We’re trying to decide where to put the tent,” replied Fred. “What have
you two been doing all this time?”

“Putting the canoes away,” said Grant. “Where are you going to locate
the tent, anyway?”

“Well,” said Fred, “John wants it over in that hollow, but I say it
ought to be up on this little plateau.”

“I think you’re right, Fred,” said George. “We won’t get so many flies
up there.”

“Just what I said,” exclaimed Fred triumphantly. “What do you think
about it, Grant?”

“I think your place is better,” said Grant. “Besides everything else
we’ll have a good view of the lake from there.”

“All right,” said John, pretending to be very sad. “You all seem to be
against me so I guess I’ll have to give in.”

“You see, String,” exclaimed George with a sly twinkle in his eye, “we
all know so very much more about this business than you do that you
might just as well take our advice in everything.”

“You talk too much, Pop,” said John shortly, which remark drew a laugh
of glee from George who had tried to irritate his friend and was
delighted at having succeeded.

“I say we all stop talking and get to work on the tent,” said Grant. “We
can do all the fooling we want later.”

“Great idea, Grant,” exclaimed George, who was in excellent spirits at
the prospect of all the good times ahead of them. “You’re a wonder.”

“You were right when you said Pop talked too much, String,” laughed
Grant. “We’ll put him to work now, though.”

In an incredibly short time the white tent was erected on the little
bluff overlooking the lake. It was spacious with plenty of room for the
four young campers and all their equipment, which was speedily stored
away inside.

“How about a few fish for dinner?” exclaimed George, when the tent was
in place. “Personally I think they’d taste pretty good.”

“Go ahead and catch some, then,” urged John. “I’ll help you eat them.”

“Oh, I didn’t worry about your not helping me out in that way,” laughed
George. “That’s the least of my troubles. What bothers me is who is to
clean the fish.”

“The man who catches them always cleans them,” said Fred.

“Oh, no, he doesn’t,” laughed George. “Not in this case, anyway.”

“How about the cook doing it?” inquired John.

“As I am to do the cooking all summer I can’t say I approve of that
plan,” laughed Grant. “That seems a little bit too much.”

“Well, he hasn’t caught any fish yet, anyway,” said Fred. “Let him do
that first and we’ll argue about them afterwards.”

“Where are you going to fish, Pop?” asked Grant.

“I thought I’d try it off those rocks down on the point there,” said
George. “That looks like a likely spot.”

“While you’re fishing I’ll cut some balsam boughs and make four beds in
the tent,” said John.

“And I’ll get a place ready to make a fire in,” said Grant. “That’ll
take a little time.”

“How about you, Fred?” demanded George. “It looks as if you were about
the only loafer in the whole crowd.”

“I’ll help String cut balsam.”

“Very good,” said George haughtily. “You may go now.”

“I’ll put you in the lake if you’re not more careful,” said John
threateningly, but he laughed in spite of himself.

A few moments later every boy was busied with his appointed task.
George, armed with his fishing rod, made off for the end of the little
wooded island. John and Fred disappeared in search of balsam boughs,
while Grant remained behind to make a fireplace. This was an interesting
piece of work, the secret of which he had learned from a guide some few
summers before during a sojourn in the woods.

First he selected eight or ten rocks as nearly the size and shape of
cobblestones as he could find. These he placed on the ground in two
parallel rows some twelve inches apart. Both little stone walls thus
formed he endeavored to make as nearly the same height as possible and
before long his fireplace was complete. Between the two rows of stones
the fire was to be made; pots and pans could thus be set over the fire
and rest upon the rocks which formed the walls of the fireplace; in this
way they could be kept from actual contact with the coals and at the
same time most of the heat from the fire was concentrated upon them.

This is a very efficient method of making a camp-fire as Grant had
learned from previous experience. Of course, in the case of a temporary
camp or unless there are plenty of rocks close at hand, it is hardly
worth while and it is not the kind of a fire that campers like to sit
around in the evening. As a cooking fire, however, it is one of the
best.

Grant had hardly finished this task when John and Fred returned to the
camp. They were loaded down with balsam boughs and staggered under the
weight of the loads they were carrying. With a sigh of relief each boy
dropped his bundle on the ground and sat down to regain his breath.

“You fellows look as if you’d been working hard,” laughed Grant.

“We have,” panted John. “Just carry a load like that for a while and see
what you think of it.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” said Grant. “Have you got all you want?”

“All the balsam, you mean?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I should hope so,” exclaimed Fred. “At any rate I refuse to go
back after any more. My fingers are all gummy and sticky, too.”

“The boughs smell great, though,” said Grant admiringly.

“Don’t they?” exclaimed John. “They’ll be wonderful to sleep on.”

“You see, Grant,” remarked Fred, “String here is so tall we had to cut
an extra supply to make a bed long enough for him. I’m really quite
worried, too, for fear his feet may stick out beyond the flap of the
tent, anyway.”

“I’m not as bad as that I hope,” laughed John. “It would be awful,
wouldn’t it, if I couldn’t keep out of the rain?”

“You might stand on your head,” suggested Fred. “Your feet sticking
straight up in the air could take the place of umbrellas. They’re big
enough so that they’d shelter you, all right.”

“Look here,” exclaimed John, “that sounds like one of Pop’s remarks. I
hope you’re not getting as bad as he is.”

“By the way,” said Fred, “where is he? He ought to be back pretty soon.”

“He’s still fishing,” said Grant. “I guess he hasn’t had very good
luck.”

“He ought to have taken one of the canoes, anyway,” said John. “He can’t
catch anything just standing on the shore.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Grant. “He might get some small perch or bass.”

“What I want is a good big trout,” exclaimed Fred. “I’ll consider this
summer a failure unless I get one.”

“Maybe we’ll each get one,” said Grant. “They say there are lots of them
around here.”

“Not so much in the lake as in the streams running into it, I guess,”
remarked John. “It seems to me that the big trout are always in small
pools.”

“Well, I’ll try them all,” said Fred eagerly. “I don’t want just to
catch trout; any one can do that. What I want is a big one.”

“One you can take home stuffed, I suppose,” suggested Grant.

“That’s it exactly. I mean to have one, too.”

“Well, we might fix up the beds first,” said John. “It won’t take long.
All we want is four piles and we can spread the blankets out on them
when we are ready to turn in. Just think of it; a nice soft
sweet-smelling bed to sleep on and we won’t feel any of the rocks and
roots and bumps that may be under us.”

“It sounds fine all right,” laughed Grant. “We’d better get to work
soon, too, for it’ll be dark before long.”

“I should think Pop would be back by now, too,” said John. “You don’t
suppose anything could have happened to him, do you?”

“Why, I don’t see how—” began Fred, when he suddenly ceased speaking and
listened intently.

“What’s the matter?” demanded Grant.

“Ssh,” whispered Fred. “I thought I heard some one call.”



CHAPTER II—A MISHAP


All three boys bent their heads and listened intently. The only sound
that came to them, however, was the soft sighing of the breeze through
the treetops and the occasional call of some bird preparing to settle
down for the night. The sun was low in the west, just sinking below the
fringe of the forest which skirted the little lake. All seemed quiet and
serene.

“What did you think you heard, Fred?” demanded Grant after the lapse of
several moments.

“I thought I heard a call. In fact I was almost—”

Once more he stopped suddenly and listened. “What was that?” he
exclaimed.

“I heard something, too,” whispered John excitedly. “Listen!”

“I don’t hear a thing,” muttered Grant. “I must be deaf.”

“There it is again,” cried Fred suddenly.

“I heard it, too,” exclaimed John. “It came from that end of the
island.”

“That’s the direction Pop took,” said Grant in alarm. “Perhaps there has
something happened to him.”

“We’ll soon find out anyway,” cried Fred. “Come along!” and he began to
run at top speed in the direction George had gone a short time before.

Close behind him followed Grant and John. Every boy was worried and
beset with a thousand and one evil thoughts as to what might have
befallen their light-hearted and well-loved comrade. Almost everything
conceivable in the way of misfortune suggested itself to their anxious
minds.

“Keep close to the shore, Fred,” called Grant. “He was fishing, you
know.”

Fred did keep as close to the shore as possible, but it was no easy task
a great many times. The island was rough and rocky and heavily wooded,
the trees growing down to the water’s edge in many places. Crashing
through the underbrush and making a great deal of noise the three boys
raced along. Whether or not the cry which John and Fred had heard was
repeated they could not say, for the tumult of their own mad course
drowned out all other noises.

After what seemed a long time they came to the end of the island. Here
the forest gave way to the rocks which ran out a considerable distance,
forming a small peninsula. At the tip end were several big boulders
which had become separated from the main island after long years of
action by the water and in order to reach them it was necessary to jump
across several feet from one to the other. Towards these boulders the
three boys made their way.

“I don’t see anybody,” panted John.

“Nor I,” agreed Fred. “I don’t hear anything, either.”

“Listen,” warned Grant, holding up his hand.

“And look, too,” murmured Fred under his breath.

Suddenly John started forward excitedly. “Look,” he cried, “there he
is.”

“Where? Where?” demanded Grant.

“Down there in the water. Don’t you see him?”

“Help! Help!” came the call, and John, Fred and Grant sped to the
assistance of their comrade. His head showed above the water and he
splashed a great deal in an effort to remain afloat. That he was very
rapidly becoming weaker, however, was plain to be seen.

“Give me a hand, somebody,” cried George.

“All right, Pop. We’ll be right with you,” Grant reassured him.

George was struggling in the water close to one of the big boulders. Its
sides were so steep and high, however, that he was unable to climb out.
From his actions it also appeared as if he were keeping himself afloat
merely with his hands.

“Get a stick, Grant,” cried Fred. “You can hold it out for him to take
hold of.”

“Where is one? Find one, quick!” exclaimed Grant excitedly.

“Here you are,” said John. “This one will do. Take this.”

He held out a stick some six or eight feet long which had been lying on
the shore at his feet. Grant seized it eagerly and hastened to George’s
assistance.

“Hurry up, Grant!” called George. “I can’t last much longer!”

“Here you are!” cried Grant, leaning out from the shore as far as he
dared and holding the stick toward his friend. “Grab hold of this.”

After one or two unsuccessful attempts George succeeded in catching hold
of the stick. Grant drew him up as close to the rock as possible and
then Fred and John bending down over the edge seized him by his arms and
quickly pulled him out of the water and to safety.

“How did you happen to—” began Fred, when John suddenly interrupted him.

“What have you got around your legs?” he demanded in astonishment.

“My fishing line,” said George, smiling weakly. “It tripped me up.”

“Well, I should think it might,” exclaimed John. “How in the world did
you ever get it wound around you like that?”

“I had my rod in one hand,” said George, “and I tried to jump from that
rock over there to this one. I landed here all right, but when I jumped
the line got twisted around my ankles and I lost my balance. It finally
tripped me up and I fell into the water. When I got there the line kept
getting more and more tangled up the harder I kicked, until finally I
could hardly move my feet at all. I had to keep afloat just by using my
hands.”

“That was certainly a bright trick,” exclaimed Fred. “Why, you might
have drowned.”

“I thought I was going to be,” said George grimly. “I was getting pretty
tired.”

“Where’s your rod?” inquired Fred.

“At the other end of the line. A steel rod doesn’t float, you know.”

“That’s true,” laughed Fred. “Haul in that line, John.”

Of course all the line unrolled from the reel before the rod was rescued
but it was finally brought safely to shore. A large section of the line,
however, had to be sacrificed as it was found almost impossible to
untangle the mass that had wound itself around George’s legs and ankles,
and a knife was necessary to free him.

“Where are your fish, Pop?” inquired Fred. “I suppose you dropped them
all when you fell in,” and he nudged Grant as he spoke.

“I had only one,” replied George ruefully. “He did fall in and I lost
him.”

“What kind was it?”

“A black bass.”

“A big one, I suppose.”

“No, he wasn’t either. He was pretty small. I didn’t have any luck at
all.”

“You ought to have taken one of the canoes,” said Grant. “You can’t
expect to catch anything from the shore.”

“He’d probably upset the canoe,” said Fred. “I don’t think we should
allow him to do anything alone after this.”

“Huh!” was George’s only reply to this sally.

“Feel like walking, Pop?” asked Grant. “If you do we’d better go back to
camp and get some dry clothes for you.”

“I was just thinking that,” said George. “I’m commencing to feel chilly.
These nights in the Adirondacks are pretty cool, I find.”

“They certainly are,” John agreed. “Let’s go back.”

“I could eat something, too,” remarked Fred. “The cool air also seems to
give you an appetite.”

“Come on,” cried Grant, and a moment later the four young campers were
retracing their steps to the tent.

Arriving there, George made haste to change his wet garments for some
dry ones. Fred and John collected wood for the fire while Grant made
ready to cook the dinner. A short time later the odor of sizzling bacon
filled the air, lending an even keener edge to four appetites that were
sharp already. The first meal in camp was voted a great success by every
member of the party, and all agreed that Grant was a wonderful cook.

“Isn’t this great!” exclaimed George, when the dishes had all been
washed.

The four young friends were seated around a camp-fire crowned by a great
birch log that blazed so brightly it lighted up everything for a
considerable distance round about them.

“It surely is,” agreed John. “I don’t see how you could beat this.”

“Just think of it,” said Fred. “We’re here for all summer, too.”

“Oh, the summer will go fast enough. Don’t worry about that,” Grant
warned him. “It’ll be over before we know it.”

At last the fire burned low until it was nothing but a mass of glowing
embers. John arose to his feet and yawned. “I’m going in and try those
new beds we made this afternoon,” he said. “I’m tired.”

“I’m sleepy, too,” exclaimed Grant. “Let’s all turn in.”

The few remaining coals from the fire were carefully scattered so that
they could do no damage during the night. These four friends had had
enough experience in the woods to know what a forest fire means. They
also knew that all good woodsmen were careful about such things and
always had regard for the rights of others.

Every one was sleepy and it was not long before four tired and happy
boys were stretched upon four sweet-smelling balsam beds, sound asleep.
How long he slept John could not tell when he suddenly awoke with the
feeling that he had heard a cry for help.



CHAPTER III—JOHN HEARS SOMETHING


John sat upright and peered about him in the darkness, every nerve
alert. He heard nothing, however. Perhaps he had been mistaken after
all. George’s mishap that afternoon had been on his mind and probably he
had dreamed of it.

Somehow the feeling that he had heard a cry still seemed very distinct,
however, and it gave him a most unpleasant sensation. He listened
intently. He could hear the deep and steady breathing of his three
comrades lying asleep around him, and he heaved a sigh of relief. At
least nothing had happened to them.

Not a sound came to break the silence of the night and John began to
feel sure that he had been deceived. He prepared himself to lie down
again and go to sleep. He must have had a nightmare, he thought. Who
could be in trouble on a calm, still night like this? At any rate it was
none of their party and undoubtedly was no one at all. It had all been a
dream, though a most unpleasant one, and John shivered unconsciously at
the recollection. His nerves had all been set on edge, but gradually he
quieted down and once more settled himself to rest.

Barely had he closed his eyes, however, when the cry was repeated. There
was no mistaking it this time, and John instantly was wide awake once
more, the cold shivers dancing up and down his spine. Never had he heard
such a voice. Some one evidently was in terrible distress mingled with
fear with which hopelessness seemed combined. The voice trailed off in a
wail of despair that brought John’s heart up into his mouth.

It seemed to him that the cry must have awakened his companions as well,
but no, he could still hear their regular breathing even above the
violent pounding of his heart. What should he do? There was no question
about it this time; it had not been a dream. Some one was in trouble and
needed help, and evidently needed it badly. Consequently it was needed
quickly, too, and John was determined to do his best.

He leaned over in the darkness and felt for the boy who was lying next
to him.

“Grant,” he whispered. “Grant, wake up.”

Grant merely groaned and stirred uneasily.

“Wake up, Grant,” he repeated, shaking his friend by his shoulder. “Wake
up, I tell you.”

“What do you want?” demanded Grant sleepily. “What’s the matter?”

“Matter enough,” exclaimed John. “There’s somebody in trouble out here
on the lake and he’s calling for help.”

“Is that so?” cried Grant, now wide awake. “Are you sure?”

“I heard him call twice.”

“Was it a man?”

“I think so. I never heard such a voice. It was awful.”

“We’d better go see what we can do then,” exclaimed Grant. “Which
direction did the voice come from?”

“I couldn’t say; it seemed to come from all over. Oh, Grant, it was
awful.”

“Sure you didn’t dream it?”

“Positive. I know I heard it.”

“Come along then,” said Grant. “We’ll go outside and get one of the
canoes and see what we can find. Maybe we’ll hear it again.”

“I don’t know; it sounded to me as though it was the death cry of some
one. I never heard such a thing in all my life.”

“Get your sweater and some trousers,” directed Grant. “Don’t wake Fred
and Pop yet. We’ll see what we can do first.”

John and Grant rose carefully to their feet and laid aside their
blankets. Feeling their way, they soon located their clothes and a
moment later, partly dressed, they stepped forth from the tent. The
night was clear, and the moon, in its last quarter, lighted up the trees
and the water in a ghostly manner.

“Are the paddles—” began Grant, when the cry was repeated. This time it
seemed only a short distance from their camp and out on the lake.
Perhaps some one had upset a boat and was struggling in the water.

“There it is,” cried John, clutching Grant excitedly by the arm. “Did
you hear that? Isn’t that terrible?”

“Is that what you heard before?” demanded Grant.

“Yes, the same voice. Hurry! We mustn’t waste a second.”

“Wait a minute, String,” and in Grant’s voice was the suggestion of a
laugh.

“What’s the matter?”

“Well, if that’s what you heard the other times, I wouldn’t be in a
great hurry if I were you.”

“Why not? Are you crazy, Grant? Can’t you tell by that voice that some
one is in trouble? Aren’t you going to help him?”

“Did you ask me if I was crazy?”

“I did, and I think you are, too. Please hurry, Grant.”

“Oh, no, I’m not crazy,” said Grant, and there was no mistaking the fact
that he was laughing now. “I’m not crazy, but you’re loony.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s a loon you hear out there.”

“A loon,” exclaimed John in amazement. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about a bird. That noise you hear is made by a bird named a
loon. Haven’t you ever heard one before?”

“Never. I don’t see how a bird could sound so like a human being.”

“That’s what it is just the same,” said Grant, and he was almost doubled
up with laughter now. “I think I’d better wake up Pop and Fred and tell
them about your friend that’s calling for help.”

“Are you positive it’s a loon?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then don’t ever tell a soul,” begged John eagerly. “I’d never hear the
last of it as long as I lived. It would be awful if George ever knew.”

“You’re not the first one who’s ever been fooled,” laughed Grant. “You
probably won’t be the last, either.”

“Please don’t tell on me, though, Grant. Promise me you won’t.”

“We’ll see,” said Grant evasively. “I can’t make any promises though.”

“How should I know that it was a loon?” demanded John. “I never heard
one before and you yourself say that other people have been fooled the
same way.”

“That’s true. Still it’s almost too good a joke on you to keep.”

“What is a loon, anyway?”

“It’s a bird; it belongs to the duck family, I guess. They live around
on lakes and ponds like this and spend their nights waking people up and
scaring them.”

“I should say they did,” exclaimed John with a shudder. “I never heard
such a lonesome-sounding, terrible wail in all my life.”

“There it is again,” said Grant laughingly, as once more the cry of the
loon came to their ears across the dark waters of the little lake.

“Let’s go back to sleep,” exclaimed John earnestly. “That sound makes my
blood run cold, even though I know it is made by a bird.”

“Don’t you think we ought to tell Fred and Pop about it?” inquired Grant
mischievously. “It seems to me they ought to be warned.”

“You can tell them about it if you don’t mention my name in connection
with it,” said John. “If you tell on me though, I swear I’ll get even
with you if it takes me a year.”

“All right,” laughed Grant, “I won’t say anything about it. At least,
not yet,” he added under his breath.

“What did you say?” demanded John, not having caught the last sentence.

“I said, ‘let’s go to bed.’”

“That suits me,” exclaimed John, and a few moments later they had once
more crawled quietly over their sleeping comrades and again rolled in
their blankets, were sound asleep.

The sun had not been up very long before the camp was astir. Sleepy-eyed
the boys emerged from the tent, blinking in the light of the new day. A
moment later, however, four white bodies were splashing and swimming
around in the cool waters of the lake, and all the cobwebs of sleep were
soon brushed away.

“That’s what makes you feel fine,” exclaimed George when they had all
come out and were dressing preparatory to eating breakfast. “A swim like
that makes me feel as if I could lick my weight in wildcats.”

“You must have slept pretty well last night, Pop,” remarked Grant.

“I did. Never slept harder in my life.”

“Well, I didn’t,” exclaimed Fred. “It seemed to me I was dreaming all
night long. Maybe my bed wasn’t fixed just right.”

“What did you dream about, Fred?” asked Grant curiously.

“Oh, all sorts of things. I thought I heard people calling for help.
That seemed to be my principal dream for some reason.”

“That’s funny,” said Grant. “You didn’t dream anything like that, did
you, String?”

“No, I didn’t,” said John shortly.



CHAPTER IV—SETTING SAIL


“What shall we do to-day?” exclaimed George when breakfast was over.

“We might go fishing,” suggested Fred. “I want a big trout some time
this summer, you know.”

“Oh, it’s too sunny for trout to-day,” Grant objected.

“All right then,” said Fred. “What do you want to do?”

“How about taking a sail?”

“Is there enough wind?”

“Of course there is, and unless I’m very much mistaken its going to get
stronger all the time.”

“Suppose we take our lunch along,” said John. “We can be gone as long as
we want then and can go ashore and eat wherever we happen to be.”

“Good idea, String,” cried George heartily. “I do believe you’re getting
smarter every day.”

“What do you think of my scheme?” demanded John, completely ignoring his
friend’s sarcasm.

“It’s all right,” said Grant. “I’m in favor of doing it.”

“We can take a couple of rods with us, can’t we?” said Fred. “We might
get a few fish for dinner.”

“That’s right,” agreed Grant. “We can anchor and fish from the boat if
we want.”

“Let’s get started,” exclaimed John.

A small catboat was a part of the equipment the boys had in order to
help them enjoy their summer more thoroughly. It now lay at anchor in a
little cove a short distance from the place where the tent was located.
It was a natural harbor and afforded excellent shelter for the boats
from the squalls and not infrequent storms that were apt to spring up
during this season of the year. The lake was between two and three miles
in length so that a comparatively heavy sea could be stirred up by the
winds.

The island on which the four boys had pitched their tent was the only
one in the lake and it was very nearly in the center. It was owned by a
friend of John’s father who had obtained permission for his son and his
three friends to camp on it that summer. The sailboat and two canoes
were included with the island, so that there was no question but that
these four boys were very fortunate indeed to be able to enjoy it all.

For months they had been looking forward to this summer and they had
planned innumerable excursions and expeditions as part of their camping
experiences. Now that the time was really at hand they meant to enjoy
every minute of it to the utmost.

“Fred and I will get the boat ready,” exclaimed John. “You two can
collect the rods and fix up the lunch.”

“Put me near the food and I’m satisfied,” said George. “Come on, Grant.”

John and Fred made their way down to the spot where the canoes were
hauled up on the shore. The catboat lay moored at anchor some fifty or
sixty feet out from the bank so that it was necessary to paddle to reach
her. One of the canoes was selected and the two boys soon pushed off
from shore.

“That’s a pretty good looking boat I should say,” remarked Fred as he
glanced approvingly at the little white catboat. “I wonder if she’s
fast.”

“She looks so,” said John.

“You can’t always tell by the looks though, you know.”

“That’s true too. We ought to be able to tell pretty soon though.”

“I wonder if they have water sports or anything like that up here in the
summer,” said Fred. “If they do it would be fun to enter.”

“It certainly would,” agreed John. “I don’t believe there are enough
people on this lake though. As far as I can see we are about the only
people here.”

“I thought you said there was another camp down at the north end of the
lake.”

“That’s right, there is. I don’t know who’s in it though.”

“We might sail down and find out.”

“Let’s do that; it won’t take long.”

They had now arrived alongside the catboat, which was named the Balsam,
and after having made fast the canoe, they quickly climbed on board.

“Any water in her?” exclaimed John.

“I don’t know. I was just going to look.”

“Lift up the flooring there and you can tell. It must have rained since
she’s been out here and we’ll probably have to use the pump.”

“We certainly shall,” said Fred, who had raised up the flooring
according to John’s suggestion. “Where is the pump anyway?”

“Up there under the deck. You can pump while I get the cover off the
sail here and get things in shape a little, or would you rather have me
pump?”

“No, I’ll do it. If I get tired, I’ll let you know.”

It did not take long to bail out the boat, however, and before many
moments had elapsed the mainsail was hoisted and the Balsam was ready to
weigh her anchor and start. The sail flapped idly in the breeze which
seemed to be dying down instead of freshening as Grant had predicted.
The boom swung back and forth, the pulleys rattling violently as the
sheet dragged them first to one side and then the other.

John and Fred sat on the bottom of the boat and waited for their
companions to appear with the luncheon. The two boys were dressed in
bathing jerseys and white duck trousers. At least they had formerly been
white, but constant contact with boats and rocks had colored them
considerably. The feet of the young campers were bare, they having
removed the moccasins which they usually wore. The day was warm and in
fact the sun was quite hot. The previous night had been so cool it did
not seem possible that it could be followed by a warm day, but such is
often the case in the Adirondacks.

“Where do you suppose they are?” exclaimed Fred at length. “It seems to
me they ought to have been ready by this time.”

“Here they come now,” said John. “Look at Pop; that basket is almost as
heavy as he is.”

“He’s got lots of food in it, I guess. I’m glad too for I’m hungry
already.”

“Why, you finished breakfast only about an hour ago.”

“I can’t help that. I’m always hungry in this place.”

“Ahoy there!” shouted George from the shore. “Come in and get us.”

“The other canoe doesn’t leak you know,” replied John, neither he nor
Fred making any move to do as George had asked.

“We know that,” called George. “What’s the use of taking them both out
there though?”

“Why not?” demanded John. “The exercise will do you good.”

“Are you coming after us?” asked Grant.

“Not that we know,” laughed Fred.

“I guess we paddle ourselves then, Pop,” said Grant to his companion.

“All right,” agreed George. “I’ll get square with them though.”

“How are you going to do it?”

“You let me paddle and I’ll show you.”

They spoke in a low tone of voice so that their friends on board the
Balsam could not hear them and in silence they embarked upon the second
canoe. Grant sat in the bow while George wielded the paddle in the
stern. They approached the catboat rapidly where John and Fred sat
waiting for them with broad grins upon their faces.

“You must think we run a ferry,” exclaimed Fred as the canoe drew near.

“Not at all,” said Grant. “We just thought that perhaps you’d be glad to
do a good turn for us.”

“We’re tired,” grinned John. “Think how hard we had to work to get the
sail up and to pump out—”

“Oh, look at that water bug,” cried George suddenly, striking at some
object in the water with his paddle. Whether he hit or even saw any bug
or not will always remain a mystery. One thing is sure, however, and
that is, that a great sheet of water shot up from under the blade of the
paddle and completely drenched both John and Fred.

“What are you trying to do?” demanded Fred angrily.

“He did that on purpose,” exclaimed John. “Soak him, Fred.”

“Look out,” cried George, “you’ll get the lunch all wet.”

“You meant to wet us,” Fred insisted.

“Why, Fred,” said George innocently; “I just tried to hit that water
bug. How should I know that you would be splashed?”

“Huh,” snorted John. “Just look at me.”

“That’s too bad,” said George with a perfectly straight face. “If you
had come in after us we’d have all been in the same canoe and you
probably wouldn’t have gotten wet.”

“You admit you did it on purpose then?”

“I don’t at all. I just thought perhaps it was some sort of punishment
inflicted on you for being so lazy.”

“Didn’t he do it on purpose, Grant?” demanded Fred.

“I don’t know,” replied Grant, striving desperately to keep from
smiling. “I know he didn’t tell me he was going to do it.”

“Well, it was just like him anyway,” said John. “He knew we couldn’t
splash him back because he had the lunch in the canoe with him.”

“Take it, will you?” asked Grant, holding the basket up to John. “Here
are the fishing rods too.”

George and Grant followed soon after and the second canoe was made fast
to one of the thwarts of the other.

“I’ll put the lunch up here,” said Fred, at the same time depositing the
basket up forward under the protection of the deck.

“Slide the rods in there too, will you?” exclaimed George. “Look out for
the reels that they don’t get caught under anything.”

“Everything ready?” asked John.

“Let ‘er go,” cried George enthusiastically. “I’m ready.”

“Come and help me pull up the anchor then,” said John.

“I’m your man,” cried George. “You know I’m always looking for work.”

“I’ve noticed that,” laughed Grant. “You’re always looking for work so
that you’ll know what places to keep away from.”

Four light hearted young campers were now on board the Balsam. In spite
of their words a few moments before not one of them had lost his temper.
They knew each other too well and were far too sensible not to be able
to take a joke. Outsiders, listening to their conversation, might have
thought them angry at times, but such was never the case.

“Get your back in it there,” shouted Grant gayly to John and George who
were busily engaged in hauling in the anchor chain. George stood close
to the bow with John directly behind him as hand-over-hand they pulled
in the wet, cold chain.

“This deck is getting slippery,” exclaimed George. “All this water that
has splashed up here from the chain has made it so I can scarcely keep
my feet.”

“I should say so,” agreed John earnestly and as he spoke one foot slid
out from beneath him. He lurched heavily against his companion, and
George thrown completely off his balance, waved his arms violently about
his head in an effort to save himself, but all to no avail. He fell
backward and striking the water with a great splash disappeared from
sight.



CHAPTER V—THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS


“Man overboard!” shouted Grant, running forward as he called. He did not
know whether to laugh or to be worried. One thing was certain though and
that was that George like his three companions was perfectly at home in
the water. All four were expert swimmers so that barring accidents they
had little to fear from falling overboard.

“He’s all right,” cried John. “Help me hold this anchor, somebody.”

Grant grasped the chain and one more heave was sufficient to bring the
anchor up on the deck of the Balsam. Before this could be done, however,
George came to the surface choking and spluttering.

“I’ll fix you for that, String,” he gasped, shaking his fist at John.

“For what?” demanded John.

“You know all right.”

“Why, Pop,” said John reprovingly.

“Keep her up into the wind, Fred,” shouted Grant who was seated at the
tiller. “Let your sheet run. Here, Pop, give me your hand.”

“I’d better go down to the stern and get aboard there,” said George. “I
think it will be a little easier.”

“All right; go ahead.”

George floated alongside the Balsam until he came to the stern and a
moment later had swung himself on board the boat. He was drenched to the
skin but laughing in spite of himself.

“Do you want to change your clothes, Pop?” asked Grant.

“No, it’s hot to-day. They’ll dry out in no time.”

“Ease her off then, Fred,” Grant directed. “We may as well get started.”

Fred put the helm over, the sail filled and the Balsam began to slip
through the water at a good rate. The four boys sat around the tiny
cockpit, Fred at the tiller and Grant tending sheet. In a few moments
they had emerged from the little harbor and had entered upon the open
waters of the lake.

“Well, String,” observed George who was busily engaged in wringing water
from the bottoms of his duck trousers, “you certainly did it well.”

“Did what well?” demanded John.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You meant to shove me overboard and I know it so there’s no use in you
trying to bluff. You were very skillful about it and I guess you got
square with me all right. We’ll call it even and quit.”

“I did do it pretty well, didn’t I?” grinned John.

“Yes, you did, but I think the way I soaked you and Fred was just as
good.”

“You didn’t see a water bug then?”

“No, and you didn’t slip either.”

“Yes, I did; on purpose though. Let’s call it off now.”

“I’m agreeable,” laughed George, “even if you did get the better of me.”

“How about me?” demanded Fred. “Pop wet me just as much as he did String
and I don’t see that I am even with him yet.”

“You ‘tend to your sailing,” laughed George. “That’ll have to satisfy
you.”

“I can steer you on a rock you know,” warned Fred.

“Don’t do it though,” begged Grant. “I’m an innocent party and I’d
suffer just as much as the others.”

“Where shall we sail?” asked George.

“Fred and I thought we might go down to the other end of the lake,” said
John. “There’s a camp down there, I believe, and we might see who is in
it.”

“Go ahead,” exclaimed George. “Meanwhile I think I’ll try to get my
clothes dry,” and suiting the action to the word he divested himself of
everything he had on, which was not much. The few articles of clothing
thus taken off he spread flat on the deck of the boat so that they might
get the full benefit of the sun’s rays.

The day was bright and not a cloud appeared in the sky. A gentle breeze
blew across the lake barely ruffling the water. Consequently the Balsam
sailed on an even keel and scant attention was necessary to keep her
pointing in the right direction.

“How about trolling?” exclaimed Fred all at once.

“What do you mean by that?” asked George.

“You mean to say you don’t know what trolling is?”

“If I had I wouldn’t have asked you, would I?” laughed George.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Fred. “Trolling is fishing in a certain way.
When you troll you sit in a moving boat and trail your line out behind
you. As a rule you use a spoon or live bait so that it gives the
appearance of swimming. People usually fish for pickerel that way.”

“Let’s try it,” cried George enthusiastically. “Who’s got a spoon?”

“I have,” said Grant. “Hold this sheet and I’ll put it on my line.”

“Any pickerel in this lake, I wonder,” remarked John.

“There ought to be lots of them,” said Fred.

“Bass and perch too, I guess,” John added.

“Perch are fine eating,” exclaimed George. “I’ve eaten them cooked in a
frying pan with lots of butter and bacon,” and he sighed blissfully at
the recollection.

“Did you ever eat brook trout fried in bacon and rolled in corn meal?”
asked Fred.

“Not yet,” laughed George. “I hope to before long, though.”

“Well when you do you’ll know you’ve tasted the finest thing in the
world there is to eat,” said Fred with great conviction.

“Is it better than musk melon?”

“A thousand times.”

“Whew!” whistled George. “Is it better than turkey?”

“A million times.”

“Say,” exclaimed George. “Is it better than ice cream?”

“It’s better than anything, I tell you,” Fred insisted.

“I’ll take your word for it,” laughed George. “I’d like to try it myself
pretty soon though.”

“Here’s your spoon,” said Grant, holding out the rod to George.

“You’re going to fish, yourself,” said George firmly.

“Not at all. I got it for you.”

“Why should I try it any more than you?”

“Because I want you to. Go ahead.”

“If you insist, I suppose I’ll have to,” laughed George and dropping the
spoon overboard he let the line run out.

“How much line do I need?” he asked.

“Oh, about fifty or sixty feet I should think,” said Grant.

“Well, I don’t know much about it,” remarked John breaking in on the
conversation; “but it doesn’t seem to me that we are making enough
headway to keep that metal spoon from sinking.”

“I’m afraid not myself,” agreed Grant. “The wind seems to be dying down
all the time and we’ll be becalmed if we’re not careful.”

“I’ll try it a few minutes anyway,” said George. “I might get
something.”

“All you’ll get is sunburned, I guess,” laughed Fred. “You’d better put
your clothes on or you’ll be blistered to-morrow.”

“That’s right, Pop,” said Grant. “I’d get dressed if I were you.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” George agreed. “Here, String, you take the rod.”

Scarcely had John taken the rod in his hands when he felt a violent tug
at the line. The reel sang shrilly and then was still.

“You’ve hooked one,” cried Fred excitedly. “Reel in as fast as you can.”

“Bring the boat around, Fred,” shouted Grant. “Come up into the wind.”

Fred did as he was directed, while John strove desperately to reel in
his line. At first there was no resistance and then all at once the rod
bent double.

“Say!” exclaimed George, “it must be a whale!”

“It’s bottom,” said John disgustedly. “The old spoon sank just as I said
it would and I’ve caught a log.”

“Don’t break the line whatever you do,” warned Grant. “Swish your rod
back and forth.”

“It’s caught fast,” said John, following Grant’s directions.

“Keep it up, you’ll get it loose yet.”

Suddenly the hook was released and as John reeled in there was no
resistance to be felt at all. A moment later the spoon appeared and
pierced by the hook was a small chip of water-soaked wood showing that
it was some sunken log that had deceived the boys at first.

“That trolling business is great all right, isn’t it?” laughed George,
now completely dressed once more and ready for anything.

“I’ll take you out in one of the canoes some day and prove to you that
it’s all right,” said Fred warmly. “You—”

He suddenly stopped speaking and looked up. “I thought I felt a drop of
rain,” he remarked in surprise.

“You did,” exclaimed Grant. “Just look there. Here comes a squall and
we’re in for it all right. This is no joke.”



CHAPTER VI—ADRIFT


“Quick, Fred!” cried Grant. “Bring her up into the wind. You help me let
down this sail, Pop.”

An angry gust of wind scudding across the lake, caught the catboat and
made her heel far over.

“Let go your sheet, Fred!” shouted Grant. “Quick or we’ll upset.”

He and George sprang forward and feverishly tried to loosen the ropes
that held the sail aloft. The wind was increasing in strength now,
however, and the boat was becoming more difficult to manage every
moment. The sky was inky black and sharp flashes of lightning cut the
clouds from end to end. The thunder roared and echoed and reëchoed over
the wooded mountains round about. It was now raining hard.

“Keep that sheet clear of everything,” cried Grant, who usually assumed
command in every crisis. “Let it run free whatever you do.”

“You hurry with that sail,” retorted Fred.

“They’re doing their best I guess,” said John.

“If they don’t get it down soon we’ll go over,” cried Fried. “I can
hardly hold her now.”

“Can I help you, Grant?” asked John, striving to make his way forward.
The boom, however, swung violently back and forth threatening to knock
him overboard every second. It was almost impossible to keep out of its
way in the tiny catboat.

“Go sit down,” cried Grant. “We’ll get it down in a second.”

The rain now fell in torrents. The wind whistled and shrieked all about
them and it seemed as if at any moment the sail must be torn to shreds
and the mast ripped from its socket. Lucky it was that Fred was an
experienced sailor and endowed with nerve as well. The squall drove the
boat backwards but Fred managed to keep her nose pointed straight into
the teeth of the gale. Otherwise the Balsam could not have lived two
minutes.

“Why don’t they hurry with that sail?” exclaimed Fred peevishly.

“They are hurrying,” said John. “The ropes are wet and they’re nervous.”

“Ah, there it comes,” cried Fred suddenly. “Now we’ll stand a chance.”

With a rush the sail came down, its folds almost completely covering the
four boys in the boat. The strain on the tiller was greatly relieved
however and the Balsam maintained a more even keel.

“Whew!” exclaimed George, groping his way astern. “What a storm this
is!”

“I never saw it rain so hard,” said John. “Just look; you can’t see more
than about ten feet.”

“We’ll go aground if we’re not careful.”

“How can we stop it?” demanded Fred. “We’re at the mercy of the storm.”

“Throw the anchor overboard,” suggested George.

“A good idea, Pop,” exclaimed Grant. “Come along and I’ll help you.”

“You’ll get struck by lightning,” warned Fred, half seriously. The
flashes were blinding and almost continuous. The thunder ripped and
roared all around and so near at hand was the center of the storm that
sometimes the smell as of something burning could be detected in the
air.

“That anchor will never hold us,” said John who sat in the stern,
huddled close to Fred. Grant and George were feeling their way forward.

“Don’t throw the lunch basket over by mistake,” called Fred.

“The lunch won’t be worth much now, I’m afraid,” said John ruefully.

“Oh, I don’t know; it’s under the deck.”

“I know, but the boat has a lot of water in her now and if it touches
that basket it will soon soak through.”

“How deep is this lake?”

“I’ve no idea. I don’t even know where we are.”

“I’m afraid we’re going to run ashore all of a sudden somewhere.”

“The anchor ought to catch before that happens,” said John. “It’s
trailing now you know.”

“I know it is, but suppose we hit a lone rock.”

“We’re running that chance. I don’t know what we can do about it.”

“Are you trying to steer, Fred?” asked Grant who together with George
had now crawled back to the stern of the boat.

“I’m trying to keep her headed with the waves; that’s all I can do.”

“I know it. I think the squall’s letting up some though.”

“Perhaps it is,” agreed John. “It does seem a little bit lighter.”

“It isn’t raining so hard either,” observed Grant. “These squalls stop
just as quickly as they start sometimes.”

“The lake must be deep here,” said Fred. “How long is that anchor
chain?”

“About fifteen feet I guess,” said John.

“That ought to keep us from going ashore anyway,” exclaimed Fred. “Who
said this storm was over?”

“It must be coming back,” said Grant. “It certainly let up for awhile
though.”

“But it’s making up for it now all right,” observed George. “I’m so glad
I took all that trouble to get my clothes dry.”

The four boys looked at one another and could not help laughing. Every
one of them was drenched through to the skin and no one had a dry stitch
of clothes on. The rain pelted them mercilessly and the water ran off
their faces in streams. All huddled together, they made a forlorn
looking party.

“This is what all campers get I suppose,” remarked George.

“They certainly do,” agreed Grant. “Some of them get it worse than this
too.”

“Do you suppose our tent is still there?” inquired John.

“Let’s hope so,” exclaimed George fervently. “We’d be in a nice fix if
we found it blown away when we got back.”

“If we do get back,” said Fred dolefully.

“What’s the matter with you, Fred?” demanded Grant. “You don’t think
we’re all going to die or be killed, do you?”

“I don’t know. This is a bad storm and we can’t see where we are.”

“But the anch—”

There was a sudden jolt. Every boy was almost thrown from his seat as
the boat came to a quick stop. Then the bow swung slowly around and a
moment later the Balsam was pointed straight into the wind, her anchor
chain taut.

“We’re aground,” cried George.

“Not at all,” corrected Grant. “The anchor chain has caught, that’s
all.”

“Where are we?”

“I can’t see.”

“We must be somewhere near shore,” said John.

“We might be on a shoal.”

“No, there’s land,” cried John. “I can see it.”

“Maybe it’s on our island,” said George. “Wouldn’t that be queer.”

“Well, I wish the old storm would be over so we can see just where we
are located,” exclaimed Fred. “I’ve had enough of this.”

“You’d better be thankful the anchor holds and not worry about anything
else,” observed Grant. “So far we can’t complain.”

“It’s stopping,” said George suddenly. “The sun will be out in a
minute.”

“If it comes out it had better bring an umbrella, that’s all I can say,”
observed John.

“A pretty poor joke, String,” said George. “Try another one; it might be
better.”

“The sun is coming out,” cried Grant. “The storm is almost over, I
guess.”

“Thank goodness!” exclaimed Fred. “Now we can see where we are.”

Little by little the rain abated, the wind died down and the thunder
melted away in the distance. Before many moments had passed the sun
broke forth from behind a cloud and blue sky appeared.

“Do they have many of these squalls around here, I wonder?” said George.
“I don’t think very highly of them myself.”

“Nor I,” agreed Grant. “Just look where it carried us.”

“There’s our island,” exclaimed Fred. “I thought it was in the other
direction though.”

“So it was,” said John. “We traveled the whole length of the lake, I
guess.”

“Right past our camp?”

“It looks so.”

“Suppose we had hit one of those big rocks where I fell in,” said
George. “Our anchor wouldn’t have done us very much good there.”

“I should say not,” agreed Grant. “Isn’t that a camp over there?”

His three companions gazed in the direction he indicated and sure enough
a big white tent very similar to their own appeared on shore, a short
distance from the spot where the Balsam lay at anchor.

“I don’t see anybody around,” remarked Fred. “Do you suppose they’re all
away?”

“The best way to find out is to go and see for ourselves,” exclaimed
Grant.

“That’s right,” observed George. “Let’s get the anchor up and sail in.”

“There’s a dock there too, where we can land,” said Fred. “Perhaps the
people who are camping here have been caught out in the storm.”

“We’ll soon know anyway,” said Grant, making his way forward to assist
George in getting up the anchor.



CHAPTER VII—AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


A few moments later the Balsam was making its way towards the tiny wharf
in the little harbor. Two canoes lay bottom up on the shore but no sign
of any living being appeared.

“Perhaps they’ve gone to the ball game,” remarked George.

“Ball game!” exclaimed Fred. “What are you talking about?”

“I was just fooling and trying to get a rise out of somebody. Of course
I knew I could make somebody bite with you on board.”

“Huh,” snorted Fred. “I thought you’d gone crazy, talking about ball
games up here in the woods.”

“You two are always wrangling,” exclaimed Grant. “Stop it.”

“I can’t resist trying to get rises out of Fred,” said George. “He’s so
easy.”

“Leave him alone,” said Grant. “I wonder where the people are who own
this tent. There doesn’t seem to be a soul around.”

“Let’s go up to the tent and peek in,” suggested John.

“Do you think we ought to do that?” Fred protested.

“Why not? We’re not going to steal anything are we?”

“I’m not,” laughed Fred. “Of course I don’t know about you.”

“Come ahead,” urged George. “We’ll just take one look.”

They made their way up from the dock towards the tent. Still no sign of
life appeared and when John had stolen one hasty glance inside the tent
he reported that no one was in there either.

“Let’s go back,” exclaimed Fred. “There’s no use in staying around here
any longer.”

“Come on,” said Grant. “It’s time to eat too.”

“We might eat our luncheon over on that point,” suggested George,
indicating a spot about a mile or so distant from the place where they
were.

“Eating suits me all right,” exclaimed John. “I must say I’m hungry.”

“And I’d like to get my clothes dry,” added Fred. “I’m sort of cold.”

Once more they set sail on the Balsam without having caught sight of a
single occupant of the camp they had just visited. The sun was now
shining brightly and the sky was as blue as ever. No trace of the recent
storm remained to mar the beautiful day. It was not long before all four
boys were in excellent spirits again and their appetites became keener
with each passing moment.

Landing on the point where they had decided to eat their luncheon, they
quickly set about making preparations for the meal. A fire was soon
started and with every one assisting, the meal was quickly under way.

“How soon will it be ready, Grant?” asked George of the cook.

“Oh, in half an hour.”

“Come on then, String,” exclaimed George. “Let’s go back into the woods
here and see if we can’t find some berries or something.”

“Don’t get lost,” warned Grant. “Fred and I are too hungry to spend a
lot of time looking for you, you know.”

“Don’t worry about us,” laughed John. “We’ll be gone only a few
minutes.”

Leaving Grant and Fred busy with the cooking the two boys plunged into
the woods and disappeared from view. The trees were still dripping from
the heavy rain, but the fragrant odor of spruce and balsam was stronger
than ever. The thick carpet of pine needles under their feet was wet, so
that their advance was noiseless.

Suddenly, up from its hiding place almost under their feet, a grouse
arose with a roar and whirr of wings. Booming off through the trees it
quickly disappeared from view leaving the forest as silent as before.
The spell of it was on the two young campers as they stood still and
gazed all about them. The green leafy aisles of the woods stretched in
all directions around them most beautiful and inviting to the eye. A
catbird whined from a nearby tree, but otherwise all was still.

“Did you ever see anything more beautiful?” asked John in a low voice.

“I never did,” replied George solemnly. The beauty and the grandeur of
it all made them feel as though they really should not speak above a
whisper.

“I don’t see any berries though,” continued John.

“Nor I,” said George. “There’s an open space ahead of us though; perhaps
we’ll find some there.”

“Some blueberries wouldn’t taste bad just now.”

In silence they continued their walk, even taking care to step softly so
as not to disturb the solemnity of the woods. Ahead of them appeared a
break in the trees and an open space showed. Here was the place to find
blueberries if any grew in that neighborhood at all. A moment later the
two boys came to the edge of the clearing which was perhaps a hundred
yards square.

As they were about to step out from the shelter of the trees George
suddenly clutched his companion by the arm.

“Look there,” he whispered.

Following George’s directions John saw something that caused his face to
grow white and his heart to jump. In the center of the clearing and
busily engaged in eating the blueberries which grew in abundance all
about was a large black bear.

He seemed entirely oblivious to his surroundings and as the wind blew
from him towards the two boys he was not aware of their presence. With
one great paw he stripped the berries from the low-lying bushes and with
his long, eager tongue he licked them up greedily. That his ancient
enemy, man, might be lurking nearby apparently did not occur to him. The
two boys stood and watched him, fascinated, not knowing whether to run
or whether to hold their ground. The bear was scarcely a hundred feet
distant from the spot where they were standing.

“What shall we do?” whispered George.

“Wait.”

“Suppose he comes after us.”

“If he does we’ll run.”

All at once the bear looked up. Perhaps some eddying current of wind had
betrayed the presence of the two boys to his sensitive nostrils. It is a
well known fact that the eyesight of most wild animals is comparatively
poor; their sense of smell, however, is correspondingly sharp and it is
on this that they must rely to a large extent for safety.

All around him old bruin gazed while the hearts of the two young campers
almost stood still. There they were standing within plain sight, right
at the edge of the forest and they could not possibly escape being seen.
Anxiety as to what the bear would do made the next few moments very
nervous ones.

Suddenly he saw them. George and John held their breath and waited. He
looked at them steadily for a moment, one paw held poised in the air.
Then he turned and with that clumsy lumbering gait common to his kind
ambled off across the clearing. Arriving at the opposite side he turned
his head and glanced back at the two boys, still standing in the shadow
of the trees. Then he continued his way once more and quickly
disappeared from sight.

“Well,” exclaimed George. “What do you think about that?”

“Suppose he’d chased us.”

“He’d never have caught me,” said George grimly. “With a bear after me I
know I could at least equal the world’s record for the half-mile.”

“Even so, you’d have finished second,” laughed John.

“What do you mean?”

“Why, I’d have beaten you out, of course.”

“Maybe so,” said George laughingly. “At any rate I guess it would have
been a pretty close finish. Imagine what Grant and Fred would have
thought if they’d seen us coming, tearing out of the woods with a big
black bear after us.”

“I’d have gone right on across the lake too,” said John.

“Do you want some berries?”

“It’s pretty late now I’m afraid. I think perhaps we’d better go back.”

“Perhaps so. Let’s go anyway; we can come back here after luncheon.”

“That bear might have the same idea.”

“That’s true too,” admitted George. “We can bring Fred and Grant along
with us if they want to come.”

The two boys made their way back through the forest towards the lake.
Knowing that there were such things as bears in the neighborhood they
kept a sharp watch all about them. If they had only realized it, no bear
was half as anxious to meet them as they were to meet a bear. Wild
animals seldom if ever seek trouble of their own accord.

A few moments later George and John emerged from the woods and caught
sight of the fire and their two companions.

“Hey, you two!” called Fred. “Where have you been?”

“Are we late?” asked John.

“I should say you were. Grant and I were just about to eat up all the
food and not save any for you at all.”

“Thank goodness you didn’t,” exclaimed George, fervently.

“Did you find any berries?” demanded Grant.

“Lots of them. A good many of them are still on the bushes.”

“Didn’t you bring any back?”

“Not a single one.”

“What do you think of that, Fred?” demanded Grant. “These fellows go
back in the woods and stuff themselves with a lot of berries and don’t
even bring one back to the two who are working hard to prepare food for
them.”

“We didn’t eat any ourselves.”

“You didn’t?” exclaimed Grant. “What was the matter with them; weren’t
they good?”

“I guess they were,” said John. “We didn’t try any though.”

“What’s the matter?” inquired Fred. “What are you two trying to say
anyway? You found a lot of berries but you didn’t bring any back and you
didn’t eat any yourself. What’s the reason you didn’t?”

“Somebody was there ahead of us,” said George.

“The owner you mean?” asked Grant. “Wouldn’t he give you any?”

“It wasn’t the owner,” said George. “It was somebody else.”

“I wish you’d stop talking in riddles,” exclaimed Grant impatiently.
“Why don’t you tell us what happened!”

“There was a bear there,” said John. “He liked berries too.”

“A bear!” cried Grant and Fred in one breath. “What do you mean?”

“There was a big black bear eating the blueberries,” said George, “so we
just decided we didn’t care very much for berries ourselves.”

“Tell us about it,” demanded Grant eagerly.

“I can’t talk unless I have something to eat first,” replied George
firmly.

“Nor I,” agreed John.

“Come and eat then,” laughed Fred. “We too have got something to tell
you two when you’ve finished.”



CHAPTER VIII—A PREDICAMENT


While all four boys were doing full justice to the meal which Grant had
prepared, George and John related the story of their meeting with the
bear.

“And now,” exclaimed John when he had finished, “you tell us what you
have to say. Fred said there was something.”

“We had an idea while you were gone, that’s all,” said Grant.

“Tell us what it was.”

“Go ahead, Fred.”

“No, you tell them,” urged Fred.

“Well,” said Grant, “it was only this. Fred and I were talking things
over and we thought it might be good fun if we took the two canoes and
went off on a little trip for a couple of days. What do you think about
it?”

“I think it would be great,” exclaimed John heartily. “How about you,
Pop?”

“It suits me first rate,” said George eagerly. “Why can’t we start
to-night?”

“That’s a little soon I should think,” laughed Grant. “We can go
to-morrow though if you say so.”

“We can get some good trout fishing up these streams, you know,” said
Fred. “I want to get that big trout.”

“If there’s any big trout caught I expect to be the one to do it,” said
George very pompously.

“Huh,” snorted Fred disgustedly, “you couldn’t catch cold.”

“You just wait and see,” muttered George under his breath.

“Do you know anything about trout fishing?” insisted Fred.

“I never did any in my life.”

“And you expect to catch a big trout?” said Fred derisively. “Why, Pop,
you’re sort of out of your head, aren’t you?”

“Wait and see,” repeated George confidently.

“Do you know how hard it is to cast a trout fly when you’re standing in
the middle of a clump of bushes and the branches of trees are in your
way all around you?” continued Fred. “Don’t you know that it takes
almost years of practice to do it so that you are accurate and don’t
catch your hook on everything in sight?”

“Wait and see,” insisted George. “I have a new system.”

“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed Fred. “You’re a joke.”

“Let’s go back to camp and stop these two arguing,” exclaimed Grant.
“They’re at it all day long.”

“We like each other all the more because we do it, don’t we, Pop?”
demanded Fred laughingly.

“Yes,” admitted George, “except that you’re awfully conceited at times.”

“Come on,” urged Grant. “They’ll be at it again if we’re not careful.”

Before many moments had passed the Balsam was once more sailing over the
clear waters of the lake and in a short time the four boys arrived back
at camp. The remainder of the day was spent in planning for the trip
they were about to take and in discussing just where they should go. At
length an agreement satisfactory to every one was reached, the
arrangements were all completed and there was nothing left to do but
wait for the morrow in order to start.

The sun had been up but a short time before the camp was astir. Grant
set about preparing breakfast while his three companions packed supplies
into the two canoes. Food sufficient for three days was loaded on board;
blankets were taken along, and trout rods with numerous flies of course
were included.

“Breakfast’s ready,” announced Grant as soon as the work of loading was
complete.

“So am I,” exclaimed George heartily. “I’m always ready to eat up here.”

“Not only ‘up here’ either,” muttered Fred.

“What did you say?” demanded George, wheeling around so as to face the
speaker.

“Nothing.”

“As usual,” laughed George. “Where’s the food?”

“Right here,” exclaimed Grant. “Let’s see you get rid of it.”

No second invitation was needed and it was not long before every crumb
and morsel that Grant had prepared had disappeared.

“Let’s get started,” exclaimed George. “All the food is gone so there is
no point in staying around here any longer.”

“You’re right, Pop,” laughed John. “I say we go too.”

A few moments later the two canoes emerged from the little harbor and
started out across the lake, headed northward. Grant and Fred occupied
one of them while George and John paddled the other.

“I’m glad you’re not in my canoe, Fred,” called George gayly. “Small as
you are, I’d soon get tired of paddling you around all day.”

“Is that so?” snorted Fred. “Well, you’re not half as glad as I am for I
know that I’d be the one that would have to do all the work and you’re
too big and fat to make the work pleasant.”

“They’re at it again, String,” laughed Grant. “What shall we do with
them?”

“Leave them home,” suggested John.

“Oh, we couldn’t do that. They’d be like the Kilkenny cats.”

“Who were they?” demanded Fred.

“Didn’t you ever hear about them?”

“No. Tell me who they were.”

“I guess you mean _what_ they were.”

“All right, what they were, then.”

“Why,” said Grant, “they were a couple of cats that loved to fight. One
day somebody tied their tails together and hung them over a clothes
line. Of course they began to fight right away and they fought so
furiously that when it was all over there wasn’t a thing left of either
of them.”

“I suppose you expect me to believe that story,” snorted Fred.

“I don’t care whether you believe it or not,” laughed Grant. “You wanted
to hear it, so I told it to you.”

“Grant says we’re like a couple of cats, Pop,” called Fred.

“Tell him he’d better be careful,” replied George. “Just because we call
each other names doesn’t mean that we allow other people to do it.”

“Excuse me for interrupting,” said John laughingly, “but does any one
know where we are going?”

“I do,” replied Grant. “We’re going up that river you see straight
ahead.”

“Do you know where that leads to?” inquired Fred.

“Yes. We can paddle up it for about two miles and then we have to make a
carry over to another river.”

“How long is the carry?” demanded George.

“Oh, about half a mile, I guess.”

“Whew!” exclaimed George; “that’s a long distance to carry canoes and
all the stuff we have in them.”

“Getting ready to shirk already, are you?” demanded Fred teasingly.

“Shirk nothing,” said George. “Wait and see if I don’t do my share.”

“Yes and ‘wait and see’ if you don’t catch the biggest trout too,”
taunted Fred. “Why, Pop, you’ll be lucky if you catch your breath.”

“Wait and see,” muttered George darkly.

“Yes, ‘wait and see’,” echoed Fred. “If you don’t stop saying that we’ll
have to call you, ‘Wait and See.’”

Just at this moment, however, they came to the mouth of the river and
the argument was abandoned, for the time being at least.

“This is great!” exclaimed John. “I always did like paddling in a narrow
space rather than on a lake or some place like that.”

“I do too,” agreed Grant. “You feel closer to things somehow.”

“You’re no closer to the water, you know,” remarked George with a wink
at Fred.

“Don’t pay any attention to him, Grant,” said John. “I think we ought to
throw both of them overboard anyway.”

As they progressed, the stream became narrower and the current swifter.
Evidently they would be unable to paddle very much farther upstream and
the young campers began to keep a sharp lookout for the carry.

“There it is,” exclaimed Fred, suddenly pointing to a small sandy beach
a short distance ahead of them.

They soon landed and emptying the canoes, they started off through the
woods to transfer them to the next river. It was necessary to leave the
baggage behind to await their coming back for it. Two boys to each canoe
they set out, the light boats turned upside down and bearing them aloft
on their shoulders. In spite of many groanings from George they reached
their destination before much time had elapsed, and then resting the
canoes on the bank of the stream they returned for the baggage. This was
more quickly and more easily transferred so that a short time later they
were once more making their way by paddling.

“Say, Grant,” exclaimed John when they had covered a few hundred yards,
“how do you know all about these rivers?”

“Didn’t you see that map I have?”

“No. I kept wondering how you knew so much about the country around
here. I didn’t know you had a map.”

“Of course I have. I wouldn’t know anything any other way for I’ve never
been up here in my life before.”

“String thought you guessed at it,” laughed George.

“No, I didn’t at all,” protested John. “I just didn’t think about it.”

“Does your map say that there are rapids ahead?” asked Fred.

“I didn’t notice. Why?”

“Because I think there are. It seems to me that the current is getting
swifter all the time and I think you’ll find that when we go around that
bend up yonder you’ll find rapids ahead of us.”

“Shall we run them?” demanded George excitedly.

“We’ll probably be wrecked if we try it,” said Grant.

“We can see how bad they are, anyway,” John suggested.

“Yes,” agreed Fred. “We’ll ‘wait and see.’”

“‘Go ahead’ is my motto when rapids are concerned,” said George.

Rounding the curve in the river they discovered that scarcely a hundred
yards farther was another bend in the stream. Meanwhile the current was
rapidly becoming swifter and stronger.

“We can’t see yet,” exclaimed George. “We’ll have to go ahead.”

All four boys were excited now, and there was an eager light in every
one’s eyes as they were carried along by the swiftly-flowing stream.

Suddenly they came around the second bend, and spread out before their
eyes appeared a long stretch of white water. It foamed and danced, here
and there broken by a huge rock, black and ugly looking.

“We can’t run those,” cried Grant. “We’ll drown sure.”

“Go ashore then,” shouted Fred, and he drove his paddle desperately into
the water. John and George also fought valiantly to divert their course
and avoid the rapids. Too late, however, for the current was stronger
than they, and with ever increasing speed they were drawn swiftly
towards the foaming waters below.



CHAPTER IX—DANGER


“Work, Fred! Work!” urged Grant desperately.

“I’m doing my best,” panted Fred, and from the way he drove his paddle
into the water it was evident that what he said was true.

They made a little progress towards the shore. They moved still more
swiftly downstream, however, for the current was powerful here. For
every foot that they progressed towards shore they were drawn a yard
closer to the rapids. Unless they reached the bank very soon they were
certain to be forced to run the rapids whether they desired to or not.

George and John in the other canoe were in the same predicament. The two
frail little craft seemed no stronger than shells and it was almost
unbelievable that they could traverse that foaming stretch of water in
safety. No one spoke now; every boy was too busily employed in the
desperate struggle he was waging against the river.

The current eddied and swirled. From below came the roar of the water as
it raced along in its mad course. Beside them was the shore and safety;
below was danger, accident, and possible death.

When the two canoes had rounded the bend in the river the one which John
and George occupied had been a trifle closer to shore. Consequently it
had just that much advantage over the other. The occupants of the two
canoes were too engrossed in their own struggles to take much notice of
their companions, but out of the corner of his eye Grant saw that the
other canoe had nearly reached its goal.

A moment later he heard a call from the shore sounding above the roar of
the rapids below. It was George’s voice.

“Keep it up, Grant!” he shouted. “You’ll make it yet.”

“Stick to it, Fred!” cried Grant, encouraged by the knowledge that their
companions had reached safety. “We can make it.”

“I’m sticking to it all right,” replied Fred grimly.

Closer and closer to shore they came. Nearer and nearer sounded the
noise of the rapids. Could they win out? Certainly they could if nerve
and determination were to count for anything.

Ahead of them Grant could see George frantically urging them on. He was
so excited that he had run down into the water, where he stood
knee-deep, begging and imploring his comrades to come to him. Inch by
inch they seemed to move towards shore. Their muscles were aching from
the strain now and it was agony for both boys to keep up the fight, but
neither one gave even the slightest thought to quitting.

It almost seemed as if they were going to win out now. George was
scarcely ten feet distant; arms outstretched he eagerly awaited a chance
to seize the bow of the canoe and draw it and its occupants to safety.
His chance did not come, however.

Just out of his eager reach a whirlpool caught the canoe. The bow swung
suddenly around and Fred’s paddle was almost wrested from his grasp. In
vain he and Grant fought. Twice the frail little boat spun around and
then seized by a sudden eddy in the current was borne swiftly and
relentlessly towards the rapids below.

“We’re goners!” cried Fred.

“Keep your nerve!” shouted Grant fiercely. “You do the steering from the
bow. You can see the rocks from there.”

At racehorse speed the canoe shot forward. With every second its
momentum increased until it seemed fairly to fly over the water.
White-lipped and with jaws set the two boys sat and awaited their fate.
From the shore George and John watched with feverish anxiety.

Now they were almost in the rapids. An eddy caught the canoe and it
nearly upset. It escaped, however, and again sped on. Around it the
water foamed white and hissed and snarled as it raced along. Black rocks
stood out along the treacherous pathway. It seemed as if the canoe must
surely come to grief on any one of a dozen of them.

Seated on the bottom of the canoe and with his eyes riveted on the
rapids below, Fred wielded his paddle like a madman. First one side and
then the other he dipped it, changing so swiftly sometimes as almost to
bewilder the onlookers.

They were half way through the dangerous passage now. Was it possible
that they could come through those angry waters untouched? It was out of
the question; they had merely been lucky so far. At least that was the
way George and John felt about it. Any moment they expected to see their
comrades upset and disappear from sight beneath those terrible foaming
waves.

Still the canoe raced on. One moment it had the speed of a locomotive
and the next, caught by some eddying whirlpool, its momentum almost
ceased, only to shoot forward suddenly again at a bewildering pace an
instant later.

“I believe they’ll get through,” exclaimed George excitedly. He and John
were standing on a large boulder which afforded them an excellent view
of the rapids.

“Wait,” cautioned John quietly.

“‘Wait and see,’” smiled George.

“Please don’t joke,” muttered John. “I don’t feel like it.”

The onrushing canoe was almost through the rapids now. Could it be that
two inexperienced boys were to come through that mad mill race alive? If
they could last a moment more they were safe, but ahead of them was the
most dangerous part of the rapids. Two huge rocks stood out in midstream
scarcely six feet apart. Between them the water rushed and roared like a
cataract. Below this spot the rapids ended and the current gradually
slowed down to its normal swiftness.

Fred and Grant saw all this in the twinkling of an eye and they knew
that the test was now to come. Both boys braced themselves; so swiftly
did they move now that it almost seemed as if they were standing still
and that it was the two great rocks that were charging down upon them.
Closer and closer they came. With bated breath George and John watched
from the shore, realizing their companions’ peril.

Fred, in the bow of the canoe, gripped his paddle with all his strength.
One moment more and their lot would be decided. The rocks looked like
mountains as they bore down upon them. Now they were just ahead, ugly
and bristling in their might; now they were alongside; now they were
past. Fred and Grant had run the rapids in safety. They could scarcely
realize it. The danger was over and they were alive.

“Yea, Fred!” shouted Grant. “We’re through!”

“Thank goodness,” sighed Fred, and he sank back limply against one of
the thwarts of the canoe.

“You’re a wonder,” cried Grant.

“It’s a wonder we’re alive, you mean.”

“That’s true, too. But the way you steered!”

“It wasn’t due to any skill on my part; we were just lucky.”

“Anyway,” exclaimed Grant happily, “we ran the rapids and I wouldn’t
give up that experience for a million dollars now.”

“Neither would I, _now_,” agreed Fred. “It would take a good deal more
than that to make me go through with it again, though.”

They had now reached a point two or three hundred yards below the rapids
and decided to go ashore and wait for John and George. It was with a
very comfortable feeling that the two boys set their feet on solid
ground once more.

“Just look back there and see what we came through,” exclaimed Grant.

“I don’t see how we did it,” said Fred. “I wonder if we really did.”

“You think you were dreaming, I suppose,” laughed Grant. “I can swear we
did do it, though, and I guess Pop and String will, too.”

“It doesn’t seem possible.”

“Here we are.”

“I know it. Just look at those rapids, though. They look like Niagara
Falls from here.”

“There ought to be good fishing along here,” remarked Grant.

“I should think so. Perhaps Pop can catch his big trout here. The big
fellows usually stay in the deep pools below rapids like this.”

“Here they come now,” exclaimed Grant, as John and George appeared,
carrying their canoe along the shore.

“We’ll have some fun with them about it, anyway,” said Fred, in a low
voice. “Watch me get a rise out of them.”

“Hey, you two,” shouted George, as he spied his friends. “What do you
mean by scaring String and me almost out of our wits?”

“Do you suppose we did it on purpose?” laughed Grant.

“Why, that was nothing at all for us,” said Fred, airily.

“Oh, is that so?” demanded George, mimicking Fred’s tone. “Well, if that
was nothing, I’d hate to see what something was.”

“That was no effort at all for us,” continued Fred, carelessly.

“Put this canoe down quickly, String,” exclaimed George. “Let me get at
that fellow. He ought to be drowned.”

With a sigh of relief John and George deposited their burden on the
ground and George immediately advanced threateningly towards Fred.

“Let him alone, Pop,” laughed Grant. “He’s the best steersman this side
of the Canadian border.”

“He was pretty good, wasn’t he?” exclaimed John. “How did you two
fellows like shooting the rapids?”

“It was wonderful,” said Fred heartily. “I never had such a wonderful
sensation in all my life.”

“I’ll bet you were both almost scared to death,” said George, shortly.

“We were,” laughed Fred, “but now that it’s all over we’re glad we did
it.”

“Fred thinks there ought to be some good fishing in these pools along
here,” said Grant. “What do you say to trying them?”

“That suits me,” said George readily. “I’m hungry, too.”

“We’ll have lunch right here then,” exclaimed Grant, “and afterwards
we’ll try our hands at the trout fishing.”

“And Pop will catch the biggest trout that ever swam in the waters of
the Adirondacks,” added Fred, nudging John as he spoke.

“Huh,” exclaimed George disgustedly. “I wish you’d stop that talk. I
suppose you’ll be worse than ever now that you’ve run these rapids.”

“I didn’t say anything about myself,” smiled Fred. “I was talking about
the big trout you were going to catch.”

“I suppose you think you’re the only one here who can shoot rapids or
catch fish or do anything at all.”

“I told you I was talking about you, not about myself,” insisted Fred.
“I said you’d probably catch the biggest trout in the Adirondacks.”

“You think you’re pretty funny,” snorted George. “You just wait and
see.”



CHAPTER X—WAIT AND SEE


When luncheon was over, the four young campers busied themselves with
preparations for the afternoon’s fishing. They sat around on the bank
joining the different sections of their trout rods and selecting the
flies which they considered would be most tempting to the speckled fish
they sought to catch.

“We’ll fish from the shore, I suppose,” remarked John.

“Of course,” exclaimed Fred. “The current is too strong here to try it
from a canoe.”

“I’m not much good at this game, I’m afraid,” laughed John. “I don’t
expect to catch a thing.”

“I don’t know anything about it, either,” said George, “but I certainly
expect to catch something just the same.”

“Maybe you’ll have beginner’s luck,” said Grant.

“I don’t care what it is,” laughed George. “I want some fish, though.”

“Well, I’m ready,” said Fred, rising to his feet. “Where are we going?”

“Suppose two of us go upstream and two down,” suggested Grant.

“All right,” exclaimed Fred. “You and I will go up and the others the
other way. We’ll meet back here in time for supper.”

“At the latest,” added John.

Fred stepped to the shore and deftly cast his fly out on the waters.
Gradually lengthening the amount of line he had out, he kept casting and
then drawing the rod back over his head so that the line stretched far
behind him. Then, with a short snap of his wrist he would send the fly
floating out over the pool again. As it came to rest lightly on the
surface of the water he jerked it along for a few feet in imitation of
the struggles of a live insect and then he would repeat the performance
all over again.

His three friends watched him with absorbing interest.

“That’s a simple performance,” exclaimed George at length. “Why don’t
you leave the fly in the water for a second or two and give the fish
half a chance to swallow it? It would have to be an awfully quick trout
to take your hook.”

“They’re quick enough; don’t worry about that,” smiled Fred.

“But why don’t you let the hook sink a little below the surface?”

“Did you ever see a moth or a bug of some sort light on the water?” Fred
inquired.

“Yes. Lots of times.”

“Did you ever see one sink?”

“No, I don’t believe I ever did,” George admitted slowly.

“That’s just it,” exclaimed Fred triumphantly. “If a real insect doesn’t
do it, why should an artificial one? The idea is to make the fly appear
just as much alive as possible.”

“I haven’t seen you catch anything yet,” remarked George.

Hardly had he spoken, however, when Fred had a strike. His fly had
settled like thistledown on the surface of the pool after an almost
perfect cast, when there was a rush and the line was drawn swiftly
across the pool. The light rod bent almost double and Fred’s three
companions jumped to their feet excitedly.

“Yea, Fred!” shouted John. “You’ve hooked a big one. Stick to him.”

“Big one nothing,” said Fred shortly. “It’s a little fellow.”

“Bring him in anyway,” cried George. “The little ones are just as good
to eat as any kind.”

The trout may have been small as Fred had predicted, but he put up a
valiant fight. After a very pretty struggle, however, he was gradually
brought in close to the bank, and with a quick, dexterous scoop of his
landing net Fred brought him to shore.

“About ten inches,” he remarked as he held the gamey little fish up for
his friends to see. “He was fierce, though; look there,” and he showed
the side of the trout’s mouth all torn and bloody, so hard had he
attacked the hook.

“Let’s go after some ourselves, String,” exclaimed George eagerly. “I’d
rather catch them myself than to watch others.”

“Remember you’re going to get a big one,” reminded Fred.

“Wait and see,” said George gruffly.

Without wasting any more time he and John made their way downstream
while Fred and Grant worked slowly in the opposite direction. Fred was
the only one of the four who was at all skillful in handling a
trout-rod, and, as a consequence, he had the best luck at the start.
Grant, however, had captured one prize, and to his delight it proved to
be larger than any Fred had caught.

They had progressed slowly towards the rapids, stopping at every pool
for a few casts, but both boys seemed to have the idea that their luck
would be better farther up. Consequently they did not linger long in any
one spot until they reached a point just below the rapids. Here there
were several large pools, and each boy selected one and prepared to make
a cast.

Grant had experienced considerable difficulty in making his casts, for
the branches of the nearby trees and bushes seemed far easier to locate
than the spot for which he aimed. Time and again he had found his hook
entangled by the overhanging limb of some tree and he had spent many
moments in freeing it as a result. It was particularly exasperating to
him as he saw Fred with apparent ease drop his fly on any spot he cared
to hit.

Grant had just succeeded in disentangling his hook for at least the
tenth time when he heard his name called.

“Come over here, Grant!” shouted Fred excitedly. “I need help.”

Grant immediately dropped his rod and started towards the spot where
Fred was standing.

“What’s the matter?” he demanded, when he was only a few yards distant
from his companion.

“Matter?” exclaimed Fred. “Look at that rod.”

It was bent almost double, and the line whipped back and forth across
the pool as if it was possessed.

“Zowie!” cried Grant eagerly. “You’ve hooked a good one this time.”

“I should say I had.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Take that landing net and stand ready to scoop him up in case I can
bring him close enough to shore, and don’t lose him beforehand.”

“Don’t lose him,” begged Grant. “Look at him go.”

The light rod was almost in the shape of a horseshoe and it scarcely
seemed possible that it could stand the strain. Back and forth and
around and across the pool the trout carried the hook. Fred strove to
keep a constant pressure on the line in order to tire the fish out; he
did not try to check his frequent bold rushes, however, but rather to
prevent the line from becoming slack at any time.

One moment he would reel the line in swiftly and there would be almost
no resistance at all; the next moment, however, just as he and Grant had
come to the conclusion that the struggle was practically ended, off
would go the line again while the reel sang loudly.

Fred was white-lipped, he was so excited. But who wouldn’t be, for there
is no more thrilling sport in the world than to fight a big trout with a
five-ounce rod?

“I believe he’s tiring,” exclaimed Fred at length.

“A little, perhaps,” agreed Fred.

“I wish he’d jump so we could see him.”

“If he does I’ll lose him. That’s one of the things I’m doing my best to
prevent.”

“Why so?” demanded Grant in surprise.

“If a fish can jump clear of the water he can very often shake the hook
out of his mouth. I’ve seen it happen too often.”

“But I don’t see how you can prevent it.”

“If I keep a steady strain on him all the time, he can’t jump. It’s only
when the line is slack that they have a chance to do that.”

“Look at him go!” exclaimed Grant. “Wouldn’t you think he’d be getting
tired by this time?”

“He is. His rushes aren’t as long as they were before.”

“Does that mean you’ve got him?”

“Not at all. You’ve never caught a trout until he is safely on the
shore.”

Fred had not once taken his eyes from the line while he was talking with
Grant. Carefully, coolly and with great skill he played his fish. Never
once did he relax his caution, and little by little he seemed to be
gaining the mastery. Every rush was shorter than the one before, and
after every one he reeled in a bit more of line and brought the trout a
trifle nearer to the shore and the net.

“Get ready, Grant,” said Fred in a tense voice.

The handle of the net in his right hand, Grant knelt on the rocks on the
edge of the pool. He was just to the left of the spot where his comrade
was standing and he now watched the line just as closely as Fred.

“Let me know when to scoop him,” he said.

“You’ll know all right,” replied Fred. “You’ll see him in the water.”

“You tell me, though.”

“All right.”

The plucky trout was tiring rapidly now. His struggles became weaker and
weaker. Fred had played him well, but he was too seasoned a fisherman to
feel that the fight was ended. Bitter experience had taught him that
there is many a slip.

“Get the net ready,” exclaimed Fred after what seemed like a very long
time to Grant, who was not comfortable in the position he was in.

Nearer and nearer Fred brought the trout. He still struggled weakly but
was practically exhausted now. Relentlessly Fred reeled in the line.
Once the trout broke the water with his tail not a dozen feet from shore
and Grant held his breath; he thought the fish had escaped.

Not so, however, for a moment later he could see him in the water being
drawn remorselessly closer to the net. Grant was in a panic for fear he
should not do his part correctly.

“Now, Grant!” cried Fred suddenly.

The trout was in the water almost at Grant’s feet. His struggles were
very weak now and thanks to the way Fred handled the rod, was nearly
motionless. Carefully Grant lowered the net into the water and moved it
along until it was almost underneath the beaten fish; then with a quick
motion he raised the net and a moment later the trout lay upon the bank
enmeshed in its folds.

“Nice work, Grant!” exclaimed Fred. “You did that like a veteran!”

“Isn’t he a beauty!” cried Grant delightedly.

“He surely is.”

“How much do you suppose he weighs?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’d hate to say; two pounds and a half, I guess.”

“That’s pretty big, isn’t it?” inquired Grant.

“It is for this part of the country and it’s all I’d care to tackle with
a five-ounce rod.”

Fred had removed the hook from the fish’s mouth now and he held him up
to view.

“He’s all right,” said Grant admiringly.

“What do you suppose Pop will say about him?” grinned Fred. “I don’t
believe he can match him, do you?”

“I don’t know,” said Grant doubtfully. “I’d hate to bet on it. You can’t
ever be sure what he’ll do.”

“Huh,” laughed Fred derisively. “He couldn’t catch a trout like that to
save his life.”

“Wait and see,” cautioned Grant.



CHAPTER XI—WHAT GEORGE DID


“Well, I suppose we might as well go back now,” said Fred. “It’ll be
dark before long.”

“All right,” agreed Grant, reluctantly. “I wish I might have caught a
trout like that one of yours though.”

“I’ll stay if you want to.”

“No, I guess not,” said Grant. “As you say it will be dark soon and we
might as well go back.”

“Get your rod then and we’ll start.”

Grant returned to the spot where he had been standing when Fred called
him, and picking up his rod soon joined his companion. Together they
made their way back to camp rehearsing the story of the big trout’s
capture time and again during the journey.

“The others don’t seem to have returned yet,” remarked Grant when they
had arrived at their destination. “Shall we wait for them?”

“I don’t see the use. Let’s clean some of the fish and get ready for
supper.”

“You’re not going to eat that big one, are you?”

“I’m not going to touch it yet, that’s sure. I want to show it to Pop
first.”

“Aren’t you going to stuff it and take it home?”

“I don’t believe I can,” said Fred. “I don’t know how to do it myself
and there isn’t any place around here where I can have it done.”

“That’s too bad; still it will make good eating.”

“After I’ve shown it to Pop,” grinned Fred.

“Here they come now!” exclaimed Grant, and as he spoke John and George
appeared through the trees a short distance away.

“What luck did you have?” demanded John as he and his comrade approached
the fire which Grant had started.

“Pretty good,” replied Grant. “I caught only one myself but Fred got
eight.”

“Good for him,” exclaimed John. “Did you get any big ones?”

“Fred caught one beauty.”

“Let’s see it.”

Nothing loath Fred proudly produced his big trout and held it up for the
inspection of his friends.

“Say,” exclaimed George, “that’s a good one all right!”

“He certainly put up a game fight too,” said Grant. “You should have
seen it.”

“I wish we had,” said George. “None of the ones we caught gave us any
trouble at all.”

“Perhaps you didn’t catch any big enough,” said Fred, preparing to tease
George and remind him of his boasts. “How many did you get anyway?”

“Only four all together,” replied George. “String caught three of
those.”

He and John seemed unwilling for some reason to talk very much and they
had the appearance of holding something back. Perhaps if it had been
lighter it would have been possible to see a guilty look on the faces of
both boys.

“Let’s see your fish,” urged Fred. “Don’t be afraid of them. I’m
surprised that you didn’t catch more than one, Pop. I expected that
you’d bring in at least a dozen and that you’d surely get one bigger
than mine; here you are with only four little ones between you. Bring
them out anyway.”

John opened the creel and dipping his hand inside brought out a trout
about ten inches long and laid it on the mossy bank.

“That’ll do for a start,” grinned Fred, who was thoroughly enjoying
himself. He knew that he had made good his boast about catching a larger
fish than George. He had been somewhat worried up to the present time
for as Grant had said it was never possible to say just what George
would do. Now, however, all doubts had been swept from his mind and he
was perfectly confident that he had beaten his rival.

“There’s another,” said John, bringing out a second fish, if anything a
trifle smaller than the first.

“Huh,” laughed Fred, “I’ll bet that’s the one Pop caught.”

“No, it isn’t,” said John. “I caught those two and this one too,” and he
placed a third trout by the side of the other two. All three of them
were almost exactly the same size.

“They’re not very large, are they?” said John dubiously.

“Oh, they’ll make fine eating,” exclaimed Fred. “Where’s your other fish
though? I want to see the one that Pop caught.”

John once more put his hand in the creel and felt all around.

“I don’t feel it here,” he said anxiously.

“Maybe it slipped through a crack in the basket,” said Fred gleefully.
“Are you sure you caught a fish, Pop?”

“Why, I thought so,” said George. “Here, String, let me try to find it.”

“Too bad we haven’t got a magnifying glass,” chuckled Fred as John
passed the creel over to George. “You know it’s against the law to catch
the little bits of ones anyway.”

“Find it, Pop?” inquired John.

“Here it is,” exclaimed George after a moment’s search and he drew forth
to the astonished gaze of Grant and Fred a trout that one glance showed
was easily larger than the one Fred had caught.

“Where’d you get that fish?” demanded Fred in amazement.

“I caught it.”

“You did? How’d you do it?”

“With a hook and line of course. I told you to ‘wait and see.’”

“Well,” gasped Fred, and he stopped for lack of anything further to say.
His three companions, however, burst into gales of laughter all at his
expense and all seemed to enjoy the situation very much.

“Let me see him,” demanded Fred, and George very willingly handed over
his prize to be inspected.

“Why, look here,” exclaimed Fred. “There’s not a cut or a mark of any
kind around his mouth but his stomach has a big gash in it.”

“Certainly,” said George. “That’s where I hooked him.”

“In the stomach?” cried Fred. “What are you talking about?”

“Tell him how you did it, Pop,” urged John gleefully.

“Well,” said George, “it was like this. I tried to fish the way I saw
Fred doing it but I couldn’t to save my life. The old hook kept catching
on everything in sight.”

“Just like mine,” interposed Grant.

“I finally got disgusted,” continued George. “It didn’t seem to be any
use in my trying any longer and I thought that a trout would be an awful
fool to bite that silly looking fly anyway. I’ve always fished with
worms and I didn’t see why I couldn’t catch trout with worms for bait. I
decided to try it anyway, so I rolled over an old log and dug under it
with my knife. It wasn’t long before I had a couple of big fat fellows
and I soon put one on the hook and took the fly off.

“Well, I fished with the worms for a while but nothing happened and I
began to get pretty well discouraged. I quit fishing and lay down on my
stomach to get a drink out of one of the pools. The water was just as
clear as crystal and just as I lay down I saw a big old trout shoot
under a big rock at the bottom of the pool. That proved there were trout
in there anyway.

“The rock where he disappeared was right beneath me and I picked up my
line with the big worm still on the hook and let it down just as quietly
as I could until it was right in front of the rock. Nothing happened for
a long time and I thought the trout was gone, but all of a sudden I saw
him again.”

“Were you holding the line in your hand?” inquired Grant.

“Yes; it was just like a drop line. The rod was lying in back of me on
the ground and all I had done was to let out a lot of line. Well, the
old trout sort of poked his nose out and took a look around. He went up
to the worm and took a smell of it; at least that’s the way it looked.
He didn’t bite it though and a second later he went whizzing back
underneath the rock again. I thought he was gone for good but in a few
seconds back he came; the worm seemed to attract him even if he didn’t
try to eat it. He kept hanging around it all the time, sort of sniffing
at it first one side and then the other.

“All of a sudden I had an idea.”

“Whew,” whistled Fred softly.

“I decided,” continued George paying no attention to the interruption,
“that I’d try to pull the line up all of a sudden and hook him in the
stomach. I didn’t see why such a thing wasn’t possible and I meant to
try it the first chance I had. Old Mr. Trout still hung around the worm
but it seemed as if he was never going to get right over the hook.
Finally he started to swim away slowly and I thought it was all over. He
only went a few feet though and then turned back. The worm seemed to
fascinate him.

“He went right up to the hook and sort of looked it over again; then he
turned his back on it so to speak, and kept perfectly still, just
wiggling his fins. I lowered the hook a little and he never moved. I
lowered it a little more and held it there. All at once he turned
leisurely around and came right square over the hook. I yanked the line
with all my might and there he is.”

George pointed proudly to the big trout lying at his feet.

“That’s a great way to fish for trout,” exclaimed Fred in disgust.

“That’s all right, Pop,” laughed Grant. “You caught him anyway, didn’t
you?”

“I surely did. I told Fred I’d beat him out and I did it. Why, Fred, you
little shrimp, I’d have put salt on his tail and caught him that way if
it was necessary in order to take some of the conceit out of you.”

“Bah!” exclaimed Fred in disgust.



CHAPTER XII—A CHALLENGE


Two more days the boys spent among the streams and the trout pools. At
the end of that time their supply of food was running low and they
decided to return to their island camp.

The return trip was made without any mishap and when they entered the
little lake where their island was situated, their tent, standing out
prominently on the little bluff where it was pitched, was a welcome
sight to all.

“It looks pretty good, doesn’t it?” exclaimed John proudly.

“It certainly does,” agreed Fred. “I’m sort of glad to be back again.”

“We had a great time though,” said George enthusiastically. “There’s one
more trip I want to take this summer too.”

“What’s that?” inquired Fred.

“I’d like to climb that mountain over there.”

The four young campers turned their heads and gazed at the peak George
indicated, towering high over the lake.

“That’s a go,” exclaimed Grant readily. “I think that it would be good
fun.”

“So do I,” agreed John. “Let’s do it soon too.”

“Do you suppose it will be very hard work?” asked Fred.

“Of course it will,” said George. “You wouldn’t let that hold you back
though, would you?”

“Not at all, but I don’t want you fellows to get the idea that it will
be any easy job. The mountain looks nice and green and smooth from here
because it’s all covered with trees, but when we get there we’ll find
it’s pretty rough going. Ravines and gullies and steep cliffs and
everything else like that will be there to hold us back.”

“All the better,” exclaimed George. “Then when we reach the top we’ll
feel as if we had accomplished something.”

“We’ll do it anyway,” said Grant and every one else agreed with him.

Soon they reached their destination. The Balsam still rode at anchor in
the little harbor and everything seemed to be as the boys had left it.
In a few moments the canoes had been drawn up on shore and their
contents unloaded. Grant in the lead, they made their way towards the
tent.

He disappeared inside the tent and before his companions had come up
with him, reappeared holding a paper in his hand.

“What have you got there?” inquired George curiously.

“I don’t know. I found it inside the tent.”

“See what it is,” exclaimed George.

“It’s a challenge of some kind, I think,” said Grant after a hasty
glance at the sheet which he held.

“A challenge?” exclaimed John. “Not for a fight, I hope.”

“Not as bad as that,” laughed Grant. “It’s an athletic challenge.”

“Who from?” demanded Fred.

“I don’t know yet,” said Grant. “Give me a chance.”

“Read it out loud,” urged John. “That’s the best way.”

    “We, the undersigned,” read Grant, “hereby challenge the four
    boys who are camping on the island in the middle of the lake to
    a set of water sports. The events are to be decided upon by
    mutual agreement and are to be as many in number as may be
    agreed upon. We suggest that they include a sailing race, a
    canoe race, and a swimming race. The day for the sports is to be
    decided later and on Monday morning we will come over to see you
    and arrange the details.

                                            Signed, Thomas Adams.
                                                    Franklin Dunbar.
                                                    Hugh McNeale.
                                                    Herbert Halsey.”

“Who are they, do you suppose?” exclaimed John.

“I don’t know,” said Fred. “I never heard of any of them before.”

“They probably live in that camp down at the other end of the lake,”
said Grant. “The one we visited the other day, you know.”

“And found nobody there,” added George.

“That’s it. They must be the ones.”

“I guess they are,” agreed John. “How do they know so much about us
though? I don’t see how they knew there were four of us.”

“Probably they’ve seen us around,” suggested Grant. “That part of it is
easy enough.”

“Well, what do you think of the challenge?” demanded Fred.

“I say we accept it,” exclaimed George eagerly.

“Of course we will,” said Grant. “I think it will be great sport.”

“They may be a good deal older and bigger than we are,” suggested Fred.
“If they are we’ll sort of be outclassed.”

“I don’t believe they are,” said Grant. “At any rate I don’t think we’ll
be outclassed.”

“We’ll give them a good rub anyway,” exclaimed George. “What sort of
sailing and swimming and canoe races do you suppose they mean?”

“They had a catboat like the Balsam,” said John. “Don’t you remember
seeing it down by their tent? We’ll use the catboats for the sailing
race.”

“A relay swimming race would be a good stunt,” suggested Fred. “In that
way we could all be in it.”

“When they come over here we can decide all the details,” said George.
“When was it that they said they were coming?”

“Monday, I think,” said John. “Wasn’t it, Grant?”

“Yes. That’s day after to-morrow.”

“We ought to have some judges,” said Fred.

“That’s true,” agreed Grant. “I don’t know where we’ll get any though.”

“Maybe they’ll know somebody,” suggested George.

“We’ll find out all about it on Monday anyway,” said Fred. “Let’s have a
little food now. I’ll faint unless I eat pretty soon.”

“Poor little Freddy,” laughed George. “You need a nurse.”

“Huh,” snorted Fred. “Ever since you hooked that trout by the tail you
have been too fresh to live. Your turn will come though.”

“What do you mean by that?” demanded George.

“Why, that the freshness will be taken out of you one of these days.”

“Who’ll do it?”

“I don’t know, but I have a sure feeling that something will happen to
you unless you mend your ways.”

“Stop your arguing, you two,” exclaimed Grant. “You fight all day long.”

“We’re not fighting,” laughed Fred. “That’s just the way we show how
fond we are of each other.”

“Well, I must say you have a queer way of doing it,” said Grant. “I’d
hate to see what you’d do if you didn’t like each other.”

“Such a thing could never happen, could it, Fred?” demanded George.

“No, I guess not. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have some one
like you around to make fun of,” responded Fred.

“Who caught the big trout?” taunted George.

“Will you keep quiet about that fish?” exclaimed Fred. “All you do is
talk about it from morning till night. I never want to hear of it
again.”

“You will though,” grinned George.

“Oh, I know that, but I wish something would happen to keep you quiet.”

Such a thing was destined to come about before Fred dreamed it would and
it was also something he never would have thought of, possibly.

“I need some wood for this fire,” remarked Grant, who was busied with
preparations for dinner. The sun was fast sinking in the west and the
light was commencing to fade. A lone kingfisher winged his way across
the lake returning to his home, a hole dug in some bank overlooking the
water. All was quiet and peaceful.

“I need some wood for this fire,” Grant repeated, for no one had paid
any attention to his former statement of this fact.

“You hear that, Pop?” inquired Fred. “Grant needs some wood.”

“Yes, I heard him,” replied George. “What’s the matter with you; your
legs haven’t turned to stone, have they? Can’t you get it?”

“I can, but I have to wash the dishes to-night. It seems to me that
that’s just about enough for me to do.”

“All right,” sighed George, “I’ll get it. It strikes me, though, that I
do about all the work around here that there is to be done.”

“Yes, it’s too bad about you,” jeered Fred. “Take the ax and get out of
here.”

“It’s pretty dark,” said George as ax in hand he started for the clump
of trees in the rear of the tent. It was growing dark as George had said
and it was becoming more and more difficult to pick out the narrow
trail. He had advanced but a short distance when a little animal ran out
into the path and trotted along ahead of him.

“Why, look at the cat,” exclaimed George half out loud. “I wonder how it
got on the island here.”

As he spoke the little black and white animal left the path and entered
a clump of bushes on one side. George had always been extremely fond of
pets of all sort and he followed eagerly.

“Here puss, puss, puss,” he called. “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.”

There was no response and he called again. He used his most enticing
manner and did his best to coax the little animal out again.

“Wouldn’t they be surprised back at camp,” he thought, “if I should
bring in a cat? It would make a fine mascot for us too.”

He bent over the bushes where the cat had disappeared and called again;
no response came, however. He bent the twigs aside and stepped in,
looking carefully all about him as he went forward. Suddenly he uttered
a cry of surprise and started back. He thought he was choking, and
springing back into the narrow pathway he turned and ran for the tent as
fast as his legs would carry him.



CHAPTER XIII—THE OUTCAST


George’s one idea was to run away, but the remarkable part of the
adventure was that it seemed to be impossible to shake off that from
which he was trying to escape.

A moment later he arrived at camp and spying his three friends seated
around the fire he made his way towards them. As soon as he reached the
spot where they were he threw himself upon the ground and commenced to
moan and groan violently.

“Oh, dear, oh, dear,” he cried. “What have I done? What have I done?”

“Why, Pop!” exclaimed Grant in alarm. “What’s the matter with—”

He broke off suddenly in the midst of the sentence and looked at George
in horror. All sympathy for the sufferer quickly left him.

“Get out of here!” he cried, but not waiting for George to leave he
departed quickly himself. He was accompanied by Fred and John who seemed
to be stricken with some strange malady, a mixture of anguish and
laughter.

“What shall I do? What shall I do?” cried George as he saw his three
friends leaving him.

“Do anything you want,” called Fred. “Drown yourself if you like, but
don’t come near me.”

“Where’d you get it, Pop?” shouted John gleefully. “You’d better go soak
in the lake for a couple of days.”

“Get away from that fire,” cried Grant. “Our supper is being cooked
there and we can’t come back until you leave.”

“I’m not stopping you,” replied George. “Come back and tell me what to
do.”

“I told you,” exclaimed Fred. “Go and drown yourself.”

“Where’d you get it, Pop?” repeated John and immediately went off into
gales of laughter.

“You caught the trout all right,” laughed Fred. “You caught something
else. Something a good deal bigger than that fish too.”

“Isn’t it awful!” exclaimed John holding on to his nose. “I remember my
younger brother once ran across a skunk like this and he had to live in
the barn for two days.”

“To think that Pop should be the one, too,” said Fred delightedly. “It
seems almost too good to be true.”

“It’s true all right enough,” said Grant grimly. “Go up close to him if
you don’t believe it.”

“What shall I do?” called George to his three unsympathetic companions.
He was standing near the fire, anguish depicted on his face. He was in a
sorry plight, for no matter where he went he could not escape the almost
overpowering odor that clung to him.

“Take all your clothes off and throw them in the lake,” said Grant.
“Then go take a swim yourself.

“After that we might let you come back,” added Fred.

“But I can’t throw away perfectly good clothes,” protested George.

“They’re not ‘good’ any more,” laughed John. “Throw them away.”

“Burn them if you like,” suggested Fred. “Do anything you want with
them, only get rid of that smell. You can’t come near us until you do.”

“Is that so?” demanded George and he took a few steps forward. “Who says
I can’t come near you?”

“Don’t do it, Pop, don’t do it,” begged Grant. “If you only knew how you
smelled.”

“I do know; don’t worry about that. It follows me wherever I go.”

“Please don’t come near us,” exclaimed Grant as George still moved
towards them.

“I thought I’d come over and hug Fred,” said George. “He’s so pleased
about it all that it seems only fair that I should share the smell with,
him.”

“You stay away!” cried Fred in alarm. “Don’t you touch me. Don’t come
within forty rods of any of us.”

“Oh, Fred,” grinned George mischievously, “don’t run away from me. I
just want to show you how fond of you I am.”

As he spoke George walked slowly towards the group of three boys who
stood and watched him anxiously. They knew that George would stop at
nothing once he was started and his offer to share the smell of the
skunk with Fred gave them ample cause for alarm. Fred was the one most
worried and he really had good reason for his alarm, for he knew that
George would like nothing better than to rub up against him and inflict
the awful odor on him too.

“You keep away from me, Pop!” cried Fred uneasily.

“Don’t you like me?” grinned George.

“Oh, yes, I love you,” exclaimed Fred, knowing well that whatever he
might say it would be exactly the wrong thing.

“Then let me hug you,” urged George, advancing steadily nearer.

“I’ll hit you over the head with this rock.”

“Why, Fred, how unkind of you; I really am surprised.”

“You’ll be worse than that if you don’t keep away,” warned Fred, but he
backed away a few feet as he saw George steadily approaching.

“Let’s get out of here,” whispered John to Grant and unnoticed by George
they withdrew and made their way back to the fire.

“Pop certainly has Fred worried now all right,” laughed John.

“I should say so,” agreed Grant. “The joke was on Pop at first but it
certainly is on Fred now. Just look at them.”

George still advanced slowly towards the spot where Fred was standing.
He held his arms out, entreating Fred to come to him, but Fred very
evidently had no intention of doing any such thing. He was slowly
retreating, threatening George meanwhile with all manner of punishment
if he was not left alone.

“Come to me, Fred,” begged George, a wide smile on his face. He was
content to suffer the discomfort of the terrible odor himself as long as
he could worry his friend so effectively.

“Keep away from me, I say!” threatened Fred, brandishing a stick in his
right hand. “I swear I’ll hit you over the head with this if you don’t.”

“Oh, Fred, you wouldn’t do that, would you?” exclaimed George,
pretending great surprise. “You wouldn’t hit your old friend who only
wants to share something nice with you. You can’t be serious.”

“You heard what I said.”

“But Fred—”

“Whew, what a smell!” cried Fred suddenly and he turned and fled as fast
as his legs could carry him. Close behind him followed George calling
out at every step for Fred to wait and share something nice with him.
These invitations however seemed to have no effect upon Fred, for he
merely increased his speed.

Now it so happened that the course Fred followed in his flight led
behind the tent and down the same narrow trail where George had had his
disastrous encounter with Mr. Skunk only a short time before. It also
happened that Mr. Skunk had not left the neighborhood with such
eagerness as had George; indeed he had been inclined to linger around
the same spot where they had met before.

As has been told the path was narrow and hard to follow and the night
was growing darker every moment. Unfortunately for Fred a vine stretched
across the path just before he came to the spot where George had
searched for the “cat.” This vine caught Fred’s toe and he sprawled at
full length on the ground; George, but a couple of steps in the rear of
him, had to jump over the prostrate body of his friend in order to save
himself from meeting the selfsame fate.

When Fred fell he not only surprised but greatly annoyed Mr. Skunk who
was lurking only a few feet away. As a result Fred was treated to the
same dose that had made George so unpopular around the camp.

Together the two boys returned to camp. They were fellow sufferers now.
Though nearly overcome by the powerful stench, they bore with it long
enough to walk arm in arm up to the fire and put Grant and John to
sudden flight. This provided them much amusement but the smell was too
strong to be borne any longer.

“I guess we’ll have to do as Grant advised,” said George.

“What was that?”

“Throw our clothes away and take a swim.”

“I guess you’re right,” said Fred and side by side the two boys made
their way down the water’s edge.



CHAPTER XIV—TALKING IT OVER


Monday morning came and found the four young campers eagerly awaiting
the arrival of their challengers. There was great speculation as to what
they would look like and whether or not any set of games between the two
camps would provide an equal contest.

“I believe we can beat them,” exclaimed George confidently.

“Don’t be so sure,” advised Grant. “You’d better wait until you see your
opponents before you begin to make any predictions.”

“That’s right,” said Fred. “You’d better not talk too much about it
either, Pop. You’ll need all your wind for the swimming and canoe
races.”

George gave the speaker a scornful glance but said nothing. The four
friends finished their breakfast and lolled about the camp waiting for
their rivals to appear.

“There they come now,” exclaimed John after the lapse of about an hour.

“Where?” demanded George. “I don’t see them.”

“That tree is in your way, I guess,” said John. “You’ll see them in a
minute or two.”

“There they are!” exclaimed George suddenly. “Their boat looks just like
the Balsam, doesn’t it?”

“I think it is the same,” said John. “It seems to me my father told me
that there were two catboats on the lake made by the same man and made
exactly alike.”

“That’ll be fine,” said Fred eagerly. “No one can claim any advantage
because of the boat then, and the best sailors will win.”

“Let’s hope we’re the ones,” laughed Grant. “Come on, who’s coming down
to the wharf to meet our guests?”

“We all are, I guess,” exclaimed John, and a moment later the four boys
were standing on the tiny dock waiting for the approaching catboat to
come into their little harbor.

“They’re good sailors all right,” whispered Fred as he watched the boys
in the boat maneuver their craft. “We’ll have to be awfully good to beat
them.”

“All the more credit if we do,” said Grant.

“Ahoy, there!” he shouted a moment later. “You’d better anchor a little
way out from the dock here. We’ll come out in the canoes after you.”

“All right,” came the reply. “Did you get our challenge?”

“We certainly did,” said Grant.

“Good. I hope you’ll accept it.”

“Of course we will.”

The boat swung around and one of the crew threw the anchor overboard.
The sail was quickly lowered and everything was done in a quiet
business-like way that instilled a great amount of respect into the
hearts of the boys who, from the dock, were watching the proceedings.

A moment later Grant and John each took a canoe and set out from the
shore. They came alongside the catboat, which was named the Spruce, and
quickly transferred the crew to the canoes, and thence to the shore. One
of the boys, Thomas Adams by name, seemed to be the spokesman for the
party and he proceeded with Grant’s help to introduce everybody all
around.

Much laughter and embarrassment followed but before long all of the boys
were quite at their ease. They left the dock and proceeded to the tent
and all sat down on the ground in front of it. It seemed that the camp
at the end of the lake was very much like the one on the island. It was
occupied by four boys of just about the same age as the others and
practically of the same size.

“We thought it would be fun,” said Thomas Adams speaking for his three
friends as well as himself, “to challenge you fellows to a set of water
sports. We heard that there were to be four of you on this island this
summer and we saw you the other day just when you were leaving our camp;
right after that storm I mean. We were sorry to miss you.”

“We were sorry, too,” said Grant.

“You were away when we came to see you too,” said Thomas.

“Yes,” said George, “we were off trout fishing for a few days.”

“Have any luck?” asked Hugh McNeale one of the other visitors.

“Pretty good,” said George. “We had a lot of fun too.”

“Who caught the biggest fish?”

“Ask Fred here,” grinned George. “He knows all about that.”

Being urged to do so Fred proceeded to relate the story of how George
had carried off the prize. He did not spare himself in the telling
either and left out no detail of how disappointed he had been to find
that George had beaten him out. When he told how George had hooked his
trout the story was greeted with gales of laughter and congratulations
were showered upon the fortunate fisherman.

“A fellow with schemes like that would be hard to beat in any sort of a
game,” laughed Hugh.

“What sort of games are we going to have?” asked John.

“We thought a sailing race would be fun,” said Hugh.

“Yes, and so would swimming and canoe races,” exclaimed Grant. “Do you
think three events will be enough?”

“How about a tilting contest?” said Thomas.

“What’s a tilting contest?” asked Fred curiously.

“Didn’t you ever hear of that?”

“Never that I know of.”

“Why, it’s like this,” explained Thomas. “Two fellows get into a canoe;
the one in the stern paddles and steers and the fellow in the bow has a
great long pole with one end of it all wrapped up with rags or something
like that. Another canoe fixed up the same way opposes them and the two
attack each other. The fellows with the poles jab at each other and try
to upset the other canoe or knock the bow man overboard; if he falls
overboard or the canoe upsets of course they lose the match.”

“That sounds fine,” exclaimed George. “I say we include a tilting match
by all means.”

“Two from our camp will take on two from yours,” suggested Thomas.

“All right,” agreed Grant. “We’ll enter our star team.”

“Entries will close one second before the match starts,” laughed
Franklin Dunbar, a fat, round-faced boy, who had spoken but little thus
far.

“And probably our team will be upset and in the water one second after
the match starts,” laughed George.

“It’ll be fun anyway,” said Thomas. “When shall we have the games?”

“We were wondering about that too,” said Grant. “I guess almost any time
will suit us though.”

“We’ll need some practice,” remarked Fred. “Don’t forget that.”

“Not much,” said Grant. “I say not to practice too much. We don’t want
to make professional games out of them, you know.”

“That’s all right, too,” objected Fred. “At the same time we want to
make them worth while and the better we all are the more fun they will
be too. Don’t you think so?” and he appealed to the four young visitors
for their opinion.

“I agree with you,” said Thomas readily. “Our camp wants to beat yours
too, and if you fellows don’t take it seriously why there won’t be much
honor in it for us if we do win.”

“There’d be plenty of disgrace if we lost under those conditions
though,” laughed Franklin Dunbar.

“We don’t know anything about tilting either, Grant,” said George. “We
will need a lot of practice for that event.”

“All right,” agreed Grant. “I guess we do need practice. As far as I’m
concerned, anything you fellows say suits me. How about a judge though?
Suppose we should have a close finish in one of the races, who would we
have to decide it for us?”

“My uncle is coming to spend a week with us in camp,” said Hugh McNeale.
“He might act as judge if we wanted him.”

“That would be fine,” exclaimed Grant. “When is he coming?”

“Not till week after next.”

“That’s all right,” said Fred. “That would be just about right.”

“Suppose we set two weeks from Wednesday then,” suggested Thomas. “That
ought to give us plenty of time to get in shape.”

“All right,” agreed Grant. “We ought to have some sort of name for our
teams too. Have you any name for your camp?”

“No, we haven’t.”

“Neither have we. Suppose you call yourselves the red team and we’ll be
the blue.”

“Fine,” exclaimed Hugh. “I’ll write a letter to Uncle Jack and tell him
what he has ahead of him. I’ll tell him that he really is to be the
umpire and that he’ll get the same treatment an umpire does if he
doesn’t do his job well.”

The remaining details were speedily arranged and then the four boys of
the red team sailed back to their camp, leaving the boys on the island
full of excitement and pleasure at the thought of the games ahead of
them.



CHAPTER XV—PREPARATION


The days intervening until the time came for the games were busy ones
for the boys in the island camp. The Balsam was thoroughly overhauled,
and everything removed from her that might tend in any way to retard her
speed. Frequent cruises were made and every boy was assigned to some
special duty on the boat so that when the race was held there would be
no confusion. None of the young campers had any desire to lose the race
through inefficiency.

Long swims were indulged in to improve their wind and strengthen their
muscles. Canoe races were held and different combinations tried to
enable them to select the strongest team. A course a half-mile long was
marked out and time-trials held in an effort to decide upon the fastest
pair. All four boys were to be in the race but it had been decided that
the best policy was to put the best two paddlers in the same canoe. By
following this plan it was thought that their chances for winning would
be greatly improved. First place was to count two and second one in the
sailing and canoe races and in the tilting match. In the swimming race
three places were to count, the points to be scored being three for
first, two for second and one for third. The team scoring the greatest
number of points was to be declared the winner.

Practice for the tilting match occupied very much of the boys’ time. Two
long poles had been cut and one end of each was wound with old rags and
blankets, thus forming a large soft knob.

“If we’d only saved those clothes that we had on when the skunks got
after us,” remarked George, “we could have won a tilting contest from
anybody.”

“What do you mean by that!” inquired Grant curiously.

“Simply this. Instead of using rags to wind the poles with we could have
used those clothes.”

“What advantage would that have been?”

“Don’t you see?” demanded George. “All we’d have to do would be to point
the pole at our opponent. We wouldn’t have to touch him at all; as soon
as he got a whiff of that awful odor he’d simply faint and fall
overboard and we’d be the winners.”

“A great idea, Pop,” laughed John. “Why didn’t you think of it at the
time?”

“In the first place I didn’t know anything about this tilting match at
the time; in the second place, even if I had, I don’t believe I’d have
kept them. Whew, they were awful!” and George shuddered at the
recollection.

“They certainly were,” agreed Fred. “Don’t talk to me about it; my
clothes were all in the same condition as yours.”

The same system that was adopted for selecting a team for the canoe race
was used for the tilting match. Every possible combination of the four
young campers was tried in an effort to find the strongest competitors.
Grant and John had been selected for the canoe race, and Grant and
George were decided upon for the tilting contest.

It had been taken for granted that Grant would be on both teams; he
outshone his companions in every form of game and sport just as he did
in his knowledge of books. He and George were heavier than the other two
boys and consequently made a more powerful team for the tilting match.
Weight would be an asset in that sport, for it is much easier to knock
down a light man than it is a heavy one; especially when a tricky and
shaky canoe is under your feet.

“I seem to be out of it,” remarked Fred ruefully when the final
selections had been made.

“Why are you?” demanded Grant. “You’re going to be in the canoe race
just as much as John and I?”

“I know it, but I’m not on the first team.”

“That’s all right, you and Pop might beat us out after all.”

“Huh,” exclaimed Fred. “Pop doesn’t do any work; he just sits there and
expects me to do it all.”

“You know that’s not so, Fred,” protested George warmly. “No one in the
world works harder than I do.”

“Well, if that’s so,” returned Fred, “all I can say is that there are an
awful lot of loafers in the world.”

“All four of us will be in every event except the tilting match,” said
John. “You and I are both out of that, Fred.”

“You can save your strength while that’s going on for the swimming
race,” said Grant. “We’ll have to depend on you two to win first and
second in that.”

“How long is it going to be?” asked George.

“A hundred and seventy-five yards. Tom Adams was over here yesterday
while you were away and we decided on that distance.”

“It seems to me like a queer distance though,” said George. “How did you
ever happen to hit on that?”

“Why, we wanted to make it a hundred yards and they wanted a two-twenty.
We finally compromised on a hundred and seventy-five yards.”

“That’s fair enough,” said George. “How are we going to measure off
these different distances?”

“Guess at them, I suppose,” laughed John. “It won’t make any difference
whether they’re exact or not, I guess.”

“No, I imagine we’re not going to break any time records so we needn’t
bother about such details,” agreed George.

“We haven’t had any practice so far to-day,” remarked Fred. “What’s the
matter; are we afraid of getting over-trained?”

“That can be done easily enough, all right,” said Grant. “Don’t you
remember what the track coach we had at school last year said?”

“He said I’d never make a runner if that’s what you mean,” laughed
George.

“No, not that. What he said about training.”

“What was it?” asked Fred. “I don’t remember.”

“Why, he said it was much better to be under-trained than over-trained.
Another thing, when a fellow was training for a certain event he’d never
let him run the full distance in practice.”

“Is that so?” exclaimed George. “That doesn’t sound logical to me
though.”

“All right,” said Grant, “but you know which school won all the meets
held anywhere around home, don’t you?”

“We did,” said George.

“That’s just it,” exclaimed Grant, “and yet you say that trainer was no
good.”

“I didn’t mean to say that. All I said was that it didn’t seem
reasonable to me not to let a fellow run the full distance.”

“Well, Mr. Smythe used to say that the great temptation for most fellows
was to do too much work. They’d go out and run all the afternoon and
hang around until they were tired out and then wonder why they felt
heavy in the legs and had no life in them.”

“Sailing can’t hurt us anyway,” said John.

“That’s right,” agreed Grant, “and I’m in favor of doing this: stop
training for the events to-morrow. That’ll leave us two days to rest up
before the games are held and we can devote those two days to learning
how little we know about sailing.”

“I know that already,” laughed George. “I’m afraid we’re going to get a
good beating in that race.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Fred objected. “They might run on a rock or
something.”

“That’s our best chance all right,” said George. “I have an idea that
those fellows are all awfully good sailors.”

“I hope we have some wind,” said Grant hopefully. “We’ll never finish
the race unless we have a pretty stiff breeze. Personally I think the
course is too long.”

“Twice around the lake,” said John. “That’s not so far.”

“It’s pretty far,” insisted Grant. “Wait until you see the buoys out and
then you’ll realize it.”

“Who’s going to put them out?”

“The red team,” laughed Grant.

“They’re doing most of the work, aren’t they?” inquired Fred.

“Well, they wanted to; naturally I didn’t object.”

“They’re going to get dinner over here, you know,” said George. “That’ll
give us something to do.”

“Just think of it,” exclaimed John. “Won’t we be hungry that day? The
swimming and canoe races and the tilting contests all in the morning and
then food. You’ll have to cook a lot, Grant.”

“I realize that,” said Grant grimly. “I guess we can feed them though.”

“Suppose we’re all even at the end of the morning,” exclaimed George.
“That would certainly make the sailing race exciting, wouldn’t it?”

“It sure would,” Fred agreed. “We’ll have plenty of time to sail it too,
Grant. All afternoon ought to be long enough.”

“That’s right,” said Grant. “Yes, I hope we can get around twice in one
afternoon.”

“This canoe race is what’s bothering me,” exclaimed George. “That’ll
take it out of us all right. It’s hard work paddling and as long as Fred
and I aren’t the first team I wonder if it wouldn’t be better if we
didn’t go in it at all. If we were fresh for the swimming race that
might increase our chances.”

“I know,” said Grant, “but it seems to me that every fellow ought to be
in every event.”

“But look here,” George objected. “You and String are a much better pair
than Fred and I. You simply walk away from us every time; we can’t
possibly beat you so what’s the use?”

“You might get second, and that one point might win for us.”

“I have an idea,” exclaimed John suddenly. “Why not make it a relay
race? We can race around the island and if we do that everybody can be
in it and it seems to me it would be a lot more fun that way.”

“That’s fine,” exclaimed George warmly. “Fred and I can paddle the first
lap and you and Grant the second. Will those other fellows agree to it
though?”

“I don’t see why they shouldn’t,” said Grant. “It’s just as fair as the
other way; fairer if anything because it gives every one a chance.”

“We’ll have to ask them about it though,” said John. “Why can’t we sail
down there now and see them?”

“We can,” said George springing to his feet. “Let’s do it, too.”

A few moments later the Balsam was under way, headed for the end of the
lake and the camp of the enemy, the red team.



CHAPTER XVI—GRANT MISSES


The day set for the meet came at last. The first event, the tilting
contest, was scheduled for eleven o’clock and a half an hour before that
time the red team was on hand. The weather was ideal, bright and sunny
and warm, with not too much breeze. This was as the boys desired, for
they had hoped that the wind might not spring up until afternoon. At
least that is the way they would have arranged matters if they had any
power to do so. Strange to say it seemed as if the weather was to turn
out just as they had hoped.

Hugh McNeale brought his Uncle Jack along and all the boys were
captivated by him at once. He was a big, jolly man, full of fun, and
with a laugh that made you feel as if you wanted to join in it every
time you heard it. He was enthusiastic over the idea of being the judge
and promised to do his very best.

“I also have a trophy for the winning team,” he exclaimed. “It’s
something that you boys ought to have had in your camps anyway, but I
haven’t seen one in either and so I’m going to give it as a prize.”

“What’s that?” inquired Hugh curiously.

“See for yourself,” exclaimed Mr. Maxwell, for that was the name of
Hugh’s uncle. He took a package from underneath his coat and unwrapping
it, spread before the admiring gaze of the eight boys a silk American
flag about three feet in length.

“Say!” said George enthusiastically. “That’s worth working for, isn’t
it?”

“It certainly is,” agreed the seven other boys, almost with one voice.

“That’s the first prize,” said Mr. Maxwell, evidently greatly pleased
with the result the sight of the flag had produced. “Here’s the second,”
and from his pocket he drew another flag of the same quality as the
first but only half the size.

“I’m ashamed of you boys,” he continued. “Both of these camps should
have had a great big American flag flying right out in front of the
tent. Let people see that you’re patriotic and be proud of it.”

“We are proud of it,” objected Grant.

“Of course you are,” said Mr. Maxwell readily. “I want you to show it
off though. Have a flag, and every time you look at it don’t think only
of how beautiful it is. Remember what it stands for and how much you owe
to it. Think of the country that stands back of that flag and of the
millions of others who along with you have it for their national emblem.
You’re all glad you’re Americans and you’re proud of the fact and I want
you never to be afraid to admit it. Be loyal to the flag, boys, and by
your actions prove that you’re worthy of the protection it affords you.
And don’t forget either that it’s your duty as real American citizens to
do your part. That’s what so many forget so easily. You can’t expect to
receive benefits all the time and not give anything in return, you
know.”

“What can we do?” asked George, who along with all the others was deeply
impressed by Mr. Maxwell’s words.

“Just this: be good citizens. A good citizen is a man who not only obeys
the laws of his country, but who is always working to make his country
better. He puts his country’s interests ahead of his own and that’s a
hard thing to do sometimes. A good citizen stands by the mayor of his
town, and the governor of his state, and the president of his country.
Instead of sitting home and criticising them he gets out and works to
help them in every way he can and he is loyal to them. Those men are
behind this flag and if you are loyal to the flag, prove it by being
loyal to the men behind it. Every man must do his part.”

“I guess we’re careless at times and don’t think,” said Grant soberly.

“That’s true,” agreed Mr. Maxwell. “That’s no excuse for us though.”

“But I didn’t come here to make a speech,” he continued laughingly. “I
believe what I’ve just said with all my heart though. At present,
however, I know there is a tilting contest to be held and we’d better
start it at once. I’m anxious to see who gets the first two points
towards winning the big flag.”

Without further delay the four boys who were to compete in this event
set about preparing themselves for it. Bathing suits were donned so that
an upset would not cause any worry and the two canoes were soon ready
for the fray.

Grant and George represented the blue team and Thomas Adams and Franklin
Dunbar, the red. Grant was bow man, with George to handle the canoe;
Thomas was bow man, and Franklin paddled in the opposing boat.

The contest was staged in the little harbor and the judge and spectators
took their positions on the tiny wharf. The canoes now faced each other
some fifty feet apart, waiting for the signal.

“Not too fast now, Pop,” warned Grant. “I don’t want to fall out of the
canoe before we even reach the other one, you know.”

“I know,” replied George. “I’ll be careful.”

“I’m going to stay down on one knee like this, too.”

“That’s a good scheme. Lock your feet around that thwart if you can. We
want to beat those fellows.”

“All ready?” came the call from shore.

“All ready,” answered Grant, and Thomas did the same.

“Go,” shouted Mr. Maxwell, and the match was on.

Franklin and George did not try to make speed however. In fact they were
both very cautious and as a consequence, the two canoes approached each
other slowly. Both pilots seemed willing to let the other man lead off
in the attack.

“Careful, Pop,” said Grant, without relaxing his gaze from his
opponent’s face for one instant.

“All right. I’m watching them.”

Grant, crouched on one knee, was holding the pole as a mediæval knight
would have held his lance in a jousting tournament. Thomas however,
stood up in his canoe, gaining a little freedom of action perhaps, but
at the same time increasing his chances of going overboard.

The canoes were only a few feet apart now and the bow men braced
themselves for the onslaught.

“Let ’em have it now, Grant!” shouted John from the shore. Fred joined
him in his exhortations, while Hugh and Herbert Halsey were just as
noisy in their zeal to cheer their team on, and for the size of the
audience the amount of sound produced was marvelous. Mr. Maxwell was the
only one who was silent.

Closer came the two canoes. Now they were within range and Thomas lunged
forward savagely at Grant. He ducked the blow and aiming one in return
caught his opponent full in the stomach. Thomas uttered a loud grunt and
fell backwards. As luck would have it however, he fell in the canoe. The
light craft rocked dangerously and narrowly missed upsetting. As it was,
some water was shipped and had it not been for the skill of the two
occupants it surely would have overturned.

“Quick, Grant!” urged George. “Hit him again before he can get up.”

“Bring me closer to them.”

George thrust his paddle into the water and the canoe shot forward.
Franklin, however, with ready presence of mind had swung his canoe
around the minute it righted itself and Grant’s lunge at Thomas missed.
Before George could bring his boat within range again, their opponents
had recovered their balance and were prepared for the second attack.

Once more the canoes approached each other. This time Thomas followed
Grant’s example and crouched on one knee. He had evidently learned a
lesson and had determined to be more wary.

“Get him, Grant! Get him!” shouted John.

“Careful, George; not too fast,” warned Grant.

He held his pole back waiting an opportunity to strike. This time he was
determined that any blow he delivered would end the match; he had been
out-lucked before and did not want it to happen again.

Thomas made a feint at him. Grant was anxious and struck back so eagerly
that he almost fell out of the canoe.

“That’s the way, Tom,” called Hugh. “You’ll fix him this time.”

Again Thomas feinted and again Grant lunged fiercely at his opponent.
Thomas then followed up his bluff with a quick stab that luckily only
struck Grant a glancing blow on the shoulder. Had it hit him squarely,
the match most certainly would have been ended then and there; as it was
only George’s quick action saved them from going over.

“Don’t let him fool you, Grant,” he warned. “Wait for him.”

Again they advanced and as they once more neared each other Thomas
repeated his former tactics. He made a feint to lunge at Grant, and as
before, Grant was unable to resist the temptation to strike back
quickly. This he did and Franklin in the stern of the opposing canoe,
anticipating this move, backed water and the blow missed Thomas’ head by
inches.

The poles the boys were using were long and heavy. As a result, they
were somewhat clumsy and hard to handle. As Grant lunged forward at
Thomas, he leaned over the side of the canoe and the weight of his pole
prevented him from regaining his balance at once.

Thomas and Franklin had evidently mapped out their plan of campaign
beforehand and apparently Grant had acted exactly as they wished him to.
Thomas held his pole with a shortened grip and before Grant could
recover his equilibrium, he jabbed at him with all his might. The great
wad on the end of the pole caught Grant squarely on the chest; he
dropped his pole and waved his arms violently about his head in an
effort to save himself.

All his efforts were of no use, however. Undoubtedly he would have gone
overboard anyway, but just to make sure, Thomas gave him a gentle push
with the business end of the pole and over he went. As he disappeared
over the side he gave the canoe a shove with his feet and a moment later
George joined him in the water.



CHAPTER XVII—GEORGE’S STRATEGY


A moment later Grant and George came to the surface puffing and shaking
the water from their eyes and hair. Both boys were laughing.

“Nice work,” said Grant to their two opponents, who sat in their canoe
nearby.

“We were lucky,” protested Thomas.

“Lucky, nothing,” exclaimed Grant. “You knew more about the game than we
did and you deserved to win.”

The canoe belonging to the defeated boys floated close at hand, bottom
side up. The pole and the paddle were a short distance away. These were
soon rescued and the canoe being righted, the contestants made their way
to shore. John and Fred were the first to congratulate the winners.

“We’ll have to win this canoe race,” exclaimed Fred. “You fellows have
two points to our one as it is now, and we can’t afford to let you get
twice as many again this time.”

“We’re going to do our best to get twice as many though, you may be sure
of that,” laughed Hugh McNeale. “We want that big flag.”

“If you win it, you’ll certainly be welcome to it,” exclaimed John. “We
want it ourselves though, I can tell you.”

The best of feeling existed between the two camps, but this fact did not
serve to lessen the competition and rivalry. Good sportsmanship adds
zest to every game.

“Where are the first pairs for this canoe race?” cried Mr. Maxwell. “We
mustn’t let these events lag, you know.”

“We’ll be ready in a minute,” replied Grant. “We want to get all our
wind back and remove all the water from this canoe first.”

“That’s right,” said Herbert Halsey. “You fellows take your time.”

The suggestion of the blue team that the next event be made a relay race
around the island, had met with an enthusiastic response from their
rivals. Two teams from each camp were to compete and each team was to
paddle once around. The first pairs consisted of George and Fred, from
the blue team and opposed to them were Herbert Halsey and Franklin
Dunbar, from the red. Finishing the race were Grant and John, against
Hugh McNeale and Thomas Adams. Each camp had selected its strong team to
paddle last, hoping to win the race by a powerful finish.

“I guess we’re all ready now,” said Grant, when a few moments had
elapsed. “We’ll go ahead any time you say.”

“All right,” said Mr. Maxwell. “Now remember the rules; the starting
line is directly opposite this dock and I’ve got some string which we
will use for tape at the finish. Each team is to paddle once around the
island. When the second relay starts, the two canoes that have finished
will be stationed out here about twenty feet apart and this string will
be stretched between them; that will be the finish line. All four canoes
will be used of course and the second relay must not start until those
completing the first have touched the canoes with their paddles. Is it
all clear?”

“All clear,” said Grant, and Thomas answered for his side.

“Very well,” exclaimed Mr. Maxwell. “The first canoes may take their
places and the second relay had better be ready too.”

George and Fred pushed out from the dock and paddled slowly to the
starting point; Herbert and Franklin followed close behind.

When they were in position, and by the way the red team had drawn the
course nearest shore, Mr. Maxwell lifted his small megaphone and gave
his final instructions.

“Remember,” he called, “once around, and the inside team this lap will
be the outside next. Don’t get mixed up.”

“That’ll be a little help to us,” said John in a low voice to Grant. “I
hope Fred and Pop can give us a little lead to start out with.”

“I hope so too,” replied Grant.

“On your marks!” shouted Mr. Maxwell.

Four boys sat up alert and eager for the final word.

“Get set!”

Four paddles were raised and held poised for instant action.

“Go!”

The blades were dipped deeply into the water and the race was on. Side
by side the two canoes sped along.

“You fellows better go out there and take your places,” said Mr.
Maxwell, turning to the four boys who were to continue the race the next
relay. “We don’t want any mixup then, you know. It would be a shame to
have those boys paddle over half a mile for nothing.”

In response to his suggestion, Grant and John, and Hugh and Thomas,
paddled slowly out to the starting line, there to await the arrival of
their respective team-mates.

“Take it slow, Fred,” urged George from his position in the stern of the
racing canoe. “Don’t kill yourself right at the start.”

They had covered about one hundred yards of their course and all four
boys were paddling with every ounce of strength they possessed.

“Dip your paddle deep,” he continued. “Take a long easy stroke. A good
steady pace is what we want.”

“They’ll get way ahead of us,” protested Fred.

“What if they do? They’ll be all in at the finish and we’ll start a
sprint.”

In response to George’s suggestion they eased up materially. As Fred had
predicted the other canoe immediately began to draw away, for its two
occupants did not relax their efforts for an instant. Wider and wider
the gap opened between them until thirty feet separated the two racers
when they came to the first turn.

The island was oval in its shape, very much like an egg. The start had
been made from a point about midway between the two ends. The first
stretch, therefore, was half the length of the island, then the corner
was turned and the whole length of the island was covered, ending with
the home stretch, half the length of the island again.

Steadily and strongly, George and Fred paddled. Herbert and Franklin
still worked desperately, taking nearly three strokes to the other boys’
two, and as a result, the gap between the two boats continually widened.

“Don’t let it worry you, Fred,” said George. “They can’t keep up that
pace very much longer.”

“They’re not weakening yet though, Pop.”

“I know it, but we’ve only covered half the course so far.”

Steadily the red team’s canoe drew away. Forty, fifty feet, they were in
the lead now. If any one had been in a position to observe, however, he
would have seen that its occupants were beginning to show signs of
weakening. Their breath came faster and faster, the perspiration rolled
off their faces in streams, and their muscles began to ache and throb.

Relentlessly George and Fred followed them. Not one bit did they
increase their efforts, though George had great difficulty in
restraining his companion. Powerful, even strokes urged their tiny craft
on and now they were holding their own. Just ahead of them was the last
turn which was to bring them into the home stretch.

“How do you feel, Fred?” asked George.

“Fine.”

“Are you tired?”

“Not very.”

“I hope not. We’ll start a sprint the second we round that turn and
we’ll have to put all we’ve got into it.”

The leading canoe was even now turning the point. The boys in it were
plainly tired as their frequent splashing showed. They still worked
desperately, however, and it would be no mean task to overtake them.

Grant and John sat in their canoe at the starting point eagerly awaiting
the appearance of their team-mates. To their dismay, it was Franklin and
Herbert who first hove in sight and to the waiting boys it seemed as if
hours elapsed before George and Fred rounded the turn. At last they
appeared, however, over thirty yards in the rear.

“Now, Fred!” urged George, as they started on the home stretch. “Let ’em
have it.”

Like demons the two boys began to ply their paddles. The light canoe was
quick to respond and it fairly flew over the water. Foot by foot and
yard by yard they gained on their fast-tiring opponents.

Franklin and Herbert paddled desperately. Their strength was gone
however; they had used it all up at the start of the race. Their arms
felt like great chunks of lead and it was all the two boys could do to
make them respond to the urging of their wills.

At racehorse speed, George and Fred plowed along. The gap between the
two canoes began to disappear as if by magic. The steady pace they had
maintained had tired them, to be sure, but they still had plenty of
reserve strength left and they were using it now when it counted most.
The cheers of their team-mates waiting for them came faintly to their
ears, spurring them on.

“We’ve got ’em, Fred! We’ve got ’em!” exclaimed George triumphantly.
“Stick to it.”

Fifty yards away was the finish line and the canoes were almost on even
terms. Forty yards and George and Fred were in the lead. Their rivals
were beaten, dead tired, and possessed of scarcely the strength
necessary to urge their canoe across the line.

Thirty yards from home and George and Fred enjoyed a lead of nearly five
yards. They were moving at easily twice the speed of their opponents
now. It seemed certain that Grant and John were to be handed a splendid
head-start for the last relay, when an unexpected and most disheartening
thing suddenly happened.



CHAPTER XVIII—A CLOSE MATCH


Fifteen yards from the finish Fred’s paddle broke. It snapped off short
in his hand and as a result, the canoe almost upset. It seemed as if
their splendid effort was to go for nothing. Herbert and Franklin,
seeing the plight of their rivals, were endowed with new hope that they
might win their relay after all. The hope thus aroused gave them just
strength enough to urge their canoe forward across the line. Herbert
lifted his paddle and touched the canoe in which Hugh and Thomas waited
so impatiently, and then sank back against the thwart exhausted.

The disaster to Fred was nearly fatal. The canoe rocked dangerously and
though it did not turn over, it lost every bit of its momentum.

“Sit down, Fred!” shouted George. “I’ll paddle.”

One man against two is a severe handicap, however, even if those two are
well nigh exhausted. It must be remembered also that George too, was
nearly fagged out. In spite of his usual lightheartedness, he had an
indomitable will, however, and not one of the boys had more nerve than
he.

He dipped his blade deep into the water, brought the bow of the canoe
around so that it pointed in the proper direction, and urged it forward.
Meanwhile the other canoe had passed them and crossed the line at least
five yards in the lead.

Grant and John were off like a flash, however, and the advantage the red
team enjoyed was not insurmountable by any means.

“That was tough luck, boys,” exclaimed Mr. Maxwell earnestly to Fred and
George. “You two certainly deserved to win that relay.”

“You surely did,” echoed Franklin Dunbar. “That was about the toughest
luck I ever saw.”

“Fred’s too strong,” laughed George. “It’s awfully hard to get any
paddle that he won’t break.”

“Don’t pay any attention to what he says, Mr. Maxwell,” urged Fred. “He
thinks he can tease me; personally, I think he’s crazy.”

“I hope not,” laughed Mr. Maxwell.

“He’s fresh though,” insisted Fred.

“Not now,” puffed George. “My breath’s gone and I’m all in.”

“That was a great race,” insisted Mr. Maxwell. “I don’t remember ever
having seen a better one.”

“We were about twenty-five yards ahead of them at one time, you know,”
said Herbert. “I thought we would win easily.”

“So did I,” exclaimed Fred. “You kept drawing away from us all the time
and I thought we wouldn’t even be in it. I wanted to paddle harder all
the time but Pop here wouldn’t let me. He insisted that we keep up a
steady gait and sprint at the end.”

“My system was all right, wasn’t it?” demanded George.

“It surely was. You didn’t count on the paddle breaking, though.”

“Oh, yes, I did. I knew that if you exerted all your strength that any
paddle would snap; that’s the reason I wanted you to save it until the
end. Suppose you’d cut loose over the other side of the island and the
paddle had broken there. We’d have been in a nice fix, wouldn’t we?” and
George winked solemnly at their three visitors who seemed much amused at
his efforts to secure a rise from his companion.

“Oh, dry up!” exclaimed Fred shortly, and George laughed gleefully at
having accomplished his purpose.

Meanwhile the two other canoes were rounding the first turn.

“Sprint, John! Sprint!” Grant urged the moment they had started. “Catch
up to them and hang right on to them all the way around.”

Paddling with all their strength Grant and John succeeded in catching up
with their opponents. When the bow of their canoe was within a few feet
of the stern of the other they eased up a bit and contenting themselves
with allowing their rivals to set the pace, they kept their position
with bulldog determination.

Thomas and Hugh sprinted. Grant and John followed suit. If the leading
canoe slackened its pace the one behind did the same. Like a shadow the
two Go Ahead boys dogged their opponents’ course.

Such a proceeding always worries the leader. To know that a step behind
him is some one who follows him like grim death and who cannot be shaken
off by any means whatsoever, is bound to have its effect in the long
run. The pace-maker is irritated and bewildered and sometimes
demoralization follows as a result.

Grant was aware of this and he intended to make the most of it. He knew
that if Thomas and Hugh discovered that it was out of the question to
pull away from the pursuing canoe their confidence would be shaken and
once this quality is lost, a great asset is gone.

It is easier to follow the pace than to make it. Another advantage is
that the one behind can watch his opponent and note everything that he
does. The leader, on the other hand, cannot tell what his rival intends
to do and must always be on his guard lest he be taken by surprise.

Thomas and Hugh worked desperately. Evidently they had decided that
their best chance was to tire out the boys in the canoe that followed
them so relentlessly. With this object in view they started a sprint
when they had covered about one-third of the course and they kept it up.
Their team-mates had tried to sprint the entire distance, and failed.
Could these two do it? George and Fred had been content to allow their
rivals to gain on them, but not so Grant and John. Their one idea was to
hang on and hang on and hang on, until the time should come when an
opportunity offered itself for a quick dash into the lead. This chance
had not yet presented itself.

The four boys worked like demons. Down the whole length of the island
they raced, neck and neck. The same amount of open water showed between
the two canoes all the way along. It almost looked as if the first canoe
was towing the other. Maintaining these same positions they approached
the last turn.

“Now, String!” said Grant in a low voice. “When they take this curve,
I’m going to shoot in between them and the shore. Be ready.”

“All right,” replied John, without looking up from his task for an
instant.

The leading canoe now turned and began to round the point of the island.
Close behind them followed Grant and John. Thomas and Hugh were not far
from shore, so that Grant would not have much room to pass, if indeed
such a thing was possible. Just before the canoes entered the
straightaway leading to the finish line, the two Go Ahead boys made
their bid for the lead.

Grant in the stern swung the canoe in between the other and the shore.
The space was limited but their chance had come. It was now or never.

“Now, String!” cried Grant. “Let ’em have it!”

It seemed impossible that the two boys could work any harder than they
had been. Every one seems to have some reserve strength, however, no
matter how much he may have used before, and it was this store that
Grant and John called upon now.

Inch by inch they crept up. Soon Thomas from the stern of his canoe
could see out of the corner of his eye the bow of the blue team’s canoe.

“Paddle, Hugh!” he cried. “Paddle for all you’re worth!”

It was a desperate contest, but Grant and John were not to be denied.
The difference that setting the pace or following it made, was just
enough to give them a slight advantage. As far as skill and strength
were concerned, the four boys were remarkably well matched.

Down the home stretch they dashed, and little by little Grant and John
gained. They gained steadily also, and it was evident that if the course
were long enough they would be returned winners. But could they catch
and pass their rivals before the finish line was reached? That was what
worried Fred and George, who screamed themselves hoarse in their
eagerness to spur their comrades on.

No open water showed between the boats now. A few yards more and the red
team was but three-quarters of a length ahead. Soon this was reduced to
half a length and still Grant and John gained. The line was but a few
yards distant now however. Could they do it?

The veins stood out on their foreheads. Between their clenched teeth
their breath came in gasps. Still they struggled on, still they gained
slowly, almost imperceptibly and nearer and nearer they came to the
finish.

“If the course was only a few yards longer,” groaned George as he
watched the stirring finish from the canoe.

A moment later and the two racers were almost on even terms. It was
nearly impossible to tell which one was in the lead now, so evenly were
they matched. The tape was only a few feet away. With one final effort
the four young racers urged their canoes forward; they broke the tape
and shot on past. The race was over.



CHAPTER XIX—A CLOSE SHAVE


“Well!” exclaimed George. “I never saw anything to beat that!”

“Who won?” demanded Fred.

“Don’t ask me. I’m not the judge.”

The boys turned and looked at Mr. Maxwell who was seated in the other
canoe with Franklin and Herbert. His face was turned towards the two
canoes which had just flashed across the finish line. He wore a puzzled
expression and was evidently at a loss what to say.

“Who won?” called George.

Mr. Maxwell turned and looked at the speaker sorrowfully. “No one,” he
said.

“No one,” exclaimed George. “Why, how can that be?”

“Couldn’t it be a tie?” asked Fred quietly.

“Why, yes, of course. I hadn’t planned for a tie though.”

“I declare the race a tie,” announced the judge solemnly. “If either
boat was ahead of the other, I’m sure I didn’t see it, and I wouldn’t
dare call it anything else.”

The racers had turned around and were now making their way slowly back.
All four of the boys were well nigh exhausted, but they were smiling
nevertheless.

“Who won?” called Thomas, for they had not heard the judge’s verdict.

“It was a tie,” said George.

“A tie?” exclaimed Grant, his face falling. “That’s bad.”

“Why is it?” demanded George.

“Because we needed the points.”

“By the way,” exclaimed Hugh, “how do we award the points?”

“Split them, don’t we?” said Fred readily, appealing to Mr. Maxwell.

“Each team gets one and a half. Two for first and one for second makes a
total of three, and a half of three is one and a half.”

“Whew!” whistled George. “You certainly are quick at figures.”

A general laugh went up at Fred’s expense but he did not seem to mind.

“That’s the way it’s figured out anyway,” said Mr. Maxwell. “That makes
the total points three and a half for the red team and two and a half
for the blue.”

“Still one point behind,” exclaimed Grant. “We’ll have to get that back
somehow.”

“Well,” said Thomas, “the swimming race comes next and three places
count in that. Three for first, two for second, and one for third;
you’ll have a fine chance to catch us there.”

“I was just thinking,” interrupted Mr. Maxwell, “that it might be a good
idea to reverse the order of these last two events. You boys are pretty
well tired out after that canoe race and to swim a hundred and
seventy-five yards now would be quite a severe strain. What do you say
to our having the sailing race next?”

“Why,” said Grant slowly, “I don’t see any objection to that. What do
the rest of you fellows think about it?”

“How about dinner?” exclaimed George. “We could never finish by the time
we had planned to eat and I must say I’m hungry right now.”

“So am I,” said Hugh so earnestly that everyone laughed.

“Why don’t we have dinner right now then?” suggested Mr. Maxwell. “As
soon as we are through we can start the sailing race.”

“That’s a good scheme,” exclaimed Grant. “Let’s do that.”

“And have the swimming race after the sailing?” queried Thomas.

“That’s right,” said Grant. “The water’s more apt to be quiet later in
the day than it is now and that will make it better for swimming.”

“Very true,” agreed Mr. Maxwell. “The wind often seems to go down with
the sun and if the wind goes down the water becomes still.”

Without further delay they made their way ashore and preparations for
dinner were at once started. Grant usually did all the cooking, but
to-day he had an abundance of help. Wood was quickly gathered and a
blazing fire was soon under way.

Two of the boys were set to work peeling potatoes which were to be fried
in the pan. Others made ready the dishes and collected the knives and
forks. Mr. Maxwell had several good sized bass he had caught before
breakfast, and, what was even better, he had brought along a dozen and a
half ears of green corn, two for everyone present. Was it any wonder
that the young campers’ eyes sparkled with anticipation as they saw the
dinner being prepared?

Their appetites were keen as only those in the woods can understand. The
fragrant odor of sizzling bacon and roasting corn coming to their
nostrils only served to increase their eagerness.

“Isn’t this great?” cried George enthusiastically, when at last dinner
was announced as ready and the pleasant task of disposing of it had
begun. “If anything can beat this, I’d like to know what it is.”

“There is nothing that can tie it even,” laughed Mr. Maxwell, who seemed
to be enjoying himself as much as any of the boys.

“I only hope Pop won’t eat so much, he’ll sink the Balsam,” said Fred
doubtfully. “We have plenty of ballast aboard as it is.”

“You ‘tend to your own dinner,” advised George very promptly. “I’m too
busy to waste any time talking to you now.”

At last the meal was over, and every one had had sufficient to eat.

“All ready to start the race?” inquired Mr. Maxwell.

“Oh,” groaned Franklin, “I don’t feel as if I could move. I’d rather
crawl off somewhere and go to sleep. I guess I ate too much.”

“I _know_ I did,” laughed John.

“We’d better start though, I guess,” urged Grant. “The course is long
and while there’s a good breeze now you can’t tell how long it will
last.”

“That’s right,” agreed Mr. Maxwell. “You’d better get ready.”

The boys at once made their way to their respective boats and made the
final preparations for the race. Both boats had had their sails up all
the morning in order to dry them out thoroughly and there was very
little left to be done.

Mr. Maxwell sat in a canoe near at hand and watched the boys.

“Remember,” he said, “twice around the course. The first lap you go one
way and the second in the opposite. Be very careful to round every
stake. The start is from the same spot as the canoe race and the finish
is there, too. I will fire this pistol as a warning gun, and three
minutes later I will fire it again for the start. Be sure not to cross
the starting line before I give the second signal.”

“All right,” said Grant. “We’re all ready.”

“So are we,” echoed Thomas from the Spruce.

“Very well then,” said Mr. Maxwell. “Get your anchors up and move out by
the starting line.”

This was soon done and a few moments later the two catboats were
jockeying back and forth off the entrance to the little harbor. Fred was
at the tiller of the Balsam and Hugh guided the Spruce.

The sharp crack of the pistol announced that the race was about to
start. Grant had been waiting, watch in hand, for this signal.

“Take a short tack out and back, Fred,” he urged. “I’ll watch the time.”

“Hard-a-lea!” called Fred as he put the tiller over and the Balsam came
around into the wind. His crew quickly shifted sides, the sheet was
hauled taut, and the trim little boat scudded swiftly along before the
fresh breeze.

“Better go back now,” advised Grant when they had covered fifteen or
twenty yards. He scarcely lifted his eyes from his watch which he still
held in his right hand. “We’ve got a minute and a half more.”

Once more the Balsam came about and began to retrace its short course
towards the starting line. The Spruce was just off its starboard side,
with bow pointing directly into the wind and consequently was almost
stationary.

“We’ll cross the line too soon,” exclaimed John nervously. “We’ll have
to come back if we do.”

“Leave that to me,” said Grant confidently, his eyes still on the
second-hand of his watch. “I’ll look out for that.”

“We’re not a dozen feet from the line now though,” cried John in alarm.
“You’d better come around, Fred.”

“Don’t you do it,” exclaimed Grant sharply.

Closer and closer to the line they came. John, and for that matter Fred
and George also were intensely nervous for fear they should cross the
line before the signal. Grant, however, seemed confident that they were
on the safe side.

“We’ll have to turn around and start all—” began John, when Grant
suddenly interrupted him.

“Now,” he cried, and barely the fraction of a second behind his voice
came the sound of the starting gun. Almost simultaneously the Balsam
crossed the line; away to a splendid start and with a good lead of at
least fifteen or twenty feet on the Spruce.



CHAPTER XX—GEORGE SURPRISES HIS FRIENDS


“I take it all back, Grant,” exclaimed John. “You’re all right.”

“It was certainly close though,” said Fred solemnly.

“But ‘close’ doesn’t count in any game, you know,” laughed Grant.

“How about quoits?” inquired George.

“That’s right, Pop,” exclaimed Grant, “it does count in quoits, but I
don’t know of any other.”

“We’d better attend to our sailing,” warned Fred. “Trim that sheet in a
little, String.”

“That enough?”

“All right,” said Fred. “My, I hope this breeze holds.”

“It’s getting stronger, I think,” said George.

“It does seem to be,” agreed Grant. “It’s dead ahead of us now, but if
it doesn’t change, it’ll be right behind us on the last leg of the race.
I think it’s always fun to be able to finish straight before the wind.”

“That’s true,” exclaimed John. “We go in the opposite direction the
second round, don’t we?”

The Balsam was skimming over the water rapidly on a long tack to
leeward. Behind her came the Spruce, also making good time and with
about the same distance between the two boats that had separated them at
the start.

“They’re pointing up a little more than we are, I think,” remarked
Grant, after a glance at their rival.

“We’re all right, though,” said Fred confidently. “I don’t believe in
sailing as close hauled as that.”

“Perhaps not,” agreed Grant. “At any rate you know more about it than
the rest of us. We’ll have to do as you say whether we like it or not.”

They rounded the first stake thirty yards ahead of the Spruce. Fred’s
tactics on the first leg had proved successful, anyway.

“It’s easy,” exclaimed George confidently, as they slid past the stake
and settled back for the long reach to the next mark.

“Don’t talk like that, Pop,” urged John earnestly. “Don’t ever boast or
get overconfident; you’re sure to regret it if you do.”

“Knock on wood, Pop,” laughed Fred. “That’ll take away all the bad
effects.”

The four friends were in excellent spirits, for they enjoyed a
comfortable lead which seemed to be steadily increasing.

“There they come around the stake now,” exclaimed Grant, gazing behind
them. “They gave it a little more room than we did.”

“And consequently sailed a little bit farther than necessary,” added
Fred. “A few feet doesn’t seem very much at the time but in the long run
it amounts to a good deal.”

“On the other hand,” said John, “if you cut too close to the stake
you’re apt to foul it and then you’re disqualified.”

“The answer to that is easy enough,” laughed Fred. “Don’t hit it.”

“You fellows take more chances than I would,” said John doubtfully. “I
believe in playing safe.”

Steadily the Balsam drew away from her rival. The wind was strong now
and the lake was dotted with white-caps.

“Perhaps the Balsam is a rough-water sailor,” remarked Grant. “At any
rate she seems to be doing splendidly in this breeze.”

“If the breeze should die down they’d probably catch right up to us,”
said Fred. “Let’s hope it doesn’t.”

“What makes you think they’d catch us?” demanded John.

“Nothing. Some boats sail better in one kind of a breeze than in others.
This seems to be suited to a strong wind and I thought it was possible
that the Spruce would do better in a light one.”

“But they’re exactly alike,” objected John.

“I know it,” replied Fred. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll sail
just alike, though. I’ve seen ten boats all built on the same model, the
same size, and everything about them the same, and yet some of them seem
to be twice as fast as others.”

“It must be in the one who handles the boat, then,” said George.

“Not at all. I’ve seen them swap crews and the same boats win.”

“How do you explain it?” inquired Grant, who always liked to have a
reason for everything.

“I can’t, and I don’t believe any one else can, either. Some boats seem
to do well under certain conditions, and that’s all there is to it.”

“Well, the present conditions seem to suit the Balsam pretty well,”
exclaimed George. “Let’s hope they continue.”

The second stake was reached with the Balsam still farther in the lead
than before. The wind steadily increased in strength and forced the
sturdy little catboat through the water at an amazing speed.

“I didn’t know she could go so fast,” exclaimed John enthusiastically.

“None of us did, I guess,” said Grant. “She’s all right though, isn’t
she?”

“I should say so,” cried George. “Say, just look at her go,” and he
scrambled over to the other side of the boat. The Balsam was heeled far
over and the lee rail was awash. Now and then a wave, a little larger
than its fellows, slapped lustily against the side and covered the crew
with spray.

“We’ll have to reef her if this wind gets much stronger,” said Fred just
before they had completed the first round.

“What’s the use?” demanded George. “It’s great this way, and we’re
certainly gaining on those fellows all the time.”

“Yes,” said Fred, “but you don’t want to lose the mast, do you?”

“Or we might upset,” added Grant.

“Suppose we do,” cried George. “It won’t hurt us.”

“But we’d lose the race just the same,” said Fred. “Let that sheet out a
little there, String. Whenever she heels over like that, give her a
little more rope and I’ll bring her up into the wind for a second.”

“That makes us lose time, doesn’t it?” asked Grant.

“I think so. It seems to me that if we stopped and put a reef in the
sail we’d sail more evenly and as a result we’d go faster.”

“Those fellows in the Spruce don’t seem to be putting in any reefs, I
notice,” remarked George. “If they don’t need them I don’t see why we
do.”

“But the breeze is getting so much stronger,” insisted Fred. “It really
seems to me that we should put in one reef anyway.”

“How long will it take us?”

“Not two minutes. We can do it in no time.”

“We’d better wait until we round this next stake, I think,” said Grant.
“We can do it, then.”

“All right,” agreed George. “I don’t believe in it, though. I love it
this way,” and he exclaimed delightedly as the Balsam heeled far over
and the spray from the crest of one of the white-caps drenched him from
head to foot.

“It’s cold, though,” objected John.

“Nonsense,” cried George. “If you were half a man you wouldn’t mind it.”

John merely shivered, and placing Grant in temporary charge of the sheet
he crawled forward and drawing his sweater out from under the deck, he
put it on.

“Get ready now,” warned Fred. “The stake is just ahead.”

“And we’re going to take in a reef as soon as we round it. Is that
right?” inquired Grant.

“That’s the idea,” said Fred. “Here we go,” and putting the tiller hard
over he brought the Balsam cleanly around the mark and headed her up
into the wind.

“Let go that topping lift, Pop!” he cried. “Loose your halyards there,
Grant! Now, String, let’s get busy!”

He left his post, and ordering and helping his comrades, he took charge
of the work of reefing. He had predicted two minutes for the work, but
it took at least five, and before they had finished the Spruce was
almost up to them.

“Hurry, Fred, hurry!” urged George. “They’re catching us.”

“All right,” cried Fred, springing back to the tiller. “Haul in your
sheet there, String!”

The bow of the Balsam swung slowly around and as the sail filled she
began to slip through the water once more. Not twenty-five yards behind
them now came the Spruce, her full sail spread. Thomas waved his hand
and shouted something to the four Go Ahead boys but the wind blew the
sound away and the words were lost.

“What did he say?” demanded John.

“I didn’t hear,” said George. “He probably said they’d catch us in a few
minutes, and I guess they will, too.”

“You’re a pessimist, Pop,” said Fred, but he looked back anxiously at
the Spruce plowing along behind them.

“No, I’m not either,” exclaimed George. “I do think we made a mistake in
reefing that sail, though.”

“Wait and see,” said Fred, but he himself appeared to be anxious.

“If the wind should die down we’d be in a nice fix,” said George in a
discouraged tone of voice.

“It doesn’t seem to be going down now, though,” said Grant. “Just see us
go! And look at all the white-caps. I really think we’re doing better
than we did before.”

“But we’re not gaining on them any more,” insisted George gloomily.

“We don’t need to,” laughed Grant. “All we have to do is to hold our
lead.”

The relative position of the two boats was unchanged at the end of the
first leg on the second round. The Balsam still enjoyed her lead of
twenty-five yards over her rival. They had covered only a short distance
on the second leg when George suddenly remarked that the wind was dying
down.

“I know it is,” he insisted. “Just look; we aren’t tipping half as much
as we were.”

“I hope you’re wrong, Pop,” said Fred anxiously.

“But I’m not. Can’t you see it yourself?”

“Perhaps you’re right. At any rate it may only be a lull.”

In silence the four young sailors watched the sail and looked out over
the water and gazed fearfully at the Spruce so close behind them now.

“She’s gaining,” announced John.

“No doubt of it,” said George. “What shall we do?”

“What can we do?” demanded John in despair.

“Can’t we take the reef out?”

“If we did,” said Fred, “we’d have to stop, and they’d surely pass us,
and whether we’d ever catch them or not would be a question.”

“But won’t they pass us if we don’t take the reef out?” demanded George.

“I don’t know. We’ve got to take a chance either way.”

“And no matter what we do,” added George, “we’re bound to lose.”

“Cheer up, Pop,” urged Grant. “The wind hasn’t gone down very much and
they haven’t passed us yet.”

“Can’t we take the reef out while we’re going like this?” demanded
George.

“Oh, we can,” said Fred. “It would be awfully hard, though, and
dangerous, too; besides that, we might tear the sail.”

“Let me try it,” begged George. “We mustn’t lose this race and that’s
all there is about it.”

Working under Fred’s guidance, and taking desperate chances George
finally succeeded in shaking the reef out of the sail. The halyards were
tightened and once again the Balsam moved along under her full spread of
canvas.

“Now I feel better,” sighed George, as he settled back in the cockpit
once more. “That short sail worried me.”

“We certainly lost a lot of time fooling around there,” observed Fred.
“It was all my fault, too.”

“Forget it,” exclaimed Grant. “We’re still ahead of them, aren’t we?”

“But not much,” said Fred, and he glanced hastily around at the Spruce
not more than fifteen yards distant now.

“I hope they don’t get our wind,” said George. “It’s certainly going
down and we need every bit of it we can get.”

“You’re right, Pop,” said John. “The wind is lighter and you know what
Fred said about the Spruce probably doing better than the Balsam in a
light breeze.”

Still maintaining their slight advantage the Balsam turned the last
stake and started down the home stretch. The wind was dead astern of
both boats now and the sails were stretched at right angles to the mast
in order to get the full benefit of the breeze.

“They’ll blanket us, I’m afraid,” muttered Fred gloomily.

“What do you mean by that?” asked George.

“Why, they’ll get right behind us and shut off all our wind.”

“Don’t let them do it, then.”

“You don’t think I’d let them on purpose, do you?”

“They’ll catch us on this straight away, I’m afraid,” said Grant in a
low voice. The boats were so close together now it was necessary to
speak softly to keep from being overheard.

“Everybody move back towards the stern,” ordered Fred. “Perhaps if we
get her bow out of water a little she’ll do better.”

They followed Fred’s directions, but little by little the Spruce crept
up on them. The wind was dropping rapidly; it seemed that on this
woodland lake storms and winds came and went with equal facility.

The Spruce had blanketed their boat momentarily as Fred had predicted.
Drawing even, however, the Balsam once more caught the breeze and the
racers moved forward on even terms.

“We certainly have some great finishes, don’t we?” called Hugh from the
other boat.

“Well, I should say so!” exclaimed Grant. “They’re heartbreaking.”

All at once George left his seat and moved forward.

“Where are you going, Pop?” demanded Fred. “You’d better come back here
and sit down.”

George, however, paid no attention to this advice nor did he deign any
answer. He continued serenely on his way until his reached the forward
deck. Straightening himself up, his amazed companions saw him place his
right hand on the mast and scratch it with his finger-nails.



CHAPTER XXI—HOW THE PLAN WORKED


“He’s gone crazy,” muttered Grant. “What does he think he’s doing?”

George, having completed his strange performance, returned to the stern
of the Balsam and quietly resumed his seat.

“What were you trying to do?” demanded John curiously.

“I scratched the mast.”

“I know you did. Why did you do it?”

“To give us more breeze.”

“I suppose scratching the mast is going to make the wind blow,” and John
laughed loudly. “I think you’re crazy, Pop.”

“Wait and see,” said George calmly. “I remember that I once read
somewhere about sailors scratching the mast when they wanted a breeze,
so I thought I’d try it. We need to try everything if we want to win
this race. They’re ahead of us now.”

“All right,” smiled John. “I guess you didn’t do any harm anyway.”

“That’s the way I figured,” exclaimed George. “All sailors are
superstitious and they believe in those things. As long as we’re
sailing, why don’t we try them ourselves?”

“Where’s your breeze?” demanded Grant.

“There it comes,” said George, pointing astern of them. A puff of wind
was approaching and a patch of the water could be seen to be ruffled by
its breath. A moment later it struck the Balsam and in answer the little
catboat increased its speed.

“Why won’t the breeze help them as much as it does us?” inquired Fred.

“We’ll hope they won’t get any of it,” said George. “You notice that
that last puff didn’t hit them and that we gained a little by it.”

“It’s certainly close,” said Grant. “We don’t want another tie, though,
and we don’t want second place, either.”

“Only a quarter of a mile to go,” said Fred. “We’ll need more wind.”

“Scratch the mast again, Pop,” urged John.

George did so and another gust of wind caught them and drove them along
a little faster.

“Isn’t that queer?” exclaimed Grant. “It seems to work though. Try it
again, Pop.”

Again George scratched the mast and once more a puff of wind caught
their sail. The Balsam was now several feet ahead of her rival and
rapidly approaching the finish.

“Don’t do it any more, Pop,” urged Fred. “At least don’t do it as long
as we are ahead. If they catch up to us try it again. Of course it’s all
luck, but it is certainly strange, isn’t it?”

“It surely is,” agreed John. “How do you account for it?”

“You can’t account for it,” exclaimed Grant. “You don’t suppose that
scratching the mast really makes the wind blow, do you? It has just
happened that way, that’s all.”

Nearer and nearer the two boats came to the finish. Waiting for them was
Mr. Maxwell, seated in one of the canoes, on a line with the tape.

“A little more sheet, String,” said Fred. “That’ll do.”

“They’re almost up to us,” whispered John, doing as Fred had ordered.
“Let Pop scratch the mast again.”

George was eagerly awaiting a signal to do this very thing. Fred nodded
to him, and using both hands this time George scratched the mast
lustily. Call it coincidence or luck or whatever you like, a strong puff
of wind struck the Balsam almost immediately. She heeled over and for
the first time in a half-hour made such speed that it was possible to
hear the water rippling under her bow.

“Here we go!” cried George lustily, and with a rush the Balsam swept
forward and crossed the line a good six feet ahead of their rival.

“Balsam wins!” shouted Mr. Maxwell, and a hearty cheer for the victor
was immediately given by the crew of the defeated boat.

“How did you like my stunt?” grinned George proudly, addressing his
remarks to his three companions. “Any time you want to win a sailing
race just come to me and I’ll tell you how to do it.”

“Huh!” snorted Fred, “I suppose you‘ll have a big head for the next year
on account of that.”

“Look here, Fred,” exclaimed George, winking at his other friends. “I
wouldn’t say very much if I were you. You insisted upon reefing the sail
and as a result we nearly lost the race; if it hadn’t been for my great
brain and cleverness we surely would have been beaten. However, as long
as it turned out the way it did I will forgive you.”

“I made an error of judgment and yours was nothing but luck,” retorted
Fred. “I want you to remember that, too.”

The boats were now returning to their moorings and when they had been
made fast the crews went ashore and met on the dock to talk things over.

“You boys certainly have the closest finishes I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed
Mr. Maxwell. “You don’t try to fix them that way, do you?”

“Not if we can help it, I tell you,” said Thomas laughingly. “I thought
we were going to win this last race.”

“So did we,” exclaimed Grant. “You would have won, too, if it hadn’t
been for George here. At least that’s what he says, anyway.”

“What did he do?” inquired Mr. Maxwell curiously.

“I scratched the mast,” said George.

“‘Scratched the mast’!” exclaimed Mr. Maxwell. “Why did you do that?”

“To bring us more wind.”

“You must be superstitious,” laughed Mr. Maxwell.

“Well,” said George, “I never used to be, but I am sort of that way now;
it worked so beautifully.”

“Where did you ever hear of such a thing?”

“I read about it in some book and as things looked pretty desperate for
us I thought I’d try it.”

“You mean to say that all you have to do when you want a breeze is to go
up and scratch the mast?”

“Oh, I don’t think it would work every time,” laughed George. “I guess
it will give you help only when you need it very badly. If you tried it
all the time I suppose you’d soon wear out the charm.”

“Well, you won, anyway,” said Mr. Maxwell laughingly. “That makes you
all tied with four and a half points for each team. The swimming race
will have to decide it.”

“Is every one ready for that now?” asked Grant.

“The red team is ready for anything,” laughed Thomas.

“All right,” said Mr. Maxwell. “The race will start just as soon as
possible and remember that the points will be decided, three for first,
two for second, and one for third this time.”



CHAPTER XXII—A STRANGE PERFORMANCE


A course had been measured one hundred and seventy-five yards in length.
The start was from a large rock that stood out of the water some fifteen
yards off shore and the finish was at the dock.

The contestants made their way to the starting point by way of the
shore; at least they walked until they came to a spot directly opposite
the big rock and then waded out as far as possible, swimming the last
few yards. Before many moments had elapsed the eight boys were lined up
in a row waiting for the signal. Mr. Maxwell stood on the dock, a pistol
in his hand.

“We’re counting on you, Grant,” John had said as they walked along the
shore. “You’ve simply got to win.”

“Suppose I do,” said Grant. “That’ll mean three points for us and unless
we take one of the other places, too, that’ll give the red team three
points. If that happens the meet will end in a tie.”

“Maybe George can get a place. He’s not a bad swimmer, you know.”

“I know he isn’t, but you’re just as good yourself.”

“The trouble is we’ve never seen these other fellows swim and we have no
idea whether they’re any good or not.”

“Well, if we do our best we shan’t have any reason to kick, I guess,”
laughed Grant.

He was far and away the best swimmer of the four Go Ahead boys, and so
often had he proved his superiority over them that it was now taken for
granted. He was the only one who had mastered the crawl stroke. He knew
it so well that it was almost second nature to him now, but to his three
companions it still remained a mystery. That it is not an easy thing to
acquire will be vouched for by any one who has attempted it. Fred was a
wretched swimmer and knew perfectly well that he stood no chance in the
race; he entered merely because he did not wish to miss anything. John
and George were about on a par, both of them good average performers,
but nothing more.

“All ready?” shouted Mr. Maxwell through his megaphone.

“Everybody ready?” asked Thomas.

Every one said he was and Thomas waved his hand to the judge. All eyes
were fixed upon the figure standing on the dock, his right arm upraised
with the pistol in his hand.

They had not long to wait. A flash and then the sharp report of the
revolver, and almost together eight gleaming white bodies hit the water.
Fred was the one exception; his position had been next to George and
when the signal for the start was given he had been a trifle slow in
diving.

A mad scramble ensued the moment all the contestants were in the water
together and there was much splashing and confusion. Fred was behind the
others and consequently bore the brunt of the whole mixup. He had not
taken two strokes when George, who was ahead of him, struck him
violently in the stomach with his foot.

It was a powerful blow and well nigh knocked all the wind right out of
Fred’s body. “Ugh!” he groaned and sank from sight.

George turned in alarm to see who it was that had been on the receiving
end of his effort and was just in time to see Fred reappear puffing and
gasping. This sight seemed to tickle George immensely and he began to
laugh. Fred choked and gargled and wheezed and try as he would, George
could not control his laughter.

Meanwhile the other six contestants were far ahead and one glance
convinced George that he and Fred were hopelessly out of the race.

“What’s the matter with you?” exclaimed Fred angrily.

“I didn’t mean to kick you,” said George, and once more he burst into
loud and uncontrollable laughter.

“I’m not talking about that,” cried Fred even more aroused by the
spectacle of his friend’s mirth. “Why did you drop out of the race?”

“I got laughing so when I saw your face that I forgot all about the race
and everything else. I never saw such a funny sight in all my life.”

“Huh,” snorted Fred. “You’re a nice one. We’ll probably lose the meet on
account of you.”

“I couldn’t help it,” cried George, and once more he began to laugh. “I
just started laughing and I couldn’t stop.”

“Come ashore before you drown, you idiot!” exclaimed Fred, and side by
side they made their way to land.

The other contestants were now strung out in a long line. Grant was
easily in the lead and it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would win
the race. Like some great fish he plowed through the water. His feet
worked fast and evenly while his hands reached out with a great sweep
and drove him speedily along. His face was under water most of the time;
every few strokes he rolled over on one side, sucked in a great mouthful
of air and then continued as before.

The real race was for second place and there were three in it. Hugh,
Thomas, and John went along almost abreast. John could see that Grant
would win the race easily enough, but he realized that in order to win
the meet it was necessary for him to finish at least third. He was a
good swimmer but was not a racer. Many times he had covered long
distances in the water but had paid scant attention to developing his
speed.

He used a powerful overhand stroke and when he was moving slowly he was
practically tireless. He now was worried, however. He did not dare look
around to see where George was for fear he might lose a few precious
inches. He did not expect to see Fred, for he knew that his small
comrade was a very poor swimmer. He had considered himself and George
about on a par and he wondered how it could have happened that he had
outdistanced him so far. Had he known the truth undoubtedly he would
have been just as angry as Fred had been and his speed certainly would
not have been benefited as a result.

Ahead of him he saw Grant and ahead of Grant he spied the dock and Mr.
Maxwell standing on it waiting. It seemed very far away. Beside him swam
Hugh and Thomas, one on his right and the other on his left. They were
breathing hard and splashing heavily, but still they did not seem to be
slowing up.

John put forth every effort. He too was becoming short of wind and his
arms and legs began to feel the strain. It had been a hard day and this
last contest was a severe test for all the boys.

“I must beat one of them! I must! I must!” John kept saying to himself
over and over again. Then the next time he saw his rivals Thomas was
several feet ahead of him and gaining.

John groaned. Hugh still kept abreast of him and try as hard as he could
John seemed powerless to shake him off. He gritted his teeth and strove
desperately to make his arms go still faster. Nature could not be forced
however; his arms seemed made of lead and every time he raised them he
wondered if it would not be the last.

Far ahead he saw Grant only a few feet from the dock. Thomas, too, was
many yards in advance of him now. “I simply can’t keep it up any
longer,” thought John, and the next instant, “Don’t quit,” he told
himself, and he forced his tired muscles to carry him along a few
strokes more. He set his jaw determinedly and decided he’d keep it up
till he reached the dock no matter what happened later.

Suddenly an idea struck him. “Perhaps Hugh is just as tired as I am,” he
thought. “In that case all I have to do is to keep on swimming at a
moderate pace and I’ll beat him.”

Hugh was certainly splashing more than he had been and evidently was in
trouble. “I’ll get him yet,” thought John and for a moment he felt
stronger. “I’ve forgotten the others though,” he suddenly realized and
the fear that some one would creep past him before the finish assailed
him all at once. He decided to roll over on his back and look.

He did so and behind him he saw only two swimmers. They were not near
enough to be dangerous however and John did not even recognize them.
That two of the contestants were missing he did not notice at all.

Often when swimming long distances he had turned over up on his back in
order to rest and now he was surprised to find how even a few strokes in
that position relieved his aching muscles. The finish was close at hand
now, however, and he dared not continue in that fashion any longer. He
rolled over and resumed his overhand stroke.

Grant was already on the dock standing beside Mr. Maxwell. Thomas had
just reached the goal and was pulling himself up out of the water. To
his surprise John noticed that in spite of the fact that he had been
swimming on his back Hugh had not gained anything on him. His brief rest
had refreshed him considerably and with added confidence he struck out
for the finish. Without really noticing it he was aware that Hugh was
floundering more than ever. He did not turn to look, however, but
concentrated every effort on his swimming, and still struggled on
towards the goal.

He lost sight of Hugh; he saw nothing but the dock ahead of him. His
lungs cried for mercy and his muscles ached, but vigorously he still
kept going. After what seemed centuries he reached the dock, not knowing
whether he had beaten Hugh out or not. In fact he did not care much now.
He had gained the dock at last and he was happy.

He raised his eyes to look about him and what he saw was very strange
indeed. Mr. Maxwell, standing fully clothed on the dock, suddenly dove
right over his head into the water.



CHAPTER XXIII—AN UNEXPECTED HONOR


Tired as he was John realized that this was strange proceeding. He tried
to pull himself up on the dock, but he was too weak and slipped back
into the water.

“Grant,” he called, “give me a lift.”

“Come ahead,” cried Grant, bending over and extending his hand to John.

With this help the tired boy lifted himself out of the water and sank
down on the dock almost completely exhausted. He lay flat on his back,
his eyes closed.

“Where’s Hugh?” he panted. “Did I beat him?”

There was no answer.

“Grant,” said John. “Did I beat Hugh?”

Still no reply, and he opened his eyes to see what the reason for the
silence was. He slowly raised himself to one elbow and looked about him.
Black spots danced before his eyes and at first he saw nothing; then his
eyes suddenly became accustomed to the surroundings and he gasped. For
the moment he had forgotten that he had seen Mr. Maxwell jump into the
water but he remembered it now and he saw the reason for it.

Grant had finished the race and not greatly tired had been standing
alongside Mr. Maxwell watching the others approach. The race between
John and Hugh was what interested them most for they saw that Thomas
would finish an easy second and so the final outcome of the meet
depended on these two.

“A pretty tight race,” remarked Grant.

“I should—” began Mr. Maxwell when he suddenly stopped and stared.

John had just turned over on his stomach again for the final dash. Hugh
was at his shoulder and the onlookers were enjoying the close finish.
Suddenly, however, Hugh disappeared from sight. He simply sank beneath
the water with no warning whatsoever and John reached the dock alone.

“He’s exhausted,” cried Mr. Maxwell, and without waiting an instant he
dived into the water, fully clothed as he was, to rescue his nephew.

When John opened his eyes he saw Mr. Maxwell in the water, swimming for
the dock with one hand and holding Hugh by the hair of his head with the
other.

“What’s the trouble, Grant?” demanded John.

“Hugh sank.”

“What was the matter with him?”

“He was tired out, I guess. Here, let me have him now,” he said to Mr.
Maxwell and leaning out from the dock he seized Hugh by the arms. His
uncle gave the half-drowned boy a boost and he was soon stretched out at
full length on the little wharf.

“That was a close call,” exclaimed Mr. Maxwell grimly as he clambered
out after him. “It’s a lucky thing he was so near the dock. Where are
the rest of the boys?”

“Here are two of them,” said Grant as Franklin and Herbert swam
leisurely up to the dock. Seeing that they were hopelessly beaten they
had not exerted themselves the last seventy-five yards of the race.

“Where are the other two?” exclaimed John anxiously. He had recovered
most of his breath and strength now and not seeing George or Fred was
fearful lest the fate that Hugh had so narrowly escaped had befallen
them.

“Turn around and you’ll see.”

George and Fred came walking towards the dock.

“Where did you two come from?” demanded John in surprise. “The last I
saw of you was when we all dived off that rock together. How did you get
up on shore that way?”

“Have you ever been kicked by a mule?” asked Fred.

“What are you talking about?” John was completely mystified.

“I asked if you’d ever been kicked by a mule.”

“What has that got to do with this race?”

“Simply this,” said Fred. “A mule kicked me in the stomach at the start
of the race and I had to quit.”

“I think you’re crazy,” exclaimed John. “What happened to you, Pop?”

“He was the mule,” said Fred. “Who won the race anyway?”

“Tell us what you’re talking about first,” said John, beginning to get a
little bit angry. “Stop talking in riddles.”

Fred explained how his stomach had come in contact with George’s foot
and how, as a result, they had both been compelled to give up the race.
The tale provided much amusement to the listeners and even Hugh, who had
partly revived, joined in the laughter.

“I’m no mule though,” insisted George.

“You’ve got a kick like one just the same,” laughed Fred. “Tell me,” he
continued, “who won the race.”

“Grant won,” replied Mr. Maxwell.

“Good work, Grant,” cried Fred. “Who was second?”

“Thomas.”

“When you tell me who was third you’ll also tell me whether we won the
meet or not. Who was it?”

“John was third,” said Grant.

“John?” exclaimed George in mock surprise. “It can’t be possible.”

“Don’t get so fresh,” said John and he gave George a violent push which
sent him flying off the end of the wharf into the water.

“Serves him right,” said Fred approvingly. “He’s very much too fresh.”

George came to the surface, gasping and choking.

“Congratulations, String,” he cried as soon as he had shaken the water
out of his eyes. “Glad you got a place; I thought you would.”

“You can’t keep that fellow down,” laughed Fred. “There’s no use in
trying. He’s fresh and he knows it, but no matter what you do to him he
keeps it up just the same.”

“He’s not fresh,” laughed Mr. Maxwell. “He’s just full of spirits.”

“I don’t know what we’d do without him anyway,” said Grant feelingly.
“There are not many dull moments when Pop is around.”

“I would suggest,” said Mr. Maxwell, “that you boys go and put your
clothes on. The sun is beginning to go down and it’ll be cold soon.”

“I’m cold now,” exclaimed John. “I’m going to get my clothes all right.”

He hurried off towards the tent closely followed by the seven other
boys. A brisk rub down with heavy towels soon got their blood to
circulating once more and no one felt any ill effects from all their
exercises and exertion of the day.

“Now I shall present the prizes,” said Mr. Maxwell when the boys were
assembled in front of the tent. “The blue team wins the meet by the
margin of eight points to six. I congratulate them and take great
pleasure in presenting to them the big American flag. They all know how
I feel about it and I expect them to treat it as it should be treated.”

“Three cheers for the blue team,” cried Thomas lustily and they were
given with a will, as Grant stepped forward to receive the trophy.

“And now the second prize,” said Mr. Maxwell. “It’s not as big as the
first but the size doesn’t count. Everything depends on whether our
hearts are with the flag or not. If I should happen to come back to this
lake unexpectedly any time this summer I shall expect to see both these
flags flying in front of their respective tents.”

“We’ll promise that all right,” said Thomas readily, and as he took the
emblem from Mr. Maxwell’s hand, Grant led a cheer for the red team.

“One more prize,” continued Mr. Maxwell. “I brought something which I
decided should go to the boy who in my judgment gave the best individual
performance. That is who in any one event showed the most nerve and
grit. Perhaps he didn’t win the event but he worked hardest and that is
what to my mind deserves the credit.”

He produced a large four-bladed pocket knife and held it up for the
eight boys to see. This was a surprise to them all and they looked at
one another in amazement. They also cast many envious glances at the
knife which was certainly a beauty and one of which any boy could well
be proud.

“It was an awful job deciding,” said Mr. Maxwell. “Every one did so well
I was almost in despair as to whom to give it to. I have finally
decided, however, and I feel sure you’ll all think the boy deserves it.”

Not one of the boys had the least idea who was to become the fortunate
owner of the knife and in keen suspense they all waited.

“I will now ask the winner to step forward,” continued Mr. Maxwell. “I
watched him closely in the contest which I think entitles him to the
prize and I don’t remember ever having seen a finer exhibition of pluck.
I know just how tired he was and how much nerve he required to keep
himself going. He didn’t win the race himself but he did win the meet
for his team and I think he should have the credit. John, here is your
knife. That was a great race you swam a few minutes ago.”

John was completely taken by surprise. He had not for a moment expected
that he was to be the fortunate one and he was almost overcome.

“Yea, String!” shouted George heartily. “Let’s give the old thin fellow
three cheers.”

Congratulations were in order and there was much laughter and fun. Every
one was in excellent spirits and all pronounced the meet a decided
success. The day was fast waning now and the party of visitors prepared
to leave the island for their camp at the other end of the land. The
four Go Ahead boys escorted them to their boat and good-bys were said.
Promises that the eight boys would see one another soon were made and
the Spruce weighed anchor and glided out of the little harbor.

“Well,” exclaimed Grant when their guests had gone, “I think we had a
pretty fine time to-day.”

“We certainly did,” agreed Fred. “What we want now is a pole for our
flag. It ought to be set right up in front of the tent there.”

“I’ll get the ax right now and we’ll go and cut one,” said George. “Come
along, Fred.”



CHAPTER XXIV—IN QUEST OF GAME


The days and weeks slipped by and still the life in the island camp did
not pall on on the four Go Ahead boys. They were busy every moment with
the thousand and one duties and pleasures of camp life and the summer
days drifted by like a succession of pleasant dreams.

One of the boys’ favorite occupations was shooting at a target. Fred was
the owner of a little twenty-two caliber, hammerless rifle, and many an
hour was spent by the boys in practice with this small gun. It was
surprising how skillful they had become.

Grant and John were lying on the wharf one afternoon trying to shoot the
heads off some water lilies that grew near the shore on the opposite
side of the harbor.

“Now just suppose that one was an Indian,” exclaimed John, taking
careful aim at an unsuspecting lily bud. The sharp spit of the little
rifle followed and the bullet struck the water some two feet the other
side of the “Indian.”

“You’ll have to do better than that,” laughed Grant. “We’ll all be
scalped in a minute unless you get him. Let me try.”

John passed over the gun and on his first attempt Grant split the bulb
clearly in halves.

“Good shot, Grant,” exclaimed John. “You saved our lives.”

“Just suppose that had been a lion or a tiger or a rhinoceros or some
animal like that charging down upon us,” said Grant. “Suppose we were
caught in a little ravine and we either had to kill the animal or be
killed ourselves. What would you do?”

“I’d probably be so scared I’d faint or something,” laughed John.

“It would take nerve all right, wouldn’t it?”

“More than I’ve got, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I think most people are brave when it comes right
down to the point.”

“I hope I’d be, anyway,” exclaimed John. “I think a coward is about the
worst thing in the world.”

“Some people that seem the most timid have the most nerve when it’s
really needed,” remarked Grant. “The ones that talk the loudest are not
always the bravest by a long shot.

“Perhaps they try to make up by noise what they lack in nerve,” laughed
John. “I’ve noticed that too, and I’ve also discovered that it doesn’t
pay to make fun of anybody. Do you remember that boy at home? Everybody
used to call him a ‘sis’ and a ‘willie-boy’ but when Bob Jackson’s dog
fell into the mill-race he was the only one who had nerve enough to jump
in after him. That taught me a lesson, I can tell you.”

“I wonder what animal is the most dangerous in the world.”

“A lion is, I guess.”

“I don’t think so. Lions are mostly scavengers they say and I’ve heard
that tigers are worse than they are. A tiger doesn’t give any warning at
all when he attacks.”

“Well, I’d just as soon not meet either one of them on a lonely road,”
laughed John.

“Nor I,” agreed Grant. “I’ve heard though that a rhinoceros or an
African buffalo is worse than either a lion or a tiger.”

“How about a grizzly bear?”

“They’re all pretty bad, I guess,” said Grant. “I wouldn’t stop to argue
with any one of them.”

“Let me have that gun again,” exclaimed John. “If we’re going to meet
all these ferocious wild animals we’ll need more practice in shooting.”

Just at this moment, however, George and Fred appeared. They came out of
the clump of trees behind the tent and seemed very much excited about
something.

“Hey, Grant!” called Fred. “Where’s the gun?”

“Right here. What’s the matter?”

“Do you remember what you said about wanting to shoot one of those big
herons and have it stuffed?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Well, Pop and I discovered one just now in that little marsh over on
the other side of the island.”

“Bring the gun along and maybe you’ll get a shot at it,” exclaimed
George. “You’d better hurry though.”

“He won’t be there now,” said Grant.

“Why won’t he?” demanded Fred. “You won’t get him if you sit there and
do nothing, like a great big galoot though. Let me have the gun if you
don’t want it yourself.”

“Oh, I’ll go with you,” exclaimed Grant rising to his feet. “I don’t
think for a minute he’ll still be there though. What was he doing?”

“Looking for fish, I guess,” said George. “He was wading around in the
swamp on those great long legs of his; he looked as if he was on
stilts.”

“Grant doesn’t seem very eager, Pop,” remarked Fred. “I wish he’d give
us the gun.”

“Come along,” cried Grant. “I’ve been waiting for you to start.”

“Huh,” snorted Fred; “listen to that, I think we ought to have the bird
anyway; we discovered him.”

“Did he see you?” asked John. The four boys were now hurrying along
guided by Fred who was slightly in the lead.

“I can truthfully say that he did not,” said George decidedly and Fred
snickered.

“What’s the matter?” inquired Grant suspiciously. “What are you laughing
at?”

“Nothing,” said Fred quickly, but as he looked back at his companions
the suspicion of a smile lurked upon his countenance.

“There’s something funny about this,” exclaimed Grant. “I tell you right
now that if you two are putting up a game on me there’ll be trouble.”

“I don’t believe they saw a heron at all,” said John.

“I tell you we did,” exclaimed Fred earnestly. “Pop and I will both
swear to it; we saw one in the swamp over here. Of course we can’t
guarantee that he’ll still be there when you slowpokes arrive.”

“That’s right,” chimed in George. “We certainly did see one not five
minutes before we came back to the dock to tell you about it. I don’t
see why you need be so suspicious about it.”

“Well, I wouldn’t trust you two,” said Grant. “You’ve acted sort of
funny about it too.”

“You only think we have,” retorted Fred. “Careful now, the marsh is just
ahead of us.”

“Why don’t we sneak up behind those bushes?” suggested George, pointing
to a clump of elderberries a few yards in front of them.

“That’s a good scheme,” exclaimed Fred. “We can hide behind them and get
a good view of the marsh without being seen ourselves.”

Stealthily the four boys made their way until they reached the spot
George had designated. On the other side of the bushes and extending for
a hundred yards or so was the swamp where the heron was reported to have
been seen.

“Careful now,” whispered Fred as they crouched behind the clump of
elderberry bushes. “We don’t want to scare him away.”

“If he’s still there,” muttered Grant. He had been suspicious of Fred
and George; their manner had seemed somewhat peculiar to him but they
were serious enough now and his doubts were removed.

“Do you see him?” asked John eagerly, as Fred peered out through an
opening in the bushes.

“Not yet.”

“Where was he when you saw him before?” demanded Grant.

“Down by that point. I don’t see him there now though.”

“Let me look,” pleaded Grant excitedly. “I haven’t seen him yet.”

“Look along the shore,” directed Fred, yielding his place to Grant.
“He’s more likely to be there than any place else I think.”

As Grant searched the marsh George suddenly made a peculiar noise. It
might have passed for a sob or a chuckle or he could have even been
accused of choking.

“Stop that,” cried Fred fiercely, hitting George sharply in the ribs
with his fist.

“What’s the matter with you two?” exclaimed Grant. He turned quickly
around and eyed his two companions narrowly.

“I choked,” stammered George. “I couldn’t help it.”

“If you’ve been fooling me you’ll do worse than choke,” muttered Grant
fiercely. “You two are acting very queerly it seems to me.”

“Because I choked?” demanded George. “I don’t see what there is queer
about that.”

“Will you swear you saw a heron here?” demanded Grant.

“I will,” exclaimed Fred. “I declare to you, Grant, there was one here.
We saw him first down by that point where I showed you.”

“He’s not there now,” said Grant. “That much is sure.”

“He may have moved along you know. Just because he isn’t in that same
spot doesn’t mean that he has left.”

“Well, I don’t see him anyway.”

“Let me look,” exclaimed George. “My eyes are better than yours.”

Grant exchanged places with George who now seemed to have recovered from
his recent affliction; he scanned the nearby marsh eagerly and was quiet
and serious now.

“Well?” demanded Grant after a moment had elapsed.

George turned and looked at the speaker. “Come here,” he whispered,
crooking his finger mysteriously.

Grant, much excited now, crowded up close beside George. Together they
peered out across the swamp.

“See that dead log lying on the beach down there?” inquired George.

“Yes.”

“Do you see anything the other side of it?”

“No.”

“Not a thing?”

“I don’t see anything but the old dead limb of a tree sticking up.”

“That’s not a dead limb, Grant.”

“Sure enough,” cried Grant excitedly. “Say,” he exclaimed, “I saw that
thing before but I thought it was a stick.”

“It’s not though,” said George triumphantly. “It’s a heron and Fred and
I accept your apology for all you’ve thought about us.”

“Why doesn’t it move?” demanded Grant.

“Don’t you know that herons often stand like that for a long, long time?
If you’re going to shoot that fellow you’d better get a move on yourself
though.”

“I can’t hit him from here.”

“Don’t try. Sneak up closer.”

“Give me the gun, Grant,” exclaimed Fred. “If you don’t care anything
about shooting him I’d like a try at it myself.”

“No, you don’t,” said Grant quickly, and rising to his feet he crouched
low and began to run swiftly down towards the shore of the lake.

“Follow those bushes along the shore,” directed George. “Don’t let him
see you, whatever you do.”

“He’s all right so far,” said Fred. “He’s got good protection down as
far as the water anyway.”

“I hope he gets it,” exclaimed John eagerly. “He’s certainly a good shot
and that ought to help some.”

“Oh, he’ll get it all right,” said George. He and Fred looked at each
other for a moment and then both burst into silent but uncontrollable
laughter.

“What’s the matter with you two?” demanded John, completely taken aback
by their strange behavior.

“Oh, String,” said George. “If you only knew.”

“Well, why don’t you tell me?” exclaimed John. “What sort of a game have
you put up on Grant anyway?”

“Do you see that heron he’s after?”

“Yes, of course I do.”

“Well, it’s dead. Fred and I found it on the shore and stuck it up
behind that log. Just wait till Grant finds it out,” and the two
conspirators hugged each other delightedly.



CHAPTER XXV—THE WORM TURNS


Meanwhile Grant was stalking his game. He crouched low and making as
much speed as was consistent with quietness, he hurried along.

“Just look at him!” cried George ecstatically, as now and again the
hunter could be seen to stop and peer cautiously in the direction of his
prey.

“I should think the fact that it hasn’t moved would make him
suspicious,” remarked John.

“He thinks herons always act that way,” chuckled Fred. “I can hardly
wait for him to shoot.”

“You follows nearly queered your whole game a couple of times all
right,” said John. “We were both suspicious of you. Why, twice you had
grins on your faces so long you could almost pin them in the back.”

“It was so funny,” laughed George. “To think how we planned the whole
thing and how easily he fell into it. Why, it was almost too easy.”

“Don’t be too sure,” warned John. “He hasn’t fired yet, you know.”

“He will all right,” said Fred confidently. “The old bird has been dead
for about a month and you just ought to smell it.”

“Won’t he be mad?” exclaimed George. This thought seemed to give him
special pleasure.

“He’ll probably shoot us,” laughed Fred.

“Where is he now?” inquired John. “I don’t see him.”

“He’s down behind that rock,” said George. “There he comes.”

“He’d better shoot pretty soon,” chuckled Fred. “The bird will fly away
if he isn’t careful.”

“Isn’t this rich?” exclaimed George. “Just think of putting up a game on
Grant like this.”

“Look at him!” cried Fred. “He’s almost on his hands and knees now.”

“Shoot, Grant, shoot!” urged George.

Nearer and nearer to the heron Grant crept. He had his gun half raised
as he stole along, prepared to shoot at any moment. His three companions
intently watched him, thoroughly enjoying the whole affair.

“If he doesn’t shoot pretty soon he’ll see that it’s dead,” said John.

“He’s trying to get up behind that bush, I think,” said George.

“He’s taking a chance,” laughed Fred. “The heron will see him and fly
away if he isn’t more careful.”

“There he goes!” exclaimed George. “He’s going to shoot.”

“And now for the fun,” cried Fred. “Won’t he be mad though?”

Grant stopped and sinking to one knee he raised the little rifle to his
shoulder.

“Don’t miss him, Grant,” chuckled Fred.

The gun spoke, and a moment later the faint report came to the ears of
the three boys who watched from behind the elderberry bushes.

“Did he hit him?” laughed George. “What’s he doing?”

Grant had jumped to his feet after the first shot and started to run
along the shore. He came to the log where the dead heron had been
propped up but he did not stop there. He continued on past this spot and
the conspirators for the first time had an inkling that all was not
going as they had hoped.

“What’s happened?” demanded John in surprise. “What’s he after?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Fred blankly.

Some fifty or sixty feet beyond the spot where the dead log lay Grant
continued. Not one of his friends had been looking at this place for
their attention had been riveted on the dead heron.

The grass grew level with Grant’s knees where he was now. He leaned over
and seemed to be looking down at something on the ground at his feet.

“What do you suppose it is?” demanded George curiously.

“Look,” exclaimed John and as he spoke Grant lifted from the grass a
great blue heron. He held it by the feet and turning towards the bush
where his companions were he waved his gun. Then he slung the big bird
over his shoulder and started to retrace his steps.

George, Fred, and John had watched these proceedings in open-mouthed
amazement.

“Well, what do you know about that?” exclaimed George limply.

“I guess he’s got us all right,” sighed Fred. “Let’s skip back to camp
before he gets hold of us.”

“We’d better stay and face the music,” said George with a sigh. “Doesn’t
that beat all? Just when we thought we had him good and fooled, he turns
around and puts the joke on us.”

“I don’t see yet what happened,” exclaimed John.

“Why, he saw another heron, that’s all,” said Fred. “It was a live one
too, I guess.”

“Where’s the one you and Pop fixed up for him?”

“Still there behind the log.”

“Grant never even looked at it,” said George. “He’ll make our lives
miserable all the rest of the summer.”

“It’s almost over now,” said Fred. “He can’t tease us long.”

In silence the three boys sat and watched their comrade approach. John
did not dread the meeting so much, for he had not been one of the
original conspirators, but Fred and George looked forward to Grant’s
arrival with anything but pleasure.

“What do you think of him?” cried Grant as he held up his prize for his
friends to see. “Isn’t he a beauty?”

“He’s all right,” said George weakly.

“What’s the matter, Pop?” demanded Grant. “You don’t seem very
enthusiastic. Don’t you like his looks?”

“He’s fine,” replied George in a hollow voice.

“Where did you find him?” demanded Fred bluntly.

“Right where I shot him,” said Grant. “You saw the spot where I picked
him up, didn’t you?”

“We saw it all right,” said Fred grimly. “We haven’t a word to say
either. You have the joke on us all right, Grant. All I ask is that you
don’t rub it in too much.”

“I won’t,” laughed Grant. “It was awfully funny the way it turned out. I
never suspected at first that the heron you pointed out to me was dead.
I kept sneaking up as close as I dared and the thing never moved a bit
and it began to strike me as sort of queer. Then I remembered how you
fellows had snickered a couple of times and I felt pretty sure that
something was wrong.

“All of a sudden I saw this bird just a few yards beyond the log. I knew
then that my chance had come to turn the joke on you, but I was so
anxious my arm was shaking like a leaf. I was afraid I surely would miss
and when I saw that I hadn’t, I can tell you I felt pretty good. Here’s
the heron and if you two fellows want yours you’ll find him down by that
log. He smells a little strong though.”

“Let’s go back to camp,” exclaimed George.

“All right,” laughed Grant. “As long as you don’t like the subject, I
won’t say too much about it.”

Laughing and joking they made their way back towards their camp. George
and Fred realized how badly they had fared in their attempt to play a
practical joke, but they were good sports and consequently good losers.
They joined in the fun at their own expense, and were unstinted in their
praise of the prize Grant had gained.

“We certainly got more than we were looking for that time,” said George
laughingly. “You are——”

He suddenly ceased speaking and gazed in surprise in the direction of
the tent.

“What’s the matter?” demanded John anxiously.

“Some man with a big black beard just ran around the other side of the
tent,” exclaimed George.



CHAPTER XXVI—AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER


“Are you sure you saw a man?” asked Grant skeptically.

“I know I did,” replied George with the utmost conviction.

“What did he look like?”

“He looked like a tramp; a rough looking sort of a fellow with a black
beard and an old slouch hat.”

“Only one man?”

“That’s all I saw.”

“What shall we do?” demanded Fred blankly.

“We’ll go down and see what he wants,” said George in a matter of fact
tone. “What else is there to do?”

“Suppose he’s looking for trouble?” suggested Fred.

“Well then, he’ll find it,” said George grimly. “There are four of us to
his one.”

“He may not be alone,” said Fred. “I think we’d better go slow.”

“Grant has a gun.”

“But he’s not going to use it,” said Grant quickly. “You don’t catch me
shooting at anybody, tramp or no tramp. I don’t want any blood on my
head.”

“Suppose they attack us?” demanded George.

“‘They,’” exclaimed Grant. “I thought you said you saw only one.”

“That’s all I did see. There may be more of them though.”

“Probably a couple of guides,” said John. “Let’s go find out anyway.”

“I’d be careful,” warned Fred. “There’s no use in taking chances.”

“What’s the matter with you, Fred?” demanded George. “What are you so
nervous about?”

“I don’t know. It seems funny to me though that a man like that should
be hanging around our tent.”

“He’s probably waiting for us to come back.”

“Then why did he duck behind the tent the minute he saw us?”

“Maybe he didn’t see us at all.”

“The thing to do is to go down there and find out,” exclaimed Grant.
“Come on, Pop, you and I will go anyway.”

“And so will I,” added John.

“I’ll go myself,” said Fred. “I’m not afraid; all I said was that I
thought we ought to be careful.”

“We’ll be careful,” George assured him. “Come along.”

The little band once again started towards the tent. As Fred had
remarked it seemed a strange thing that any man like the one George had
seen should be loitering around their camp. They had had no visitors
that summer aside from their opponents in the water sports and Mr.
Maxwell, and the appearance of a stranger on the island was unusual
enough to cause them some alarm.

Side by side they walked towards the spot where their tent was pitched.
No further sign of their visitor appeared and this in itself made the
four boys somewhat uneasy.

“Where did he go, do you suppose?” whispered John.

“Are you sure you saw a man, Pop?” demanded Grant.

“Of course I did. Do you think I’m crazy?”

“Where is he then? No one else saw him.”

George made no reply to this remark and in complete silence they
continued on their way. At length they came to the tent itself but no
one was to be seen. They peered inside, but it was empty of any living
person. Grant turned to George triumphantly.

“You’re seeing things to-day,” he laughed. He laid the heron on the
ground in front of the tent and placed his gun inside.

“I saw a man,” insisted George.

“And you tried to make me see a live heron that was dead,” said Grant.

“It’s certainly strange,” muttered George. “I know I saw a man. I’d take
my dying oath on it.”

“But where is he?” demanded Grant.

“That’s just what I say,” rejoined George. “Where is he?”

“He doesn’t seem to be—” began John, when he suddenly stopped. “Look,”
he cried and pointed towards the shore.

Two men were seated under a small tree which grew half-way between the
wharf and the tent. Their backs were towards the boys so that it was
impossible to see who they were. The back view however was not very
reassuring. The strangers appeared to be rough and unkempt and were
busily engaged in eating some food they had evidently helped themselves
to from the stores of the four young campers. Both men seemed entirely
unaware that they were being watched.

“How did they get there without our seeing them?” whispered John. “Pop
saw one of them up by the tent.”

“The tent is between that tree and the place where we were standing,”
said George. “It shut off our view and they probably walked down there
while we were coming towards the tent.”

“What shall we do?” whispered Fred.

“Yell at them,” suggested John.

“Don’t you do it,” cautioned Grant quickly.

“For goodness’ sake,” exclaimed George suddenly in a low voice. “Don’t
any one of you fellows move,” he ordered them. “Just wait here for me.”

He turned and darted quickly inside the tent while his three companions
were completely mystified by his strange behavior. They gazed after him
in amazement.

“What’s he after?” asked John in a whisper.

“Maybe he went for the gun,” suggested Fred.

“I wonder if he did,” exclaimed Grant. “We mustn’t have that,” and he
started to follow George inside the tent.

Just as he was about to lift the flap and enter, however, George
suddenly appeared. He held one of the young campers’ big balsam pillows
in each hand and he wore a queer expression on his face. His three
friends looked at him in amazement not unmixed with alarm.

“What are you going to do?” demanded Grant.

“Ssh!” hissed George. “Watch me.”

He cautiously stole forward in the direction of the two men. His
companions were too surprised to make any effort to restrain him.
Open-mouthed they stood and watched him stealthily approach the tree
underneath which the two rough-looking men were seated.



CHAPTER XXVII—CONCLUSION


“He’s gone crazy,” muttered Grant. “We should have held him back.”

On tip-toe and evidently trying to make as little noise as possible,
George stole forward. Nearer and nearer he approached, the pillows still
held firmly in his hands. He slackened his pace as he came closer and
redoubled his efforts to move cautiously.

“They’ll turn and see him in a second,” whispered Fred, as much to
himself as to anybody else. All three of the boys were tense with
excitement as they riveted their attention on their companion who to
them was doing such a remarkable thing.

George was scarcely ten feet distant from the men now. All at once he
stopped. He slowly drew back his right arm and taking careful aim he let
fly the pillow which he held. True to its mark it sped. It struck the
larger of the two men squarely in the neck. The second pillow followed
the other an instant later and it too scored a hit. Both had been aimed
at the same man.

No sooner had George completed his bombardment than he uttered a wild
whoop and rushed forward. He dashed straight towards the man he had been
so successful in hitting and threw both arms around him.

Grant, Fred, and John were too taken aback to do more than stand and
gaze stupidly at the strange proceedings taking place before their eyes.
George’s actions to them were a complete mystery.

Suddenly he ceased hugging the rough looking man he had pounced upon so
eagerly and turned to his three camp-mates.

“Grant!” he cried. “John! Fred! Come here and see who this is.”

“Who is it?” exclaimed John blankly. “Thomas and Hugh?”

“Here’s your father, Fred,” called George loudly. “Don’t you want to see
him?”

Fred started violently at these words. He stared ahead of him and then
suddenly gave vent to a wild shriek.

“Dad!” he cried and rushing pell mell down the gradual incline he threw
himself upon the smaller of the two “tramps.”

“Why it’s Mr. Button and Mr. Sanders,” exclaimed Grant in surprise.
“Where do you suppose they came from?”

“All dressed up to look like tramps,” added John. “What do you suppose
they are trying to do?”

“Play a joke on us, I guess,” laughed Grant. “Lets go down and see
them.”

They soon joined the little group gathered underneath the tree and a
happy gathering it was.

“What do you think of these two tramps, Grant?” inquired George when
greetings had been exchanged all around.

“What do you think of a boy who would hit his poor old father in the
back of the neck with two big pillows?” laughed Mr. Sanders. “That
strikes me as pretty rough treatment.”

“It surely is,” agreed Grant. “We usually take him down and duck him
when he gets fresh that way.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” said Mr. Sanders sorrowfully. “He has
gotten so husky this summer I’d hate to tackle him now.”

“We didn’t know you were coming up here,” said Fred, addressing his
father and Mr. Sanders.

“And we didn’t want you to know it either,” laughed Mr. Button. “We
planned a surprise for you.”

“You gave it to us all right,” said John grimly. “We were sure you were
two thugs of some kind who had come up here to rob us.”

“How do you like our costumes?” demanded Mr. Sanders jovially. “Do we
really look like a couple of desperate characters?”

“You certainly do, Dad,” said George. “I never saw worse.”

“How did you dare to throw those big heavy pillows at me then?”

“I recognized you right away, even from the back. You need a pretty good
disguise to fool your son you know.”

“So it seems,” admitted Mr. Sanders and he rubbed the back of his neck
ruefully.

“Didn’t you see us coming?” asked John.

“No,” said Mr. Button. “We arrived here about twenty minutes ago and
didn’t find a soul around anywhere. So we just made ourselves at home
and decided we’d have a little luncheon.”

“I saw one of you duck behind the tent,” said George. “Then when we
didn’t see you again it sort of worried us. Imagine how we felt when we
saw these two rough looking men sitting under the tree here.”

“Where had you boys been?” asked Mr. Sanders.

“We went out to shoot a blue heron,” said Grant. “Ask George about it;
he’ll be glad to tell you all the details,” and he nudged John who was
standing next to him.

“I was the goat all right,” laughed George, and he proceeded to recount
the story of how he and Fred had tried to put up a game on Grant but had
had the tables turned on them.

The tale caused much merriment on the part of Mr. Button and Mr.
Sanders. Curiously enough these two men happened to be the fathers of
the boys who had been the victims of their own joke.

“It served them right, Grant,” laughed Mr. Button. “I hate these
practical jokers and am always glad to see them fooled. I notice it
usually happens that way too.”

The party had moved up to a spot directly in front of the tent now and
all were seated in a circle on the ground. The day was waning and the
sun was beginning to sink low in the western sky. A gray haze hung over
the surrounding hills and forests. A strong wind blew off the lake.

“You know that breeze is cold,” exclaimed Mr. Button with a slight
shiver, and he drew his coat closer about him.

“Why shouldn’t it be?” demanded Mr. Sanders. “It’s almost fall now and
the summer is practically over.”

“I know it is,” exclaimed George. “I hate to think of it too.”

“You’ve had a good time up here, have you?” inquired Mr. Button.

“Wonderful,” replied all the young campers with one accord.

“You certainly look so,” laughed Mr. Sanders. “You’re as tanned as a lot
of Indians and you look just about as wiry.”

“It’s been great fun,” said John. “We’ve been out in the air all summer
and on the water so much we ought to be healthy.”

“We’ll have to come back here again next summer,” exclaimed George.
“What do you say to that, Dad?”

“Personally I should think you’d rather go to some other place next
time. I like different experiences myself.”

“So do I,” agreed Grant. “There are so many wonderful places and things
in the world that it’s worth trying to visit and see all of them you
can, I think.”

“That suits me,” exclaimed George. “What do you say, Dad? We’ll go to
some other place next time.”

“As far as I’m concerned you may,” said Mr. Sanders. “Go ahead.”


                                THE END

                   *       *       *       *       *

THE OUTDOOR CHUMS SERIES

By CAPTAIN QUINCY ALLEN

The Outdoor Chums

  On the Lake
  In the Forest
  On the Gulf
  After Big Game
  On A House Boat
  In the Big Woods
  At Cabin Point

For lovers of the great outdoors (and what boy is not?) this “Outdoor
Chums” series will be a rare treat. After you have read the first book
and followed the fortunes of the “Chums,” you will realize the pleasure
the other seven volumes have in store for you.

These rollicking lads know field, forest, mountain, sea and stream—and
the books contain much valuable information on woodcraft and the living
of an outdoor life.

The Goldsmith Publishing Co.

CLEVELAND, O.





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