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´╗┐Title: The Banner Boy Scouts Snowbound - A Tour on Skates and Iceboats
Author: Warren, George A.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Banner Boy Scouts Snowbound - A Tour on Skates and Iceboats" ***

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THE BANNER BOY SCOUTS SNOWBOUND

Or

A Tour on Skates and Iceboats

by

GEORGE A. WARREN

Author of "The Banner Boy Scouts,"
"The Musket Boys of Old Boston," Etc.

Illustrated



[Illustration: "LOOK OUT! THE SECOND CAT!" YELLED PAUL.
_The Banner Boy Scouts Snowbound Page 161_]



The Saalfield Publishing Co.
Akron, Ohio--New York
Made In U. S. A.

Copyright, 1916, by
Cupples & Leon Company



CONTENTS

 CHAPTER                                                          PAGE
      I. On the Frozen Bushkill                                      1
     II. When the Old Ice-House Fell                                 8
    III. The Rescue                                                 15
     IV. A Quick Return for Services Rendered                       23
      V. A Startling Interruption                                   30
     VI. A Gloomy Prospect for Jud                                  38
    VII. Paul Takes a Chance                                        46
   VIII. Bobolink and the Storekeeper                               54
     IX. "Fire!"                                                    62
      X. The Accusation                                             69
     XI. Friends of the Scouts                                      76
    XII. The Iceboat Squadron                                       84
   XIII. On the Way                                                 91
    XIV. The Ring of Steel Runners                                  98
     XV. Tolly Tip and the Forest Cabin                            105
    XVI. The First Night Out                                       112
   XVII. "Tip-Ups" for Pickerel                                    119
  XVIII. The Helping Hand of a Scout                               126
    XIX. News of Big Game                                          134
     XX. At the Beaver Pond                                        141
    XXI. Setting the Flashlight Trap                               149
   XXII. Waylaid in the Timber                                     157
  XXIII. The Blizzard                                              165
   XXIV. The Duty of the Scout                                     172
    XXV. Among the Snowdrifts                                      180
   XXVI. Dug Out                                                   187
  XXVII. "First Aid"                                               194
 XXVIII. More Startling News                                       202
   XXIX. The Wild Dog Pack                                         211
    XXX. A Change of Plans                                         219
   XXXI. Good-Bye to Deer Head Lodge                               227
  XXXII. The Capture of the Hobo Yeggmen                           235
 XXXIII. Conclusion                                                243



PREFACE


DEAR BOYS:--

Once more it is my privilege to offer you a new volume wherein I have
endeavored to relate further interesting adventures in which the
members of Stanhope Troop of Boy Scouts take part. Most of my readers,
I feel sure, remember Paul, Jud, Bobolink, Jack and many of the other
characters, and will gladly greet them as old friends.

To such of you who may be making the acquaintance of these manly young
chaps for the first time I can only say this. I trust your interest in
their various doings along the line of scoutcraft will be strong
enough to induce you to secure the previous volumes in this series in
order to learn at first hand of the numerous achievements they have
placed to their credit.

The boys comprising the original Red Fox Patrol won the beautiful
banner they own in open competition with other rival organizations.
From that day, now far in the past, Stanhope Troop has been known as
the Banner Boy Scouts. Its possession has always served as an
inspiration to Paul and his many staunch comrades. Every time they see
its silken folds unfurled at the head of their growing marching line
they feel like renewing the vows to which they so willingly subscribed
on first joining the organization.

Many of their number, too, are this day proudly wearing on their
chests the medals they have won through study, observation, service,
thrift, or acts of heroism, such as saving human life at the risk of
their own.

I trust that all my many young readers will enjoy the present volume
fully as much as they did those that have appeared before now. Hoping,
then, to meet you all again before a great while in the pages of
another book; and with best wishes for every lad who aspires to climb
the ladder of leadership in his home troop, believe me,

                                        Cordially yours,
                                                     GEORGE A. WARREN.



THE BANNER BOY SCOUTS SNOWBOUND

CHAPTER I

ON THE FROZEN BUSHKILL


"Watch Jack cut his name in the ice, fellows!"

"I wish I could do the fancy stunts on skates he manages to pull off.
It makes me green with envy to watch Jack Stormways do that trick."

"Oh, shucks! what's the use of saying that, Wallace Carberry, when
everybody knows your strong suit is long-distance skating? The fact is
both the Carberry twins are as much at home on the ice as I am when I
get my knees under the supper table."

"That's kind of you to throw bouquets my way, Bobolink. But, boys,
stop and think. Here it is--only four days now to Christmas, and the
scouts haven't made up their minds yet where to spend the glorious
holidays."

"Y-y-yes, and b-b-by the same token, this year we're g-g-going to
g-g-get a full three-weeks' vacation in the b-b-bargain, b-b-because
they have t-t-to overhaul the f-f-furnaces."

"Hold on there, Bluff Shipley! If you keep on falling all over
yourself like that you'll have to take a whole week to rest up."

"All the same," remarked the boy who answered to the odd name of
Bobolink, "it's high time we scouts settled that important matter for
good."

"The assistant scout-master, Paul Morrison, has called a meeting at
headquarters for to-night, you understand, boys," said the fancy
skater, who had just cut the name of Paul Morrison in the smooth, new
ice of the Bushkill river.

"We must arrange the programme then," observed Bobolink, "because it
will take a couple of days to get everything ready for the trip, no
matter where we go."

"Huh!" grunted another skater, "I can certainly see warm times ahead
for the cook at _your_ house, Bobolink, provided you've still got that
ferocious appetite to satisfy."

"Oh! well, Tom Betts," laughed the other, "I notice that you seldom
take a back seat when the grub is being passed around. As for me I'm
proud of my stowage ability. A good appetite is one of the greatest
blessings a growing boy can have."

"Pity the poor father though," chuckled Wallace Carberry, "because he
has to pay the freight."

"Just to go back to the important subject," said Bluff Shipley, who
could speak as clearly as any one when not excited, "where do you
think the scouts will hike to for their Christmas holidays?"

"Well, now, a winter camp on Rattlesnake Mountain wouldn't be such a
bad stunt," suggested Tom Betts, quickly.

"For my part," remarked Bobolink, "I'd rather like to visit Lake
Tokala again, and see what Cedar Island looks like in the grip of Jack
Frost. The skating on that sheet of water must be great."

"We certainly did have a royal good time there last summer," admitted
Jack, reflectively.

"All the same," ventured Tom, "I think I know one scout who couldn't
be coaxed or hired to camp on Cedar Island again."

"Meaning Curly Baxter," Bobolink went on to say scornfully, "who
brazenly admits he believes in ghosts, and couldn't be convinced that
the place wasn't haunted."

"Curly won't be the only fellow to back out," suggested Jack. "While
we have a membership of over thirty on the muster roll of Stanhope
Troop, it isn't to be expected that more than half of them will agree
to make the outing with us."

"Too much like hard work for some of the boys," asserted Tom.

"I know a number who say they'd like to be with us, but their folks
object to a winter camp," Wallace announced. "So if we muster a
baker's dozen we can call ourselves lucky."

"Of course it must be a real snow and ice hike this time," suggested
Bluff.

"To be sure--and on skates at that!" cried Wallace, enthusiastically.

"Oh! I hope there's a chance to use our iceboats too!" sighed Tom
Betts, who late that fall had built a new flier, and never seemed
weary of sounding the praises of his as yet untried "Speedaway."

"Perhaps we may--who knows?" remarked Jack, mysteriously.

The others, knowing that the speaker was the nearest and dearest chum
of Paul Morrison, assistant scout-master of Stanhope Troop of Boy
Scouts, turned upon him eagerly on hearing this suggestive remark.

"You know something about the plans, Jack!"

"Sure he does, and he ought to give us a hint in the bargain!"

"Come, take pity on us, won't you, Jack?"

But the object of all this pleading only shook his head and smiled as
he went on to say:

"I'm bound to secrecy, fellows, and you wouldn't have me break my word
to our patrol leader. Just hold your horses a little while longer and
you'll hear everything. We're going to talk it over to-night and
settle the matter once for all. Now let's drop the subject. Here's a
new wrinkle I'm trying out."

With that Jack started to spin around on his skates, and fairly
dazzled his mates with the wonderful ability he displayed as a fancy
skater.

While they are thus engaged a few words of explanation may not come in
amiss.

Stanhope Troop consisted of three full patrols, with another almost
completed. Though in the flood tide of success at the time we make the
acquaintance of the boys in this volume there were episodes in the
past history of the troop to which the older scouts often referred
with mingled emotions of pride and wonder.

The present status of the troop had not been maintained without many
struggles. Envious rivals had tried to make the undertaking a failure,
while doubting parents had in many cases to be shown that association
with the scouts would be a thing of unequalled advantage to their
boys.

Those who have read the previous books of this series have doubtless
already formed a warm attachment for the members of the Red Fox Patrol
and their friends, and will be greatly pleased to follow their
fortunes again. For the benefit of those who are making their
acquaintance for the first time it may be stated that besides Jack
Stormways and the four boys who were with him on the frozen Bushkill
this December afternoon, the roster of the Red Fox Patrol counted
three other names.

These were Paul Morrison, the leader, the other Carberry twin, William
by name, and a boy whom they called "Nuthin," possibly because his
name chanced to be Albert Cypher.

As hinted at in the remarks that flew between the skaters circling
around, many of the members of the troop had spent a rollicking
vacation the previous summer while aboard a couple of motor boats
loaned to them by influential citizens of their home town. The strange
adventures that had befallen the scouts on this cruise through winding
creeks and across several lakes have been given in the pages of the
volume preceding this book, called "The Banner Boy Scouts Afloat; Or,
The Secret of Cedar Island."

Ever since their return from that cruise the boys had talked of little
else; and upon learning that the Christmas holidays would be
lengthened this season the desire to take another tour had seized upon
them.

After Jack so summarily shut down upon the subject no one ventured to
plead with him any longer. All knew that he felt bound in honor to
keep any secret he had been entrusted with by the assistant
scout-master--for Paul often had to act in place of Mr. Gordon, a
young traveling salesman, who could not be with the boys as much as he
would have liked.

Jack had just finished cutting the new figure, and his admirers were
starting to give vent to their delight over his cleverness when
suddenly there came a strange roaring sound that thrilled every one of
them through and through. It was as if the frozen river were breaking
up in a spring thaw. Some of the boys even suspected that there was
danger of being swallowed up in such a catastrophe, and had started to
skate in a frenzy of alarm for the shore when the voice of Bobolink
arose above the clamor.

"Oh! look there, will you, fellows?" he shouted, pointing a trembling
finger up the river. "The old ice-house has caved in, just as they
feared it would. See the ice cakes sliding everywhere! And I saw men
and girls near there just five minutes ago. They may be caught under
all that wreckage for all we know! Jack, what shall we do about it?"

"Come on, every one of you!" roared Jack Stormways, as he set off at
full speed. "This means work for the scouts! To the rescue, boys!
Hurry! hurry!"



CHAPTER II

WHEN THE OLD ICE-HOUSE FELL


Never before in the recollection of any Stanhope boy had winter
settled in so early as it had this year. They seldom counted on having
their first skate on the new ice before Christmas, and yet for two
weeks now some of the most daring had been tempting Providence by
venturing on the surface of the frozen Bushkill.

The ice company had built a new house the preceding summer, though the
old one was still fairly well filled with a part of the previous
season's great crop. Its sides had bulged out in a suspicious manner,
so that many had predicted some sort of catastrophe, but somehow the
old building had weathered every gale, though it leaned to the south
sadly. The company apparently hoped it would hold good until they had
it emptied during the next summer, when they intended to build another
new structure on the spot.

As the five boys started to skate at utmost speed up the river they
heard a medley of sounds. A panic had evidently struck such boys and
girls as were skimming over the smooth ice in protected bayous near
the ice-houses. Instead of hurrying to the assistance of those who may
have been caught in the fallen timbers of the wrecked building they
were for the most part fleeing from the scene, some of them shrieking
with terror.

Several men who had been employed near by could be seen standing and
staring. It looked as though they hardly knew what to do.

If ever there was an occasion where sound common sense and a readiness
to grasp a situation were needed it seemed to be just then. And,
fortunately, Jack Stormways was just the boy to meet the conditions.

He sped up the river like an arrow from the bow, followed by the four
other scouts. The frightened girls who witnessed their passage always
declared that never had they seen Stanhope boys make faster speed,
even in a race where a valuable prize was held out as a lure to the
victor.

As he bore down upon the scene of confusion Jack took it all in. Those
who were floundering amidst the numerous heavy cakes of ice must
engage their attention without delay. He paid little heed to the
fortunate ones who were able to be on their feet, since this fact
alone proved that they could not have been seriously injured.

Several, however, were not so fortunate, and Jack's heart seemed to be
almost in his throat when he saw that two of the skaters lay in the
midst of the scattered cakes of ice as though painfully injured.

"This way, boys!" shouted the boy in the van as they drew near the
scene of the accident. "Bluff, you and Wallace turn and head for that
one yonder. Bobolink, come with me--and Tom Betts."

Five seconds later he was bending over a small girl who lay there
groaning and looking almost as white as the snow upon the hills around
Stanhope.

"It's little Lucy Stackpole!" gasped Tom, as he also arrived. "Chances
are she was hit by one of these big ice cakes when they flew around!"

Jack looked up.

"Yes, I'm afraid she's been badly hurt, fellows. It looks to me like a
compound fracture of her right leg. She ought to be taken home in a
hurry. See if you can round up a sled somewhere, and we'll put her on
it."

"Here's Sandy Griggs and Lub Ketcham with just the sort of big sled we
need!" cried Tom Betts, as he turned and beckoned to a couple of stout
lads who evidently belonged to one of the other patrols, since they
wore the customary campaign hats of the scouts.

These boys had by now managed to recover from their great alarm, and
in response to the summons came hurrying up, anxious to be of service,
as true scouts always are.

Jack, who had been speaking to the terrified girl, trying to soothe
her as best he could, proceeded in a business-like fashion to
accomplish the duty he had in hand.

"Two of you help me lift Lucy on to the sled," he said. "We will have
to fasten her in some way so there'll be no danger of her slipping.
Then Sandy and Lub will drag her to her home. On the way try to get
Doctor Morrison over the 'phone so he can meet you there. The sooner
this fracture is attended to the better."

"You could do it yourself, Jack, if it wasn't so bitter cold out
here," suggested Tom Betts, proudly, for next to Paul Morrison
himself, whose father was the leading physician of Stanhope, Jack was
known to be well up in all matters connected with first aid to the
injured.

They lifted the suffering child tenderly, and placed her on the
comfortable sled. Both the newcomers were only too willing to do all
they could to carry out the mission of mercy that had been entrusted
to their charge.

"We'll get her home in short order, Jack, never fear," said Sandy
Griggs, as he helped fasten an extra piece of rope around the injured
girl, so that she might not slip off the sled.

"Yes, and have the doctor there in a jiffy, too," added Lub, who,
while a clumsy chap, in his way had a very tender heart and was as
good as gold.

"Then get a move on you fellows," advised Jack. "And while speed is
all very good, safety comes first every time, remember."

"Trust us, Jack!" came the ready and confident reply, as the two
scouts immediately began to seek a passage among the far-flung
ice-cakes that had been so suddenly released from their year's
confinement between the walls of the dilapidated ice-house.

Only waiting to see them well off, Jack and the other two once more
turned toward the scene of ruin.

"See, the boys have managed to get the other girl on her feet!"
exclaimed Bobolink, with a relieved air; "so I reckon she must have
been more scared than hurt, for which I'm right glad. What next, Jack?
Say the word and we'll back you to the limit."

"We must take a look around the wreck of the ice-house," replied the
other, "though I hardly believe any one could have been inside at the
time it fell."

"Whew, I should surely hope not!" cried Tom; "for the chances are ten
to one he'd be crushed as flat as a pancake before now, with all that
timber falling on him. I wouldn't give a snap of my fingers for his
life, Jack."

"Let's hope then there's no other victim," said Jack. "If there is
none, it will let the ice company off easier than they really deserve
for allowing so ramshackle a building to stand, overhanging the river
just where we like to do most of our skating every winter."

"Suppose we climb around the timbers and see if we can hear any sound
of groaning," suggested Bobolink, suiting the action to his words.

Several men from the other ice-house reached the spot just then.

Jack turned to them as a measure of saving time. If there were no men
working in the wrecked building at the time it fell there did not seem
any necessity for attempting to move any of the twisted timbers that
lay in such a confused mass.

"Hello! Jan," he called out as the panting laborers arrived. "It was a
big piece of luck that none of you were inside the old ice-house when
it collapsed just now."

The man whom he addressed looked blankly at the boy. Jack could see
that he was laboring under renewed excitement.

"Look here! was there any one in the old building, do you know, Jan?"
he demanded.

"I ban see Maister Garrity go inside yoost afore she smash down," was
the startling reply.

The boys stared at each other. Mr. Thomas Garrity was a very rich and
singular citizen of Stanhope.

Finally Bobolink burst out with:

"Say, you know Mr. Garrity is one of the owners of these ice-houses,
fellows. I guess he must have come up here to-day to see for himself
if the old building was as rickety as people said."

"Huh! then I guess he found out all right," growled Tom Betts.

"Never mind that now," said Jack, hastily. "Mr. Garrity never had much
use for the scouts, but all the same he's a human being. We've got our
duty cut out for us plainly enough."

"Guess you mean we must clear away this trash with the help of these
men here, Jack," suggested Wallace, eagerly.

"Just what I had in mind," confessed Jack. "But before we start in
let's all listen and see if we can hear anything like a groan."

All of them stood in an expectant attitude, straining their hearing to
the utmost.

Presently the listeners plainly caught the sound of a groan.



CHAPTER III

THE RESCUE


"Jack, he's here under all this stuff!" called out Bobolink,
excitedly.

"Poor old chap," said Wallace. "I wouldn't like to give much for his
chance of getting out of the scrape with his life."

"And to think," added Bluff, soberly, "that after all the
protestations made by the company that the old house couldn't fall, it
trapped one of the big owners when it smashed down. It's mighty queer,
it strikes me."

"Keep still again," warned Jack. "I want to call out and see if Mr.
Garrity can hear me."

"A bully good scheme, Jack!" asserted Bobolink. "If we can locate him
in that way it may save us a heap of hard work dragging these timbers
around."

Jack dropped flat on his face, and, placing his mouth close to the
wreckage where it seemed worst, called aloud:

"Hello! Mr. Garrity, can you hear me?"

"Yes! Oh, yes!" came the faint response from somewhere below.

"Are you badly hurt, sir?" continued the scout.

"I don't know--I believe not, but a beam is keeping tons and tons from
falling on me. I am pinned down here, and can hardly move. Hurry and
get some of these timbers off before they fall and crush me!"

Every word came plainly to their ears now. Evidently, Mr. Garrity,
understanding that relief was at hand, began to feel new courage. Jack
waited for no more.

"I reckon I've located him, boys," he told the others, "and now we've
got to get busy."

"Only tell us what to do, Jack," urged Wallace, "and there are plenty
of willing hands here for the work, what with these strong men and the
rest of the boys."

Indeed, already newcomers were arriving, some of them being people who
had been passing along the turnpike near by in wagons or sleighs at
the time the accident happened, and who hastened to the spot in order
to render what assistance they could.

Jack seemed to know just how to go about the work. If he had been in
the house-wrecking business for years he could hardly have improved
upon his system.

"We've got to be careful, you understand, fellows," he told the others
as they labored strenuously to remove the upper timbers from the pile,
"because that one timber he mentioned is the key log of the jam. As
long as it holds he's safe from being crushed. Here, don't try that
beam yet, men. Take hold of the other one. And Bobolink and Wallace,
help me lift this section of shingles from the roof!"

So Jack went on to give clear directions. He did not intend that any
new accident should be laid at their door on account of too much
haste. Better that the man who was imprisoned under all this wreckage
should remain there a longer period than that he lose his life through
carelessness. Jack believed in making thorough work of anything he
undertook; and this trait marked him as a clever scout.

As others came to add to the number of willing workers the business of
delving into the wreck of the ice-house proceeded in a satisfactory
manner. Once in a while Jack would call a temporary halt while he got
into communication with the unfortunate man they were seeking to
assist.

"He seems to be all right so far, fellows," was the cheering report he
gave after this had happened for the third time; "and I think we'll be
able to reach him in a short time now."

"As sure as you're born we will, Jack!" announced Bobolink,
triumphantly; "for I can see the big timber he said was acting as a
buffer above him. Hey! we've got to be extra careful now, because one
end of that beam is balanced ever so delicately, and if it gets shoved
off its anchorage--good-bye to Mr. Garrity!"

"Yes," came from below the wreckage, "be very careful, please, for
it's just as you say."

Jack was more than ever on the alert as the work continued. He watched
every move that was made, and often warned those who strained and
labored to be more cautious.

"In five minutes or so we ought to be able to get something under that
loose end of the big timber, Jack," suggested Bobolink, presently.

"In less time than that," he was told. "And here's the very prop to
slip down through that opening. I think I can reach it right now, if
you stop the work for a bit."

He pushed the stout post carefully downward, endeavoring to adjust it
so that it was bound to catch and hold the timber should the latter
break away from its frail support at that end. When Bobolink saw him
get up from his knees a minute later he did not need to be told that
Jack's endeavor had been a success, for the satisfied smile on the
other's face told as much.

"Now let the good work go on with a rush!" called out Jack. "Not so
much danger now, because I've put a crimp in that timber's threat to
fall. It's securely wedged. Everybody get busy."

Jack led in the work himself, and the way they removed the heavy
beams, many of them splintered or broken in the downward rush of the
building, was surely a sight worth seeing. At least some of the town
people who came up just then felt they had good reason to be proud of
the Banner Boy Scouts, who on other notable occasions had brought
credit to the community.

"I can see him now!" exclaimed Bobolink; and indeed, only a few more
weighty fragments remained to be lifted off before Jack would be able
to drop down into the cavity and assist the prisoner at close
quarters.

Five minutes later the workers managed to release Mr. Garrity, and
Jack helped him out of his prison. The old gentleman looked
considerably the worse for his remarkable experience. There was blood
upon his cheek, and he kept caressing one arm as though it pained him
considerably.

Still his heart was filled with thanksgiving as he stared around at
the pile of torn timbers, and considered what a marvelous escape his
had been.

"Let me take a look at your arm, sir," said Jack, who feared that it
had been broken, because a beam had pinned the gentleman by his arm to
the ground.

Mr. Garrity, who up to that time had paid very little attention to the
Boy Scout movement that had swept over that region of the eastern
country like wildfire, looked at the eager, boyish faces of his
rescuers. It could be seen that he was genuinely affected on noticing
that most of them wore the badges that distinguish scouts the world
over.

"I hope my wrist is not broken, though even that would be a little
price to pay for my temerity in entering that shaky old building," he
ventured to say as he allowed Jack to examine his arm.

"I'm glad to tell you, sir," said the boy, quickly, "that it is only a
bad sprain. At the worst you will be without the use of that hand for
a month or two."

"Then I have great reason to be thankful," declared Mr. Garrity,
solemnly. "Perhaps this may be intended for a lesson to me. And, to
begin with, I want to say that I believe I owe my very life to you
boys. I can never forget it. Others, of course, might have done all
they could to dig me out, but only a long-headed boy, like Jack
Stormways here, would have thought to keep that timber from falling
and crushing me just when escape seemed certain."

He went around shaking hands with each one of the boys, of course
using his left arm, since the right was disabled for the time being.
Jack deftly made a sling out of a red bandana handkerchief, which he
fastened around the neck of Mr. Garrity, and then gently placed the
bruised hand in this.

"Was any other person injured when the ice-house collapsed?" asked Mr.
Garrity, anxiously.

"A couple of girls were struck by some of the big cakes flung far and
wide," explained Bobolink. "Little Lucy Stackpole has a broken leg. We
sent her home on a sled, and the doctor will soon be at her house,
sir."

"That is too bad!" declared the part owner of the building, frowning.
"I hoped that the brunt of the accident had fallen on my shoulders
alone. Of course, the company will be liable for damages, as well as
the doctor's bill; and I suppose we deserve to be hit pretty hard to
pay for our stupidity. But I am glad it is no worse."

"Excuse me, Mr. Garrity, but perhaps you had better have that swelling
wrist attended to as soon as possible," remarked Jack. "You have some
bruises, too, that are apt to be painful for several days. There is a
carriage on the road that might be called on to take you home."

"Thank you, Jack, I will do as you say," replied the one addressed.
"But depend on it I mean to meet you boys again, and that at a very
early date."

"We're going to be away somewhere on a midwinter hike immediately
after Christmas, sir," Bobolink thought it best to explain. Somehow
deep down in his heart he was already wondering whether this
remarkable rescue of Mr. Garrity might not develop into some sort of
connection with their partly formed plans.

"Yes," added Bluff, eagerly, suddenly possessed by the same hope, "and
it's all going to be settled to-night when we have our monthly meeting
in the big room under the church. We'd be pleased to have you drop in
and see us, sir. Lots of the leading citizens of Stanhope have visited
our rooms from time to time, but I don't remember ever having seen you
there, Mr. Garrity."

"Thank you for the invitation, my lad," said the other, smiling
grimly. "Perhaps I shall avail myself of it, and I might possibly have
something of interest to communicate to you and your fellow scouts,"
and waving his hand to them he walked away.



CHAPTER IV

A QUICK RETURN FOR SERVICES RENDERED


That night turned out clear and frosty. Winter having set in so early
seemed bent on keeping up its unusual record. The snow on the ground
crackled underfoot in the fashion dear to the heart of every boy who
loves outdoor sports.

Overhead, the bright moon, pretty well advanced, hung in space. It was
clearly evident that no one need think of carrying a lantern with him
to the meeting place on such a glorious night.

The Boy Scouts of Stanhope had been fortunate enough to be given the
use of a large room under the church with the clock tower. On cold
nights this was always heated for them, so that they found it a most
comfortable place in which to hold their animated meetings.

There was a large attendance on this occasion, for while possibly few
among the members of the troop could take advantage of this midwinter
trip into the wilds, every boy was curious to know all the details.

In this same spacious room there was fitted up a gymnasium for the use
of the boys one night a week, and many of them availed themselves of
the privilege. As this was to be a regular business meeting, however,
the apparatus had been drawn aside so as not to be in the way.

As the roster was being called it might be just as well to give the
full membership of the troop so that the reader may be made acquainted
with the chosen comrades of Jack and Paul.

The Red Fox Patrol, which contained the "veterans" of the
organization, was made up of the following members:

Paul Morrison; Jack Stormways; Bobolink, the official bugler; Bluff
Shipley, the drummer of the troop; "Nuthin" Cypher; William Carberry;
Wallace, his twin brother; and Tom Betts. Paul, as has been said, was
patrol leader, and served also as assistant scout-master when Mr.
Gordon was absent from town.

In the second division known as the Gray Fox Patrol were the
following:

Jud Elderkin, patrol leader; Joe Clausin, Andy Flinn, Phil Towns,
Horace Poole, Bob Tice, Curly Baxter, and Cliff Jones.

The Black Fox Patrol had several absentees, but when all were present
they answered to their names as below:

Frank Savage, leader; Billie Little, Nat Smith, Sandy Griggs, "Old"
Dan Tucker, "Red" Collins, "Spider" Sexton, and last but not least in
volume of voice, "Gusty" Bellows.

A fourth patrol that was to be called the Silver Fox was almost
complete, lacking just three members; and those who made up this
were:

George Hurst, leader; "Lub" Ketcham, Barry Nichols, Malcolm Steele and
a new boy in town by the name of Archie Fletcher.

Apparently, the only business of importance before the meeting was in
connection with the scheme to take a midwinter outing, something that
was looked upon as unique in the annals of the association.

The usual order of the meeting was hurried through, for every one felt
anxious to hear what sort of proposition the assistant scout-master
intended to spread before the meeting for approval.

"I move we suspend the rules for to-night, and have an informal talk
for a change!" said Bobolink, when he had been recognized by the
chair.

A buzz of voices announced that the idea was favorably received by
many of those present; and, accordingly, the chairman, no other than
Paul himself, felt constrained to put the motion after it had been
duly seconded. He did so with a smile, well knowing what Bobolink's
object was.

"You have all heard the motion that the rules be suspended for the
remainder of the evening," he went on to say, "so that we can have a
heart-to-heart talk on matters that concern us just now. All in favor
say aye!"

A rousing chorus of ayes followed.

"Contrary, no!" continued Paul, and as complete silence followed he
added hastily: "The motion is carried, and the regular business
meeting will now stand adjourned until next month."

"Now let's hear what you've been hatching up for us, Paul?" called out
Bobolink.

"So say we all, Paul!" cried half a dozen eager voices, and the boys
left their seats to crowd around their leader.

"I only hope it's Rattlesnake Mountain we're headed for!" exclaimed
Tom Betts, who had a warm feeling in his boyish heart for that
particular section of country, where once upon a time the troop had
pitched camp, and had met with some amusing and thrilling adventures,
as described in a previous volume, called "The Banner Boy Scouts on a
Tour."

"On my part I wish it would turn out to be good old Lake Tokala, where
my heart has often been centered as I think of the happy days we spent
there."

It was, of course, Bobolink who gave utterance to this sentiment.
Perhaps there were others who really echoed his desire, for they had
certainly had a glorious time of it when cruising in the motor boats
so kindly loaned to them.

Paul held up his hand for silence, and immediately every voice became
still. Discipline was enforced at these meetings, for the noisy boys
and those inclined to play practical pranks had learned long ago they
would have to smother their feelings at such times or be strongly
repressed by the chair.

"Listen," said the leader, in his clear voice, "you kindly asked me to
try to plan a trip for the holidays that would be of the greatest
benefit to us as an organization of scouts. I seriously considered
half a dozen plans, among them Rattlesnake Mountain, and Cedar Island
in Lake Tokala. In fact, I was on the point of suggesting that we take
the last mentioned trip when something came up that entirely changed
my plan for the outing."

He stopped to see what effect his words were having. Evidently, he had
aroused the curiosity of the assembled scouts to fever heat, for
several voices immediately called out:

"Hear! hear! please go on, Paul! We're dying to know what the game
is!"

Paul smiled, as he went on to say:

"I guess you have all been so deeply interested in what was going on
to-night, that few of you noticed that we have a friend present who
slipped into the room just as the roll call began. All of you must
know the gentleman, so it's hardly necessary for me to introduce Mr.
Thomas Garrity to you."

Of course, every one turned quickly on hearing this. A figure that had
been seated in a dim corner of the assembly room arose, and Bobolink
gasped with a delicious sense of pleasure when he recognized the man
whom he and his fellow scouts had assisted that very afternoon.

"Please come forward, Mr. Garrity," said Paul, "and tell the boys what
you suggested to me late this afternoon. I'm sure they'd appreciate it
more coming directly from you than getting it secondhand."

While a hum of eager anticipation arose all around, Mr. Garrity made
his way to the side of the patrol leader and president of the
meeting.

"I have no doubt," he said, "that those of you who were not present
to-day when our old ice-house fell and caught me in the ruins, have
heard all about the accident, so I need not refer to the incident
except to say that I shall never cease to be grateful to the scouts
for the clever way in which they dug me out of the wreck."

"Hear! hear!" several excited scouts shouted.

"I happened to learn that you were contemplating a trip during the
holidays, and when an idea slipped into my mind I lost no time in
calling upon Paul Morrison, your efficient leader, in order to
interest him in my plan."

"Hear! hear!"

"It happens that I own a forest cabin up in the wilderness where I
often go to rest myself and get away from all excitement. It is in
charge of a faithful woodsman by the name of Tolly Tip. You can reach
it by skating a number of miles up a stream that empties into Lake
Tokala. The hunting is said to be very good around there, and you will
find excellent pickerel fishing through the ice in Lake Tokala. If you
care to do me the favor of accepting my offer, the services of my man
and the use of the cabin are at your disposal. Even then I shall feel
that this is only a beginning of the deep interest I am taking in the
scouts' organization; for I have had my eyes opened at last in a
wonderful manner."

As Mr. Garrity sat down, rosy-red from the exertion of speaking to a
party of boys, Paul immediately rapped for order, and put the
question.

"All who are in favor of accepting this generous offer say yes!" and
every boy joined in the vociferous shout that arose.



CHAPTER V

A STARTLING INTERRUPTION


"Mr. Garrity, your kind offer is accepted with thanks," announced
Paul. "And as you suggested to me, several of us will take great
pleasure in calling on you to-morrow to go into details and to get
full directions from you."

"Then perhaps I may as well go home now, boys," said the old
gentleman; "as my wrist is paining me considerably. I only want to add
that this has been a red day in my calendar. The collapse of the old
ice-house is going to prove one of those blessings that sometimes come
to us in disguise. I only regret that two little girls were injured.
As for myself, I am thoroughly pleased it happened."

"Before you leave us, sir," said Bobolink, boldly, "please let us show
in some slight way how much we appreciate your kind offer. Boys, three
cheers for Mr. Thomas Garrity, our latest convert, and already one of
our best friends!"

Possibly Bobolink's method of expressing his feelings might not
ordinarily appeal to a man of Mr. Garrity's character, but just now
the delighted old gentleman was in no mood for fault finding.

As the boyish cheers rang through the room there were actually tears
in Mr. Garrity's eyes. Truly that had been a great day for him, and
perhaps it might prove a joyous occasion to many of his poor tenants,
some of whom had occasion to look upon him as a just, though severe,
landlord, exacting his rent to the last penny.

After he had left the room the hum of voices became furious. One would
have been inclined to suspect the presence of a great bee-hive in the
near vicinity.

"Paul, you know all about this woods cabin he owns," said Tom Betts,
"so suppose you enlighten the rest of us."

"One thing tickles me about the venture!" exclaimed Bobolink; "That is
that we pass across Lake Tokala in getting there. I've been hankering
to see that place in winter time for ever so long."

"Yes," added Tom, eagerly, "that's true. And what's to hinder some of
us from using our iceboats part of the way?"

"Nothing at all," Paul assured him. "I went into that with Mr.
Garrity, and came to the conclusion that it could be done. Of course,
a whole lot depends on how many of us can go on the trip."

"How many could sleep in his cabin do you think, Paul?" demanded
Jack.

"Yes. For one, I'd hate to have to bunk out in the snow these cold
nights," said Bluff, shaking his head seriously, for Bluff dearly
liked the comforts of a cheery fire inside stout walls of logs, while
the bitter wintry wind howled without, and the snow drifted badly.

"He told me it was unusually large," explained Paul. "In fact, it has
two big rooms and could in a pinch accommodate ten fellows. Of course,
every boy would be compelled to tote his blankets along with him,
because Mr. Garrity never dreamed he would have an army occupy his log
shanty."

"The more I think of it the better it sounds!" declared Jack.

"Then first of all we must try to find out just who can go," suggested
Bobolink.

"What if there are too many to be accommodated either on the iceboats
we own or in the cabin?" remarked Tom Betts, uneasily.

"Shucks! that ought to be easy," suggested another. "All we have to do
is to pull straws, and see who the lucky ten are."

"Then let those who are _positive_ they can go step aside here," Paul
ordered; and at this there was a shuffling of feet and considerable
moving about.

"Remember, you must be sure you can go," warned Paul. "Afterwards
we'll single out those who believe they can get permission, but feel
some doubts. If there is room they will come in for next choice."

Several who had started forward held back at this. Those who took
their stand as the leader requested consisted of Jack, Bobolink,
Bluff, Tom Betts, Jud Elderkin, Sandy Griggs, Phil Towns and "Spider"
Sexton.

"Counting myself in the list that makes nine for certain," Paul
observed. It was noticed that Tom Betts as well as Bobolink looked
exceedingly relieved on discovering that, after all, there need be no
drawing of lots.

"Now let those who have strong hopes of being able to go stand up to
be counted," continued Paul. "I'll keep a list of the names, and the
first who comes to say he has received full permission will be the one
to make up the full count of ten members, which is all the cabin can
accommodate."

The Carberry twins, as well as several others, stood over in line to
have their names taken down.

"If one of us can go, Paul," explained Wallace Carberry, "we'll fix it
up between us which it shall be. But I'm sorry to say our folks don't
take to this idea of a winter camp very strongly."

"Same over at my house," complained Bob Tice. "Mother is afraid
something terrible might happen to us in such a hard spell of winter.
As if scouts couldn't take care of themselves anywhere, and under all
conditions!"

There were many gloomy faces seen in the gathering, showing that other
boys knew their parents did not look on the delightful scheme with
favor. Some of them could not accompany the party on account of other
plans which had been arranged by their parents.

"If the ice stays as fine as it is now," remarked Tom Betts, "we can
spin down the river on our iceboats, and maybe make our way through
that old canal to Lake Tokala as well. But how about the creek leading
up to the cabin, Paul? Did you ask Mr. Garrity about it?"

"Yes, I asked him everything I could think of," came the ready reply.
"I'm sorry to say it will be necessary to leave our iceboats somewhere
on the lake, for the creek winds around in such a way, and is so
narrow in places, that none of us could work the boats up there."

"But wouldn't it be dangerous to leave them on the lake so long?"
asked Tom, anxiously. "I've put in some pretty hard licks on my new
craft, and I'd sure hate to have any one steal it from me."

"Yes," added Bobolink, quickly, "and we all know that Lawson crowd
have been showing themselves as mean as dirt lately. We thought we had
got rid of our enemies some time ago, and here this new lot of rivals
seems bent on making life miserable for all scouts. They are a tough
crowd, and pretend to look down on us as weaklings. Hank Lawson is now
playing the part of the bully in Stanhope, you know."

"I even considered that," continued Paul, who seldom omitted anything
when laying plans. "Mr. Garrity told me there was a man living on the
shore of Lake Tokala, who would look after our iceboats for a
consideration."

"Bully for that!" exclaimed Tom, apparently much relieved. "All the
same I think it would be as well for us to try to keep our camping
place a secret if it can be done. Let folks understand that we're
going somewhere around Lake Tokala; and perhaps the Lawson crowd will
miss us."

"That isn't a bad idea," Paul agreed, "and I'd like every one to
remember it. Of course, we feel well able to look after ourselves, but
that's no reason why we should openly invite Hank and his cronies to
come and bother us. Are you all agreed to that part of the scheme?"

In turn every scout present answered in the affirmative. Those who
could not possibly accompany the party took almost as much interest in
the affair as those intending to go; and there would be heart burnings
among the members of Stanhope Troop from now on.

"How about the grub question, Paul?" demanded Bobolink.

"Every fellow who is going will have to provide a certain amount of
food to be carried along with his blanket, gun, clothes bag, and
camera. All that can be arranged when we meet to-morrow afternoon. In
the meantime, I'm going to appoint Bobolink and Jack as a committee of
two to spend what money we can spare in purchasing certain groceries
such as coffee, sugar, hams, potatoes, and other things to be listed
later."

Bobolink grinned happily on hearing that.

"See how pleased it makes him," jeered Tom Betts. "When you put
Bobolink on the committee that looks after the grub, Paul, you hit him
close to where he lives. One thing sure, we'll have plenty to eat
along with us, for Bobolink never underrates the eating capacity of
himself or his chums."

"You can trust me for that," remarked the one referred to, "because I
was really hungry once in my life, and I've never gotten over the
terrible feeling. Yes, there is going to be a full dinner pail in
Camp Garrity, let me tell you!"

"Camp Garrity sounds good to me!" exclaimed Sandy Griggs.

"Let it go down in the annals of Stanhope Troop at that!" cried
another scout.

"We could hardly call it by any other name, after the owner has been
so good as to place it at our disposal," said Paul, himself well
pleased at the idea.

Bobolink was about to say something more when, without warning, there
came a sudden crash accompanied by the jingling of broken glass. One
of the windows fell in as though some hard object had struck it. The
startled scouts, looking up, saw the arm and face of a boy thrust part
way through the aperture, showing that he must have slipped and broken
the window while trying to spy upon the meeting.



CHAPTER VI

A GLOOMY PROSPECT FOR JUD


"It's Jud Mabley!" exclaimed one of the scouts, instantly recognizing
the face of the unlucky youth who had fallen part way through the
window.

Jud was a boy of bad habits. He had applied to the scouts for
membership, but had not been admitted on account of his unsavory
reputation. Smarting under this sting Jud had turned to Hank Lawson
and his crowd for sympathy, and was known to be hand-in-glove with
those young rowdies.

"He's been spying on us, that's what!" cried Bobolink, indignantly.

"And learning our plans, like as not!" added Tom Betts.

"He ought to be caught and ridden on a rail!" exclaimed a third member
of the troop, filled with anger.

"I'd say duck him in the river after cutting a hole in the ice!"
called out another boy, furiously.

"Huh! first ketch your rabbit before you start cookin' him!" laughed
Jud in a jeering fashion, as he waved them a mocking adieu through the
broken window, and then vanished from view.

"After him, fellows!" shouted the impetuous Bobolink, and there was a
hasty rush for the door, the boys snatching up their hats as they
ran.

Paul was with the rest, not that he cared particularly about catching
the eavesdropper, but he wanted to be on hand in case the rest of the
scouts overtook Jud; for Paul held the reputation of the troop dear,
and would not have the scouts sully their honor by a mean act.

The boys poured out of the meeting-place in a stream. The bright moon
showed them a running figure which they judged must of course be Jud;
so away they sprang in hot pursuit.

Somehow, it struck them that Jud was not running as swiftly as might
be expected, for he had often proved himself a speedy contestant on
the cinder path. He seemed to wabble more or less, and looked back
over his shoulder many times.

Bobolink suspected there might be some sort of trick connected with
this action on the part of the other, for Jud was known to be a
schemer.

"Jack, he may be drawing us into a trap of some sort, don't you
think?" he managed to gasp as he ran at the side of the other.

Apparently Jack, too, had noticed the queer actions of the fugitive.
He had seen a mother rabbit pretend to be lame when seeking to draw
enemies away from the place where her young ones lay hidden; yes, and
a partridge often did the same thing, as he well knew.

"I was noticing that, Bobolink," he told the other, "but it strikes me
Jud must have been hurt somehow when he crashed through that window."

"You mean he feels more or less weak, do you?"

"Something like that," came the reply.

"Well, we're coming up on him like fun, anyway, no matter what the
cause may be!" Bobolink declared, and then found it necessary to stop
talking if he wanted to keep in the van with several of the swiftest
runners among the scouts.

It was true that they were rapidly overtaking Jud, who ran in a
strange zigzag fashion like one who was dizzy. He kept up until the
leaders among his pursuers came alongside; then he stopped short, and,
panting for breath, squared off, striking viciously at them.

Jack and two other scouts closed in on him, regardless of blows, and
Jud was made a prisoner. He ceased struggling when he found it could
avail him nothing, but glared at his captors as an Indian warrior
might have done.

"Huh! think you're smart, don't you, overhaulin' me so easy," he told
them disdainfully. "But if I hadn't been knocked dizzy when I fell you
never would a got me. Now what're you meanin' to do about it? Ain't a
feller got a right to walk the public streets of this here town
without bein' grabbed by a pack of cowards in soldier suits, and
treated rough-house way?"

"That doesn't go with us, Jud Mabley," said Bobolink, indignantly.
"You were playing the spy on us, you know it, trying to listen to all
we were saying."

"So as to tell that Lawson crowd, and get them to start some mean
trick on us in the bargain," added Tom Betts.

"O-ho! ain't a feller a right to stop alongside of a church to strike
a match for his pipe?" jeered the prisoner, defiantly. "How was I to
know your crowd was inside there? The streets are free to any one,
man, woman or boy, I take it."

"How about the broken window, Jud?" demanded Bobolink, triumphantly.

"Yes! did you smash that pane of glass when you threw your match away,
Jud," asked another boy, with a laugh.

"He was caught in the act, fellows," asserted Frank Savage, "and the
next question with us is what ought we to do to punish a sneak and a
spy?"

"I said it before--ride him on a rail around town so people can see
how scouts stand up for their own rights!" came a voice from the group
of excited boys.

"Oh! that would be letting him off too easy," Tom Betts affirmed.
"'Twould serve him just about right if we ducked him a few times in
the river."

"All we need is an axe to cut a hole through the ice," another lad
went on to say, showing that the suggestion rather caught his fancy as
the appropriate thing to do--making the punishment fit the crime, as
it were.

"Keep it goin'," sneered the defiant Jud, not showing any signs of
quailing under this bombardment. "Try and think up a few more pleasant
things to do to me. If you reckon you c'n make me show the white
feather you've got another guess comin', I want you to know. I'm true
grit, I am!"

"You may be singing out of the other side of your mouth, Jud Mabley,
before we're through with you," threatened Curly Baxter.

"Mebbe now you might think to get a hemp rope and try hangin' me,"
laughed the prisoner in an offensive manner. "That's what they do to
spies, you know, in the army. Yes, and I know of a beauty of a limb
that stands straight out from the body of the tree 'bout ten feet
from the ground. Shall I tell you where it lies?"

This sort of defiant talk was causing more of the scouts to become
angry. It seemed to them like adding insult to injury. Here this
fellow had spied upon their meeting, possibly learned all about the
plans they were forming for the midwinter holidays, and then finally
had the misfortune to fall and smash one of the window panes, which
would, of course, have to be made good by the scouts, as they were
under heavy obligations to the trustees of the church for favors
received.

"A mean fellow like you, Jud Mabley," asserted Joe Clausin, "deserves
the worst sort of punishment that could be managed. Why, it would
about serve you right if you got a lovely coat of tar and feathers
to-night."

Jud seemed to shrink a little at hearing that.

"You wouldn't dare try such a game as that," he told them, with a
faint note of fear in his voice. "Every one of you'd have to pay for
it before the law. Some things might pass, but that's goin' it too
strong. My dad'd have you locked up in the town cooler if I came home
lookin' like a bird, sure he would."

Jud's father was something of a local power in politics, so that the
boy's boast was not without more or less force. Some of the scouts may
have considered this; at any rate, one of them now broke out with:

"A ducking ought to be a good enough punishment for this chap, I
should say; so, fellows, let's start in to give it to him."

"I know where I can lay hands on an axe all right, to chop a hole
through the ice," asserted Bobolink, eagerly.

"Then we appoint you a committee of one to supply the necessary tools
for the joyous occasion," Red Collins cried out, gleefully falling in
with the scheme.

"Hold on, boys, don't you think it would be enough if Jud made an
apology to us, and promised not to breathe a word of what he chanced
to hear?"

It was Horace Poole who said this, for he often proved to be the
possessor of a tender heart and a forgiving spirit. His mild
proposition was laughed down on the spot.

"Much he'd care what he promised us, if only we let him go scot free,"
jeered one scout. "I've known him to give his solemn word before now,
and break it when he felt like it. I wouldn't trust him out of my
sight. Promises count for nothing with one of Jud Mabley's stamp."

"How about that, Jud?" demanded another boy. "Would you agree to keep
your lips buttoned up, and not tell a word of what you have heard?"

"I ain't promisin' nothin', I want you to know," replied the prisoner,
boldly; "so go on with your funny business. You won't ketch me
squealing worth a cent. Honest to goodness now I half b'lieve it's all
a big bluff. Let's see you do your worst."

"Drag him along to the river bank, fellows, and I'll join you there
with the axe," roared Bobolink, now fully aroused by the obstinate
manner of the captive.

"Wait a bit, fellows."

It was Jack Stormways who said this, and even the impetuous Bobolink
came to a halt.

"Go on Jack. What's your plan?" demanded one of the group.

"I was only going to remind you that in the absence of Mr. Gordon,
Paul is acting as scout-master, and before you do anything that may
reflect upon the good name of Stanhope Troop you'd better listen to
what he's got to say on the subject."



CHAPTER VII

PAUL TAKES A CHANCE


These sensible words spoken by Jack Stormways had an immediate effect
upon the angry scouts, some of whom realized that they had been taking
matters too much in their own hands. Paul had remained silent all this
while, waiting to see just how far the hotheads would go.

"First of all," he went on to say in that calm tone which always
carried conviction with it, "let's go back to the meeting-room, and
take Jud along. I have a reason for wanting you to do that, which you
shall hear right away."

No one offered an objection, although doubtless it was understood that
Paul did not like such radical measures as ducking the spy who had
fallen into their hands. They were by this time fully accustomed to
obeying orders given by a superior officer, which is one of the best
things learned by scouts.

Jud, for some reason, did not attempt to hold back when urged to
accompany them, though for that matter it would have availed him
nothing to have struggled and strained, for at least four sturdy
scouts had their grip on his person.

In this manner they retraced their steps. Fortunately the last boy out
had been careful enough to close the door after making his hurried
exit, so that they found the room still warm and comfortable.

They crowded inside, and a number of them frowned as they glanced
toward the broken window, through which a draught was blowing. They
hoped Paul would not be too easy with the rascal who had been
responsible for that smash.

"First of all," the scout-master began as they crowded around the spot
where he and Jud stood, the latter staring defiantly at the frowning
scouts, "I want to remark that it needn't bother us very much even if
Jud tells all he may have heard us saying. We shall always be at least
two to one, and can take care of ourselves if attacked. Those fellows
understand that, I guess."

"We've proved it to them in the past times without number, for a
fact," observed Jack, diplomatically.

"If they care to spend a week in the snow woods, let them try it,"
continued the other. "Good luck to them, say I; and here's hoping they
may learn some lessons there that will make them turn over a new
leaf. The forest is plenty big enough for all who want to breathe the
fresh air and have a good time. But there's another thing I had in
mind when I asked you to bring Jud back here. Some of you may have
noticed that he lets his arm hang down in a queer way. Look closer at
his hand and you'll discover the reason."

Almost immediately several of the scouts cried out.

"Why, there's blood dripping from his fingers, as sure as anything!"

"He must have cut his arm pretty bad when he fell through that
window!"

"Whew! I'd hate to have that slash. See how the broken glass cut his
coat sleeve--just as if you'd taken a sharp knife and gashed it!"

"Take off your coat, Jud, please!" said Paul.

Had Paul used a less kindly voice or omitted that last word in his
request, the obstinate and defiant Jud might have flatly declined to
oblige him. As it was he looked keenly at Paul, then grinned, and with
something of an effort started to doff his coat, Jack assisting him in
the effort.

Then the boys saw that his shirt sleeve was stained red. Several of
the weaker scouts uttered low exclamations of concern, not being
accustomed to such sights; but the stouter hearted veterans had seen
too many cuts to wince now.

Paul gently but firmly rolled the shirt sleeve up until the gash made
by the broken glass was revealed. It was a bad cut, and still bled
quite freely. No wonder Jud had run in such an unwonted fashion. No
person wounded as badly as that could be expected to run with his
customary zeal, for the shock and the loss of blood was sure to make
him feel weak.

Jud stared at his injury now with what was almost an expression of
pride. When he saw some of the scouts shrink back his lip curled with
disdain.

"Get a tin basin and fill it with warm water back in the other room,
Jack!" said Paul, steadily.

"What're you goin' to do to me, Paul?" demanded Jud, curiously, for he
could not bring himself to believe that any one who was his enemy
would stretch out a hand toward him save in anger and violence.

"Oh! I'm only going to wash that cut so as to take out any foreign
matter that might poison you if left there, and then bind it up the
best way possible," remarked the young scout-master.

There was some low whispering among the boys. Much as they marveled at
such a way of returning evil with good they could not take exception
to Paul's action. Every one of them knew deep down in his inmost heart
that scout law always insisted on treating a fallen enemy with
consideration, and even forgiving him many times if he professed
sorrow for his evil ways.

Jack came back presently. He not only bore the basin of warm water but
a towel as well. Jud watched operations curiously. He was seeing what
was a strange thing according to his ideas. He could not quite bring
himself to believe that there was not some cruel hoax hidden in this
act of apparent friendliness, and that accounted for the way he kept
his teeth tightly closed. He did not wish to be taken unawares and
forced to cry out.

Paul washed gently the ugly, jagged cut. Then, taking out a little
zinc box containing some soothing and healing salve, which he always
carried with him, he used fully half of it upon the wound.

Afterwards he produced a small inch wide roll of surgical linen, and
began winding the tape methodically around the injured arm of Jud
Mabley. Jack amused himself by watching the play of emotions upon the
hard face of Jud. Evidently, he was beginning to comprehend the
meaning of Paul's actions, though he could not understand why any one
should act so.

When the last of the tape had been used and fastened with a small
safety pin, Paul drew down the shirt sleeve, buttoned it, and then
helped Jud on with his coat.

"Now you can go free when you take a notion, Jud," he told the other.

"Huh! then you ain't meanin' to gimme that duckin' after all?"
remarked the other, with a sneering look of triumph at Bobolink.

"You have to thank Paul for getting you off," asserted one scout,
warmly. "Had it been left to the rest of us you'd have been in soak
long before this."

"For my part," said Paul, "I feel that so far as punishment goes Jud
has got all that is coming to him, for that arm will give him a lot of
trouble before it fully heals. I hope every time it pains him he'll
remember that scouts as a rule are taught to heap coals of fire on the
heads of their enemies when the chance comes, by showing them a
favor."

"But, Paul, you're forgetting something," urged Tom Betts.

"That's a fact, how about the broken window, Paul?" cried Joe Clausin,
with more or less indignation. For while it might be very well to
forgive Jud his spying tricks some one would have to pay for a new
pane of glass in the basement window, and it was hard luck if the
burden fell on the innocent parties, while the guilty one escaped scot
free.

It was noticed that Jud shut his lips tight together as though making
up his mind on the spot to decline absolutely to pay a cent for what
had been a sheer accident, and which had already cost him a severe
wound.

"I haven't forgotten that, fellows," said Paul, quietly. "Of course
it's only fair Jud should pay the dollar it will cost to have a new
pane put in there to-morrow. I shall order Mr. Nickerson to attend to
it myself. And I shall also insist on paying the bill out of my own
pocket, unless Jud here thinks it right and square to send me the
money some time to-morrow. That's all I've got to say, Jud. There's
the door, and no one will put out a hand to stop you. I hope you won't
have serious trouble with that arm of yours."

Jud stared dumbly at the speaker as though almost stunned. Perhaps he
might have said something under the spur of such strange emotions as
were chasing through his brain, but just then Bobolink chanced to
sneer. The sound acted on Jud like magic, for he drew himself up,
turned to look boldly into the face of each and every boy present,
then thrust his right hand into his buttoned coat and with head thrown
back walked out of the room, noisily closing the door after him.

Several of the scouts shook their heads.

"Pretty fine game you played with him, Paul," remarked George Hurst,
"but it strikes me it was like throwing pearls before swine. Jud has a
hide as thick as a rhinoceros and nothing can pierce it. Kind words
are thrown away with fellows of his stripe, I'm afraid. A kick and a
punch are all they can understand."

"Yes," added Red Collins, "when you try the soft pedal on them they
think you're only afraid. I'm half sorry now you didn't let us carry
out that ducking scheme. Jud deserved it right well, for a fact."

"It would have been cruel to drop him into ice water with such a wound
freshly made," remarked Jack. "Wait and see whether Paul's plan was
worth the candle."

"Mark my words," commented Tom Betts, "we'll have lots of trouble with
him yet."

"Shucks! who cares?" laughed Bobolink, "it's all in the game, you
know. There's Paul getting ready to go home, so let's forget it till
we meet to-morrow."



CHAPTER VIII

BOBOLINK AND THE STOREKEEPER


According to their agreement, Jack and Bobolink met on a certain
corner on the following morning. Their purpose was to purchase the
staple articles of food that half a score of hungry lads would require
to see them through a couple of weeks' stay in the snow forest.

"It's a lucky thing, too," Bobolink remarked, after the other had
displayed the necessary funds taken from his pocket, "that our
treasury happens to be fairly able to stand the strain just now."

"Oh, well! except for that we'd have had to take up subscriptions,"
laughed Jack. "I know several people who would willingly help us out.
The scouts of Stanhope have made good in the past, and a host of good
friends are ready to back them."

"Yes, and for that matter I guess Mr. Thomas Garrity would have been
only too glad to put his hand deep down in his pocket," suggested
Bobolink.

"He's an old widower, and with plenty of ready cash, too," commented
the other boy. "But, after all, it's much better for us to stand our
own expense as long as we can."

"Have you got the list that Paul promised to make out with you, Jack?
I'd like to take a squint at it, if you don't mind. There may be a few
things we could add to it."

As Bobolink was looked on as something of an authority in this line,
Jack hastened to produce the list, so they could run it over and
exchange suggestions.

"Where shall we start in to buy the stuff?" asked Bobolink,
presently.

"Oh! I don't know that it matters very much," replied his companion.
"Mr. Briggs has had some pretty fine hams in lately I heard at the
house this morning, and if he treats us half-way decent we might do
all our trading with him."

"I never took much stock in old Levi Briggs," said Bobolink. "He hates
boys for all that's out. I guess some of them do nag him more or less.
I saw that Lawson crowd giving him a peck of trouble a week ago. He
threatened to call the police if they didn't go away."

"Well, we happen to be close to the Briggs' store," observed Jack, "so
we might as well drop in and see how he acts toward us."

"Huh! speaking of the Lawson bunch, there they are right now!"
exclaimed Bobolink.

Loud jeering shouts close by told that Hank and his cronies were
engaged in their favorite practice of having "fun." This generally
partook of the nature of the old fable concerning boys who were
stoning frogs, which was "great fun for the boys, but death to the
frogs."

"It's a couple of ragged hoboes they're nagging now," burst out
Bobolink.

"The pair just came out of Briggs' store," added Jack, "where I expect
they met a cold reception if they hoped to coax a bite to eat from the
old man."

"Still, they couldn't have done anything to Hank and his crowd, so why
should they be pushed off the walk in that way?" Bobolink went on to
say.

As a rule the boy had no use for tramps. He looked on the vagrants as
a nuisance and a menace to the community. At the same time, no
self-respecting scout would think of casting the first stone at a
wandering hobo, though, if attacked, he would always defend himself,
and strike hard.

"The tramps don't like the idea of engaging in a fight with a pack of
tough boys right here in town," remarked Jack, "because they know the
police would grab them first, no matter if they were only defending
themselves. That's why they don't hit back, but only dodge the stones
the boys are flinging."

"Oh! that's a mean sort of game!" cried Bobolink, as he saw the two
tramps start to run wildly away. "There! that shorter chap was hit in
the head with one of the rocks thrown after them. I bet you it raised
a fine lump. What a lot of cowards those Lawsons are, to be sure."

"Well, the row is all over now," observed Jack. "And as the tramps
have disappeared around the corner we don't want to break into the
game, so come along to the store, and let's see what we can do
there."

Bobolink continued to shake his head pugnaciously as he walked along
the pavement. Hank and his followers were laughing at a great rate as
they exchanged humorous remarks concerning the recent "fight" which
had been all one-sided.

"Believe me!" muttered Bobolink, "if a couple more scouts had been
along just now I'd have taken a savage delight in pitching in and
giving that crowd the licking they deserved. Course a tramp isn't
worth much, but then he's _human_, and I hate to see anybody
bullied."

"It wasn't Hank's business to chase the hoboes out of town," said
Jack. "We have the police force to manage such things. Fact is, I
reckon Hank's bunch has done more to hurt the good name of Stanhope
than all the hoboes we ever had come around here."

"If I had my way, Jack, there'd be a public woodpile, and every tramp
caught coming to town would have to work his passage. I bet there'd be
a sign on every cross-roads warning the brotherhood to beware of
Stanhope as they might of the smallpox. But here's Briggs' store."

As they entered the place they could see that the proprietor was
alone, his clerk being off on the delivery wagon.

"Whew! he certainly looks pretty huffy this morning," muttered the
observing Bobolink. "Those tramps must have bothered him more or less
before he could get them to move on."

"It might be he had some trouble with Hank before we came up," Jack
suggested; but further talk was prevented by the coming up of the
storekeeper.

Mr. Briggs was a small man with white hair, and keen, rat-like eyes.
He possessed good business abilities, and had managed to accumulate a
small fortune in the many years he purveyed to the people of
Stanhope.

Latterly, however, the little, old man had been growing very nervous
and irritable, perhaps with the coming of age and its infirmities. He
detested boys, and since that feeling soon becomes mutual there was
open war between Mr. Briggs and many of the juveniles of Stanhope.

Suspicious by nature, he always watched when boys came into his store
as though he weighed them all in the same balance with Hank Lawson,
and considered that none of Stanhope's rising generation could be
trusted out of sight.

Long ago he had taken to covering every apple and sugar barrel with
wire screens to prevent pilfering. Neither Jack nor Bobolink had ever
had hot words with the storekeeper, but for all that they felt that
his manner was openly aggressive at the time they entered the door.

"If you want to buy anything, boys," said Mr. Briggs curtly, "I'll
wait on you; but if you've only come in here to stand around my store
and get warm I'll have to ask you to move on. My time is too valuable
to waste just now."

Jack laughed on hearing that.

"Oh! we mean business this morning, Mr. Briggs," he remarked
pleasantly, while Bobolink scowled, and muttered something under his
breath. "The fact is a party of us scouts are planning to spend a
couple of weeks up in the snow woods," continued Jack. "We have a list
here of some things we want to take along, and will pay cash for them.
We want them delivered to-day at our meeting room under the church."

"Let Mr. Briggs have the list, Jack," suggested Bobolink. "He can mark
the prices he'll let us have the articles for. Of course, sir, we mean
to buy where we can get the best terms for cash."

Bobolink knew the grasping nature of the old storekeeper, and perhaps
this was intended for a little trap to trip him up. Mr. Briggs glanced
over the list and promptly did some figuring, after which he handed
the paper back.

"Seems to me your prices are pretty steep, sir!" remarked Jack.

"I should say they were," added Bobolink, with a gleam in his eyes.
"Why, you are two cents a pound on hams above the other stores. Yes,
and even on coffee and rice you are asking more than we can get the
same article for somewhere else."

"Those are my regular prices," said the old man, shortly. "If they are
not satisfactory to you, of course, you are at liberty to trade
elsewhere. In fact, I do not believe you meant to buy these goods of
me, but have only come in to annoy me as those other good-for-nothing
boys always do."

"Indeed, you are mistaken, Mr. Briggs," expostulated Jack, who did not
like to be falsely accused when innocent. "We are starting out to see
where we can get our provisions at the most reasonable rates. Some of
the storekeepers are only too glad to give the scouts a reduction."

"Well, you'll get nothing of the sort here, let me tell you," snapped
the unreasonable old man. "I can't afford to do business at cost just
to please a lot of harum-scarum boys, who want to spend days loafing
in the woods when they ought to be earning an honest penny at work."

"Come on, Jack, let's get out of here before I say something I'll be
sorry for," remarked Bobolink, who was fiery red with suppressed
anger.

"There's the door, and your room will be better appreciated than your
company," Mr. Briggs told them. "And as for your trade, take it where
you please. Your people have left me for other stores long ago, so why
should I care?"

"Oh! that's where the shoe pinches, is it?" chuckled Bobolink; and
after that he and Jack left the place, to do their shopping in more
congenial quarters, while Mr. Briggs stood on his doorsteps and glared
angrily after them.



CHAPTER IX

"FIRE!"


"Saturday, eleven-thirty P.M., the night before Christmas, and all's
well!"

It was Frank Savage who made this remark, as with eight other scouts
he trudged along, after having left the house of the scout-master,
Paul Morrison. Frank had been the lucky one to be counted among those
who were going on the midwinter tour, his parents having been coaxed
into giving their consent.

"And on Monday morning we make the start, wind and weather
permitting," observed Bobolink, with an eagerness he did not attempt
to conceal.

"So far as we know everything is in complete readiness," said Bluff
Shipley.

"Five iceboats are tugging at their halters, anxious to be off,"
laughed Jack. "And there'll be a lot of restless sleepers in certain
Stanhope homes I happen to know."

"Huh! there always are just before Christmas," chuckled Tom Betts.
"But this year we have a double reason for lying awake and counting
the dragging minutes. Course you committee of two looked after the
grub supplies as you were directed?"

"We certainly did!" affirmed Bobolink, "and came near getting into a
row with old Briggs at his store. He wanted to ask us top-notch prices
for everything, and when we kicked he acted so ugly we packed out."

"Just like the old curmudgeon," declared Phil Towns. "The last time I
was in his place he kept following me around as if he thought I meant
to steal him out of house and home. I just up and told my folks I
never wanted to trade with Mr. Briggs again, and so they changed to
the other store."

"Oh, well, he's getting old and peevish," said Jack. "You see he lives
a lonely life, and has a narrow vision. Besides, some boys have given
him a lot of trouble, and he doesn't know the difference between
decent fellows and scamps. We'd better let him alone, and talk of
something else."

"I suppose all of you notice that it's grown cloudy late to-day,"
suggested Spider Sexton.

"Oh! I hope that doesn't mean a heavy snowfall before we get started,"
exclaimed Bluff. "If a foot of snow comes down on us, good-bye to our
using the iceboats as we've been planning."

"The weather reports at the post office say fair and cold ahead for
this section," announced Jack Stormways, at which there arose many
faint cheers.

"Good boy, Jack!" cried Bobolink, patting the other's back. "It was
just like the thoughtful fellow you are to go down and read the
prospect the weather sharps in Washington hold out for us."

"You must thank Paul for that, then," admitted the other, "for he told
me about it. I rather expect Paul had the laugh on the rest of us
to-night, boys."

"Now you're referring to that Jud Mabley business, Jack," said Phil
Towne.

"Well, when Paul let him off so easy every one of us believed he was
wrong, and that the chances were ten to one Paul would have to fork
over the dollar to pay for having that window pane put in," continued
Jack. "But you heard what happened?"

"Yes, seems that the age of miracles hasn't passed yet," admitted
Bobolink. "I thought I was dreaming when Paul told me that Jud's
little brother came this morning with an envelope addressed to him,
and handed it in without a word."

"And when Paul opened it," continued Jack, taking up the story in his
turn, "he found a nice, new dollar bill enclosed, with a scrap of
paper on which Jud had scrawled these words: 'Never would have paid
only I couldn't let _you_ stand for my accident, and after you treated
me so white, too. But this wipes it all out, remember. I'm no
crawler!'"

"It tickled Paul a whole lot, let me remark," Jud Elderkin explained.
"I do half believe he thinks he can see a rift in the cloud, and that
some of these days hopes to get a chance to drag Jud Mabley out of
that ugly crowd."

"It would be just like Paul to lay plans that way," acknowledged Jack.
"I know him like a book, and believe me, he gets more pleasure out of
making his enemies feel cheap than the rest of us would if we gave
them a good licking."

"Paul's a sure-enough trump!" admitted Bluff. "Do you know what he
said when he was showing that scrawl to us fellows? I was close enough
to get part of it, and I'm dead sure the words 'entering wedge' formed
the backbone of his remark."

"Do we go, snow or sunshine, then?" asked Bluff, as they came to a
halt on a corner where several of the boys had to leave the rest, as
their homes lay in different directions.

"That's for Paul to decide," Jack told him. "But we know our leader
well enough to feel sure it's got to be a fierce storm to make him
call a trip off, once all preparations have been made."

"Oh! don't borrow trouble," sang out Bobolink. "Everything is lovely,
and the goose hangs high. Just keep on remembering that to-morrow will
be Christmas, and all of us expect to find something in our stockings,
so to speak."

"There's one word of warning I ought to speak before we separate,"
said Jack, pretending to look solemn as they stood under a corner
street lamp.

"Now the chances are you're referring to that Lawson crowd again,
Jack," suggested Bobolink.

"This time it comes nearer home than the Lawsons," said Jack,
seriously.

"Then for goodness sake tell us what you have on your mind," urged Tom
Betts, impulsively.

"As the second in command in our patrol," Jack went on gravely, "since
Paul failed to say anything about it, I feel it my solemn duty to warn
several of our number to be extra careful how they gorge at Christmas
dinner to-morrow. Too much turkey and plum pudding have stretched out
many a brave scout before now. If there are several vacancies in our
ranks Monday morning we'll know what to lay it all to. I beg of you to
abstain, if you want to feel fresh and hearty at the start."

A general laugh greeted the warning, and every one looked particularly
at Bobolink, much to his confusion.

"If the shoe fits, put it on, everybody," Bobolink remarked stoutly.
"As for me, I'd already made up my mind to be satisfied with one
helping all around. And when a Link says a thing he always keeps his
word."

"Well," remarked Phil Towns, wickedly, "we hope that this time we
won't have to refer to our chum as the 'Missing Link,' that's all."

That caused another mild eruption of boyish laughter, and before
Bobolink could make a caustic reply a sudden loud metallic clang
startled them.

"Listen, it's the fire alarm!" exclaimed Tom Betts.

Again the sound came with startling distinctness.

Boylike, Jack and his friends forgot everything else just then in this
new excitement. Stanhope had a volunteer fire department, like most
small towns in that section of the country. Stanhope was proud of its
fire laddies, who had, on numerous previous occasions, proved their
skill at fighting the flames. Already loud shouts could be heard in
various quarters, as men threw up windows and called to neighbors.

"Where can it be, do you think?" demanded Jud Elderkin, as the group
of lads stood ready for flight, only waiting to catch some definite
clue, so that they might not start on a wild-goose chase.

"Seems to me I c'n see a flickering light over yonder!" cried Spider
Sexton, as he pointed toward the heart of the town.

"You're right, Spider!" echoed Tom Betts. "That's where the fire lies.
See how it keeps on getting brighter right along, showing that the
blaze has got a firm grip. Hey! wait for me, can't you, fellows?"

"Wait your granny!" shouted Bobolink over his shoulder as he fled
wildly down the street. "Run for all your worth, old ice-wagon. Whoop!
here we come, Stanhope's fire-fighters!"

There was excitement on every side of them now. Doors opened to emit
men hastily donning rubber coats and firemen's hats. Women and
children had commenced to scream at each other across dividing fences.
Dogs began to join in the general confusion by barking madly. And
above all the increasing clamor, the brazen notes of the fire bell
continued to clang furiously.

The nine scouts, being already on the street at the time the alarm was
turned in, had a big advantage over others, since they were dressed in
the beginning. As they ran on they were joined by a number of men and
women who had chanced to be up at this late hour, possibly decorating
Christmas trees for the benefit of the children on the coming
morning.



CHAPTER X

THE ACCUSATION


"Can you guess where it is, Jack?" gasped Frank Savage as he strove to
keep alongside the other while running to the fire.

Just then they reached a corner, and as they dashed around it they
came in plain sight of the conflagration.

"It's Briggs' store, fellows!" shouted Frank over his shoulder.

Ten seconds later all of them were on the spot where already a little
cluster of men and boys were gathered, some of them near neighbors,
others having come up ahead of the scouts.

"Hey! what's this I see?" Bobolink said to his chum nearest him; "two
of the Lawson crowd here, dodging about and grinning as if they
thought it a picnic?"

"Look at old Briggs, will you?" cried Sandy Griggs. "He's dancing
around like a chicken after you've chopped its head off."

"Did you ever see anybody so excited?" demanded Bobolink. "Hold on!
what's that he's saying now about somebody setting his store afire on
purpose?"

"It's a black scheme to get me out of competition!" the little, old
storekeeper was crying as he wrung his hands wildly. "Somebody must
have known that my insurance ran out three weeks ago, and for once I
neglected to renew it! I shall be ruined if it all goes! Why don't
some of you try to save my property?"

"Boys, it seems that it's up to us to get busy and do something!"
exclaimed Frank Savage, immediately.

"It comes hard to work for the old skinflint," declared Bobolink, "but
I s'pose we're bound to forget everything but that some one's stuff is
in danger, and that we belong to the scouts!"

"Come on then, everybody, and let's sling things around!" cried Jud
Elderkin.

No matter how the fire started it was burning fiercely, and promised
to give the volunteer firemen a good fight when they arrived, as they
were likely to do at any moment now. Indeed, loud cries not far away,
accompanied by the rush of many heavily booted feet and the trampling
of horses' hoofs announced that the engine, hook and ladder, and
chemical companies were close at hand.

The nine scouts dashed straight at the store front. The door stood
conveniently open, though they could only hazard a guess as to how it
came so--possibly when brought to the spot with the first alarm of
fire the owner had used his key to gain an entrance.

Into the store tumbled the boys. The interior was already pretty well
filled with an acrid smoke that made their eyes run; but through it
they could manage to see the barrels and boxes so well remembered.

These some of the scouts started to get out as best they could. Jack,
realizing that in all probability the rolls of cloth and silks on the
shelves would suffer worst from the water soon to be applied, led
several of his companions to that quarter.

They were as busy as the proverbial beaver, rushing goods outdoors
where they could be taken in hand by others, and placed in temporary
security. A couple of the local police force had by this time reached
the scene, and they could be depended on to guard Mr. Briggs' property
as it was gathered in the street.

The owner of the store seemed half beside himself, rushing this way
and that, and saying all manner of bitter things. Even at that moment,
when the boys of Stanhope were making such heroic efforts to save his
property, he seemed to entertain suspicions regarding them, for he
often called out vague threats as to what would happen if they dared
take anything belonging to him.

Now came the volunteer fire-fighters, with loud hurrahs. There seemed
no need of the ladders, but the fire engine was quickly taken to the
nearest cistern and the suction pipe lowered. When that reservoir was
emptied others in the near vicinity would be tapped, and if the water
supply held out the fire could possibly be gotten under control.

That was likely to be the last time the citizens of Stanhope would
have to cope with a fire in their midst, armed with such old-fashioned
weapons. A new waterworks system was being installed, and in the
course of a couple of weeks Stanhope hoped to be supplied with an
abundance of clear spring water through the network of pipes laid
under the town streets during the preceding summer and fall.

Mr. Forbes, the efficient foreman of the fire company, was the right
sort of man for the work. He was one of the town blacksmiths, a fine
citizen, and highly respected by every one.

As his heavy voice roared out orders the men under him trailed the
hose out, the engine began to work furiously, sending out black smoke
from its funnel, and the men who handled the chemical engine brought
it into play.

Even in that time, when dozens of things pressed hard upon the foreman
demanding his attention, he found occasion to speak words of
encouragement to the busy scouts as they trooped back and forth,
carrying all sorts of bulky articles out of the reach of the flames.

"Good boys, every one of you!" he called out to them as Jack and
Bobolink came staggering along with their arms filled with bolts of
Mr. Briggs' most cherished silks, "you've got the making of prize
firemen in you I can see. Don't overdo it, though, lads; and make way
for the men with the hose!"

By the time the first stream of water was turned on the fire the
flames were leaping upward, and the entire back part of the store
seemed to be doomed. Being a frame building and very old it had been
like matchwood in the path of the flames.

"Now watch how they slam things down on the old fire!" exclaimed
Bobolink as he stood aside unable to enter the store again since the
firemen had taken possession of the premises. "The water will do more
damage than the fire ever had a chance to accomplish."

"Wow! see them smash those windows in, will you!" shouted Jud
Elderkin, as a man with a fire axe made a fresh opening in one side
of the store in order to put a second line of hose to work.

Everybody was calling out, and what with the crackling of the hungry
flames, the neighing of the horses that had drawn the fire-engine to
the spot, the whooping of gangs of delighted boys, and a lot of other
miscellaneous sounds, Bedlam seemed to have broken loose in Stanhope
on this night before Christmas.

"They've got the bulge on it already, seems like," announced Tom
Betts.

"But even that doesn't seem to give Mr. Briggs much satisfaction,"
remarked Frank. "There he is running back and forth between the store
and the stack of goods we piled up in the street."

"I reckon he is afraid the police will steal some of the silks,"
chuckled Bobolink.

"The fire is going down right fast now," Tom Betts affirmed. "What's
left of the Briggs' store may be saved. But Mr. Briggs is bound to
lose a heap, and it cuts the old man to the bone to let a dollar slip
away from him."

"To think of such a smart business man allowing his insurance policy
to lapse, and to lie unrenewed for a whole month!" exclaimed Bluff.

"Got tired paying premiums for so many years and never having a fire,"
explained Jack.

As the crowd stood there the last of the blaze yielded to the efforts
of the firemen. Most of the building was saved, though the business
was bound to be crippled for some time, and Mr. Briggs' loss would run
into the hundreds, perhaps thousands, for all any one knew.

"Listen to him scolding the foreman of the fire company, will you?"
demanded Bobolink. "He seems to think a whole hour elapsed after the
alarm before the boys got here. Why, it was the quickest run on
record, I should say."

"Here they come this way," observed Tom Betts, "and the foreman is
trying to convince Mr. Briggs he is mistaken. He knows how excited Mr.
Briggs is, and excuses anything he may say. Mr. Forbes is a big man in
more ways than bulk."

"Perhaps Mr. Briggs may want to scold us for not getting more stuff
out before the water was turned on," chuckled Bobolink.

"Don't answer him back if he does," Jack warned them, "because we know
he's nearly out of his mind just now."

Still, even practical Jack was shocked when the old storekeeper,
coming face to face with the group of scouts, suddenly pointed a
trembling finger at Bobolink and exclaimed in a vindictive voice:

"I knew this fire was started in revenge, and there's the boy who did
it!"



CHAPTER XI

FRIENDS OF THE SCOUTS


Everybody came crowding around at hearing Mr. Briggs make such a
startling accusation. Bobolink seemed to have had his very breath
taken away, for all he could do was to stare helplessly at the angry,
little, old storekeeper. The magnitude of the crime with which he was
accused stunned him.

Some of the other scouts managed to find their tongues readily enough.
Flushed with indignation they proceeded to express their feelings as
boys might be expected to do under strong resentment.

"Well, I like that, now!" exclaimed Tom Betts. "When Bobolink here has
been working like a beaver to save Mr. Briggs' stuff from the maw of
the flames."

"That was only meant to be a blind to hide the truth!" cried Mr.
Briggs. "After he set the fire he must have become frightened at what
he had done, and tried to cover up his tracks. Oh! I know what boys
are capable of; but I'll have the law on this miscreant who tried to
get revenge on me this way, see if I don't."

"Shame on you, Mr. Briggs," said a stout woman close by. "And the boy
nearly killing himself to carry out big loads of your silks! It's many
dollars he saved you, and little credit he'll ever get."

"Don't you know Bobolink has the best kind of alibi, Mr. Briggs?" said
Frank. "He was over at Doctor Morrison's house along with the rest of
us until just before the alarm sounded. We were on our way home when
the bell struck first."

"The doctor himself will tell you that, if you ask him," added Jack,
indignant now because of what had passed after all they had done for
the old man. "Mr. Forbes, I wish you would warn him not to make such a
reckless accusation again, because he might have to prove it in court.
Boys have rights as well as storekeepers, he must know."

"It's just as you say, Jack, my lad," asserted the big foreman of the
truck company, warmly. "I stood all your abuse, Mr. Briggs, when it
was directed against myself, but I advise you to go slow about
charging any of these young chaps with setting fire to your store. All
of us have seen how they worked trying to save your property, sir. It
is a poor return you are making for their efforts."

Others shared this opinion, and realizing that he did not have a
single friend in the crowd, Mr. Briggs had the good sense to keep his
further suspicions to himself. But that he was still far from
convinced of Bobolink's innocence could be seen by the malevolent
glances he shot toward the boy from time to time, while the scouts
stood and watched the final work of the fire-fighters.

The last spark had been extinguished, and all danger was past. Many of
the townspeople began to leave for their comfortable homes, because it
was bitterly cold at that hour of the night, with a coating of snow on
the ground.

Paul had come up during the excitement, but somehow had failed to join
the rest of the scouts until later on. The other scouts thought that
doubtless he had found something to claim his attention elsewhere; but
he came up to them about the time they were thinking of taking their
departure.

His indignation was strong when he heard what a foolish accusation the
almost distracted storekeeper had made against Bobolink. Still Paul
was a sensible lad, and he realized that Mr. Briggs could hardly be
held responsible for what he said at such a time.

"Better forget all about it, Bobolink," he told the other, who was
still fretting under the unmerited charge. "Perhaps when he cools off
and realizes what a serious thing he has said, Mr. Briggs will
publicly take his words back, and will thank you fellows in the
bargain."

"But how came it you were so slow in getting to the fire, Paul?" asked
Tom Betts; for, as a rule, the patrol leader could be counted on to
arrive with the first.

Paul laughed at that.

"I knew you'd be wondering," he said, and then went on to explain.
"For once I was caught in a trap, and, much as I wanted to get out and
run, I just had to hold my horses for a spell. You see, after you had
gone father asked me to hold something for him while he was attending
to it, and I couldn't very well drop it until he was through."

"Whew! it sure must have been something pretty important to keep Paul
Morrison from running to a fire," chuckled Frank.

"It was important," came the ready reply. "In fact, it was a man's
broken arm I was holding. Ben Holliday was brought in just after you
boys left. He had fallen in some way and sustained a compound fracture
of his left arm. Neither of the men who were along with him could be
counted on to assist, so father called on me to lend a hand. And
that's why I was late at the Briggs' store fire."

"You missed a great sight, Paul, let me tell you," affirmed Bluff.

"Yes, and you missed hearing a friend of yours called a fire-bug, too,
in the bargain," grunted Bobolink. "And after I'd sweated and toiled
like fun to drag a lot of his old junk out of reach of fire and flood!
That's what makes me sore. Now, if I'd just stood around and laughed,
like a lot of the fellows did, it wouldn't have been so bad."

"Listen!" said Jud Elderkin, lowering his voice, "when old Briggs got
the notion that some bad boy set his store on fire in a spirit of
revenge, maybe he wasn't so far wrong after all."

"Say, what are you hinting at now, Jud?" gasped Bobolink,
suspiciously. "You know as well as anything I was along with the crowd
every minute of the time."

"Sure I do, Bobolink," asserted the other, blandly. "I wasn't
referring to you at all when I said that. There are others in the
swim. You're not the only pebble on the beach, you understand."

"Now I get you, Jud!" Tom Betts exclaimed. "And let me say, I've been
having little suspicions of my own leading in that same direction."

"We found Hank, Jud Mabley and Sim Jeffreys on the spot when we got
here, you all remember, and they seemed tickled to death because it
was the Briggs' place that was on fire," continued Jud.

Even Paul and Jack seemed impressed, though too cautious to accept the
fact until there was more proof. Already the foolishness of making an
unsupported accusation had been brought home to them, and the
scout-master felt that it was his duty to warn Jud and Tom against
talking too recklessly of their suspicion.

"Better go slow about it, fellows, no matter what you think," he told
them. "The law does not recognize suspicion as counting for anything,
unless you have some sort of proof to back it up. It may be those
fellows are guilty, for they have been going from bad to worse of
late; but until you can show evidence leading that way, button up your
lips."

"Guess you're right there, Paul," admitted Jud. "Some of us are apt to
be too previous when we get a notion in our heads. But Mr. Briggs is
dead sure it was no accident, whether the fire was started by the
Lawson crowd or some one else."

"I heard him say he suspected that his safe had been broken open,"
declared Tom Betts just then, "and that the fire might have been an
after thought meant to hide a robbery."

"Whew! that's going some, I must say, if that Lawson gang has come
down to burglary, as well as arson," observed Spider Sexton,
seriously.

"You'll have to get Jud Mabley away from his cronies mighty quick
then, Paul, if you hope to pull him out of the fire," commented
Frank.

"Well, for one I've yet to be convinced that they had anything to do
with the fire," Paul told them.

"But we know they've had trouble with Mr. Briggs plenty of times,"
urged another of the scouts.

"And you must remember they were here when we arrived, which looks
suspicious," added Bobolink.

"Appearances are often deceitful, Bobolink, as you yourself know to
your cost," the scout-master remarked. "If forced to explain their
being on the spot so early perhaps they could prove an alibi as well
as you. But come, since the fire is all over, and it's pretty shivery
out here now, suppose we get back home."

No one offered any objection to this proposal. Indeed, several of the
scouts who had worked hard enough to get into a perspiration, were
moving about uneasily as though afraid of taking cold.

When the boys left the scene the crowd had thinned out very much, for
the wintry night made standing around unpleasant. Besides, most of the
people were disgusted with the actions of old Mr. Briggs, and cared
very little what his loss might prove to be.

At the time the scouts turned away and headed for another section of
the town, the old storekeeper was entering the still smoking building,
desirous of examining his safe to ascertain whether it showed signs of
having been tampered with.

Once again the boys stood on the corner ready to separate into several
factions as their homes chanced to lie.

"There, the fire is out; that's back-taps!" said Tom Betts.

"You're off your base, Tom," Bluff disagreed, "for that's the town
clock striking the hour of midnight."

"Sure enough," agreed Tom, when four and five had sounded.

They counted aloud until the whole twelve had struck.

"That means it's Sunday morning. Merry Christmas, Paul, and the rest!"
cried Frank.

"The same to you, and good-night, fellows!" called out Paul, as with
Jack he strode away.



CHAPTER XII

THE ICEBOAT SQUADRON


At exactly ten o'clock, on Monday morning, December 26th, Bobolink
sounded the "Assembly" on his bugle. A great crowd had gathered on the
bank of the frozen Bushkill. For the most part this was made up of
boys and girls, but there were in addition a few parents who wanted to
see the start of the scouts for their midwinter camp.

Up to this time their outings had taken place in a more genial period
of the year, and not a few witnessed their departure with feelings of
uneasiness. This winter had already proved its title to the stormiest
known in a quarter of a century, and at the last hour more than one
parent questioned the wisdom of allowing the boys to take the bold
tour.

However, there were no "recalls," and as for the ten lads themselves,
to look at their eager faces it could be seen that they entertained no
doubts regarding their ability to cope with whatever situations
arose.

The five iceboats were in line, and could be compared with so many
fleet race horses fretting to make a speedy start. Each had various
mysterious packages fastened securely, leaving scanty room for the
pair of "trippers."

"After all we're going to have a fine day of it," remarked Tom Betts,
as he gave a last look to the running gear of his new ice craft, and
impatiently waited for Paul to give the word to be off.

"Luck seems to be with us in the start," admitted Bobolink, who was
next in line. "I only hope it won't change and slap us too hard after
we get up there in the woods."

"I heard this morning that the Lawson crowd had started overland, with
packs on their backs," Phil Towns stated.

"Oh! we're bound to rub up against that lot before we're done with
it," prophesied Bobolink. "But if they give us any trouble I miss my
guess if they won't be sorry for it."

"Scouts can take a heap," said Tom, "but there is a limit to their
forbearance; and once they set out to inflict proper punishment they
know how to rub it in good and hard."

"Do you really believe there's any truth in that report we heard about
Mr. Briggs' safe being found broken open and cleaned out?" asked
Phil.

"There's no question about it," replied Bobolink. "Though between you
and me I don't think the robbers got much of a haul, for the old man
is too wise to keep much money around."

"I heard that Hank Lawson and his crowd were spending money pretty
freely when they got ready early this morning to start," suggested
Tom.

Jack, who had listened to all this talk, took occasion to warn his
fellow-scouts, just as Paul had done on the other occasion.

"Better not say that again, Tom, because we have no means of knowing
how they got the money. Some of them are often supplied with larger
amounts than seem to be good for them. Unless you know positively,
don't start the snowball rolling downhill, because it keeps on growing
larger every time some one tells the story."

"All right, Jack," remarked Tom, cheerfully; "what you say goes.
Besides, as we expect to be away a couple of weeks there isn't going
to be much chance to tell tales in Stanhope."

They waited impatiently for the word to go. Paul was making a last
round in order to be sure that nothing had been overlooked, for
caution was strongly developed in his character, as well as boldness.

There were many long faces among the other boys belonging to Stanhope
Troop, for they would have liked above all things to be able to
accompany their lucky comrades. The lure of the open woods had a
great attraction for them, and on previous outings every one had
enjoyed such glorious times that now all felt as though they were
missing a grand treat.

At last Paul felt that nothing else remained to be done, and that he
could get his expedition under way without any scruple. There were
many skaters on the river, but a clear passage down-stream had been
made for the start of the iceboat squadron.

A few of the strongest skaters had gone on ahead half an hour back,
intending to accompany the adventurous ten a portion of the way. They
hoped to reach the point where the old canal connected the Bushkill
river with the Radway, and a long time back known as Jackson's Creek.

Here they would await the coming of the fleet iceboats, and lend what
assistance was required in making the passage of this crooked
waterway.

When once again the bugle sounded the cheering became more violent
than ever, for it was known that the moment of departure had arrived.

Tom Betts had been given the honor of being the first in the
procession. His fellow passenger was Jack Stormways. As the new
_Speedaway_ shot from its mooring place and started down the river it
seemed as though the old football days had come again, such a roar
arose from human lungs, fish-horns, and every conceivable means for
making a racket.

A second craft quickly followed in the wake of the leader, then a
third, the two others trailing after, until all of them were heading
down-stream, rapidly leaving Stanhope behind.

The cheering of the throng grew fainter as the speedy craft glided
over the ice, urged on by a fair wind. There could be little doubt
that the ten scouts who were undertaking the expedition were fully
alive to the good fortune that had come their way.

Tom Betts was acknowledged to be the most skilful skipper, possibly
barring Paul, along the Bushkill. He seemed to know how to get the
best speed out of an iceboat, and at the same time avoid serious
accidents, such as are likely to follow the reckless use of such frail
craft.

It was thoughtful of Paul to let Tom lead the procession, when by all
rights, as the scout-master, Paul might properly have assumed that
position. Tom must have been considering this fact, for as he and Jack
flew along, crouching under the big new sail that was drawing
splendidly, he called out to his comrade:

"Let me tell you it was mighty white in Paul to assign me to this
berth, Jack, when by rights everybody expected him to lead off. I
appreciate it, too, I want you to understand."

"Oh! that's just like Paul," he was told. "He always likes to make
other fellows feel good. And for a chap who unites so many rare
qualities in his make-up Paul is the most unassuming fellow I ever
knew. Why, you can see that he intentionally put himself in last
place, and picked out Spider Sexton's boat to go on, because he knew
it was the poorest of the lot."

"But all the same the old _Glider_ is doing her prettiest to-day and
keeping up with the procession all right," asserted Tom, glancing
back.

"That's because Paul's serving as skipper," asserted Jack, proudly.
"He could get speed out of any old tub you ever saw. But then we're
not trying to do any racing on this trip, you remember, Tom."

"Not much," assented the other, quickly. "Paul impressed it on us that
to-day we must keep it in mind that 'safety first' is to be our motto.
Besides, with all these bundles of grub and blankets and clothes-bags
strapped and roped to our boats a fellow couldn't do himself justice,
I reckon."

"No more he could, Tom. But we're making good time for all that, and
it isn't going to be long before we pass Manchester, and reach the
place where that old abandoned canal creeps across two miles of
country, more or less, to the Radway."

"I can see the fellows who skated down ahead of us!" announced Tom,
presently.

"Yes, they're waiting to go through the canal with us," assented Jack.
"Wallace Carberry said they feared we might have a bad time of it
getting the iceboats over to the Radway, and he corralled a few
fellows with the idea of lending a hand."

"They hate the worst kind to be left out of this camping game,"
remarked Tom, "and want to see the last they can of us."

A few minutes later and the skipper of the leading iceboat brought his
speedy craft to a halt close to the shore, where several scouts
awaited them. The other four craft soon drew up near by, thus
finishing what they were pleased to call the "first leg" of the novel
cruise.

It was decided to work their way through the winding creek the best
way possible. In places it would be found advisable to push the boats,
while now and then as an open stretch came along they might take
advantage of a favorable wind to do a little sailing.

Two miles of this sort of thing would not be so bad. As Bobolink sang
out, the worst was yet to come when they made the Radway, and had to
ascend against a head wind that would necessitate skilful tacking to
avoid an overturn.



CHAPTER XIII

ON THE WAY


"It all comes back to me again, when I see that frozen mud bank over
there, fellows," called out Frank Savage, after they had been pushing
their way along the rough canal for some time.

"How many times we did get stuck on just such a mud bank," laughed
Paul. "I can shut my eyes even now, and imagine I see some of us
wading alongside, and helping to get our motor boats out of the
pickle. I think Bobolink must dream of it every once in a while, for
he had more than his share of the fun."

"It was bully fun all right, say what you will!" declared the boy
mentioned, "though like a good many other things that are past and
gone, distance lends enchantment to the view."

"That's right," echoed Tom Betts, "you always seem to forget the
discomforts when you look back to that kind of thing, and remember
only the jolly good times. I've come home from hunting as tired as a
dog, and vowed it would be a long while before I ever allowed myself
to be tempted to go again. But, fellows, if a chum came along the next
day and asked me I'd fall to the bait."

A chance to do a little sailing interrupted this pleasant exchange of
reminders. But it was for a very short distance only that they were
able to take advantage of a favoring breeze; then the boys found it
necessary to push the boats again.

Some of them strapped on their skates and set out to draw the laden
iceboats as the most logical way of making steady progress.

"What are two measly miles, when such a glorious prospect looms up
ahead of us?" cried Sandy. "We ought to be at the old Radway by
noon."

"Yes," added Bobolink, quickly. "And I heard Paul saying just now that
as we were in no great hurry he meant to call a halt there for an hour
or more. We can start a fire and have a bully little warm lunch, just
to keep us from starving between now and nightfall, when a regular
dinner will be in order."

Of course, this set some of the boys to making fun of Bobolink's well
known weakness. The accused scout took it all as good natured joking.
Besides, who could get angry when engaged in such a glorious outing as
that upon which they were now fully embarked? Certainly not the
even-tempered Bobolink.

From time to time the boys recognized various spots where certain
incidents had happened to them when on their never-to-be-forgotten
motor boat cruise of the preceding summer.

It was well on towards noon when they finally reached the place where
the old connecting canal joined the Radway river. It happened,
fortunately for the plans of the scouts, that both streams were rather
high at the setting in of winter, which accounted for an abundance of
ice along the connecting link.

"Looky there, Paul. Could you find a better place for a fire than in
that cove back of the point?" demanded Bobolink, evidently bent on
reminding the commander-in-chief of his promise.

"You're right about that," admitted Paul, "for the trees and bushes on
the point act as a wind break. Head over that way, boys, and let's
make a stop for refreshments."

"Good for you, Paul!" cried Spider Sexton, jubilantly. "I skipped the
best part of my usual feed this morning, I was so excited and afraid I
might get left; and I want to warn you all I'm as empty right now as a
drum. So cook enough for an extra man or two when you're about it."

"Huh! you'll take a hand in that job yourself, Spider," asserted
Bobolink, pretending to look very stern, though he knew there would be
no lack of volunteers for preparing that first camp meal. Enthusiasm
always runs high when boys first go into the woods, but later on it
gets to be an old story, and some of the campers have to be drummed
into harness.

A fire was soon started, for every one of the scouts knew all about
the coaxing of a blaze, no matter how damp the wood might seem. The
scouts had learned their lesson in woodcraft, and took pride in
excelling one another on occasion.

Then a bustling ensued as several cooks busied themselves in frying
ham, as well as some potatoes that had already been boiled at home.
When several onions had been mixed with these, after being first fried
in a separate pan, the odors that arose were exceedingly palatable to
the hungry groups that stood around awaiting the call to lunch.

Coffee had been made in the two capacious tin pots, for on such a
bracing day as this they felt they needed something to warm their
systems. Plenty of condensed milk had been brought along, and a can of
this was opened by puncturing the top in two places. Thus, if not
emptied at a sitting, a can can be sealed up again, and kept over for
another occasion.

"As good a feed as I ever want to enjoy!" was the way Bobolink bubbled
over as he reached for his second helping, meanwhile keeping a wary
eye on the boy who had warned them as to his enormous capacity for
food.

"It is mighty fine," agreed Wallace Carberry, "but somehow, fellows,
it seems like a funeral feast to me, because it's the last time I'll
be able to join you. Never felt so bad in my life before. Shed a few
tears for me once in a while, won't you?"

The others laughingly promised to accommodate him. Truth to tell, most
of them did feel very sorry for Wallace and the other boys whose
parents had debarred them from all this pleasure before them.

When the hour was up another start was made. This time they headed up
the erratic Radway. The skaters still clung to them, bent on seeing
all they could of those whom they envied so much.

Progress was sometimes very tedious, because the wind persisted in
meeting them head on, and it is not the easiest task in the world to
force an iceboat against a negative breeze. Tacking had to be resorted
to many times, and each mile they gained was well won.

The boys enjoyed the exhilarating exercise, however, and while there
were a few minor accidents nothing serious interfered with their
progress.

It was two o'clock when they sighted Lake Tokala ahead of them.
Shouts of joy from those in advance told the glad story to the toilers
in the rear. This quickened their pulses, and made them all feel that
the worst was now over.

When the broad reaches of the lake had been gained they were able to
make speed once more. It was the best part of the entire trip--the run
across the wide lake. And how the sight of Cedar Island brought back
most vividly recollections of the happy and exciting days spent there
not many months before!

Wallace and his three chums still held on. They declared they were
bound to stick like "leeches" until they had seen the expedition
safely across the lake. What if night did overtake them before they
got back to the Bushkill again? There would be a moon, and skating
would be a pleasure under such favorable conditions.

"Don't see any signs of another wild man on the island, do you, Jack?"
asked Tom Betts, as the _Speedaway_ fairly flew past the oasis in the
field of ice that was crowned by a thick growth of cedars, which had
given the island its name.

"Nothing doing in that line, Tom," replied the other with a laugh.
"Such an adventure happens to ordinary fellows only once in a
life-time. But then something just as queer may be sprung on us in the
place we're heading for."

The crossing of Tokala Lake did not consume a great deal of time, for
the wind had shifted just enough to make it favor them more or less
much of the way over.

"I c'n see smoke creeping up at the point Paul's heading for,"
announced Tom Betts. "That must come from the cabin we heard had been
built here since we had our outing on the lake."

"We were told that it stood close to the mouth of the creek which we
have to ascend some miles," remarked Jack. "And this man is the one we
think to leave our boats in charge of while away in the woods."

"I only hope then that he'll be a reliable keeper," observed Tom,
seriously, "for it would nearly break my heart if anything happened to
the _Speedaway_ now. I've only tried her out a few times, but she
gives promise of beating anything ever built in this section of the
country. I don't believe I could duplicate her lines again if I
tried."

"Don't borrow trouble," Jack told him. "We'll dismantle the boats all
we can before we leave them, and the chances are ten to one we'll find
them O.K. when we come out of the woods two weeks from now. But here
we are at the place, and the boys who mean to return home will have to
say good-bye."



CHAPTER XIV

THE RING OF STEEL RUNNERS


As the little flotilla of ice yachts drew up close to the shore, the
sound of boyish laughter must have been heard, for a man was seen
approaching. He came from the direction of the cabin which they had
sighted among the trees, and from the mud and stone chimney of which
smoke was ascending straight into the air--a promise of continued good
weather.

The boys were climbing up the bank when he reached them. So far as
they could see he appeared to be a rough but genial man, and Paul
believed they could easily trust him to take care of the boats while
away.

"I suppose you are Abe Turner, spoken of by Mr. Garrity?" was the way
Paul addressed the man, holding out his hand in friendly greeting.

The other's face relaxed into a smile. Evidently he liked this manly
looking young chap immediately, as most people did, for Paul had a
peculiarly winning way about him.

"That's my name, and I reckon now you must be Paul," said the other.

"Why, how did you know that?" demanded Bobolink, in surprise.

"Oh! I had a letter from Mr. Thomas Garrity telling me all about you
boys, and ordering me to do anything you might want. You see he owns
all the country around here, an' I'm holding the fort until spring,
when there's going to be some big timber cutting done. We expect to
get it to market down the Radway."

The scouts exchanged pleased looks.

"Bully for Mr. Thomas Garrity!" shouted Tom Betts, "he's all to the
good, if his conversion to liking boys did come late in life. He's
bound to make up for all the lost time now. Three cheers, fellows, for
our good friend!"

They were given with a rousing will, and the echoes must have alarmed
some of the shy denizens of the snow forest, for a fox was seen to
scurry across an open spot, and a bevy of crows in some not far
distant oak trees started to caw and call.

"All we want you to do for us, Abe," explained Paul, "is to take good
care of our five iceboats, which we will have to leave with you."

"And we might as well tell you in the beginning," added Bobolink,
"that several tough chaps from our town have come up here to spend
some time, just from learning of our plans."

"Yes," went on Tom Betts, the anxious one, "and nothing would tickle
that Hank Lawson and his gang so much as to be able to sneak some of
our boats away, or, failing that, to smash them into kindling wood
with an axe."

Abe nodded his shaggy head and smiled.

"I've heard some things about Hank Lawson," he observed. "But take it
from me that if he comes around my shanty trying any of his tricks
he'll get a lesson he'll never forget. I'll see to it that your boats
are kept safe. I've two dogs off hunting in the woods just now, but
I'll fasten 'em nigh where you store the boats. I'm sorry for the boy
who gets within the grip of Towser's teeth, yes, or Clinch's either."

That was good news to Tom, who smiled as though finally satisfied that
there was really nothing to be feared.

"Sorry to say we'll have to be leaving you, boys," announced Wallace
just then, as he started to go the rounds with a mournful face,
shaking hands with each lucky scout whom he envied so much.

"Hope you have the time of your lives," called out another of those
who were debarred from enjoying the outing.

These boys started away, looking back from time to time as they
crossed wide Lake Tokala. Finally, with a last parting salute, they
darted into the mouth of the canal and were lost to view.

There was an immediate bustle, for time was flitting, and much
remained to be done. The five owners of the iceboats proceeded to
dismantle them, which was not a tedious proceeding. The masts were
unstepped and hidden in a place by themselves. The sails were taken
into the cabin of Abe, where they would be safe.

Meanwhile, the other boys had been engaged in making up the various
packs which from now on must be shouldered by each member of the
expedition. Experience in such things allowed them to accomplish more
in a given time than novices would have been able to do.

"Everything seems to be ready, Paul," announced Jack after a while, as
they gathered around, each boy striving to fix his individual pack
upon his back, and getting some other fellow to adjust the straps.

Bobolink seemed to have half again as much as any of the others,
though this was really all his own doing. Besides his usual share of
the luggage he had pots and pans and skillets sticking out in all
directions, so that he presented the appearance of a traveling
tinker.

"It's a great pity, Bobolink," said Tom Betts, with a grin, as he
surveyed his comrade after helping the other load up, "that you were
born about seventy-five years too late."

"Tell me why," urged the other.

"Think what a peddler you would have made! You'd have been a howling
success hawking your goods around the country."

Of course they had all adjusted their skates before taking up their
packs; for bending down would really have been next to a physical
impossibility after those weighty burdens had been assumed.

"Hope you have a right good time, boys," said Abe Turner in parting.
"And don't any of you worry about these boats. When you come back this
way you'll find everything slick and neat here."

"Good for you, Abe," cried Tom Betts. "And make up your mind to it the
Banner Boy Scouts never forget their friends. You're on the list, Abe.
Good-bye!"

They were off at last, and it was high time, for the short December
day was already getting well along toward its close. Night would come
almost before they knew it, though they had no reason to expect
anything like darkness, with that moon now much more than half full up
there in the heavens.

Some of the boys had noticed the mouth of this creek when camping on
Cedar Island the previous summer. They had been so much occupied with
fishing, taking flashlight pictures of little wild animals in their
native haunts, and in solving certain mysteries that came their way
that none of them had had time to explore the stream.

On this account then it would prove to be a new bit of country for
them, and this fact rather pleased most of the boys, as they dearly
loved to prowl around in a section they had never visited before.

Strung out in a straggling procession they skated along. The creek was
about as crooked as anything could well be, a fact that influenced
Bobolink to shout out:

"In the absence of a better name, fellows, I hereby christen this
waterway Snake Creek; any objections?"

"It deserves the name, all right," commented Spider Sexton, "for I
never saw such a wiggly stream in all my born days."

"Seems as if we had already come all of five miles, and nary a sign of
a cabin ahead yet that I can see," observed Phil Towns, presently, for
Phil was really beginning to feel pretty well used up, not being quite
so sturdy as some others among the ten scouts.

"That's the joke," laughed Paul; "and it's on me I guess more than any
one else. I thought of nearly a thousand things, seems to me, but
forgot to ask any one just how far it was up to the cabin from the
lake by way of this scrambling creek."

"Why, I'm sure Mr. Garrity said something like six miles!" exclaimed
Jack.

"Yes, but that may have meant as the crow flies, straightaway,"
returned the scout-master.

"At the worst then, Paul," Bobolink ventured to say, "we can camp, and
spend a night in the open under the hemlocks. Veteran scouts have no
need to be afraid to tackle such a little game as that, with plenty of
grub and blankets along."

"Hear! hear!" said Phil Towns. "And as the sun has set already I for
one wouldn't care how soon you decided to do that stunt."

"Oh! we ought to be good for another hour or so anyway, Phil," Tom
told him, at which the other only grunted and struck manfully out
again.

As evening closed in about them, the shadows began to creep out of the
heavy growth of timber by which the skaters were surrounded.

"Look! look! a deer!" shrieked Sandy Griggs, suddenly. Thrilled by the
cry the others looked ahead just in time to see a flitting form
disappear in the thick fringe of shrubbery that lined one side of the
creek.



CHAPTER XV

TOLLY TIP AND THE FOREST CABIN


"Oh! that's too bad!" exclaimed Spider Sexton, "I've been telling
everybody we'd taste venison of our own killing while off on this
trip, and there the first deer we've glimpsed gives us the merry
ha-ha!"

"Rotten luck!" grumbled Jud Elderkin. "And me with a rifle gripped in
my fist all the time. But I only had a glimpse of a brown object
disappearing in the brush, and I never want to just _wound_ a deer so
it will suffer. That's why I didn't fire when I threw my gun up."

"With me," explained Jack Stormways, "it happened that Bluff here was
just in my way when I had the chance to aim."

"Well," laughed Bobolink, "you might have shot straight through his
head, because it's a vacuum. I once heard a teacher tell him so when
he failed in his lessons every day for a week."

"Oh! there's bound to be plenty of deer where you can see one so
easily," Paul told them, "so cheer up. Unless I miss my guess we'll
have all sorts of game to eat while up here in the snow woods. Abe
said it was a big season for fur and feather this year."

They kept plodding along and put more miles behind them. The moon now
had to be relied on to afford them light, because the last of the
sunset glow had departed from the western heavens.

Phil was beginning to feel very tired, and feared he would have to
give up unless inside of another mile or two they arrived at their
intended destination. Being a proud boy he detested showing any signs
of weakness, and clinched his teeth more tightly together as he
pressed on, keeping a little behind the rest, so that no one should
hear his occasional groan.

All at once a glad cry broke out ahead, coming from Sandy Griggs, who
at the moment chanced to be in the van.

"I reckon that's a jolly big fire yonder, fellows, unless I miss my
guess!" he told them.

"It is a fire, sure thing," agreed Bobolink.

"Tolly Tip has been looking for us, it seems, and has built a roaring
blaze out of doors to serve as a guide to our faltering steps!"
announced Jud, pompously, although he could hardly have been referring
to himself, for his pace seemed to be just as swift and bold as when
he first set out.

"It's less than half a mile away I should say, even with this crooked
stream to navigate," announced Bobolink, more to comfort Phil than
anything else.

"Keep going right along, and don't bother about me, I'm all right,"
called the latter, cheerfully, from the rear.

In a short time the scouts drew near what proved to be a roaring fire
built on the bank of the creek. They could see a man moving about, and
he must have already heard their voices in the near distance for he
was shading his eyes with his hand, and looking earnestly their way.

"Hello, Tolly Tip!" cried out the boisterous Bobolink. "Here we come,
right-side up with care! How's Mrs. Tip, and all the little Tips?"

This was only a boyish joke, for they had already been told by Mr.
Garrity that the keeper of the hunting lodge was a jolly old bachelor.
But Bobolink must have his say regardless of everything. They heard
the trapper laugh as though he immediately fell in with the spirit of
fun that these boys carried with them.

"He's all right!" exclaimed Bobolink, on catching that boisterous
laugh. "Who's all right? Tolly Tip, the keeper of Deer Head Lodge,
situated in Garrity Camp! For he's a jolly good fellow, which none can
deny!"

Amidst all this laughter and chatter the ten scouts arrived at the
spot where the welcoming blaze awaited them, to receive a warm welcome
from the queer, old fellow who took care of Mr. Garrity whenever the
latter chose to hide away from his business vexations up here in the
woods.

The boys could see immediately that Tolly Tip was about as queer as
his name would indicate. At the same time they believed they would
like him. His blue eyes twinkled with good humor, and he had a droll
Irish brogue that was bound to add to the flavor of the stories they
felt sure he had on the end of his tongue.

"Sure, it's delighted I am to say the lot av yees this night," he said
as they came crowding around, each wanting to shake his hand fiercely.
"Mr. Garrity towld me in the letther he was after sindin' up with the
tame that ye war a foine bunch av lads, that would be afther kapin' me
awake all right. And sure I do belave 'twill be so."

"I hope we won't bother you too much while we're here," said Paul,
understanding what an energetic crowd he was piloting on this
excursion.

"Ye couldn't do the same if ye tried," Tolly Tip declared, heartily.
"I have to be alone most all the long winther, an' it do be a great
trate to hav' some lively lads visit me for a s'ason. Fetch the packs
along wid ye into the cabin. I want to make ye sorry for carrying all
this stuff wid ye up here."

His words mystified them until, having entered the capacious cabin
built of hewn logs, with the chinks well filled with hard mortar, they
were shown a wagonload of groceries which Mr. Garrity had actually
taken secret pleasure in purchasing without letting the boys know
anything about it.

A team had found its way across the miles of intervening woods, and
delivered this magnificent present at the forest lodge. It was
intended to be a surprise to the boys, and Mr. Garrity certainly
overwhelmed them with his generosity.

Bobolink alone was seen to stand and gaze regretfully at the small
edition of a grocery store, meanwhile shaking his head sorrowfully.

"What ails you, Bobolink?" demanded one of his chums.

"It can't be done, no matter how many meals a day we try to make way
with," the other solemnly announced. "I've been calculating, and
there's enough stuff there to feed us a month. Then, besides, think of
what we toted along. Shucks! why didn't Nature make boys with India
rubber stomachs."

"Some fellows I happen to know have already been favored in that
line," hinted Tom Betts, maliciously; "but as for the rest of us, we
have to get along with just the old-fashioned kind."

"Cheer up, Bobolink," laughed Paul; "what we can't devour we'll be
only too glad to leave to our good friend Tolly Tip here. The chances
are he'll know what to do with everything so none of it will be
wasted."

"When a man who all his life has been as tightfisted as Mr. Garrity
does wake up," said Phil Towns, "he goes to the other extreme, and
shames a lot of people who've been calling themselves charitable."

"Oh! that's because he has so much to make up, I guess," explained
Jud.

While some of the boys started in to get a good supper ready the
others went around taking a look at the cabin in the snowy woods that
was to be their home for the next twelve days.

It had been strongly built to resist the cold, though as a rule the
owner did not come up here after the leaves were off the forest trees.
A stove in one room could be used to keep it as warm as toast when
foot-long lengths of wood were fed to its capacious maw. The fire in
the big open hearth served to heat the other room, and over this the
cooking was also done.

Several bunks gave promise of snug sleeping quarters. As these would
accommodate only four it was evident that lots must be cast to see
who the lucky quartette would prove to be.

"To-morrow," said Paul, when speaking of this lack of accommodations,
"one of the very first things we do will be to fix other bunks,
because every scout should have a decent place for his bed. There's
plenty of room in here to make a regular scout dormitory of it."

"Fine!" commented Tom Betts; "and those of us who draw the short
straws can manage somehow with our blankets on the floor for one
night, I guess."

"We've all slept soundly on harder beds than that, let me tell you,"
asserted Bobolink, "and for one I decline to draw a straw. Me for the
soft side of a plank to-night, you hear."

The other boys knew that Bobolink, in his generosity, really had in
mind Phil and one or two more of the boys, not quite so accustomed to
roughing it as others of the campers.

That supper, eaten under such novel surroundings, would long be
remembered; for while these boys were old hands at camping, up to now
they had never spent any time in the open while Jack Frost had his
stamp on all nature, and the earth was covered with snow.

It was, all things considered, one of the greatest evenings in their
lives.



CHAPTER XVI

THE FIRST NIGHT OUT


"Well, it's started in to snow!"

Jud Elderkin made this surprising statement after he had gone to the
door to take a peep at the weather.

"You must be fooling, Jud," expostulated Tom, "because when I looked
out not more'n fifteen minutes ago the moon was shining like
everything."

"All right, that may be, but she's blanketed behind the clouds right
now, and the snow's coming down like fun," asserted Jud.

"Seems that we didn't get here any too soon, then," chuckled Bluff.

"Oh! a little snow wouldn't have bothered us any," laughed Jack. "We'd
never think of minding a heavy fall at home, and why should we worry
now?"

"That's a fact," Bobolink went on to remark, with a look of solid
satisfaction on his beaming face. "Plenty of wood under the shed near
by, and enough grub to feed an army. We're all right."

After several of them had gone to verify Jud's statement, and had
brought back positive evidence in the shape of snowballs, the boys
again clustered around the jolly fire and continued to talk on various
subjects that chanced to interest them.

"I wonder now," remarked Bobolink, finally, "if Hank took Mr. Briggs'
money as well as set fire to his store."

As this was the first mention that had been made concerning this
subject Tolly Tip showed considerable interest.

"Is it the ould storekeeper in Stanhope ye mane?" he asked. "Because I
did me tradin' with the same the short time I was in town, and sorry a
bargain did I ever sacure from Misther Briggs."

"Plenty of other people are in the same boat with you there, Tolly
Tip," Sandy told him with a chuckle. "But his run of good luck has met
with a snag. Somebody set fire to his store, which was partly burned
down the other night."

"Yes, and the worst part of it," added Bobolink, "was that Mr. Briggs
accidentally, or on purpose, let his insurance policy lapse, so that
he can get no damages on account of this fire."

"And the last thing we heard before coming away," Phil Towns went on
to say, "was that the safe had been broken open and robbed. Poor old
Levi Briggs' cup is full to overflowing I guess. Everything seems to
be coming his way in a bunch."

"I suspect that this Hank ye're tillin' me about must be a wild
harum-scarum broth av a boy thin?" remarked the old woodsman, puffing
at his pipe contentedly.

"He is the toughest boy in town," said Phil.

"And several others train with him who aim to beat his record if they
can," Spider Sexton hastened to add as his contribution.

"There's absolutely nothing they wouldn't try if they thought they
could get some fun or gain out of it," declared Jud emphatically.

"Do till!" exclaimed their host, shaking his head dolefully as though
he disliked knowing that any boys could sink to such a low level.

"Why, only the other day," said Bobolink, "Jack and I saw the gang
pick on a couple of tramps who had just come out of Briggs' store. So
far as we knew the hoboes hadn't offered to say a word to Hank and his
crowd, but the fellows ran them out of town with a shower of stones.
Didn't they, Jack?"

"Yes. And we saw one tramp get a hard blow on the head from a rock, in
the bargain," assented Jack.

"Wow! but they were a mad pair, let me tell you," concluded Bobolink.

"By the same token," observed Tolly Tip, "till me av one of the tramps
had on an ould blue army coat wid rid linin' to the same?"

Bobolink uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"Just what he did, I give you my word!" he replied hastily.

"And was the other chap a long-legged hobo, wid a face that made ye
think av the sharp idge av a hatchet?" the old trapper questioned.

"I reckon you must have seen the pair yourself, Tolly Tip!" observed
Bobolink. "Were you in Stanhope, or did they happen to pass this
way?"

At that the taker of furs touched his cheek just below his eye with
the tip of his finger, and smiled humorously.

"'Tis the black eye they were afther giving me early this day, sure it
was," he explained. "Not two miles away from here it happened, where
the road cuts through the woods like a knife blade. I'd been out to
look at a few traps set in that section whin I kim on the spalpeens.
We had words, and the shorter chap wid the army coat ran, but the
other engaged me. Before he cut stick he managed to lave the
imprission av his fists on me face, bad luck to the same."

"I guess after all, Jack," remarked Bobolink, "they must be a couple
of hard cases, and Hank did the town a service when he chased them
off."

"It would be the first time on record then that the Lawson crowd was
of any benefit to the community," Jack commented; "but accidents will
happen, you know. They didn't mean to do a good turn, only have what
they call fun."

"So the shorter rascal didn't have any fight in him, it seems, Tolly
Tip?" Bobolink observed, as though the subject interested him
considerably.

"Oh! as for that," replied the trapper, "mebbe he do be afther
thinkin' discretion was the better part av valor. Ye say, he had one
av his hands wrapped up in a rag, and I suspect he must have been
hurt."

"That's interesting, at any rate!" declared Bobolink. "When we saw him
he had the use of both hands. Something must have happened after that.
I wonder what."

"You're the greatest fellow to _wonder_ I ever knew," laughed Sandy
Griggs.

"Bobolink likes to grapple with mysteries," said Jud, "and from now on
he'll keep bothering his head about that tramp's injured hand, wanting
to know whether he cut himself with a broken bottle, or burned his
fingers when cooking his coffee in an old tomato can over the
campfire."

"Let Bobolink alone, boys," said Paul. "If he chooses to amuse himself
in that way what's the odds? Who knows but what he may surprise us
with a wonderful discovery some day."

"Thank you, Paul," the other remarked drily.

After that the subject was dropped. It did not offer much of interest
to the other scouts, but Paul, glancing towards Bobolink several
times, could easily see that he was pondering over something.

After all, the snow did not last long. Before they finally went to bed
they found that the moon had once more appeared through a rift in the
clouds, and not more than two inches of fresh snow had covered the
ground.

There was considerable skirmishing around done when the boys commenced
to make their final preparations for spending the first night in their
winter camp. No one would think of taking Tolly Tip's bunk when he
generously offered it, and so straws were drawn for the remaining
three, as well as the cot upon which Mr. Garrity slept when up at his
Deer Head Lodge.

The fortunate ones turned out to be Paul, Bluff, Frank and Bobolink,
though the last mentioned declared positively that he preferred
sleeping on the floor as a novelty, and insisted that Phil Towns
occupy his bunk.

They managed to make themselves comfortable after a fashion, though
the appearance of the "dormitory" excited considerable laughter, with
the boys sprawled out in every direction.

All of the boys were up early, and they were eager to take up the many
plans they had laid out for the day. Breakfast was the first thing on
the calendar; and while it was being prepared and dispatched the
tongues of that half score of boys ran on like the water over the
wheel of the old mill, with a constant clatter.

There was no necessity for all of them to remain at home to work on
the new bunks, so Paul picked out several to assist him in that work.
The others were at liberty to carry out such scout activities as most
appealed to their fancy. Some planned to go off with the woodsman to
see how he managed with his steel traps, by means of which, during the
winter, he expected to lay by quite a good-sized bundle of valuable
fur. Then there was wood to chop, pictures to be taken, favorable
places to be found for setting the camera during a coming night so as
to get a flashlight view of a fox or a mink in the act of stealing the
bait, as well as numerous other pleasant duties and diversions, all of
which had been eagerly planned for the preceding night as the boys sat
before the crackling fire.



CHAPTER XVII

"TIP-UPS" FOR PICKEREL


Tom Betts came up from the frozen creek.

"I don't believe that little snow ought to keep us from trying the
scheme we laid out between us, Jack," he said, looking entreatingly at
the other.

"Why, no, there wasn't enough to hurt the skating," replied the other,
readily, much to Tom's evident satisfaction.

"Bully for you, Jack!" he exclaimed. "There was more or less wind
blowing at the time, and the snow was pretty dry, so it blew off the
ice. We can easily make the lake in an hour I reckon, with daylight to
help us. Besides, we know the way by this time, you see."

"All right!" called out Frank, who had been detailed to assist Paul in
the making of the extra bunks out of some spare boards that lay near
by, having been brought into the woods for some purpose, though never
used.

"Remember, you two fishermen," warned Paul, "we'll all have our mouths
set for pickerel to-night, so don't dare disappoint us, or there will
be a riot in the camp."

"We've just got to get those fish, Jack," said Tom, with mock
solemnity, "even if we have to go in ourselves after them. Our lives
wouldn't be worth a pinch of salt in this crowd if they had to go
pickerelless to-night."

"Oh! that'll do! Be off with you!" roared Jud Elderkin, making out to
throw a frying-pan at Tom's head.

When at the lake talking to the man who had agreed to look after their
iceboats during their absence, the boys had learned that there was
fine fishing through the ice to be had at this season of the year.

Abe Turner had also informed them that should they care to indulge in
the sport at any time, and should skate down to his cabin, he would
show them just how it was done. What was more to the point, he had a
store of live minnows in a spring-hole that never froze up, even in
the hardest winter, he had been told.

This then was the object that drew the two scouts, both of them
exceedingly fond of fishing in every way. None of the boys had ever
fished through the ice, it happened, though they knew how it was
done.

Accordingly, Tom and Jack set off down the creek, their skate runners
sending back that clear ringing sound that is music in the ears of
every lad who loves the outdoor sports of winter.

Jack carried his gun along. Not that he had any particular intention
of hunting, for others had taken that upon themselves as a part of the
day's routine, but then a deer might happen to cross their path, and
such a chance if it came would be too good to lose.

"You see," commented Tom, after a mile or so had been placed to their
credit, "the snow isn't going to bother us the least bit. And I never
enjoyed skating any better than right now."

"Same here," Jack told him. "And we certainly couldn't find ourselves
surrounded by a prettier scene, with every twig covered with snow."

"Listen!"

Both of them stopped when Tom called in this fashion, and strained
their ears to catch a repetition of the sound Tom had heard.

"Oh! that's only a fox barking," said Jack. "I've heard them do it
many a time. You know they belong to the dog family, just as the wolf
and jackal and hyena do. Tolly Tip has a couple of fox pelts already,
and he says they are very numerous this year. Come on, let's be moving
again."

So they pursued their winding way down the straggling creek, first
turning to the right and then to the left.

"It's been just an hour since we left camp," remarked Jack at length,
"and there you can catch a glimpse of the lake through the trees
yonder."

Abe Turner was surprised as well as pleased to find two of the boys at
his door that morning.

"Didn't expect us back so soon, did you, Abe?" laughed Tom. "But in
laying out the plans for to-day we found that some of the boys were
fish hungry, so we decided to run down and take you up on your
proposition."

"Nothing would please me better," Abe told them. "And it is about as
good a day for ice fishing as anybody'd want to set eyes on. I'll go
right away and get my lines. Then we'll pick up a pail, and put some
of my minnows in it."

Before long they were out upon the ice of Lake Tokala, Tom carrying an
axe, Jack the various lines and "tip-ups" that were to signal when a
fish had been hooked, and Abe with the live bait in a tin bucket.

The day was not a bitterly cold one, and this promised to make fishing
agreeable work.

"On the big lakes where they do a heap of this kind of work,"
explained their guide as they went toward Cedar Island, "the men build
little shanties out on the ice, where they can keep fairly warm. You
see sometimes the weather is terribly cold. But a day like this makes
it a pleasure to be out."

Coming to a place where Abe knew from previous experience that a good
haul could be made, the first hole was cut in the ice. As winter was
still young this did not prove to be a hard task.

Abe had marked a dozen places where these holes were to be chopped,
but the boys chose to watch him set his first line. After the novelty
had worn off they would be ready to take a hand themselves.

There are many sorts of "tip-ups" used in this species of sport, but
Abe's kind answered all purposes and was very simple, being possibly
the original "tip-up."

He would take a branch that had a certain kind of fork as thick around
as his little finger. In cutting this he left two short "feet" and one
long one. To Tom's mind it looked something like an old-fashioned
cannon, with the line securely tied to the short projecting muzzle.

When the fish took hold this point was pulled down, with the result
that the longer "tail" shot up into the air, the outstretched legs
preventing the fork from being drawn into the hole.

At the end of the long "tail" Abe had fastened a small piece of red
flannel. When a dozen lines were out it often kept a man busy running
this way and that to attend to the numerous calls as signaled by the
upraised red flags.

"Now that we know just how it's done," said Tom, after they had seen
the bait fastened to the hook and dropped into the lake, "we'll get
busy cutting all those other holes. My turn next, Jack, you remember.
Watch my smoke."

They had hardly finished the second hole before they heard Abe
laughing, and glancing toward him discovered that he was holding up a
two-pound, struggling pickerel.

"First blood for Abe!" cried Tom. "But if they keep on biting it'll be
our chance soon, Jack. My stars! but that is a beaut, though. A dozen
like that would make the boys stare, I tell you."

When Abe had arranged four lines he would not hear of the boys cutting
any more holes.

"I'll dig out a couple to make an even half dozen," he told them. "And
the way the pike are biting to-day I reckon we'll get a good mess."

"All right, then," agreed Tom, much relieved, for he wanted to be
pulling in the fish rather than doing the drudgery. "I'll look after
these two holes, Jack, and you skirmish around the others. And by
jinks! if I haven't got one right now!"

"The same here," shouted the equally excited Jack. "Whew! how he does
pull though! Must be a whopper this time. I hope I don't lose him!"

Fortune favored the ice fishermen, for both captives were saved, and
they proved to be even larger than the first one taken.

So the fun went on. At times it slackened more or less, only to begin
again with new momentum. The pile of fish on the ice, rapidly
freezing, once they were exposed to the air, increased until at noon
they had all they could think of carrying home.

"The rest of the day we'll take things easy, and lay in a stock for
Abe here," suggested Tom; for the guide had told them he meant to cure
as many of the fish as he could secure, since later on in the winter
they would be much more difficult to catch, and it would be a long
time until April came with its break-up of the ice.

The boys certainly enjoyed every minute of their stay at the lake.
Jack was wise enough to know that they had better start for camp about
three o'clock. It might not be quite so easy going back, as they would
be tired, and the wind was against them.

They had skated for over half an hour, with their heavy packs on their
backs, when again Tom called to his comrade to listen.

"And believe me it wasn't a fox that time, Jack!" he declared, "but,
as sure as you live, it sounded like somebody calling weakly for
help!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE HELPING HAND OF A SCOUT


When Jack, listening, caught the same sound, he turned upon his
companion with a serious expression on his face.

"Let's kick off our skates and hang our packs up in the crotch of this
tree, Tom," he said.

"Then you expect to investigate, and find out what it means, do you?"

"We'd feel pretty mean if we went on our way like the Levite in the
old story of the Good Samaritan," remarked Jack, busily disengaging
his bundle of fish which Abe had done up in a piece of old bagging.

"I'm the last one to do such a thing," asserted Tom, "only I chanced
to remember that there are some tough boys up here somewhere--Hank and
his crowd--and I was wondering if this could be a trick to get us to
put our fingers in a trap."

Jack chuckled, and held up his gun.

"We ought to be able to take care of ourselves with this," he told his
chum.

"Right you are, Jack! So let's be on the jump. There! that sounded
like a big groan, didn't it? Somebody's in a peck of trouble. Maybe a
wood-chopper has had a tree fall on him or cut his foot with his axe,
and is bleeding badly."

"Just what I had in mind," remarked the other, as they started into
the shrubbery.

The groans continued; therefore, the two scouts had no difficulty in
going directly to the spot. In a few minutes Tom clutched his chum's
sleeve and pointed directly ahead.

"Ginger! it looks like Sim Jeffreys," he whispered.

"No other," added Jack.

"But what's the matter with the fellow?" continued Tom. "See how he
keeps tugging away at his right leg. I bet you he's gone and got it
caught in a root, and can't work it free. I've been through just such
an experience."

"We'll soon find out," remarked Jack, pushing forward.

"Be mighty careful, Jack," urged the other, not yet wholly convinced
that the groans were really genuine, for he knew how tricky Sim
Jeffreys had always been.

By this time the other had become aware of their presence. He turned
an agonized face toward them, upon which broke a gleam of wild hope.
If Sim Jeffreys were playing a part then, Jack thought, he must be a
clever actor.

"Oh, say! ain't I glad to see you boys," he called, holding both his
hands out toward them. "Come, help me get free from this pesky old
trap here!"

"Trap!" echoed Tom. "Just what do you mean by that, Sim?"

"I ain't tryin' to fool you, boys. Sure I ain't!" exclaimed the other,
anxiously. "Seems to me like an old bear trap, though I never saw one
before. I was out with my gun, lookin' for partridges, when all of a
sudden it jumped up and grabbed me right by the leg."

Neither of the boys could believe this strange story until they had
taken a look. Then they saw that it was just as Sim had declared. The
trap was old and very rusty. Jack saw that it had lost much of its
former fierce grip, which was lucky for poor Sim, for otherwise he
might have had his leg badly injured.

Still the jaws retained enough force to hold the boy securely; though
had Sim retained his presence of mind, instead of tugging wildly to
break away, he might have found it possible to bear down on the
weakened springs and set himself free.

Tom and Jack quickly did this service for the other, who was profuse
in his expressions of gratitude, though neither of the scouts believed
in his sincerity, for Sim had a reputation for being slippery and
double-faced.

"Why, I might have frozen to death here to-night," he told them. "Even
if I had lived till to-morrow I'd have starved sure. The bears would
have got me too, or the wildcats."

"Didn't you call when you first got caught?" asked Tom.

"I should say I did, till I could hardly whisper, but nobody seemed to
hear me shout," came the reply, as Sim rubbed his swollen and painful
leg. "Guess I'll have to limp all the way back to the hole in the
rocks where the rest of the boys are campin'."

"How far away from here is it?" asked Jack, wondering whether they
ought to do anything more for Sim or let him shift for himself.

"Oh, a mile and more, due west," the boy told them. "Where that hill
starts up, see? We haven't got much grub along with us, b'cause, you
see, we depended on shooting heaps of game. But so far I've knocked
down only one bird."

"Do you think you can make it, Sim?" persisted Jack.

The fellow limped around a little before replying.

"I reckon I kin. Though I'll be pretty sore to-morrow like as not,
after this silly thing grabbin' me the way it did. I know my way home,
boys, never fear, and I'll turn up there sooner or later. Much obliged
for your help."

With that Sim started off as though eager to get his hard work over
with. And as there was nothing more to be done, the two chums returned
to the creek, shouldered their heavy packs after resuming their
skates, and went on their way.

It was just about dusk when they made the cabin on the bank of Snake
Creek; and as the others discovered their burdens a shout of joy went
up.

"The country's safe," said Jud, "since you've brought home a stack of
fine pickerel. Let's see what they look like, fellows."

At sight of the big fish the boys were loud in their congratulations.

"Wouldn't mind having a try at that fun myself one of these days,"
asserted Jud, enviously. "Paul, jot it down that I'm to be your side
partner when you take a notion to go down to the lake."

"Some of you get busy here fixing the fish, if we mean to have them
to-night," remarked Jack, who was too tired to think of doing it
himself.

"Too late for that this evening. We've got supper all ready for you.
The fish will have to keep till to-morrow," announced Bobolink.

"What's this I smell in the air?" demanded Tom. "Don't tell me you've
bagged a deer already?"

"Just what we have!" said Bobolink, his eyes glistening so, that it
required little effort to decide who the lucky hunter was.

"Why, he wasn't away from camp an hour," asserted Phil Towns, "when we
heard him whooping, and in he came with a young buck on his back. I
never thought Bobolink was strong enough to tote that load a mile and
more."

"Huh! I'd have carried in an elephant if it had dropped to my gun, I
felt that good!" declared the happy hunter.

"But all the adventures haven't fallen to you fellows who stayed here
in camp or wandered about in the adjacent woods," announced Tom,
mysteriously.

"What else have you been doing besides catching that dandy mess of
fish?" asked the scout-master, voicing the curiosity of the entire
crowd.

"Say! did you shoot some game, too--a deer, a wildcat, or maybe a big
black bear?" demanded Bobolink, eagerly.

"No, the gun was never fired," continued Tom. "But we've got a right
to turn our badges over for this day, because we performed a Good
Samaritan act."

"Go on and tell us about it!" urged Sandy Griggs.

"We heard groans, and weak calls for help," said Tom, unable to keep
back his news any longer, though he would have liked very much to
continue tantalizing the others, "and after we had kicked off our
skates and hung our packs in a tree, we went over into the woods and
found----"

"What?" roared several of the curious scouts in unison.

"Who but our fellow townsman, Sim Jeffreys, whining and groaning to
beat the band," continued the narrator. "It seems that he had got
caught in a trap, and expected to be frozen to death to-night, or
starve there to-morrow."

"A trap, did ye say?" asked Tolly Tip. And Paul noticed a sudden look
of enlightenment come into his face.

"Tell us what sort of a trap, Tom?" urged Bobolink.

"A regular bear trap!" replied the one addressed.

"Oh, come now! you're trying to play some sort of trick on us,
fellows," cried Spider Sexton. "How ever would a real bear trap come
there?"

"Ask Tolly Tip," suggested Paul.

"That's right, lads, I know all about that trap," admitted the old
woodsman, as he grinned at them. "I had an ole bear trap that had
lost its grip and wasn't wuth much. I sot the same in the woods, but
nothin' iver kim nigh it, and so I jest forgets all about the same.
But bless me sowl I niver dramed it'd be afther grippin' a lad by the
leg. All he had to do was to push down on the springs, and he'd been
loose."

"I could see that plainly enough," admitted Jack. "The trouble was Sim
fell into a panic as soon as he found himself caught, and all he could
do was to squirm and pull and shout and groan. It shows the
foolishness of letting a thing scare you out of your seven senses."

"But do you mean to say there are real, live bears around here, Tolly
Tip?" demanded Bobolink, his eyes nearly round with excitement.

"There's one rogue av a bear that I've tried to git for this two year,
but by the same token he's been too smart for the likes av me."

"That interests me a whole lot," remarked Paul; "and I mean to devote
much of my spare time to trying to shoot that same bear with my camera
in order to get a flashlight picture of him in his native haunts!"



CHAPTER XIX

NEWS OF BIG GAME


"Faith and would ye mind tillin' me how that same might be done?"
asked Tolly Tip, showing considerable interest. "I niver knowed that
ye could shoot a bear with a shmall contraption like that black box."

Some of the boys snickered, but Paul frowned on them.

"When we speak that way," he went on to explain, "we mean getting an
object in the proper focus, and then clicking the trigger of the
camera. We are really just taking a picture."

"Oh! now I say what ye mane," admitted the woodsman; "but I niver
owned a camera in all me life, so I'm what ye'd call grane at it. Sure
'tis a harmless way av shootin' anything I should say."

"But it gives a fellow just as much pleasure to get a cracking good
picture of a wild animal at home as it does a hunter to kill," Phil
Towns hastened to remark. Tolly Tip, however, shook his head in the
negative, as though to declare that for the life of him he could not
see it that way.

"If you can show me a place that the black bear is using," Paul
continued, "I'll fix my camera in such a way that when Bruin pulls at
a bait attached to a cord he'll ignite the flashlight cartridge, and
take his own photograph."

At that the woodsman laughed aloud, so novel did the scheme strike
him.

"I'll do that same and without delay, me lad," he declared. "I've got
a notion this very minute that I know where I might find my bear; and
after nightfall I'll bait the ground wid some ould combs av wild
honey."

"Wild honey did you say?" asked Jud, licking his lips in anticipation,
for if there was one thing to eat in all the wide world Jud liked
better than another it was the sweets from the hive.

"Och! 'tis mesilf that has stacks av the same laid away, and I promise
ye all ye kin eat while ye stay here," the woodsman told them, at
which Jud executed a pigeon-wing to express his satisfaction.

"And did you gather it yourself around here, Tolly Tip?" he inquired.

"Nawthin' else," acknowledged the old trapper. "Ye say, whin Mister
Garrity do be staying down in town it's small work I have to do; and
to locate a bee tree is a rale pleasure. Some time I'll till ye how
we go about the thrick. Av course there's no use tryin' it afther
winter sets in, for the bees stick in the hive."

"And bears just dote on honey, do they, the same as Jud here does?"
asked Frank.

"A bear kin smell honey a mile away," the woodsman declared. "In fact,
the very last time I glimpsed the ould varmint we've been spakin'
about 'twas at the bee tree I'd chopped down. I wint home to sacure
some pails, and whin I got back to the spot there the ould beast was a
lickin' up the stuff in big gobs. Sure I could have shot him aisy
enough, but I had made up me mind to take him in a trap or not at all,
so I lit him go."

"So he got his share of the honey, did he?" asked Jud.

"Oh! I lift him all I didn't want, and set a trap to nab him, but by
me word he was too smart for Tolly Tip."

"Then I hope you salt the ground to-night," remarked Paul, "and that I
can set my camera to-morrow evening and see what comes of it."

It was not long before they were sitting down to the first real game
supper of the excursion. Everybody spoke of it as "Bobolink's venison
treat," and that individual's boyish heart swelled with pride from
time to time until Spider Sexton called out:

"Next thing you know we'll have a real tragedy hereabouts."

"What do you mean?" demanded Phil Towns.

"Why," explained Spider, "Bobolink keeps on swelling out his chest
like a pouter pigeon every time somebody happens to mention his deer,
and I'm afraid he'll burst with vanity soon."

"And when the day's doings are written up," Bluff put in, "be sure and
put in that another of our gallant band came within an ace of being
terribly bitten by a savage wild beast."

"Please explain what it's all about," begged Tom. "You see Jack and I
were away pretty much all day. You and Sandy went off with Tolly Tip,
didn't you, to see how he managed his traps? Was it then the terrible
thing happened?"

"It was," said Bluff, with a chuckle. "You see Tolly Tip kept on
explaining everything as we went from trap to trap, and both of us
learned heaps this morning. Finally, we came to the marsh and there a
muskrat trap held a big, ferocious animal by the hind leg."

"You see," Sandy broke in, as though anxious to show off his knowledge
of the art of trapping, "as a rule the rat is drowned, which saves the
skin from being mangled. But this one stayed up on the bank instead of
jumping off when caught in the trap. Now go on, Bluff."

"Sandy accidentally got a mite too close to the beast," continued the
other. "First thing I knew I heard a snarl, and then Sandy jumped
back, with the teeth of the muskrat clinging to the elbow of his coat
sleeve. An inch further and our chum'd have been badly bitten. It was
a mighty narrow escape, let me tell you."

"Another thing that would interest you, Paul," Bluff went on to say,
"was the beaver house we saw in the pond the animals had made when
they built a dam across the creek, a mile above here."

"Beavers around this section too!" exclaimed Jud, as though it almost
took his breath away.

"Only wan little colony," explained Tolly Tip.

"I'd give something to get a picture of real, live beavers, at their
work," Paul remarked.

"Thin ye'll have till come up this way nixt spring time, whin they do
be friskin' around like young lambs," the woodsman told him. "Jist now
they do be snug in their winter quarters, and ye'll not see a speck av
thim. If it's the house ye want to take a picture av, the chance is
yours any day ye see fit."

After supper was over Jack and Tom took a look at the new bunks.

"A bully job, fellows!" declared the latter, "and one that does you
credit. Why, every one of us is now fitted with a coffin. And I see we
can sleep without danger of rolling out, since you've fixed a slat
across the front of each bunk."

"Taken as a whole," Frank announced, "I think the scouts have done
pretty well for their first day at Camp Garrity. Don't you, fellows?
Plenty of fish and venison in the locker, all these bunks built, lots
of valuable information picked up, and last but not least, coals of
fire poured on the head of the enemy."

They sat around again and talked as the evening advanced, for there
was an endless list of interesting things to be considered. Later Paul
accompanied the old woodsman on his walk to the place where he
believed the bear would pass. Here they set out the honey comb that
had been carried along, to serve as an attractive bait.

"Ye understand," explained Tolly Tip, as they wended their way
homeward again in the silvery moonlight that made the scene look like
fairyland, "that once the ould rascal finds a trate like that he'll
come a sniffin' around ivery night for a week av Sundays, hopin'
fortune wull be kind till him ag'in."

As the boys were very tired after such a strenuous day, they did not
sit up very late.

Every lad slept soundly on this, the second night in camp. In fact,
most of them knew not a single thing five minutes after they lay down
until the odor of coffee brought them to their senses to find that it
was broad daylight, and that breakfast was well under way.

Paul and Jud left the camp immediately after breakfast intending to go
to the place where the honey comb had been left as bait. Tolly Tip,
before they went, explained further.

"Most times, ye say, bears go into their winter quarters with the
first hard cold spell, and hibernate till spring comes. This s'ason it
has been so queer I don't know but what the bear is still at large,
because I saw his tracks just the day before ye arrived in camp."

When the pair came back the others met them with eager questions.

"How about it, Paul?"

"Any chance of getting that flashlight?"

"Did you find the honey gone?"

"See any tracks around?"

Paul held up his hand.

"I'll tell you everything in a jiffy, fellows, if you give me half a
chance," he said. "Yes, we found that the honeycomb had been carried
off; and there in the snow were some pretty big tracks left by Bruin,
the bear!"

"Good!" exclaimed Frank Savage, "then he'll be back to-night. It's
already settled that you'll coax him to snap off his own picture."



CHAPTER XX

AT THE BEAVER POND


The second day in camp promised to be very nearly as full of action as
that lively first one had been. Every scout had half a dozen things he
wanted to do; so, acting on the advice of Paul, each made out a list,
and thus followed a regular programme.

Jud, having learned that there were partridges about, set off with his
shotgun to see if he could bag a few of the plump birds.

"Don't forget there are ten of us here, Jud!" called Spider Sexton,
"and that each one of us can get away with a bird."

"Have a heart, can't you?" remonstrated the Nimrod, laughingly. "Cut
it down to half all around, and I might try to oblige you. Think of
me, staggering along under such a load of game as that. Guess you
never hefted a fat partridge, Spider."

"I admit that I never _ate_ one, if that suits you, Jud," replied the
other, frankly.

Paul on his part had told Tolly Tip he would like to accompany him on
his round of the traps on that particular morning.

"Of course, I've got an object in view when I say that," he explained.
"It is to take a look at the beaver house you've been telling me
about. I want to take my camera along, and snap off a few views of it.
That will be better than nothing when we tell the story."

"Count me in on that trip, Paul," said Spider Sexton. "I always did
want to see a regular beaver colony, and learn how they make the dam
where their houses are built. I hope you don't object to my joining
you?"

"Not a bit. Only too glad to have you for company, Spider," answered
the scout-master. "Only both of us are under Tolly Tip's orders, you
understand. He has his rules when visiting the traps, which we mustn't
break, as that might ruin his chances of taking more pelts."

"How can that be, Paul?" demanded the other.

"Oh! you'll understand better as you go along," called out Bluff, who
was close by and heard this talk. "Sandy Griggs and I learned a heap
yesterday while helping him gather his harvest of skins. And for one,
I'll never forget what he explained to me, it was all so
interesting."

"The main thing is this," Paul went on to say, in order to relieve
Spider's intense curiosity to some extent. "You must know all these
wild animals are gifted with a marvelous sense of smell, and can
readily detect the fact that a human being has been near their
haunts."

"Why, I never thought about that before, Paul," admitted Spider; "but
I can see how it must be so. I've hunted with a good setter, and know
what a dog's scent is."

"Well, a mink or an otter or a fox is gifted even more than the best
dog you ever saw," Paul continued, "and on that account it's always up
to the trapper to conceal the fact that a human being has been around,
because these animals seem to know by instinct that man is their
mortal enemy."

"How does he do it then?" asked Spider.

"You'll see by watching Tolly Tip," the scout-master told him.
"Sometimes trappers set their snares by means of a skiff, so as not to
leave a trace of their presence, for water carries no scent. Then
again they will wade to and from the place where the trap is set."

"But in the winter-time they couldn't do that, could they?" protested
Spider.

"Of course not, and to overcome that obstacle they sometimes use a
scent that overpowers their own, as well as serves to draw the animal
to the fatal trap."

"Oh! I remember now seeing some such thing advertised in a sporting
magazine as worth its weight in gold to all trappers. And the more I
hear about this the stronger my desire grows to see into it. Are we
going to start soon, Paul?"

"There's Tolly Tip almost ready to move along, so get your gun, and
I'll look after my camera, Spider."

At the time they left Camp Garrity it presented quite a bustling
picture. There was Bobolink lustily swinging the axe and cutting some
wood close by the shed where a winter's supply of fuel had been piled
up. Tom Betts was busying himself cleaning some of the fish taken on
the preceding day. Jack was hanging out all the blankets on several
lines for an airing, as they still smelled of camphor to a
disagreeable extent. Several others were moving to and fro engaged in
various duties.

As the two scouts trotted along at the heels of the old woodsman they
found many things to chat about, for there was no need of keeping
silent at this early stage of the hike. Later on when in the vicinity
of the trap line it would be necessary to bridle their tongues, or at
least to talk in whispers, for the wary little animals would be apt to
shun a neighborhood where they heard the sound of human voices.

"One reason I wanted to come out this morning," explained Paul, "was
that there seems to be a feeling in the air that spells storm to me.
If we had a heavy fall of snow the beaver house might be hidden from
view."

"What's that you say, Paul--a storm, when the sun's shining as bright
as ever it could? Have you had a wireless from Washington?" demanded
Spider, grinning.

"Oh! I seem to _feel_ it in my bones," laughed Paul. "Always did
affect me that way, somehow or other. And nine times out of ten my
barometer tells me truly. How about that, Tolly Tip? Is this fine
weather apt to last much longer?"

The guide seemed to be amused at what they were saying.

"Sure and I'm tickled to death to hear ye say that same, Paul," he
replied. "By the powers I'm blissed wid the same kind av a barometer
in me bones. Yis, and the signs do be tilling me that inside of
forty-eight hours, mebbe a deal less nor that, we're due for a
screecher. It has been savin' up a long while now, and whin she breaks
loose--howly smoke, but we'll git it!"

"Meaning a big storm, eh, Tolly Tip?" asked Spider, looking a bit
incredulous.

"Take me worrd for the same, lads," the woodsman told them.

"Well, if your prediction comes true," said Spider, "I must try to
find out how to know what sort of weather is coming. I often watch the
predictions of the Weather Bureau tacked up at the post office, but
lots of times it's away off the track. Bobolink was saying only this
morning that he expected we'd skip all the bad weather on this trip."

At mention of Bobolink's name, the trapper chuckled.

"'Tis a quare chap that same Bobolink sames to be," he observed. "He
says such amusin' things at times. Only this same mornin' do ye know
he asks me whether I could till him if that short tramp's hand had
been hurted by a cut or a burrn. Just as if that mattered to us at
all, at all."

Paul did not say anything, but his eyebrows went up as though a sudden
thought had struck him. Whatever was in his mind he kept to himself.

When they arrived at the marsh where Tolly Tip had several of his
traps set he told his companions what he wanted them to do. Under
certain conditions they could approach with him and witness the
process of taking out the victim, if fortune had been kind to the
trapper. Afterwards they would see how he reset the trap, and then
backed away, removing every possible evidence of his presence.

Both scouts were deeply interested, though Spider rather pitied the
poor rats they took from the cruel jaws of the Newhouse traps, and
inwardly decided that after all he would never like to be a gatherer
of pelts.

Later on Tolly Tip led them to the frozen creek, where they picked up
a splendid mink and an otter as well. Shrewd and sly though these
little wearers of fur coats were, they had not been able to withstand
the temptation of the bait the trapper had placed in their haunts,
with the result that they paid the penalty of their greed with their
lives.

Finally the trio reached the pond where the beaver lived. It was, of
course, ice covered, but the conical mound in the middle interested
the boys very much. Paul took several pictures of it, with his two
companions standing in the foreground, as positive evidence that the
scouts had been on the spot.

They also examined the strong dam which the cunning animals had
constructed across the creek, so as to hold a certain depth of water.
When the boys saw the girth of the trees the sharp teeth of the
beavers had cut into lengths in order to form the dam, the scouts were
amazed.

"I'd give a lot to see them at work," declared Paul. "If I get half a
chance, Tolly Tip, I'm going to come up here next spring if you'll
send me word when they're on the job. It would be well worth the trip
on horseback from Stanhope."

Upon arriving at the camp toward noon the boys and their guide found
everything running smoothly, and a great deal accomplished. Jud had
not come back as yet, but several times distant shots had been heard,
and the boys were indulging in high hopes of what Jud would bring
back.

"You musn't forget though," Paul warned these optimists, "that we're
not the only pebbles on the beach. There are others in these woods,
some of them with guns, and no mean hunters at that."

"Meaning the Lawson crowd," remarked Bobolink. "Your statement is
quite true, for I've seen Hank do some mighty fine shooting in times
past. He likes nothing so much as to wander around day after day in
the fall, with a gun in his hands, just as old Rip Van Winkle used to
do."

"Yes," remarked Jack, drily, "a gun in hand has served as an excuse
for a _loaf_ in more ways than getting the family bread."

"Hey!" cried Bluff, "there comes Jud right now. And look what he's
got, will you?"



CHAPTER XXI

SETTING THE FLASHLIGHT TRAP


"Jud's holding up one measly rabbit, as sure as anything!" exclaimed
Bobolink, with a vein of scorn in his voice, as became the lord of the
hunt, who on the preceding day had actually brought down a young buck,
and thus provided the camp with a feast for supper.

"We'd soon starve to death if we had to depend on poor old Jud for our
grub!" remarked Tom Betts, with a sad shake of his head.

"All that waste of ammunition, and just a lone rabbit to show for it!
They say successful hunters must be born, not made!" Sandy Griggs went
on to say.

Other sarcastic remarks went the rounds, while Jud just stood meekly,
seeming to be very much downcast.

"Are you all through?" he finally asked, looking up with a grin.
"Because before you condemn me entirely as a poor stick of a hunter I
want to ask Bobolink here, and Spider Sexton to walk over to that low
oak tree you can see back yonder, and fetch in what they find in the
fork. I caved on the home stretch and dropped my load there."

"Good for you, Jud!" exclaimed Paul. "I suspected something of the
kind when I saw the soiled condition of the game pockets in your
hunting-coat, and noticed that a partridge feather was sticking to
your hair. Skip along, you two, and make amends for joshing Jud so."

Of course Bobolink and Spider fairly ran, and soon came back carrying
seven plump partridges between them, at sight of which a great cheer
arose. Like all fickle crowds, the boys now applauded Jud just as
strongly as they had previously sought to poke fun at him.

"Oh! I don't deserve much credit, boys," he told them. "These birds
just tree after you scare them up, and make easy shots. If they flew
off like bullets, as they do in some parts of the country, that would
be a bag worth boasting of. But they'll taste mighty fine, all the
same, let me tell you!"

During the afternoon the scouts found many things to interest them.
Tolly Tip, of course, had to take care of the pelts he had secured
that day, and his manner of doing this interested some of the boys
considerably.

He had a great many thin boards of peculiar pattern to which the
skins were to be attached after stretching, so that they would dry in
this shape.

"Most skins ye notice are cut open an' cured that way," the old
woodsman explained to his audience, as he worked deftly with his
knife; "but some kinds are cased, bein' taken off whole, and turned
inside out to dry."

"I suppose you lay them near the fire, or out in the sun, to cure,"
remarked Tom Betts. "I know that's the way the Indians dry the
pemmican that they use in the winter for food."

"Pelts are niver cured that way," explained the trapper, "because it'd
make thim shrink. We kape the stretcher boards wid the skins out in
the open air, but in the shade where the sun don't come. Whin they git
to a certain stage it's proper to stack the same away in the cabin,
kapin' a wary eye on 'em right along to prevint mould."

All such things proved of considerable interest to the scouts, most of
whom had very little practical knowledge along these lines. They were
eager to pick up useful information wherever it could be found, and on
that account asked numerous questions, all of which Tolly Tip seemed
delighted to answer.

So another nightfall found them, with everything moving along
nicely.

"Guess your old barometer didn't hit it far wrong after all, Paul,"
remarked Sandy Griggs, about the time supper was nearly ready, and the
boys were going in and out of the cabin on different errands.

"It has clouded up to be sure," said the scout-master, "and may snow
at any time, though I hope it will hold off until to-morrow. I mean to
set my camera trap to-night, you remember, with another comb of wild
bee honey for a bear lure."

"I heard Tolly Tip saying a bit ago," continued Sandy, "that he didn't
believe the storm would reach us for twelve hours or more. That would
give you plenty of time to get your chance with old Bruin, who loves
honey so."

"Jud's promised to go out with me and help set the trap," Paul
remarked. "You know it's a walk of nearly a mile to the place, and
these snowy woods are pretty lonely after the dark sets in."

"If Jud backs out because he's tired from his tramp this morning,
Paul, call on me, will you?"

"Bobolink said the same thing," laughed the scout-master, "so I'm sure
not to be left in the lurch. No need of more than one going with me
though, and I guess I can count on Jud. It's hard to tire him."

"Wow! but those birds do smell good!" exclaimed Sandy, as he sniffed
the air. "And that oven of Tolly Tip's, in which he says he often
bakes bread, seems to do the work all right. Looks to me like one of
the kind you get with a blue flame kerosene stove."

"Just what it is," Paul told him. "But it works splendidly on a red
coal fire, too. We're going to try some baking-powder biscuits
to-morrow, Bobolink says. He's tickled over finding the oven here."

The partridges were done to a turn, and never had those hungry boys
sat down to a better feast than several of their number had prepared
for them that night. The old woodsman complimented Bobolink, who was
the chief cook.

"I ralely thought I could cook," Tolly Tip said, "but 'tis mesilf as
takes a back sate whin such a connysure is around. And biscuits is it
ye mane to thry in the mornin'? I'll make it a pint to hang around
long enough to take lissons, for I confiss that up till now I niver
did have much success with thim things."

Again some of the scouts had to warn Bobolink that he was in jeopardy
of his life if he allowed his chest to swell up, as it seemed to be
doing under such compliments.

After that wonderful supper had been disposed of, Paul busied himself
with his camera, for he had several things to fix before it would be
ready to serve as a trap to catch the picture of Bruin in the act of
stealing the honey bait.

Jud fondled his shotgun, having thoughtfully replaced the bird shells
with a couple of shells containing buckshot that he had brought along
in the hope of getting a deer.

"No telling what we may run across when trapsing through the woods
with a lantern after nightfall," he explained to Phil Towns, who was
watching his operation with mild interest, not being a hunter
himself.

"What would you do if you came face to face with the bear, or perhaps
a panther?" asked Phil. "Tolly Tip said he saw one of the big cats
last winter."

"Well, now, that's hardly a fair question," laughed Jud. "I'm too
modest a fellow to go around blowing my own horn; but the chances are
I wouldn't _run_. And if both barrels of my gun went off the plagued
beast might stand in the way of getting hurt. Figure that out if you
can, Phil."

After a little while Paul arose to his feet and proceeded to light the
lantern they had provided for the outing.

"I'm ready if you are, Jud," he remarked, and shortly afterwards the
two left the cabin, Tolly Tip once more repeating the plain
directions, so that there need be no fear that the boys would get
lost in the snowy woods.

Paul was too wise a woodsman to be careless, and he took Jud directly
to the spot which the bear had visited the preceding night.

"Don't see anything of the creature around, do you?" asked Jud,
nervously handling his gun as he spoke.

"Not a sign as yet," replied Paul. "But the chances are he'll remember
the treat he found here last night, and come trotting along before
many hours. That's what Tolly Tip told me, and he ought to know."

"Strikes me a bear is a pretty simple sort of an animal after all,"
chuckled Jud. "He must think that honey rains down somehow, and never
questions but that he'll find more where the first comb lay. Tell me
what to do, Paul, and I'll be only too glad to help you."

The camera was presently fixed just where Paul had decided on his
previous visit would be the best place. Long experience had taught the
lad just how to arrange it so that the animal of which he wished to
get a flashlight picture would be compelled to approach along a
certain avenue.

When it attempted to take the bait the cord would be pulled, and the
cartridge exploded, producing the flash required to take the
picture.

"There!" he said finally, after working for at least fifteen minutes,
"everything is arranged to a dot, and we can start back home. If Mr.
Bear comes nosing around here to-night, and starts to get that
honeycomb, I reckon he'll hand me over something in return in the
shape of a photograph."

"Here's hoping you'll get the best picture ever, Paul!" said Jud,
earnestly, for he had been deeply impressed with the clever manner in
which the photographer went about his duties.

They had gone almost a third of the way over the back trail when a
thrilling sound came to their ears almost directly in the path they
were following. Both boys came to a sudden halt, and as Jud started to
raise his gun he exclaimed:

"Unless I miss my guess, Paul, that was one of the bobcats Tolly Tip
told us about."



CHAPTER XXII

WAYLAID IN THE TIMBER


"Stand perfectly still, Jud," cried Paul, hastily, fearful that his
impulsive companion might be tempted to do something careless.

"But if he starts to jump at us I ought to try to riddle him, Paul,
don't you think?" pleaded the other, as he drew both hammers of his
gun back.

Paul carried a camp hatchet, which he had made use of to fashion the
approach to the trap. This he drew back menacingly, while gripping the
lantern in his left hand.

"Of course, you can, if it comes to a fight, Jud," he answered, "but
the cat may not mean to attack us after all. They're most vicious when
they have young kits near by, and this isn't the time of year for
that."

"Huh! Tolly Tip told me there was an unusual lot of these fellows
around here this season, and mighty bold at that," Jud remarked,
drily, as he searched the vicinity for some sign of a creeping form at
which he could fire.

"Yes, I suppose the early coming of winter has made them extra
hungry," admitted the scout-master; "though there seems to be plenty
of game for them to catch in the way of rabbits, partridges and gray
squirrels."

"Well, do we go on again, Paul, or are you thinking of camping here
for the rest of the night?" demanded Jud, impatiently.

"Oh! we'll keep moving toward the home camp," Jud was informed. "But
watch out every second of the time. That chap may be lying in a crotch
of a tree, meaning to drop down on us."

A minute later, as they were moving slowly and cautiously along, Jud
gave utterance to a low hiss.

"I see the rascal, Paul!" he said excitedly.

"Wait a bit, Jud," urged the other. "Don't shoot without being dead
sure. A wounded bobcat is nothing to be laughed at, and we may get
some beauty scratches before we can finish him. Tell me where you've
glimpsed the beast."

"Look up to where I'm pointing with my gun, Paul, and you can see two
yellow balls shining like phosphorus. Those are his eyes and if I aim
right between them I'm bound to finish him."

Jud had hardly said this when there came a loud hoot, and the sound of
winnowing wings reached them. At the same time the glowing, yellow
spots suddenly vanished.

"Wow! what do you think of that for a fake?" growled Jud in disgust.
"It was only an old owl after all, staring down at us. But say, Paul!
that screech didn't come from him let me tell you; there's a cat
around here somewhere."

As if to prove Jud spoke the truth there came just then another
vicious snarl.

"Holy smoke! Paul, did you hear that?" ejaculated Jud, half turning.
"Comes from behind us now, and I really believe there must be a pair
of the creatures stalking us on the way home!"

"They usually hunt in couples," affirmed Paul, not showing any signs
of alarm, though he clutched the hatchet a little more firmly in his
right hand, and turned his head quickly from side to side, as though
desirous of covering all the territory possible.

"Would it pay us to move around in a half circle, and let them keep
the old path?" asked Jud, who could stand for one wildcat, but drew
the line at a wholesale supply.

"I don't believe it would make any difference," returned the
scout-master. "If they're bent on giving us trouble any sign of
weakness on our part would only encourage them."

"What shall we do then?"

"Move right along and pay attention to our business," replied Paul.
"If we find that we've got to fight, try to make sure of one cat when
you fire. The second rascal we may have to tackle with hatchet and
clubbed gun. Now walk ahead of me, so the light won't dazzle your eyes
when I swing the lantern."

The two scouts moved along slowly, always on the alert. Paul kept the
light going back and forth constantly, hoping that it might impress
the bold bobcats with a sense of caution. Most wild animals are afraid
of fire, and as a rule there is no better protection for the
pedestrian when passing through the lonely woods than to have a
blazing torch in his hand, with lusty lungs to shout occasionally.

"Hold on!" exclaimed Jud, after a short time had elapsed.

"What do you see now, another owl?" asked Paul, trying to make light
of the situation, though truth to tell he felt a bit nervous.

"This isn't any old owl, Paul," asserted the boy with the gun.
"Besides the glaring eyes, I can see his body on that limb we must
pass under. Look yourself and tell me if that isn't his tail twitching
back and forth?"

"Just what it is, Jud. I've seen our tabby cat do that when crouching
to spring on a sparrow. The beast is ready to jump as soon as we come
within range. Are you covering him, Jud?"

"Dead center. Trust me to damage his hide for him. Shall I shoot?"

"Use only one barrel, mind, Jud. You may need the other later on. Now,
if you're all ready, let go!"

There was a loud bang as Jud pulled the trigger. Mingled with the
report was a shrill scream of agony. Then something came flying
through the air from an entirely different quarter.

"Look out! The second cat!" yelled Paul, striking savagely with his
hatchet, which struck against a flying body, and hurled it backward in
a heap.

The furious wildcat instantly recovered, and again assailed the two
boys standing on the defensive. Jud had clubbed his gun, for at such
close quarters he did not think he could shoot with any degree of
accuracy.

Indeed, for some little time that beast kept both of them on the
alert, and more than once sharp claws came in contact with the tough
khaki garments worn by the scouts.

After a third furious onslaught which ended in the cat's being knocked
over by a lucky stroke from Jud's gunstock, the animal seemed to
conclude that the combat was too unequal. That last blow must have
partly tamed its fiery spirit, for it jumped back out of sight, though
they could still hear its savage snarling from some point near by.

Both lads were panting for breath. At the same time they felt flushed
with victory. It was not every scout who could meet with such an
adventure as this when in the snowy forest, and come out of it with
credit.

"If he only lets me get a glimpse of his old hide," ventured Jud,
grimly, "I'll riddle it for him, let me tell you! But say! I hope you
don't mean to evacuate this gory battle-ground without taking a look
to see whether I dropped that other beast or not?"

"Of course not, Jud! I'm a little curious myself to see whether your
aim was as good as you believe. Let's move over that way, always
keeping ready to repel boarders, remember. That second cat may get his
wind, and come for us again."

"I hope he will, that's what!" said Jud, whose fighting blood was now
up. "I dare him to tackle us again. Nothing would please me better,
Paul."

A dozen paces took them to the vicinity of the tree in which Jud had
sighted the crouching beast at which he had fired.

"Got him, all right, Paul!" he hastened to call out, with a vein of
triumph in his excited voice. "He fell in a heap, and considering that
there were twelve buckshot in that shell, and every one hit him, it
isn't to be wondered at."

"A pretty big bobcat in the bargain, Jud, and well worth boasting
over. Look at his long claws, and the sharp teeth back of those short
lips. An ugly customer let me tell you. I'm glad we didn't have him on
our shoulders, that's all."

"I'm bound to drag the creature all the way to the cabin, to show the
boys," announced the successful marksman. "Now don't say anything
against it, Paul. You see I'll hold my gun under my arm ready, and at
the first sign of trouble I'll let go of the game and be ready to
shoot."

"That's all right, Jud, you're entitled to your trophy, though the
skin is pretty well riddled with that big hole through it. Still,
Tolly Tip may be able to cure it so as to make a mat for your den at
home. Let's be moving."

They could still hear that low and ominous growling and snarling.
Sometimes it came from one side, and then again switched around to the
other, as the angry cat tried to find an avenue that would appear to
be undefended.

Every step of the way home they felt they were being watched by a pair
of fiery eyes. Not for a second did either of the boys dream of
abating their vigilance, for the sagacity of the wildcat would enable
him to know when to make the attack.

Indeed, several times Jud dropped his trailing burden and half raised
his gun, as he imagined he detected a suspicious movement somewhere
close by. They proved to be false alarms, however, and nothing
occurred on the way home to disturb them.

When not far from the cabin they heard loud voices, and caught the
flicker of several blazing torches amidst the trees.

"It's Tolly Tip and the boys," announced Paul, as soon as he caught
the sounds and saw the moving lights. "They must have heard the
gunshot and our shouts, and are coming this way to find out what's the
trouble."

A few minutes later they saw half a dozen hurrying figures
approaching, several carrying guns. As the anxious ones discovered
Paul and Jud they sent out a series of whoops which the returning
scouts answered. And when those who had come from the cabin saw the
dead bobcat, as well as listened to the story of the attack, they were
loud in their praises of the valor of the adventurous pair.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE BLIZZARD


"Whew! but it's bitter cold this morning!" shouted Sandy Griggs, as he
opened the cabin door and thrust his head out.

"Looks like a few flakes of snow shooting past, in the bargain," added
Bobolink. "That means that the long expected storm is upon us."

Paul turned to Jack at hearing this, for both of them were hurriedly
dressing after crawling out of their comfortable bunks.

"A little snow isn't going to make us hedge on that arrangement we
made the last thing before turning in, I hope, Jack?" he asked,
smilingly.

"I should say not!" came the prompt reply. "Besides, if it's going to
put a foot or two of the feathery on the ground, it strikes me you've
just got to get that expensive camera of yours again. I'm with you,
Paul, right after breakfast."

Tolly Tip was also in somewhat of a hurry, wishing to make the round
of his line of traps before the storm fully set in.

So it came about that Paul and his closest chum, after a cup of hot
coffee and a meagre breakfast, hurried away from the cabin.

"We can get another batch when we come back, if they save any for us,
you know," the scout-master remarked, as they opened the door and
passed out.

"Kape your bearin's, lads," called the old woodsman. "If so be the
storm comes along with a boom it'll puzzle ye to be sure av yer way.
And by the same token, to be adrift in thim woods with a howler
blowin' for thray days isn't any fun."

When the scouts once got started they found that the air was
particularly keen. Both of them were glad they had taken the
precaution to cover up their ears, and wear their warmest mittens.

"Something seems to tell me we're in for a regular blizzard this
time," Jack remarked as they trudged manfully along, at times bowing
their heads to the bitter wind that seemed to cut like a knife.

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that turned out to be true," Paul
contented himself with saying.

They did not exchange many words while breasting the gale, for it was
the part of wisdom to keep their mouths closed as much as possible.
Paul had taken note of the way to the spot where the camera trap had
been set in the hope of catching Bruin in the act of taking the sweet
bait.

A number of times he turned around and looked back. This was because
he had accustomed himself to viewing his surroundings at various
angles, which is a wise thing for a scout to do. Then when he tries to
retrace his steps he will not find himself looking at a reverse
picture that seems unfamiliar in his eyes.

In the course of time the boys arrived at their destination.

"Don't see anything upset around here," observed Paul, with a shade of
growing disappointment in his voice; and then almost instantly adding
in excitement: "But the bait's gone, all right--and yes! the cartridge
has been fired. Good enough!"

"Here you can see faint signs of the tracks of the bear under this new
coating of snow!" declared Jack, pointing down at his feet.

Paul, knowing that he would not go for his camera until after broad
daylight, had managed to so arrange it, with a clever attachment of
his own construction, that an exposure was made just at the second the
cord firing the flashlight was drawn taut.

It was a time exposure--the shutter remaining open for a score of
seconds before automatically closing again. This was arranged so that
pictures could be taken on moonlight nights as well as dark ones. He
had tried it on several previous occasions, and with very good
results.

Brushing the accumulated snow from his camera, he quickly had the
precious article in his possession.

"Nothing else to keep us here, is there, Paul?" asked Jud.

"No, and the sooner we strike a warm gait for the cabin the better,"
said the scout-master. "You notice, if anything, that wind is getting
sharper right along, and the snow strikes you on the cheek like shot
pellets, stinging furiously. So far as I'm concerned we can't make the
camp any too soon."

Nevertheless, it might have been noticed that Paul did not hurry, in
the sense that he forgot to keep his wits about him. The warning given
by Tolly Tip was still fresh in his ears, and even without it Paul
would hardly have allowed himself to become indiscreet or careless.

Jack, too, saw that they were following the exact line they had taken
in coming out. As a scout he knew that the other did not get his
bearings from any marks on the ground, such as might easily be
obliterated by falling snow. Trees formed the basis of Paul's
calculations. He particularly noticed every peculiarly shaped tree or
growth upon the right side while going out, which would bring them on
his left in returning.

In this fashion the scout-master virtually blazed a path as he went;
for those trees gave him his points just as well as though they
represented so many gashes made with a hatchet.

"I'm fairly wild to develop this film, and see whether the bear paid
for his treat with a good picture," Paul ventured to say when they
were about half way to the camp.

"Do you know what I was thinking about just then?" asked Jack.

"Something that had to do with other fellows, I'll be bound," replied
the scout-master. "You were looking mighty serious, and I'd wager a
cookey that you just remembered there were other fellows up here to be
caught in the blizzard besides our crowd."

Jack laughed at hearing this.

"You certainly seem to be a wizard, Paul, to guess what was in my
mind," he told his chum. "But it's just as you say. Sim Jeffreys told
us the other day that they had come up with only a small amount of
food along. If they've stayed around up to now they're apt to find
themselves in a pretty bad pickle."

"That's a fact, Jack, if this storm keeps on for several days, and the
snow happens to block all the paths out of the woods. Let's hope they
gave it up, and went back home again. We haven't seen a thing of them
since then, you remember."

Jack shook his head.

"You know how pig-headed Hank Lawson always is," he told his chum.
"Once he gets started in a thing, he hates everlastingly to give up.
He came here to bother us, I feel sure, and a little thing like a
shortage of provisions wouldn't force him to call the game off."

"Then it's your opinion, is it, Jack, they're still in that hole among
the rocks Sim spoke of?"

"Chances are three to one it's that way," quickly replied Jack. "They
have guns, and could get some game that way, for they know how to
hunt. Then if it came to the worst perhaps Hank would try to sneak
around our cabin, hoping to find a chance to steal some of our
supplies."

A short time later they sighted the cabin through the now thickly
falling snow, and both boys felt very glad to be able to get under
shelter.

Tolly Tip did not return until some hours had passed. By that time the
snow carried by a furious wind that howled madly around the corners,
was sweeping past the windows of the cabin like a cloud of dust.

Everybody was glad when the old woodsman arrived. He flung several
prizes down on the floor, not having taken the time to detach the
pelts.

"'Tis a screecher av a blizzard we're after havin' drop in on us, by
the same token," he said, with quivering lips, as he stretched out his
hands toward the cheerful blaze of the fire.

Being very eager to ascertain what measure of success had fallen to
him with regard to the bear episode, Paul proceeded to develop the
film.

When he rejoined the other boys in the front room some time later he
was holding up the developed film, still dripping with water.

"The best flashlight I ever got, let me tell you!" Paul exclaimed. At
this there was a cheer and a rush to see the film.

There was the bear, looking very much astonished at the sudden
brilliant illumination which must have seemed like a flash of
lightning to him.

All day long the storm howled, the snow drifted and scurried around
the cabin. Whenever the boys went for wood they had to be very careful
lest they lose their way even in such a short distance, for it was
impossible to see five feet ahead. When they went to bed that night
the same conditions held good, and every one felt that they were in
the grip of the greatest blizzard known for ten years.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE DUTY OF THE SCOUT


When two days had passed and the storm still raged, the scouts began
to feel more anxious than ever. The snow continued to sweep past the
cabin in blinding sheets. It was difficult to know whether all this
came from above, or if some was snatched up from the ground and
whirled about afresh.

In some places enormous drifts abounded, while other more exposed
spots had been actually swept bare by the wind.

The scouts had not suffered in the least, save mentally. The cabin
proved to be fairly warm, thanks to the great fire they kept going day
and night; and they certainly had no reason to fear for any lack of
provisions with which to satisfy their ever present appetites.

Still, from time to time, murmurs could be heard.

"One thing sure!" Sandy Griggs was saying toward noon on this third
day of the blizzard, "this storm is going to upset a whole lot of our
plans."

"Knock 'em into a jiffy!" added Bluff.

"We'll never be able to skate down the creek to the lake, if it's
covered with two feet of snow," Sandy growled.

"Oh! for all we know," laughed Paul, "this wind has been a good friend
to us, and may keep the smooth ice clear of snow. We'd better not cry
until we know the milk has really been spilled."

"But any way," Bluff continued, bound to find some cause for the
gloomy feelings that clung like a wet blanket, "we'll never be able to
run our iceboats back home. Chances are we'll have to drag them most
of the way."

"All right, then," Paul told him, "we'll make the best of a bad
bargain. If you only look hard enough, Bluff and Sandy, you'll find
the silver lining to every cloud. And no matter how the storm upsets
some of our plans we ought to be thankful we've got such a snug
shelter, and plenty of good things to eat--thanks to Mr. Garrity."

"Yes, that's what I just had in mind, Paul," spoke up Bobolink. "Now,
you all needn't begin to grin at me when I say that. I was thinking
more about the fellows who may be shivering and hungry, than of our
own well-fed crowd."

"Oh! The Lawsons!" exclaimed Bluff. "That's a fact. While we're having
such a royal time of it here they may be up against it good and
hard."

Perhaps all of the boys had from time to time allowed their thoughts
to stray away, and mental pictures of the Lawson crowd suffering from
hunger and cold intruded upon their minds. They forgot whatever they
chanced to be doing at that moment, and came around Paul.

"In one way it would serve them right if they did get a little rough
experience," observed Spider Sexton, who perhaps had suffered more at
the hands of the Stanhope bully and his set than any of the other
scouts.

"Oh, that sort of remark hardly becomes you, Spider," Paul reminded
him. "If you remember some of the rules and regulations to which you
subscribed when joining the organization you'll find that scouts have
no business to feel bitter toward any one, especially when the fellows
they look on as enemies may be suffering."

"Excuse me, Paul, I guess I spoke without thinking," said Spider, with
due humility. "And to prove it I'm going to suggest that we figure out
some way we might be of help to Hank and his lot."

"That's more like it, Spider!" the scout-master exclaimed, as though
pleased. "None of us fancy those fellows, because so far we've failed
to make any impression on them. Several times we've tried to make an
advance, but they jeered at us, and seemed to think it was only fear
on our part that made us try to throw a bridge across the chasm
separating us. It's going to be different if, as we half believe,
they're in serious trouble."

"But Paul, what could we do to help them?" demanded Bluff.

"With this storm raging to beat the band," added Tom Betts, "it would
be as much as our lives were worth to venture out. Why, you can't see
ten feet away; and we'd be going around in a circle until the cold got
us in the end."

"Hold on, fellows, don't jump at conclusions so fast," Paul warned
them. "I'd be the last one to advise going out into the woods with the
storm keeping up. But Tolly Tip told me the snow stopped hours ago.
What we see whirling around is only swept by the wind, for it's as dry
as powder you know. And even the wind seems to be dying down now, and
is blowing in spasms."

"Paul, you're right, as you nearly always are," Jack affirmed, after
he had pressed his nose against the cold glass of the little window.
"And say! will you believe me when I say that I can see a small patch
of blue sky up yonder--big enough to make a Dutchmen's pair of
breeches?"

"Hurrah! that settles the old blizzard then!" cried Sandy Griggs. "You
all remember, don't you, the old saying, 'between eleven and two
it'll tell you what it's going to do?' I've seen it work out lots of
times."

"Yes," retorted Jud, "and fail as often in the bargain. That's one of
the exploded signs. When they come out right you believe in 'em, and
when they miss, why you just forget all about it, and go on hoping.
But in this case I reckon the old storm must have blown itself about
out, and we can look for a week of cold, clear weather now."

"We'll wait until after lunch," said Paul, in his decided fashion that
the boys knew so well; "then, if things brighten up, we'll see what we
can do. Those fellows must be suffering, more or less, and it's our
duty to help them, no matter whether they bother to thank us or not."

"Scouts don't want thanks when they do their duty," said Phil Towns,
grandly. "But I suppose you'll hardly pick me out as one of the rescue
party, Paul?"

"I'd rather have the hardiest fellows along with me, Phil," replied
the scout-master, kindly; "though I'm glad to know you feel willing to
serve. It counts just as much to _want_ to go, as to be allowed to be
one of the number."

Bobolink especially showed great delight over the possibility of their
setting out to relieve the enemy in distress. A dozen times he went to
the door and passed out, under the plea that they might as well have
plenty of wood in the cabin; but on every occasion upon his return he
would report the progress of the clearing skies.

"Have the sun shining right away now, boys," he finally announced,
with a beaming face. "And the wind's letting up, more or less. Times
are when you can see as far as a hundred feet. And say! it's a
wonderful sight let me tell you."

Noon came and they sat down to the lunch that had been prepared for
them, this time by Frank and Spider, Bobolink having begged off. The
sun was shining in a dazzling way upon the white-coated ground. It
looked like fairyland the boys declared, though but little of the snow
had remained on the oaks, beeches and other forest trees, owing to the
furious and persistent wind.

The hemlocks, however, were bending low with the weight that pressed
upon their branches. Some of the smaller ones looked like snow
pyramids, and it was plain to be seen that during the remainder of the
winter most of this snow was bound to hang on.

"If we only had a few pairs of snow-shoes like Tolly Tip's here,"
suggested Bobolink, enthusiastically, "we might skim along over
ten-foot drifts, and never bother about things."

"Yes," Jud told him, a bit sarcastically, "if we knew just how to
manage the bally things, we might. But it isn't so easy as you think.
Most of us would soon be taking headers, and finding ourselves upside
down. It's a trick that has to be learned; and some fellows never can
get the hang, I've been told."

"Well, there's no need of our talking about it," interposed Paul,
"because there's only one pair of snow-shoes in the cabin, and all of
us can't wear those. But Tolly Tip says we're apt to find avenues
swept in the snow by the wind, where we can walk for the most part on
clear ground, with but few drifts to wade through."

"It may make a longer journey av the same," the old woodsman
explained; "but if luck favors us we'll git there in due time, I
belave, if so be ye settle on goin'."

Nothing could hold the scouts back, it seemed. This idea of setting
forth to succor an enemy in distress had taken a firm hold upon their
imaginations.

Besides, those days when they were shut up in the storm-besieged cabin
had been fearfully long to their active spirits, and on this account,
too, they welcomed the chance to do something.

There could no longer be any doubt that the storm had blown itself
out, for the sky was rapidly clearing. The air remained bitter cold,
and Paul advised those whom he selected to accompany him to wrap
themselves up with additional care, for he did not wish to have them
take the chance of frosting their toes and their noses.

Those who were fortunate enough to be drafted for the trip were Jack,
Jud, Bobolink and Tom Betts. Some of the others felt slighted, but
tried to be as cheerful over their disappointment as possible.

Of course, Tolly Tip was to accompany them, for he would not have
allowed the boys to set out without his guidance, under such changed
and really hazardous conditions. A trained woodsman would be necessary
in order to insure the boys against possible disaster in the
storm-bound forest.

Well bundled up, and bearing packs on their backs consisting in the
main of provisions, the six started off, followed by the cheers and
good wishes of their comrades, and were soon lost to view amidst the
white aisles of the forest.



CHAPTER XXV

AMONG THE SNOWDRIFTS


"This is hard work after all, let me own up!" announced Jud Elderkin,
after they had been pushing on for nearly half an hour.

"To tell you the truth," admitted Tom Betts, "we've turned this way
and that so often now I don't know whether we're heading straight."

"Trust Tolly Tip for that," urged Paul. "And besides, if you'd taken
your bearings as you should have done when starting, you could tell
from the position of the sun that right now we're going straight
toward that far-off hill."

"Good for ye, Paul!" commented the guide, who was deeply interested in
finding out just how much woods lore these scouts had picked up during
their many camp experiences.

"Well, here's where we're up against it good and hard," observed
Bobolink.

The clear space they had been following came to an abrupt end, and
before them lay a great drift of snow, at least five or six feet
deep.

"Do we try to flounder through this, or turn around and try another
way?" asked Jud, looking as though, if the decision rested with him,
he would only too gladly attack the heap of snow.

Before deciding, Tolly Tip climbed into the fork of a tree. From this
point of vantage he was able to see beyond the drift. He dropped down
presently with a grin on his face.

"It's clear ag'in beyant the hape av snow; so we'd better try to butt
through the same," he told them. "Let me go first, and start a path.
Whin I play out one av the rist av ye may take the lead. Come along,
boys."

The relief party plunged into the great drift with merry shouts, being
filled with the enthusiasm of abounding youth. The big woodsman kept
on until even he began to tire of the work; or else guessed that Jud
was eager to take his place.

In time they had passed beyond the obstacle, and again found
themselves traversing a windswept avenue that led in the general
direction they wished to go.

A short time afterwards Jud uttered a shout.

"Hold on a minute, fellows!" he called out.

"What ails you now, Jud--got a cramp in your leg, or do you think it's
time we stopped for a bite of lunch?" demanded Bobolink.

"Here's the plain track of a deer," answered Jud, pointing down as he
spoke. "And it was made only a short time ago you can see, because
while the wind blows the snow some every little while, it hasn't
filled the track."

"That's good scout logic, Jud," affirmed Paul; and even the old
woodsman nodded his head as though he liked to hear the boy think
things out so cleverly.

"Here it turns into this blind path," continued Jud, "which I'd like
to wager ends before long in a big drift. Like as not if we chose to
follow, we'd find Mr. Stag wallowing in the deepest kind of snow, and
making an easy mark."

"Well, we can't turn aside just now, to hunt a poor deer that is
having a hard enough time of it keeping life in his body," said Tom
Betts, aggressively.

"No, we'll let the poor beast have his chance to get away," said the
scout-master. "We've started out on a definite errand, and mustn't
allow ourselves to be drawn aside. So put your best foot forward
again, Jud."

Jud looked a little loth to give up the chance to get the deer, a
thing he had really set his mind on. However, there would still be
plenty of time to accomplish this, and equal Bobolink's feat, whereby
the other had been able to procure fresh venison for the camp.

"How far along do you think we are, Tolly Tip?" asked Tom Betts, after
more time had passed, and they began to feel the result of their
struggle.

"More'n half way there, I'd be sayin'," the other replied. "Though it
do same as if the drifts might be gittin' heavier the closer we draw
to the hill. Av ye fale tired mebbe we'd better rist up a bit."

"What, me tired!" exclaimed Tom, disdainfully, at the same time
putting new life in his movements. "Why, I've hardly begun to get
started so far. Huh! I'm good for all day at this sort of work, I'm so
fond of ploughing through the snow."

The forest seemed very solemn and silent. Doubtless nearly all of the
little woods folk found themselves buried under the heavy fall of
snow, and it would take time for them to tunnel out.

"Listen to the crows cawing as they fly overhead," said Jud,
presently.

"They're gathering in a big flock over there somewhere," remarked
Paul.

"They're having what they call a crow caucus," explained Jack. "They
do say that the birds carry on in the queerest way, just as if they
were holding court to try one of their number that had done something
criminal."

"More likely they're getting together to figure it out where they can
find the next meal," suggested Bobolink, sensibly. "This snow must
have covered up pretty nearly everything. But at the worst they can
emigrate to the South--can get to Virginia, where the climate isn't so
severe."

As they pushed their way onward the boys indulged in other discussions
along such lines as this. They were wideawake, and observed every
little thing that occurred around them, and as these often pertained
to the science of woodcraft which they delighted to study, they found
many opportunities to give forth their opinions.

"We ought to be getting pretty near that old hill, seems to me,"
observed Tom, when another hour had dragged by. Then he quickly added:
"Not that I care much, you know, only the sooner we see if Hank and
his cronies are in want the better it'll be."

"There it is right now, dead ahead of us!" exclaimed Jud, who had a
pair of wonderfully keen eyes.

Through an opening among the trees they could all see the hill beyond,
although it was so covered with snow that its outlines seemed shadowy,
and it was little wonder none of them had noticed it before.

"Not more'n a quarter of a mile off, I should say," declared Tom
Betts, unable to hide fully the sense of pleasure the discovery gave
him.

"But all the same we'll have a pretty tough time making it," remarked
Jud. "It strikes me the snow is deeper right here than in any place
yet, and the paths fewer in number."

"How is that, Tolly Tip?" asked Bobolink.

"Ye say, the hill shunted off some av the wind," explained the other
without any hesitation; "and so the snow could drop to the ground
without bein' blown about so wild like. 'Tis a fine blanket lies ahead
av us, and we'll have to do some harrd wadin' to make our way through
the same."

"Hit her up!" cried Tom, valiantly. "Who cares for such a little thing
as snow piles?"

They floundered along as best they could. It turned out to be anything
but child's play, and tested their muscular abilities from time to
time.

In vain they looked about them as they drew near the hill; there was
not a single trace of any one moving around. Some of the scouts began
to feel very queerly as they stared furtively at the snow covered
elevation. It reminded them of a white tomb, for somewhere underneath
it they feared the four boys from Stanhope might be buried, too weak
to dig their way out.

Tolly Tip led them on with unerring fidelity.

"How does it come, Tolly Tip," asked the curious Jud as they toiled
onward, "that you remember this hole in the rocks so well?"

"That's an aisy question to answer," replied the other, with one of
his smiles. "Sure 'twas some years ago that I do be having a nate
little ruction with the only bear I iver kilt in this section. He was
a rouser in the bargain, I'd be after tillin' ye. I had crawled into
the rift in the rocks to say where it lid whin I found mesilf up
aginst it."

"Oh! in that case I can see that you would be apt to remember the hole
in the rocks always," commented Jud. "A fellow is apt to see that kind
of thing many a time in his dreams. So those fellows happened on the
old bear den, did they?"

"We're clost up to the same now, I'm plazed to till ye," announced the
guide. "If ye cast an eye beyont ye'll mebbe notice that spur av rock
that stands out like a ploughshare. Jist behind the same we'll strike
the crack in the rocks, and like as not find it filled to the brim wid
the snow."

When the five scouts and their guide stood alongside the spur of rock,
looking down into the cavity now hidden by ten feet of snow, they were
somehow forced to turn uneasy faces toward one another. It was deathly
still there, and not a sign could they see to indicate that under the
shroud of snow the four Stanhope boys might be imprisoned, almost dead
with cold and hunger.



CHAPTER XXVI

DUG OUT


The boys realized that they had heavy work before them if they hoped
to dig a way down through that mass of snow and reach the cleft in the
rocks.

"Just mark out where we have to get busy, Tolly Tip," called out
Bobolink, after they had put aside their packs, and primed themselves
for work, "and see how we can dig."

"I speak for first turn with the snow shovel!" cried Jud. "It'll bring
a new set of muscles into play, for one thing, and that means relief.
I own up that my legs feel pretty well tuckered out."

The woodsman, however, chose to begin the work himself. After taking
his bearings carefully, he began to dig the snow shovel deep down, and
cast the loosely packed stuff aside.

In order to reach the cleft in the rocks they would have to cut a
tunnel through possibly twenty feet or more of snow.

So impatient was Jud to take a hand that he soon begged the guide to
let him have a turn at the work. Tolly Tip prowled around, and some of
the boys wondered what he could be doing until he came back presently
with great news.

"'Tis smoke I do be after smellin' beyant there!" he told them.

"Smoke!" exclaimed Bobolink, staring up the side of the white hill.
"How can that be when there isn't the first sign of a fire?"

"You don't catch on to the idea, Bobolink," explained Paul. "He means
that those in the cave must have some sort of fire going, and the
smoke finds its way out through some small crevices that lie under a
thin blanket of snow. Am I right there, Tolly Tip?"

"Ye sure hit the nail on the head, Paul," he was told by the guide.

"Well, that's good news," admitted Bobolink, with a look of relief on
his face. "If they've got enough wood to keep even a small fire going,
they won't be found frozen to death anyhow."

"And," continued Jud, who had given the shovel over to Jack, "it takes
some days to really starve a fellow, I understand. You see I've been
reading lately about the adventures of the Dr. Kane exploring company
up in the frozen Arctic regions. When it got to the worst they staved
off starvation by making soup of their boots."

"But you mustn't forget," interposed Bobolink, "that their boots were
made of skins, and not of the tough leather we use these days. I'd
like to see Hank Lawson gnawing on one of _his_ old hide shoes, that's
what! It couldn't be done, any way you fix it."

The hole grew by degrees, but very slowly. It seemed as though tons
and tons of snow must have been swept over the crest of the hill, to
settle down in every cavity it could find.

"We're getting there, all right!" declared Bobolink, after he had
taken his turn, and in turn handed over the shovel to Paul.

"Oh! the Fourth of July is coming too, never fear!" jeered Jud, who
was in a grumbling mood.

"Why, Tolly Tip here says we've made good progress already," Tom Betts
declared, merely to combat the spirit manifested by Jud, "and that
we'll soon be half-way through the pile. If it were three times as big
we'd get there in the end, because this is a never-say-die bunch of
scouts, you bet!"

"Oh! I was only fooling," chuckled Jud, feeling ashamed of his
grumbling. "Of course, we'll manage it, by hook or by crook. Show me
the time the Banner Boy Scouts ever failed, will you, when they'd set
their minds on doing anything worth while? We're bound to get
there."

The work went on. By turns the members of the relief party applied
themselves to the task of cutting a way through the snow heap, and
when each had come up for the third time it became apparent that they
were near the end of their labor, for signs of the rock began to
appear.

Inspired by this fact they took on additional energy, and the way the
snow flew under the vigorous attack of Jud was pretty good evidence
that he still believed in their ultimate success.

"Now watch my smoke!" remarked Tom Betts, as he took the shovel in his
turn and proceeded to show them what he could do. "I've made up my
mind to keep everlastingly at it till I strike solid rock. And I'll do
it, or burst the boiler."

He had hardly spoken when they heard the plunging metal shovel strike
something that gave out a positive "chink," and somehow that sound
seemed to spell success.

"Guess you've gone and done it, Tom!" declared Jud, with something
like a touch of chagrin in his voice, for Jud had been hoping he would
be the lucky one to show the first results.

There was no slackening of their ardor, and the boys continued to
shovel the snow out of the hole at a prodigious rate until every one
could easily see the crevice in the rocks.

"Listen!" exclaimed Jud just then.

"Oh! what do you think you heard?" asked Bobolink.

"I don't know whether it was the shovel scraping over the rock or a
human groan," Jud continued, looking unusually serious.

They all listened, but could hear nothing except the cold wind sighing
through some of the trees not far away.

"Let me finish the work for you, Tom," suggested Paul, seeing that Tom
Betts was pretty well exhausted from his labors.

"I guess I will, Paul, because I'm nearly tuckered out," admitted the
persistent worker, as he handed the implement over, and pushed back,
though still remaining in the hole.

Paul was not very long in clearing away the last of the snow that
clogged the entrance to the old bears' den. They could then mark the
line of the gaping hole that cleft the rock, and which served as an
antechamber to the cavity that lay beyond.

"That does it, Paul," said Jack, softly; though just why he spoke half
under his breath he could not have explained if he had been asked,
except that, somehow, it seemed as though they were very close to some
sort of tragedy.

The shovel was put aside. It had done its part of the work, and could
rest. And everybody prepared to follow Paul as he pushed after the
guide into the crevice leading to the cave.

The smell of wood smoke was now very strong, and all of them could
catch it.

So long as the entrapped boys had a fire there was no fear that they
would perish from the cold. Moreover, down under the rocks and the
snow the atmosphere could hardly be anything as severe as in the open.
Indeed Paul had been in many caves where the temperature remained
about the same day in and day out, through the whole year.

Coming from the bewildering and dazzling snow fields it was little
wonder that none of them could see plainly at the moment they started
into the bears' den. By degrees, as their eyes became accustomed to
the semi-darkness that held sway below, they would be able to
distinguish objects, and make discoveries.

Stronger grew the pungent odor of smoke. It was not unpleasant at all,
and to some of the scouts most welcome, bearing as it did a message of
hope, and the assurance that things had not yet come to the last
stretch.

Half turning as he groped his way onward, the guide pointed to
something ahead--at least Paul who came next in line fancied that
Tolly Tip was trying to draw his attention to that quarter.

In turn he performed the same office for the next boy, and thus the
intelligence was passed along the line, from hand to hand.

They could, by straining their eyes, discover some half huddled
figures just beyond. A faint light showed where the dying fire lay;
and even as they looked one of the partly seen figures was seen to
stir, and after this they noticed that a little flame had started up.

Paul believed that the very last stick of wood was on the fire and
nearing the end.

Bobolink could not help giving a low cry of commiseration. The sound
must have been heard by those who were huddled around the miserable
fire, for they scrambled to their knees. As the tiny blaze sprang up
just then, it showed the scouts the four Stanhope boys looking pinched
and wan, with their eyes staring the wonder they must have felt at
sight of the newcomers.

Hank was seen to jab his knuckles into his eyes as though unable fully
to believe what he beheld. Then he held out both hands beseechingly
toward the newcomers. They would never be able to forget the genuine
pain contained in his voice as he half groaned:

"Oh! have you come to save us? Give us somethin' to eat, won't you?
We're starvin', starvin', I tell you!"



CHAPTER XXVII

"FIRST AID"


Possibly the case was not quite as bad as Hank declared, but for all
that those four lads were certainly in a bad way.

Paul took charge of affairs at once, as became the acting scout-master
of the troop.

"It's a good thing we thought to pick up some wood as we came along,"
he remarked. "Fetch it in, boys, and get this fire going the first
thing. Then we'll make a pot of coffee to begin with."

"Coffee!" echoed the four late prisoners of the cave. "Oh, my stars!
why! we went and forgot to bring any along with us. Coffee! that
sounds good to us!"

"That's only a beginning," said Bobolink, as he came back with his
arms filled with sticks, which he began to lay upon the almost dead
fire. "We've got ham and biscuits, Boston baked beans, potatoes, corn,
grits, and lots of other things. Just give us a little time to do some
cooking, and you'll get all you can cram down."

Paul knew the hungry boys would suffer all sorts of tortures while
waiting for the meal to be cooked. On this account he saw that they
were given some crackers and cheese, to take the keen edge of their
voracious appetites off.

It was a strange spectacle in that hole amidst the rocks, with the
fire leaping up, Bobolink bending over it doing the cooking with his
customary vim, the rest of the scouts gathered around, and those four
wretched fellows munching away for dear life, as they sniffed the
coffee beginning to scent the air with its fragrance.

As soon as this was ready Paul poured out some, added condensed milk,
and handed the tin cup to Hank.

He was really surprised to see the rough fellow turn immediately and
give it to Sid Jeffreys and hear him say:

"I reckon you need it the wust, Sid; git the stuff inside in a
hurry."

Then Paul remembered that Sid had recently been injured. And somehow
he began to understand that even such a hardened case as Hank Lawson,
in whom no one seemed ready to place any trust, might have a small,
tender spot in his heart. He could not be _all_ bad, Paul decided.

Hank, however, did not refuse to accept the second cup, and hastily
drain it. Apparently, he believed the leader should have first
choice, and meant to impress this fact upon his satellites.

What to do about the four boys had puzzled Paul a little. To allow
them to accompany him and his chums back to Deer Head Lodge would make
the remainder of their outing a very disagreeable affair. Besides,
there was really no room for any more guests under that hospitable
roof; and certainly Tolly Tip would not feel in the humor to invite
them.

So Paul had to figure it out in some other way. While Hank and his
three cronies were eating savagely, Bobolink having finished preparing
the odd meal for them, Paul took occasion to sound the one who
occupied the position of chief.

"We've brought over enough grub to last you four a week," he started
in to say, when Hank interrupted him.

"We sure think you're white this time, Paul Morrison, an' I ain't
a-goin' to hold back in sayin' so either, just 'cause we've been
scrappin' with your crowd right along. Guess you know that we come up
here partly to bother you fellers. I'm right glad we ain't had a
chance to play any tricks on you up to now. An' b'lieve me! it's goin'
to be a long time 'fore we'll forgit this thing."

Paul was, of course, well pleased to hear this. He feared, however,
that in a month from that time Hank was apt to forget the obligations
he owed the scouts, and likely enough would commence to annoy them
again.

"The question that bothers me just now," Paul continued, "is what you
ought to do. I don't suppose any of you care to stay up here much
longer, now that this blizzard has spoiled all of the fun of camping
out?"

"I've had about all I want of the game," admitted Jud Mabley,
promptly.

"Count me in too," added Sim Jeffreys. "I feel pretty sick of the
whole business, and we can't get back home any too soon to suit me."

"Same here," muttered Bud Phillips, who had kept looking at Paul for
some time in a furtive way, as though he had something on his mind
that he was strongly tempted to communicate to the scout leader.

"So you see that settles it," grinned Hank. "Even if I wanted to hang
out here all the rest o' the holidays, three agin one is most too
much. We'd be havin' all sorts o' rows every day. Yep, we'll start fur
home the fust chance we git."

That pleased Paul, and was what he had hoped to hear.

"Of course," he went on to say to Hank, "it's a whole lot shorter
cutting across country to Stanhope than going around by way of Lake
Tokala and the old canal that leads from the Radway into the Bushkill
river; but you want to be mighty careful of your compass points, or
you might get lost."

"Sure thing, Paul," remarked the other, confidently; "but that's my
long suit, you ought to know. Never yet did git lost, an' I reckon I
ain't a-goin' to do it now. I'll lay it all out and make the riffle,
don't you worry about that same."

"We came over that way, you know," interrupted Jud Mabley, "and left
blazes on the trees in places where we thought we might take the wrong
trail goin' back."

"That was a wise thing to do," said Paul, "and shows that some of you
ought to be in the scout movement, for you've got it in you to make
good."

"Tried it once you 'member, Paul, but your crowd didn't want anything
to do wi' me, so I cut it out," grumbled Jud, though he could not help
looking pleased at being complimented on the woodcraft of their crowd
by such an authority as the scout-master.

Paul turned from Jud and looked straight into the face of the leader.

"Hank," he said earnestly, "you know just as well as I do that Jud was
blackballed not because we didn't believe he had it in him to make an
excellent scout, but for another reason. Excuse me if I'm blunt about
it, but I mean it just as much for your good as I did bringing this
food all the way over here to help you out. Every one of you has it in
him to make a good scout, if only he would change certain ways he now
has."

Hank looked down at his feet, and remained silent for a brief time,
during which he doubtless was having something of an inward fight.

"All right, Paul," he suddenly remarked, looking up again grimly. "I
ain't a-goin' to git mad 'cause you speak so plain. If you fellers'd
go to all the trouble to fight your way over here, and fetch us this
food, I reckon as how I've been readin' you the wrong way."

"You have, Hank! You certainly have!" affirmed Bobolink, who was
greatly interested in this effort on the part of Paul to bring about a
change in the boys who had taken such malicious delight in annoying
the scouts whenever the opportunity arose.

"Believe this, Hank," said Paul earnestly; "if you only chose to
change your ways, none of you would be blackballed the next time you
tried to join the organization. There's no earthly reason why all of
you shouldn't be accepted as candidates if only you can subscribe to
the iron-bound rules we work under, and which every one of us has to
obey. Think it over, won't you, boys? It might pay you."

"Reckon we will, Paul," muttered Hank, though he shook his head at the
same time a little doubtfully, as though deep down in his heart he
feared they could never overcome the feeling of prejudice that had
grown up against them in Stanhope.

"I wouldn't be in too big a hurry to start back home," continued Paul,
thinking he had already said enough to fulfill his duty as a scout.
"In another day or so it's likely to warm up a bit, and you'll find it
more comfortable on the way."

"Just what I was thinkin' myself, Paul," agreed Hank. "We've got
stacks of grub now, thanks to you and your crowd, and we c'n git
enough wood in places, now you've opened our dooryard fur us. Yep,
we'll hang out till it feels some warmer, and then cut sticks fur
home."

"Here's a rough map I made out that may be useful to you, Hank,"
continued the scout-master, "if you happen to lose your blazed trail.
Tolly Tip helped me get it up, and as he's been across to Stanhope
many times he ought to know every foot of the way."

"It might come in handy, an' I'll take the same with thanks, Paul,"
Hank observed, with all his customary aggressive ways lacking. There
is nothing so well calculated to take the spirit out of a boy as acute
hunger.

When they had talked for some little time longer, Paul decided that
it was time for him and his chums to start back to the cabin. Those
afternoons in late December were very short, and night would be down
upon them almost before they knew it.

It was just then that Bud Phillips seemed to have made up his mind to
say something that had been on the tip of his tongue ever since he
realized under what great obligations the scouts had placed him and
his partners.

"Seems like I oughtn't to let you get away from here, Paul, without
tellin' somethin' that I reckon might be interestin' to you all," he
went on to say.

"All right, Bud, we'll be glad to hear it," the scout-master observed,
with a smile, "though for the life of me I can't guess what it's all
about."

"Go ahead Bud, and dish it out!" urged Bobolink, impatiently.



CHAPTER XXVIII

MORE STARTLING NEWS


Bud Phillips looked somewhat confused. Apparently, he did not figure
any too well in what he felt it his duty to confess to Paul and his
chums.

"I'm ashamed that I kept mum about it when the old man accused some of
you fellers of startin' the fire, an' gettin' at his tight wad," he
went on to say; and it can be easily understood that this beginning
gave Paul a start.

"Oh! it's about that ugly business, is it?" the scout-master remarked,
frowning a little, for, naturally, he instantly conceived the idea
that Hank and his three reckless cronies must have had a hand in that
outrage.

That Hank guessed what was flitting through the other's mind was
plainly indicated by the haste with which he cried out:

"Don't git it in your head we had anything to do with that fire, Paul,
nor yet with tappin' the old man's safe. I know we ain't got any too
good reputations 'round Stanhope, but it's to be hoped we ain't
dropped so low as that. Skip along, Bud, an' tell what you saw."

"Why, it's this way," continued the narrator, eagerly. "I chanced to
be Johnny-on-the-spot that night, being 'mong the first to arrive when
old Briggs started to scream that his store was afire. Never mind how
it came that way. And Paul, I saw two figures a-runnin' away right
when I came up, runnin' like they might be afraid o' bein' seen an'
grabbed."

"Were they close enough for you to notice who they were?" asked Paul,
taking a deep interest in the narration, since he and his chums had
been accused of doing the deed in the presence of many of Stanhope's
good people.

"Oh! I saw 'em lookin' back as they hurried away," admitted Bud. "And,
Paul, they were those same two tramps we had the trouble with that
day. You remember we ran the pair out o' town, bombardin' 'em with
rocks."

Paul could plainly see the happening in his memory, with the two
hoboes turning when at a safe distance to shake their fists at the
boys. Evidently their rough reception all around had caused them to
have a bitter feeling toward the citizens of Stanhope, and they had
come back later on to have their revenge.

"Now that I think of it," Paul went on to say, "they had just come
out of the store when you ran afoul of the pair. The chances are that
Mr. Briggs treated them as sourly as he does all their class, and they
were furiously mad at him."

"Yes," added Bobolink, "and while in there they must have noticed
where he had his safe. Maybe they saw him putting money in it."

"I'm glad you told me this, Bud," the scout-master confessed, "because
it goes part way to clear up the mystery of that fire and robbery."

"Bud was meanin' to tell all about it when we got back," said Hank.
"He kept still because he heard Briggs accuse you scouts of the fire
racket, and Bud just then thought it too good a joke to spoil. But
we've been talkin' it over, and come to the conclusion we owed it to
the community to set 'em right."

This sounded rather lofty, but Paul guessed that there must be another
reason back of the determination to tell. These fellows had decided
that possibly suspicion might be directed toward them, and, as they
had had enough trouble already without taking more on their shoulders,
it would be the part of wisdom to start the ball rolling in the right
quarter.

"Well, we must be going," said Paul.

"Do you reckon on stayin' out your time up here?" queried Hank.

"We haven't decided that yet," replied the scout-master; "but the
chances are we shall conclude to cut the trip short and get back home.
This heavy snow has spoiled a good many plans we'd laid out; and we
might be having a better time of it with the rest of the fellows at
home. We're going to talk it over and by to-morrow settle on our
plans."

"Here's where we get busy and start on the return hike," announced Tom
Betts, just as cheerily as though he were not already feeling the
effects of that stiff plunge through the deep snowdrifts, and secretly
faced the return trip with more or less apprehension.

Hank and his followers came out of their den to wave a hearty farewell
after their late rescuers. Just then all animosities had died in their
hearts, and they could look upon the scouts without the least
bitterness.

"Sounds all mighty fine, I must say," remarked Bobolink, as they
pushed along, after losing sight of the quartette standing at the foot
of the snowy hill, "but somehow I don't seem to feel it's going to
last. That Hank's got it in him to be a tough character, and it'd be
next door to a miracle if he ever changed his ways."

"Do _you_ think he will, Paul?" demanded Jud, flatly.

"Ask me something easy," laughed the scout-master. "It all depends on
Hank himself. If he once took a notion to make a man of himself, I
believe he could do it no matter what happened. He's got the grit, but
without the real desire that isn't going to count for much. Time alone
will tell."

"Well, we've seen something like that happen right in our town, you
know," Bobolink went on to say, reflectively, as he trudged along
close to the heels of the one in front of him, for they were going
"Indian-file," following the sinuous trail made during their preceding
trip.

"I was talking with the other Jud," remarked Jud Elderkin just then,
"and he gave me a pointer that might be worth something. I don't know
just why he chose to confide it to me, instead of speaking out, but he
did."

"Was it, too, about the fire and the robbery?" asked Tom Betts.

"It amounted to the same thing, I should say," replied Jud, "because
it was connected with the hoboes."

"Go on and tell us then," urged Bobolink.

"He says they're up in this part of the country," asserted the other.

"Wow! that begins to look as if we might be running across the ugly
pair after all!" exclaimed Tom Betts, his face lighting up with
eagerness. "Now wouldn't it be queer if we managed to capture the
yeggs and turn 'em over to the authorities? Paul, how about that
now?"

"Oh! you're getting too far ahead of the game, Tom," he was told. "We
must know a good deal more about this business before we could decide
to take such desperate chances."

"But if the opportunity came along, wouldn't it be our duty to cage
the rascals?" the persistent Tom demanded.

"Perhaps it might," Paul told him. "But Jud, did he explain to you how
he came to know the tramps were up here in the woods above Lake
Tokala?"

"Just what he did," replied the other, promptly. "It seems that Jud,
while he was out hunting, had a glimpse of one of the ugly pair the
day before this storm hit us. It gave him a chance to trail the man in
order to see what he was worth in that line. And, Paul, he did his
work so well that he followed the fellow all the way to where the two
of them had put up."

"And that was where, Jud?" demanded the leader of the troop.

"There's an old dilapidated cabin half-way between here and the lake,"
explained Jud. "Maybe Tolly Tip knows about it."

"Sure that I do!" responded the woodsman. "'Twas used years ago by
some charcoal burners, but has been goin' to decay this long time.
Mebbe now they've patched up the broken roof, and mane to stay there
awhile. It's in a snug spot, and mighty well protected from the wind
in winters."

"That's the place," Jud assured them. "The hoboes are hanging out
there, and seem to have plenty to eat, so Jud Mabley told me. If we
concluded to take a look in at 'em on our way home it could be done
easy enough, I'd think."

"We'll talk it over," decided Paul. "We must remember that in all
likelihood they're a desperate pair, and well armed. As a rule scouts
have no business to constitute themselves criminal catchers, though in
this case it's a bit different."

"Because we've been publicly accused by Mr. Briggs of being the
persons who set his old store on fire, just in spite!" declared
Bobolink, briskly enough. "And say! wouldn't it be a bully trick if we
could take those two tramps back with us, having the goods on them?
Then we'd say to Mr. Briggs: 'There you are, sir! These are the men
you want! And we'd trouble you to make your apology just as public as
your hasty accusation was.'"

"Hurrah!" cried Tom Betts. "That's the ticket."

But Paul was not to be hurried into giving a decision. He wanted more
time to consider matters, and settle his plan of campaign. The other
scouts, however, found little reason to doubt that in the end he would
conclude to look favorably on the bold proposition Jud had advanced.

Just as they had anticipated, the return journey was not anywhere
nearly so strenuous an undertaking as the outward tramp had been. Even
where they had to cross great drifts a passage had been broken for
them, and the wind, not being high, had failed to fill up the gaps
thus far.

The rescue party arrived in the vicinity of the cabin long before
sundown, and could catch whiffs of the wood smoke that blew their way,
which gave promise of the delightful warmth they would find once
inside the forest retreat.



CHAPTER XXIX

THE WILD DOG PACK


"Well! well! what under the sun's been going on here while we've been
away?"

Bobolink burst out with this exclamation the very minute he passed
hastily in at the cabin door. A jolly fire blazed on the hearth, and
the interior of the cabin was well lighted by the flames.

Paul, as well as all the other arrivals, stared. And well they might,
for Sandy Griggs and Bluff were swathed in seemingly innumerable
bandages. They looked a bit sheepish too, even while grinning
amiably.

"Oh! 'tisn't as bad as it seems, fellows!" sang out Spider Sexton,
cheerfully. "Phil thought it best to wash every scratch with that
stuff we keep for such things, so as to avoid any danger of blood
poisoning. But shucks! they got off pretty easy, let me tell you."

"What happened?" demanded Jud Elderkin, curiously. "Did they run
across that old bear after all, and get scratched or bitten?"

"Or was it the other bobcat that came around to smell the pelt of his
mate, and gave you something of a tussle?" asked Bobolink.

"Both away off your base," said Bluff, with a fresh grin. "It was
dogs, that's all."

"Dogs!" echoed Jud, unbelievingly. "You must mean wolves, don't you?
They look a heap like some kinds of mongrel dogs."

"'Tis the lad as knows what he is talkin' about, I guess," remarked
Tolly Tip just then. "Sure, for these many moons now there's been a
pack av thim wild dogs a-runnin' through the woods. Many a night have
I listened to the same bayin' and yappin' as they trailed after a
deer."

A flash of understanding came into Jud's face.

"Oh! now I see what you mean," he went on to say. "Wild dogs they
were, that for some reason have abandoned their homes with people, and
gone back to the old free hunting ways of their ancestors. I've heard
about such things. But say! how did it happen they tackled you two?"

Bluff and his guilty companion exchanged looks, and as he scratched
his head the former went on to confess.

"Why, you see, it was this way," he began. "Sandy and I began to get
awful tired of staying indoors after you fellows went away. Three days
of it was just too much for our active natures to stand. So we made
up a plan to take a little walk around, and see if we could run across
any game."

At that Sandy held up a couple of partridges.

"All we got, and all we saw," he remarked, "but they were enough to
set that savage bunch of wild dogs on us. Whew! but they were hungry
and reckless. But you go on and tell the story, Bluff."

"When we saw them heading our way," continued the other, "we thought
they were just ordinary dogs running loose. But as they came closer
both of us began to see that they were a savage looking lot. In the
lead was a big mastiff that looked like a lion to us."

"But you had your guns with you, didn't you?" asked Jud.

"That's right, we did," replied Bluff. "But you see before we made up
our minds the kiyi crowd was dangerous they were nearly on us, yelping
and snapping like everything. That big chap in the lead gave me a
shiver just to look at him; and there were three others coming
full-tilt close behind him."

"We've since made up our minds," again interrupted Sandy, "that they
must have scented our birds, and were crazy to get them. Though even
if we'd thrown the partridges away I believe the pack would have
attacked us like so many tigers."

"At the very last," Bluff went on, "I knew we ought to be doing
something. So I yelled out to Sandy who had the shotgun to pepper that
big mastiff before he could jump us, and that I'd take care of the
next creature."

"Well, I tried to do it," Sandy affirmed, "but my first shot went
wild, because Bluff here knocked my elbow just when I pulled the
trigger. But I had better luck with the second barrel, for I brought
one of the other dogs down flat on his back, kicking his last."

"I'd shot a second creature meanwhile," said Bluff; "and then the
other two were on us. Whew! but we did have a warm session of it about
that time, let me tell you, fellows! It was at close quarters, so I
couldn't use my gun again to shoot; but we swung the weapons around
our heads as though they were clubs."

"I made a lucky crack," declared Sandy, "and bowled the smaller cur
over, but he was up like a flash and at me again, scratching and
biting like a mad wolf. I never would have believed family pets could
go back to the wild state again like that if I hadn't seen it with my
own eyes."

"I suppose the big beast tackled you then, did he, Bluff?" asked
Jack.

"You just b-b-bet he did!" exclaimed the other, excitedly. "And
s-s-say, I had all I could do to k-k-keep him from knocking me over
in a h-h-heap. Lots of t-t-times I cracked him with the b-b-butt of my
rifle, and staggered him, but he only c-came at me again full tilt.
Oh! but we had a g-g-glorious time of it I tell you!"

"And how did it end?" queried Jud. "Since we find you two here
right-side-up-with-care we must believe that in the final wind-up you
got the better of your canine enemies."

"C-c-canine d-d-don't seem to fit the c-c-crime this time, Jud,"
expostulated Bluff. "It sounds so mild. Well, we lathered 'em right
and left, and took quite a number of s-s-scratches in return. B-b-both
of us were getting pretty well winded, and I was b-b-beginning to be
afraid of the outcome, when all at once I remembered that I had other
b-b-bullets in my gun."

"Wise old head, that of yours, Bluff," commented Jud, with a touch of
satire in his voice. "Better late than never I should say. Well, what
did you do then?"

"Next chance I got I managed to turn my gun around and grip the
stock," and as he said this Bluff reached over to pick up his
repeating rifle to exhibit the dents, as well as the half dried blood
spots on the walnut shoulder piece, all of which went to prove the
truth of his story as words never could have done.

"That was the end of Mr. Mastiff then, eh?" continued Jud.

"Oh, well! I hated to do it," Bluff told them, "for he was a beaut of
a beast, so strong and handsome; but then those shining teeth looked
pretty ugly to me, and he was wild to get them at my throat, so there
wasn't really any choice."

"I should say not!" declared Phil Towns, shuddering at the picture
Bluff was drawing of the spirited encounter.

"So I shot him," said Bluff, simply. "And at that the remaining beast
lit out as fast as he could, because with the fall of the leader of
the pack he lost his grit. Course after that Sandy'n I couldn't think
of hunting any longer. We figured that we ought to get back home and
have our cuts looked after. And Paul, Phil has done a dandy job with
that potash stuff."

"Glad to hear it," said the scout-master, quickly, "though I'll take a
look myself to make sure. Scratches from carnivorous animals are very
dangerous on account of the poison that may cling to their claws. It's
always best to be on the safe side, and neutralize the danger."

"And Paul," continued Bluff, "will you accept one of these fat birds
from us?"

"Not much I will!" declared the other immediately. "Why should I be
favored over the rest of the crowd? You and Sandy earned the right to
enjoy a feast, and we'll see to it that you have it to-morrow. Let
them hang until then; game is always better for lying a few days
before being eaten, you know."

Of course, those who had remained at home were curious to know whether
the rescue expedition had been successful or not.

"We needn't ask if you found Hank and his crowd," declared Spider
Sexton, wisely, "for as scouts we are educated to observe things, and
first of all we notice that none of you has come back with the pack he
took away. That tells us the story. But please go on and give the
particulars, Paul."

"We managed to find them just when they had their last stick on the
fire," the scout-master commenced to relate. "We had to dig a way in
to them, for there was an enormous drift banked up against their exit
that they hadn't even begun to cut through."

"How lucky you got there on time!" cried Frank Savage. "Once more
scouts have proved themselves masters of circumstances. Bully for
Stanhope Troop! I bet you they were glad to see you! Yes, and like as
not told you they were sorry for ever having done anything to annoy
our crowd."

"You've hit it to a dot, Frank," admitted Jud. "Hank shows some signs
of meaning to turn over a new leaf, and Paul even believes there's a
hope; but somehow the rest of us reckon its the old story over again.
Once they get on their own stamping grounds, by degrees they'll forget
all we've done for them, and be back at their old tricks again. What's
bred in the bone can't easily be beaten out of the flesh, my father
says."

"But it does happen once in a while," admonished Paul; "so we'll drop
the subject for the present. If Hank starts in to do the right thing,
though, remember that it's our duty as scouts to give him all the help
we can. And now let's settle on the menu for supper, because we're all
of us as hungry as wolves."

While some of the boys were busying themselves around the fire, Paul
took a look at the slight injuries of the two aspiring hunters, and
complimented the pleased Philip on the clever way he had attended to
their necessities.



CHAPTER XXX

A CHANGE OF PLANS


That night, as the lads sat before the fire, those who had gone on the
expedition of succor had to tell further particulars, for the others
were curious to know about everything.

When they heard how Bud Phillips had seen the two tramps running away
from the vicinity of the fire before hardly any one else was around,
of course Bluff and the four other scouts were fully agreed that the
mystery of the blaze had been as good as explained.

"All the same," Jud remarked, "unless we can show some clinching
evidence our theory won't hold water with a lot of people who always
have to be given solid proof. That brings up the subject, we talked
about on the way home--should we pay a visit to that charcoal burners'
cabin, and try to make prisoners of the yeggs?"

"Great scheme, I'd say!" burst out Frank Savage without any
hesitation.

"B-b-bully idea, let me tell you!" added Bluff.

"Whee!" exclaimed Sandy. "Nearly takes my breath away just to hear you
mention such a bold thing; but I'm game to try it if the rest are."

Paul smiled. Truth to tell he had discounted all this, knowing what an
impetuous lot his followers were, and how prone to push aside all
thought of personal danger when tempted to perform some act that might
redound to their credit.

"Plenty of time yet to talk that over," he told them. "We needn't
decide too hastily, and will let the subject rest for the present,
though I don't mind saying that the chances are we'll conclude to do
something along those lines when on our way home."

"Is the charcoal burners' shack far away from the creek, Tolly Tip?"
questioned Bobolink, anxiously.

"By the same token I do belave it lies not more'n a quarrter av a mile
off from the strame. I c'n lade ye to the same with me eyes shut,"
announced the woodsman, evidently just as eager to take part in the
rounding up of the vagrants as any of the enthusiastic scouts; for his
eye was still a little discolored from the blow he had received in the
fight with the desperate tramps.

As their time was limited, Paul knew that they should plan carefully
if they were to accomplish all the things they were most desirous of
carrying through. On that account he had each one make up his mind
just what was dearest to him, and set about accomplishing that one
thing without any unnecessary delay.

As for Paul himself, he most of all regretted the fact that on account
of the deep snowdrifts and the bitter cold he would probably be unable
to get any more flashlight pictures.

"You see," he explained to some of the others when they were asking
why he felt so disappointed, "most of the smaller animals are buried
out of sight by the snow. Like the squirrels, they take time by the
forelock, and have laid in a supply of food, enough to last over this
severe spell, so none of them will be anxious to show up in a hurry."

"But I heard Tolly Tip giving you a real tip about the sly mink along
the bank of the creek. How about it, Paul?" asked Jud.

"Well, that's really my only chance," admitted the scout-master. "It
seems that minks have a perfect scorn for wintry weather around here,
Tolly says, and are on the job right along, no matter how it storms.
He knows of one big chap who has a regular route over which he travels
nearly every night, going in and out of holes in the banks as if going
visiting."

"I don't believe you've ever had a good snapshot of a live mink, have
you, Paul?" inquired Bluff, showing more or less interest, though
still somewhat stiff with the painful scratches he had received on the
previous day.

"I've always wanted to get such a flashlight," admitted Paul, "because
the mink is said to be one of the shyest of all small, fur-bearing
animals, even more so than Br'er Fox, and considerably more timid than
Br'er 'Coon."

"You'll have to set the trap to-night then, won't you?" asked Tom
Betts.

"We've made all arrangements looking to such a thing," Tom was
assured. "I'm glad that it still stays clear and cold. We may only
have a couple more nights in Camp Garrity."

"But it's getting a little milder, don't you think?" inquired
Bobolink.

"It's a big improvement on yesterday, and I imagine to-morrow will see
a further change," the scout-master remarked.

"Then if those fellows in the cave mean to strike out for home they'll
like as not find their chance by to-morrow," observed Jud. "Course
they've got enough grub to keep them for a week. But it isn't much fun
staying cooped up in a cave, and I reckon they've had enough of it.
Sim and Jud acted that way, not to mention Bud Phillips."

"Before we make our start I'd like to take a last turn over that way,"
Paul observed, as though he had been thinking the matter over. "I'd
just like to see if they did strike out across the timber. Their trail
would tell the story, and we'd know what to expect."

"I speak to go with you then," flashed back Jud, even as Bluff opened
his mouth to give utterance to the same desire.

"T-t-that's what a fellow gets for being a stutterer," grumbled Bluff.
"I meant to say just those words, but Jud--hang the l-l-luck--was too
speedy for me. Huh!"

"Oh! as for that," laughed Paul, "both of you can go along if you care
to."

As the day dragged along the scouts busied themselves in a dozen
different ways according to their liking. Some preferred to swing the
axe and chop wood, though doubtless if they had been compelled to do
this at home, loud and bitter would have been their lamentations.

During the afternoon several went out for a walk, carrying guns along
so as to be prepared for either game, or another pack of hungry wild
dogs, though Tolly Tip assured them that, so far as he knew, there had
existed only the one pack, with that enormous mastiff as leader.

"If ye follow the directions I've been after givin' yees, it may be
ye'll come on a bevy av pa'tridges," the woodsman told them as they
were setting out. "For by the same token whin we've had a heavy
snowfall I've always been able to knock down a lot av the birrds among
the berry bushes. 'Tis there they must go to git food or be starved
entirely. Good luck to ye, boys, an' kape yer weather eye open so ye
won't git lost!"

"Remember," added Paul, "if you do lose your bearings stop right still
and fire three shots in rapid succession. Later on try it again, and
we'll come to you. But with such clever woodsmen along as Jack and
Bobolink we don't expect anything of that kind to happen, of course."

Paul himself went with the keeper of the woods lodge to follow the
frozen creek up to a certain place where there were numerous holes in
the bank. Here Tolly Tip pointed out little footprints made he said by
the minks on the preceding night.

"Av course," the woodsman went on to say, "ye do be knowin' a hape
better nor me jist where the best place to set the trap might be. All
I c'n do is to show ye the p'int where the minks is most like to
travel to-night."

"That is just what I want you to do!" exclaimed Paul. "But you can
help me out in fixing things, so when the mink takes the bait and
pulls the string he'll be sure to crouch directly in front of my
camera trap."

Between them they eventually arranged matters, and then the trapper
removed all traces of their presence possible, after which they
returned to the cabin.

"If the trap isn't sprung to-night I'll have another try-out," Paul
affirmed, "for it may be a long while before I'll get another such
chance to snap off Mr. Sly Mink in his own preserves."

"Oh! make your mind aisy on that score," said Tolly Tip, reassuringly.
"I do be knowing the ways av the crature so well I c'n promise ye
there'll be no hitch. That bait I set is sure to fetch him ivery time.
I've sildom known it to fail."

The afternoon came to an end, and the glow of sunset filled the
heavens over in the west. The hunters came trooping in, much to the
satisfaction of some of the stay-at-homes, who were beginning to fear
something might have happened to them.

"We heard a whole lot of shots away off somewhere," asserted Phil
Towns, "so show us what you've got in the game pockets of your hunting
coats to make them bulge out that way."

"I've got three fat partridges," said Jack.

"Two for me--one in each pocket!" laughed Bobolink.

Then Jack and Bobolink looked expectantly toward Jud as though
expecting him to make a still better showing.

At that Jud began to unload, and before he stopped he had laid six
birds on the rough deal table. At that there was much rejoicing.

"Just enough to go around!" exclaimed Sandy Griggs. "I was beginning
to be sorry Bluff and I had gone and cooked our birds, but now it's
all right. Here's for a bully mess to-morrow."

"We've certainly made a big hole in your partridge supply since coming
up here, Tolly Tip," announced Bobolink, proudly. "And there's one
deer less, too."

"Only one," said Jud, regretfully; and Paul knew he must be thinking
of the stag responsible for the tracks seen on that day when they were
on duty bent, and could not turn aside to do any hunting.

"Well, to-morrow may be our last day here," remarked the scout-master,
"so every one of you had better wind up your affairs, to be ready to
start home."



CHAPTER XXXI

GOOD-BYE TO DEER HEAD LODGE


"I think I'll sleep a whole lot better to-night," announced Bobolink,
as he gave a huge yawn, and stretched his arms high above his head.

"What's the reason?" demanded Jud, quickly. "Are you happy because
we're going to break camp so much sooner than we expected, owing to
everything being snowed under up here in the woods?"

"Bobolink doesn't get enough to eat, I reckon," suggested Tom Betts.

"If he doesn't it's his own fault then," Jack went on to say, "because
he has more to do with the cooking end of the game than any of us."

"I guess I know what he means," hinted Spider Sexton, mysteriously.

"Then get a move on you, Spider, and enlighten the rest of us," coaxed
Sandy, as he cuddled a bit closer to the crackling fire, for the wind
had arisen again, and parts of the cabin were chilly, despite the
roaring blaze.

"Why, the fact of the matter is, Bobolink has a new girl to take to
barn dances and all that this winter," said Spider, boldly. "It's that
pretty Rose Dexter belonging to the new family in town. Oh! you
needn't grin at me that way, Bobolink. I own up I was doing my best to
cut in on you there, but you seemed to have the inside track of me and
I quit. But she is a peach if ever there was one!"

"Well, do you blame me then for feeling satisfied when we talk of
going home?" demanded the accused scout. "All the same you're all away
off in your guesses. I'm hoping to sleep soundly to-night just because
my mind is free from wondering who set that incendiary fire and tapped
Mr. Briggs' safe."

"Oh! so that's the reason, is it?" laughed Paul. "I've been watching
you more or less since we came up here, and I wondered if you hadn't
been trying to figure that mystery out. I'm glad for your sake, as
well as for some others' sakes, that we've been able to clear that
thing up."

"All I hope now is that on our way back home we can stop off and pay
the hoboes a little friendly visit," continued Bobolink.

"Same here," Jud added, quickly. "Even if our outing hasn't been
everything we hoped for, it would even things up some if we could
march into Stanhope and hand the guilty men over to the police."

Indeed, Bobolink was not the only scout who slept "like a rock" on
that night. Most of the boys were very tired after the exertions of
the day, and, besides, now that it had been decided to return home,
they really had a load removed from their minds.

Of course, all of them could have enjoyed a much longer stay at Deer
Head Lodge had the conditions been normal. That tremendous fall of
snow, something like two feet on the level, Paul felt, had utterly
prostrated many of their best plans, and facing a protracted siege of
it did not offer a great deal of attraction.

With the coming of morning they were once more astir, and were soon as
busy as a hive of bees. Each scout seemed intent on getting as much
done as possible while the day lasted.

Tolly Tip alone looked sober. The quaint and honest fellow had taken a
great liking to his guests, and looked forward to their speedy
departure with something akin to dismay.

"Sure the rist av the winter will same a dreary time with not a hearty
young voice to give me gratin' av a mornin'," he told Paul. "Indade, I
don't know how I'm goin' to stand for the same at all, at all."

"I'll tell you this, Tolly Tip," replied the scout leader
emphatically. "If we get off during the Easter holidays some of us may
take a run up here to visit you again. And perhaps you'll find
occasion to come to Stanhope in some business dealings with Mr.
Garrity. In that case you must let us know. I'll call a special
meeting of the scouts, and you'll be our honored guest."

The old woodsman was visibly affected by these hearty words. He led a
lonely life of it, although until the coming of these merry boys it
had not seemed especially so. They had aroused long buried memories of
his own boyhood, and given him a "new lease of life," as he declared.

Nothing remarkable happened on this last day in camp, though numerous
things took place. Paul saw to it that in the afternoon the boys got
everything ready to pack so there would be little delay in the
morning, and they could get an early start if the weather conditions
were at all favorable.

The weather remained good. The great storm must have covered a
considerable stretch of territory east of the Mississippi and the
Great Lakes and cleared the atmosphere wonderfully, for again the
morning dawned without a threatening cloud to give cause for anxiety.

There was considerable bustle inside the cabin and out of it about
that time. Packs were being done up, though in much smaller compass
than when the boys arrived at the camp, since only enough food was
being taken along to serve for a couple of meals.

All the rest they only too gladly bequeathed to their genial host.
Many were the silent resolves on the part of the boys as to what they
would send up to Deer Head Lodge if ever the chance arrived, tobacco
for Tolly Tip's pipe being of course the main idea, since he seemed to
lack nothing else.

On Tolly Tip's part, he forced each of the lads to pack away a
particular pelt which they were to have made into some sort of small
article, just to remember the glorious outing in the snowy woods by.

At last the time came to say good-bye to the camp, and it was with
unanimous agreement that the scouts clustered in a bunch, swung their
hats, and gave three parting cheers for the lodge in the wilderness.

Tolly Tip had laid out their course, and on the way the main body
halted while he and Paul tramped over to the foot of the hill where
the cave among the rocks lay.

Paul was pleased to find the cave empty and the ashes cold where the
fire had burned, thus proving that Hank and his three companions had
started overland for home on the previous day.

Once more joining the others, they continued on their way.

"Next in line come our friends, the hobo yeggmen!" remarked Jud, with
a grim closing of his lips.

"Listen," said Paul, impressively, "for the last time I want to
caution you all to follow the directions I've given. We must try to
creep up on that old shack, and find out what the tramps are doing
before we show our hand."

"Well, what have scouts been learning woodcraft for if they can't do a
bit of spy work?" asked Jud, boldly. "All you have to do, Paul, is to
pick those you want to keep you company when you make the grand creep;
while the rest hang out close by, ready to jump in at the signal and
make it unanimous."

It might have been noticed, were one watching closely, that Jud said
this with a complacent smile hovering about his lips. The reason was
easily guessed, because Jud really had no peer among the members of
Stanhope Troop of Boy Scouts when it came to creeping up on game or
some pretended enemy.

He had often proved his superiority in this respect, and could
therefore take it for granted that the scout-master would pick him
out to accompany him on an occasion like this.

"All right, Jud," said Paul, smilingly, for he understood very well
how the other felt, "I'll take Jack with me, Bobolink, and Tom Betts
as well--yes, and you may come along too, I guess."

Some of them snickered at this, while Jud glared haughtily around and
shrugged his shoulders, looking aggrieved, until Paul took occasion to
whisper in his ear:

"That was meant for a joke you understand, Jud. Of course, I couldn't
think of doing this thing without your help."

Later on Tolly Tip announced that they would now leave the creek and
head in the direction of the abandoned charcoal burners' shack. All
the scouts felt more or less of a thrill in anticipation of what was
to come.

"I only hope," Jud was heard to mutter, aggressively, "that they
haven't gone and skedaddled since Bud Phillips saw 'em in the place.
That'd make me feel pretty sore, let me tell you!"

"Not much chance of that happening, Jud," Jack assured the grumbler,
"unless by some accident their supplies got low. And Bud said they
seemed to have enough on hand to last for weeks. Everything's going to
turn out as we want it, make up your mind to that."

The old woodsman knew every rod of territory around that section, and
could have led his charges in a bee-line to the shack except for the
snowdrifts. Of course, these caused more or less meandering, but in
the end they came to a place where Tolly Tip raised a warning finger.

Every boy knew by that they must be close upon the shack. Indeed, a
whiff of wood smoke floated their way just then, announcing that the
goal was at hand.

They moved on for a couple of minutes. Then all could glimpse the
dilapidated cabin amidst the snow piles, with smoke oozing from its
disabled mud and slab chimney. Paul made a gesture that they
recognized, whereupon part of the company came to a halt and hid,
while the others crept on with the leader.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE CAPTURE OF THE HOBO YEGGMEN


Long practice had made the scouts adepts at this sort of work. They
could creep up on an unsuspecting sentry almost as cleverly as those
copper-colored natives of the American woods whom all Boy Scouts copy
when studying woodcraft.

Then again the piles of snow helped, as well as hindered, them more or
less. But except for that column of blue wood smoke drifting lazily
upward over the cabin there was really no sign of life about the
place.

Paul, Tolly Tip and the others of the scouting party soon reached the
rear of the shack. They could easily see where the two tramps had
actually worked to close up most of the chinks between the logs, to
keep the bitter cold air and the driving snow out of their refuge.

Men of their sort would never think of staying for a week or two
amidst such barren surroundings so long as there remained a warm
county jail ready to accommodate them with free lodging--that is,
unless they had a good reason for wanting to avoid civilization.

Paul, believing that they had set that fire and robbed Mr. Briggs'
safe, could understand just why they remained here in seclusion. They
doubtless feared suspicion may have been pointed in their direction,
and that something of a search was being indulged in looking to their
ultimate capture.

As soon as they arrived close to the walls of the shack the boys
searched for some crevice through which they might gain a view of the
interior.

Several managed to dig peep-holes by detaching the frozen mud that the
tramps had plastered over open chinks. They applied their eyes to such
crevices, and first of all discovered a blazing fire. Then a movement
on one side drew their attention to the taller vagrant sitting quietly
smoking his black pipe as though quite contented with his lot of
idleness, so long as his wants were fairly well supplied.

It happened that the wind had gone down, and there brooded over the
snowy forest a deep silence. This fact allowed the listeners without
to catch the sound of voices inside the hut, for one of the tramps
talked heavily, and the other had a high-pitched voice that carried
like a squeaking fife.

What they were saying just then instantly riveted the attention of the
listeners, for as though by some strange freak it had an intimate
connection with the object of the scouts' coming to the spot.

The shorter man seemed to have been doing some work on his injured
hand, for he was now carefully wrapping a fresh rag around it. At the
same time he was grumbling because of the pain his injury gave him.

"I never knowed how bad a burn was till now, Billy," was the burden of
his complaint. "I've been shot and hurted in every other way, but this
here's the fust time I ever got licked by fire. It's a-goin' to be the
last time too, if I knows it."

"Any fool had ought to know better'n to play with fire," the other
told him between his teeth as he sucked at his pipe. "I reckons that
ye'd been wuss hurt nor that if I hadn't slapped a pail o' water over
ye, and put ye out. Gotter stand fur it, Shorty, till the new skin
comes along. A burn is wuss nor a cut any day."

"I on'y hopes as how it's well afore we skip outen this hole," the
sufferer went on to say, still unappeased. "If we git in a tight hole
I'd need both my fins to do business with. A one-handed man ain't got
much chance to slip away when the cornfield cops make a raid."

"They ain't goin' to bother us any! Make up yer mind to that same,
boy," continued the tall vagrant, complacently. "When the time comes,
an' the weather lets up on us a bit, why, we'll jest flit outen this
region by the back door. I'm only mad as hops 'bout one thing."

"Yep, an' I know what it be, 'cause ye been harpin' on that subject
right along, Billy. Yer disapp'inted 'cause the old man didn't have a
bigger haul in his cracked safe."

"Well, that's what ails me," admitted the other in a grumbling way.
"We'd a been fixed fur a year to come if only he'd had a good wad
lyin' low, 'stead of a measly bunch of the long green."

"Better luck next time, Billy, say I," continued the shorter tramp, as
he finished fastening the soiled rag about his left hand and wrist.

It can be easily understood that Paul had heard quite enough by this
time. There was not the slightest doubt in the world that Billy and
his partner had been guilty of setting fire to Mr. Briggs' store, and
had also broken open his ancient safe to extract whatever amount of
money happened to be in it at the time.

Paul drew back and touched each one of his companions in turn. They
knew just what the gesture he made signified. The time for action had
come, and they were thus invited to take part with him in the holding
up of the desperate pair.

That the tramps belonged to this class of wandering criminals there
could not be the least doubt after hearing snatches of their
conversation. This affair of Mr. Briggs' store was apparently but one
of many similar episodes in their careers.

The little party now proceeded to creep around to the front of the
shack. They knew, of course, that the door had been repaired and that
it was also closed tightly, but Paul hardly believed they would find
any difficulty in pushing it open.

Arriving at the point that was to witness their sudden attack, Paul
marshaled his followers in a compact mass. He meant to imitate in some
degree the flying wedge used upon the football field with such good
effect.

Tolly Tip was given the post of honor in the van. This was done partly
because of the fact that he was a man, and the boys felt the tramps
would be likely to feel more respect for a company of invaders led by
a grown-up.

After the woodsman came Paul and Jud. Jack, Bobolink and Tom Betts
formed the base of the triangle which was to push through the opening
with all possible speed, once the door had been thrown open.

Even though they found it fastened by some sort of bar or wooden pin,
Paul had arranged in his mind just how such fastenings could be broken
without trouble. He had noted quite a good-sized log lying near by,
used by the vagrants in their seclusion to chop their firewood on. And
Paul had decided that this log would make an admirable battering ram.
The door was old and feeble, so that one good slam would doubtless
hurl it back, and give them free ingress.

There was no need of all this display of energy, however, for upon
investigation Paul discovered that he could easily move the door, once
he got his hand on the wooden latch.

He only waited to make sure that the others were ready, and then fell
back into his pre-arranged place, leaving to Tolly Tip the honor of
opening the way.

When the woodsman felt a hand jab him in the short ribs he recognized
this as the signal from Paul for which he had been waiting. He
immediately threw the door back with such violence that it crashed to
the floor, its weak hinges giving way under the strain.

In through the opening the whole six of them poured. The boys' hunting
guns were instantly leveled in the direction of the astounded tramps,
who started to scramble to their feet, but, cowed by the display of
force, sank back again in dire dismay.

"Hold up your arrms!" roared Tolly Tip, just as he had been instructed
to do by the scout-master.

Both hoboes made ludicrous haste to elevate their hands as far as they
could. In the excitement of the moment, having only caught glimpses of
khaki uniforms, they imagined that a detachment of the State militia
had been called out to search the woods for the firebugs guilty of
trying to destroy Mr. Briggs' establishment in Stanhope.

By the time they realized that five of the invaders were only boys it
was too late to attempt anything like defiance. Besides, those
shotguns and rifles, even when held in boyish hands, had just as grim
a look as though gripped by grown-up warriors.

"Jud, you've got the thongs I supplied!" called out Paul, "so get
busy, with Jack to help you, and tie their hands behind them. Slip
those mitts on before you do it, because we've got a long way to go,
and it would be cruel to have their fingers frost-bitten on the road
to Stanhope."

The men dared not offer any objections, though they kept using strong
language, much to the disgust of some of the scouts.

"Paul, tell them that unless they close their mouths and quit that
swearing we'll gag them both," said Jack, unable to endure it any
longer.

"I was just about to say that when you took the words out of my
mouth!" declared the scout-master, indignantly. "I've got a couple of
gags ready here, made for the occasion. If you know when you're well
off, you fellows, keep still, and accept your fate like men. You're
only going to get what you deserve after all."

"It was a bad day for you both when you struck Stanhope," said Jud,
with one of his tantalizing grins. "I only wish I knew the tramp
signs, so I could write a warning on every fence outside the town so's
to keep other hobo yeggs away."

Having accomplished the object of their mission without any trouble
they now went back to join their comrades, who were anxiously waiting
for the signal Paul was to give in case their help was needed. And
great was the disappointment of Bluff, Sandy, Frank, Spider and Phil
when they found that they had been left out of the game.



CHAPTER XXXIII

CONCLUSION


Once more striking the frozen creek the boys, accompanied by Tolly Tip
still, headed down the stream, bent upon reaching Lake Tokala early in
the afternoon. The two prisoners were well looked after, though there
was little danger of their giving any trouble.

Upon searching them the boys had found some money and several small
articles of more or less value that they suspected had been taken from
the storekeeper's safe at the time of the robbery. These would perhaps
assist materially to convict "Billy" and "Shorty" when the time for
their trial came.

The men, stolid, after their kind, seemed to have become reconciled to
their fate. Nevertheless, Paul did not mean to relax his vigilance in
the least degree. He knew very well that such cunning characters would
be ready to take advantage of the least opportunity to break away.

In fact all of the scouts had resolved to be constantly on the watch.
They were in imagination already receiving the hearty congratulations
from some of the leading townspeople for capturing the guilty rogues,
and did not mean to be cheated out of their pleasure through careless
handling of the case.

"There's the lake!" announced Jud Elderkin, presently.

"Yes, and I can see smoke coming from the cabin of Abe Turner!"
Bobolink hastily added, for he knew just where to look for the humble
domicile of the man Mr. Garrity had stationed at the lake to make
preliminary preparations for the extensive logging operations he meant
to start on the following spring.

Abe heard their shouts and greeted them warmly. Of course, he was
interested on discovering that they had captured the two tramps, and
admitted that there could be no reasonable doubt of their guilt, once
he heard the story, and saw Shorty's scorched hand.

But the boys did not mean to stay over night at the lake. That would
make their next day's journey too long, for they hoped to get into
Stanhope before the setting of another sun.

Tolly Tip said good-bye sorrowfully. He concluded that he might as
well stay with Abe that night for company.

"'Tis harrd to say ye go away, lads," the old woodsman told them, as
he wrung each scout's hand with a vim that made him wince. "Depind on
it, I'll often think av ivery one av ye as the days crape along.
Here's a good luck to the whole bunch! And be sure to remimber me to
Mr. Garrity."

"We will, Tolly Tip, and here's three cheers for you!" cried Bobolink;
and no doubt the vigorous shouts that arose would ring pleasantly in
the ears of the old woodsman for many a day.

The boys managed to cross the lake and use their iceboats in the
bargain, for the violence of the wind had kept most of the surface
clear of snow. It was a new experience to the two vagrants, and one
they hardly fancied; though the boats they were placed on did not make
any remarkable time, the breeze being very light.

Once on the Radway river, the boys found it necessary to drag the
boats pretty much all the way. They kept on, however, until the sun
was setting, and then concluded to camp for the night.

Paul knew that this would be the time when the most danger would arise
concerning the possible escape of the prisoners. He was more than ever
determined that such a catastrophe should not occur, even if he
himself had to sit up and keep watch all through the night.

The boys chose a very good spot for a camp, in that there was an
abundance of loose wood at hand that could be used for fuel. Jud also
suggested that they build two fires, so that they would have a certain
amount of warmth on either side.

"That's a good idea," said Paul, falling in with it immediately, for
he saw how it would simplify matters in connection with their
prisoners.

He did not dare allow these men to have the freedom of their arms, for
there could be no telling what they might not attempt in the desire to
gain their freedom. And with their hands tied the lack of circulation
might cause their extremities to freeze unless looked after.

Supper was cooked, and things made as cheerful as the conditions
allowed. Indeed, most of the boys thought that it was rather in the
nature of a novel experience to be forced to sleep amidst the snow
banks, and with only a scanty brush shelter between themselves and the
clear, cold sky.

Few of them secured much sleep, it may as well be admitted. Paul
himself was on the alert most of the night. Dozens of times his head
bobbed up, and his suspicious eyes covered the cowering forms of the
two prisoners, who had been placed where they would get the full
benefit of the twin fires.

Then again the fires needed frequent attention, and Paul took it upon
himself to see that they did not die down too low; for the night was
still bitter cold. As an abundant supply of wood had been gathered by
willing hands it was not very hard to toss a few armfuls on each fire
from time to time.

Morning came at last, and the scouts were up with the break of day.
The fires were again attended to, and breakfast started, for the lads
knew they would have a hard day's journey before them.

There was a strong possibility that they would encounter some huge
drifts which might block their passage; and it was this that gave Paul
the most concern.

It was nearly eleven when they finally sighted the place where the
one-time canal merged its waters with the Radway river, forming the
connecting link between that waterway and the home stream.

"Looks like an old friend," asserted Jud, when they had turned off the
wider stretch and started to follow the canal.

"But see the snow piles ahead of us, will you?" cried Bobolink in
dismay. "We're going to have some jolly work climbing through those!"

"If you only look," remarked Paul, "in most cases you'll find you're
able to go around the hills that bar your way."

It was very much as Paul said, for, as a rule, they were able to find
a passage around the huge drifts. Still progress was very tedious, and
when the scouts finally reached the river the afternoon was well
along.

"Look! will you?" called out Sandy Griggs, exultantly. "The dear old
Bushkill is swept as clear as a barn floor, and the ice is
gilt-edged!"

"Why!" echoed Bobolink, equally pleased, "our troubles have vanished
just like smoke wreaths. We can run all the way home with this nice
breeze that's coming up the river as fair as anything. Whoop! we're in
great luck, fellows!"

Stanhope was reached half an hour before sundown. There were a good
many people on the ice, mostly boys and girls, and the coming of the
iceboat flotilla created something of a stir. This was considerably
augmented when it was learned that the scouts who had gone off on a
trip to the snow woods had brought back two vagrants, who were
responsible for the fire and the robbery that had recently occurred in
the town.

Of course, the men were easily convicted with so much evidence against
them. Mr. Briggs publicly declared that he was very sorry for saying
what he had in connection with the scouts, and that from that time on
they could count on him as a friend of the organization.

Some of the boys believed they would never again have the opportunity
of engaging in such interesting events as had come their way during
the midwinter outing. There were others, however, who declared that
such an enterprising group of scouts would surely meet with new
adventures while pursuing the study of Nature's mysteries. That these
latter were good prophets the reader may learn from the succeeding
volume of this series.

At the very next meeting of the Banner Boy Scouts Mr. Thomas Garrity
was an honored guest, and had the privilege of hearing an account read
that covered all the doings of the ten lads during their midwinter
outing.

At the conclusion of the meeting it was only proper that a vote of
thanks should be given to their benefactor for his kindness. This was
done and was followed by three cheers that made Mr. Garrity's ears
ring, and a smile of sympathy for these boyish hearts linger on his
lips.





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