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Title: The Outdoor Chums on the Lake - Lively Adventures on Wildcat Island
Author: Allen, Quincy
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 Outdoor Chums on the Lake - Lively Adventures on Wildcat Island" ***

produced from scanned images of public domain material


                           THE OUTDOOR CHUMS
                              ON THE LAKE

                  Lively Adventures on Wildcat Island

                        By CAPTAIN QUINCY ALLEN



                                NEW YORK
                            GROSSET & DUNLAP

                        THE OUTDOOR CHUMS SERIES

                        By CAPTAIN QUINCY ALLEN






   _12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price, per volume, 40 cents postpaid._

                            GROSSET & DUNLAP
                       PUBLISHERS        NEW YORK

                  COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY GROSSET & DUNLAP

                    _The Outdoor Chums on the Lake_


          CHAPTER                                          PAGE
                I The Burning Steamboat                       1
               II Two Clever Rogues                          10
              III the Tell-tale Picture                      19
               IV The Paddle To Wildcat Island               30
                V A Strange Happening                        41
               VI Frank Makes a Guess                        49
              VII Exploring the Island                       60
             VIII Old Enemies Appear                         69
               IX Guardians of the Camp                      78
                X Frank Tries To Figure It Out               87
               XI Recovering a Stolen Boat                   98
              XII Down the Slope                            106
             XIII The Wild Man Develops an Appetite         114
              XIV Bluff Takes Chances                       122
               XV Playing the Game                          131
              XVI Signs That Spelled Trouble                142
             XVII Deeper Into the Jungle                    151
            XVIII Under the Cabin Wall                      169
              XIX Holding Bluff In                          169
               XX The Escape Of Jerry                       177
              XXI The Last Straw                            186
             XXII Holding the Fort                          194
            XXIII the White Flag                            203
             XXIV A New Alarm                               212
              XXV The Rescue--Conclusion                    221



"Hurry up, and give the signal, Frank!"

"Yes, let's get the agony over with--either Bluff is a better all-round
paddler than I am, or else he has to take water, that's all!"

"Please hold your horses till I get a good focus on you, fellows!"
called Will Milton, the official photographer of the Rod, Gun and Camera

He stood on a little private dock, overlooking Lake Camalot, and
manipulated his camera with the air of a professional.

"Sorry, but you'll have to wait a bit now, boys," replied Frank Langdon,
the judge, who was also seated in a cedar canoe very like those of the
contestants, only it was built for two, his mate being Will.

"What's gone wrong now, Frank?" demanded Jerry Wallington, with his
double-bladed paddle poised for the first dip.

"Why, look at the _Eastern Star_--she's making her first Spring trip
around the lake, and heads in a line to cut you off your course,"
declared the referee.

"So much the worse for the poor old boat; we'll just have to run her
down," calmly observed the youth called Bluff.

"I was only thinking of your being swamped in the rough water she leaves
in her wake. Better relax your muscles for a few minutes, you impatient

"Talk to me about your hard luck, what d'ye think of that? Why, the
plagued old boat's just gone and stopped where she blocks us off in our
little spin," grumbled Jerry, in plain disgust.

"That settles it, then; we'll surely have to sink her," remarked Bluff.

"Hold on before you think of that. I'm afraid there's something wrong
aboard, for Captain Amos would never stop out there on the lake--at
least I never knew him to do such a thing before," said Frank, standing
up in the canoe to see better.

"Say, fellows, isn't that smoke coming out of the cabin?" demanded Will.

"Smoke--why, perhaps the old tinderbox is afire!" ejaculated Bluff.

"Let's paddle out and see; perhaps we can be of some help!" cried Jerry.

"Come on, then!"

"Hey! you fellers hold on; where do I come in?" shouted Will.

"You stay on the dock and get a snapshot of the whole circus!" answered
the unfeeling Jerry, as he spurted away, urging his dainty craft along
with rapid strokes of his spruce blade.

"Marooned, I declare," muttered Will; "but perhaps I can improve the
opportunity and get a picture that will go down in the history of
steamboating on Lake Camalot."

The three lads fairly flew over the intervening water, which was almost
smooth, as the breeze hardly created a ripple on the surface.

Frank, having a larger boat to manage, fell behind a trifle; but his
arms were seasoned in all manner of work, and he kept tagging along
close in the rear.

Apparently there was need for alarm, as the smoke had rapidly increased
in volume, and was now pouring out of the little steamer.

At the same time they could plainly hear the shouts of excited men;
while the shriller voices that arose told that there were women
passengers aboard.

Dashing up to the side of the boat the boys scrambled aboard, hastily
securing their canoes to any object that promised temporary anchorage.

Then they hurried to the cabin.

Here they found a scene of the utmost confusion. Men were trying to dash
buckets of water upon the fire, which seemed to have gotten quite a
foothold. It even looked as though the first trip of the little _Eastern
Star_ this season would prove to be her last.

Captain Amos was plainly badly rattled by this sudden emergency, though
he was working like a trooper to extinguish the flames, and leading his
two assistants, the engineer and deckhand, in gallant rushes almost into
the fire, where the contents of the buckets they carried seemed to do
little or no good.

Frank Langdon was possessed of a cool head in emergencies that called
for tact. He made an astonishing discovery as soon as he arrived upon
the scene of action. This consisted of the fact that in the tremendous
excitement, with the passengers shrieking in his ears, the captain had
entirely forgotten the fact that the boat was equipped with fire

"Here, fellows, get busy, strap this on my back, and then get another.
We've got to put out this fire or some one will be burned to death, or
drowned. Don't let any woman jump overboard!" he exclaimed.

Jerry and Bluff seemed to catch some of the spirit that animated their
leader. They succeeded in fastening the extinguisher to his back, even
though their hands trembled while so doing.

No sooner had this been done before Frank was off, rushing directly
toward the spot where the flames seemed to have taken hold most

It was rather appalling, but somehow or other the sight of the brave
boy, equipped for mastering the mounting flames, caused a little cheer
to arise from the excited passengers.

As soon as the prepared liquid from the little apparatus began to spread
over the fire, its ardor was immediately checked. By the time Jerry
rushed alongside, similarly equipped, Frank was getting the better of
the conflagration.

"Don't stop with the water, Captain Amos!" shouted Frank, knowing that
if their extinguishers gave out before the fire was fully under control
it might spring up again into new life.

"Away, boys! Hand up the buckets!" cried the captain.

Several of the male passengers, having by now partly recovered from
their panic, started in to assist. Between the whole lot the water came
faster, and in less than ten minutes the fire was practically out.

There had been some damage done, but nothing to seriously injure the
steamboat; and a carpenter could make repairs while the vessel was
covering a few daily runs in this balmy April weather.

Captain Amos now found a chance to rush up to Frank, and shake his hand

He was a bluff chap, not much older than Frank, a very good
steamboatman, only that he seemed apt to lose his head in a crisis,
which after all, must be a grave fault.

"Bully for you, Frank! Your coming saved the boat, I believe. I'll never
forget it, I tell you. Was just about to lay hold of those fire
extinguishers when your crowd forestalled me. It was a rough deal all
around. With those women shrieking, and holding on to me, begging me to
save them, a fellow might be excused for being a little slow to do the
right thing. And you, too, Jerry and Bluff--shake hands!"

"What set the boat afire?" asked the curious Bluff, immediately.

The captain shook his head.

"I don't believe it was an accident. We have always been mighty careful
about leaving any waste around where it could start into a flame.
Besides, if you notice, boys, you can see that it started close to the
cabin, and not near the boiler."

Captain Amos involuntarily lowered his voice and glanced suspiciously
around while speaking. His manner thrilled the boys as they had seldom
been before.

"Not an accident! Tell me about that, will you? Do you mean that you
believe some one set the boat afire?" exclaimed Jerry.

"Don't speak so loud, please. That is what I think. Unless it was
intentional, I can't imagine how the thing started," answered the young
captain, who was still much excited after his recent experience.

"But it seems monstrous. Who would be guilty of such a terrible thing?"
asked Frank, possibly dimly suspecting that the other might be seeking
to cover up some lack of proper caution on his part, though that was not
like Amos Short.

"Say, did your crew mutiny?" gasped Bluff, whose eyes were wide open
with wonder over this new development of the affair, and who had lately
been doing considerable reading of sea tales.

"Well, hardly. I only have the engineer, an old faithful fellow; the
pilot, who stuck to his post through it all, and would have run us
ashore if the worst came; and one deck hand, a darky," he replied

"Then it was a passenger, you think?" demanded Frank, determined to get
at the bottom of this new mystery.

"Well, none of my pay passengers. Listen and I'll tell you. This being
the first trip this year we were not so particular about taking pay. At
Newtonport a couple of tramps got aboard. When I went to collect their
fares they said they had no money, but wanted to get across the lake to
Centerville. Rather than have a disturbance on board I allowed them to
remain, cautioning them to stay below near the engine."

"Perhaps you are right, Captain; but what could be their object in
firing your boat?" asked Frank.

One of the passengers hurriedly approached at this moment. He was
plainly much excited, and as the fire was completely out it could not
have been from that cause.

"Captain, before you get into Centerville I demand that you have every
person on board this boat searched!" he exclaimed vigorously.

"Searched, Mr. Pemberton--what do you mean?" exclaimed the captain, in

"Because, sir, my luggage has been opened while we were all excited
about the fire, and my property scattered about. I have been robbed of
something that was worth considerable money to me, sir. And I intend to
hold you and your steamboat company liable for damages!" he cried

The captain looked at Frank--here then was an explanation of the sudden


"This is a serious charge, Mr. Pemberton!" said the captain, in a low

"But I mean it, every word, sir. I tell you I have lost certain articles
that represent a large amount of money to me. And I shall proceed
against your company unless they are recovered," declared the passenger,

Frank believed he recognized in this party a traveling agent who visited
the jewelers in the lake towns several times a year. This being the case
it was easy to understand that the packet which he complained was
stolen, might have contained precious stones, or something along that

"Stop and make sure before you say that, Mr. Pemberton," remarked the
captain, turning pale at the threat; for under the circumstances such an
action against the company might lose him his comfortable berth.

For once his good-heartedness seemed to have placed him in a
predicament. According to the plain rules of the company it should have
been his business, upon being refused the proper fare by the two ugly
tramps, to have called upon his crew to assist him in putting them
ashore, or getting rid of them somehow, even if he had to throw them

"I know just what I am saying, sir; the packet is gone, and I am ready
to swear that I left it in my bag," replied the other, firmly.

"But consider, sir, that in all this excitement a man might lose his
head. Just as likely as not you may have done something with the packet
yourself. It would seem to be the first thing a man might think of."

Captain Amos was arguing with a view to shifting the blame; but he had a
positive customer to deal with in Mr. Pemberton. The other shook his
head and frowned.

"I insist upon every one being searched before they leave the boat," he
said. "No honest person will object to such a course, I feel sure; and
it is the only safe way. And you yourself should be the one to do the
job, Captain, in the interest of your company--of course with the assent
of the passengers and crew."

The commander of the boat somehow at this juncture looked at Frank, just
as if he sought advice from this source.

"It is the right thing to do, Captain," that party hastened to say, "and
as for my two chums and myself we would like you to begin right now with

"There is no necessity in your case, my boy; for you have been under my
eye all the time you were aboard, and we owe you much," the gentleman
hastened to exclaim.

"Nevertheless, if any are to be searched all should be without a single
exception, to make it fair. But it strikes me, Mr. Pemberton, that the
captain already has a pretty good idea as to who took your valuables, if
they have been stolen, and not lost overboard in the confusion,"
remarked Frank, calmly.

The traveling jeweler whirled upon the officer.

"How is this, Captain?" he demanded, anxiously.

"We were just wondering how the fire started," the other explained, "and
I declared it could not have come from any carelessness of my crew, and
that there was no chance of an accident. In a word, sir, I vowed the
fire must be of incendiary origin. Frank, here, and his friends were
asking what reason any one would have for setting this boat on fire,
when you rushed up stating your loss."

"I begin to grasp your meaning. It implies that in order to cover up
their robbery the thieves started this fire, thinking that if the boat
burned no one might be the wiser. That looks very plausible. Did I
understand this boy to say you had an idea concerning the identity of
the criminal?" Mr. Pemberton asked eagerly.

"Yes, I believe I have," said Captain Amos, sturdily.

"Then I demand that you place him under arrest immediately, before he
can escape with my property. Is there more than one concerned, do you
think? Ah! I have an idea I know whom you mean--the two tramps who came
aboard at Newtonport?"

"Exactly. They are the ones I suspect. It would be easy to start such a
blaze undetected, for no one would be dreaming of such rascality,"
replied the officer.

"And taking advantage of the sudden confusion," went on the passenger,
"when men and women were shouting, and rushing frantically about, they
must have searched my luggage purposely, knowing that I was carrying a
valuable packet in my bag."

"That would appear to cover the case, sir. In the light of this
explanation do you still insist upon every one being searched?" demanded
Captain Amos.

Mr. Pemberton also looked toward Frank, although, perhaps,
unconsciously. The latter smiled and hastened to remark:

"I really believe that what the captain says may be the true explanation
of both the fire and the robbery, Mr. Pemberton. And in that case the
arrest of the tramps will bring your valuables to light."

"Provided they have not gone overboard by accident," the captain could
not resist saying, with pointed emphasis.

The passenger shook his head doggedly, and said:

"There is not the slightest chance of that, sir. I vow I was not once
near the spot where my luggage was piled up from the first cry of fire
until just now, when I went to see that my things were safe. Surely I
would know it if I had gone there."

"Besides, Captain, unless I'm mistaken this gentleman was the only one
among the passengers who seemed to have his senses; I am sure I saw him
helping to pass the buckets of water along," remarked Frank.

"Right you are, son," said the gentleman, with a faint smile; "for that
is a fact. I forgot that I even had any luggage aboard, and the cries of
those poor frightened women got on my nerves so that I was bound to do
all I could to assist in saving the boat. Now, Captain Amos, I am
disposed to go as easy with you as possible, but something must be done
before you order the boat into Centerville!"

"I'm willing to do anything that seems right, only tell me what you
wish," replied the officer, promptly.

"If those ugly-looking customers are guilty, they must be apprehended
before they have a chance to secrete the goods," vouchsafed Mr.

"I agree with you. The only question is, ought we try and do it here, or
wait until we reach the wharf, where we will find the constable waiting,
as he always is when the _Eastern Star_ arrives?"

"It might be safer to wait," admitted the passenger, "but in that event
the rogues will be given a chance to hide the packet, perhaps, about the
boat, trusting to getting it another time. Then, as we would have no
evidence that they were guilty, we could not hold them."

"What do you say, Frank?" asked the captain, turning to the leader of
the chums, and by that action admitting that he entertained great
respect for the opinion of the boy who had done so much to save the

"I think the gentleman is right," came the quick response.

"That we ought to search the tramps now," queried the captain,
anxiously; for he felt certain that this move would bring on a fight,
which might add still further to the excitement of the already terrified
women aboard.

"Undoubtedly. Just as he says, they might think it good policy to
conceal their plunder somewhere about the boat, hoping to get it later
on, after the excitement had died out. And if you want any help in doing
that same thing, Captain, count on myself and two chums."

The answer came so readily from the lips of the canoeist that Captain
Amos was almost overcome. He thrust out his hand impulsively,

"Say, that's awful kind of you, Frank. We may need your assistance, for,
to tell the truth, those hoboes looked mighty tough, and I reckon
they'll put up some sort of a fight before giving in. I only hope they
don't happen to have any sort of guns about them. Wait till I call up
Simmons the engineer, Codding the pilot, and Adolphus the coon deckhand.
If Mr. Pemberton gives us a hand we will have eight to cow the rascals."

"We will need the whole bunch if they are half as tough as you say,
Captain," declared Jerry, anxious to be heard.

The captain beckoned, and a negro boy came running up.

"Go and tell the pilot and engineer to come here at once, and you
accompany them," he said.

"Yas, sah!" replied the willing worker, shooting away with a look of
curiosity toward the others, as if wondering what new trouble had

"That boy was working all the time, I believe," said Mr. Pemberton,

"Who, Adolphus?" asked the captain; "every minute at my side; and I'd
trust him with every penny I owned. But here he comes, and both men are
with him. Now we can get ready to look for those ragged tramps, and
corner them."

"H'm! when did you see them last?" asked Frank, starting suddenly, as if
he had made an unpleasant discovery.

"Certainly not since the cry of fire first broke out. But what makes you
ask such a question, Frank?" demanded the captain, showing new alarm.

"Well, I have an idea that it may be some little time before you get a
chance to round those scamps up, and proceed with your search. They are
the busy boys all right, and while we've been talking matters over here
the hobo couple have been _doing_ things. Look there, Captain, half way
to the other shore, and tell me what you see!" and Frank pointed as he

Immediately a chorus of exclamations arose.

"As sure as you live, there they go like hot cakes!" cried Bluff.

"Talk to me about nerve, if they haven't 'cribbed' Frank and Will's
double canoe!" came from Jerry's lips, as he stared at the retreating

"And just notice, fellows, that both of them paddle as if they knew all
about canoes. Those hoboes have done some camping in their day, as sure
as you live!" observed Frank, always on the lookout for these telling

"Say, do we stand here and let them get clean away without lifting a
hand?" exclaimed Bluff, piteously.

"Hardly. Into your canoes, boys, and after the thieves at full speed!"
cried Frank.


Once again all was excitement aboard the steamboat.

Jerry and Bluff dropped into their frail craft with the practiced
balance of experienced canoeists. Frank did not mean to be left behind
in the wild race, managed to occupy a place in the craft of Jerry. He
seized upon the single paddle, intending to work his passage, and make
up for the additional burden.

As they started off they could hear the captain giving orders to the

"He means to turn the boat around, and start after the thieves himself!"
cried Jerry, as he dipped his double-blade swiftly on one side and then
the other.

Both little mosquito craft were by this time fairly flying through the
water. As those who wielded the paddles faced forward they were able to
see what progress they made all the time toward overhauling the escaping

"Not much hope," declared Frank, finally.

"They're two-thirds of the way in to shore. We are gaining, but not
enough by half to overhaul them," announced Bluff, making valiant

"Tell me about this, but I hope Will sees his opportunity to snap off a
good view. This has your race beat to a frazzle, Bluff!" shouted Jerry.

"There comes the steamboat! The captain is heading to cut them off,"
said Frank.

"But he's too far away. Besides, it's too shallow in there, and if he
knows his business he'll never try to go much closer. A fire is bad
enough, not to speak of a stranded boat," observed Bluff.

The two men in the double canoe were working like steam-engines to make
progress. They handled the paddles fairly well in unison, and as Frank
had said, showed a familiarity with the blades that spoke of former

As the three boys paddled on they saw the leading canoe shoot up on the
shelving beach. Then the tramps scrambled ashore.

"Hold on there, you!" bellowed Bluff, in his excitement; "we want to
talk with you!"

For answer the two men only made derisive motions. Then they vanished in
the thick timber.

"They're gone, all right, boys. I reckon it will take some hunting to
find such slippery rascals again," remarked Frank, with a laugh; for it
was not his packet that had been stolen, and he had no reason to be
deeply concerned.

"What will we do now?" demanded Bluff, looking as disappointed as though
he had just lost a race.

"Recover our canoe, and put across the lake to where Will stands on that

"But see here, Frank, do you mean to let those fellows get away?" asked

Jerry was always the impulsive one of the four chums. His characteristic
temperament often got him into hot water. Only the preceding Fall when
the boys had taken a trip into the woods, owing to a storm unroofing the
Academy at Centerville, as narrated in the preceding volume of this
series, entitled "The Outdoor Chums; or, First Tour of the Rod, Gun and
Camera Club," he had found himself precipitated into numerous
difficulties because of this failing. Frank was frequently compelled to
restrain this impulsiveness on the part of his chum. On this camping
trip they had met with many strange adventures, including an invasion of
the camp by a wildcat, a bear and also some enemies who wished to do
them harm by setting fire to their tents; Jerry had lost himself in the
forest and encountered numerous exciting adventures, and there had
followed a series of mishaps that had all winter long given the chums a
subject for entertainment and discussion.

Frank was pleased to find that the tramps had not been vindictive enough
to try and do any harm to the frail craft in which they had made their
escape from the steamboat.

For this he was disposed to feel a little kindly toward them. It also
made him more convinced than ever that they must have a tender spot in
their evil hearts for a canoe, and could not bear to smash up such a
delicate little craft.

The steamboat was lying off-shore, and our boys headed in such a
direction that they could talk back in answer to any questions asked by
the captain.

"Did they get clean away?" called the commander of the boat, using his
hands in lieu of a megaphone.

"I reckon they did, Captain. They skipped into the timber, and that was
the last thing we saw of them," replied Frank, pausing for a minute in
his labor.

"That's bad. We were in hopes you could capture them," said the other,
looking plainly worried over what future troubles were in store for his

"Boys, I thank you for the trouble you took, and hope to see you again,"
shouted Mr. Pemberton. "I'm going to get off at Centerville, and engage
the sheriff to hunt high and low for those rascals. If you hear of
anything, please look me up. It is mighty important that I recover
possession of that missing packet."

"All right, we'll be glad to do so, sir. We expect to spend the Easter
holidays in the woods somewhere along the lake, and it's just possible
we may run across those two hoboes again," answered Frank, dipping his
paddle in deeply again, and sending his boat after those of his
companions that were flying on ahead.

They allowed him to catch up, for Jerry wanted to ask a question or two.

"Say, do you really suppose we could meet with those scamps again?" he
said, eagerness showing in his eyes; for Jerry loved excitement, though
fond of calling himself a square sportsman, always giving the game every
possible chance.

"About one chance in ten; still, it's there. If they hang around here
for any reason, and we're in the woods, you can see we might run across
the couple," replied the other, quietly.

"Talk to me about your volunteer fire companies, I reckon we've got a
cinch on the prize for rapid work," cried Jerry. "Only for you, Frank,
that blessed old _Eastern Star_ was sure bound to go up in smoke. The
company ought to vote you a medal."

"And there's poor Will standing on the deck waiting for us to come in
and tell him what all this fuss is about," remarked Bluff, as they drew
near the shore.

"Hello! you runaways, what in the wide world was all that row out
there?" demanded the stranded canoeist, as the others glided in close to
the little wharf upon which he was sitting with his legs dangling over,
and the precious camera gripped tight in his hands.

"All sorts of things happening. The boat was on fire, and Frank here
settled that by grabbing up an extinguisher and turning the hose on the
flames, while the crew was handling the buckets. The whole thing would
have gone up if we hadn't arrived just in time. Then there was a robbery
aboard," said Bluff, eagerly.

"What! a robbery? Do you really mean it?" gasped Will.

"Certainly. A jewelry salesman had a valuable packet stolen from his
stateroom. It is believed that the fire was started just to cover the
robbery. While we were talking over matters, trying to get the facts
straight, and decided on arresting a couple of hoboes aboard who were
suspected of doing the job, they ran away with the double canoe, and
escaped into the woods across yonder," went on Frank.

"Two hoboes! Why, I saw them standing at the side of the steamboat
looking down at the canoes. They'll appear in the picture I took just
then, for the smoke was rolling up, and the view was magnificent,"
declared Will.

Frank started and looked hastily out upon the lake.

"I'm afraid it would be too far to recognize the features of any one,
even if you caught a first-class view," he remarked.

"Still there's a little chance. A magnifier or reading-glass might bring
it out strong enough. Anyhow, I'm going right home and make the try,
fellows. My roll is finished, and I might as well develop it now as

"Bring it around to-night when we meet at my house to talk over our
camping trip for the Easter holidays," said Frank.

"Where do you think we'll go, boys?" asked Bluff, anxiously.

"For myself I'm in favor of Wildcat Island at the southern end of the
lake. Somehow, nobody ever goes there, and we could have a great time, I
imagine," remarked Frank.

"Yes, especially with the wild man that they say has his den somewhere
on that same old island," remarked Bluff, shrugging his shoulders, as if
the idea did not strike him favorably.

"Talk about your circus, a wild man appeals to me every time!" said
Jerry. "I'm in favor of going there, particularly because it offers a
chance for excitement. Suppose we captured this _thing_ and found that
it was a big monkey or orang-outang that had escaped from some menagerie
long ago, wouldn't that be something to shout over? Me for Wildcat
Island. How about you, Will?"

"To tell the truth I've always wanted to get some good views of that
lonely place, and I'll vote in favor of going there," returned the young

Bluff turned anxiously toward Frank.

"Are you backing these desperate schemers up in this madness, Frank?" he

"Well, I'd like to explore that place very much. No one has ever done
it, so far as I can learn. Some say the island is haunted; others that
there are rattlers in plenty there, besides furious wildcats; and then
there's this story told about a wild man who has been seen several times
on the shore of the island. Why, yes, I'm in favor of going there
to-morrow, when we start out."

Bluff threw up both hands.

"I give in. Three against one settles the matter for keeps. Wildcat
Island it is then for the Easter camp. But I refuse to accept any of the
responsibility for whatever may happen," declared Bluff, firmly.

"Speak to me about a quitter, will you? Listen to him knuckling down
before we even make a start. He claims to have bigger lungs than me,
does he? I'll have to admit that he can make a lot more noise when it
comes to squealing."

Bluff Masters turned upon the other indignantly, as he exclaimed:

"Wait and see who turns white first when that wild man bobs up. My lungs
are in better shape than yours, and I can prove it any old day. There
goes Will off, and I'm for following him. Bring a print of each picture
around to-night, old chap."

"Sure. And let's hope they turn out decent," answered the other, waving
a hand as he moved away in the direction of town, leaving it to Frank to
paddle the big canoe to the landing where they kept the cedar craft when
not in the boathouse of the club.

Frank was a busy fellow during the remainder of the day. He had the job
of laying in the stores that were to see them through a whole week in
camp; and when four boys get out in the open for that length of time it
is simply astonishing what an amount of food they can dispose of.

But Frank had spent many a night under canvas and bark covers in Maine,
and, in fact, there was little about camping he did not know. At the
same time he always made it a point to ask questions whenever he ran
across any one who had also been through the mill; for in this way even
veterans may learn new wrinkles by exchanging ideas.

About eight o'clock, Jerry and Will came in together, as they lived
close to one another. Bluff was not a minute behind them, anxious for a
view of the pictures that had been taken that day.

"Say, how did they turn out?" he demanded, as soon as he entered the
room where Will was opening an envelope, and Frank handling a large

"Just bully, that's what. Never got better results. The water was in a
beautiful ripple, you see, and that always adds to a picture. Here, take
a look, fellows," with which remark Will scattered a lot of prints on
the table.

He had certainly become quite a clever hand at both developing his films
and printing his pictures, for the results were as clear as a bell.

"They do look fine," commented Frank, as he commenced to shuffle them
over; "and the smoke is pouring out of that old steamboat at a great
rate. I'm looking for the one you spoke about, where those hoboes are
standing in the sunlight on the edge of the burning boat. Here it is.
Jerry, you would be apt to know better than I could if either of these
fellows has a familiar face. Take a look."

"If he don't, perhaps I may. I've lived around here three days longer
than he ever did," grumbled Bluff.

Jerry bent down closer and continued to stare through the reading-glass.

"Talk to me about your luck, boys, this beats the band!" he exclaimed.

"Do you recognize one of them, then?" asked Frank, eagerly.

"Sure I do, and I'm surprised Captain Amos didn't. The dumpy one is
Waddy Walsh, the bad egg, who was sent to the reform school three years
ago. He must have escaped somehow, and joined the army of tramps on the
road," declared Jerry, positively.


"Waddy Walsh!" exclaimed Bluff, showing sudden interest. "Let me look,

"Will you give an honest opinion, regardless of any bias, one way or the
other?" demanded the other, whose father was a leading lawyer in

"Of course I will. What do you take me for, anyway?" replied Bluff,

"Then look, and tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth," and Jerry handed him the reading-glass.

"Well, what's the verdict?" asked Frank, after Bluff had studied the
picture for a full minute.

"I won't be as positive as our friend here, but I'm inclined to think
that it may be Waddy, all right; anyhow, he's about his size, and
there's something in his way of standing that reminds me of the fellow,"
announced Bluff.

"Talk to me about your hedging, what d'ye think of that? Of course it's
Waddy, as big as life, grown somewhat, and with torn clothes and dirty
face; but I'd know his attitude among a dozen. Consider that point
settled, Frank."

"Well, it doesn't matter much to us at all. If the sheriff, Mr. Dodd,
manages to catch up with the runaways, Mr. Waddy will have a chance to
go back to where he came from--the reform school. Now, let's drop those
two, and talk over our proposed visit to Wildcat Island," remarked

"Have you got all the supplies?" asked Will.

"Here's the list. Look it over, and if anybody wants to suggest other
things all they have to do is to put them down. We're willing to lug
stuff there to the limit of our canoes," answered Frank.

When they had made all arrangements the meeting was adjourned to the
time when they expected to start from the boathouse just after noon on
the following day.

"How about the weather--do we go, regardless?" asked Will, again.

"True canoeists laugh at the weather. Come rain, come storm, they buck
up against whatever the day brings forth. At one, then, every fellow be
on hand. I'll have the supplies there before that. I've got a surprise
in store for you boys, too," remarked Frank.

"Tell me about that, will you; he's going to let us lie awake all night
trying to guess the great conundrum. Say, it hasn't anything to do with
the girls coming over some day to take dinner with us, has it?" asked

"Oh! say, that would be immense, only too good to be true," cried Bluff,
who, be it known, was rather inclined to be sweet on Frank's only
sister, Nellie.

"They've promised to come, all right; but this has nothing to do with
that. You just wait and see, that's all I'll say. Now come into the
front room, fellows. Nellie has had several friends over, and we're
going to make a delightful evening of it."

Frank would not listen to any protest, but ushered his three chums into
the parlor where they found four lively girls enjoying themselves with
music, and waiting for the meeting of the club to come to an end.

For the next hour they romped as only a lot of young people may, for
whom the morrow has no terrors. Will's twin sister, Violet, was, of
course, there, as were Mame Crosby and Susie Prescott, the former of
whom was never so happy as when teasing Jerry, and getting him to
"spout" after the fashion of his learned father when pleading for a
prisoner before the bar.

It was about half-past ten that they separated, after enjoying some
simple refreshments in the way of cake and lemonade.

The boys saw the girls home, Will taking his sister; while Bluff,
secretly informing Nellie Langdon that he only did it out of pure
courtesy, saw that Susie was properly escorted through the quiet streets
of Centerville, and reached her father's house in safety.

When Frank reached the boathouse, just at half-past twelve on the
following day, he found all of his companions there ahead of him.

"You slow coach, think we've got the whole afternoon to get started?"
demanded Bluff, who was bustling around as usual, yet accomplishing very

"Well, if you examine closer you'll find that I've been here most of the
morning, and packed the things in several bundles. These go in the big
canoe; those yonder you must stow away, Bluff, while Jerry will take
care of the rest," replied Frank, paying little attention to the way in
which he was addressed, because he knew it was mere talk, and no slur

"Sure you didn't miss anything?" asked Jerry, smiling grimly; for he
pretended to scorn this wholesale carrying of stuff into the woods, and
always declared he could exist happily with a blanket, a coffee-pot, a
frying-pan, some salt and pepper, coffee and ship biscuit, depending on
rod and gun to supply all else.

Nevertheless, when the "duffle" was lugged into the woods he considered
it a sacred duty to do his utmost to lessen the supplies, possibly for
fear they would have to "tote" them out again, as Bluff used to
sarcastically remark.

"Not that I know of. If you are afraid, why we might go over the list
again, and see what else we can use," said Frank, with a wink toward

"I beg of you don't. My poor canoe would sink of fright or freight.
Besides, I want you to notice that it's kind of rough out on the lake,
and as it stands we're taking big chances of being swamped. Come on,
fellows, load your cargo!" called Jerry.

"What's this funny bundle in our boat?" demanded Will, suddenly.

"Ask no questions and I'll give you no yarns. Just possess your souls in
patience, and you'll see after a while," came Frank's answer, as he went
on loading systematically, taking heed of the fact that they would need
to buck up against some rather heavy seas from the south while on the
way, and that everything must be protected from the wet by covers.

"I bet it's a new patent stove he's got along," suggested Will.

"Oh! that's in my boat already. It burns kerosene, and makes a blue gas.
Frank says it's the boss in rainy weather, with those aluminum camp
kettles for cooking. I reckon it must be a box of cake and pies the
girls have supplied," ventured Bluff.

"You're away off, for they're going to bring those things when they
come. Besides, this isn't in the shape of a box at all," laughed Frank.

"That's a fact, and it looks more like a spare blanket or two," came
from Jerry.

"Well, give it up, boys. I don't believe you'd guess in a month of
Sundays. Now, are you all ready?" queried the leader of the club, as he
took up his paddle and prepared to look after the port side while Will
worked the starboard.

Frank, being the more experienced of the twain, had the stern seat, as
that is usually considered the post of greater responsibility in
clearing rocks while running rapids, and generally guiding the craft.

"Say when!" called Jerry.

"The _Red Rover_ is ready to meet the storm!" announced Bluff, whose
little craft had a narrow band of red around its gunwale.


The four paddles dipped deeply into the water, and simultaneously the
little canoes started into the teeth of the wind. There were a few
shouts from the shore, and considerable waving of snowy 'kerchiefs from
a group of girls standing before Frank's house, which latter brought a
series of salutes from the paddlers until the commodore of the flotilla
sternly warned them that unless they paid more attention to what they
were doing an upset would mark the beginning of their Spring outing.

After that they kept their eyes straight ahead. And, indeed, there was
really need for all attention, since the waves were running quite high
for such small vessels to meet. Still, a canoe, if properly handled, can
live in a sea that will sink a much larger boat; since the tiny cedar
craft mounts to the crests of the waves with the buoyancy of a cork.

They paddled strenuously for an hour toward the south, and by that time
were beginning to feel their muscles growing somewhat sore. The season
was young, and they had not as yet become wholly accustomed to hard
manual labor, though all of them used the school gymnasium through the
winter months in the endeavor to keep in condition.

"Talk about your combers, these are the real thing," grunted Jerry, as
he shot up on the crest of a wave, from which exalted position he had a
fleeting view of the island dead ahead; and was then swept down into
what seemed to be a valley.

The fact that each boat was so heavily laden added to the danger of
their swamping if once they turned sideways to the seas, or broached to;
but the boys were conscious of this ever-impending peril, and fought
tooth and nail to prevent it.

Wildcat Island was quite a large piece of ground, standing in the lake
at some little distance from either shore, but much nearer the western
one, that upon which the town of Newtonport was situated, with its
distant range of hills, called the Sunset Mountains by the natives.

This island lay not far from the foot of the lake, while another, going
by the name of Snake Island, was situated close to the lumber camp at
the head of the body of water, which was some ten miles long by between
one and two wide.

With a strong south wind blowing, a heavy sea could be kicked up, though
naturally this would be found much worse the farther up the lake one

"Ten minutes more will see us there, boys!" shouted Frank.

He feared that one of the other paddlers might be getting pretty near
his last effort, and wished to encourage the balance of his chums to
renewed efforts.

"We're all right; don't worry about us," called back Bluff, who happened
to be a little bit ahead.

He had hardly spoken than he came close to the verge of disaster. To
make his voice carry the better, Bluff had half turned his head, and in
doing this lost his advantage just a trifle. So it came that the next
sea struck the _Red Rover_ on the forward port side, instead of head on.
This caused the frail canoe to sheer out of her course, amid frantic
efforts of her wearied skipper to regain a straightaway heading; and
only for the fact that a second sea did not follow closely on the heels
of the first, he might have met with an upset.

Presently they ran into the lee of the island, where the water was

This revived the flagging energies of Bluff and Jerry, always rivaling
each other in whatever they attempted; so they set up a little race for
the shore.

"Who won, Frank?" demanded Bluff between gasps, as all of them landed.

"Well," remarked the other, with a sly wink at Will, which at the time
the latter did not fully understand, though its import was made plain
later, "I'd declare it a dead heat! You two fellows are so evenly
matched it's hard to decide which is the better."

"All but our lung capacity; there I've got him beaten every time,"
insisted Bluff.

"You have, eh? Wait until the opportunity comes, and you'll just see how
easy I put you on the mat. Ashore it is, my hearties! We're castaway
sailors for a week!" exclaimed Jerry, suiting the action to the word,
and dragging his canoe up on the little shelving beach, beyond which lay
the bristling thickets, hiding all the mysteries of Wildcat Island.

"Monarch of all we survey. Here we hide from the world, and forget dull
care," sang Will, prancing about to ease up his strained muscles.

"Here, lend a helping hand, you shirk!" called Frank, who was dragging
the big canoe ashore alone.

Suddenly there was a shriek from Will that made the others spring up.
Frank's hand involuntarily reached out for the double-barreled shotgun
that lay in its waterproof case on top of the stuff in his canoe.

"Look! look! the wild man!" shouted Jerry.

They all saw a hideous face framed among the branches and twigs of the
thicket close by. One second only was it in view, hardly long enough for
them to make out that it was human rather than that of an immense ape.
Then the ugly face vanished from their sight, leaving the four canoeists
gaping at each other as though unable to positively decide whether they
had really seen the mysterious wild man of the island, or something
which their imaginations had conjured up instead.


"Did you see him, boys?" exclaimed Will, who was shivering as if he had
just run across a ghost.

"Why, to be sure," replied Frank, laughing a little forcedly; for the
sight of that hideous face had given him a shock.

"Then it was so, after all. I began to believe I was just imagining
things. Oh! what a magnificent opportunity I missed. How can I ever
forgive myself?" groaned Will, showing signs of disgust.

"Opportunity for what--capturing the terrible wild man?" cried Bluff,
aghast at what seemed the audacity of his ordinarily peaceable chum.

"Certainly not. But if I had only been ready I could have taken his
picture to show the folks at home. My stars! what a great feat that
would have been," sighed the disappointed photographer, shaking his

"Tell me about that, will you? There was my uncle laughing at me when I
mentioned about this same wild man of the island. He declared it was
only some innocent animal, or else an old woman's tale. But every one of
us saw him, and we've not been ashore five minutes, either," declared

"I foresee some stirring times for us here, what with the snakes, if
they are to be found, the ferocious wildcats they tell about, and now
this mysterious wild man," remarked Frank, soberly, as he began to take
the bundles out of his canoe and place them high and dry up on the

"Are we going to stay?" asked Bluff.

"Why, to be sure we are. Talk to me about your brave men, I like to hear
a fellow speak about being scared away by the first sight of some poor,
harmless chap. Perhaps it's another of Mr. Smithson's crazy people,
escaped from the asylum over at Merrick, and hiding out here."

On their camping-out trip of the preceding autumn they had met with a
remarkable personage who persisted in declaring that he was the famous
Prince Bismarck, and who eventually turned out to be an escaped inmate
of the asylum at Merrick, some miles away.

A keeper named Smithson had engaged them to help him capture the
demented one, and this was what Jerry was referring to when he spoke.

"I wouldn't wonder but what that may be true," remarked Frank,
seriously; "but no matter, we are not the kind to run at a shadow. We
laid out this trip to spend our Easter holidays on Wildcat Island, and
it's got to be something pretty threatening that will frighten us off."

"Hear! hear!" exclaimed Jerry.

"That's the stuff!" declared Bluff, thinking that he could not afford to
let his rival take all the credit for valor.

"But I'll never get another opportunity to take his picture," complained

"How do you know? Man alive, there may be no end of stirring times
coming, with that same old hermit figuring in the circus. Perhaps the
scent of our coffee and bacon will bring him back into touch with
civilization; why, he may even walk into our camp, and try to make
friends, when he gets a whiff of onions frying," and Frank slapped his
chum on the back as he spoke along this line.

"Oh! well, if you think that way I'll keep up my hopes. And you just
remember that if I seem to be hugging this little snapshot contrivance
closer than usual, why, I'm only keeping in readiness for instantaneous
work. A fellow has to be pretty quick on the trigger to get a picture of
a wild man, you know."

They soon had the boats unloaded.

"Pull them out, fellows. I've brought along the chains and padlocks
belonging to each boat. Having a canoe stolen isn't such fun, even on a
ten-mile lake like Camalot," ventured Frank, as he produced the articles
in question, and proceeded to fasten the canoes together, at the same
time making sure they were chained to the sturdy root of a nearby tree.

"He thinks of everything," admitted Will, in admiration.

"Don't you believe it for one second. I forget many things; but as they
said a wild man inhabited this bit of island, I wanted to make sure he
did not run off with any of our boats, and perhaps our supplies."

"All the same, it took your long head to think of such a thing, old
chap. Now, I defy any one to hook our boats. Besides, we don't mean to
ever leave the camp unguarded; and I guess you expect to put up the
tents close by here?" said Jerry.

"It looks good to me," replied Frank, casting another glance at the
little open spot close to the beach, which seemed an ideal place for a
canoeist's camp, having a splendid view of the lake, stretching almost
ten miles away to the north.

The four were soon as busy as beavers.

They already knew how to erect the tents, which had a fly that could be
lowered in front in severe weather, and a ground cloth of waterproof
material, quite an addition to the comfort of the interior.

Jerry worked just as hard as the rest, although every now and then
pretending to laugh at all this fuss, when a humble shack of branches
ought to serve any fellow who called himself a true sportsman.

By the time the fireplace had been built of stones, over which several
stout steel bars rested, upon which the cooking utensils would set, the
Spring afternoon was drawing to a close.

"What will we have for our first supper?" Bluff asked; for he did not
mean to let Jerry carry off all the honors in the cooking line this

Secretly Bluff had been getting the hired girl at his home to teach him
some of the kitchen lore, and he had a few surprises up his sleeve which
he intended to spring upon his unsuspecting chums when the occasion came
around that he was left alone in charge of the camp.

"Nobody thought to bring a steak this time," ventured Frank; "so if
you're all agreeable, I say that we begin our cooking with a little
canoeist's menu something along this order: Tea, succotash, a can of
corned beef, fresh bread and butter, and finish with a jar of preserves
and cake from home. How does that strike you?"

"It suits me. And as the sun is sinking low, the sooner we get to work
the better," declared Bluff, readily enough; for he was fairly ravenous,
and kept wetting his lips like a hungry dog that scents a rich, juicy

"Talk about your feasts, what could equal that programme? Me for the
corned beef every time. Why, it's my best hold, and I just worship
it--hot, cold or medium. How do you stand, Will? Any further

"Well, I brought some imported Switzer cheese along, and you know,
fellows, I'm particularly fond of it; so if it's just the same to you,
I'll add that to the list," replied the one addressed.

"Oh, my! that's what I get for speaking too hastily. Now I shall
certainly be punished. I suppose as long as that cheese lasts my
appetite will vanish at every meal. I only hope that gay old wild man
takes a fancy to it, and elopes with the whole blessed bunch. Why didn't
you fetch limburger and kill us outright, instead of our dying by
inches? But it will help draw the wildcats around, that's one comfort,"
groaned Jerry.

Preparations for supper went on apace.

They had set the tents at the base of a little bluff; for Wildcat Island
was a singular formation, being quite hilly in parts. Indeed, some
people were fond of comparing it to the volcanic islands that suddenly
rise up out of the sea in regions like the Alaska coast; and as
frequently vanish in a night. It was moreover heavily wooded, and the
rank vegetation made it anything but an easy task to do any exploring.

Frank had calculated that this steep bluff overhanging the camp would be
of considerable benefit to the expedition should a severe storm set in
from the west.

As the boys busied themselves with various tasks they chatted and joked
after their custom.

The stew of succotash and corned beef, which Frank had called the
Canoeist's Delight, was now ready. He set it aside on a stone to cool a
trifle while the table was being prepared.

"How's the coffee getting on, Jerry?" asked the chief cook of the
evening; for they usually changed around, and gave each fellow a chance
to show what he knew along the line of preparing appetizing dishes, or
of exposing his ignorance, which method of procedure naturally created
some rivalry.

"Just about ready. I've allowed it to boil furiously three times, and
settled it with a dash of cold water on each and every occasion. Talk to
me about the nectar of the gods, this suits me all right."

"Oh! please hurry up. I'm almost trembling with eagerness, after sitting
here and sniffing those delicious odors for so long a time," pleaded
Will, who happened to have nothing to do with the supper on this
occasion, his time coming on the morrow.

But they gave him no heed, those unfeeling wretches.

The one who camps out must expect to prove himself a hero daily by
conquering his appetite and holding it in check with a firm hand until
the head chef declares that all is ready for the feast to begin.

Frank had just finished placing the aluminum plates and cups, and was
about to reach out for the kettle of steaming stew, when to his
astonishment he found the stone, where he had laid it, empty.

Thinking that one of the others might be playing some trick, he opened
his mouth to remonstrate, when a cry from Will caused him to turn his
eyes upward.

There he saw the little kettle swinging in mid-air, and being drawn
hastily upwards by some unseen mysterious agency!


No one seemed able to say a single word.

Standing or crouching there, with staring eyes those four lads watched
the marvelous ascent of their supper. It was as though an unseen hand
had reached down and plucked the kettle from the rock to carry it

Now it had reached the level of the top of the bluff, and as they
continued to gape, an arm was thrust hastily out from the rank
vegetation that grew there; they saw eager fingers clutch the kettle,
and then it was drawn from their sight.

"Tell me about that!" gasped Jerry, as soon as he could catch his

Bluff made a dive for Frank's gun. His own repeating shotgun was at
home, out of commission, for which Jerry, who hated the modern arm as
the devil is said to hate holy water, never ceased to give thanks.

But Frank caught his arm.

"No, I wouldn't do that, Bluff. We can afford to lose our stew, for
we've got plenty more behind it. We can even let the little kettle go,
if necessary; but we should hate to have any man's life on our hands, no
matter if he is a crazy being."

"Did you see him, Frank?" exclaimed Will, in great excitement.

"No more than the rest of you. An arm came into view, and the kettle was
drawn in. Somebody is going to enjoy a fine supper to-night. Perhaps the
poor fellow has not tasted decent food for ages. Much good may it do
him," said Frank.

"What are you going to do about it, then?" demanded the warlike Bluff.

"Well, the best thing is to open another can of succotash and one of the
corned beef, since we seem to have set our minds on that stew," smiled

He immediately started operations.

"But are we going to sit here like a lot of babies while that scamp runs
off with our supper?" demanded Bluff, indignantly.

"And he's stolen one of your charming little aluminum kettles, too,
Frank," put in Will, in added horror.

"Well, there are plenty more where that came from, and an indulgent dad
will, I am sure, supply me with all I want; but I should hate to have to
tell him that I had filled a poor demented being with bird-shot just
because the tantalizing odor of my favorite canoeist stew had tempted
him beyond endurance."

"How do you think the beggar ever did it?" asked Jerry at this juncture,
as he craned his neck to look straight upward.

"I think I can see how. I noticed a cord of some sort. Evidently he had
a hook attached. This he passed over that branch of a tree sticking out
from the top of the bluff, so that the kettle might be kept away from
the face of the cliff as it rose, and in that way prevented from
spilling its coveted contents," replied the one addressed.

"Talk to me about your aeroplanes, that was an ascension to beat the
band! Wow! I had a chill run up and down my spinal column, for I give
you my word, fellows, at first I really thought of ghosts, and that some
invisible agency had reached down and gobbled our supper."

"And I thought I was dreaming--that I'd fallen asleep by the fire, and
you had eaten up all the stew, while Bluff was throwing up the empty
kettle to practice shooting at, like he did our wash-basin that other
time," admitted Will.

"And that chap was angling for the bale of our kettle while we sat here
and never once suspected what was going on. Say, we're a husky lot of
tenderfeet. Why, some night a thief will come and steal the blankets off
us, and no one be the wiser until morning," declared Bluff, in disgust.

After a while the second kettle of stew was pronounced ready. It was
laughable to see how those four crowded around to protect it against an
invading force; and what suspicious looks they cast upward at the brow
of the innocent little bluff.

But there was no further manifestation of the Presence near them. Jerry
kept an eye on the coffee-pot, and was ready with a keen-edged knife to
immediately proceed against any dangling cord and hook that might come
in sight.

They enjoyed the supper in spite of the uncanny feeling that this
unprovoked and early attack had produced.

"Who was it predicted that the odors of our cooking would stir up the
old hermit, and awaken his appetite for the things of the civilized
world? Frank, it was you. And sure enough that's what came to pass. He's
got tired of feeding on roots and birds' eggs and fish," remarked Will,
feeling better after he had quieted the gnawings of his appetite.

"Provided that it was the so-called wild man," said Frank, quietly.

At which remark there was a chorus of cries.

"It certainly must have been a human being and not an animal. Even an
educated ape or chimpanzee could never have had that cord and hook and
managed it as this chap did. What do you mean by doubting it, Frank?"
demanded Bluff.

"Yes, tell us what you've been thinking?" asked Will.

"Say, that gives me an idea. I wager I can guess what he's got in mind,"
ventured Jerry, looking exceedingly wise.

"Well, go on then," from Frank.

"The two runaway tramps!"

"Jerry, that head of yours will get you into trouble some day. You are
too good a guesser," laughed Frank.

"Then that was it? You think the tramps have come over here to Wildcat
Island to hide while the sheriff is hunting the woods high and low for
them? I declare, if that's so it means warm times in store for us,"
exclaimed Will.

"Talk to me about your war scares, what could equal that? Why, we'll
capture the blooming hoboes, and let Mr. Dodd know there are others
besides himself who can do things."

"What makes you think that?" pursued Bluff, who always wanted to know
the why and wherefore of everything, he being the Doubting Thomas of the

"I may be mistaken, remember; for I'm just speculating, you see. In the
first place, I doubt if our wild man would be provided with such a
convenient cord and hook. Then again I saw that arm, and it was covered
with a sleeve that looked wonderfully like that of the taller tramp's
coat, a dun-colored affair."

"Bravo! Frank's logic carries the day. I'm going to take it for granted
that we are entertaining angels unawares on this blessed old island,"
cried Will.

"Angels?" snorted Jerry. "Talk to me about that, will you? They must
have had their wings singed, then, or else they'd have flown down and
scooped our grub instead of using a measly old string. Angels! Wow!
Will's turning poet as well as artist."

"I know one thing, boys, and that is we'll have to keep watch and watch
every night from now on. If the tramps are here they'll steal everything
we own, given half a chance," from Bluff.

"That's a good idea, and we'll arrange that one must be on guard for two
hours at a stretch. Besides, it will make the camp seem more military,"
said Frank.

"I rather like the idea, and ask to be appointed the first keeper of the
watch," spoke up Will.

An arrangement was soon completed. By means of a system each of the boys
would be on duty as a guard two hours of the night. This would cover the
time from ten to six, which allowed the sleepers ample time to

They passed a pleasant evening despite the many suspicious glances cast
aloft from time to time. Finally Jerry began to yawn.

"Say, fellows, as I'm the last to go on duty, I guess I'll turn in.
To-morrow I mean to collect a lot of hemlock browse for a bed; but
to-night it's me on the cold, hard ground, with only my good blanket
under and above."

"Not a bit of it, old chap. Here's where my surprise comes in. Now, you
and our good friend Bluff here have been sighing for a chance to prove
which one possesses the biggest lungs. I'm going to give you a chance to
make good," announced Frank.

"Hurrah! count me in, whatever it is," exclaimed Bluff, jumping up, as
Frank began to undo the mysterious bundle that had excited their
curiosity earlier.

"Here you see a couple of the finest rubber air-cushion mattresses ever
made for the use of campers. Each can be extended so that two can sleep
on it. Now, I'm going to spread these out here ready. You two will lie
down on your chests, and wait till I give the signal, and then blow for
all you're worth. The first one whose mattress is filled with air will
be proclaimed the victor," said Frank.

Jerry and Bluff threw themselves prostrate instantly, eager for the
trial, and each filled with a determination to settle the matter for all
time. They did not see the sly wink Frank gave Will, nor hear the
chuckling sound of amusement that escaped from the lips of that camper
as he half turned his head away.


Frank stood there as referee and timed the contestants, who puffed and
blew with all the vigor of their young lungs, until both mattresses
stood out just as full as they could stand.

"How is it?" wheezed Bluff, looking up, red in the face.

"Do I win?" gasped Jerry, too exhausted to do more than roll over.

"Gentlemen, it has been a remarkable contest all around. I am forced to
call it a draw for to-night, as you both came under the wire at the same
time. It is simply wonderful!" announced the judge, gravely.

Will mutely held up his hands, but whether to express his admiration for
the capacity of the contestants' lungs or for the astonishing ingenuity
of Frank, could not be told. He knew that they would never have any
trouble about getting those two air mattresses filled each night, for
the eager rivals could hardly wait for turning-in time to come, so
anxious were they for a new trial of lung capacity.

Frank had not camped in Maine for nothing. He afterwards admitted in
secret to Will that he had witnessed a similar trick being played upon a
couple of guides, and had never forgotten it.

"Just you wait until to-morrow night, and I'll show you," grunted Jerry,
as he rolled over to woo the goddess of slumber.

"Then you'll have to go a notch better than you did just now, that's
what," was the pugnacious reply of his rival.

"How does it go, Jerry?" asked Will, whose watch came first, and who was
handling Frank's gun a bit nervously, for he was a poor shot.

"Fine. Frank, you deserve the united thanks of the club for thinking of
such things as these. Talk to me about your bed of hemlock browse, it's
all good enough to read about, but this is solid comfort!" said Jerry.

"That settles it. They must be great when such a simple-minded sportsman
as you would praise them. Here goes, fellows," and Frank lay down.

Ere long the camp was quiet, save for the strenuous breathing of Bluff,
who persisted in lying on his back, and gently snoring. Will sat out his
watch and then awoke Frank, whose turn came after him.

It was just about midnight when he took up his station where he could
see all that went on in the camp. He meant to keep a good watch,
because, if those rascally tramps were really on the island it was more
than possible that they would sooner or later try to make another raid
on the larder of the boys in order to satisfy their hunger.

The moon had risen long before, but was hidden behind a bank of heavy

Frank was trying to figure out how he ought to act under such
conditions. He had said that he did not want to do the tramps bodily
injury if it could be prevented, but at the same time there might arise
conditions that would necessitate prompt and severe measures of

He would not like to shoot unless the object of his anger were at a good
distance so that the bird-shot would not severely injure the object of
his attentions.

Frank had his back against a tree, and could observe the entire camp as
he sat there with the minutes passing. Strange noises came from the
interior of the island, but this lad had spent so many nights under
canvas that most of them were familiar to him as the cries of owls or
nighthawks, perhaps quarreling raccoons or an opossum objecting to a
rival's attentions to his mate.

But when he had been sitting there fully an hour Frank's attention was
called to a slight movement in the bushes on one side of the camp.

Thrilled with expectancy he watched the leaves, and kept his fingers
upon the triggers of the gun that lay across his knees, ready for an


Again the bushes moved. Undoubtedly there was some person or animal
advancing in the direction of the twin tents, with the intention of
securing a coveted article of food.

Frank never moved, only watched, and presently he chuckled softly to
himself, for he had caught a glimpse of two yellow, glowing balls of
light that shone in the semi-darkness under the trees like globes of

"Our first wildcat, come to see what sort of fellows have invaded its
territory. Well, I believe in giving all strangers a warm reception, and
here's to you, old chap."

As he thought thus he gently began to elevate his gun. The invader
meanwhile had continued to advance until its whole crouching figure was
plainly outlined.


The crash of the gun brought the other three out of the tents in a mad
scramble, under the impression that either the wild man or the two
hoboes had invaded the camp.

"Where are they? Let me get a crack at the scamps!" shouted Jerry.

There was an angry snarl, and he dodged just in time to escape the
furious leap of a wildcat that had been crouching on some part of the
lower bluff, entirely unseen by the sentinel.

Jerry was as quick as lightning with his gun. He whirled around and let
go almost before any of the others had discovered what object it was he
had dodged.

"Talk to me about that, will you," exclaimed the marksman, as the
riddled "varmint" tried to leap again, and fell back to breathe its
last; "where was Frank all the while--what did he fire at, tell me?"

"This," remarked the other, quietly, stepping forward and picking up a
monster of a bobcat that had lain, unnoticed by Jerry, amid the leaves
still covering the ground from the previous Fall.

"Two of the critters! What do you know about that--a pair the very first
night! Well, I reckon this old island was well named, after all. No
wonder the boys never wanted to land here, even in the daytime. But I'd
rather it was cats than wild men, or thieving hoboes."

After a search had failed to reveal any more of the "pestiferous cats,"
as Jerry delighted in calling them, the three boys crawled back under
their blankets again, for the night air felt chilly, after being
snuggled down so warmly.

No more alarms came that night, and later on the sky cleared, allowing
the moon full sway.

As daylight advanced long before Jerry's watch was over, it became a
part of his duty to resuscitate the fire, and begin to get ready for

They had laid out numerous things to be done on this day. First of all
it was decided that two of them must hunt in company; and even those
left in camp were not to separate more than they could help. Of course
it might be necessary for one of the stay-at-homes to launch a canoe and
try the fishing, if they expected to extend the variety of food in the
larder; but there must be no solitary wandering about the strange

Frank and Jerry were chosen to make an exploration that day. They could
start in and easily go around the island, exploring every part of it,
and learning considerable about its secrets.

If the tramps were really hiding here, possibly some evidence of their
presence would be found, the embers of a fire it might be.

Frank was somewhat provoked about the happening of the preceding night,
and even thought it might be advisable to move the camp away from that
bluff. The others convinced him, however, that they were just as safe
there as in any other locality, and so he did not persist in this idea.

He did climb to the top of the bluff to examine the ground. Here Jerry
joined him after a little.

"Any signs?" asked the latter, swinging over to where Frank knelt.

"Plenty. Here they crouched and watched us."

"Then there were more than one?" asked Jerry, eagerly.

"You can see the marks of two separate pair of shoes; and one of them
small enough to belong to your Waddy Walsh. I think you said he was a
squatty chap, and used to boast of his delicate hands and feet,"
continued Frank, pointing.

"You're right. And that settles one thing. The hoboes stole our kettle,
and not any wild man. I reckon they're a little afraid of us, seeing
we're armed, and they may not be. Wonder what they thought we were
shooting in the night?"

"All I hope is they'll give us a wide berth after this. If they keep on
trying to make us feed them, it's going to spoil our outing some, I
fear," remarked Frank, as he started to descend the bluff again.

After a serious consultation the party separated.

Frank and Jerry started off along the shore, heading to the west.

"If all goes well look for us some time before sunset. We've got a lunch
along and want to do the job up brown while we're at it, you know," said
Frank, as he turned to wave his two comrades farewell.

"Good luck!" called Bluff, who was washing the dishes.


"I've got you as you appear starting off on the great exploring
expedition, fellows. If by any evil chance you never show up again, that
picture will be cherished by your relatives," called Will.

"Talk to me about your croakers, will you? That's a pleasant send-off,
now," said Jerry, as he fell in beside his chum, and lost sight of the
cheery camp.

They found the going rather rough at times, and what with climbing over
obstacles and cutting a passage through creepers that trailed down from
the trees at such times as they pushed in from the shore, progress was
rather slow.

At noon they had not gone more than a third of the way around the

"Here's a good place to rest. I move we sit down, eat our grub, and take
a few winks. I didn't get much sleep last night, and feel dopy,"
remarked Jerry.

Truth to tell, Frank was not unwilling to comply. He was sleepy himself,
and the April sun seemed unusually warm at this time of day.

"Just as you say. That snack of crackers and cheese and cold tongue
would strike me about right. Down it is, then," he replied, dropping on
the green grass.

They drank from the lake when thirsty, for the water was pure and cold.
After finishing their frugal meal the two lay back to rest. Frank
watched the clouds passing over for a time, but finally his eyes closed
and he slept.

"Here, get up!" he heard some one say close to his ear.

Jerry was yawning and stretching. The sun seemed to be pretty well down
the first half of the western heavens.

"How long have we been asleep here?" demanded Jerry, curiously.

"I'm ashamed to say several hours. It's now three," laughed his comrade.

"Then we'd better be on the jump if we expect to get around the blessed
old island to-day. I won't hear of going back after starting out with
such a grand hurrah."

Frank was quite of the same opinion. Accordingly the two pedestrians
began to move along their way, following the shore line save in certain
places where something out of the usual run attracted their attention.

All the while they were on the keen watch for any signs that would
indicate the presence of human beings on the island.

Being able to keep track of their progress by watching the shore of the
mainland, they knew when they had reached a point half way around.

"Now we're on the home stretch," announced Jerry, as he looked over the
lake in the direction of its southern terminus, not more than a quarter
of a mile off.

"But the worst is yet to come," laughed Frank, simply to hear Jerry
groan, and not because he really believed it to be the case.

A short time later they were tempted to enter the depths of the timber
again to investigate some curious formation that Frank believed might be
an Indian mound.

"I'd like to dig into it some time, and satisfy my curiosity," he

"It makes a bully support for a fellow's tired back, I know," said
Jerry, as he spread himself upon the ground.

"Well, take a little rest, then, while I examine that other rise over
there. It looks larger than this one, and if my suspicions prove true
there ought to be a jolly lot of relics dug out of these mounds."

"All right, Frank, I'm agreeable. Don't forget me, and go back to camp
alone, you know," said Jerry, laughing, as he stretched himself out.

"I declare if the fellow isn't thinking of taking another nap. Well, we
may see fit to keep you on duty the whole of to-night, so prepare

With which warning Frank walked away. He arrived at the larger mound,
and was so deeply interested in examining the same that the minutes
crept along unheeded. He heard the cries of hawks quarreling in some
nearby tree; then again sounds as of small animals snarling came from
the brush beyond; but Frank paid little heed to any of these things.

Finally he aroused himself.

"Come, this won't do. I must get back to Jerry, and we'll have to do
some hustling to reach the camp by dusk," he exclaimed.

When he arrived at the other mound he was surprised not to find his chum
lying there sleeping. Jerry had vanished in a most incomprehensible

At first, Frank thought the other might be trying to play one of his
practical jokes upon him. He called, but there came back no answer.

Then he dropped down to examine the ground, having been tutored by the
Penobscot Indians of the northern woods; and, finding tracks, he knew
that the worst had happened. Jerry had undoubtedly fallen into the hands
of their foes!


"Bend your head a little. Now, look pleasant, as a fellow should after
slaying a couple of ferocious wildcats. Ready? Then here she goes!"


Bluff had been posing, with Jerry's gun in his hands. At his feet,
artistically stretched out, were the two defunct invaders of the night
camp. Will had his camera in position, and was taking a snapshot of the
mighty Nimrod.

"After all it's only a big fake, for I never had a hand in the killing
at all," declared Bluff, with a laugh.

"Fake? No more than most of the pictures you see, where some well-known
person is photographed with a big bear at his feet, or perhaps it's a
moose. I guess I know. But it gives me a picture, and neither Jerry nor
Frank would bother posing. You're really the only accommodating pard in
camp, Bluff," remarked Will.

"Oh, rats! you only say that because you can smooth me over, and get me
to consent to helping you out in these dreadful frauds of pictures. I
reckon I'll never hear the last of it if Mame Crosby ever learns how I
stood for this, when others claimed the game," grunted Bluff.

"But I thank you ever so much, old fellow; you're so obliging," said

"Well, I'd like to get one of the boats out, and try the fish. What are
you going to do, now?" asked the other.

"I'll tell you. I've got some flashlight contrivances here that have
been used successfully, they tell me, in making wild game photograph
themselves. Just think how great that would be. The thing is set with a
sort of trigger, you see. As the 'coon or other beast creeps up along
the log to get the piece of meat, he crosses a string that sets the
flash afire. It's all over in a second, and there's your nice picture of
Mr. Coon sitting up and looking startled."

"Huh! you believe you can do all that, do you?" asked Bluff, the

"Why not, when others have met with great success. I've read up on the
subject, and think I've got it all down pat. Anyhow, no harm done in

"Of course not. Well, I'm going to leave this gun of Jerry's in your
charge, as I'll hardly need it out on the lake. First I expect to dig
some worms, and then try for the perch, just to see if they've wakened
up from their winter's nap."

"You won't go far away, I hope?" remarked Will, a little nervously.

"See that point yonder? Well, off that I believe the perch are waiting
for me. I remember catching a bully mess there last Spring when several
of us came down here fishing. If you want me at any time just give a
call and I'll be with you in a jiffy."

So Bluff went off to dig his worms in a promising spot, while Will began
to get things in readiness for the clever little trick he intended to
play upon B'rer 'Coon or Mr. 'Possum.

Half an hour later Bluff was anchored off the point. He found the perch
ravenous, as they usually are after a winter's sojourn under the ice;
and it kept him busy right along pulling in the wriggling, barred
poachers, or baiting the hooks they denuded.

It was getting along toward noon when he fancied he detected the odor of
cooking in the air.

"Let him have a try at it; I guess it's up to Will to show how much he
has learned in the cooking line since last Fall. He's a green hand, and
it's about time he took hold. I'm comfortable here. When grub's ready
he'll call me," was what the sly Bluff was saying to himself, as he kept
his back turned toward the camp, and continued to tempt the perch.

"Hey! you, Bluff!" came a shout just then.

"What d'ye want, bothering me in that way?" demanded the fisherman.

"For goodness' sake come ashore and give me a hand. I can't find any
more dishes, and the pesky thing still keeps bubbling over. Come quick,
or we'll be smothered under a mountain of it!" shouted the one on shore.

"Now what under the sun has the fellow been up to?" said Bluff to
himself, as he pulled in his anchor, and used the paddle to urge the
canoe ashore.

When he strode into the camp a minute or so later he stared, and then
burst into a shout of laughter as he dropped upon the ground and rolled

"Well, I don't see anything so funny about it," declared Will, in an
aggrieved tone as he looked at the various kettles and dishes heaped
high with boiled rice, and the kettle on the fire still pouring up its
white contents like a miniature volcano in action. "I never knew rice
would expand like that. Why, it's dreadful the way it keeps boiling
over. What can we do to hold the stuff?"

"Say, how much did you put in the kettle?" gasped Bluff, when he could

"All there was, and even then I wondered if there would be any left for
the rest."

Bluff acted as though he would have a fit.

"All there was," he shouted, "that beats anything I ever heard. And
Frank said the grocery-man had doubled his order, and put up _four
pounds_! Say, we'll have rice every way under the sun up to the day we
pull up stakes and get out of here. Still she boils! If you don't take
care the blooming thing'll put the fire out."

Finally he condescended to help poor Will, and some of the rice was
scooped out of the kettle, relieving the congestion. Still, what to do
with the vast quantity of half-cooked rice was a question calculated to
appall Will during the balance of the day.

He finally compromised by secretly burying a large portion where he
calculated none of his chums would find it again.

Bluff assisted in getting some lunch ready, and Will was very meek after
that experience. He grimly determined that he would pay more attention
to what the others were doing when preparing meals, and by degrees learn
the secret of cooking.

"Did you get your little game trap set?" asked Bluff after they had
eaten, and lay around taking it easy.

"Everything is ready for the coming of the night. I'll expect to find
the cheap little camera which I brought along for that especial purpose,
doing its work. No matter, it's worth a trial, anyway. Nothing ventured,
nothing gained," remarked Will.

"Rice, for instance," ventured Bluff, turning his head to look at the
great snow-white heap that covered a spread-out newspaper nearby, since
they had to empty the cooking utensils which Will had filled one after
the other.

"Oh! I admit that was a fine joke on me, all right, and I suppose I'll
have to just stand the digs of the boys for a while. But it's spurred me
on, and sooner or later I'm bound to be a _chef_ worth mentioning. I
guess they haven't found any sort of game on their trip around the
island, do you?"

"I heard no shot to tell of it," admitted Bluff. He was lying on his
back and apparently ready for a nap.

"It was some hot out there on the water, son, and I'm inclined to be
dopy. Please keep on guard while I take a dozen winks," he said, pulling
his hat over his face.

His dozen winks stretched out for some two hours. During this time Will
busied himself in reading a little book on camp cookery which he had
brought along. It looked as though he were about to study up on the
subject in earnest.

Finally Bluff gave a grunt, began to move and stretch himself, and then
sat up.

"Hello! I guess I must have been asleep," he remarked.

Will drew out his little nickel watch and surveyed it.

"Two hours and thirteen minutes to the dot. A few winks, eh? When am I
going to get my chance to indulge?" he demanded, sternly.

"Now, if the spirit moves. But I see you have been busy 'conning' that
volume of camp recipes. Any dishes that call for rice there, because
we've got it and to spare. I always liked boiled rice, with sugar and
milk, even the condensed kind; but there can be too much of a good
thing. I'll be like the old dominie soon whose people fed him on rabbit
every place he went."

"How was that?" asked Will.

"Never heard that story? Well, you see, they knew he liked rabbit, so
every place he ate, his host made sure to have his favorite dish. Of
course the good man hated to tell them that he was getting sick of the
taste of rabbit; so what d'ye think he finally hit on as a delicate way
of getting a change?"

"I give it up; now tell me," declared Will.

"When he found it before him the next time he bowed his head and this
was the grace he said: 'Of rabbits young, of rabbits old; of rabbits
hot, of rabbits cold; of rabbits tender and rabbits tough, I thank the
Lord we've had enough!'"

"That must have fetched them, all right. Now, if any one puts up a howl
here about rice, I'm going to bury the balance of it, mark my words.
What ails you, Bluff?" demanded Will, as his companion started half to
his knees, and crouching there stared through the leaves of the
low-growing trees that concealed the camp from the lake.

"Look yonder, and see! H'sh! not another word!" he murmured.

Will crept to a place beside him, and, finding an opening, also used his
eyes to advantage. What he saw would have annoyed any of the boys,
considering the fact that they had hoped for a period of peace while
camping on Wildcat Island.

A large rowboat was just passing that side of the island. It had come
from up the lake somewhere, and was filled with a crowd of rough-looking

"Pet Peters and his crowd again. They gave us all the trouble they could
last Fall when we were in camp above the lumber docks, and now they've
hunted us up again to annoy us," breathed Will, as soon as he saw who
occupied the rowboat. "But Andy Lasher isn't with them--he's away on a
visit, somebody told me."

Bluff had reached out and picked up Jerry's shotgun.

"They seem to be looking in here pretty hard," continued Will.

"I guess they know we're here, and they've got some mean trick up their
sleeve; but possession's nine points of the law, and we don't get out to
please those rowdies," said Bluff between set teeth.


"Do you believe they mean to land here?" asked Will, his voice trembling
a bit.

"I did; but it looks as if they've thought better of it, for now the old
boat's moving on. They'll land, all right, and try some game on us
to-night, likely," answered the other, who had pushed the gun forward as
if meaning to make use of it should the necessity arise.

Bluff was a reckless fellow at times, and inclined to be fiery, though,
like most of his kind, his temper was quickly subdued, and he easily
became repentant.

"But perhaps they're only down here for a row; or, it may happen that
they mean to get a mess of those fine perch," suggested Will.

"Perhaps, but all the same, I saw that old tent of theirs sticking up in
the bow of the boat," declared Bluff, positively.

"Oh! then that settles it. Well, it looks as though we might have a
lively enough time of it, after all. What with the wild man, those two
thievish tramps, the wildcats that live on the island, and now, last but
not least, the Pet Peters crowd that used to train with Andy Lasher. Can
we ever go anywhere and be let alone?" complained Will, who loved peace
above all things.

"Well, I don't mind it much. We came out for some excitement, and it
looks as if we were going to get our fill," said Bluff, who was built
more upon the adventurous model than his companion.

They watched the boat as long as it remained in sight.

"Seemed to me they were heading in for the shore just before they
disappeared," suggested Bluff, finally, as he turned and looked at his

"I admit that it looked that way to me. Then we might as well take it
for granted that they're going to make camp on the island. I wonder----"
mused Will, fingering his pet camera reflectively.

"What now?" demanded the other suspiciously.

"The idea struck me that perhaps I might creep close enough to their
camp to get a snapshot. You know those I have of that crowd are in
sections, either running away, or doing some sort of stunt. I'd like to
have one that showed them up seated around their fire, and planning

"You'll do nothing of the sort, my lad, at least not while I'm left in
charge of the camp. What sort of fellow are you, anyway? You profess to
be afraid of the crazy man that is said to be on this island, and you
know those brutes yonder would be only too glad to beat you up if you
fell into their hands; yet you propose spying on them without a thought
of the danger."

"Oh! but that was to get a picture, you see," explained Will, as though
such a laudable motive might be sufficient to make any one valiant.

Bluff looked at him, and shook his head.

"They'll sure have you over in that sanitarium at Merrick, before long,
for you show all the signs of getting looney. I tell you what I'm going
to do," he said.

"Well, go on. You're hardly complimentary, you know; but I consider the

"While you remain here, I'm going to climb up to the top of this bluff.
Perhaps I can get a sight of their landing-place. It may even be that I
shall discover signs of our two pards making their weary way around the
end of the island, yonder."

"And if there is a good chance for a view, call me up with my camera,
will you?"

"Sure. You settle down here. I'll take the gun along. I can defend the
camp just as well up there as below. Don't worry about that, my boy."

And Bluff started off.

When he reached the top of the abrupt rise he did have a splendid view
of the lake and the distant shore, but could see little of the island.

"No good for taking pictures, pard. Just you stay down there, and I'll
join you after I've looked through my marine glasses a little," he
called down.

Frank had brought along a good pair of glasses belonging to his father;
and with these Bluff now scanned the shore line as far as he could see
it. He was in hopes of discovering some sign of the two explorers around
the point; or possibly locating the camp of the Peters crowd.

The big rowboat he did see on the beach, and there were signs of smoke
among the trees close by, so that he decided where the town bully and
his followers had taken up their temporary quarters.

"Wonder if they dare attack us in the night?" was what Bluff was saying
to himself as he once more commenced to descend the bluff.

His mind went back to their previous experiences with these same boys.
The rowdies had tried to burn their camp; they had stolen whatever they
could lay hands on, and made themselves disagreeable until the
conversion of their leader, at that time Andy Lasher, by Jerry, who had
saved his life when he was caught under a fallen tree, had changed the
complexion of things.

Under the rule of the new leader, Pet Peters, these fellows would be
equal to any deed of misconduct just so far as they dared. The fact that
the four chums never went into camp without guns of some sort might make
them cautious; but that would be the only thing.

Will bombarded him with questions when he came down.

"Did you see Frank and Jerry?--was the camp of those fellows in
sight?--could I get any sort of picture, if I climbed up?" so he went on
until Bluff called a halt.

"Nothing doing at all. Just stay here where you're well off. We've got
our hands full to guard this camp. I'm wondering what keeps the boys so
long, that's all," he said.

But the minutes lengthened into hours and still there were no signs of
the explorers. Bluff and Will started to get supper ready. Neither of
them felt very gay, for a shadow seemed to be resting upon the camp.

The sun had set behind the mountains in the west, and with the gathering
of the dusk their fears increased.

"Something dreadful must have happened to them," said Will, looking

Bluff tried to laugh it off, saying:

"Humbug! What could happen to those two chaps? They're up in all that
pertains to the forest, and they've got a gun along, too. It's you and I
that may well be called the babes in the woods. We know precious little
between us; but you just bet nobody can give us points on how to cook

But Will was too much worried to even show signs of anger or reproach.

"What if they don't come at all? What if both fellows disappear
mysteriously as if they were swallowed up in the earth? We'll feel
pretty tough telling their parents the sad news. I kind of wish now we
hadn't come," he remarked dolefully.

"Just let up on that tune, will you? Think of the pictures you have
already secured, and the others coming. Why, the boys might have been
delayed by a dozen things. Make up your mind they're all right and will
pop in on us at any minute."

But despite Bluff's attempt to cheer his mate up, Will kept watching the
bushes in the light of the rousing fire they kept going, as if hoping
against hope that his prediction of evil might not be fulfilled.

They waited until the supper began to get cold.

"We'll have to eat by ourselves, I reckon, partner. Those other chaps
have given us the cold shake for just now. But they'll be along after
awhile, never fear," said Bluff, putting on a bold face, even while his
heart was troubled.

Will was seriously alarmed, but he tried not to show it, out of pride.
So there the two poor fellows sat as the time passed, trying to assume a
nonchalance that neither of them really felt.

Twice they started up as some sound arose to startle them. Once it was a
shrill cry from the neighboring woods, and Bluff laughed to recognize
the solemn "whoo-whoo" of an owl; the other time it was some equally
harmless source from which the alarming sound sprung.

The idea of spending the night by themselves was far from pleasant.
Neither of them wanted to sit up, and yet they dared not lie down and
try to sleep.

"This isn't so very much fun," grumbled Bluff, as he held on to the gun
and continued to stare about him at the changing shadows that seemed to
flutter around the outskirts of the camp.

It had been a question of dispute between them as to whether they should
keep up a good fire or allow it to dwindle down. Will was for having a
roaring blaze that would serve to warn all evildoers and trespassers
that they were awake and on the watch. On his part Bluff declared it
would draw trouble; so they compromised by allowing the fire to die
partly down.

"Say, it must be getting awful late," remarked Will, stifling a yawn.

"Why don't you lie down and get some sleep, then?" expostulated the
other; "I'll stand guard, and nothing is going to happen."

"Of course not, but you see I know I couldn't sleep a wink thinking
about those two poor fellows, and wondering what has happened. Do you
suppose they could be drowned, Bluff?" asked Will, in an awe-struck

"Aw, get out with your gloomy ideas. Drowned--those fellows drowned--not
on your life. They have some good reason for not showing up. I don't
know what it is, but you'll see when they do come. Don't get timid,

"Timid! Who's showing the white feather, I'd like to know. Why, I'm not
afraid of anything that could happen here. You never saw me shake unless
it was with the cold. What is there to fear, after all? Just lie down if
you feel like it, and---- What's that?"

Will gave vent to a half-muffled yell when a sudden vivid flash
dispelled the darkness around them, as if lightning had cut the gloom of


Frank was sorely perplexed. He felt sure that Jerry must have fallen
into the hands of some enemies while he was busily engaged in examining
the second Indian mound. Perhaps it might be that he had even heard the
low cry of his chum when the others seized upon him, but in his
ignorance had supposed it to be the call of a bird in the brush.

He tried to read the signs the best he could.

"There's that same small footprint, showing that the two tramps have
been here. Were they watching for us, or did we just happen to drop in
upon some favorite hiding-place of theirs? They saw a chance to get my
pard while I was away with the gun. And now what will they do with him?"

So he pondered as he stood there looking around at the dense foliage
that gave no hint as to where these lawless characters could have taken
poor Jerry.

Frank searched high and low as the minutes passed, but without any
success. He saw the coming of night with uneasiness.

"This is a nice pickle for me. Trying to warn the others, and I fall
into the pit myself the first one. But they wouldn't dare hurt Jerry. We
haven't done them any harm. What they really want, I imagine, consists
of our guns and food. Then they could hold out for a long campaign in
the woods, and snap their fingers at the sheriff and his posse. Like as
not, in the morning they'll try to open communications with us and offer
Jerry in exchange for our things."

The thought gave him pain. Never before had he known just how much he
thought of the missing boy.

Then he remembered that he had two other chums.

"They'll be worried too. Perhaps I'd better be getting back to camp to
relieve their distress of mind. It will be all right in the morning, no
doubt. And there's always a chance that Jerry may be able to give the
rascals the slip. He can duck first-class when he wants to, whether it's
playing hockey or prisoner's base."

Getting what small consolation he could out of this, Frank now set about
heading for the camp. He had ventured far into the interior of the
island, and only for the fact that the stars were shining brightly
above, he might have further mixed matters up by getting thoroughly lost

There were times when he found it all he could do to push his way
through the dense vegetation which obstructed his passage on every side.

But having taken his bearings, he knew he was slowly but surely drawing
nearer the point where their camp lay. The bluff stood up against the
star-bedecked sky at such times as he found a clear spot and could catch
a view.

Frank happened to have an unusually large supply of matches with him. He
always carried some when in the woods, but that morning he had taken up
quite a bunch from the receptacle Jerry had made to hold them near the
entrance to their tent.

Consequently he was able to strike one every little while when some
peculiarly knotty problem presented itself for solution.

It was while standing in a little glade that he ignited one of the
matches in order to glance at his watch, more than anything else. His
attention was immediately attracted toward something on the ground.

"The ashes of a fire, without a doubt. That proves the presence of human
beings on the island; and I guess an escaped lunatic would never be
guilty of making a fire. Oh! those two hoboes are here, all right. If I
could only get word to Mr. Dodd now, he would surround the island, and
capture them easily. But if they hurt my chum they'll pay dear for it,"
he muttered.

The ashes were stone cold, as he discovered upon placing his hand upon
them, Indian style. Perhaps a red native of the North Woods could have
even told just how long it had been since fire lingered among the dead
embers; but it was more than the boy was able to do.

Again he pushed forward. Rounding the bluff, he now headed straight for
the camp.

Perhaps he found himself entertaining a desolate hope that, after all,
Jerry might have played a little trick on him, running off, and making
camp while he lingered. Frank knew about the old game of "holding the
bag," where boys coax a green comrade to go out into the dark woods far
from home, and leave him holding a sack over the end of a hollow log
while they pretend to scare up the rabbits or other game, but in reality
go home; but he did not think Jerry would play such a lark when things
looked so serious around them.

He wondered why he did not see something of the fire.

Surely nothing could have happened to the two in camp? That would be
worse and worse, for it was bad enough to think of Jerry in the hands of
those rascally hoboes, without adding to the horror.

Now he was crawling up near the place under the shelter of the bluff,
craning his neck eagerly for some sign of the boys. At first he could
not see them. The fire was burning low, and that was a sign he did not

Frank began to feel a cold sensation creep over him. It was beginning to
seem so sinister and awe-inspiring that he was deeply impressed.

Then he caught the low buzz of voices, and, listening, was cheered to
recognize the tones of Will as he made his boast.

When that sudden amazing flash came, Frank crouched there as if
transformed into a pillar of salt, like Lot's wife. For the life of him
he could not understand what had happened. He thought he heard a
scuffling sound on the other side of the camp, but was not sure. Then
Will spoke up, his voice quivering with alarm:

"Oh! what was that, Bluff? Did any one shoot, or was it lightning? I
didn't hear the thunder, did you?"

"Hang the luck, that gave me a bad start, as sure as you live. And to
think, after all, it was only that beastly old flash you arranged to
make some animal take a photograph of himself! A few times like that and
we'll both be fit to go over to the Merrick Asylum, that's what."

"My camera set for a flashlight picture? Why, of course! How silly for
me to be startled! But I should have remembered it in a few seconds,
anyhow. Thank you for reminding me of it. And it worked, you notice,
Bluff. You laughed at the idea, but I guess I've got the 'coon's
picture, all right," laughed Will, hysterically.

"What's that over on the other side, yonder? I would swear I saw
something moving there. Listen, and tell me if you can hear him
breathing before I let go!" exclaimed Bluff, excitedly.

"Hold on there, Bluff, don't you dare fire! It's me, and I'm hiding
behind this tree for fear of being punctured by a load of shot!" called
a voice.

Will gave vent to a gurgle of delight, and seemed to try to hug himself.

"Thank goodness, it's Frank. They've returned at last to a cold supper.
Welcome home, boys. We've been looking for you this long while," he

"Why, he's alone!" exclaimed Bluff, in surprise.

"Yes, and I've got some bad news for you, fellows," said Frank, coming

"About Jerry?" demanded Bluff.

"Yes, he's gone!" continued the newcomer, dejectedly.

"Gone!" echoed Bluff.

"Goodness gracious! what's happened?" ejaculated Will, clutching hold of
the newcomer's sleeve, as though his knees suddenly grew weak.

"Disappeared, and I'm seriously afraid that those miserable hoboes have
caught him," declared Frank.

"Caught him--but they're not cannibals--they couldn't eat poor Jerry!"
came from the bewildered Will, at which Bluff gave a contemptuous laugh.

"Why, of course not, silly. Frank means they've caught Jerry, intending
to make him valuable some way; ain't that it, Frank?" he said.

"Just what I mean. They may try to dicker with us for some provisions. I
rather guess they're some shy in that line. Or, it may be they want us
to clear out. Any way you fix it the thing has a bad look, and promises
to break up our pleasant little outing."

"It's a beastly shame. I'd just like to get hold of those tramps.
Wouldn't they be headed for the lock-up in Centerville in a hurry!"
growled Bluff.

Frank looked at him seriously as if contemplating some move.

"Well," said he presently, "I don't know but what it will come to it
that you can have a hand in their removal."

"What d'ye mean?" demanded the other, instantly.

"It may be that between now and morning I'll ask you to make a little

"Looking up the hoboes?" asked Will, aghast.

"Well, hardly. This trip would be by water, and in a canoe," replied

"Oh! I catch on, all right. You think some one ought to go back to town
and let the sheriff know that his game can be found here on Wildcat
Island?" said Bluff.

"Just so, but please lower your voice; there's no telling who may be
hiding in the bushes around here. Those hoboes want something we've got,
and they mean to have it if possible. Perhaps it may be food, and,
again, I've thought, they may envy us the possession of guns."

"Well, I think the idea is a good one; somebody ought to go," pursued

"Then it ought to be you. Who can paddle a canoe better than you, Bluff?
Besides, Frank is needed here on the island. Something might come up
that neither you nor I could settle," remarked Will.

"I suppose so. Let me know what you decide, Frank, and you'll find me
willing," continued Bluff.

For answer the other simply squeezed his hand. He was considerably
worried over the mysterious absence of Jerry, and realized that the game
they were playing was a much more serious one than any that had as yet
claimed their attention. These disreputable rascals were desperate; they
had done something calculated to send them to the penitentiary for a
term of years, and would try their best to avoid punishment.

"There's one thing good, Bluff, if you do go: you won't have to paddle
along in the dark," said Will, presently.

The others glanced toward the east, where the light of the moon was just
beginning to appear along the horizon.

Even as they stood there and talked in low tones the silvery face of the
moon pushed up into view. Being some days past her full, she was shorn
of a portion of her circuit; but still promised a flood of light during
the balance of the night.

Somehow even this circumstance seemed to give the boys new

"Things never look quite so bad when you can see what's what," was
Will's way of mentioning this circumstance.

"Suppose you come and sit down, Frank. Both of us are just dying to hear
all about what happened to you and Jerry," said Bluff, presently.

"There's precious little to tell, but what there is you shall hear,
boys. I'm ashamed to say that it was while I was a little ways off,
examining some curious mounds, made perhaps by the old Indians, that
this thing happened to our chum. But let's sit down here, and I'll tell
you all about it."

In a low tone he started to detail the few things that had marked the
circuitous journey of himself and Jerry, while the others hung upon
every word, anxious to hear the thrilling dénouement where he found the
comrade who had shared his adventures, missing.

Just as he reached this point, and they were all worked up over it,
Bluff gave a sudden jump. On the spur of the moment Frank supposed he
had become so nervous over the description that he could no longer sit
still. He was therefore astounded to hear his chum cry out:

"Looky there, boys! As sure as you live, some miserable reptile is
getting away with the canoe I used in fishing, and left pulled up on the


"After him!" exclaimed Frank, as he also sprang to his feet.

"Stop the scoundrel!" echoed Will, a bit slower at getting in motion.

Of course Frank never once dreamed that it could be any other than one
of the two hoboes. They needed various things, and a boat might be among
the number, although evidently they must have had a craft of some sort
in order to reach the island in the beginning.

The moon was half hidden among a few floating clouds that hung close to
the horizon, but gave plenty of light for them to see what was going on.
The bold thief must have been prowling around in the vicinity of the
camp, trying to get a chance to make way with something.

Even as they looked he was shoving the canoe in the water. Then he
tumbled into it rather awkwardly, which was a pretty good sign that he
knew little about balancing in one of the cranky little craft.

"Where are the other boats--get the key to unlock them!" exclaimed

"I've got it right here--this way, fellows!" echoed Bluff.

He was already bending over the bunch of boats consisting of the mate to
the stolen craft and the big double canoe.

Frank snatched up a paddle and bounded over to where his comrades knelt.
As soon as Bluff threw the chain aside the other snatched up the single
canoe, rushed straight to the water's edge and launched it. All this had
taken but a comparatively few seconds to transpire. Indeed, the thief
was not fifty feet away at the time Frank threw himself into the other

Bluff and Will drew up on the edge of the water.

"Mind the camp! Get the guns secure! This may be a clever trick to draw
attention away from the tents! I'll take care of the thief, fellows!"

Frank's voice boomed over the lake. Already he was sending his paddle
deep into the water, and urging his frail craft onward with constantly
increasing speed.

"He's right. We must guard the camp! This way, Will--pick up Frank's
gun, and keep watch. We can have one eye on the lake and the other
here!" called Bluff, who was quick to catch on to a thing once he heard

So they stood there on the border, each making quick turns of the head
in order to see all that went on.

If any thief entered that camp just then, calculating on having a clear
field for his operations, he was likely to soon regret his temerity, for
the boys were tremendously aroused, and Bluff had an impetuous nature.

Meanwhile Frank was pushing onward with furious zeal.

He could see that he was gaining with every stroke. The occupant of the
other canoe seemed to be paddling desperately, but he evidently did not
know just how to get the best results from his labor. His craft wobbled
considerably; that is, it headed from one side to the other.

As a result Frank was rapidly overcoming the distance that had in the
start separated him from the unknown.

He anticipated that at the last the other would try and turn to the
shore with the idea of making a hurried landing. In order to cut him off
from such safety Frank kept in-shore, where he could interpose should
the enemy try that game.

"I've got him!" was what he was saying to himself, over and over.

The thought gave the boy a fierce satisfaction. He now began to wonder
just how he was going to recover the boat. Would the rascal dive
overboard at the last, or put up a desperate fight to retain possession
of his prize?

Frank held to the belief that it was one of the hoboes. That meant he
would find himself opposed to a man accustomed to defying the law and
ready to commit even a crime in order to retain his liberty.

"He's a coward, anyhow, or he wouldn't run that way," he assured
himself, as he worked harder than ever at the paddle.

Now he was close upon the other. Too late the thief tried to head
shoreward, and escape in that way. Frank saw his opportunity to cut him
off; and again the race started straightaway over the moonlit lake.

Those on the shore at the camp could no longer see the rival canoes. The
moonlight was deceptive; and, besides, the fiercely paddling twain had
turned the point.

But a new light of a fire had dawned upon the vision of Frank, which he
knew came from the camp of the Peters crowd; for the boys had, of
course, told him about the arrival of these rough customers on the

"I declare, I believe it must be one of that lot, and not the tramp
after all," he muttered, as he again cut the other off from heading

This put a new face on matters.

He no longer hesitated about coming to conclusions with the thief. If,
after all, it was but a boy like himself, he could not meet him any too
soon to satisfy his desires.

Observing the fellow's manner more closely now, he was not long in
determining upon his identity.

"It's Pet Peters himself. And he's getting worried to know just what
he's going to do to save himself and the stolen canoe, too. I'd better
end this agony with a rush, and here goes!"

So saying, he now headed directly for the other craft, rushing forward
with furious speed that gave the finishing touch to the alarm of the
pursued one.

In vain had Pet tried to outwit him; he had been caught every time, and
forced to keep in the open. Even when he attempted to hold his own
straight ahead it was to see the distance cut down steadily.

Before now he had tried conclusions with Frank Langdon, nor was he
hankering after a repetition of his previous experiences. The memory of
sundry bruises had never entirely left him; and it looked as though the
other might be more angry on this occasion than ever before.

"Hold up there, you thief! I've got you cornered!" called Frank, as he
pushed still nearer.

Pet ceased paddling. After all it was just as well, for he had lost hope
of evading this persistent pursuer in the race.

He clutched his spruce paddle fiercely in his hands. If it came to the
worst he could perhaps use the same as a weapon of defense. It had
failed him in its legitimate channels, but could he give the other one
smart blow on the head with its edge, no doubt Frank must be put out of
the running.

And Pet Peters had no scruples on the score of delicacy. He was
accustomed to rough methods of carrying his point. A blow on the head
usually concluded any argument in which he might be engaged.

"Keep back, you!" he yelled.

Frank saw that he was now standing rather unsteadily in the canoe. He
smiled grimly, for he knew that the game was in his hands. Any fellow
who is so foolish as to stand upright in so frail a vessel places
himself in a position where he is apt to receive a sudden and unexpected

Frank was still advancing in a line as though he calculated to come
alongside the other boat. That was evidently just what the bully
expected him to do, and to meet which anticipated emergency he was now,
as he thought, fully prepared.

"Get out of that boat, and in a hurry, you!" cried Frank.

He was speaking more to hold the attention of Pet than because he
expected the other to obey him.

"Keep back, I tell yuh, Langdon, er it'll be the worse for yuh!"
bellowed the other, at the same time making several vicious sweeps
through the air with his poised paddle, as if to emphasize his
pugnacious intentions.

The act came very nearly being his undoing, for he staggered and had to
even make a quick clutch at the gunwale of the canoe to keep his

Frank saw his chance. He was by this time close enough to put his little
scheme into practice. That canoe had to be recovered one way or another.
If Pet refused to surrender his ill-gotten plunder peaceably, then it
was high time other measures were brought into play.

With a sudden turn Frank headed his boat straight at the side of the
other. He meant at the last instant to turn far enough to give but a
slanting blow, not desiring to injure the second canoe by smashing in
the delicate ribs.


Too late did Pet realize how completely he had placed himself in the
power of his more expert adversary, who had handled canoes so long that
he was perfectly at home in one.

"Hey, you, keep away!"

It was the despairing wail of a quitter. Even before the prow of Frank's
craft was in collision with the side of his own, Pet knew that he was
about to experience a tremendous shock against which he would be given
no chance to prepare himself.

In his sudden terror his first act was to let fall the paddle which he
had intended to use in knocking Frank out. Then he tried to get hold of
both gunwales, so as to brace himself against the shock.

It was too late, however. A second more and he might have done
something, but by that little space of time he lost.

Bang! came the stem of Frank's canoe against the second boat, which was
tilted half way over under the impact. Pet Peters took a headlong plunge
over the side and disappeared under the moonlit waters of the lake with
a tremendous splash!


Frank laughed. He really could not help it, the sight of Pet going
overboard with such a great tossing of arms and legs was so comical. But
at the same time he did not forget to reach over and reclaim the
floating paddle.

He was already holding on to the recovered boat, when, with a great
splurge and splashing, Pet appeared on the surface of the water,
swimming as well as his clothes would permit. Fortunately the fellow was
a regular water-dog, and able to easily sustain himself under any
circumstances when in the lake; though doubtless he found his bath
rather cold at this early season of the year.

"Think yuh done sumpin smart, I reckon, Langdon! I'll get even with yuh
for it, see if I don't!" he snorted, sustaining himself by vigorous

"Better get ashore before your clothes drag you down. Do your blowing
afterwards, Peters. You're a thief, that's all, and ought to be landed
behind the bars for such work as this. Go on, now, before I get real mad
and chase you ashore."

Possibly the fellow feared that Frank might take a notion to do as he
threatened, for he had a healthy respect concerning the other's prowess.
At any rate he started to swim away with lusty strokes. One might have
thought a bear was in the water, such was the noise he made.

Frank found the painter of the recovered canoe. This he fastened to a
cleat, and then, making a turn, headed back to the camp.

Those who were anxiously listening caught a glimpse of the two boats as
they turned the point.

"He's got it back all right!" cried Will, in excitement.

"Bully for Frank! He's equal to the whole Peters crowd!" called Bluff;
from which it could easily be understood that neither of these boys had
been in any doubt as to whom they had to thank for the stealing of the

Frank landed in a few minutes. Beyond breathing a little harder than
usual he showed no signs of his recent chase.

"This time we'll make sure that all the boats are fast. It was a bad
break for you to leave that one loose. But we have had so many strange
things happen since we landed on Wildcat Island that a fellow can hardly
be blamed for letting a cog slip occasionally. Lend a hand, Bluff," said

That was his way. He realized that no one could be perfect, that he
sometimes made mistakes himself, and others should be forgiven if they
occasionally neglected to do the things that were expected of them.

And that was the secret of why the other fellows all admired Frank above
any of their companions: he could forgive another's fault, but was very
severe with himself when he happened to fall short.

They secured the boats and carried the paddles into camp.

Will seemed inconsolable. He had heard that tremendous splash, and
already understood what had caused it.

"Oh! if I could only have caught that fellow just in the act of taking
that header, what a beaut it would have been. Too bad that such glorious
chances escape me all the time," he moaned.

But the others had too serious a problem to consider to pay much
attention to the complaints of the amateur photographer.

"How about going to Centerville?" asked Bluff, as they sat there near
the revived camp fire to talk it over.

"That can wait a while. Plenty of time between now and morning, Bluff,"
answered the one addressed, as he poked the fire reflectively.

"But you've got something on your mind," argued Bluff, shrewdly.

"What makes you think that?" demanded Frank, smiling.

"I can see it in your eyes; they give you away. So let's hear what it
is, for you see we're all equally interested," replied his chum,

"Well, of course it's about Jerry," began Frank.

"That goes without saying. You're not thinking of starting out in the
night to make another hunt for him, are you?" demanded Will, arousing to
the fact that perhaps he might be left alone in camp, and under the
circumstances he would not enjoy that very much.

"Somehow a new idea has flashed into my head. I don't know that there is
anything to it, but somehow I'm unable to dismiss it. The fact of Pet
Peters being bold enough to sneak up here and try to make way with one
of our canoes gave me this thought," said Frank.

"Go on, please," urged Will, while Bluff awaited the disclosure with
equal anxiety.

"Perhaps those fellows are responsible for Jerry's disappearance!"

"What! the Peters crowd? Strange that none of us thought of that
before," declared Bluff.

"Then you agree with me that there is a chance that way?" asked Frank.

"I wouldn't put it past them a minute," replied Bluff.

"But what would they want with him? They're not so desperate as the
hoboes, and, besides, you remember that Mr. Dodd warned them he meant to
run the lot in if they kept pestering us," ventured Will.

"Oh! that was away last Fall. Those fellows have forgotten all about
that by this time. Frank, I'm inclined to agree with you. In that case,
what had we better do? Take the guns and make a sudden attack on their

Bluff, always ready for trouble, reached out his hand toward Jerry's gun
as he spoke, showing his willingness to follow up his suggestion by
immediate action.

"Not so fast, my hearty. If we attacked their camp and then found that
they had nothing to do with Jerry's kidnapping we'd be in a nice pickle,
wouldn't we? After that they could say we were a lot of savages, as well
as they."

"But something should be done!" expostulated Bluff.

"And I propose to do it. In other words I mean to take a little stroll
around the point, and see what their camp looks like," remarked Frank,

"If you find they've got our chum, promise to come back for us. We want
to have a hand in bringing about his release. You will, won't you,
Frank?" asked Bluff.

"I promise you, boys. Keep Jerry's gun with you, and stay on guard.
Don't shoot in a hurry, because you might pepper me, and that's
something I object to. Now I'm off."

"Good luck to you, Frank, and take care of yourself," said Will.

Frank made his way into the brush. He could have approached the other
camp with far less trouble had he chosen to keep along the edge of the
water. It struck him, however, that the enemy might anticipate a raid of
some sort after their recent miserable attempt to cripple the members of
the Rod, Gun and Camera Club in their resources, and be on the watch for
stragglers along the beach.

They would possibly not dream that any one would take all the trouble to
push through the dense brush, and climb the hill, at the base of which
they had squatted upon landing.

Frank was in no hurry. He knew that Pet's companions would be all
excited over his bedraggled condition when he reached shore. Still, it
was hardly probable that they would venture to take up the cudgels, and
attempt any more mischief, that night at least.

He remembered what a healthy respect these fellows entertained for the
guns in the possession of the club members. They were more apt to take
it out in making all manner of tremendous plans against the peace of the
campers which they would hardly be likely to carry out when their anger
had had a chance to cool.

As he drew near the place, Frank found that a little hill interposed,
just as the abrupt bluff did in the case of their own camp. This he
would have to climb ere he could look down upon those he had come to

There was more or less difficulty in reaching the top of this little

"They must go around here when entering the woods," Frank concluded,
after he had finally gained the top of the rise.

He hardly liked the idea of returning along the same difficult lines;
but when he felt this disinclination he was really worrying over
something that was fated never to come about.

By degrees he pushed forward until he found himself on the edge of a
little declivity. Down below he could see the old dingy tent which he
knew so well, also the fire of the Peters crowd.

The boys were gathered around, watching Pet, partly disrobed, trying to
warm himself near the blaze; but if he was shivering outwardly with the
cold, he seemed to be burning within, to judge from the motions he made
while talking.

"Evidently Pet is making a vow to settle my hash the first time we meet.
But I don't seem to be trembling, that I can discover. I know Pet of
old, and how easy he can change his mind," Frank told himself, as he

Unable to see just as well as he wished from where he first knelt, he
moved a little to the left, as that seemed to promise a better view.

It was the last straw upon the camel's back. Already, though Frank did
not know it, the treacherous soil was giving way under his weight, and
this move on his part aggravated the trouble.

He felt himself slipping, tried to catch hold of a nearby bush, which
gave way in his frenzied grasp, and down the steep incline he plunged!


"Great smoke! what's that?"

"It's the wild man, fellers!"

"Run, afore he gits yuh!"

There was an immediate scramble among the adherents of Pet Peters. What
they had heard about the wild man of the island had kept them on edge
throughout the entire length of their short sojourn; and now, when this
sudden object came rolling down the incline into their very camp they
were panic stricken.

Pet himself was just as frightened as any of his mates. He had been
sitting by the fire, drying his back, having removed his coat and
trousers meanwhile. As the alarm sounded he tried to get to his feet so
as to join in the hasty flight, but, as might be expected, his legs
became twisted, and consequently he fell in a heap.

"Wow! keep off'n me, you! I ain't done nuthin'!" he yelled.

It was his customary plea when caught doing something wrong.

Frank had by this time reached the bottom of the incline, for which he
was not at all sorry. He had not been seriously hurt by his rough
tumble, and, thinking only of keeping himself aloof from these ugly
spirits, he managed to scramble to his feet after some fashion.

Through it all he had kept a firm grip on his gun, as though he knew
what protection he could count on from that source.

There was another grand picture that escaped Will, and which he would
never cease to lament the loss of--Frank regaining his feet, those
fellows scampering away in several directions, and Pet on his knees,
holding one arm up as if to ward off some evil blow which he expected to

"Hey, it's only Langdon! Kim back here, yuh cowards!" bellowed Pet, as
soon as his startled eyes could tell him the truth.

And the others, halted in the midst of their mad flight, looking back,
saw that instead of the terrible hairy wild man of their dreams it was
indeed only a boy who stood there, and he the one they hated most of

So they came straggling back, some looking sheepish over their recent
scare, while others scowled as if in an ugly temper.

"Wot yuh want here, Langdon?" demanded Pet, bridling up as he saw that
much was expected of him by his followers.

It was unfortunate that this should happen so soon after he had been
making such enormous threats about what he was going to do to Frank when
next they met.

What could a fellow do anyway when he was minus his coat and trousers,
as well as shoes?

Frank had recovered his lost breath by now.

"Well, I might have strolled over here just to ask whether you had
arrived safely after your swim; and to express a hope that you might not
take cold. It's pretty early in the season to go in, you know," he said

The others looked at each other as if they hardly knew what to make of
it. Somehow this Langdon always did seem to have the advantage whenever
they came face to face. In the canoe he was Pet's master, because he
felt quite at home there, while the other did not. Now, here ashore, he
held something in his hands which none of them liked the looks of--a
double-barreled shotgun.

"Aw, go chase yerself! 'Twan't that as fetched yuh here. Think we
scooped sumpin, an' yuh come sneakin' round tryin' tuh see," snarled the
shivering Pet.

"Come up to the fire and keep warm. It's your fire; I don't lay any
claim to it. Perhaps you fellows think I slid down that toboggan track
on purpose? Well, you've got another guess coming, then. I have more
respect for my clothes than to try such things, as a rule."

Frank was talking for a purpose. He did not expect to enter the camp of
the enemy when he parted from Will and Bluff; but now that circumstances
beyond his control had caused such a move on his part, he meant to take
full advantage of it.

Before he left, he expected to know positively what they had in that
tent. If Jerry was found there, a prisoner, he must be set free, no
matter what happened after such a move.

So, as he talked he kept moving a little at a time in the direction of
the said tent. If the others noticed his action they could not give any
sort of guess as to what he was after. Besides, he kept that gun always
half raised, and moving back and forth, from side to side, so that it
covered the entire bunch.

"Jest yuh make tracks outen here, Langdon. Yuh ain't wanted, see? This
here's our camp, an' yer intrudin'," chattered Pet, who was compelled to
creep closer to the fire, for he was shivering as though he had the

"Oh! I'm going right away, boys. I assure you I haven't the least
intention of staying and putting you to any inconvenience. Just a little
social call, you understand, Pet. I couldn't bear the thought that
possibly you were still floundering around out there on the lake. Glad
to know you arrived," Frank continued, now close to the flap of the

The others had unconsciously followed him, so that with the exception of
Pet the whole of the camp's inmates were clustered just in front of the

As he uttered the last word, Frank suddenly stooped. He had seen his
chance, and meant to investigate the interior of that tent.

To his dismay it was far from light inside. He could just make out
objects dimly. There might be a prostrate figure on some of the dirty
blankets strewing the ground, for all he could say.

Determined to make sure, he immediately darted inside the tent. A chorus
of excited exclamations arose from the half circle of roughs outside.

"He's a-goin' ter steal our blankets, that's what!" shouted one.

"Don't let him, fellers!" whooped Pet, dancing from one bare foot to the
other in his excitement, but not offering to lend a hand in corralling
the intruder.

"Hey, you, wot yer want in there?" howled another, looking around for a
cudgel that might come in handy.

Then Frank emerged. He still kept his handy gun in evidence, seeing
which the others backed away again, not being quite so eager as they
imagined to come to hand-grips with this determined boy.

Frank was disappointed. He had failed to find the slightest trace of his
missing chum in the tent of the Peters crowd. This seemed to prove that
they knew nothing about the kidnapping of Jerry.

Under the circumstances he thought it might be just as well to explain
his queer move a little. The knowledge might hasten the departure of
these rowdy fellows, and purge the island of their presence.

"I'll tell you what I was looking for. One of my chums has strangely
disappeared, and we thought that perhaps you had him here. That's all.
But I find you haven't; which makes me believe he's fallen into the
hands of that wild man, or else the two hobo thieves who robbed the man
on the steamboat; because we happen to know they're here on this

"Wot's that?" demanded Pet, anxiously.

"Why, you heard about the two tramps on the _Eastern Star_, didn't you?"

"Yuh mean the fellers as collared the roll o' Mister Pemberton?" asked
Pet, forgetting to even shiver, in his new excitement.

"Yes, and they're here on this island right now, hungry and desperate,"
continued Frank, thinking it good policy to rub it in good and hard
while he was about it.

"Here on this yer island--them desperadoes are?" gasped one.

"That's easy to say, Langdon; but how d'ye know?" demanded Pet.

"Well, we've seen them, for one thing. Then they robbed us of a kettle
with our supper last night. Let a cord down from the top of the cliff,
and caught the bale of the kettle with a hook. First thing we knew, our
supper was sailing up, and that was the last we ever saw of it," replied
Frank, now beginning to edge toward the beach, as he had suddenly
decided to return by an easier path than the one he had taken in coming.

Then the boys looked at each other uneasily.

"A wild man loose here; an' now them two desperate critters huntin'
round fur anythin' loose. Say, fellers, it's up ter us ter git outen
this in the mornin'," said Pet, shaking his head with determination.

And not one of his mates lifted his voice, even in a whisper,
contrarywise. Indeed, to tell the truth, they looked as though the hours
that must elapse ere they departed hence would fairly drag along.

Frank, believing that he had reached a point where he could boldly make
his exit from the hostile camp, was just in the act of backing away when
he saw something that gave him a shock.

"Say, look yonder, you fellows, what's happening to your provision
basket!" he exclaimed, pointing with his gun.

Every boy whirled around, and as he did so a concerted howl went up,
partly of rage, though terror could be plainly detected in the chorus.
There was a swiftly moving figure carrying off the big basket in which
all the balance of their supplies happened to be gathered. And such a
figure--whether a wild man or a gigantic ape--it would be impossible to
say, for in the quick glimpse which Frank had of it ere the Thing
vanished among the bushes he could only positively say that it seemed to
be covered with hair, and when its face was turned it looked a cross
between that of a demented human being and a great ape!


There never was such a frightened group of fellows as that crowd when
they saw their basket of provisions vanish in the grip of this
awful-looking object.

For a few seconds they seemed too astonished to even move, and the thief
had actually gone out of sight in the brush before the first boy made a
jump after him.

Whether it was a touch of valor that actuated him, or the desire to get
back the precious basket that held their food, it would be hard to say.

"Look out!" shouted Frank, who had seen something descending along the
face of the little rise.

Even as he spoke a shower of stones, together with lumps of earth, fell
with a great clatter. Somebody was bombarding the camp from above! It
looked as though the wild man must have had wings to reach that spot, if
the missiles came from him.

By this time Pet himself was in full flight. He had snatched up his
loose garments from the sticks on which they were drying at the fire,
and made for the shelter of the bushes on the other side of the camp.

The rest scampered this way and that, one even hiding inside the tent,
while a couple of others tried to budge the heavy boat that had been
drawn up high and dry on the shore, as if seriously considering the
chances of flight.

Frank saw his opportunity to get away, and was not slow to avail himself
of it.

"Thanks, awfully, Mr. Wild Man; I'm indebted to you," he laughed, as he
started along the little beach, headed for his own camp.

He knew his chums would be dreadfully anxious by this time. They must
have surely heard the excited cries from the other camp, and would be
alarmed lest something had happened to him.

As he drew near he whistled. This was a signal that Bluff should
recognize, and which would tell him who approached, so that he would not
be tempted to fire, or make any threatening demonstration.

"Welcome back, Frank!" exclaimed Bluff, as he appeared in sight.

"Sure, we're glad to see you safe and sound. From the racket we began to
be afraid that you'd got into trouble," observed Will.

"The trouble seemed to be on the other side, boys. They've fared worse
than we did. In our case it was only a kettle full of stew; but they
lost everything!"

"What's that? Do you mean somebody cribbed their grub?" demanded Bluff.

"Just what happened, and right under my eyes, too. I saw it done. Oh!
what you missed then, Will! If you could only have snapped off that
picture, there wouldn't be a single soul in Centerville doubt the story
about the wild man," said Frank.

"Wild man! Do you mean to say he entered their camp while you were

"And actually grabbed up their stuff under your eyes? Then you can tell
us what he looked like. Was it really a man, or an animal, Frank?"
questioned Bluff, excitedly.

Frank shook his head, as he replied:

"There you've got me, for just on the spur of the moment I couldn't say
positively. He walked on two legs, and seemed like a man; but looked
like a great big chimpanzee, or an ape, I've seen do tricks at the
circus. Anyway, he was a terrible object, and sent a shiver over me."

"Gracious goodness! and he stole their provisions, you said?" exclaimed
Will, involuntarily looking around as if he half expected the dreadful
wild man to rush into view right then and there.

"Everything they had, I imagine. One good thing, it will make them get
out in the morning, and for that we're obliged to the wild man. If only
Jerry were here, now, I'd be feeling first-class," resumed Frank, with a

"But I don't understand why he'd enter their camp when he could have
gotten a lot of much better grub right here in ours," said Bluff,
shaking his head.

"Well, you see, he's evidently afraid of our guns; and, perhaps, he
happened to know that they had none over yonder," explained Frank.

"But is that reasonable? Would a crazy man stop for such a little thing
as that? It strikes me this raid on their eating department looks like a
set-up job."

"There now, Bluff, you've set me to thinking again. I neglected to tell
you all that happened. When the hairy monster was making off with the
basket, one of the boys started after him; and then and there a shower
of stones and dirt came down from above, and fell all around him. After
that there was a quick scattering," remarked Frank.

"Evidently the wild man had a friend close by; he wasn't alone then.
Say, perhaps he's formed a league with those ugly hoboes. They're all a
hungry lot, and ready to steal anything that comes along in the way of

"Again you may be right, Bluff. If you keep on guessing I'm sure we'll
know all about the whole business soon," laughed Frank.

"But how about that other scheme of yours?" asked Bluff.

"What's that--the trip to town?"

"Yes. Haven't changed your mind about it, eh, Frank?" asked the other.

"Are you willing to make the attempt?" queried Frank, promptly.

"Try me, that's all. Now that the old moon's up it will be just fun. I
can make it in a little time, and hunt up the sheriff. Why, the lot of
us may even be back here by morning, boys," replied Bluff,

He always went into anything with his whole soul, though perhaps his
ardor might cool sooner than the grim determination of Frank, or even

"That would be fine. Well, since you don't object, suppose you get the
canoe ready. Will and I will remain to watch the camp, because we seem
to be surrounded by a raft of enemies, all eager to do us a bad turn if
they can. With Jerry missing, the case looks serious, and something must
be done to round these bad men up."

Bluff immediately jumped up and hurried over to where the three canoes
were fastened together with the chain and padlocks. He proceeded to get
his own boat free from all entanglements, and presently had it launched
upon the water.

Then he came back for the paddle and to receive any parting instructions
Frank might see fit to give him.

"Make reasonably good time, Bluff, but don't push yourself, mind.
There's no such great hurry as all that. When you get to town go right
away to police headquarters and see if you can find Mr. Dodd."

"What if he happens to be away?" asked Bluff, wishing to be prepared for
any emergency that might chance to arise.

"Then wait as long as you can for him. Should you get tired in the end,
leave a letter to be delivered as soon as he shows up; then return to us
here. It may be possible, even as you hint, that the sheriff is away
hunting the woods to the south for those two rascally, thievish hoboes.
That's all, Bluff. Good-by, and good luck!"

Bluff shook hands with each of his chums. Then he gave his canoe a push
that started it going out, sprang in over the stern with the accurate
balance of an expert, picked up his paddle and commenced his moonlight
cruise back to town.

Frank and Will stood there watching him as long as they could see the
dark object upon the moonlit water of the lake; then they turned and
silently entered the camp once more.

From somewhere out upon the great stretch of water came the strange cry
of a loon that had lingered ere going to its northern summer home. The
sound was particularly mournful, it seemed to Frank.

"Can he make it, do you think?" asked Will, who seemed unusually worried
to-night; for all these stories about wonderful chances which he had
lost had begun to work upon his mind.

"Without the slightest doubt. Why not? There's no sea running, the wind
has died away to a whisper, and the moon is bright. Why, Bluff would
like nothing better than a circuit of the entire lake at such a time,"
replied Frank.

"I was just wondering whether anything might get after him on the water,
that's all," remarked the other.

"Chuck that sort of talk. Don't be a pessimist, Will. Of course he can
make it, and, perhaps, as he says, they may all be here by morning,
ready to gather in those clever rascals," declared Frank, stoutly.

"But why do you suppose they ever came here to Wildcat Island to hide?"

"I've been thinking about that. There's that Waddy Walsh you speak
about--since he has lived here he possibly knows something about this
place. Then again they may have heard about the wild man, and how the
island is shunned by every one in the neighborhood. In that case, you
see, it would offer a splendid hiding-place for a couple of men trying
to escape the sheriff."

"Frank, you just seem to hit on the right thing. That must be the fact.
And our coming here rather upset their plans," said Will.

"Yes, but it gave them a supper last night. They must have been too
hurried in their flight to lay in any stock of food. Perhaps they
intended going across to the mainland from time to time, and stealing
chickens from the farmers."

"I'll be jiggered if I can see how there could be any connection between
those scamps and that wild man with the hairy hide. Perhaps it was an
ape, and he has a mate on the island. Would you shoot him if you saw
him, Frank?"

"H'm, that depends. Certainly not unless I thought my life was in
danger. I say that, because I really believe myself that it is a human
being. And I have a little suspicion that is hardly strong enough as yet
to mention, but which I intend to think over. But let us settle down and
take things as comfortable as we can. I'll stand watch for a while, and
then let you take my place. Lie down and rest, Will."


"Hello! Frank!"

"What now?" and the one addressed sat up suddenly, wide awake it seemed.

"It's morning," said Will, "and I'm tired of keeping watch, that's all."

Frank laughed good-naturedly.

"That's quite enough, old fellow. Time I was up and about, for this
promises to be a day that we may mark with a white stone in the log of
our outing. The sun is going to get in sight presently. No signs of
Bluff coming back?"

"He hasn't arrived. I didn't look out over the lake yet. Seems to be
something of a haze, or morning fog on the water, so you can't see very
far," replied Will.

Frank stepped to where he could have a clear, unobstructed view up the
lake. As his chum had said, there were patches of fog rising off the
water, but this was vanishing rapidly. Already one could see for quite
some distance.

"See anything, brother?" called out Will, who was already beginning to
put the coffee in the pot.

He had been on duty for several hours, and felt a bit hungry. Boys can
eat six times a day when in the woods, for the open air seems to develop
most tremendous appetites.

"Nothing except the solitary old loon that kept up such a screeching
last night," replied the lookout, shading his eyes with his hand, the
better to look.

"I don't like that. Hope nothing has happened to poor old Bluff."

"There you go again. What could happen to him? He's a cracking good
swimmer, and even if he had an upset, which is most unlikely, he would
hang to his canoe. The boat couldn't sink with metallic air-chambers at
both ends," answered Frank.

"But surely he's had plenty of time to get there and back?"

"Granted; but you heard what I told him--to wait for a reasonable time
if he found the sheriff away. No doubt Mr. Dodd is out searching high
and low for the very fellows we know to be here on Wildcat Island. Give
Bluff more time. Take my word for it, he will show up when he gets good
and ready, if not with the posse, then alone. Bluff doesn't like to be
left out in the cold when there's anything of a rumpus going on. Want
some help getting breakfast, Will?"

"Perhaps so, unless you are contented to eat cold boiled rice; we've got
plenty and to spare of that dish," answered the novice cook, with a

"I rather think that would be a poor breakfast dish. The stomach wants
something warm about this time. Are all the eggs that we brought gone?"
asked Frank.

"I saw several in the coffee can just now. Somebody stuck them in there
to keep from breaking them, I guess. How will you have yours?" answered

"Leave it to me, and I'll see that we have an appetizing mess. An omelet
for mine, I think. But after all, I don't seem so very hungry. Worrying
about Jerry has somehow affected my spirits, and a fellow can't eat much
when he feels downcast."

In spite of all drawbacks both boys did full justice to the breakfast
that was spread on the table after a little while. Will kept tabs on
whatever his companion did.

"I'm going to learn how to cook everything that one would be apt to want
in a camp; and if you don't mind explaining I'll begin right now to take
a few lessons," he said as Frank started to break the eggs into a
pannikin, preparatory to beating them up, and adding the shredded bits
of ham they had left over from the previous day.

When the meal was finished and the dishes and cooking utensils properly
washed up, Frank sat down to wait for Bluff to appear up the lake, while
Will vanished inside the tent to bother with his films.

He had brought along an apparatus whereby he could develop these, no
matter as to the time or conditions--daylight being just the same as

Frank heard him talking to himself inside the tent, but paid no
attention to what he was saying, for at that moment he noticed a moving
object up the lake, which he really believed might be the canoe of his
chum, Bluff, returning alone.

If this proved to be the case another disappointment awaited the
campers, and the rescue of poor Jerry might again be postponed to an
unknown time. The sheriff being away, no one could tell when he would
receive the letter Bluff was to leave for his perusal, and hence it
might be many hours ere a move was made.

By that time the hoboes could have quitted the island and lost
themselves in the dense woods of the mainland, while Jerry's
hiding-place would remain unknown, so that he might even die of neglect.

The coming of Will broke in upon Frank's gloomy communion.

Apparently Will had some reason for excitement. He was holding a
developed film in his hand as he rushed up to Frank.

"What do you think it was set my flashlight trap off last night?" he

"A 'coon, doubtless--that seems most likely," answered the other,

"Guess again,"

"'Possum--wildcat--surely not a bear, though I did hear quite a scramble
over in that quarter at the time? Go on and tell me," said Frank.

For answer Will held the film up so that it was between the light and
the eyes of his companion.

"It's been in the hypo, and is fixed, but not thoroughly washed; but you
can see for yourself," he exclaimed triumphantly.

Frank gave an exclamation.

"Why, you caught a man!"

"Yes, and his face is turned exactly toward the camera. The snap made
him look, and with the flash he was indelibly impressed on the film.
What is more, if you look at it on the other side and partly turned
away, you can see the positive of his face as plain as day. It's Waddy,
all right. I got him!" laughed the photographer, in glee.

"Well, that's worth something. I'm beginning to realize the tremendous
possibilities of a camera at times. That evidence would be accepted in
court as conclusive. Go, and wash the film carefully, Will. If you fail
to get a few great scenes, you don't lose everything, it seems."

"Isn't that the Peters tribe setting sail, Frank?"

"Why it is, as sure as you live. I wonder they stayed so late. They must
be pretty hungry by this time if that educated ape got away with all
they had. Perhaps we might have made a master stroke if we'd gone over
this morning with an offering of some bacon, coffee and such things. Too
bad neither of us thought of it before."

Will looked strangely at his companion. He could not wholly understand
the impulses that guided the actions of the other. His experience in the
world had not been as varied as that of the boy from Maine, or he might
have realized what was meant; though possibly the act of kindness might,
after all, have been wasted on those tough young citizens.

"They're going home, all right, and good riddance. If we could only get
rid of the balance of undesirable people on this same island, there
might be a chance for us to finish up our outing in peace," he remarked

"I hope they don't give Bluff any trouble," said Frank, as if musing.

"Bluff--is he in sight, then?" demanded his comrade, eagerly.

"Yes, over there, and coming," replied Frank, pointing to the advancing

"Here are your glasses. Suppose you take a look and see."

Will handed over the marine glasses as he spoke. As he adjusted them to
his eyes, Frank swept one glance at the coming Bluff. Then he turned his
attention to the departing disgusted campers.

"Something has been going on among those fellows, I declare," he

"What do you mean?" asked his companion, in surprise.

"They seem to have been up against it, or else having a fight among
themselves. I can see a couple who have bandages about their heads, and
one seems to be holding his arm mighty tenderly. I believe it is

"You don't say? Well, come to think of it, I do remember hearing
something of a commotion a while back, but thought they were only having
their usual rough-house time. Please let me look, Frank."

A minute later he uttered an exclamation.

"What now?" it was Frank's turn to ask.

"Seems strange to me. I think there must be one of them lying down in
the bottom of the boat," returned Will.

"That would indicate something pretty serious. Perhaps they've had a
fight with those hoboes, or it may have been our wild man. But what
makes you think such a thing, Will?"

"I counted seven of them when they came, and so did Bluff. Now there are
only six in sight, and as you say, three of them are fit for the
hospital. Where can the seventh be?"

"Perhaps the hoboes got him, just as they did Jerry. If so, what under
the sun can their scheme be? Why load down with a variety of
Centerville's leading citizens when they find it so hard to provide food
for themselves?"

"I give it up. The conundrum is too much for me. But I think my idea is
more apt to cover the truth, and that the seventh boy is laid out in the
boat, wounded, or perhaps dead," continued Will, in an awe-struck tone.

"Oh! I hope not the latter. They're a rough bunch, but they've had
little opportunity to learn better, and we mustn't be too hard on them.
Such fellows can do things that would be little short of a crime for
those of us who have decent homes and indulgent parents. Bluff seems to
be coming along rather slowly, don't you think?"

As Frank said this his companion turned the glasses upon the canoe.

"Something has happened to him. Perhaps his paddle has broken; I
remember it gave way while we were coming here, and he spliced it
yesterday. Yes, that must be what ails him," he exclaimed.

"That's too bad," observed Frank, looking at the other boats, as though
wondering whether it might be worth while to launch one, and speed out
on the lake to the assistance of the chum who was coming.

But the distance was too great, and he could not hope to reach the scene
before whatever was fated to happen had occurred.

"Why do you say that Bluff could get here with only a piece of his
paddle?" remarked Will.

"If those ugly chaps let him. See, they have already changed their
course several points. They mean to intercept him."

"You don't think they'd bother with him, do you?" cried Will.

"I'm afraid they're in a bad humor, and ready to tackle anything that
offers a chance to work off old scores. If Bluff only had his paddle in
decent order he could laugh at them. How foolish of him to take only his
single blade along."

Frank now clapped the glasses to his eyes again.

"Look at that, will you? Why, the breezy chap doesn't even think it
worth while to turn and run, or even try to slip past. He's coming
directly on, and in another minute will run slap into that rowboat,
loaded with toughs. I'm afraid there's going to be a bad spill for our
headstrong chum," he sighed.

"Perhaps he is only holding himself in reserve, and means to make a
spurt for it at the very last second. Bluff is smart, I tell you. He
knows what those boys are up to, and is far from being asleep. Tell me
what he is doing, Frank. I can hear them shouting angrily at him now.
Oh! I wish we were out there to help him."

Will even forgot his natural timidity, and had the chance been given
him, would doubtless have proven a hero in defense of his chum.

"He seems to have stopped paddling altogether. Now he reaches down into
the bottom of his canoe after something. He is aiming it at them--it's
his paddle--no it isn't either--as sure as you live, he's got that
repeating-gun of his!"

Even as the excited Frank spoke, over the water they heard a distant
voice shout:

"Hands up! you sharks, or I'll pepper you good and hard. Six shots I've
got here, as fast as I can pump the lever. Hands up! I say, every one of


"Look! they're doing it, too, Frank! Oh! what luck! Good for Bluff!"
ejaculated Will, hardly able to control himself in his excitement.

"Just as sure as you live, they are. They knew Bluff meant business when
he said that. Why, even the wounded fellow has his one well arm raised.
It's great!"

Frank generously handed the glasses to his comrade, whose hands trembled
so that he could hardly hold them to his eyes.

"What's he doing now, Will?"

"Seems to be holding that blessed gun with one hand, and paddling softly
with the other. Ain't he the real thing, though? And once we doubted
whether he would be just the right sort of fellow to be a member of the
club. I'm proud of good old Bluff, and that's a fact!" cried Will.

"So say we all of us. He must be past the other boat by now; isn't he?"

"Yes, and has laid the gun down, but where he can grab it up in a hurry
if necessary. Pet and his crowd have resumed rowing, too, as if going
ashore. They don't seem anxious to call out at Bluff just now. Jerry
used to say that terrible gun would frighten game to death; but even
Jerry would have to admit that it's worth while, if he could only be
here, to see this lovely sight. Oh! why didn't I have my camera ready?
What a good picture that would have been," sighed the official
photographer of the club.

"Too far away to make out what was going on, my boy. But I only wish
Jerry could have been here to see it. That would relieve me of my
anxiety," said Frank.

The canoe kept moving straight toward them, while the heavily laden boat
continued over the lake toward the western shore.

Not even a derisive howl was sent after Bluff. He seemed to have
effectually cowed the rowdies. Perhaps it was the last straw that broke
the camel's back, and they had really gone through so much lately that
the limit had been reached.

Bluff presently landed directly beside his chums.

"Well done, old fellow!" said Will, hastening to pat him on the back.

"It was as fine a piece of bluff as I ever put up," grinned the paddler
as he stepped ashore, holding the redoubtable gun in his hand.

"How so?" demanded Will, curious to know.

"Why, the gun isn't in a condition to use. I had it at a locksmith's,
and thought I'd bring it along if he had mended it. Said he had, but
didn't have time to finish putting all the parts together again. I said
I could do that easily enough in camp, and fetched it along," replied
the other, chuckling.

"Then it wasn't loaded at all?" asked Will.

"Of course not; but then they didn't know that, you see. It was a case
of where ignorance was bliss. Answered the purpose all right. You
noticed they let me alone."

"Now I see where you got your name; but that was a time when bluffing
was worth while. Come and sit down here and have some breakfast,"
remarked Frank.

He was looking closely at the returned wanderer, as if trying to decide
whether he brought good news or bad.

"Tell me first, have you heard anything from Jerry?" demanded the other.

"Not the least thing. But I've been making up a plan that it seems we
will have to follow, since you come back alone," observed Frank.

Of course this was an invitation for Bluff to unload, and tell what he
had accomplished besides getting his gun just before starting back.

"Sheriff out hunting the hobo thieves, just as you feared. No one could
say as to when he would return. Might be in an hour, and again, perhaps,
it would not be for the balance of the day," he began.

"You waited until you got tired and then left a note for him?" asked

"Just what I did, fellows. The whole community is aroused. Seems like
these two hoboes must be yeggmen for keeps. At any rate several
robberies occurred on the night following the affair on the steamer. A
farmer reported that his place was entered and some money and other
things taken. Then the thieves broke open the storage warehouse over in
Newtonport, and rummaged through a lot of stuff. No one knows what they
took there, but they left everything in a great upset. The local militia
company in our town is out helping the sheriff hunt!"

"Say, things seem to be stewing at a great rate," gasped Will.

"And to think that the nervy chaps responsible for it all are here on
this very island near us. Yes, more than that, we've had experiences
with them, and even now they undoubtedly are holding our poor chum for
ransom, or some other purpose," declared Frank, shaking his head.

"Do you think Mr. Dodd will come?" asked Will.

"He certainly will, as soon as he knows. Why wouldn't he when the men
he's on the lookout for are here waiting for him?" replied Bluff,
beginning to eat.

"You said you were thinking up a plan, Frank?" suggested Will, turning
eagerly to the chum upon whom the rest were accustomed to rely in

"Well, I leave it to the rest of you whether we do it or not. The
conditions are peculiar. We want to search for poor Jerry, and yet if we
leave our camp unguarded, those savages may steal the whole outfit. Then
again, Will naturally doesn't want to stay here alone while Bluff and
myself do the hunting. I can see only one way of fixing it."

"All right. I'm willing to do anything you say," remarked the one who
had a cup of coffee up to his lips, and was drinking the contents with
supreme pleasure.

"Ditto here, Frank," from Will.

"This idea I had was to break up our camp, stow all the stuff in the
canoes, and then have Will paddle far out on the lake with the whole
outfit, where he could wait to see what happened. Nothing could reach
him there, and we would be free to follow up our plan. How about that,
fellows?" asked Frank.

Will glanced out on the lake.

"All right. It looks like it would be quiet enough, and if a big wind
does come up, I can paddle the string over to the shore and get under
the lee," he said.

"Call it settled, then. And now, while Bluff is finishing his breakfast,
you and I can be taking down the tents and stowing them away," observed

"Oh! I'm about through now, but give me a little time to get my gun
together, boys. It may come in handy, who knows," remarked Bluff.

"This is kind of tough, taking down tents when our little outing is
hardly half through with," complained Will, as he labored pulling up
tent pegs.

"Oh! it may be only temporary. If Mr. Dodd comes and rounds up those
hoboes as we expect, there's nothing to prevent our pitching camp again
right on the old spot, and enjoying another two days or so of this
business," came from Frank, who was under the falling canvas, working
like a beaver.

Things were quickly accomplished. The more one camps the easier it is to
stow things away in their proper places; and Frank was always particular
about doing this, as a labor-saving device.

Hardly an hour after the coming of Bluff and the space was bare. All the
"dunnage" had been snugly packed in two of the canoes, while Will was
ready to enter the other and convoy the string out on the bosom of Lake

They made him take Jerry's gun as a means of protection. On his part,
Will entrusted his precious camera to the tender mercies of Bluff, in
hopes that the other might find some chance to snap off a few striking
pictures while engaged in his search for Jerry.

"And it isn't like your gun, remember, for it's loaded," he remarked.

"Well, my repeater is now. And perhaps when Jerry learns what a part it
has had in his rescue he may stop sneering at it as a modern joke," said

After Will had started, and gone some little distance out on the lake,
the two others left the deserted camping-ground.

"Where away first?" asked Bluff, willing to leave these matters to his
friend, whose experience up in Maine was apt to prove valuable now.

"Let's make along the beach for the place where those chaps were,"
replied Frank.

"Oh! I see. You think we may find the trail of the wild man there?"

"I'm curious to see what it looks like, that's all. After that, I think
of making for the place where I lost Jerry. We've had no rain since, and
it seems to me we ought to take up the trail at the place I lost it.
I've since figured out how I came to go wrong that time, and if we have
good luck, we ought to be able to follow it straight to the place
they're staying at."

It took them but a short time to reach the late camp of Pet Peters and
his cronies, which was full of signs of a hasty departure.

"I wonder what could have happened here?" mused Frank, as he looked

"Seems like they must have been having a high old time. There's a
remnant of a hat, and I declare if this isn't piece of a coat sleeve. It
was a fight, Frank, I tell you!" exclaimed Bluff, convincingly.

"Just as I suspected, but, of course, we may never know what caused it,
and whether they were just indulging in a little racket among themselves
or with the two hoboes. They had little left that would induce those
rascals to attack them, seems to me," remarked Frank.

"Listen! what was that?" suddenly asked Bluff.

Both boys stood motionless, with heads cocked on one side, straining
their ears to catch a repetition of the sound that had come to them.

Quickly they heard it again.

"Say, it seems like a groan to me," whispered Bluff, with eyes aglow.

"Just what I thought. There! that time I located it, Bluff. Come over
here. Good gracious! what do you think of that?"


"Why, it's a boy!" exclaimed the horrified Bluff, as he stared at the
object from which the sounds proceeded.

"And tied to a tree, too! You know him, Bluff; look again!" remarked

"Say, it's sure Tom Somers, one of Pet Peters' crowd. What under the sun
does it mean, Frank?" exclaimed the other, startled and mystified.

"Just what I said. They must have had a monkey-and-parrot time among
themselves, and the Tom Somers' section got the worst of it. You see the
result--they've gone off and left this fellow fastened here as a
punishment for his rebellion."

"But--this ain't out West, or in the Cannibal Islands. Wake me up and
tell me if I'm seeing things. What! do you mean to say those savages
would leave Tom here to starve to death?" gasped Bluff.

"Oh! no, some of them would come back by to-night or to-morrow to let
him off. I imagine this is only some of Pet's miserable work. He's a
cruel monster. I thought Andy Lasher bad enough, but it turned out that
he had a speck of good in him, and Jerry touched it when he saved his
life that stormy night. But Pet is mean and revengeful, a sneak, and a
coward at heart."

"There. I believe he has just discovered us," said Bluff.

The boy who was fastened to the tree gave a groan, and then called out:

"Say, fellers, you wouldn't go and leave me here like this would you?
Set me free anyway, and I kin shift for myself somehow; but it's tough
to be tied up like a dog, an' all because I knocked Pet down when he
called me a name I won't take off any man or boy. Jest slice a knife
over these ropes, won't you, please?"

He did not whine, but asked the favor in a fairly decent way.

"Of course we will, Tom Somers. You've always been an enemy of mine, but
that's no reason we should leave you like this. There you are!"

Frank purposely allowed his chum to do the cutting. He knew that there
had in the past been more or less bad blood between these two lads, and
he had in mind a possible repetition of the singular friendship that had
sprung up between Jerry and Andy Lasher after the time when the former
saved the life of the town bully.

"That's 'white' of you, Bluff, and I ain't the feller to forget it,
neither," was what the late prisoner said as his bonds fell away.

"You look bruised more or less, so I take it there must have been quite
a fight here before they went away?" remarked Frank, questioningly.

The other grinned, though the effort must have pained him not a little,
on account of the many scratches and gouges on his face.

"Did they? Well, I should smile, pardner. I only had one husky chap to
stand by me, against five; but we pretty nigh cinched things. Pet Peters
said he'd get even with me by leavin' me here a spell, to tempt that
wild man. But I had hopes some of you fellers might top the rise and
give me a helpin' hand."

"Oh! I remember now, you're the chap who was out West for a year herding
cattle. I notice it in your speech," said Frank, smiling.

"It gets in the blood, when you mingle some with them gents. I try to
break off when the fellers kid me, but it crops out when I ain't
thinkin'. But say, it was 'white' of you to do this, an' I ain't got any
call to ask favors of your crowd either."

A sudden thought struck Frank.

"See here, you say you're grateful; will you prove it?" he asked.

Tom Somers thrust out his chest as he immediately replied:

"I'm a maverick if I don't; try me!"

"Then listen. You heard me say that our chum Jerry had strangely
vanished yesterday while we were in the woods. I have good reason to
believe those two hoboes laid hold of him, for some reason or other,"
Frank started.

"Ransom--the old, old game, perhaps?" suggested the other, quickly.

"Well, I hardly think it is quite so bad as that; but they wanted to
hold him as a sort of hostage, perhaps, threatening us if we didn't get
off this island. No matter what their reason, they've got our chum, and
now we mean to try and release him. That's why we're here."

"And you want me to help? 'Course I will, and only too glad to have the
chance. If it's a trail to foller, why I picked up lots of points out
there on the Texas plains, and just you set me on the track," said Tom,
pulling on a tattered coat that had been taken from him ere he was
fastened to the tree.

"Then let's begin right here and see if there is any trail where your
grub basket went off last night!" remarked Frank.

At that Tom started and turned a little pale.

"You said the hoboes, pard, and not that man-monkey," he stammered.

Plainly he had conceived a great fear regarding the mysterious object
that had appeared in the camp, and vanished with their provisions.

Frank laughed.

"Make your mind easy, I'm not intending to follow him. We expect to go
to the place where my pard vanished yesterday, and take up the trail
there. I followed it a while, but night was coming on and I lost it. You
may do better, Tom," he said.

"But you mentioned that hairy monster, didn't you?" queried the other,

"I only want to examine the track he left, so as to settle in my mind
whether it was really a crazy human being or a big ape. Come over here
and let's see."

"Huh! none of our fellers ever thought of lookin' around. A snake-whip
couldn't a-coaxed 'em over this way. Like as not they expected the
varmint was lyin' in the bushes, waitin' to jump out again. But I don't
pull leather when I give my word."

He threw himself prostrate on the ground. In less than three minutes an
exclamation announced that he had found what he sought. Frank dropped
beside him.

"There she is, and a jim-dandy of a track, too, plain as the hoof marks
of a cayuse around a snubbing post!" he exclaimed, pointing.

"Just as I thought, a man's shoe, and an unusually big one. That settles
one thing in my mind. It is no escaped ape that runs wild on this
island. It may be a lunatic that has got away from the asylum over at
Merrick, or----"

Frank did not finish his sentence, but nodded his head as though the
thought that had flashed into his mind pleased him.

"That all here?" asked the other, a little nervously, although
apparently relieved to learn that it was not a wild animal he had seen
on the preceding night.

"Yes, I'm entirely satisfied. Now let us find the place where those
Indian mounds are, and we can get on the trail without delay," answered
Frank, leading the way.

It took him fully an hour to accomplish this. First they had to return
to the spot at the foot of the bluff where the canoeists' camp had
lately stood. Here his own trail was taken up, and Tom Somers proved to
the satisfaction of the others that he did know considerable about
following tracks through thickets and woods, for he led them unerringly
until finally Frank saw the two mounds.

"There they are," he said, in a low voice.

Bluff pushed his gun forward menacingly.

"Where?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper.

"Oh! I mean the two Indian mounds, not the hoboes. Come over here and
see the trail made as they went away," replied his chum, quickly.

When the boy who had spent a year on a Texas ranch punching cattle saw
the marks, he announced it as his opinion that they had been made by two
parties besides Jerry.

"I reckon your chum was snoozing some when they jumped his claim. He
kicked and put up a right husky fight, but they was too much for him,
and choked him off. I reckon one of them must a-been a boy, and the
other a big man, judgin' from the marks. Then, when they had reduced him
to quiet they just snaked him off."

"That's what I thought--the big brute carried Jerry on his back, for
there are no signs of my chum's footprints around. Now, let's start off.
I'm anxious to know the worst, no matter what it is!" cried Frank.

Bluff brought up the rear. It was anything but light under the dense
growth of trees and clinging vines. At times the tracker had to get down
close to the ground in order to see what he wanted.

Bluff had slung his gun over his shoulder by the strap, and was holding
Will's camera in his hands, wondering if he had not been foolish to
bring such a silly thing along with him on so serious an errand.

The deeper they penetrated into the interior of the island the denser
the undergrowth seemed to become, until at times it was only with the
utmost difficulty they pushed their way through. Others having gone
ahead of them made it a trifle easier, perhaps; at least Tom Somers said
so in a whisper.

"Perhaps we're gettin' clost to the place, now, pardners; so we'd better
take our time an' not hustle too much. Don't speak above a whisper,
either," he said, as he parted the bushes in front.

Even as he did so Frank heard him utter a low exclamation, not of fear
so much as of disgust. One look told the other what it meant, and he,
too, feared that their plans would all be disarranged through an
accidental meeting with a resident of the jungle, who seemed disposed to
dispute their further progress.

There was the biggest wildcat Bluff had ever seen in all his life
squatted on the low limb of a tree, growling angrily, and with it claws
digging into the bark after the manner of a cat that is getting ready to
jump, and will not be stopped!

True, Frank could easily have raised his gun and shot the ferocious
creature dead in its tracks; but such an explosion must warn the enemy
of their presence in the vicinity, and effectually prevent any surprise.

It looked like a serious problem, and yet it must be solved immediately
unless they wanted to experience an encounter at close quarters with
that fury.

"Hold up! give me a chance. Duck your heads, fellows; I'm going to
flashlight the critter!" exclaimed Bluff. And even as he spoke, there
was a sudden startling illumination that lit up the immediate vicinity
like day.


"So-long!" exclaimed the ex-cowboy, as he dropped to the ground.

Frank did not know just then whether Tom Somers was trying to evade an
expected attack from the big cat, or had been startled and alarmed by
the suspicious "click" behind him, instantly followed by that electric

"He's gone!" whispered Bluff, excitedly.

Frank breathed a sigh of relief. The day had been saved by Will's
inoffensive camera after all, for there was no alarm, and they had
escaped an encounter with the poisonous claws of that beast of prey.

"And I bet I got a dandy picture of him, too, for Will. Say, this isn't
so bad, after all. Perhaps there can be some fun hunting with a camera,"
pursued Bluff.

"Silence, Bluff. Let's lie here a bit and listen. I hope we didn't
happen to be so close to their camp as to let them see that flash
through the trees," whispered Frank, dropping down.

Five minutes later they once more began to creep forward. At the
suggestion of Tom Somers, all of them were now on their knees, Bluff, as
before, bringing up the rear.

It was very thrilling work, and Bluff found himself trembling with
excitement as he trailed after his companions.

"Sure he's a peach at this sort of business, and it was a bully streak
of luck when we ran across the poor wretch tied up to a tree," he was
saying to himself, as he watched Tom Somers gliding along, keeping an
eye on the ground, and sometimes almost poking his nose against the
earth in order to solve a knotty problem.

He hoped they would run up against no more bobcats. While fortune had
smiled upon them on that last occasion, perhaps the same good luck might
not always be their portion; and Bluff found no desire in his heart for
a tussle at close quarters with the owner of a set of claws such as
these beasts sported.

Frank and the other fellow seemed to be conferring in low whispers, and
hence he crept up to learn what was in the wind.

"See anything, Frank?" he asked eagerly, as he pushed in beside his

"Softly, Bluff. Yes, if you look through this little opening you can see
it, too."

"Why, it's a house--a sort of old cabin, more like," said Bluff, as he

"That's just what it is. Now, search your memory, both of you--do you
ever recollect hearing about any one living on Wildcat Island?" asked

"Sure I do, now that you ask. There was a queer man once who used to
live like a hermit here. That was years ago. They found his skeleton in
his cabin. Nobody ever knew what he died of, but it was alone, excepting
for his dog, that ran wild till he was shot by a duck-shooter,"
whispered Bluff.

"Glory! this here place is some on thrills," grumbled Tom Somers.

"Never mind the things that are dead and gone. We have more to fear from
those that are living. It looks as though the tramps have taken up their
quarters in the deserted shack of the old hermit, doesn't it, Tom?"
asked Frank, in the ear of the other.

"It sure does, for a fact. Like as not the whole outfit is quartered
there right now. And somehow I got a suspicion that our grub meandered
this way, too. Seems like I see a familiar Boston baked-bean can lying
there by the door, where they hustled it out after eating the contents."

Frank made no reply to this insinuation. Whatever he thought he kept to

"Oh! I wonder is Jerry there?" said Bluff, longingly, but managing to
keep his tones lowered.

"That is something we mean to discover before a great while. I leave the
manner of our approach entirely to Tom here," declared Frank.

The outcast from Pet's camp had proven his ability to be of great
assistance to them, and Frank believed in encouraging a fellow. His
words doubtless gave the other more or less satisfaction. When a boy
feels that he is wholly trusted, he is very apt to do his level best.

"First of all I reckon there's a better way to crawl up close to the
shack than this one we're on. So let's trail around to the other side,
fellers," he said.

They succeeded in reaching the point he had in view. Even Bluff could
see the wisdom of the move. The undergrowth was much more dense here,
and extended quite up to the wall of the dilapidated cabin.

They could see that the new occupants had done some little rough
tinkering in order to make a roof that would shed water reasonably well.
From this it was easy to conclude that Waddy Walsh and his partner did
not know just how long they might have to utilize this place as a
hide-out, and thought it best to be ready to stand a rainy siege such as
the Spring was apt to produce at any day.

Frank felt Bluff clawing at his legs. There was something in the act to
tell him his chum was desirous of speaking to him, and he allowed the
other to pull up alongside so they could put their heads together.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Didn't you hear it?" queried Bluff, as if surprised.

"What? I heard nothing."

"All that whistling on the lake. Sounded to me like that little tug,
_Rainy Day_, that tows the lumber down to the outlet. She was close by,
too," replied Bluff.

"It must have been away off, for I didn't hear a bit of it. Perhaps it
was the tug, too; but she belongs up at the other end of the lake. What
could bring her down here?"

"I had an idea that perhaps the sheriff and his posse might be aboard
her," ventured Bluff, and he was instantly seized by his comrade.

"That's just what it meant. I hope Will's met them and told how the land
lies here. If that is true it means the beginning of the end?" whispered

"And perhaps we may be back in our good old camp by night time, who
knows?" answered the other, joyfully.

Still, neither of them had the slightest thought of relaxing their
efforts with regard to investigating the interior of that cabin, and
ascertaining whether their comrade was being detained there against his
will, perhaps in bonds, that cut his flesh cruelly.

Tom had noted the fact that the others were holding a little powwow, and
hence he did not push on so as to leave them. In fact, Tom was not at
all particular about quitting the society of these stout-hearted fellows
even for a minute, while in such a ghostly neighborhood. Tom believed in
spirits, and the story Bluff had told about that skeleton was ever
before him.

When they began to advance once more, he also started off.

They were now so close to the cabin that if any one had been talking
aloud inside those old moss-grown walls the boys could not have failed
to hear the sounds.

There had been a window, but it was closed with a bunch of dead grass,
and, of course, none of the boys thought of trying to remove this
obstacle in connection with their obtaining a view of the interior. The
only other opening, no doubt, was the door, which was allowed to remain
wide open all the time for air and light.

Dare one of them crawl around the corner of the cabin and try to look in
at that entrance? The risk seemed almost too much. Still, Frank
remembered that they had two guns among them, while, so far as they
knew, the hoboes possessed none; at least they had shown nothing of the
sort thus far.

He had been thinking this over, however, and concluded that it hardly
stood to reason that such desperate characters as these two, one an
escaped reform school inmate and the other a yeggman tramp, would be
entirely without some means of defence. Perhaps one of them might have a
revolver which he had up to now kept out of sight for some reason.

Tom was pulling at Frank's trousers entreatingly. Catching his
attention, he made a gesture with his hand, as talking was now out of
the question.

Following the line of his pointing finger, Frank saw what had attracted
the eye of the boy who had been West. Some animal had for a time used
the hut as a lodging-place, and as the door at the time may have been
closed, had dug a tunnel under the wall at the back of the place.

Possibly the men inside had filled the hole up beyond the wall, but they
had paid no attention to that which lay beyond.

Frank caught the idea instantly. It was to begin to tunnel under the
wall, drawing away the earth piecemeal until an opening was made, when
one of them might crawl through and make discoveries.

The idea appealed to him somehow or other, and, handing his gun silently
to Tom, he set to work lifting handfuls of loose dirt, and gradually
scooping out quite a hole. It was easy work because the place had only
recently been filled in. As he worked he wondered what sort of an animal
had made the tunnel under the wall; perhaps a wildcat, or it might have
been a 'coon, hardly a bear, though such big game could be occasionally
met with around Lake Camalot, especially along the headquarters of
Lumber Run up at the other end of the body of water.

The minutes passed in this way. Several times Frank caught some sound
beyond the wall, but could not make out what it might mean. He felt
positive, however, that it was the home of the hoboes he had reached,
and not a hiding-place of that strange creature so like a gigantic ape,
but which wore shoes like a man.

Now he felt the earth growing lighter, as though he might be coming
close to an end of his strange task. He was still digging away, eager to
learn whether his plan could be carried out, when without the slightest
warning something that moved came in contact with his flesh, and he felt
his fingers seized by a human hand!


Frank involuntarily tried to draw his hand back.

The grasp of the unknown, however, was too strenuous, and he could not
do so unless he created such a disturbance as must have aroused any
sleeper nearby. Besides, a wild suspicion had flashed through his mind.
Perhaps this was his chum Jerry, trying to escape from his place of

He squeezed the fingers that clutched his. It was a sign manual used in
the secret society to which both of them belonged in the Academy at
Centerville. To his great delight the secret grip was returned

Then it _was_ Jerry! He was alive, and even at that moment endeavoring
to get away from those who were holding him against his will!

Frank felt like shouting aloud, so great a sense of gratitude swept over
him; but fortunately he did not give way to such foolishness.

He put his head deep down into the hole he had made and whispered,
making just the faintest sound possible:


"Frank!" came back like the sighing of the wind up in some of those
lofty trees that overhung the lonely cabin with such a bad name.

Then the last doubt vanished. It only remained to get Jerry out of that
place as soon as possible. Why, left to himself he seemed able to force
his way to freedom, and with what aid they could extend surely only a
few minutes would be needed to accomplish it.

Even as he thought thus, he felt his hand violently thrust back. At the
same moment there was the sound of heavy voices in the cabin. Evidently
one or both of the tramps must have entered the second room and
discovered Jerry on his knees engaged in tunneling out.

There was no sound of a blow struck. Had there been, Frank could never
have contained himself, but regardless of consequences must have rushed
around to where the door lay, and burst into the place.

As it was, he backed away and joined his comrades, who, it can easily be
understood, were more than curious to know what all this meant.

"Is he in there?" demanded Bluff, close to the ear of his chum.

"Yes, I whispered his name and he answered by saying mine," came the
thrilling reply.

"Good! good! let's storm the measly old rookery, and hold up those
hoboes at the muzzle of our guns. We've got the men, and we've got the
guns!" said Bluff; but his comrade drew him down again ere he could rush

"Wait! Be cool. This is no time to make mistakes. I thought of that, but
they've shut the cabin door. Perhaps they begin to suspect some of us
are around. It may be they even heard Jerry whisper my name. All we want
to do is to see that they do him no injury. After a while the sheriff
will be along to take care of these jail-birds, all right," Frank went

He said no more, because they once again began to move farther away from
the cabin walls. There was a chance, however, that one of the ferocious
inmates might come out to investigate the conditions, so Frank did not
want to go so far that he could not hold the fellow up and cause a

"What can we do now?" asked Bluff, as they crouched in a thick jungle,
with the cabin lying on their left, and only some twenty paces off.

"Watch and wait. If one of them comes out we'll make him a prisoner. The
door is there, and no one is likely to escape us. Keep ready for a quick
move, both of you," whispered Frank in return.

"Oh! I saw something moving up in that big tree--the one that is half
dead," came from Tom just then.

"Where at in the tree?" demanded Frank, ready to examine into anything
that happened to come before their attention, no matter how odd.

"Say just where that gaping hole lies--about ten feet up. The blame
thing's hollow, that's a cinch, and some critter's got a nest in it.
Maybe an owl, but I'd rather believe 'twas a cat, or perhaps a real
b'ar. Looky, there she is again!"

Each of them had his eyes glued upon the spot indicated in his low-toned
communication by the ex-cowboy. There certainly was something moving,
for while the light was not very strong at that particular place, still
they could see an object projected from the gap.

Quickly it pushed farther out, and there dawned upon their startled
vision the same ape-like creature that had terrorized the camp of Pet
Peters' crowd on the previous night. It seemed, as near as they could
judge in that uncertain light, to be covered with hair, just as a
chimpanzee would be, and its face was in keeping with the remainder of
its hideous form.

Bluff and Tom crouched there and shivered as they watched this awesome
figure scramble down from its perch by the aid of the broken dead limbs.
It dropped lightly on the ground with a grunt, and then scurried off
through the undergrowth.

Tom gave a sigh of relief.

"It's gone, and I'm mighty near the stampedin' point myself," he

"Why, it was that wild man, as sure as fate. Oh! how Will must carry on
when he knows I had such a _glorious_ chance to get him, and lacked the
nerve," whispered Bluff, still shaking with excitement, or something

"It's just as good you didn't," snickered Frank; "for the sound would
have betrayed us to the chaps in the cabin."

"You seem to be tickled about something--suppose you tell a fellow what
you see funny about that awful monster? I'd like to laugh too, but I
declare if my lips ain't frozen stiff. Is it a wild man, or a beast?
Why, I tell you his body is covered with reddish hair, and his face,
will I ever get it out of my mind?"

Bluff was plainly much excited, but Frank seemed quite cool.

"Never mind. Later on I may tell you something I've thought of. But he's
gone, I suppose, and we can consider the cabin again," replied Frank.

"Why not rush it? Given a log, and I vow Tom and I can knock in that old
door just like you'd smash an egg," pleaded the impatient Bluff.

"That would be poor policy. In the first place those are desperate men,
who are wanted for robbery, and they know the jail is fairly itching to
hold them. Consequently they're ready to take all sorts of chances
before giving up. I wouldn't put it past them to fire on us, to wound,
at least, if not worse."

"But look here, they haven't got any guns, have they?" demanded Bluff.

"We only guessed that they hadn't, but we can't be sure. Such ugly
customers are hardly likely to go without some means of defense, and Tom
here will back me up in that. Besides, they've certainly got our chum,"
declared Frank, seriously.

"Perhaps you're right, Frank, but I'd be willing myself to take all the
chances in a mix-up with that crowd," grumbled poor Bluff, who always
seemed to be close upon the border of an opportunity to do something,
only to have the glorious prize snatched from his hands.

He looked longingly toward the lonely cabin, as though he yearned to
have a shy at that ricketty door. According to his mind, once it was
down those tramps would be only too glad to throw up their hands, just
as Pet Peters and his crowd had done when he covered them on the lake.

Frank himself hardly knew what action to take.

"If I only thought they wouldn't take it out on poor Jerry, I'd be
tempted to let Bluff work his bold little trick. But I'm afraid. I know
what such men can do, with a long prison term staring them in the face.
Some of them would just as soon he hung for a sheep as a lamb," he

"Do you really think they'd hurt Jerry?" asked Bluff, solicitously.

"What do you know of that Waddy Walsh?"

"He was always a cruel chap, that's a fact. I've known him to torture a
dog in a terrible way. That was really why he was sent away. Nobody
could do anything with him; even the town authorities had to give up the
job," replied Bluff.

"There you are, then. Now, he's hitched up with a rascal much worse than
himself, from all accounts. Think of those bold robberies all around. I
tell you that pair make a desperate team, and I shiver to think of what
they could do to Jerry if hard pushed. Perhaps, after all, we'd

What Frank was about to suggest was never spoken. Tom Somers jerked his
arm to signify that he had better cease whispering; and as Frank twisted
his head around to see what had happened to alarm their new comrade, he
discovered moving figures approaching from the same quarter they had
themselves come out of.

His first thought was that Sheriff Dodd had arrived with his posse.
Indeed, it was only with a supreme effort that he refrained from leaping
to his feet and wildly beckoning. Then he was glad he had been guilty of
no such foolish act, for he learned that this was far from being the

"They've come back!" exclaimed Tom, in a low tone, yet plainly
disturbed; "looks like they wanted to make sure of me, and had follered
us here so as to corral me!"

Then Frank understood. The flight of Pet Peters and his followers had
been, after all, something of a bluff, for they had again left the
western shore and landed on Wildcat Island; more than that, they were
even now creeping toward the cabin, as if bent upon some desperate


"One, two, three, four!"

Frank was counting the shadowy figures that came flitting closer,
stooping over as they advanced, some carrying cudgels, and others
different kinds of weapons as if they expected trouble presently.

"Five, six--what, seven, yes, and eight! Where did they pick up the
other two members of the crowd?" he was saying to himself as he gazed
from his snug retreat.

Then he noticed that a couple were armed with guns. This gave him a clue
which he easily followed to a logical conclusion. On the western shore
of the lake Pet and his disgruntled followers must have run across a
couple of their cronies, who were apparently out hunting, though the law
allowed of no shooting of game at this time of year.

These fellows may even have been acting with the sheriff, who had
offered a certain reward for the apprehension of the hobo thieves. Upon
exchanging stories it may have been decided to return to the island in a
bunch, and make a bold attempt to round up the tramps, who were believed
to be without any guns. That reward would look big in the eyes of these

No doubt the presence of the old cabin was known to these boys, and they
had guessed that their quarry might be found hiding there in the heart
of the jungle.

Frank laughed to himself at this new complication. It began to look as
if Waddy and his pal would soon be between a lot of fires that must
scorch them, whichever way they turned.

He put a hand cautiously on Bluff. That individual was so impulsive
there could be no telling just how he might act, and this touch would
serve to calm him down.

The flitting figures had now all passed the hiding boys, avoiding the
dense thicket in which they were crouching, as there were easier
passages around. Looking out, Frank could see them moving around the
cabin, as if trying to ascertain some weak place where an entrance could
be effected.

"Huh!" grunted Bluff, a little incautiously it seemed, "they're going to
do what I wanted to try--make an entrance. Some of them have gone to
pick up that log, and others are peeking in at the window, where the hay
sticks out. If it was bigger they'd just like to crawl through. And we
sit here like a set of babies. Huh!"

"Hold up, now, and consider. What's to hinder our letting them do the
work, and then when they go to reap the results we can just step up and
take the plum away," cautioned his comrade.

"I see. Like the monkey that got the cat to pull his hot chestnuts out
of the fire, eh? Talk about Jerry being a lawyer, he ain't in the same
class with you, Frank."

"Watch!" was all the other replied to this shower of bouquets.

"Something's going to happen to them fellers around there before they
know it," remarked Tom Somers, grimly, though, of course, he followed
the example of the others and kept his voice down to the lowest possible

"What makes you say that?" asked Bluff, always eager for information.

"I seen something poking up along the roof. I reckon one of them hoboes
is going to come out up thar, and drop something down on Pet and the
fellers. Gee! but don't I hope he slams it in hard. It'd make my cuts
sting a heap less if I see them guys have to take to the tall timber."

Tom was feeling vindictive, and really, after having seen his bruises,
and remembering how shabbily he had been treated by his pards, Frank
could hardly blame him for such a desire. Tom was only human, after all.

Still, what he had said aroused the curiosity of both Frank and Bluff.
They riveted their attention upon the roof of the cabin. As stated
before, this being badly dilapidated, the hoboes had spent some time
patching the same the best they knew how.

It was even now in a shaky condition, and apt to give way if any daring
soul ventured to put his weight upon it.

At least Tom was right, for they quickly discovered that a certain
portion of this roof was actually moving, and even as they looked what
seemed to be a human arm was thrust through. Some one was evidently
making an opening, removing the pieces one by one at a place where they
had been fastened across a former hole.

Frank felt that there was something more about this than appeared on the
surface. He also noted that the fellows on the ground had by now become
aware that they were apparently about to be menaced from above; for he
saw them crouching down under the spot from whence the pieces were
falling, their eyes turned upward.

Then a head was finally thrust up through the opening. Bluff gasped
again. It seemed as though he were bound to get shock after shock.

"Get next to that, will you?" he whispered in Frank's ear, as he
clutched his sleeve and jerked hard; "why, it's our chum Jerry! Oh!
ain't he the candy kid, though?"

"Hush!" said the other, giving him a push, to keep him from rising in
his excitement.

"Well, I take off my lid to him, anyway," whimpered Bluff, unable to
give proper expression to his feelings.

The boy whose actions they were watching seemed to have made up his mind
that he must get out of that cabin some way or other. He had been halted
in his tunneling operations, and perhaps there was some reason why he
might not resume them, or try and open the door; but Jerry evidently
could not be held in restraint.

It was possible that his captors were dozing, and, taking advantage of
the opportunity, he was about to quit their company by means of the hole
he had made in the roof.

Now his body had appeared. He was testing the rotten timbers first to
make positive that they would hold him.

Bluff hardly breathed as he stared as well as he could, for it was half
dark here, even in the daytime. He knew that a mutual surprise awaited
all the persons taking part in that little drama, when Jerry reached the
edge and looked over. Those crouching below expected to see one of the
tattered hoboes, while possibly Jerry hoped he might find his chums
awaiting him.

"It's coming!" Frank heard him say, as he fumbled around for something;
but he was so much interested himself that he did not give Bluff a
second thought.

Then the creeping boy on the low roof of the cabin reached the edge.
They saw him stretch his neck so that his head projected over; and there
he remained, as if frozen stiff by the strange sight that greeted him.

It was not so gloomy there alongside the shack but that his keen eyes
could see, under the heavy growth of rank trees, the many faces
up-turned toward him. At the same time, Pet and his mates made the
astounding discovery that it was Jerry Wallington, after all, who had
been about to descend in this peculiar way.

Too late, Frank realized what was coming. He heard the old familiar
"click" close to his ear, and a thrill of alarm shot through his frame;
but ere he could even wink, much less make the slightest movement, the
thing was done.

Bluff had fired another cartridge connected with that camera of Will's.
Recognizing the proper elements for a powerful flashlight picture in the
remarkable combination before him, he had proceeded to carry out Will's
instructions, regardless of consequences.

Some of the clustering boys seemed ready to scamper off, but the voice
of Pet recalled them to a sense of their duty. Besides, the prospect of
becoming lost in those gloomy woods was not very flattering, and they
huddled together.

"Hey, don't yuh let that skeer yuh, fellers. It's on'y some of that
crazy Will Milton's photergraphy business. Stick to it, and get that
reward. Don't a single one of yuh dar' to run!" was what he shouted.

The situation was rather embarrassing for Jerry. He seemed to be between
two fires as it were. If he came down, these angry boys stood ready to
attack him; while to stay where he was meant that the hoboes would be
able to reach him.

Frank began to wonder whether the time had not come for them to enter
the game and stand by their chum. He had even arisen to his feet to make
a forward movement when he saw that as usual, Jerry had his wits about

The boy on the quivering roof of the old shack was edging his way along.
He appeared to be aiming for a certain spot where a big tree swept its
branches down so as to brush the roof.

It offered a refuge for any one who could neither come down nor remain
where he was, and Jerry knew he could make it. Now he reached the
nearest limb, and like a monkey scrambled upward. The one who caught him
after that would have to be nimble indeed.

"Hurrah!" shouted Bluff, unable to restrain his admiration for the
presence of mind on the part of his chum.

Perhaps, given time, and the Peters crowd might have attempted some
further hostile move, looking to the capture of the boy who had just
gained his freedom from a prison. Frank was grimly making up his mind
that, no matter what happened, he did not mean to stand idly by and see
Jerry fall into the hands of these fellows.

"Say, are you going to rush 'em?" demanded Bluff, fairly wild to make a

"Not unless they start after Jerry. Just now they seem to be bent on
capturing our friends, the hoboes, and we can afford to let them fight
it out until both sides are exhausted, when our time will come. There
they go at the door with the log as a battering ram! Whoop! what do you
think of that?"

Frank's last exclamation was caused by a sudden movement on the part of
the besieged; for the door had suddenly opened, and a pan of hot water
was thrown out on the huddled holders of the log.


"Ouch! I'm scalded!"

"Skidoo, boys! there's more a-comin'!"

"Why didn't ye shoot, Bill, when ye had the chance? Gee! the skin's
a-peelin' off me nose a'ready!"

No sooner had Waddy Walsh thrown the pan of hot water upon the advancing
group that carried the log than he bolted inside again, and the bar was
heard falling back of the door.

Then they heard the young savage laugh loud and long. It was this sound
that aroused the passions of the crowd. They no longer thought of
flight. With the burning sensation that came with the hot water
application, each fellow ached to be revenged. The worst of it was, most
of them knew Waddy well, and indeed he had once been a member of this
same crowd.

Down went the log to the ground. All thought of using it as a battering
ram had left them now.

"Git behind the trees, fellers. It's us to the foolish house if we let
that Waddy Walsh ketch us ag'in," shouted Pet, who was rubbing his face
quite as vigorously as his comrades in misery.

Upon this they hustled for shelter. Each boy took to a tree that
happened to come handy, and feeling safe from a further bombardment they
gave vent to their feelings in all sorts of characteristic shouts.

Frank was feeling a bit anxious about Jerry. What if these reckless
spirits, aggravated by their hot reception, should try to take it out on
the person of the boy they hated? Two of them carried some manner of
shotguns, and there was no telling what they might not be tempted to do.

When, however, he looked anxiously up into the tree where he had last
seen Jerry, to his delight he found that the other had vanished
completely from sight.

"Where's he gone?" asked Bluff, at this moment, he having apparently
likewise just discovered the absence of the other chum.

"I don't know. Perhaps he's only hiding behind the trunk of the tree, or
he may have found it hollow, like that other one, and slipped in. Watch
what those fellows are up to. If they make a move to shoot at Jerry,
we'll have to put in our oar," Frank answered with considerable feeling.

Pet Peters' crowd was plainly at a loss to know how they ought to
proceed. They saw that hundred dollars reward dangling temptingly before
their eyes, and could not bear the thought of letting it pass without
straining themselves to the utmost to win it. All sorts of things they
had wanted so long could be bought with that easy money, and they were
not yet ready to give up their chances.

"Hi! Bill, you an' Sim git over here. I wanter have a spiel with yuh.
Them guns orter fetch our game out on ther knees, if yuh on'y use 'em
steady. Kim over, an' you, too, Miser Lee. P'raps I kin use yuh!"

It was Pet bawling out, and that his word carried weight was manifest by
the way in which the three fellows addressed hastened to cross over to
where he stood back of the big tree that had the gaping hole in its
trunk ten feet from the ground.

Frank could see them talking earnestly, and gesticulating as if to
emphasize their words. Finally Pet seized the gun that one of the others
carried, and taking a quick aim at the cabin he pulled the trigger.

"Bang! bang!" went both barrels.

The dead grass vanished from the little window under the charges of shot
at such close quarters.

"Kim out o' that, an' surrender to the law!" bellowed Pet.

Frank laughed to himself at the words; it was more than comical to hear
this boy, whose contempt for law and order had made him a marked
character in Centerville, so loudly proclaim his sudden conversion.

Silence followed this peremptory command. Those within the cabin either
did not care to answer, or else could not.

"Say, Pet, p'raps ye did for 'em that time?" suggested one of the

"Git out! Thar wa'nt no chance of that happenin'. Waddy just wants tuh
fool us. He allers was that ways, yuh know," answered Pet; but it was
plain that the awful suggestion rather awed him.

"Shall I shoot, Pet?" asked the other owner of a gun, dubiously.

"'Course yuh must. Think I'm goin' tuh do all the work. Blaze away both
of ye, so long as ye got a shell left. Anyhow, p'raps we kin put in a
claim fur part o' the reward, fur holdin' 'em here. Go on, Sim, I tell

So Sim began to bombard the wall of the cabin. He made mighty sure not
to fire in at that little gaping hole where the dead grass had hung
until Pet knocked it through with his shot. If so be any damage was done
to the inmates Sim did not mean to be accused as the guilty one.

Things seemed pretty lively for a time, with those two guns rattling
away as fast as the owners could reload. From behind their trees the
balance of the attacking crowd watched to see if there came any white
flag of surrender. Beyond the boom of the guns, however, not a sound was
heard, unless the excited voices of the eager boys were taken into

Bluff was plainly nervous. He tried to get up several times, and as
often Frank pulled him down again.

"I just can't stand it, with all that racket going on. Why don't we have
a share in it?" he begged, piteously.

"Because we don't want to expose our hand. Give those silly chumps time
and they will play the game to suit us. Wait till their last shell has
been fired; then we control the situation. See?" whispered his comrade,

"Frank, you hit me again that time. What a goose I am. Why, of course
that's the racket for us. Let 'em go on and roll their hoop!" answered
Bluff, who at least was always ready to admit the error of his ways when

The shooting soon came to an end, for neither Sim nor Bill seemed to
have any great amount of ammunition with them.

"That's my last shell!" declared the former, presently.

"An' I got my last in the gun. Shall I use 'em, Pet?" demanded the

"'Course, an' send it in the windy this time," growled the one

But Bill was too shrewd for that, and proceeded to sprinkle his bird
shot over the surface of the ancient logs.

"Now we control the situation. Our guns are not useless, if theirs are!"
exclaimed Frank, with a chuckle.

Still he did not seem in any hurry to open hostilities. Perhaps he hoped
these eight followers of Pet might find a way to capture the hoboes,
upon which they could appear on the scene and menace the enemy until
they were glad to run away, leaving the fruits of their victory in the
hands of Frank and his friends.

"Pet's up to something tricky. I bet it's the old game of firing the
shanty. You remember, Frank, how he tried to burn us out last Fall when
we were in camp. There goes some of the lot creeping up with armfuls of
leaves. Say, are we going to stand by and see it done?" queried Bluff,

"At the last minute we can stop it. When Pet starts up to strike a
match, then we'll take a hand. No hurry. The chaps inside won't thank
us, remember. It's out of the frying-pan into the fire with them," came
from his companion, who was observing all that went on with a critical

"Looks like they meant to have a big enough pile of leaves there," said
Bluff, as the line of creeping forms kept depositing more and more fuel
close to the wall of the cabin.

"Yes, and I reckon she'd burn like tinder if once started. Suppose those
two hoboes rushed out suddenly, do you suppose Pet and his crowd have
got sand enough to tackle them?" asked Frank of the recruit on his other

"They want that reward bad, I reckon, and would do some tall fightin' to
get it. Fightin' is ther main suit, ye know," answered Tom Somers, as he
caressed the cut on his face tenderly.

"Now they've stopped piling up the leaves. Looks like they expected Pet
to go in and put a match to the bunch. He don't appear to hanker after
the job, but to back out would put him on the blink with the crowd.
There, Frank, he's going to make the riffle, you see. Now, what?" panted
Bluff, again seeking to rise, as he fumbled his gun nervously.

"There's no need of our doing anything, after all," remarked Frank.

"Then you mean to let 'em set the cabin on fire, and perhaps roast the
poor hoboes before our very eyes?" exclaimed Bluff, in dismay.

"Not at all. I only mean that the job of frightening the bunch off is
going to be taken out of our hands, for that wild man is coming back!"

"You don't say? Where--point him out to me, Frank. Oh! if I could only
get a chance to snap him off; but, just like the luck, the last
flashlight cartridge is gone. Ginger! I see him now. Ain't he a terror
though? And won't they go into fits when he rushes 'em? There he comes,
as sure as you live! Wow! watch the circus, boys. My! my! ain't I glad
I'm here to see this!"

Tom Somers had said that his former teammates loved nothing better than
a fight, but there were evidently times when such a condition of affairs
was far from their thoughts. Such seemed to be the case now, for as they
heard the shrill whoops of the outlandish hairy figure that came
prancing headlong toward them, every boy took to his heels in a mad
flight, heedless alike of direction or obstacles in the way, so long as
he could escape a close encounter with that terrible creature.


"Look at them run, Frank! Such a scared crowd of singed cats! Did you
ever see such a sight? But where is that old wild man gone?" exclaimed
Bluff, who had arisen fearlessly to his feet the better to watch the mad
flight of Pet Peters and his cronies through the dense thickets.

"I couldn't say, Bluff. I was too much taken up with the way some of
those boys banged headlong into the trunks of trees to notice anything
else. Did you see, Tom?"

"He climbed the same old tree, and popped into that hole like a
jack-in-the-box," declared the one addressed, quickly.

At that Frank laughed again and again, though Bluff looked at him as if
hardly understanding what there was about the manner of the wild man's
disappearance to amuse his chum so.

"Jerry!" he called presently.

"Tell me about that, will you?" a familiar voice said, and they saw the
object of their solicitude clambering down from a tree not far away from
the house.

In another minute the three chums were shaking hands with a vim. It was
certainly good to see Jerry again, and Bluff could hardly keep from
embracing him.

"Did they treat you mean, old pard?" he asked, looking darkly toward the
cabin, as if meditating an immediate assault if Jerry complained.

"Well, it wasn't a nice experience, I tell you; but on the whole they
didn't kick me more than a dozen times, and I reckon I sassed 'em enough
to expect that. Glad to see you again, fellows, I tell you. Who's this?
Hello! what's Tom Somers doing with chums of mine, I'd like to know?"
demanded the escaped captive, curiously.

"He had a fight with the rest, and they left him on the island, tied to
a tree?" explained Bluff, eagerly.

"Oh; yes, I see, and you rescued him, so that out of gratitude he joined
forces to storm the stronghold of the common enemy. Say, this beats
anything we ever met up with. That wild man is sure the greatest thing
that ever came over the pike," and to Bluff's surprise Jerry also had a
fit of laughing.

"You fellows seem to be tickled over something that I don't just grab. I
didn't think you were the kind to laugh at a poor, silly fool that has
escaped from the asylum, and imagines, perhaps, he's Father Adam in the
woods," he complained.

At which remark the others had another burst of laughter. Frank looked
at Jerry, made a gesture with his head, and placed his finger on his
lips to indicate silence, upon seeing which, Jerry nodded and grinned.

"Tell us about your experiences, will you?" asked Bluff.

"Only a few words. The rest will have to keep until we're settled around
the fire in camp," returned Jerry.

"But we have no camp, now," retorted Bluff.

"What's happened? Did those criminals burn you out, boys?" asked the
other, with clenched hands; for he had a few things he prized among the
traps they had carried along with them, and the loss of which would be
deeply regretted.

"No, but we decided that while off hunting for you we couldn't leave
Will there alone; so we dug up stakes, piled the 'duffle' in the canoes,
and he's off somewhere on the lake waiting a signal to land again,"
remarked Frank.

"Great scheme. I can guess in whose brain it originated. But you don't
know how bully it is to see you again, fellows. Hang it, if it doesn't
seem like a month since I saw you last. And as to feed, I've just had a
few things pushed into my mouth as if I were a bird in a nest. I'm just
longing for a decent meal again."

"What happened while I was examining that Indian mound?" asked Frank.

"I was dozing when something landed like a thousand of brick on my
chest. For the life of me I couldn't say a single word. I guess I must
have fainted, though perhaps I ought to be ashamed to admit it. Next
thing I knew I was being toted off on the shoulders of the big tramp, a
fellow called Biffins, who, I expect must be a yeggman, because he
seemed to know all about blowing open safes in country stores, and such
things," went on Jerry.

"Just to think of it, and carrying you on his shoulders like a log!"
palpitated Bluff, listening with eagerness to these disclosures.

"They fetched me here to this cabin, and kept me tied up part of the
time. That night was a long horror to me. Sometimes they were in with
me, and again off somewhere. In the morning I saw that they had made a
raise of some provisions, and it was then they fed me like a baby."

"But you got your hands free after a while, didn't you?" asked Bluff,
too anxious to wait until the other reached this point.

"To be sure, and commenced that tunnel. You see, the hole in the wall
was too small to crawl through, and they were in the other room where
the door lay. When I caught hold of a hand I seemed to guess instantly
that it must belong to one of you fellows, and then the signal squeeze
told me so. Biffins caught me just then, and threw me aside. They filled
up the hole and drove some stakes down alongside so I couldn't tunnel
any more. After that I thought of the old roof, for it was full of
holes. So I climbed up and got out that way."

Jerry showed by his actions that he did not wish to talk any longer on
the score of his adventures. He kept looking toward the cabin

"What do we do now, fellows? Want to trek back to the shore and leave
these two in peace?" he asked.

"Not for me," answered Bluff, readily enough; "I say that after the way
they held you a prisoner it's our duty to turn the tables on the
rascals. We've got 'em in a hole, and all we have to do is to wait until
Mr. Dodd comes."

Jerry glanced inquiringly toward Frank.

"Yes, we heard whistles a bit ago, and imagine the posse must have
landed. If we could only communicate with them in some way now, and get
them to come here, we might hold the fort meanwhile."

Frank looked at Tom Somers as he spoke. The other could not mistake his

"Oh! I'll go, all right, if so be you write a little note to the
sheriff. Him an' me ain't on the best terms, I reckon," grinned that

"Done. Got a pencil with you, Bluff--mine seems to have disappeared."

The pencil being forthcoming, Frank dashed off a few lines to Mr. Dodd,
and signed his name.

"Sure you can get to the beach, Tom?" he asked.

"Easy as fallin' off a log. I'm off, then, fellers."

Saying which, Tom entered the bush, and disappeared from view.

"Now, what is the programme?" asked Bluff.

"Wasn't that a boat whistle again? It seemed to come from another
quarter, too?" remarked Frank.

"I heard it, all right. Perhaps the tug is circling the island so as to
make sure the thieves get no chance to make off," suggested Jerry.

"You're right, that is just what their programme must be. Meanwhile
they've landed the posse to search the whole place over. I hope Tom
meets up with them in good time," continued Frank, earnestly.

"There's somebody shouting in the woods," remarked Bluff.

"Oh! that's the Peters tribe trying to get together again. Reminds me of
a covey of quail that has been flushed and scattered, calling to each
other from the brush," laughed Frank.

"Will they come back here again?" Bluff continued.

The others exchanged looks, and chuckles followed.

"Talk to me about your sprinters, I don't think you could hire any one
of those same chaps to come within fifty yards of this place after the
scare they got!" exclaimed Jerry.

"And the dose of hot water in the bargain. My! but they must feel sore!
I saw several bang headlong into trees as they galloped away. There will
be some lumps as big as goose-eggs among that crowd to-night. And, after
all, they don't get even a look-in on that prize money," chuckled Bluff.

"I've got a proposition, fellows. If the reward should happen to come
our way I move we turn it over to Tom Somers. His family is poor, and
perhaps this may be the turning point in Tom's life, who knows?" said

"Hear! hear! Them's my sentiments!" cried the impulsive Bluff.

"Ditto," echoed Jerry; for since they all belonged to families of wealth
the promise of a reward held no attraction for Frank and his chums.

"But perhaps if we simply hold these chaps where they are the sheriff
may claim he did the bagging of the game; how about that?" asked Bluff.

"You mean we ought to try and make them surrender to us?"

"If it could be done. I've got an idea in my head. You'll say it isn't
original, and perhaps the trick they were going to play may have had
something to do with it. But suppose they made a sneak while we talked
here and left us to hold the bag?"

"No danger of that, Bluff, while we keep a watch on the door. Presently
we can circle around the old rookery and make sure that they don't take
up your plan of tunneling out. Jerry, I'm going to keep an eye on this
tree with the hole in it. If our friend, the wild man, ventures forth,
it shall be my pleasant task to hold him up. What do you say?"

Bluff looked at Frank as he made this remark, with uneasiness in his

"Seems to me you ain't afraid of anything, Frank. That crazy man gets on
my nerves, and I don't think I could stand for a tussle with him at
close quarters. Better be careful how you let him get hold of you. They
say these lunatics are just as strong as grizzly bears, and this one
must be, to see the way he swung about in that tree like a big ape. Ugh!
Excuse me!"

Bluff shuddered as he spoke, and consequently did not see the look that
passed between his two chums, and which was more of amusement than


"What time of day is it?" asked Jerry presently.

He had evidently lost all track of time while a prisoner in the cabin.

"Just ten o'clock," replied Frank. "What's become of your watch, pard?"

"Decorating the vest of Waddy, just now, though I have hopes of wearing
it again after he's tired of it," grinned Jerry.

"Hope we get fixed up again before night. I'm thinking all the while of
a bully camp dinner. Say, wasn't this the day the girls promised to come
over and bring us some home grub?" asked Bluff suddenly.

"Just as you say, and they'll be along this afternoon on schedule time.
Too bad if they have that long row for nothing. I expected to have
dinner waiting for them when they got here, and then we could take them
home in the canoes. This rumpus has upset all our plans," remarked Frank
dismally; for secretly, Violet Milton had promised to cook a dish that
was an especial favorite of his and bring it over, to prove her
accomplishments in the culinary line.

"Oh, I hope it may all turn out right yet. Now, that reminds me of my
plan. If we could only force these two rascals to surrender it would
shorten our stay out in the bush, and we could make for the beach, call
Will ashore, and have our tents up again in a jiffy."

"Talk to me about your persistent youngsters, ain't he all to the good,
though? What is this jim-dandy plan of yours, Bluff? Suppose you give us
a look-in, so we can cheer you on, or condemn it as altogether too
ridiculous?" suggested Jerry.


"You mean, make it so uncomfortable for the hoboes that they'll be glad
to come out and hold up their little hands for us--is that the

"Well, don't you think it would work, Jerry?" demanded the originator.

"Who's going to do the smoking act? Tell me that."

"That's easy. Count on me, if you don't mind holding my gun while I
chase around and gather some stuff that will smolder and not blaze up.
Some green weeds make a bitter smoke that smarts the eyes dreadfully.
I'll try that on. Those tramps may be able to stand for a good deal, but
if they stay in that place long they'll feel like a couple of smoked
hams," declared the energetic Bluff.

"Oh, so far as that goes, I'm only too willing to grab a good old gun
again. I reckon you let Will have mine," observed Jerry as he relieved
the other of the repeating shotgun.

"And you won't feel disgraced because it happens to be one of those
pump-guns?" Bluff took occasion to remark, maliciously.

"Circumstances alter cases. This is one. I've no doubt that a gun like
this can be very useful at times. Anyhow, I'm open to a trial. Just let
those hoboes show up and try to attack us, and if I don't fill their
miserable bodies full of bird shot, then it's twenty-three for mine.
Now, watch him begin his new job, Frank."

"You saw what happened to those other boys when they started to rush the
door with that log battering-ram, didn't you, Bluff? Perhaps they've got
more hot water handy. Look out for it, my son," warned Frank.

"Oh, I'm onto that racket. I can dodge any Niagara that comes. Besides,
I don't mean to give 'em more of a chance at me than I can help. One of
you keep watch on the door, and if they start to open just bang away in
the air to tell that we mean business. Here goes, boys."

So Bluff commenced moving hither and thither under the trees, searching
for just the kind of wood he wanted. It was his intention to start his
fire alongside the tree that grew nearest to the cabin wall. Then, after
he had it smoking at a furious rate he could push the whole mass under
the structure with a long stick.

For some time he worked. Not a sound or a sign of life came from the
cabin. If Waddy Walsh and his pal, Biffins, were still inside, they knew
how to keep quiet.

By this time our friends had become convinced that the hobo couple could
not be in possession of any kind of firearm, for they would surely have
made some use of the same at the time Pet Peters and his crowd pushed
them so warmly.

Feeling sure of this, Bluff worked openly, only keeping behind the trees
whenever he approached close to the hut, for fear lest a sudden shower
of scalding fluid should greet him.

Frank and Jerry had separated, each watching a side of the cabin. Frank
also kept close to the tree which had sheltered the singular being whose
coming on the scene had completed the fright of Pet Peters and his
cronies. From the way he cast frequent looks up at that yawning cavity
it would seem as though he half anticipated a reappearance of the
remarkable creature that had vanished inside the tree.

Finally Bluff seemed to have arranged the little pile of material to

"Here she goes, fellows! Look out, now! There may be something doing.
Hold 'em up if they rush me!" he called, as he applied a match.

The stuff burned briskly at first. When he had allowed it to gain what
headway he deemed sufficient, Bluff began to cover the fire with the
green weeds brought for the purpose.

"Wow!" shouted Jerry, as a wavering breeze carried some of the dense
smoke over to his station. "That's the limit! Ought to be a State's
prison offense for any one to make such a smudge as that. You'll
suffocate the poor guys--that's what!"

But Bluff only grinned, and labored on. He had a long pole in his hands,
with which he was shoving the smoldering mass over so that it would pass
under a certain part of the cabin. Here there was a friendly opening
ready to receive it.

Bang! went a gun.

The cabin door, which had started to open, was hastily shut, although,
of course, Jerry had fired above the roof.

"How does it work?" shouted Bluff, thinking more of his gun in the hands
of the one who had always detested it than his own danger from hot

"Great!" answered Jerry as he let another shot loose, having, as he
thought, detected a movement of the door again.

Thinking they had drawn his fangs, those in the cabin now really opened
the door, to get a chance to deluge Bluff, when, to their amazement and
alarm, Jerry turned loose a third shot. The door shut, this time to open
no more for that purpose.

"Now what do you say?" roared Bluff. "What could you have done with one
of your old measly two-shot guns, eh? Tell me that."

"I take back all I ever said against the bully thing. Three more shots
waiting for you, Mister Hobo. Just show your nose, and see!" exclaimed
the marksman.

"Mark the window, Bluff!" called Frank just then.

Thus warned in time, Bluff was able to scurry around the protecting
trunk of the tree as an arm was projected from the small opening, and,
as before, a pan of steaming water dashed all around him.

"Tell me about that, will you?" jeered Jerry, who guessed what had
happened, though it took place on the other side of the cabin.

Bluff started pushing his mass of smoking weeds forward again.

"Never touched me!" he shouted in his excitement.

By this time the rank smoke had begun to ooze up through the floor of
the old cabin. Doubtless there were plenty of gaping cracks between the
puncheon boards to allow of a draught. Just how long the inmates could
stand this sickening cloud was a question.

"Say! ain't this the real thing? Perhaps the sheriff would like to take
a few lessons from our chum Bluff on how to smoke hams. Listen, will
you! The poor guys are sneezing to beat the band. Keep up the good work,
pard, and you'll force their hand. Get ready to cover 'em, Frank. I
reckon something's bound to happen soon."

"Hey, you Waddy! Show up with the white flag, and we quit!" called Bluff
from behind his refuge.

He was rubbing the back of his neck as he spoke, for while he had
claimed to have escaped entirely, some of the splashing water had
dropped on his skin and left an impression in the shape of a red mark.

"A white flag--that's the game! Might as well do it right while we're at
it, boys. Come out, Waddy! We want you, and we mean to get you! Three
more charges in this elegant pump-gun, and all for you. Do you
surrender?" shouted Jerry.

It was happiness to Bluff to hear this scoffing sportsman chum of his
thus praise the hitherto detested repeating gun, and he danced around
almost recklessly, such was his delight.

But no more charges of scalding water belched out of that small window.
Perhaps the two unfortunates within had all they could attend to trying
to breathe in that sickening, smoke-laden atmosphere.

"Keep up the good work, Bluff. It's immense," encouraged Frank, who
really believed that, after all, the other had hit upon a clever way to
force a surrender on the part of the defiant hoboes.

Suddenly the energetic fireman gave a loud cheer.

"They shove out the white flag! They surrender! What d'ye think of my
plan, now, fellows? There's Waddy waving it out of the window! Don't
shoot the poor duck--he's pretty near all in, and blind with the smoke!"
he whooped.

It was so.

Perhaps the article that the boy tramp was waving wildly out of the
small opening may have hardly deserved the name of white flag, but his
intentions could not be doubted.

Smoke had won against stubborn grit, and the hoboes were ready to throw
up their hands!


"Do you give up, Waddy?" demanded Frank, menacingly holding his gun

"Oh, we'll hands up, all right. Both of us are on the blink with the
smoke, and nigh blind. Call it off, fellers," whined the owner of the
dirty face in the opening, while he coughed several times to emphasize
his words.

"All right, then. Now, tell Biffins that we want him out first, and if
he tries to run, it's a charge of bird shot for him in the rear. Get

"Sure. No danger of us doin' anythin'. We're so near blind we couldn't
run if we wanted to."

The head vanished. Ten seconds later the door was thrown open and a big
man staggered into sight, reeling as if he were intoxicated. The two
fugitives had stubbornly stuck to the cabin through all, until nearly
dead for fresh air.


As he came, the man held both arms aloft. Apparently he knew what was
wanted, and did not mean to encourage these young hunters to try a shot
at his person.

"Lie down on the ground, on your face!" shouted Frank. "Now keep your
hands stretched out that way. Don't dare move, or it will be bad for
you, Biffins. Now, Waddy, your turn!" called Frank again.

A second figure came into view, groping, as if utterly blind. He, too,
was compelled to drop on the cool earth, where he could gulp in great
breaths of the fresh air, of which they were in such dire need.

From three directions the boys approached.

"Hurrah! We bagged 'em!" shouted Bluff.

Frank said nothing. It was not in his nature to exult over a fallen foe,
though he did not blame the more impulsive Bluff for his evident

From one of his pockets he produced some stout cord. He certainly had
never dreamed what a singular use he would find for this when placing it

"Watch them both, Jerry. Now, Biffins, put your hands behind you,
crossed. I'm going to tie them so. It's no use thinking of doing
anything. You couldn't escape, even if you got away from us, for the
sheriff has this island surrounded, and he is on the way here, right
now, with his posse. Perhaps you might be shot down in the woods. There,
you won't break that, I reckon, in a hurry."

He turned his attention to the second rascal. Waddy Walsh had reached a
point in his reckless career where he did not care much what happened to
him. Having in a measure recovered from the suffocating fumes of the
smoking weeds, he even twisted his head half way around to jeer at

"Helpin' to arrest your old pard, hey, Jerry? That's kind of you, now.
I'll be likely to remember it, old feller, when I get out again," he

"I reckon you won't have a chance to get out in a hurry, Waddy. I'm
ashamed to admit that I did once go out with you, till you took to
stealing, and I had to cut you off my visiting list. Hear that shooting,
boys? The sheriff's posse must be in the woods nearby, right now, and
coming this way. I reckon Tom found 'em, all right."

"Well, let 'em come. We're ready to hand the prisoners over to the
lawful officers. Say, but this has been a fierce time all around. We
never thought, when we started out to camp on Wildcat Island, that we'd
pass through such a string of adventures. Where are you going, Frank?"
said Bluff, as the other started to enter the cabin, the smoke having
settled somewhat, after the smoldering weeds were dragged away from
under the wall.

"Just to look around a little, that's all. Please stay with Jerry," came
the answer, as Frank vanished within.

Presently he came out again. He had a bundle under his arm, wrapped in a
newspaper, and of which he seemed especially careful. Jerry looked at
him, and received a nod in return, which he seemed to understand full
well, for he asked no questions.

"Here's the packet Mr. Pemberton lost, and I suppose the valuables are
all safe inside, eh, Waddy?" he said, holding up something small he

"Never touched a thing in it. Them other pieces of silver we swiped out
of the farmhouse, and anything else you find come from that storage
house over in Newtonport. We was after something big there, but missed
it," admitted the boy from the reform school, with unblushing

Loud calls were now heard close by. Bluff lifted his tuneful voice and

"This way, Mr. Dodd. Everything lovely, and the goose hangs high. We've
got 'em safe and sound. Here's your men, sir. Step right up and put the
irons on 'em!"

Biffins had not said a word up to now. The smoke had taken all desire to
talk away from him; but he proved that he could swear like a pirate. No
doubt what galled him most of all was the fact that his capture had been
brought about through the instrumentality of a parcel of boys.

The crashing of the undergrowth became plainer. Then a party of men
could be seen hurrying forward as fast as the tangled thickets would

Mr. Dodd, the sheriff, was at their head. As he saw the two tramp
thieves lying on the ground, helpless, he gave a roar. Rushing up to the
boys, he shook the hand of each one in turn.

"Bully work, boys! I'm proud to know you, proud to say you live in the
same town as I do! Hello, Biffins! So it's you, eh? Well, this time
we've got you dead to rights, and you don't get off. And here's Waddy
Walsh, broke loose from the school he was sent to to learn to become a
decent man. Back you go, my fine lad, this time to stay."

So he rattled on, as he proceeded to clap a pair of neat steel bracelets
on the wrists of each of the prisoners.

After that he went into the cabin and thoroughly searched it.

"I reckon we've got all the plunder they had, and now it might be a good
thing if we burned this old rat trap of a nest to the ground. It's got a
bad name, and if tramp thieves have taken to lodging here, the sooner it
goes, the better."

Under the orders of the sheriff, some of the posse started things
moving. In a short time the old cabin was a mass of flames. They made
sure that the fire could not extend to the surrounding forest, which was
just beginning to be covered with an early crop of new leaves. Then the
whole company started through the thickets, headed for the shore.

"Hang the luck! We forget one thing, after all!" said Bluff suddenly.

He had been so busy getting several pictures of the burning cabin that
for the time being all other things had escaped him.

"What was that?" asked Frank, winking at Jerry knowingly.

"The wild man! We forgot to get him out of that hollow tree!" exclaimed

"Well, it's too late now. For one, I object to walking back there.
Besides, we must hustle in order to make camp again against the coming
of the girls," observed Frank seriously.

"But ain't we ever going to know what the mystery of that queer creature
must be? Perhaps we'd better write to that keeper we met before, Mr.
Smithson, and let him know. Then if he's shy a member of his happy
family of lunatics, he'll know where to hunt for him," Bluff went on

"A bully good idea, and you can do the writing when we get home, if you
feel that way," said Frank, with a face that was as sober as that of a
judge, while Jerry had to turn his head away to keep from laughing

"But about the girls, fellows! Do you know they may not come, after all.
Perhaps the folks have heard about the lively times down here on Wildcat
Island, and put a veto on the outing. Then, again, you can hear the wind
in the tops of these tall trees, so there must be whitecaps on the lake.
It would be risky for a lot of girls to embark on so long a trip,"
observed Jerry.

"Well, boys, we're going to turn aside here, and make for a point where
the tug is to meet us. I want to thank you again. Don't forget there's a
nice little hundred waiting for you when you want to claim it," said Mr.
Dodd, after a bit.

"We've decided that you are to turn that reward over to Tom Somers here.
He was a great help to us, and we'd like his family to get the hundred,
Mr. Dodd," said Frank.

Tom started to say something, then broke down, and could only look at
each of the three boys with his heart in his eyes.

"Now for the place again. It's tenting once more on the old campground
for us, fellows. I hope Will has had the sense to cross over after he
saw the tug come, and the posse come ashore," remarked Frank.

They pushed through the dense growth stubbornly, and in the course of
time realized that they were drawing near the open.

"One more rush, and we can pass around that big bluff and see our place.
There's the lake, and whitecaps, too. Too bad the girls can't be with
us. What a yarn we'd have to tell 'em, eh, fellows?" said Frank,

"Thunder!" exclaimed Bluff just then.

"What's happened to you, old sport?" asked Jerry.

"Look here, through this opening! Ain't that the boat with the girls,
out there in that jumping sea? And side on, part of the time.
Something's happened to 'em, that's what, as sure as you're born!"
ejaculated Bluff.

The others looked, and also uttered exclamations of dismay, while Frank
called out:

"They seem to have only one oar, and Nellie's trying to steer with that.
Much she knows about sculling! Oh! They were nearly over that time! My
heart's in my mouth. Run for the shore, boys! If only Will has come in
with our canoes!"

And plunging like mad through the remaining brush, the three lads broke
out upon the little beach, just where they had first landed when coming
to Wildcat Island to camp.


"Will's here!" shouted Jerry, as they broke cover.

"Into the canoes, then, as fast as you can!" exclaimed Frank.

He had given one frantic look out on the lake. This had shown him that
as yet the helpless boat containing the four girls had not capsized,
though with every wave it seemed liable to turn over, having broached to
in the heavy running seas.

The way they threw out the contents of the canoes was a caution.
Packages fairly covered the little beach, to the bewilderment of Will,
who just then came out of the bushes, where he had been placing his
first load, and who must have believed at first that his three chums had
gone stark mad.

Then the canoes were launched. This in itself was no easy task, but
Frank and his chums were experts at handling the small craft, and had
often practised all manner of tricks with the boats while in swimming.

Through the breaking surf that rushed up on the shore they ran with the
canoes. Then jumping in, they seized the paddles, and started to work

Success attended their efforts, and presently they were moving swiftly
toward the rolling rowboat, in which crouched the four frightened girls.

"Sit down, and keep still! We'll get you all right!" bawled Frank, as he
saw one of the girls make an effort to use the remaining oar.

So they came alongside. Frank breathed a prayer of thanksgiving when his
hand caught the gunwale of the skiff.

"I've got the boat to hold two of you. Nellie, can you climb over, if I
hold on tight?" he asked his sister; "and you, too, Violet, will you

Nellie made the change easily enough, and then came Will's sister.
Meanwhile, the other boys had decided to convoy the rowboat in with its
remaining passengers, rather than attempt the risky task of transferring
them out there on the rough lake.

They made fast, one on either side, and began to paddle with the waves.
In this way the entire number finally found themselves safely ashore.

"We hardly expected you'd try it in this wind," said Frank, as he helped
Violet up the beach to the deserted camp.

"But the wind came up after we started, and we couldn't go back to save
our lives, you see," she explained, laughing a little hysterically.

"But what does this mean? Where is your camp, boys? It looks as though
everything is done up just as you left home," said Mame Crosby, as she
eyed the many packages which the others were now busily gathering

At that they all looked at each other and burst into roars of laughter.

"It's a long story, girls, and we'll spin it while we sit around the
fire having dinner. As it's now long past noon, and there's a heap to do
getting the camp fixed again, you must excuse us. Bluff, start the fire
going, and the girls can help us out by taking charge of dinner while we
build our camp," said Frank.

Things began to assume the old-time air in less than half an hour. Of
course, the girls chattered like magpies as they worked, but all their
appeals for information fell on deaf ears until they were sitting
around, in picnic style, enjoying the splendid dinner, which was helped
out by the delicious things brought from home.

"And to think how near we came to feeding the fishes with these, too,"
said Susie Prescott, as she helped Will to a second portion.

"Now please take pity on us, and explain what has happened. We're just
dying by inches to know. What was that tug doing down here, with all
those men? And unless I'm mistaken, I saw Mr. Dodd, the sheriff, aboard.
He was out hunting those two bad tramps who robbed the steamboat. Oh,
boys! Do you mean to say you have had anything to do with them?"

Nellie had brought it to the point where explanations must be in order.
So the story was told in detail. Sometimes one of the campers related a
certain part, and then another took it up from where he left off.

"And with what views Bluff took for me, I'll have enough to illustrate
the whole performance. A few I've missed, and they will always haunt me.
Altogether it's been a remarkable series of adventures," declared Will

"The most astonishing that will ever come our way, I reckon," said Jerry
with emphasis.

But though they did not dream of it at that time, there were still
stranger things fated to befall the four chums ere many months had
passed. These happenings of vacation time will appear in the next volume
of this series, to be entitled "The Outdoor Chums in the Forest; or,
Laying the Ghost of Oak Ridge," which will tell of the weird experiences
our friends met with while investigating the greatest mystery that ever
troubled the neighborhood of Centerville.

The merry party had just about finished their dinner when Bluff once
again began to take his comrades to task for not thinking to rout the
wild man out of his hole in the tree while they had the help of the
sheriff's posse.

"It's a chance we'll never have again, and no doubt the poor old fellow
would be better off if turned over to Mr. Smithers, at the asylum. Have
any of you girls heard of a lunatic at large since winter?" he kept on,
until both Frank and Jerry could stand it no longer.

"It's a shame to keep you in the dark any longer, Bluff. To tell you the
truth, we captured that wild man," said Frank as soon as he could
control his face.

"Captured him? When? How? Where? You've been having a joke all to
yourselves. It's time you let me in, boys," he said positively.

Frank ripped open the newspaper package he had carried all the way from
the lone cabin in the jungle. Then he held something up that first
provoked exclamations of wonder and then shrieks of laughter from the
girls. Bluff turned red in the face, but being good-natured, he finally
joined in the mirth.

"So that's what it was, eh? That big tramp dressed himself up in that
monkey skin they stole from Dr. Aiken's collection, over in the
store-house, when they entered. Waddy knew about the story of the wild
man said to be on this island, and meant to have Biffins play the part
to frighten off any posse that might land. A clever idea, yes; and I
guess he did have considerable fun with it," Bluff went on.

"Jerry knew, of course, for he was a prisoner, and saw the fellow
dressing to carry out the part; but I gave him the wink, and he kept
quiet," said Frank.

"But how did you know?" demanded Will.

"I just guessed it. Sort of put two and two together, you see. The
footprints gave me a clue. Then I watched the fellow carefully when he
was coming out of the tree, and going in later. I believed it was a man,
and he seemed to know too much to be a lunatic; but I thought I'd have a
little fun with you and Bluff."

"Into the tree, yes, but how do you explain that? We saw him go in that
hole in the hollow stump, and he didn't come out again, yet Biffins was
in the cabin when my stinging smoke made them surrender. There's
something queer about that."

"You're right there is, Bluff. I saw how the thing was done when I went
inside the cabin, after they had been made prisoners. In the front room
was a hole in the floor. I jumped in that, and found, just as I
expected, that it was a nice little underground tunnel leading to that
hollow tree. Years ago, the man who lived there must have constructed
that as a means of escape from some imaginary danger. When Biffins
entered that tree he simply kept along until he reached the cabin; but
neither of them dared try to escape that way, because they saw me
standing guard," remarked Frank calmly.

"Well! Talk about your mysteries, this one beats the band! But that
fellow who died in the cabin did have a reason to be afraid, Frank. I
understand he turned out to be a man who was wanted for a capital crime
down in New York City. Perhaps he dreamed of the time when he should be
tracked to his hiding-place, and meant to have a chance for escape,"
observed Jerry.

They passed the hairy disguise around. Bluff even stood up to show how
it had fitted the big man, at which Will uttered a cry of delight.

"Oh! now I know how I can get a picture of the wild man for our
collection. Bluff, some day won't you just put that thing on, and let me
snap you off? It will be a real kindness, and I think you will be
pleased with the result," he exclaimed.

At which poor Bluff glared at him, and subsided, while the girls went
into new spasms of laughter.

Dinner was made as elaborate as possible, and in spite of what had
happened the girls and the boys did full justice to all that was set
before them. As they ate they talked the happenings over again. They all
had fun with the disguise, and when one of the girls tried it on,
everybody screamed with laughter.

"The wild girl from Peru," said Frank.

"The Wildcat Island belle," came from Jerry.

And then another shout of laughter arose.

Dinner over, the boys gallantly ferried the girls over to a dock at
which the steamboat would stop on her round of the lake. Here they
laughed and joked until the _Eastern Star_ came along, when the four
girls started home.

Captain Amos leaned over the rail and heard the news with delight,

"Glad to hear it, fellows. Knew those hoboes would regret it if ever
they ran across the tracks of you four. So they're in the lock-up by
this time, and Mr. Pemberton's packet of jewelry is recovered. Hurrah
for the Rod, Gun and Camera Club!"

So the little steamboat sheered off, the paddles began to beat the
water, and our boys waved their hats in farewell as the girls returned
the salute with their dainty handkerchiefs. After which, Frank and his
chums headed once more for Wildcat Island to finish their Easter outing,
so strangely interrupted.

                                THE END





These spirited tales convey in a realistic way the wonderful advances in
land and sea locomotion. Stories like these are impressed upon the
youthful memory and their reading is productive only of good.

  Or Fun and Adventure on the Road

  Or The Rivals of Lake Carlopa

  Or The Stirring Cruise of the Red Cloud

  Or Under the Ocean for Sunken Treasure

  Or The Speediest Car on the Road

  Or The Castaways of Earthquake Island

  Or The Secret of Phantom Mountain

  Or The Wreck of the Airship

  Or The Quickest Flight on Record

  Or Daring Adventures in Elephant Land

  Or Marvelous Adventures Underground

  Or Seeking the Platinum Treasure

  Or A Daring Escape by Airship

  Or The Perils of Moving Picture Taking

  Or On the Border for Uncle Sam

  Or The Longest Shots on Record

  Or The Picture that Saved a Fortune

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St. New York





In these stories we follow the adventures of three boys, who, after
purchasing at auction the patents of a moving picture house, open a
theatre of their own. Their many trials and tribulations, leading up to
the final success of their venture, make very entertaining stories.

  Or Opening a Photo Playhouse in Fairlands.

  The adventures of Frank, Randy and Pep in running a Motion Picture
  show. They had trials and tribulations but finally succeed.

  Or The Rival Photo Theatres of the Boardwalk.

  Their success at Fairlands encourages the boys to open their show at
  Seaside Park, where they have exciting adventures--also a profitable

  Or The Mystery of the Missing Cash Box.

  Backed by a rich western friend the chums established a photo
  playhouse in the great metropolis, where new adventures await them.

  Or The Film that Solved a Mystery.

  This time the playhouse was in a big summer park. How a film that
  was shown gave a clew to an important mystery is interestingly

  Or The First Educational Photo Playhouse.

  In this book the scene is shifted to Boston, and there is intense
  rivalry in the establishment of photo playhouses of educational

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York





Moving pictures and photo plays are famous the world over, and in this
line of books the reader is given a full description of how the films
are made--the scenes of little dramas, indoors and out, trick pictures
to satisfy the curious, soul-stirring pictures of city affairs, life in
the Wild West, among the cowboys and Indians, thrilling rescues along
the seacoast, the daring of picture hunters in the jungle among savage
beasts, and the great risks run in picturing conditions in a land of
earthquakes. The volumes teem with adventures and will be found
interesting from first chapter to last.

  Or Perils of a Great City Depicted.

  Or Taking Scenes Among the Cowboys and Indians.

  Or Showing the Perils of the Deep.

  Or Stirring Times Among the Wild Animals.

  Or Working Amid Many Perils.

  Or Perilous Days on the Mississippi.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



Never was there a cleaner, brighter, more manly boy than Frank Allen,
the hero of this series of boys' tales, and never was there a better
crowd of lads to associate with than the students of the School. All
boys will read these stories with deep interest. The rivalry between the
towns along the river was of the keenest, and plots and counterplots to
win the championships, at baseball, at football, at boat racing, at
track athletics, and at ice hockey, were without number. Any lad reading
one volume of this series will surely want the others.

  The Boys of Columbia High;
  Or The All Around Rivals of the School.

  The Boys of Columbia High on the Diamond;
  Or Winning Out by Pluck.

  The Boys of Columbia High on the River;
  Or The Boat Race Plot that Failed.

  The Boys of Columbia High on the Gridiron;
  Or The Struggle for the Silver Cup.

  The Boys of Columbia High on the Ice;
  Or Out for the Hockey Championship.

12mo. Illustrated.

Handsomely bound in cloth, with cover design and wrappers in colors.

Price, 40 cents per volume.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York

The Outdoor Chums Series


The outdoor chums are four wide-awake lads, sons of wealthy men of a
small city located on a lake. The boys love outdoor life, and are
greatly interested in hunting, fishing, and picture taking. They have
motor cycles, motor boats, canoes, etc., and during their vacations go
everywhere and have all sorts of thrilling adventures. The stories give
full directions for camping out, how to fish, how to hunt wild animals
and prepare the skins for stuffing, how to manage a canoe, how to swim,
etc. Full of the very spirit of outdoor life.

  Or, The First Tour of the Rod, Gun and Camera Club.

  Or, Lively Adventures on Wildcat Island.

  Or, Laying the Ghost of Oak Ridge.

  Or, Rescuing the Lost Balloonists.

   Or, Perilous Adventures in the Wilderness.

12mo. Averaging 240 pages.

Illustrated. Handsomely bound in Cloth.

Price, 40 Cents per Volume


The Young Reporter Series


The author is a practiced journalist, and these stories convey a true
picture of the workings of a great newspaper. The incidents are taken
from life.

12mo. Bound in Cloth. Illustrated.

Price, 40 Cents per Volume. Postpaid.

  Or The First Step in Journalism.

  Or Strange Adventures in a Great City.

  Or The Hunt for a Missing Millionaire.

  Or A Young Reporter in Wall Street.

  Or A Young Reporter on the Lakes.

The Sea Treasure Series


No manly boy ever grew tired of sea stories--there is a fascination
about them, and they are a recreation to the mind. These books are
especially interesting and are full of adventure, clever dialogue and
plenty of fun.

12mo. Bound in Cloth. Illustrated.

Price, 40 Cents per Volume. Postpaid.

  Or The Secret of the Island Cave.

  Or The Castaways of Floating Island.

  Or The Search for a Sunken Treasure.

  Or Daring Adventures in South America.



For Little Men and Women





Copyright publications which cannot be obtained elsewhere. Books that
charm the hearts of the little ones, and of which they never tire. Many
of the adventures are comical in the extreme, and all the accidents that
ordinarily happen to youthful personages happened to these many-sided
little mortals. Their haps and mishaps make decidedly entertaining




The demand for this series has been so great that the author has yielded
to many requests and has added two volumes as follows:


  Telling how they got home from the seashore; went to school and were
  promoted, and of their many trials and tribulations.


  Telling of the winter holidays, and of the many fine times and
  adventures the twins had at a winter lodge in the big woods.





Two companion stories for American girls, by one of the most popular
writers of fiction for girls' reading. They are bright, winsome and
thoroughly wholesome stories.

DOROTHY CHESTER. The Haps and Mishaps of a Foundling.

  The first volume tells how Dorothy was found on the doorstep, taken
  in, and how she grew to be a lovable girl of twelve; and was then
  carried off by a person who held her for ransom. She made a warm
  friend of Jim, the nobody; and the adventures of the pair are as
  interesting as they are surprising.


  Shows Dorothy at her country home near the Highlands of the Hudson.
  Here astonishing adventures befell her, and once again Jim, the
  nobody, comes to her assistance.



By Horatio Alger, Jr.

These are Copyrighted Stories which cannot be obtained elsewhere. They
are the stories last written by this famous author.

12mo. Illustrated.

Bound in cloth, stamped in colored inks.

Price, 40 Cents per Volume, Postpaid.

  Or Frank Hardy's Road to Success

  A plain but uncommonly interesting tale of everyday life, describing
  the ups and downs of a boy book-agent.

  Or Nat Nason's Strange Experience

  Nat was a poor country lad. Work on the farm was hard, and after a
  quarrel with his uncle, with whom he resided, he struck out for

  Or Robert Frost's Strange Career

  Relates the adventures of a country boy who is compelled to leave
  home and seek his fortune in the great world at large.

  Or The Experiences of a Young Secretary

  This is a companion tale to "Out for Business," but complete in
  itself, and tells of the further doings of Robert Frost as private

  Or The Son of a Soldier

  The scene is laid in the South during the Civil War, and the hero is
  a waif who was cast up by the sea and adopted by a rich Southern

  Or Afloat in New York

  Mr. Alger is always at his best in the portrayal of life in New York
  City, and this story is among the best he has given our young

  Or Robert Roscoe's Strange Cruise

  A sea story of uncommon interest. The hero falls in with a strange
  derelict--a ship given over to the wild animals of a menagerie.

  Or the Parkhurst Treasure

  Depicts life on a farm of New York State. The mystery of the
  treasure will fascinate every boy. Jerry is a character well worth

  Or the adventures of a Young Deckhand

  Life on a river steamboat is not so romantic as some young people
  may imagine, but Randy Thompson wanted work and took what was

  Or Winning Out by Pluck.

  A graphic account of the adventures of a country boy in the city.

  Or The Boys of Boxwood Academy

  The trials and triumphs of a city newsboy in the country.


The Enterprise Books

Captivating Stories for Boys by Justly Popular Writers

The episodes are graphic, exciting, realistic--the tendency of the tales
is to the formation of an honorable and manly character. They are
unusually interesting, and convey lessons of pluck, perseverance and
manly independence, 12mo. Illustrated. Attractively bound in cloth.

Price, 40 Cents per Volume. Postpaid.

  Moffat, William D.
  THE CRIMSON BANNER. A Story of College Baseball

  A tale that grips one from start to finish. The students are almost
  flesh and blood, and the contests become real as we read about them.
  The best all-around college and baseball tale yet presented.

  Graydon, William Murray

  In this book we have the doings of several bright and lively boys,
  who go on a canoeing trip and meet with many exciting happenings.

  Harkness, Peter T.
  ANDY, THE ACROBAT. Or, With the Greatest Show on Earth

  Andy is as bright as a silver dollar. In the book we can smell the
  sawdust, hear the flapping of the big white canvas and the roaring
  of the lions, and listen to the merry "hoop la!" of the clown.

  Foster, W. Bert
  THE QUEST OF THE SILVER SWAN. A Tale of Ocean Adventure

  A Youth's story of the deep blue sea--of the search for a derelict
  carrying a fortune. Brandon Tarr is a manly lad, and all lads will
  be eager to learn whether he failed or succeeded in his mission.

  White, Matthew, Jr.
  TWO BOYS AND A FORTUNE. Or, The Tyler Will

  If you had been poor and were suddenly left a half-million dollars,
  what would you do with it? That was the problem that confronted the
  Pell family, and especially the twin brothers, Rex and Roy. A
  strong, helpful story, that should be read by every boy in our land.

  Winfield, Arthur M.
  BOB, THE PHOTOGRAPHER. Or, A Hero in Spite of Himself

  Relates the experiences of a poor boy who falls in with a "camera
  fiend," and develops a liking for photography. After a number of
  stirring adventures Bob becomes photographer for a railroad; thwarts
  the plan of those who would injure the railroad corporation and
  incidently clears a mystery surrounding his parentage.

  Bonehill, Captain Ralph
  LOST IN THE LAND OF ICE. Or, Daring Adventure Round the South Pole

  An expedition is fitted out by a rich young man and with him goes
  the hero of the tale, a lad who has some knowledge of a treasure
  ship said to be cast away in the land of ice. The heroes land among
  the wild Indians of Patagonia and have many exciting adventures.







The adventures of Ruth and Alice DeVere. Their father, a widower, is an
actor who has taken up work for the "movies." Both girls wish to aid him
in his work. At first, they do work in "parlor dramas" only, but later
on, visit various localities to act in all sorts of pictures.

  Or First Appearance in Photo Dramas.

  Having lost his voice, the father of the girls goes into the movies
  and the girls follow. Tells how many "parlor dramas" are filmed.

  Or Queer Happenings While Taking Rural Plays.

  Full of fun in the country, the haps and mishaps of taking film
  plays, and giving an account of two unusual discoveries.

  Or The Proof on the Film.

  A tale of winter adventures in the wilderness, showing how the
  photo-play actors sometimes suffer. The proof on the film was most

  Or Lost in the Wilds of Florida.

  How they went to the land of palms, played many parts in dramas
  before the clicking machine, and were lost and aided others who were
  also lost.

  Or Great Days Among the Cowboys.

  All who have ever seen moving pictures of the great West will want
  to know just how they are made. This volume gives every detail and
  is full of clean fun and excitement.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York





Here is a series full of the spirit of high school life of to-day. The
girls are real flesh-and-blood characters, and we follow them with
interest in school and out. There are many contested matches on track
and field, and on the water, as well as doings in the classroom and on
the school stage. There is plenty of fun and excitement, all clean, pure
and wholesome.

  Or Rivals for all Honors.

  A stirring tale of high school life, full of fan, with a touch of
  mystery and a strange initiation.

  Or The Crew That Won.

  Telling of water sports and fun galore, and of fine times in camp.

  Or The Great Gymnasium Mystery.

  Here we have a number of thrilling contests at basketball and in
  addition, the solving of a mystery which had bothered the high
  school authorities for a long while.

  Or The Play That Took the Prize.

  How the girls went in for theatricals and how one of them wrote a
  play which afterward was made over for the professional stage and
  brought in some much-needed money.

  Or The Girl Champions of the School League.

  This story takes in high school athletics in their most approved and
  up-to-date fashion. Full of fun and excitement.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York






These tales take in the various adventures participated in by several
bright, up-to-date girls who love outdoor life. They are clean and
wholesome, free from sensationalism, absorbing from the first chapter to
the last.

  Or Camping and Tramping for Fun and Health.

  Telling how the girls organized their Camping and Tramping Club, how
  they went on a tour, and of various adventures which befell them.

  Or Stirring Cruise of the Motor Boat Gem.

  One of the girls becomes the proud possessor of a motor boat and at
  once invites her club members to take a trip with her down the river
  to Rainbow Lake, a beautiful sheet of water lying between the

  Or The Haunted Mansion of Shadow Valley.

  One of the girls has learned to run a big motor car, and she invites
  the club to go on a tour with her, to visit some distant relatives.
  On the way they stop at a deserted mansion, said to be haunted and
  make a most surprising discovery.

  Or Glorious Days on Skates and Ice Boats.

  In this story, the scene is shifted to a winter season. The girls
  have some jolly times skating and ice boating, and visit a hunters'
  camp in the big woods.

  Or Wintering in the Sunny South.

  The parents of one of the girls have bought an orange grove in
  Florida, and her companions are invited to visit the place. They do
  so, and take a trip into the wilds of the interior, where several
  unusual things happen.

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York




  Or The Stirring Doings of a Millionaire's Son.

  Dick, the son of a millionaire, has a fortune left to him by his
  mother. But before he can touch the bulk of this money it is
  stipulated in his mother's will that he must do certain things, in
  order to prove that he is worthy of possessing such a fortune. The
  doings of Dick and his chums make the liveliest kind of reading.

  Or The Handicap of a Millionaire's Son.

  The hero is sent to a military academy to make his way without the
  use of money. Life at an up-to-date military academy is described,
  with target shooting, broadsword exercise, trick riding, sham
  battles etc. Dick proves himself a hero in the best sense of the

  Or A Young Millionaire and the Kidnappers.

  A series of adventures while yachting in which our hero's wealth
  plays a part. Dick is marooned on an island, recovers his yacht and
  foils the kidnappers. The wrong young man is spirited away, Dick
  gives chase and there is a surprising rescue at sea.

  Or A Young Millionaire on the Gridiron.

  A very interesting account of how Dick developed a champion team and
  of the lively contests with other teams. There is also related a
  number of thrilling incidents in which Dick is the central figure.

  Or A Young Millionaire in the Clouds.

  Tells how Dick built an airship to compete in a twenty thousand
  dollar prize contest, and of many adventures he experiences.

12mo. Handsomely printed and illustrated, and bound in cloth stamped in
colors. Printed wrappers.

Price, 60 Cents per volume, postpaid

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York



American Stories of American Boys and Girls


12mo. Cloth. Handsomely printed and illustrated.

Price per vol. 60c., postpaid

  Or The Cadets of Putnam Hall

  Or A Chase for a Fortune

  Or Stirring Adventures in Africa

  Or The Search for a Lost Mine

  Or The Secret of the Island Cave

  Or A Hunt for Fame and Fortune

  Or The Crusoes of Seven Islands

  Or The Rivals of Pine Island

  Or The Search for the Missing Houseboat

  Or The Mystery of Red Rock Ranch

  Or The Deserted Steam Yacht

  Or The Last Days at Putnam Hall

  Or The Strange Cruise of the Steam Yacht

  Or The Right Road and the Wrong

  Or The Struggle for the Stanhope Fortune

  Or From College Campus to the Clouds

  Or Saving Their Father's Honor

  Or Lost in the Fields of Ice

Grosset & Dunlap, 526 West 26th St., New York

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