By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Jack Ranger's Gun Club - From Schoolroom to Camp and Trail
Author: Young, Clarence
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 "Jack Ranger's Gun Club - From Schoolroom to Camp and Trail" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcriber's Note: Obvious errors have been corrected, and the
illustrations have been moved. A full list of changes can be found at
the end of this book.




 From Schoolroom to Camp and Trail







12mo. Finely Illustrated

   Or The Rivals of Washington Hall

   Or From Boarding School to Ranch and Range

   Or Track, Gridiron and Diamond

   Or The Wreck of the Polly Ann

   Or From Schoolroom to Camp and Trail


(_Trade Mark, Reg. U. S. Pat. Of._)

12mo. Illustrated

   Or Chums Through Thick and Thin

   Or A Long Trip for Fun and Fortune

   Or The Secret of the Buried City

   Or The Hermit of Lost Lake

   Or The Stirring Cruise of the Dartaway

   Or The Mystery of the Lighthouse

   Or Lost in a Floating Forest

   Or The Young Derelict Hunters

   Or A Trip for Fame and Fortune

 Copyright, 1910, by


 Printed in U. S. A.


 CHAPTER                                 PAGE

      I Jack Wins a Race                    1

     II The New Boy                        12

    III A Curious Lad                      22

     IV Bully Snaith                       30

      V A German-French Alliance           36

     VI A Snowstorm                        46

    VII A Strange Confession               55

   VIII The Midnight Feast                 64

     IX An Alarm of Fire                   71

      X Saving the Flags                   78

     XI The Gun Club                       85

    XII Will Runs Away                     93

   XIII Off on the Trip                   101

    XIV The Broken Train                  108

     XV Jack Meets a Girl                 117

    XVI A Dangerous Descent               125

   XVII Thirsty on the Desert             133

  XVIII Lost in the Bad Lands             146

    XIX A Perilous Slide                  155

     XX Long Gun Is Afraid                162

    XXI The Deadly Gas                    171

   XXII An Unexpected Encounter           178

  XXIII Another Night Scare               184

   XXIV Jack Gets a Bear                  191

    XXV Some Peculiar Marks               199

   XXVI The Spring Trap                   206

  XXVII Ordered Back                      212

 XXVIII Will Saves Jack's Life            223

   XXIX The Blizzard                      231

    XXX Jack's Hazardous Plan             238

   XXXI A Perilous Ride                   245

  XXXII Into a Strange Camp               254

 XXXIII Held Captives                     262

  XXXIV The Mystery Explained             272

   XXXV Jack Meets Mabel--Conclusion.     283




"Now, then, are you all ready?"

"I'm as ready as I ever shall be," answered Jack Ranger, in reply to the
question from Sam Chalmers. "Let her go!"

"Wait a minute," cried Dock Snaith. "I want to put a little more oil on
my oarlocks."

"Oh, you're always fussing about something, Dock," said Sam. "It looks
as if you didn't want to go into this race after all your boasting."

"That's what it does," came from Nat Anderson.

"Hu! Think I can't beat Jack Ranger?" replied Dock with a sneer as he
began putting more oil on the oarlock sockets. "I could beat him rowing
with one hand."

"Get out!" cried Sam. "You've got a swelled head, Dock."

"I have, eh?"

"Now are you ready?" asked Sam again, as he stepped forward and raised
the pistol, ready to fire the starting shot in a small race between
Jack Ranger, one of the best-liked students at Washington Hall, and Dock
Snaith, a bullying sort of chap, but who, in spite of his rather mean
ways, had some friends.

"I guess I'm all ready now," replied Dock, as he got on the center of
the seat and adjusted the oars.

"Better send for your secretary to make sure," said Nat Anderson, and at
this there was a laugh from the students who had gathered to see the
contest. "Rusticating rowlocks, but you're slow!"

"You mind your own business, Anderson," came from the bully, "or I'll
make you."

"It'll take more than you to make me," responded Nat boldly, for more
than once he had come into conflict with Snaith and did not fear him.

"It will, eh? Well, if I can get out of this boat----"

"Aw, go on! Row if you're going to!" exclaimed Sam. "Think I haven't
anything to do except stay here and start this race? You challenged
Jack, now go ahead and beat him--if you can."

"Yes, come on," added Jack, a tall, good-looking, bronzed youth, who sat
on the seat in the small boat, impatiently moving the oars slowly to and

"Oh, I'll beat you," said the bully confidently. "You can give the word
whenever you're ready, Chalmers."

"Ah! that's awfully kind of you, really it is," said Jack in a high,
falsetto voice, which produced another laugh.

Dock Snaith scowled at Jack, but said nothing. There was a moment's
delay, while Sam looked down the course to see if all was clear on
Rudmore Lake, where the contest was taking place.

"I'm going to fire!" cried Sam.

The two contestants gripped their oars a little more firmly, they leaned
forward, ready to plunge them into the water and pull a heavy stroke at
the sound of the pistol. Their eyes were bright with anticipation, and
their muscles tense.

Crack! There was a puff of white smoke, a little sliver of flame, hardly
noticeable in the bright October sunlight; then came a splash in the
water as the broad blades were dipped in, and the race was on.

"Jack's got the lead! Jack's ahead!" cried the friends of our hero, as
they ran along the shore of the lake.

"Dock is only tiring him out," added the adherents of the school bully.
"He'll come in strong at the finish."

"He will if he doesn't tire out," was Nat Anderson's opinion. "Dock
smokes too many cigarettes to be a good oarsman."

"I suppose you think Ranger will have it all his own way?" spoke Pud
Armstrong, a crony of Snaith.

"Not necessarily," was Nat's answer as he jogged along. "But I think
he's the better rower."

"We'll see," sneered Pud.

"Yes, we'll see," admitted Nat.

The two contestants were now rowing steadily. They had a little over a
mile to go to reach the Point, as it was called; that being the usual
limit of impromptu racing events.

The contest between Jack Ranger and Dock Snaith was the result of an
argument on oarsmanship, which had taken place in the school gym the
night before. It was shortly after the opening of the term at Washington
Hall, and in addition to football, which would soon be in full sway,
there was rowing to occupy the attention of the students, for the lake,
on the shores of which the academy was situated, was well adapted for
aquatic sports.

The talk had turned on who were the best individual oarsmen in the
school, and Jack Ranger's friends lost no time in mentioning him as the
champion, for more than once he had demonstrated that in a single shell,
or a large, eight-oared one, he could pull a winning stroke.

Dock Snaith's admirers were not slow in advocating his powers, and the
bully, not at all backward to boast of his own abilities, had challenged
Jack to a small race the next day. Jack had consented, and the contest
was now under way.

"Jack's going to walk right away from him," said Dick Balmore, otherwise
known as "Bony," from the manner in which his inner skeleton was visible
through his skin, and from a habit he had of cracking his knuckles.

"Don't be too sure," cautioned Sam. "Snaith has lots of muscle. Our only
hope is that he won't last. His wind isn't very good, and Jack has set
him a fast clip."

"Go on, Dock," cried Pud Armstrong. "Go on! You can do him easy!"

Dock nodded, the boats both being so close to shore that ordinary
conversation could easily be heard.

"That's the stuff, Jack!" cried Nat Anderson. "Keep it up!"

Jack had increased his stroke two or three more per minute, and Dock
found it necessary to do likewise, in order not to get too far behind.
He was letting his rival set the pace, and so far had been content
merely to trail along, with the sharp bow of his frail craft lapping the
stern of Jack's a few feet.

"Dock's holding back for the finish," remarked Pud as he raced along,
and in passing Nat he dug his elbow into the side of Jack's chum.

"Well, if he is, that's no reason why you should try to puncture my
inner tubes," expostulated Nat. "I'll pitch you into the lake if you do
that again."

"Aw, you're getting mad 'cause Jack's going to lose," sneered Pud.

"That's what he is," added Glen Forker, another crony of the bully.

"Am I? Just wait," was all Nat answered as he rubbed his ribs.
"Slithering side saddles! but you gave me a dig!"

The contestants were now rowing more rapidly, and the students on shore,
who were following the race, had to increase their pace to keep up to

"Hit it up a little, Jack!" called Sam. "You've got him breathing hard."

"He has--not! I'm--I'm all right," answered Dock from his boat, and very
foolishly, too, for he was getting winded, and he needed to save all his
breath, and not waste it in talking. Besides, the halting manner in
which he answered showed his condition. Sam noticed it at once.

"You've got him! You've got him, Jack!" he cried exultantly. "Go on! Row

"Say, that ain't fair!" cried Pud Armstrong.

"What isn't?" asked Sam.

"Telling Jack like that. Let him find out about Dock."

"I guess I know what's fair," replied Sam with a withering look. "I'll
call all I want to, and don't you interfere with me, or it won't be
healthy for you."

Pud subsided. Sam Chalmers was the foremost authority, among the
students, on everything connected with games and sports, for he played
on the football eleven, on the nine, and was a general leader.

"You'd better hit it up a bit, Dock," was Glen Forker's advice to his
crony, as he saw Jack's lead increasing. "Beat him good and proper."

"He'll have to get up earlier in the morning if he wants to do that,"
commented Bony Balmore, as he cracked his big knuckles in his

And it was high time for Dock to do some rowing. Jack had not been
unaware of his rival's difficulty, and deciding that the best way to win
the race would be to make a spurt and tire him out before the finish, he
"hit up a faster clip," the broad blades of the oars dipping into the
water, coming out and going in again with scarcely a ripple.

"There he goes! There he goes!" cried Sam. "That's the ticket, Jack!"

"Go on! Go on!" yelled Nat.

"Get right after him, Dock," advised Pud.

"You can beat him! Do it!" cried Glen.

But it was easier said than done. Jack was rowing his best, and when
our hero did that it was "going some," as Sam used to say. He had opened
up quite a stretch of water between his boat and Dock's, and the bully,
with a quick glance over his shoulder, seeing this, resolved to close it
up and then pass his rival. There was less than a quarter of a mile to
the finish, and he must needs row hard if he was to win.

Dock bent to the task. He was a powerfully built lad, and had he been in
good condition there is no question but what he could have beaten Jack.
But cigarette-smoking, an occasional bottle of beer, late hours and too
much rich food had made him fat, and anything but an ideal athlete.

Still he had plenty of "row" left in him yet, as he demonstrated a few
seconds later, when by increasing not only the number of his strokes per
minute, but also putting more power into them, he crept up on Jack,
until he was even with him.

Jack rowed the same rate he had settled on to pull until he was within a
short distance of the finish. He was saving himself for a spurt.

Suddenly Dock's boat crept a little past Jack's.

"There he goes! There he goes!" cried Pud, capering about on the bank in
delight. "What did I tell you?"

"He'll win easy," was Glen's opinion.

"It isn't over yet," remarked Nat quietly, but he glanced anxiously at
Sam, who shook his head in a reassuring manner.

Dock began to increase his lead. Jack looked over his shoulder for one
glance at his rival's boat. The two were now rowing well and swiftly.

"Go on, Jack! Go on! Go on!" begged Bony, cracking his eight fingers and
two thumbs in rapid succession, like a battery of popguns. "Don't let
him beat you!"

Dock was now a boat's length ahead, and rowing well, but a critical
observer could notice that his breathing distressed him.

"Now's your chance, Jack!" yelled Sam.

But Jack did not need any one to tell him. Another glance over his
shoulder at his rival showed him that the time had come to make the
spurt. He leaned forward, took a firmer grip on the ash handles, and
then gave such an exhibition of rowing as was seldom seen at Washington

Dock saw his enemy coming, and tried to stave off defeat, but it was no
use. He was completely fagged out. Jack went right past him, "as if Dock
was standing still," was the way Sam expressed it.

"Go on! Go on!" screamed Pud. "You've got to row, Dock!"

But Dock could not imitate the pace that Jack had set. He tried, but the
effort was saddening. He splashed, and the oars all but slipped from
his hands. His heart was fluttering like that of a wounded bird.

"You've got him! You've got him, Jack!" yelled Nat; and, sure enough,
Jack Ranger had.

On and on he rowed, increasing every second the open water between his
boat and his rival's, until he shot past the Point, a winner by several

"That's the way to do it!"

"I knew he'd win!"

"Three cheers for Jack Ranger!"

These, and other cries of victory, greeted our hero's ears as he allowed
his oars to rest on the water flat, while he recovered his wind after
the heart-breaking finish.

"Well, Dock could beat him if he was in training," said Pud doggedly.

"That's what he could," echoed Glen.

"Not in a thousand years!" was Nat's positive assertion.

The boys crowded to the float that marked the finish of the course. Jack
reached it first, and stepped out of his shell, being greeted by his
friends. Then Dock rowed slowly up. His distress showed plainly in his
puffy, white face.

He got out clumsily, and staggered as he clambered upon the float.

"Hard luck, old man," said Jack good-humoredly.

"I don't want your sympathy!" snapped Dock. "I'll row you again, and
I'll beat you!"

Jack had held out his hand, but the bully ignored it. He turned aside,
and whether the float tilted, or whether Snaith tottered because of a
cramp in his leg, was never known, but he staggered for a moment, tried
unsuccessfully to recover his balance, and then plunged into the lake at
one of the deepest spots, right off the float.



"There goes Dock!"

"Pull him out!"

"Yes, before he gets under the float!"

"He can't swim! He's too exhausted!"

These were some of the expressions the excited lads shouted as they
surged forward to look at the spot where Dock had disappeared. A string
of bubbles and some swirling eddies were all that marked the place.

The float began to tilt with the weight of so many boys on one edge.

"Stand back!" cried Jack Ranger. "Stand back, or we'll all be in the

They heeded his words, and moved toward the middle of the platform.

"Some one ought to go in after him," said Pud Armstrong, his teeth
fairly chattering from fright and nervousness. "I--I can't swim."

"Look out!" cried Jack. "I'm going in!"

He began pulling off the sweater which some of the lads had helped put
on him, when he stepped from the shell all perspiration.

He poised for an instant on the edge of the float, looking down into the
dark waters, beneath which Dock had disappeared, and then dived in.

"Get one of the boats out. Maybe he won't come up near the float,"
ordered Sam Chalmers, and several lads hurriedly shoved out into the
lake a broad barge, which could safely be used by Jack in getting Dock
out of the water, if he was fortunate enough to find the youth.

"Queer he doesn't come up," spoke Glen in a whisper.

"Who--Dock or Jack?" asked Bony, cracking his finger knuckles in double


"He's too exhausted," replied Bony. "Can't swim. But Jack'll get him."

How long it seemed since Jack had dived down! The swirl he made had
subsided, and the water was almost calm again. Anxiously the lads on the
float and shore watched to see him reappear. Would he come up alone, or
would he bring Dock with him?

"Maybe Jack hit his head on something," suggested Nat.

"Jack knows how to dive, and it's deep here," said Sam. "I guess he'll
come up all right, but----"

He did not finish the sentence. At that moment there was a disturbance
beneath the surface of the lake. A head bobbed up.

"There's Jack!" cried Bony delightedly.

A white arm shot up and began sweeping the water.

"He's got him!" yelled Nat. "He's got Dock!"

Sure enough, Jack had come to the surface, encircling in his left arm
the unconscious form of Dock Snaith, while with his sturdy right he was
swimming slowly toward the float.

"The boat! the boat! It's nearer!" cried Sam, for Jack had come up at
some distance from the little pier and closer to the rowboat which had
put out from shore.

Jack heard and understood. Turning, he began swimming toward the craft,
and the lads in it rowed toward him. A few seconds later Jack had
clutched the gunwale, holding Dock's head out of water.

Several eager hands reached down to grasp our hero.

"Take--take him first," he said pantingly. "I'm--I'm all right."

Dock was hauled into the boat.

"Now row ashore. I'll swim it," went on Jack. "Get the water out of him
as soon as you can. He--he was right on the bottom. Struck--struck on
the--on the float, I guess."

"We'll take you in," cried Bob Movel.

"Sure! There's lots of room," added Fred Kaler.

"No. Get Dock on shore," ordered Jack, and they obeyed.

Relieved of his burden, and having recovered his wind, Jack swam slowly
to the float. The boat reached it some time ahead of him, and Dock was
lifted out, while, under the direction of Sam Chalmers, the students
administered first aid to the drowned.

Dock was turned over on his face, a roll of coats having been placed
under his stomach to aid in forcing the water out of him. There was no
need to remove his clothing, as he and Jack were clad only in rowing
trunks and light shirts.

"Now turn him over on his back and hold out his tongue, fellows,"
directed Sam, and this was done, the tongue being held by Nat Anderson,
who used his handkerchief to prevent it slipping away. This was done so
that it might not fall back into the throat and prevent Dock from

"Now work his arms! Over his head! Press up his diaphragm and start
artificial respiration," went on Sam, and under the ministrations of the
lads, Dock soon began to breathe again.

He sighed, took in a long breath naturally, opened his eyes, and gasped

"He's all right now," said Sam in a relieved tone. "How do you feel,

"All--right--I--guess. My head----"

He closed his eyes again. Sam passed his hand over the prostrate lad's

"He's got a nasty cut there," he said, as he felt of a big lump, "but I
guess it's not serious. We must get him up to the school."

"Come on, let's carry him," suggested Nat.

"Never mind--here comes Hexter!" cried Bony.

As he spoke the chug-chugging of an automobile was heard, and a touring
car came along the road down to the float. It was a machine kept at
Washington Hall, and used by the teachers, and, occasionally, when
Hexter, the chauffeur, would allow it, by the students.

"Dr. Mead sent me down to see what the matter was," said Hexter as he
stopped the car. "He saw a crowd on the float and thought something
might have happened."

"There has," replied Sam. "Here, Hexter, help us get Dock into the car,
and then throw on all the speed you've got, if you have to blow out a

"Is he--is he dead?" asked Hexter quickly.

"No; only stunned. Lively, now!"

Hexter aided the boys in lifting Dock into the machine, and then he made
speed to the school, where the injured lad was cared for by Dr. Henry
Mead, the master of Washington Hall.

"Well, that was an exciting finish to the race," remarked Jack as he
walked up from the float to the shore, surrounded by some of his chums,
after Dock had been taken away.

"He oughtn't to try to row," said Fred Kaler. "He hasn't got the staying

"Well, he didn't have to-day," observed Jack; "but if he would only
train, he'd make a good oarsman. He's got lots of muscle. I hope he
isn't hurt much."

"He'll be all right in a few days," was Nat's opinion. "Say, Jack, but
you're shivering."

"Yes, that water's a little cooler than it was Fourth of July."

"Here, put a couple of sweaters on," went on Nat, and soon Jack was
warmly wrapped up.

"Now run up and change your duds," advised Bony, and Jack broke into a
dog-trot, his friends trailing along behind him and discussing the race
and the accident.

While they are thus engaged I will take the opportunity to tell you a
little something about Jack Ranger and his friends, so that you who have
not previously read of him may feel better acquainted with our hero.

The first volume of this series was called "Jack Ranger's Schooldays,"
and in it there was related some of the fun Jack and his special friend,
Nat Anderson, had in their native town of Denton. So exciting were some
of their escapades that it was decided to send them off to
boarding-school, and Washington Hall, sometimes called Lakeside Academy,
from the fact that it was located on the shore of Lake Rudmore, was
selected. There Jack made friends with most of the students, including
some who have already been mentioned in this present tale. He incurred
the enmity of a bully, Jerry Chowden, who, however, was not now at the
academy, as you will presently learn.

Jack's home was with three maiden aunts, the Misses Angelina, Josephine
and Mary Stebbins, who took good care of him. In the first volume there
was related something of a certain mystery concerning Jack's father,
Robert Ranger, and how he had to go into hiding in the West because of
complications over a land deal.

In the second volume of the series, "Jack Ranger's Western Trip," was
related what happened to Jack, Nat Anderson, and a half-breed Indian,
John Smith, whose acquaintance Jack had made at Washington Hall, when
they went West in search of Mr. Ranger.

They journeyed to a ranch, owned by Nat's uncle, and they had many
exciting times, not a few of which were caused by a certain faker, whose
real name was Hemp Smith, but who assumed the title Marinello
Booghoobally, and various other appellations as suited his fancy.

Mr. Ranger was located, but only after the boys had suffered many
hardships and gone through not a few perils, and Jack was happy to be
able to bring his father back East, there being no longer any reason for
Mr. Ranger remaining in exile.

"Jack Ranger's School Victories," was the title of the third volume, and
in that was told of Jack's successes on track, gridiron and diamond.
Hemp Smith and Jerry Chowden made trouble for him, but he bested them.
He had plenty of fun, for which two teachers at the school, Professor
Socrat, an instructor in French, and Professor Garlach, a German
authority, furnished an excuse.

But Jack's activities did not all center about the school. There was
told in the fourth volume, "Jack Ranger's Ocean Cruise," what happened
to him and his chums when they went camping one summer. Jack, Nat
Anderson, Sam Chalmers, Bony Balmore, and an odd character, Budge
Rankin, who chewed gum and ran his words together, went off to live in
the woods, near the seacoast, for a few weeks.

There they fell in with a scoundrel named Jonas Lavine, who was aided in
his plots by Jerry Chowden and Hemp Smith.

Jack and his chums stumbled upon a printing plant, maintained in a cave
by Lavine and his confederates, where bogus bonds were made. Before they
had time to inform the authorities Jack and Nat were captured by Lavine
and sent to sea in a ship in charge of Captain Reeger, a tool of

Jack learned that Captain Reeger wanted to be freed from the toils of
Lavine, and our hero agreed to assist him, in return for which the
captain said he would aid Jack.

Jack and Nat managed to get out of the cabin in which they were
confined. As they were about to escape from the _Polly Ann_ a terrible
storm came up, and the ship was wrecked. But not before Jerry Chowden
had boarded her, to help in keeping Jack and Nat captives.

They had many hardships, afloat on a raft in a fog, and saved Jerry
Chowden from drowning. Finally they were rescued, and Lavine and his
confederates were arrested, Captain Reeger being exonerated. Jerry
Chowden fled to the West, fearing arrest should he remain in the East.
Jack and his chums were reunited, and they again enjoyed life under the
canvas, until it was time to resume their studies at Washington Hall,
where the opening of this story finds them.

As Jack and his chums walked up the gravel path to the dormitories,
where our hero intended to get into dry clothes, the group of youths
chatting eagerly of the events which had just taken place passed a lad
standing beneath a clump of trees. The latter, instead of coming to join
the throng, turned away.

"Who's that?" asked Jack of Bony Balmore. "I don't remember to have seen
him before."

"He's a new boy," replied Bony, cracking three finger knuckles in his
absent-minded way.

"What's his name?"

"Will Williams."

"Looks like a nice sort of chap," added Nat.

"But his face is sad," said Jack slowly. "I wonder why he should be sad
when he's at such a jolly place as Washington Hall?"

"Maybe he's lonesome," suggested Fred Kaler.

"Give him a tune on your mouth-organ, and he'll be more so," spoke Bob
Movel, but he took good care to get beyond the reach of Fred's fist, at
this insult to his musical abilities.

"Let's make friends with him," went on Jack. "Hey, Williams, come on
over and get acquainted," he called.

But the new boy, instead of answering, or turning to join the happy
crowd of students, kept on walking away.

"That's funny," said Jack, with a puzzled look at his chums. "Fellows,
there's something wrong about that boy. I can tell by his face, and I'm
going to find out what it is."

"You'd better get dry first," suggested Nat.

"I will, but later I'm going to make that lad's acquaintance. He looks
as if he needed a friend."



"There's Hexter!" exclaimed Jack as he saw the chauffeur slowly running
the automobile to the garage. "Hello, Hexter, is Snaith all right?"

"I think so," replied the automobilist. "Dr. Mead says the hurt on his
head doesn't amount to much, and that he is suffering mostly from shock.
He'll be all right in a day or so."

"That's good," said Jack. "I don't want him to be laid up right after I
won the race from him."

The students began to disperse, Jack to remove his wet clothes, and the
others to retire to their rooms to get ready for the summons to supper,
which would soon sound.

"Why, Mr. Ranger!" exclaimed Socker, the janitor at Washington Hall, as
he saw Jack entering the gymnasium, "you're all wet."

"Yes, it's a trifle difficult to fall in the lake and keep dry,
especially at this time of year," went on Jack. "But I say, Socker, get
me a couple of good, dry, heavy towels, will you? I want to take a

"I certainly will, Mr. Ranger. So you fell in the lake, eh?"

"No, I jumped in."

"Jumped in? Why, that reminds me of what happened when I was fighting in
the Battle of the Wilderness, in the Civil War. We were on the march,
and we came to a little stream. The captain called for us to jump over,

"Say, Socker, if it's all the same to you will you chop that off there,
and make it continued in our next? I'm cold, and I want to rub-down. Get
me the towels, and then I'll listen to that yarn. If there's one kind of
a story I like above all others, it's about war. I want to hear what
happened, but not now."

"Do you really? Then I'll tell you after you've rubbed down," and Socker
hurried off after the towels. He was always telling of what he called
his war experiences, though there was very much doubt that he had ever
been farther than a temporary camp. He repeated the same stories so
often that the boys had become tired of them, and lost no chance to
escape from his narratives.

"There you are, Mr. Ranger," went on the janitor as he came back with
the towels. "Now, as soon as you're dry I'll tell you that story about
the Battle of the Wilderness."

"You'll not if I know it," said Jack to himself, as he went in the room
where the shower-baths were, to take a warm one. "I'll sneak out the
back way."

Which he did, after his rub-down, leaving Socker sitting in the main
room of the gym, waiting for him, and wondering why the lad did not come
out to hear the war story.

Jack reached his room, little the worse for his experience at the lake.
He possessed a fine appetite, which he was soon appeasing by vigorous
attacks on the food in the dining-room.

"I say, Jack," called Nat, "have you heard the latest?"

"What's that? Has the clock struck?" inquired Jack, ready to have some
joke sprung on him.

"No, but Fred Kaler has composed a song about the race and your rescue.
He's going to play it on the mouth-organ, and sing it at the same time

"I am not, you big duffer!" cried Fred, throwing a generous crust of
bread at Nat, but first taking good care to see that Martin, the
monitor, was not looking.

"Sure he is," insisted Nat.

"Tell him how it goes," suggested Bony.

"It's to the tune of 'Who Put Tacks in Willie's Shoes?'" went on Nat,
"and the first verse is something like this----"

"Aw, cheese it, will you?" pleaded Fred, blushing, but Nat went on:

     "You have heard about the glorious deeds
       Of the brave knights of old,
     But our Jack Ranger beats them all--
       He jumped in waters cold
     And rescued one whom he had beat
       In a race that he had led,
     And while he strove to find him,
       Unto me these words he said:


     "'Never fear, I will rescue you, Dock--
     Around you my arms I will lock.
     I will pull you right out of the hole in the lake,
     And then upon shore I will you safely take.
     For though you tried to beat me,
     In a boat race, tried and true,
     I came out ahead, Dock, so
     Wait and I'll rescue you!'"

"How's that?" asked Nat, amid laughter.

"Punk!" cried one student.

"Put it on ice!" added another.

"Can it!"

"Cage it!"

"Put salt on its tail! It's wild!"

"Put a new record in; that one scratches."

These were some of the calls that greeted Nat's rendition of what he
said was Fred's song.

"I never made that up!" cried the musical student. "I can make better
verse than that."

"Go on, give us the tune," shouted Sam.

"That's right--make him play," came a score of calls.

"Order, young gentlemen, order!" suddenly interrupted the harsh voice of
Martin, the monitor. "I shall be obliged to report you to Dr. Mead
unless you are more quiet."

"Send in Professors Socrat and Garlach," advised Jack. "They can keep

"That's it, and we'll get them to sing Fred's song," added Sam Chalmers.

"Ranger--Chalmers--silence!" ordered Martin, and not wishing to be sent
to Dr. Mead's office the two lively students, as well as their no less
fun-loving companions, subsided.

Quiet finally reigned in the regions of Washington Hall, for the
students had to retire to their rooms to study. There were mysterious
whisperings here and there, however, and occasionally shadowy forms
moved about the corridors, for, in spite of rules against it, the lads
would visit each other in their rooms after hours. Several called on
Jack to see how he felt after his experience. They found him and Nat
Anderson busy looking over some gun catalogues.

"Going in for hunting?" asked Sam.

"Maybe," replied Jack. "Say, there are some dandy rifles in this book,
and they're cheap, too. I'd like to get one."

"So would I," added Sam.

"And go hunting," put in Bony, cracking his finger knuckles, as if
firing off an air-rifle.

"It would be sport to organize a gun club, and do some hunting," went on
Jack. "Only I'd like to shoot bigger game than there is around here.
Maybe we can----"

"Hark, some one's coming! It's Martin," said Fred Kaler in a whisper.

Jack's hand shot out and quickly turned down the light. Then he bounded
into bed, dressed as he was. Nat followed his example. It was well that
they did so, for a moment later there came a knock on their door, and
the voice of Martin, the monitor, asked:

"Ranger, are you in bed?"

"Yes," replied our hero.

"Anderson, are you in bed?"

"Yes, Martin."

"Humph! I thought I heard voices in your room."

Jack replied with a snore, and the monitor passed on.

"You fellows had better take a sneak," whispered Jack, when Martin's
footsteps had died away. "He's watching this room, and he may catch

The outsiders thought this was good advice, and soon Nat and Jack were
left alone.

"Did you mean that about a gun club?" asked Nat.

"Sure," replied his chum, "but we'll talk about it to-morrow. Better go
to sleep. Martin will be sneaking around."

Jack was up early the next morning, and went down to the lake for a row
before breakfast. As he approached the float, where he kept his boat, he
saw a student standing there.

"That looks like the new chap--Will Williams," he mused. "I'll ask him
to go for a row."

He approached the new lad, and was again struck by a peculiar look of
sadness on his face.

"Good-morning," said Jack pleasantly. "My name is Ranger. Wouldn't you
like to go for a row?"

Will Williams turned and looked at Jack for several seconds without
speaking. He did not seem to have heard what was said.

"Perhaps he's a trifle deaf," thought Jack, and he asked again more

"Wouldn't you like to go for a row?"

"I don't row," was the answer, rather snappily given.

"Well, I guess I can manage to row both of us," was our hero's reply.

"No, I'm not fond of the water."

"Perhaps you like football or baseball better," went on Jack, a little
puzzled. "We have a good eleven."

"I'm not allowed to play football."

"Maybe you'd like to go for a walk," persisted Jack, who had the kindest
heart in the world, and who felt sorry for the lonely new boy. "I'll
show you around. I understand you just came."

"Yes; I arrived yesterday morning."

"Would you like to take a walk? I don't know but what I'd just as soon
do that as row."

"No, I--I don't care for walking."

The lad turned aside and started away from the lake, without even so
much as thanking Jack for his effort to make friends with him.

"Humph!" mused Jack as he got into his boat. "You certainly are a queer
customer. Just like a snail, you go in your house and walk off with it.
There's something wrong about you, and I'm going to find out what it is.
Don't like rowing, don't like walking, afraid of the water--you
certainly are queer."



"Hello, Dock, I'm glad to see you out of the hospital," remarked Jack
one morning about a week later, when his boating rival was walking down
the campus. "You had quite a time of it."

"Yes," admitted Snaith, "I got a nasty bump on the head. Say, Ranger, I
haven't had a chance to thank you for pulling me out. I'm much obliged
to you."

"Oh, that's all right. Don't mention it," answered Jack. "If I hadn't
done it, some one else would."

"Well, I'm glad you did. But say, I still think I can beat you rowing.
Want to try it again?"

"I won't mind, when you think you're well enough."

"Oh, I'll be all right in a day or so."

"Be careful. You don't want to overdo yourself."

"Oh, I'll beat you next time. But I want to race for money. What do you
say to twenty-five dollars as a side bet?"

"No, thanks, I don't bet," replied Jack quietly.

"Hu! Afraid of losing the money, I s'pose," sneered Dock.

"No, but I don't believe in betting on amateur sport."

"Well, if you think you can beat me, why don't you bet? It's a chance to
make twenty-five."

"Because I don't particularly need the money; and when I race I like to
do it just for the fun that's in it."

"Aw, you're no sport," growled Snaith as he turned aside. "I thought you
had some spunk."

"So I have, but I don't bet," replied Jack quickly. He felt angry at the
bully, but did not want to get into a dispute with him.

"Hello, Dock," called Pud Armstrong, as, walking along with Glen Forker,
he caught sight of his crony. "How you feeling?"

"Fine, but I'd feel better if there weren't so many Sunday-school kids
at this institution. I thought this was a swell place, but it's a
regular kindergarten," and he looked meaningly at Jack.

"What's up?" asked Pud.

"Why, I wanted to make a little wager with Ranger about rowing him
again, but he's afraid."

"It isn't that, and you know it," retorted our hero quickly, for he
overheard what Snaith said. "And I don't want you to go about
circulating such a report, either, Dock Snaith."

With flashing eyes and clenched fists Jack took a step toward the bully.

"Oh, well, I didn't mean anything," stammered Snaith. "You needn't be so
all-fired touchy!"

"I'm not, but I won't stand for having that said about me. I'll race you
for fun, and you know it. Say the word."

"Well--some other time, maybe," muttered Snaith, as he strolled off with
his two cronies.

It was that afternoon when Jack, with Nat Anderson, walking down a path
that led to the lake, came upon a scene that made them stop, and which,
later, was productive of unexpected results.

The two friends saw Dock Snaith, together with Pud Armstrong and Glen
Forker, facing the new boy, Will Williams. They had him in a corner of a
fence, near the lake, and from the high words that came to Jack and Nat,
it indicated that a quarrel was in progress.

"What's up?" asked Nat.

"Oh, it's that bully, Snaith, making trouble for the freshman," replied
Jack. "Isn't it queer he can't live one day without being mean? Snaith,
I'm speaking of. He's a worthy successor to Jerry Chowden."

"Well, you polished off Chowden; maybe you can do the same to Snaith."

"There's no question but what I can do it, if I get the chance. He's
just like Jerry was--always picking on the new boys, or some one
smaller than he is."

"Come on, let's see what's up."

They did not have to go much closer to overhear what was being said by
Snaith and his cronies on one side, and Will on the other.

"I say, you new kid, what's your name?" asked the bully.

"Yes, speak up, and don't mumble," added Pud.

"My name is Williams," replied the new lad. "I wish you would let me

"Can't just yet, sonny," said Glen. "We are just making your
acquaintance," and he punched Will in the stomach, making him double up.

"Hold on, there," cried Snaith. "I didn't ask you to make a bow. Wait
until you're told," and he shoved the lad's head back.

"Now you stop that!" exclaimed Will with considerable spirit.

"What's that! Hark to him talking back to us!" exclaimed Pud. "Now
you'll have to bow again," and once more he punched the new boy.

"Please let me alone!" cried Will. "I haven't done anything to you."

"No, but you might," spoke Snaith. "Have you been hazed yet?"

"Of course he hasn't," added Glen. "He came in late, and he hasn't been
initiated. I guess it's time to do it."

"Sure it is," agreed the bully with a grin. "Let's see--we'll give him
the water cure."

"That's it! Toss him in the lake and watch him swim out!" added Pud.
"Come on, Glen, catch hold!"

"Oh, no! Please don't!" begged Will.

"Aw, dry up! What you howling about?" asked Pud. "Every new boy has to
be hazed, and you're getting off easy. A bath will do you good. Let's
take him down to the float. It's real deep there."

"Oh, no! No! Please don't! Anything but that!" begged Will. "I--I can't

"Then it's time you learned," said Snaith with a brutal laugh. "Catch
hold of his other leg, Pud."

They quickly made a grab for the unfortunate lad, and, despite his
struggles, carried him toward the lake. It was not an uncommon form of
hazing, but it was usually done when a crowd was present, and the hazing
committee always took care to find out that the candidates could swim.
In addition, there were always lads ready to go to the rescue in case of
accident. But this was entirely different.

"Oh, don't! Please don't!" begged Will. "I--I don't want to go in the
water. Do anything but that."

"Listen to him cry!" mocked Glen. "Hasn't he got a sweet voice?"

Nearer to the lake approached the three bullies and their victim, who
was struggling to escape. He was pleading piteously.

"I can't stand this," murmured Jack. "Williams is afraid of water. He
told me so. It's probably a nervous dread, and if they throw him in he
may go into a spasm and drown. They should do something else if they
want to haze him."

"What are you going to do?" asked Nat. He and his chum were hidden from
the others by a clump of trees.

"I'm going to make Snaith stop!" said Jack determinedly as he strode
forward with flashing eyes. "You wait here, Nat."



"Oh, fellows, please let go! Don't throw me in the lake! I--I can't

It was Will's final appeal.

"Well, it's time you learned," exclaimed Snaith with a laugh. "Come on
now, boys, take it on the run!"

But at that moment Jack Ranger fairly leaped from behind the clump of
trees where he and Nat Anderson stood, and running after the three mean
lads who were carrying the struggling Will, our hero planted himself in
front of them.

"Here--drop him!" he cried, barring their way.

Surprise at Jack's sudden appearance, no less than at his words and
bearing, brought the hazers to a stop.

"What--what's that you said?" asked Snaith, as if disbelieving the
evidence of his ears.

"I said to drop this, and let Williams go."

"What for?" demanded Pud.

"For several reasons. He can't swim, and he has a nervous dread of the
water, as I happen to know. Besides, it's too chilly to throw any one
in the lake now."

"Are those all your reasons?" asked Snaith with a sneer.

"No!" cried Jack. "If you want another, it's because I tell you to

"S'posing we don't?"

"Then I'll make you."

"Oh, you will, eh? Well, I guess we three can take care of you, all
right, even if you are Jack Ranger."

Snaith had a tight hold on Will's arm. The timid lad had been set down
by his captors, but they still had hold of him.

"Please let me go," pleaded Williams.

"We will--after you've had your dip in the lake," said Glen.

"Yes, come on," added Snaith. "Get out of the way, Ranger, if you don't
want to get bumped."

"You let Williams go!" demanded Jack, still barring the way.

"We'll not! Stand aside or I'll hit you!" snapped Snaith.

He and his cronies again picked Williams up, and were advancing with him
toward the lake. Snaith had one hand free, and as he approached Jack,
who had not moved, the bully struck out at him. The blow landed lightly
on Jack's chest, but the next instant his fist shot out, catching
Snaith under the ear, and the bully suddenly toppled over backward,
measuring his length on the ground.


He was up again in a second, however, and spluttered out:

"Wha--what do you mean? I'll fix you for this! I'll make you pay for
that, Jack Ranger!"

"Whenever you like," replied Jack coolly, as he stood waiting the

"Come on, fellows, let's do him up!" cried Pud. "We're three to one, and
I owe him something on my own account."

"Shall we let the freshman go?" asked Glen.

"Sure!" exclaimed Snaith. "We can catch him again. We'll do up Ranger

The bully and his cronies advanced toward Jack. Will, hardly
understanding that he was released, stood still, though Jack called to

"Better run, youngster. I can look out for myself."

"Oh, you can, eh?" sneered Snaith. "Well, I guess you'll have your hands
full. Come on, now, fellows! Give it to him!"

The three advanced with the intention of administering a sound drubbing
to our hero, and it is more than likely that they would have succeeded,
for Jack could not tackle three at once very well. But something

This "something" was a lad who came bounding up from the rear, with a
roar like a small, maddened bull, and then with a cry Nat Anderson
flung himself on the back of Pud Armstrong.

"Flabgastered punching-bags!" he cried. "Three to one, eh? Well, I guess
not! Acrimonious Abercrombie! But I'll take a hand in this game!"

"Here! Quit that! Let me go! Stop! That's no way to fight! Get off my
back!" yelled the startled Pud.

"I'm not fighting yet," said Nat coolly, as he skillfully locked his
legs in those of Pud and sent him to the ground with a wrestler's trick.
"I'm only getting ready to wallop you!"

Snaith, who had rushed at Jack with raised fists, was met by another
left-hander that again sent him to the ground. And then, to the surprise
of the rescuers, no less than that of the would-be hazers, Will, who had
seemed so timid in the hands of his captors, rushed at Glen Forker, and
before that bully could get out of the way, had dealt him a blow on the

"There!" cried Will. "I guess we're three to three now!"

"Good for you, youngster!" cried Jack heartily. "You've got more spunk
than I gave you credit for. Hit him again!"

"Now, Pud, if you'll get up, you and I will have our innings," announced
Nat to the lad he had thrown. "Suffering snufflebugs! but I guess the
game isn't so one-sided now."

But, though Pud got up, he evinced no desire to come to close quarters
with Nat. Instead, he sneaked to one side, muttering:

"You wait--that's all! You just wait!"

"Well, I'm a pretty good waiter. I used to work in a hash foundry and a
beanery," said Nat with a smile.

Snaith, too, seemed to have had enough, for he sat on the ground rubbing
a lump on his head, while as for Glen, he was in full retreat.

"I hope I didn't hurt you, Snaith," said Jack politely.

"Don't you speak to me!" snarled the bully.

"All right," said Jack. "I'll not."

"I'll get square with you for this," went on Snaith as he arose and
began to retreat, followed by Pud. "You wait!"

"That's what Pud said," interjected Nat. "It's getting tiresome."

The two bullies hurried off in the direction taken by Glen, leaving
Jack, Nat and Will masters of the field.

"I--I'm ever so much obliged to you," said Will to Jack after a pause.

"That's all right. Glad I happened along."

"I--I don't mind being hazed," went on the timid lad. "I expected it,
but I have a weak heart, and the doctor said a sudden shock would be
bad for me. I'm very much afraid of water, and I can't swim, or I
wouldn't have minded being thrown into the lake. I--I hope you don't
think I'm a coward."

"Not a bit of it."

"And I--I hope the fellows won't make fun of me."

"They won't," said Jack very positively, for, somehow, his heart went
out to the queer lad. "If they do, just send them to me. As for Snaith
and his crowd, I guess they won't bother you after this. Say, but you
went right up to Glen, all right."

"I took boxing lessons--once," went on Will timidly. "I'm not afraid in
a fair fight."

"Glad to hear it, but I fancy they'll not bother you any more. Do you
know Nat Anderson?" and Jack nodded at his chum.

"I'm glad to meet you," spoke Will, holding out his hand.

"Same here," responded Nat. "Unified uppercuts! but you went at Glen
good and proper!"

"You mustn't mind Nat's queer expressions," said Jack with a smile, as
he saw Will looking in rather a puzzled way at Nat. "They were
vaccinated in him, and he can't get rid of them."

"You get out!" exclaimed Jack's chum.

"Going anywhere in particular?" asked Jack of Will, as he straightened
out a cuff that had become disarranged in the scrimmage.

"No, I guess not."

"Then come on and take a walk with us."

The lad appeared to hesitate. Then he said slowly.

"No--no, thank you. I--I don't believe I will. I think I'll go back to
my room."

He turned aside and walked away.

Jack and Nat stared after him in silence.

"Well, he certainly is a queer case," remarked Nat in a low voice. "I
don't know what to make of him."

"I, either," admitted Jack. "He showed some spunk when he went at Glen,
but now it appears to have oozed away."

The two chums continued their walk, discussing the recent happening.

"Do you know, I think something is about due to happen, fellows,"
announced Fred Kaler that night, when he and some of Jack's and Nat's
chums were in the latters' room.

"Why, what's up, you animated jewsharp?" asked Nat.

"I don't know, but it's been so quiet in the sacred precincts of our
school lately that it's about time for something to arrive. Do you know
that Socrat and Garlach haven't spoken to each other this term yet?"

"What's the trouble now?" asked Jack, for the French and German
teachers, with the characteristics of their race, were generally at
swords' points for some reason or other.

"Why, you know their classrooms are next to each other, and one day, the
first week of the term, Professor Socrat, in giving the French lesson,
touched on history, and gave an instance of where frog-eaters with a
small army had downed the troops from der Vaterland. He spoke so loud
that Professor Garlach heard him, his German blood boiled over, and
since then neither has spoken to the other."

"Well, that often happens," remarked Nat.

"Sure," added Bony Balmore, cracking his finger knuckles by way of

"Yes," admitted Fred, as he took out his mouth-organ, preparatory to
rendering a tune, "but this time it has lasted longer than usual, and
it's about time something was done about it."

Fred began softly to play "On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away."

"Cheese it," advised Nat. "Martin will hear."

"He's gone to the village on an errand for the doctor," said Fred as he
continued to play. Then he stopped long enough to remark: "I'd like to
hear from our fellow member, Jack Ranger."

"That's it," exclaimed Sam Chalmers. "I wonder Jack hasn't suggested
something before this."

"Say!" exclaimed Jack, "have I got to do everything around this school?
Why don't some of the rest of you think up something? I haven't any

"No, but you've got the nerve," said Bony. "Say, Jack, can't you think
of some scheme for getting Garlach and Socrat to speak? Once they are on
talking terms we can have some fun."

Jack seemed lost in thought. Then he began to pace the room.

"Our noble leader has his thinking apparatus in working order,"
announced Nat.

"Hum!" mused Jack. "You say the trouble occurred over something in
history, eh?"

"Sure," replied Fred.

"Then I guess I've got it!" cried Jack. "Wait a minute, now, until I
work out all the details."

He sat down to the table, took out pencil and paper, and began to write.
The others watched him interestedly.

"Here we are!" Jack cried at length. "Now to carry out the scheme and
bring about a German-French alliance!"

"What are you going to do?" asked Nat.

"Here are two notes," said Jack, holding aloft two envelopes.

"We'll take your word for it," remarked Bob Movel.

"One is addressed to Professor Garlach," went on Jack, "and in it he is
advised that if he proceeds in the proper manner he can obtain
information of a certain incident in history, not generally known, but
in which is related how Frederic II, with a small squad of Germans, put
a whole army of French to flight. It is even more wonderful than the
incident which Professor Socrat related to his class, and if he speaks
loudly enough in the classroom, Professor Socrat can't help but hear

"What are you going to do with the note?" asked Fred.

"Send it to Garlach."

"And then?"

"Ah, yes--then," said Jack. "Well, what will happen next will surprise
some folks, I think. The information which Garlach will be sure to want
to obtain can only be had by going to a certain hollow tree, on the
shore of the lake, and he must go there just at midnight."

"Well?" asked Dick Balmore as Jack paused, while the silence in the room
was broken by Bony's performance on his finger battery.

"Well," repeated Jack, "what happens then will be continued in our next,
as the novelists say. Now come on and help me fix it up," and he
motioned for his chums to draw more closely around the table, while he
imparted something to them in guarded whispers.



Professor Garlach received the next day a neatly-written note. It was
thrust under the door of his private apartment, just as he was getting
ready to go to breakfast.

"Ach! Dis is a letter," he said, carefully looking at the envelope, as
if there was some doubt of it. "I vunder who can haf sent it to me?"

He turned it over several times, but seeing no way of learning what he
wished to know save by opening the epistle, he did so.

"Vot is dis?" he murmured as he read. "Ha! dot is der best news vot I
haf heard in a long time. Ach! now I gets me efen mid dot wienerwurst of
a Socrat! I vill vanquishes him!"

This is what the German professor read:

     "I am a lover of the Fatherland, and I understand that an insult
     has been offered her glory by a Frenchman who is a professor in the
     same school where you teach. I understand that he said a small body
     of the despised French beat a large army of Germans. This is not
     true, but I am in a position to prove the contrary, namely, that in
     the Hanoverian or Seven Years' War, in 1756, a small troop of
     Germans, under Frederic II, defeated a large army of the French.
     The incident is little known in history, but I have all the facts
     at hand, and I will give them to you.

     "The information is secret, and I cannot reveal to you my name, or
     I might get into trouble with the German war authorities, so I will
     have to ask you to proceed cautiously. I will deposit the proofs of
     what I say in the hollow of the old oak tree that stands near the
     shore of the lake, not far from the school. If you will go there at
     midnight to-night, you may take the papers away and demonstrate to
     your classes that the Germans are always the superiors of the
     French in war. I must beg of you to say nothing about this to any
     one. Proceed in secret, and you will be able to refute the base
     charges made against our countrymen by a base Frenchman. Do not
     fail. Be at the old tree at midnight. For obvious reasons I sign
     myself only


"Ha!" exclaimed Professor Garlach. "I vill do as you direct. T'anks,
mine unknown frient! T'anks! Now vill I make to der utmost
confusionability dot frog-eater of a Socrat! Ha! ve shall see. I vill be
on der spot at midnight!"

All that day there might have been noticed that there was a subdued
excitement hovering about Professor Garlach. Jack and his chums
observing it, smiled.

"He's taken the bait, hook and sinker," said Jack.

When the class in history was called before him to recite, Professor
Garlach remarked:

"Young gentlemens, I shall have some surprising informations to impart
by you to-morrow. I am about to come into possession of some remarkable
facts, but I cannot reveal dem to you now. But I vill say dot dey vill
simply astonishment to you make alretty yet. You are dismissed."

He had spoken quite loudly, and Professor Socrat, in the next room,
hearing him, smiled.

"Ah," murmured the Frenchman, "so my unknown friend, who was so kind as
to write zis note, did not deceive me. Sacre! But I will bring his plans
to nottingness! Ah, beware, Professor Garlach--pig-dog zat you are! I
will foil you. But let me read ze note once more."

Alone in the classroom, he took from his pocket a letter. It looked just
like the one professor Garlach had received that morning.

"Ha, yes. I am not mistake! I will be at ze old oak tree on ze shore of
ze lake at midnight by ze clock. And I will catch in ze act Professor
Garlach when he make ze attempt to blow up zat sacred tree. Zat tree
under which La Fayette once slept. Queer zat I did not know it before.
Ha! I will drape ze flag of France on ze beloved branches. Ah! my
beloved country!"

For this is the note which Professor Socrat received:

     "DEAR PROFESSOR: This is written by a true friend of France, who is
     not at liberty to reveal his name. I have information to the effect
     that the old oak tree which stands on the shore of the lake is a
     landmark in history. Under it, during the American war of
     independence, the immortal Washington and La Fayette once slept
     before a great battle, when their tents had not arrived. The tree
     should be honored by all Frenchmen, as well as by all Americans.

     "But, though it is not generally known that La Fayette slept under
     the tree, Professor Garlach has learned of it in some way. Such is
     his hatred of all things French, as you well know, that he has
     planned to destroy the tree. At midnight to-night he is going to
     put a dynamite bomb in the tree, and blow it to atoms. He hopes the
     plot will be laid to the students. If you wish to foil him be at
     the tree at midnight. I will sign myself only


"Ha! destroy zat sacred tree by dynamite!" murmured Professor Socrat. "I
will be zere! I will be zere!"

It lacked some time before twelve o'clock that night, when several
figures stole out of a dormitory of Washington Hall.

"Have you got everything, Jack?" asked a voice.

"Yes; but for cats' sake, keep quiet," was the rejoinder. "Come on now.
Lucky Martin didn't spot us."

"That's what," added Nat Anderson. "Scouring sky-rockets, but there'll
be some fun!"

"Easy!" cautioned Jack as he led a band of fellow conspirators toward
the lake.

They reached the old, hollow oak tree, of which Jack had spoken in his
two letters to the professors, and which he had made the rendezvous for
his joke. Into the hollow he thrust a bundle of papers. Then, some
distance away from the tree, he stuck something else upright in the
ground, and trailing off from it were what seemed to be twisted strings.

"Lucky it's a dark night," whispered Bony. "They won't see each other
until they get right here. What time is it now?"

"Lacks a quarter of twelve," replied Jack, striking a match and
shielding it from observation under the flap of his coat as he looked at
his watch.

The boys crouched down in the bushes and waited. It was not long before
they heard some one approaching in the darkness.

"That's Garlach by the way he walks," whispered Bob Movel.

"Yes," assented Jack. "I hope Socrat is on time."

The German professor approached the tree, anxious to take from it the
papers that were to prove the valor of German soldiers. A moment later
another figure loomed up in the darkness on the other side of the big

"There's Socrat," whispered Nat. "But what is he carrying?"

"Blessed if I know," answered Jack; "but we'll soon see."

He struck a match and touched it to the end of the twisted strings.
There was a splutter of flame, and some sparks ran along the ground. A
moment later the scene was lighted up by glaring red fire, the fuse of
which Jack had touched off. By the illumination the boys hidden in the
bushes could see Professor Garlach, with his hand and arm down the
hollow of the old oak tree. At the same time Professor Socrat rushed
forward, and what he had in his hand was a pail of water.

"So!" cried the Frenchman. "I have caught you in ze act! I will foil

"Don't bodder me!" cried the German. "Ach! You would steal der evidence
of your countrymen's cowardice, vould you? But you shall not! I vill
haf my revenge!"

"Stop! stop!" cried Professor Socrat. "You shall not destroy ze tree
under which ze immortal Washington and La Fayette slept! You shall not!
I, Professor Socrat, say it! Ha! you have already lighted ze dynamite
fuse! But I will destroy it!"

Professor Garlach drew from the tree the bundle of papers. No sooner had
he done so than Professor Socrat dashed the pail of water over him,
drenching him from head to foot.

"Du meine zeit! Himmel! Hund vot you are! I am drowning!" cried the
German, choking.

"Ha! ha! I have put out ze fuse! I have quenched ze dynamite cartridge!
Ze tree shall not be blown to atoms! I will drape it wiz my country's

From his coat the French professor drew the tri-colored flag, which he
draped over the lowest branches of the old tree. Then, as the red fire
died out, the boys saw the German make a spring for his enemy.

"Come on, fellows!" softly called Jack. "We'd better skip while they're
at one another."

They glided from the bushes, while at the foot of the tree, in the dying
glow from the red fire, could be seen two shapes struggling desperately
together. From the midst came such alternate expressions as:

"Ach! Pig-dog! Frog-eater! Sauerkraut! Maccaroni! Himmel! Sacre! La

"Oh, but aren't they having a grand time!" said Nat as he hurried along
at Jack's side. "It worked like a charm. But who would have thought that
Socrat would have brought along a pail of water?"

"Couldn't have been better," admitted Jack, "if I do say it myself."

"But won't they find out who did it?" asked Bony.

"They may suspect, but they'll never know for sure," said the
perpetrator of the trick.

"How about the bundle of papers you left in the tree?"

"Nothing but newspapers, and they can't talk. But I guess we've livened
things up some. Anyhow, they've spoken to each other."

"They sure have," admitted Sam, as from the darkness, at the foot of the
tree, came the sounds of voices in high dispute.

The next day Professor Socrat passed Professor Garlach without so much
as a look in the direction of the German, but when he got past he

"Ze La Fayette tree still stands."

And Professor Garlach replied:

"Pig-dog vot you are! To destroy dot secret of history!"

Jack and his chums awaited rather anxiously the calling of the French
and German classes that day, but neither professor made any reference
to the happenings of the night previous. All there was to remind a
passer-by of it were some shreds of a French flag hanging to the limbs
of the tree.

"They must have ripped the flag apart in their struggle with each
other," said Sam as he and Jack passed the place.

Matters at Washington Hall went on the even tenor of their ways for
about two weeks. The boys buckled down to study, though there was plenty
of time for sport, and the football eleven, of which Jack was a member,
played several games.

The weather was getting cold and snappy, and there were signs of an
early and severe winter. These signs were borne out one morning when
Jack crawled out of bed.

"Whew! but it's cold!" he said as he pulled aside the window curtains
and looked out. Then he uttered an exclamation. "Say, Nat, it's snowing
to beat the band!"


"Sure, and I've got to go to the village this afternoon. Look!"

Nat crawled out, shivering, and stood beside Jack.

"Why, it is quite a storm," he admitted. "B-r-r-r-r! I'm going to get my
flannels out!"

"No football game to-morrow," said Jack. "I guess winter's come to



"Say, Jack," began Nat at breakfast a little later, "what are you going
to the village for?"

"Got to get something Aunt Angelina sent me," replied our hero. "I got a
letter saying she had forwarded me a package by express. It's got some
heavy underwear in it for one thing, but I know enough of my aunt to
know that's not all that's in it."

"What else?"

"Well, I shouldn't be surprised if there were some pies and doughnuts
and cakes and----"

"Quit!" begged Bony, who sat on the other side of Jack. "You make me

"What's the matter with this grub?" inquired Jack.

"Oh, it's all right as far as it goes----"

"Smithering slaboleens!" exclaimed Nat. "Doesn't it go far enough in
you, Bony?" and he looked at his tall chum. "Do you want it to go all
the way to your toes?"

"No; but when I hear Jack speak of pies and doughnuts----"

"You'll do more than hear me speak of them if they come, Bony," went on
Jack. "We'll have a little feast in my room to-night, when Martin, the
monitor, is gone to bed."

"When are you going?" asked Nat.

"Right after dinner. Want to come along? I guess you can get permission.
I did."

"Nope. I've got to stay here and bone up on geometry. I flunked twice
this week, and Doc. Mead says I've got to do better. Take Bony."

"Not for mine," said Bony, shivering as he looked out of the window and
saw the snow still coming down. "I'm going to stay in."

"Then I'll go alone," decided Jack, and he started off soon after the
midday meal. The storm was not a severe one, though it was cold and the
snow was quite heavy. It was a good three-mile walk to the village, but
Jack had often taken it.

He was about a mile from the school, and was swinging along the country
road, thinking of many things, when, through the white blanket of
snowflakes, he saw a figure just ahead of him on the highway.

"That looks familiar," he said to himself. "That's Will Williams. Wonder
what he can be doing out here? Guess he's going to town also. I'll catch
up with him. I wish I could get better acquainted with him, but he goes
in his shell as soon as I try to make friends."

He hastened his pace, but it was slow going on account of the snow. When
Jack was about a hundred yards behind Will he was surprised to see the
odd student suddenly turn off the main road and make toward a chain of
small hills that bordered it on the right.

"That's queer," murmured Jack. "I wonder what he's doing that for?"

He stood still a moment, looking at Will. The new boy kept on, plodding
through the snow, which lay in heavy drifts over the unbroken path he
was taking.

"Why, he's heading for the ravine," said Jack to himself. "He'll be lost
if he goes there in this storm, and it's dangerous. He may fall down the
chasm and break an arm or a leg."

The ravine he referred to was a deep gully in the hills, a wild,
desolate sort of place, seldom visited. It was in the midst of thick
woods, and more than once solitary travelers had lost their way there,
while one or two, unfamiliar with the suddenness with which the chasm
dipped down, had fallen and been severely hurt.

"What in the world can he want out there?" went on Jack. "I'd better
hail him. Guess he doesn't know the danger, especially in a storm like
this, when bad holes are likely to be hidden from sight."

He hurried forward, and then, making a sort of megaphone of his hands,
called out:

"Williams! I say, Williams, where are you going?"

The new boy turned quickly, looked back at Jack, and then continued his

"Hey! Come back!" yelled our hero. "You'll be lost if you go up in those
hills. It's dangerous! Come on back!"

Williams stopped again, and turned half around.

"Guess he didn't hear me plainly," thought Jack. "I'll catch up to him.
Wait a minute," he called again, and he hastened forward, Will waiting
for him.

"Where are you going?" asked Jack, when he had caught up to him.

"I don't know," was the answer, and Jack was struck by the lad's
despondent tone.

"Don't you know there's a dangerous ravine just ahead here?" went on
Jack. "You might tumble in and lose your life."

"I don't care if I do lose my life," was the unexpected rejoinder.

"You don't care?" repeated Jack, much surprised.


"Do you realize what you're saying?" asked Jack sternly.

"Yes, I do. I don't care! I want to be lost! I never want to see any
one again! I came out here--I don't care what becomes of me--I'd like to
fall down under the snow and--and die--that would end it all!"

Then, to Jack's astonishment, Will burst into tears, though he bravely
tried to stifle them.

"Well--of all the----" began Jack, and words failed him. Clearly he had
a most peculiar case to deal with. He took a step nearer, and put his
arm affectionately around Will's shoulder. Then he patted him on the
back, and his own voice was a trifle husky as he said:

"Say, old man, what's the matter? Own up, now, you're in trouble. Maybe
I can help you. It doesn't take half an eye to see that's something's
wrong. The idea of a chap like you wanting to die! It's nonsense. You
must be sick. Brace up, now! Tell me all about it. Maybe I can help

There was silence, broken only by Will's half-choked sobs.

"Go ahead, tell me," urged Jack. "I'll keep your secret, and help you if
I can. Tell me what the trouble is."

"I will!" exclaimed the new boy with sudden determination. "I will tell
you, Jack Ranger, but I don't think you can help me. I'm the most
miserable lad at Washington Hall."

"You only think so," rejoined Jack brightly. "Go ahead. I'll wager we
can make you feel better. You want some friends, that's what you want."

"Yes," said Will slowly, "I do. I need friends, for I don't believe I've
got a single one in the world."

"Well, you've got one, and that's me," went on Jack. "Go ahead, now,
let's hear your story."

And then, standing in the midst of the storm, Will told his pitiful

"My father and mother have been dead for some time," he said, "and for
several years I lived with my uncle, Andrew Swaim, my mother's brother.
He was good to me, but he had to go out West on business, and he left me
in charge of a man named Lewis Gabel, who was appointed my guardian.

"This Gabel treated me pretty good at first, for my uncle sent money
regularly for my board. Then, for some reason, the money stopped coming,
and Mr. Gabel turned mean. He hardly gave me enough to eat, and I had to
work like a horse on his farm. I wrote to my uncle, but I never got an

"Then, all at once, my uncle began sending money again, but he didn't
state where he was. After that I had it a little easier, until some one
stole quite a sum from Mr. Gabel. He's a regular miser, and he loves
money more than anything else. He accused me of robbing him, and
declared he wouldn't have me around his house any longer.

"So he sent me off to this school, but he doesn't give me a cent of
spending money, and pays all the bills himself. He still thinks I stole
his money, and he says he will hold back my spending cash, which my
uncle forwards, until he has made up the amount that was stolen.

"I tried to prove to him that I was innocent, but he won't believe me.
He is always writing me mean letters, reminding me that I am a thief,
and not fit for decent people to associate with. I'm miserable, and I
wish I was dead. I got a mean, accusing letter from him to-day, and it
made me feel so bad that I didn't care what became of me. I wandered
off, and I thought if I fell down and died under the snow it would be a
good thing."

"Say, you certainly are up against it," murmured Jack. "I'd like to get
hold of that rascally guardian of yours. But why don't you tell your

"I can't, for I don't know his address."

"But he sends money for your schooling and board to Mr. Gabel, doesn't

"Yes, but he sends cash in a letter, and he doesn't even register it. I
wrote to the postal authorities of the Western city where his letters
were mailed, but they said they could give me no information."

"What is your uncle doing in the West?"

"He is engaged in some secret mission. I never could find out what it
is, and I don't believe Mr. Gabel knows, either. Oh, but Gabel is a mean
man! He seems to take delight in making me miserable. Now you know why I
act so queerly. I like a good time, and I like to be with the fellows,
but I haven't a cent to spend to treat them with, and I'm not going to
accept favors that I can't return. Why, I haven't had a cent to spend
for myself in six months!"

Jack whistled.

"That's tough," he said. "But say, Will, you're mistaken if you think
our crowd cares anything for money. Why didn't you say something about
this before?"

"I--I was ashamed to."

"Why, we thought you didn't like us," went on Jack. "Now I see that we
were mistaken. I wish we had Mr. Gabel here. We'd haze him first, and
throw him into the lake afterward. Now, Will, I'll tell you what you're
going to do?"

"What?" asked the lad, who seemed much better in spirits, now that he
had made a confession.

"In the first place, you're coming to the village with me," said Jack.
"Then you're going to forget all about your troubles and about dying
under the snow. Then, when I get a bundle from home, you're coming back
with me, and----"

"Home!" exclaimed Will with a catch in his voice. "How good that word
sounds! I--I haven't had a home in so long that--that I don't know what
it seems like."

"Well, we're going to make you right at home here," went on Jack. "I'm
expecting a bundle of good things from my aunt, and when it comes, why,
you and me and Nat and Sam and Bony and Fred and Bob, and some other
choice spirits, are going to gather in my room to-night, and we're going
to have the finest spread you ever saw. I'll make you acquainted with
the boys, and then we'll see what happens. No spending money? As if we
cared for that! Now, come on, old chap, we'll leg it to the village, for
it's cold standing here," and clapping Will on the back, Jack linked his
arm in that of the new boy and led him back to the road.



"Well, fellows, are we all here?" asked Jack Ranger later that night, as
he gazed around on a crowd in his room.

"If there were any more we couldn't breathe," replied Bony Balmore, and
the cracking of his finger knuckles punctuated his remark.

"When does the fun begin?" asked Bob Movel.

"Soon," answered Jack.

"We ought to have some music. Tune up, Fred," said Sam.

"Not here," interposed Jack quickly. "Wait a bit and we can make all the
noise we want to."

"How's that?" inquired Bony. "Have you hypnotized Dr. Mead and put wax
in Martin's ears so he can't hear us?"

"No, but it's something just as good. This afternoon I sat and listened
while Socker, the janitor, told me one of his war stories."

"You must have had patience," interrupted Nat Anderson. "Bob cats and
bombshells, but Socker is tiresome!"

"Well, I had an object in it," explained Jack. "I wanted him to do me a
favor, and he did it--after I'd let him tell me how, single-handed, he
captured a lot of Confederates. I told him about this spread to-night,
and was lamenting the fact that my room was so small, and that we
couldn't make any noise, or have any lights. And you know how awkward it
is to eat in the dark."

"Sure," admitted Bony. "You can't always find your mouth."

"And if there's anything I dislike," added Nat, "it's putting pie in my

"Easy!" cautioned Jack at the laugh which followed. "Wait a few minutes
and we can make all the noise we want to."

"How?" asked Bony.

"Because, as I'm trying to tell you, Socker did me a favor. He's going
to let us in the storeroom, back of where the boiler is, in the
basement. It'll be nice and warm there, and we can have our midnight
feast in comfort, and make all the row we like, for Martin can't hear us

"Good for you, Jack!" cried Nat.

"That's all to the horse radish!" observed Sam.

Jack's trip to town that afternoon had been most successful. He had
found at the express office a big package from home, and from the note
that accompanied it he knew it contained good things to eat, made by his
loving aunts. But, desiring to give an unusually fine spread to
celebrate the occasion of having made the acquaintance of Will
Williams, Jack purchased some other good things at the village stores.

He and Will carried them back to school, and managed to smuggle them in.
It was a new experience for Will to have a friend like Jack Ranger, and
to be taking part in this daring but harmless breach of the school
rules. Under this stimulus Will was fast losing his melancholy mood, and
he responded brightly to Jack's jokes.

"Now you stay in your room until I call for you," our hero had said to
Will on parting after supper that night. Jack wanted to spring a sort of
surprise on his chums, and introduce Will to them at the feast. In
accordance with his instructions the lads had gathered in his room about
ten o'clock that night, stealing softly in after Martin, the monitor,
had made his last round to see that lights were out. Then Jack had
announced his plan of having the feast in the basement.

"Grab up the grub and come on," said the leader a little later. "Softly
now--no noise until we're downstairs."

"Will Socker keep mum?" asked Bony.

"As an oyster in a church sociable stew," replied Jack. "I've promised
to listen to another of his war tales."

"Jack's getting to be a regular martyr," observed Sam.

"Silence in the ranks!" commanded Captain Jack.

The lads stole softly along the corridors. Just as they got opposite the
door of Martin's room, there was a dull thud.

"What's that?" whispered Jack softly.

"I--I dropped one of the pies," replied Bony, cracking his knuckles at
the double-quick in his excitement.

"Scoop it up and come on. You'll have to eat it," said Jack.

In fear and trembling they went on. Fortunately, Martin did not hear the
noise, and the lads got safely past.

Jack, who was in the rear, paused at a door at the end of the hall, and
knocked softly.

"Yes," answered a voice from within.

"Come on," commanded Jack, and he was joined by a dark figure.

They reached the basement safely, no one having disputed their night
march. Socker, the janitor, met them at the door of the boiler-room.

"Here we are," said Jack.

"So I see, Mr. Ranger. Why, it reminds me of the time when Captain
Crawford and me took a forced night march of ten miles to get some
rations. We were with Sherman, on his trip to the sea, and----"

"You must be sure to tell me that story," interrupted Jack. "But not
now. Is everything all right?"

"Yes, Mr. Ranger. But I depend on you not to say anything about this to
Dr. Mead in case----"

"Oh, you can depend on us," Jack assured him.

"I thought I could. It reminds me of the time when we were before
Petersburgh, and a comrade and I went to----"

"You must not forget to tell me that story," interrupted Jack. "I
particularly want to hear it, Socker."

"I will," said the janitor, delighted that he had at last found an
earnest listener.

"But not now," said Jack. "We must get to work. Do you like pie,

"Do I, Mr. Ranger? Well, I guess I do. I remember once when we were at

"Bony, where's that extra choice pie you had?" asked Jack with a wink at
his chum. "Give it to Mr. Socker here," and Bony passed over the bit of
pastry that had met with the accident in the hall.

"That will keep him quiet for a while," said Jack in a whisper.

The lads, bearing the good things Jack had provided, passed through the
boiler-room and into a storage apartment, where cans of oil, waste,
tools and the like were kept. Socker had arranged some boards on a
couple of sawhorses for the students, and there, by the light of
several candles stuck in the necks of bottles, the table was spread.

"Say, but this is jolly, all right," said Sam Chalmers. "Jack, you're a
public benefactor."

He leaned over to shake hands with our hero.

"Look out! You'll upset the table!" cried Jack, as Sam, leaning against
the boards, tilted them.

"Save the pieces!" cried Nat, springing to the rescue.

"Gentlemen, be seated!" invited Jack as the lads arranged themselves
about the table. Socker had provided planks, stretched across big, empty
oilcans. "Here you are, Will, right next to me," went on our hero in a
low tone to the lad who had joined him in the dark hall. "I'll introduce
you presently."

No one of Jack's chums had yet noticed the new lad, for Will had kept in
the shadows, and there was much confusion attending the placing of the
good things on the board. But as the guests prepared to seat themselves,
Sam Chalmers caught sight of the unfamiliar face of Will Williams. He
knew he was not one of Jack's crowd, and thinking the lad might have
come uninvited he said:

"We have a stranger with us."

There was a sudden hush, and all eyes were fastened on Will, who turned

"He is a stranger," said Jack quickly, "but we are going to cure that.
Boys of Washington Hall--the top-notchers--the élite--the
high-rollers--the cream of the bunch--allow me to present my friend Bill
Williams. He is one of us, though I didn't know it until to-day. I'm
giving this blowout in his honor. Henceforth he is one of us, and in
token of that we will dub him not William, but Bill, which has a more
kindly sound. Fellows, salute our new member!"



There was a moment's pause after Jack's announcement, then, as one, the
assembled lads bowed to Will, or, as he was to be more affectionately
called, Bill. He blushed with pleasure at the new sensation of having

"New member of the Irrepressibles, we, who are about to dine, salute
thee!" exclaimed Sam.

"We sure do, and now, if the salutin' ceremony is over, let's eat,"
suggested Bob Movel.

"Wait until Fred gives us a tune," came from Nat. "Jumping gewhillikins,
but they always have music at a banquet!"

"Then don't let Fred play--if you want music," said Sam, dodging behind
Jack to be out of the musical student's reach.

"I'll punch your head!" exclaimed Fred.

"No, go on and play," said Jack. "It will liven things up a bit."

So Fred got out his mouth-organ, and rendered a lively march, the boys
parading around the table, each one clapping on the back the new member
of the informal club.

"Now I guess we can eat," announced Jack. "Bill, pass that plate of
sandwiches at your elbow. Fred, juggle the doughnuts down this way. Sam,
don't let those pies go to sleep. Bob, you open some of the ginger-ale,
but don't let it pop too loud, or Doc. Mead may think it's the safety
valve of the boiler going off, and send Martin to investigate."

The lads were soon actively engaged in putting away the good things, and
then, for a time, conversation languished, save for intermittent

"Are you having a good time, boys?" asked Socker, poking his head in the
storeroom, after having shoveled some coal on the fire.

"We sure are, and we're much obliged to you," replied Jack.

"Oh, that's all right. It reminds me, to see you all eating, of how I
once was nearly starved in Andersonville prison. I was in there----"

"I'm coming out to hear that story in about five minutes, Socker,"
interrupted Jack. "Have it all ready for me."

"I will," promised the janitor, as he went back to look at the boiler.

It was a merry time, and Will, or, as the boys called him, Bill, enjoyed
it more than any one. It seemed as if a new world had opened before him.
His face lost the downcast look, his eyes were brighter, and he even
ventured to make one or two jokes. The boys seemed to like him, and
Jack was glad of it, for he had a genuine admiration for the new boy,
and wanted to befriend him.

To some of his chums he told something of Will's story, and there was
general indignation expressed against the mean guardian.

"Well, fellows, I guess we've eaten everything except the table and the
candles," said Jack after a while. "I think we'd better be getting back
to our rooms, for Martin may take it into his head to pay a late visit."

The advice was timely, and as the lads had had a jolly evening, they
prepared to disperse. They cleared away the remains of the feast,
leaving Socker to put aside the boards, cans and bottles. As they filed
out of the boiler-room, Socker called to Jack:

"I'm all ready to tell you that story now."

"I've got to see these infants to bed," replied our hero with a wink.
"Then I'll be back, Socker. Think over all the points in the story. I
don't want to lose any."

"I'll do that, Mr. Ranger," and Socker sat down in a chair before the
fire and began to think deeply.

The students reached their rooms without being detected, whispering to
Jack, on their way, their thanks for the spread.

"I've had the best time in my life!" exclaimed Will as he clasped
Jack's hand at his door. "I can't thank you enough."

"Then don't try," replied Jack. "Brace up, and you'll be all right."

"I will."

Whether it was the effect of the pie or doughnuts Jack never knew, but
some time during the night he began to dream that he had swallowed a big
piece of pastry the wrong way, and it was choking him. He sat up,
gasping for breath, and found to his horror that his room was full of

"There's a fire!" he spoke aloud. Then he called to Nat, who was in the
bed across from him:

"Nat! Nat! Wake up! There's a fire!"

"No, I can't get up any higher," sleepily responded Nat, turning over in
bed, and evidently thinking that his chum had asked him to climb up a

"It's a fire!" cried Jack, springing from bed. "There's a fire, Nat!"

This roused the sleeping lad, who also bounded out from under the
covers. There was no doubt about it. Their room was filled with smoke,
which was getting thicker every minute.

"Fire! Fire! Fire!" yelled Jack, for he heard no one stirring about in
the school dormitory, and he rightly guessed that he was the first to
sound the alarm.

His call was sufficient to arouse students on either side of him, and
then Martin and several of the teachers came running from their

"Where is the fire, Ranger?" asked Mr. Gales, one of the mathematical

"I don't know, but my room is full of smoke."

Just then, from somewhere below stairs, sounded a cry:

"Fire! Fire! There's a fire in the boiler-room! Help!"

"That's Socker, the janitor," declared Jack. "Come on, fellows, we'll
help him."

He rushed for the stairs, attired in his pajamas and slippers, and was
followed by Nat and a score of other students.

"Boys, boys! Be careful!" called Mr. Gales.

Meanwhile, the smoke was getting thicker, and every one was beginning to

"Fire! Fire!" yelled Socker.

Jack, leading the rush of pupils through the smoke, soon reached the
boiler-room in the basement. Through the clouds of vapor, illuminated by
gasjets here and there left burning all night in case of accident, he
could see the flicker of flames.

"Come on!" he called. "There are some pails with water along the wall,
and a couple of hand extinguishers!"

They reached the engine-room, to find a blaze in one corner, where
Socker kept some waste, cans of oil, old rags and brooms. The fire had
been eating toward the storeroom, where the midnight feast had been

"Forward the fire brigade!" yelled Jack as he grabbed up an extinguisher
and began to play it on the flames, while some of his chums caught up
pails of water, kept filled for just such an emergency.

The flames were beginning to crackle now, and the fire seemed likely to
be a bad one.

Suddenly Socker, who was running about doing nothing, looked at the
boiler and cried out:

"Run! Everybody run! The safety valve has caught, and the boiler will
blow up! Run! Run!"

The boys needed no second warning. Jack paused for a moment, for the
stream from his extinguisher was beginning to quench the flames, but as
he saw Socker fleeing from the room, and as he reflected that it would
be dangerous to remain, he turned and fled, carrying the apparatus with

"Everybody out!" cried Socker. "Get 'em all out! The boiler will blow

The lads, lightly clad, fled through the basement door out into the
night. The snow, which had ceased that evening, had started in again,
and the storm was howling as if in glee at the plight of the students of
Washington Hall, who were driven from their beds by fire.



"Telephone for the town fire department!" cried Dr. Mead, who had been
apprised of the fire. He, like all the others, was out in the storm,
with a few clothes he had hastily donned.

"They can't get in the boiler-room to fight the fire!" cried Socker.

"Why not?"

"Because the boiler will blow up. Something is wrong with the safety
valve, and there are two hundred pounds of steam on. The boiler is only
meant for one hundred."

"How did the fire start? What made the safety valve get out of order?"
asked the principal.

The group of students and teachers, standing in the storm, could now see
the bright flicker of flames in the boiler-room. "I don't know," replied
Socker. "I was asleep in front of the boiler, waiting to put some more
coal on, when all of a sudden I smelled smoke."

"How long before the boiler will go up?" asked Dr. Mead anxiously. "I
have some valuable books I must save."

He started to re-enter the school.

"Don't go back!" cried Socker. "It's liable to go up any minute!"

Dr. Mead returned to the waiting group, his face betraying intense

"We must get the fire out!" he cried. "Can't some one send word to the

"There's a telephone in Mr. Raspen's house, about half a mile away,"
volunteered Sam. "I'll run there."

He started off, and just as he did so a series of alarming cries broke
out at one of the upper corridor windows of the school.

"Fire! Fire!" cried a voice. "Der school ist being gonsumed by der
fierce elements! Safe me, somebodies! I must get out my German flag! I
must out get quvick, alretty yet!"

The anxious face of Professor Garlach appeared at one of the windows.

"Don't jump!" cried Jack, as the teacher seemed about to do so. "You've
got time enough to come down the stairs."

"B-r-r-r-r! It's cold!" cried Nat Anderson, as some snow got inside the
slippers he had put on, and some flakes sifted down his back.

"It will soon be warm enough," observed Jack. "The fire is gaining. Poor
Washington Hall! It deserved a better fate than being burned down."

"Look!" cried Sam, who had paused in his run to go to the telephone.
"There's Socrat."

The French professor had joined his German colleague at the window, and
both were struggling to climb out of it.

"Stand aside, German brute zat you aire!" exclaimed the Frenchman. "I
must save ze glorious flag of la belle France! Let me toss it out of ze

"I vill nottings of der kind do alretty yet!" responded Professor
Garlach. "I vos here firstest!"

"Zen you are no gentlemans!" was Professor Socrat's reply. "Bah! Sacre!
Let me out, I demand of you! I am insult zat you should flout zat rag in
my eyes!"

The wind had blown the German flag, which Professor Garlach held, into
the face of the Frenchman.

"Rag! Hein! You call dot glorious flag a rag! Himmel! I vill of der
mincemeat you make now!"

Professor Garlach made a grab for his enemy. To do so he lost his hold
on his precious flag. It fluttered out of the window and to the ground.

"Save it! Save it!" he cried, leaning out. "My flag!"

"I'll get it," shouted Jack.

With a quick movement the German snatched the French colors from the
hand of Professor Socrat. An instant later that, too, was fluttering to
the snow.

"Oh! la belle tri-color! It is insult! I moost have blood to satisfy my
honaire!" shouted the Frenchman.

He made a lunge, and clasped Professor Garlach about the neck. The two
struggled at the window. With a quick wit Jack grabbed the two flags,
and, waving them, intertwined, above his head, he shouted:

"See, professors! A German-French alliance at last. Both flags are
saved. They have not touched the ground. Now come on down and get them.
Quick! The fire is gaining!"

"Ach! Dot is goot! Der flag is not sullied!" called Professor Garlach.

"And mine also--my beautiful tri-color, eet is safe!" added Professor
Socrat. "Ranger, you are ze one grand gentleman. I salute you!" and the
enthusiastic Frenchman blew Jack a kiss.

The two enemies, reconciled by the flag incident, embraced each other,
and as Jack called to them to make haste down the stairway, they
disappeared from the window.

Meanwhile, the smoke was pouring from the boiler-room, and the flames
were brighter. Sam had raced off through the storm to the telephone to
summon the fire department.

"Say, I don't believe that boiler's going to blow up," announced Jack.
"If it was going to, it would have done so long ago. I'm going to take a

"No, no," begged Socker. "You'll all risk your life!"

"Don't be rash, Ranger," cautioned Dr. Mead.

"I think Socker exaggerated the danger," replied our hero. "I'm going to
take a look."

He ran back to the engine-room and looked in. He could see the boiler
plainly, as the place was brightly illuminated by the flames. His eyes
sought the steam gage.

"Why!" he cried. "There are only twenty pounds of steam on! Socker took
it for two hundred. There's no danger. That's a low pressure."

Then he raised his voice in a shout:

"Come on, fellows! Help put out the fire! There's no danger! The
boiler's all right!"

There was an immediate rush. Jack still held his extinguisher, and Nat
Anderson had secured one. Several other students, hearing Jack's
reassuring news, rushed into the school, and came back with pieces of
hand apparatus.

"Now to douse the fire!" yelled Jack, again turning on the chemical

"Use snow!" cried Bob Movel. "That will help!"

He scooped up some in a water pail that he had emptied, and tossed the
mass of white crystals on the edge of the flames, which were in one
corner of the boiler-room. There was a hissing sound, a cloud of steam
arose, and the fire at that particular point died out.

"That's the stuff!" cried Jack, and other students and some of the
teachers followed Bob's example. The fire was fast being gotten under
control, and Socker, returning to the boiler-room, had attached a small
hose to a faucet, and was playing water on the flames.

Suddenly, above the noise made by the shouting lads, the hiss of snow
and water, and the snapping of the flames, there sounded a cry of

"Help! Help! Help!"

"Some one is caught by the flames! They must have eaten their way up to
the upper floors!" cried Dr. Mead.

"It iss dot boy Snaith--he und two odders!" announced Professor Garlach,
rushing into the boiler-room, his beloved German flag clasped in his
arms, where Jack had placed it.

"Quick! Sacre! We must not let zem perish!" added Professor Socrat, as
he caught up a big fire shovel and dashed from the basement. "I will
rescue zem!"

"Und me also," added Professor Garlach as he grabbed up a long poker.

"There can't be much danger," said Jack. "The fire is almost out. Here,
Nat, you keep things moving here, and I'll take a look."

He ran out into the storm. Looking up at the side of the school, he saw,
framed in a window, behind which a light burned, the figures of Dock
Snaith, Pud Armstrong and Glen Forker.

"Save us! Save us!" cried Dock. "We can't get out."

"Catch me! I'm going to jump!" yelled Pud.

"No! no! Don't!" Jack called. "There's no danger. I'll come and get
you!" and he dashed into the main entrance of the school.



For a few moments after Jack's disappearance into the burning school,
the spectators, pupils and teachers hardly knew what to do or say. The
thick volumes of smoke that rolled out, even though they knew the fire
in the boiler-room was under control, seemed to indicate that the
conflagration was raging in some other part of the building.

"Ach! Dot brafe Ranger fellow!" exclaimed Professor Garlach. "He vill
burned be alretty yet! Ach Himmel! Der school will down burn!"

"So! Sacre!" exclaimed the French professor. "It iss too true, zat which
you speak. Terrible! terrible!"

"Und dose odder boys! Der flames vill gonsume dem also!" wailed the

"But ze flags--ze flags of our countries--zey are safe!" exclaimed
Professor Socrat, and at this thought the two former enemies threw their
arms about each other.

Meanwhile, Jack was dashing upstairs.

"I don't see any signs of fire," he said. "I believe it's only smoke,
after all."

Up he went to the floor where Dock Snaith and his cronies had their
rooms. The smoke was very thick, but there were no evidences of flame.
And as Jack reached the trio, who were still leaning out of the window
and calling for help, he saw that a lighted gasjet, reflecting through
the clouds of vapor, had made it appear as if there were flames.

"Oh! will no one save us!" cried Snaith. "Fellows, I guess we're going
to die!" and he began to whimper.

"No! no!" yelled Pud Armstrong. "Let's jump!"

"I'm--I'm afraid!" blubbered Snaith.

"Come on!" cried Jack, bursting into the room. "There's no danger. It's
only smoke. The fire's 'most out."

"Are you--are you sure?" faltered Glen Forker.

"Yes. Come on! It's all down in the boiler-room."

Thus assured, the three bullies, who were the worst kind of cowards,
followed Jack through the smoke-filled corridors. When the four appeared
there was a cheer, and Professors Socrat and Garlach embraced each other

"It's all out!" cried Nat Anderson, running from the boiler-room.
"Fire's all out!"

He was smoke-begrimed, and his thin clothing was wet through.

"Are you sure there is no more danger?" asked Dr. Mead.

"None at all," answered Nat.

Jack hurried up to join his chum. The snow was changing into rain,
mingled with sleet, and it was freezing as it fell.

"Say, if I was you I'd go in," exclaimed a voice at Jack's elbow, and he
turned to see a lad standing near him, whose lower jaw was slowly moving
up and down, for he was chewing gum.

"Hello, Budge," said Jack. "Where have you been all this while?" For
Budge Rankin, the odd character whom Jack had befriended by getting him
the position of assistant janitor at Washington Hall, was clad in
overcoat and cap.

"Me? Oh, I've been in town," answered Budge, stretching some gum out of
his mouth and beginning to pull it in again by the simple process of
winding it around his tongue.

"In town?" questioned Nat.

"Yep. 'Smynightoff."

"Oh, it was your night off," repeated Jack, for Budge had a habit of
running his words together.

"Yep. Wow! My gum's frozen!" he exclaimed, pausing in the act of trying
to chew it again. "But say," he added, "if the fire's out, you'd better
go inside. It's cold here."

"You're right; it is," admitted Jack, shivering.

"Here, take my coat," spoke Budge, starting to take it off.

"Indeed, I'll do nothing of the sort," replied Jack. "I'll go in and get

"I guess that's what we'd all better do," added Nat, for the wintry wind
was beginning to make itself felt, now that the exercise in putting out
the fire no longer warmed them.

"Come, young gentlemen, get inside," called Dr. Mead, and the students
filed back into the school. The smoke was rapidly clearing away, and
after a tour of the building, to make sure the flames were not lurking
in any unsuspected corners, the pupils were ordered to bed.

Jack and his chums managed to get a little sleep before morning, but
when our hero awoke, after troubled dreams, he called out:

"Say, Nat, there doesn't seem to be any steam heat in this room."

"There isn't," announced Nat, after feeling of the radiator. "It's as
cold as a stone."

"Socker must have let the fire in the boiler get low," went on Jack.
"Probably he thought the blaze last night was enough. B-r-r-r! Let's get
dressed in a hurry and go down where it's warm."

They soon descended to the main dining-room, where to their surprise
they found a number of shivering students and teachers. There was no
warmth in the radiators there, either.

"What's the matter?" asked Jack.

"Ach, Ranger," explained Professor Garlach, "der fire from der boiler
has avay gone, alretty, und dere is no more hot vasser mit vich more can
be made yet. So ve haf der coldness."

"I should say we did," commented Jack. "Can't Socker start a new fire
and get up steam?"

"I believe not," said a voice at Jack's side, and he turned to see his
new friend, Will Williams. "I heard the janitor tell Dr. Mead something
was wrong with the boiler. They have gone to look at it."

"I'm going to get my overcoat," spoke Nat, and his example was followed
by several others, for the room was very chilly. Presently Dr. Mead came
in, followed by Socker.

"Young gentlemen of Washington Hall," began the head of the school, "I
regret to inform you that the fire last night has damaged the boiler in
such a way that it is impossible to get up steam. I have just made an
investigation, and the boiler will have to have extensive repairs. It
will take some time to make them, and, I regret to say it, but I will
have to close the school until after the holidays----"

"Hurray!" yelled Nat.

The doctor looked shocked. Then he smiled.

"Such feeling is perhaps natural," he said, "and I would resent it, only
I know that Nat Anderson is a good pupil, who loves his school, as, I
hope, you all do. But we cannot hold sessions in cold rooms. Now I
suggest that you all retire to the general assembly room. There is a
large fireplace there, and I will have the janitor build a blaze in it.
You can at least have a warm breakfast, and discuss future plans."

There was a buzz of excitement at once, and the lads made a rush for the
assembly room. There, a little later, somewhat warmed by a big log fire,
they ate breakfast. The fire of the night previous, it was learned, had
been caused by spontaneous combustion among some oiled rags, and the
damage was only in the boiler-room. There had been no need for the fire
department from the village, and though Sam had summoned it, the order
had been countermanded before the apparatus started, so there was no
damage by water to the school. Some smoke-begrimed walls were the only
evidence in the upper stories of the fire.

"Well," remarked Nat Anderson, as Jack and several of his chums gathered
around in a warm corner, "no more school for a couple of months, anyhow.
Solidified snowballs! but I wonder what we'll do all that time?"

"Go home and rest up," suggested Bony Balmore as he cracked a couple of
finger knuckles just to keep in practice.

"Rest! Why, we just had one during the summer vacation, Bony," remarked
Fred Kaler.

"Oh, I can use more," said Bony. "What are you going to do, Jack?"

"I'm going hunting and camping," announced Jack quietly.

"Hunting?" questioned Nat.

"Camping?" cried Sam Chalmers.

"Sure," went on Jack. "I've been thinking of it for some time, but I
didn't see any opportunity of doing it. I'm going camping and hunting
after big game out West, and I wish some of you fellows would go along."

"We haven't any guns--that is, such as would do for big game," objected

"We can get 'em," declared Jack. "I was thinking we fellows who went
camping before might organize a sort of gun club and take a trip. Now
that the school is to close, it will give us just the chance we want."

"A gun club," mused Nat. "Say, but that's a fine idea! Petrified
pedestrians! but we'll call it Jack Ranger's Gun Club! That will be a
dandy name."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," said Jack quickly. "It won't be my gun
club any more than it will be yours or Bony's or Sam's."

"But you're organizing it."

"That doesn't make any difference. Every fellow will pay his own way.
We'll just call it a gun club."

But, in spite of Jack's objection, when the organization was perfected a
little later, every one thought of it as Jack Ranger's club, even if
they didn't say so.

"Where could we go hunting?" asked Nat. "There's no big game around

"I guess you're right," admitted Jack, "but I know where there is some,
and I'm going."


"Out in the Shoshone Mountains, in the 'bad lands' district of Wyoming.
There's the finest hunting in the United States."

"Hurrah for the gun club!" cried Nat. "I'm going, too."

"Well, don't leave me behind," pleaded Sam. "I guess you can count me

Jack looked around at the eager faces of his chums. Then off in a corner
he saw the somewhat downcast countenance of the new boy--Will Williams.

"I wonder if he wouldn't like to go, too?" Jack said to himself.



The boys gathered about the warm fire, crowding close around Jack to
hear more details of the proposed trip of the gun club.

"I've been reading up about hunting big game," went on Jack, "and I
asked my father if I could go the first chance I got. He said I could,
and now I've got the chance."

"What are those bad lands?" asked Fred Kaler. "Any Indians out there?"

"Some, I guess. A few Sioux, Crows and some Shoshones. But they're
mostly guides. You see, bad lands are what the Westerners call a region
that isn't very good for anything but hunting. They consist of a lot of
sandstone peaks, with deserts here and there."

"And what can you hunt there?" asked Nat.

"Oh, lots of things. Big-horn sheep, bears, elk, deer, jack-rabbits and
birds. It will be lots of sport."

"Wyoming, eh?" mused Sam. "That's quite a way off."

"Yes, it is, but we've got lots of time. I've been making some
inquiries, and they say the best spot to aim for is around the town of
Cody, which is named after Buffalo Bill. You see, we can go to Fort
Custer, and from there we have to travel in wagons or on horses. I've
got a route all mapped out. We'll go along a small stream, called Sage
Creek, across the Forty-mile Desert, and hunt along the Shoshone River,
near Heart Mountain. It's a fine hunting ground, and we'll have no end
of fun camping out."

"But it'll be cold," objected Bony. "There'll be snow."

"What of it?" asked Jack. "It'll do you good. We'll have warm tents,
warm clothing, and we can build big camp fires that will make the ones
here look like a baby bonfire."

"Galloping gasmeters!" exclaimed Nat. "When can we start, Jack?"

"Oh, it'll take some time to get ready. We've got to get the guns and
camping outfit together."

The boys talked for some considerable time about the prospective trip.
Socker, meanwhile, came in to replenish the fire. In some of the rooms
there were stoves and gas heaters, and these were soon in operation to
take the chill off the apartments, for the big building, being without
steam heat, was like a barn. Budge Rankin came in once with some logs
for the fire.

"Goinome?" he said to Jack.

"Going home?" repeated our hero. "That's what I am, Budge. Are you?"


"As soon as you can, eh? Well, it will be this afternoon for mine," went
on Jack. "Can't stay here and freeze."

Dr. Mead and his assistants were busy arranging for the departure of the
pupils, while the head of the school also telegraphed for new parts of
the damaged boiler.

Jack and Nat packed their belongings, and prepared to start for Denton.

"Say, who all are going camping and hunting?" asked Nat, pausing in the
act of thrusting his clothes into his trunk.

"Why, I was thinking if we could take the same crowd we had before you
and I were captured and taken aboard the _Polly Ann_ this summer, it
would be nice," replied Jack. "There's you and Bony and Sam and me."

"And Budge."

"Oh, yes, Budge. I'll take him along if he'll go. He likes to putter
around camp, but he doesn't care much about hunting. He'd rather chew

Though Budge worked as assistant janitor at Washington Hall, Jack and
his chums did not consider that his position was at all degrading. Jack
felt that Budge was one of his best friends, and though the lad was
poor he was independent, which quality Jack liked in him.

"And I tell you some one else I'm going to take, if I can manage it,"
went on our hero.


"Bill Williams. I like that fellow, and he's had it pretty hard. I'd
like to do something for him, and I'm going to ask him to come hunting
with us."

"S'pose he'll go?"

"I don't know. Guess I'll go ask him now. Say, you finish crowding my
stuff into my trunk, will you? We want to catch the twelve o'clock train
for Denton."

"Sure," agreed Nat, ending his packing by the simple process of crowding
all that remained of his clothes into the trunk and then jumping on them
with both feet, so that they would collapse sufficiently to allow the
lid to fasten.

Jack found the new boy sitting in his room beside his trunk and valise.

"All ready to go home?" asked Jack.

"Yes," was the answer in a sad sort of voice.

"Why, you don't seem to be very glad that school has closed, giving you
an additional vacation," remarked Jack.

"I'm not."


"Because I've got to go and live with my guardian. He hates me. He'll
be twitting me of how I robbed him, when I had no more to do with the
loss of his money than--than you did. I was beginning to like it here,
but now I've got to go back. It's tough!"

"Say, how would you like to come with me?"

"Come with you? Where?"

"Hunting in the Shoshone Mountains."

"Do you mean it?" asked Will eagerly, his eyes brightening. He sprang to
his feet, all his sadness gone.

"Of course I mean it," went on Jack. "Some of my chums are going to form
a sort of gun club, and I'd like to include you in it. Will you come?"

"Will I come? Say, I----"

Then the lad paused. The light faded from his eyes. He sank back into
his chair.

"No--no," he said slowly. "I'm much obliged, but I--I guess I can't go."

"Why not?"

Will hesitated.

"Well--er--you see--er--the fact is, I haven't any money. My guardian
pays all the bills, and, as I told you, he doesn't give me any spending
money. Not even enough for a postage stamp."

"That's tough," said Jack, "but I guess you didn't quite understand me.
I didn't ask you to spend any money."

"How can I go camping and hunting, away off in Wyoming, without money?"

"You'll go as my guest," said Jack simply. "I'm inviting you to go with
me. The other fellows are coming on their own hook, as members of the
gun club, but I'd like to have you come just as my guest. Will you do

"Will I?" Once more the lad's eyes sparkled. "Of course I will," he
said, "only it doesn't seem right to have you pay my way. If my uncle
only knew of my plight he'd give me some money, I'm sure, but I can't
even write to him. It's quite mysterious the way he hides himself. I
can't understand it."

"Then you'll come?"

"Yes--but I don't like to feel that it is costing you money."

"Don't let that worry you," said Jack quickly. "I'm pretty well off, and
my dad has all the money he can use. I guess you didn't hear about the
gold mine Nat and I helped discover when we were out West looking for my

"No, I never did."

"Well, that will keep the wolf from howling around the door for a while.
I'm real glad you're coming, Bill. I hope you'll enjoy it."

"I know I will. I'm fond of hunting and camping."

"All right. Now I'm going back to Denton. I s'pose you're going home,

"Well, it isn't much of a home. I live in Hickville with my guardian."

"Hickville, eh? That's about a hundred miles from Denton. Well, I was
going to say that I'll write you a few days before we start, and you can
come on to Denton."

"All right. I'll do it."

"Then I'll go and finish packing. I left Nat Anderson to do it, and he's
just as likely to put things upside down as right side up. I'll see you
at Denton, then."

"Yes," replied Will. But Jack did not see the new boy at Denton, and not
until some time after their parting at the school; and when he did see
him, it was under strange circumstances.

Good-bys were said among the pupils and teachers of Washington Hall, and
Jack and his chums separated, he and Nat journeying to Denton, which
they reached that night, much to the surprise of Mr. Ranger, Jack's
three aunts, and Nat's folks.

Jack lost no time in beginning his preparations for the camping trip,
his father consenting that the gun club might be formed. Our hero wrote
many letters, arranged for transportation to the West, got into
communication with a guide near Cody, Wyoming, and invited Budge to go

"Sure I'll go," said the gum-chewing lad as he placed into his mouth a
fresh wad of the sticky substance. "When'll it be?"

"In about two weeks," said Jack. "There are quite a few things to do

In the meanwhile, Nat Anderson, Sam Chalmers and Bony Balmore had
secured permission from their parents to go with Jack, and they were
busy at their respective homes, making up their kits. Sam and Bony lived
about a day's journey from Denton.

"Now I'll write to Bill, and invite him to come on," said Jack one
night, and then he waited for a reply from the lad with whom he had so
recently become friends.

"Here's Bill's answer," said Jack to Nat one afternoon a few days later,
when they went down to the post-office, and Jack received a letter
marked "Hickville."

As Jack read it he uttered a low whistle.

"What's the matter? Can't he come?" asked Nat.

"No. This is from his rascally guardian. It's to me. Bill's run away."



Nat stood still in the street and stared at Jack.

"What's that you said?" he asked.

"Bill's run away. Listen and I'll read the letter to you. It says: 'A
few days ago my ward, William Williams, returned from Washington Hall,
greatly to my regret. He explained the cause of his enforced vacation,
and stated that you had asked him to go off on a hunting trip. Of
course, I refused to let him go. In the first place I don't believe in
hunting, and for a lad of William's age to go off to the West, where he
may learn bad habits, is not the thing. Besides, I cannot trust him away
from the authority of older persons.'"

"Wouldn't that jolt you?" commented Jack as he looked up from the

Nat nodded.

"Suffering snufflebugs!" he exclaimed. "That's the limit--isn't it,

"Pretty near. Listen; there's more to it: 'When I told my ward that he
could not go, he answered me very sharply that if his uncle was here he
could get permission. That may be, but his uncle is not here. He begged
to be allowed to go, but I was firm in my refusal. I do not believe in
such nonsense as camping out, and I told William so.

"'The other day, to my surprise, he disappeared from my home, and I have
not been able to get a trace of him. I am forced to come to the
conclusion that he has run away in a fit of anger, because I would not
let him go camping with you. I hold you partly to blame for this, as it
was wrong of you to ask him to go. I must therefore ask you, in case you
see him, to at once compel him to return to me. I absolutely forbid him
to go camping with you, and should he join you, you must send him back.
He has defied me, and must be punished. If you see him, turn him over to
the nearest police officer, inform me, and I will come and get him.'"

"Well, wouldn't that loosen your liver pin!" exclaimed Nat. "Do you
s'pose he's coming here, Jack?"

"I don't know. I'm glad he ran away from such a mean man as Mr. Gabel,
though. The idea of not letting him go camping! It's a shame!"

"Will you make him go back if he does come?"

"Will I? Not much! I'll take him camping."

"That's the stuff!" cried Nat. "Gollywoggled gimlet giblets! but some
persons can be mean when they try real hard! I wonder if he will come

"It's hard to say," replied Jack. "He showed spunk, though, in running
away, and I guess he couldn't have taken any money with him, either, for
his guardian never let him have any. Well, if he comes I'll look out for
him, and I'll not hand him over to a policeman, either."

"Say," called a voice from the other side of the street. "Bettergome,

"Better go home--what for, Budge?" asked Jack as he saw the queer,
gum-loving lad coming toward him.

"Some of your camping stuff arrived, and your aunts don't know where to
put it. It's all over the parlor floor," explained Budge, taking his gum
out of his mouth in order to speak more plainly.

"I hope it's my new gun!" exclaimed Jack. "Come on, Nat, let's hurry.
Did they send you after me, Budge?" for the assistant janitor used to do
chores for Jack's aunts, and was constantly around the house.

"'Swat," replied Budge, that being his gum version of "That's what."

Jack and Nat hurried to the former's house. They found several packages
strewn about the parlor, while Jack's three maiden aunts were sitting in
chairs, staring helplessly at the accumulation of stuff.

"Oh, Jack!" exclaimed Aunt Angelina. "Whatever is in all those packages?
The man who brought them told us to be careful, as one was marked

"That's all right," said Jack easily. "It's only some guns and
cartridges I expect, Aunt Angelina."

"But--but suppose it should blow up the place, Jack dear?" asked Aunt

"Yes, and break my best set of china," added Aunt Josephine. "Oh, Jack,
take them away, please!"

"All right," exclaimed Jack. "I'll give you a correct imitation of
Marinello Booghoobally, _alias_ Hemp Smith, making things disappear.
Catch hold, Nat, and we'll take them out to our private office," and
with his chum's aid Jack had soon removed the offending packages to a
loft over the barn, which he had fitted up as a sort of clubroom.

"Now, Jack, be careful," cautioned Mr. Ranger as he saw his son busily
engaged. "You know the danger of firearms."

"Sure, dad. Say, I wish you were going hunting with us. Why can't you?"

"I had enough of the West," remarked Mr. Ranger, as he thought of his
enforced stay there for many years. "I'm not going back. You brought me
home, Jack, and I'm going to stay East. But I hope you have a good

"I guess we will, if Jack has anything to do with it," remarked Nat.
"Say, Jack, that's a dandy gun."

"Pretty fair," observed our hero, as he brought to view a fine new
rifle, which he had sent for.

There was also a shotgun in the outfit, and many other things to be used
on the trail and in camp. Nat's eyes showed his admiration.

"Jumping jillflowers!" he exclaimed, "but you are certainly doing this
up good and brown, Jack."

"Yes, I don't like anything half done. It's bad for the digestion.
You've got a gun, haven't you?"

"Oh, yes, a pretty fair one. But I wish I had one like yours."

"You can use it whenever you want to," was Jack's generous offer. "Budge
hasn't any, and I'm going to let him take my old rifle, though I expect
he'll get the lock all stuck up with gum, so it won't shoot."

"I'm glad Budge is going. He'll keep things lively."

"Yes, and I'm sorry Bill Williams can't go. I s'pose I've got to write
to his guardian, and tell him I haven't seen Bill. Well, we're almost
ready. I guess we can start in about three days."

"When will Sam and Bony arrive?"

"I expect them to-morrow. Then we'll make for the West, for the
mountains, the bad lands, the desert, and the home of big game! Whoop!
La-la! Hold me down, Nat! I'm feeling fine!"

Jack began dancing about the loft, and the loose boards of the floor
made such a racket as he leaped about, pulling Nat this way and that in
his enthusiasm, that Budge, who was cleaning out the stable, called up
from below:


"No, nothing's wrong, you old gum-masticating specimen of a big-horn
sheep," replied Nat. "We're just working off some steam, that's all."

"Better send it back to Washington Hall," advised Budge. "They need it

"That's right," laughed Jack.

Sam Chalmers and Bony Balmore arrived the next day, and were entertained
at Jack's house. Preparations were rushed, Nat and Budge finishing their
packing, and two days later, with their guns, their camping outfits, and
their baggage, they stood in the railroad station, ready to start for
the West.

It was a fine, clear, crisp November day, all traces of the recent storm
having disappeared, and it seemed as if winter, having sent on an
advance agent, rather repented of opening the season so early.

"It will be fine hunting weather," said Jack as he and his chums waited
for the train.

"Couldn't be better," agreed Nat.

At that moment the agent came hurrying from the depot, holding aloft an

"Here's a telegram for you, Jack Ranger," he said as he handed it over.
"It just came."

"A telegram?" mused Jack. "I wonder who it's from?"

He tore open the envelope, and as he read the message he gave a start.



"What is it?" asked Nat. "Any bad news? Can't you go camping?"

"It's a message from Mr. Gabel, Bill Williams' guardian," replied Jack.
"He says he has a clue that Bill has gone out to a settlement on the Big
Horn River, in Montana, and he wants me to tell him to go back to
Hickville at once if I see him."

"But you're not likely to, are you? Is the Big Horn River near where we
are going?" asked Bony.

"Not very, I guess," answered Jack. "The Big Horn starts in Wyoming, but
I rather think the chances are a thousand to one against seeing Bill.
Poor chap! He has a hard row to hoe. I wish I could help him, but if
he's run away I don't see how I can."

"I wish we'd meet him out West," said Sam. "Wouldn't it be a joke if,
after all, he could go camping with us and fool his mean old guardian?"

"Oh, what's the use discussing fairy tales?" asked Jack. "Are you
fellows all ready? Don't leave anything behind, now."

"I guess we're all here--what there is of us," remarked Bony, cracking
his finger joints.

Just then the whistle of an approaching train was heard.

"Gotchertickets?" asked Budge Rankin, taking in a fresh wad of gum.

"Hu! Do you think I left them until now?" inquired Jack. "I've got all
the tickets. That's our train, fellows. Now we'll say good-by to Denton
for a while, and live in the wild and woolly West. Here, Budge, you take
that satchel, and I'll tote the dress-suit case. Try and get seats
together, boys."

A little later they were on the train and being whirled rapidly away
from Denton. They had a long journey before them, and as the first part
of it contained no features of interest the lads spent all their time
discussing what was before them.

"I want to get a big buck mule deer," remarked Jack as they were talking
about what kind of game they would be likely to find.

"Me for a big-horn sheep," said Nat. "I want to get the head mounted and
put it in my room. Then I'll put my rifle across the horns, and show it
to every one who comes in."

"I s'pose you'll tell 'em you shot it, won't you?" asked Bony.

"Of course. I will shoot it."

"You won't if you haven't improved your aim any since we were camping
this summer."

"I can shoot better than you can," retorted Nat.

"Like pie!" exclaimed Bony, discharging a whole volley of knuckle-bone

"Why, you missed that big muskrat you aimed at, the day before Jack and
I were kidnapped!" taunted Nat.

"Yes, but you joggled my arm."

"I did not."

"You did so."

"Hold on," interposed Jack in a quiet voice. "All the passengers are
laughing at you two."

"I don't care," replied Nat. "I guess I can shoot as good as he can."

"Oh, I fancy there'll be game enough out there, so if you miss one thing
you can hit another," consoled Sam. "What I want to see are the bad
lands. Just think of thousands of small sandstone peaks, so much alike
that they look like a stone forest, with sulphur springs here and there,
and all sorts of queer-shaped rocks. It must be a great sight!"

"Yes, and it's easy to get lost among those same peaks," added Jack. "I
read of a hunter who went out there, and he was so near camp that his
friends could hear him shouting, but they couldn't locate him until he
began to fire his gun, and then they had hard work because of the
echoes. We'll have to keep together if we get in such a place as that."

"But there are some woods, aren't there?" asked Bony.

"Sure, woods, mountains, valleys, and all sorts of wild places," said
Jack. "I fancy there'll be plenty of snow on the upper peaks, too, but
it's likely to be nice and warm down below."

"What do you want to shoot, Budge?" asked Nat, for the gum-chewing youth
had not said much.

"Hu! Guessarabbit'lldome."

"A rabbit," remarked Jack. "Maybe we'll be glad of a good rabbit stew,
or one roasted, in case these mighty hunters don't bring down a buck or
a bear."

Thus they talked for many miles, until they had to change cars, where
they took another road leading more directly West. They arrived at
Chicago the morning after the day on which they had started, and spent
some time in the Windy City. Then they started off again.

"Two days more and we'll be in Wyoming," remarked Jack the next
afternoon, as they were speeding through Iowa. "Then for a good time.
Eh, fellows?"

"That's what!" answered Sam. "My, but I'm getting stiff. I'd like to get
out and have a ball game."

"So would I," said Nat.

Their train stopped at a small station, and was held there for some

"Wonder what we're waiting for?" ventured Jack. "What's the matter?" he
asked of a brakeman who passed through their car at that moment.

"Some block on the line ahead," was the reply. "We'll go in a few

There was some fretting among the passengers at the delay, but finally
the train started off again. It proceeded slowly. Then followed some
sharp whistles, and finally there sounded a report like a gun.

"It's a hold-up!" cried an excited man.

The boys and all about them leaped to their feet in alarm.

"That's what it is," went on the man. "It's a Wild West hold-up! Better
hide your watches and money."

He began emptying his pockets of his valuables, and was thrusting them
under his seat.

The train had come to a sudden stop.

"Do you s'pose it's train robbers?" asked Bony in some alarm.

"I don't know," answered Jack. "I guess----"

"Where'sthegunsan'we'llshoot'em!" exclaimed Budge, jumping up.

Just then a brakeman ran through the car, carrying a red flag.

"What's the matter? Is it a hold-up? Are they after our money?"

These questions were rapidly fired at him.

"A freight train has broken in two just ahead of us," explained the
railroad man. "The engine's disabled," he went on. "We've got to back up
to a switch so as to pass it. I've got to go back with a danger flag."

"Oh, dear!" exclaimed a woman. "But who got shot? I'm sure I heard a gun
go off."

"That was a torpedo on the track, ma'am," explained the brakeman. "The
freight crew put it there on a sharp curve, so we wouldn't run into the
tail-end of their train. It's all right. There's no danger."

The brakeman hurried down the steps of the last car, in which the boys
were riding, and began to run along the track. When he was about a
hundred yards away the train began to back slowly up.

"I wonder how far back we have to go to reach the switch?" asked Jack.

"About two miles," answered a man across the aisle from the lads. "It's
near Mine Brook Station, and it'll take us quite a while to get there."

"Why?" asked Bony. "Can't the train go fast backward?"

"Yes, but the engineer dare not run past the man with the flag. He has
to keep a certain distance in the rear of the last car, to warn any
other trains that may be approaching behind us. So we really can't back
up any faster than the brakeman can run. I don't like this delay,
either, as I have an important engagement. But something always seems to
be happening on this road. I wish I'd come another route."

There were other grumbling remarks by the various passengers, but the
boys were too interested in watching the brakeman to notice them. The
train must have gotten too close to him, for it came to a stop, in
obedience to a signal on the air whistle, and waited until the man with
the red flag was out of sight around a curve. Then it began to back

This was kept up for some time, and finally the boys saw the brakeman
come to a halt and wave his flag in a peculiar manner.

"He's at the switch now," remarked the man who had first spoken to the
lads. "We'll soon be on our way again."

The train proceeded more slowly, and then the boys saw where a switch
crossed from one track to another. The rear car was halted some distance
from the cross-over, and a man came running up from the head end,
carrying a key in his hand, with which to unlock the switch. He quickly
turned it, and then began to wave his arm, as a signal for the engineer
to back up. He continued to wave for several seconds, and then he

"He can't see me. Hey!" he called to a group of men on the back platform
of the last car, "give him the whistle signal, will you?"

"What?" asked a man.

"Give him the whistle. Blow it three times, so he'll back up. Hurry! I
can't leave this switch."

The men did not seem to know what to do. Some of them began looking
inside the car for the old-fashioned bell cord, that used to run through
the train to the engineer's cab. This is now displaced by a small red
cord at one side of the car, and it operated a whistle connected with
the air-brake system.

"Pull the cord. Give him three whistles, can't you?" cried the man at
the switch. "We can't lay here all day."

"I don't see any whistle," murmured the man who had told the boys about
the switch. "Let him come and pull it himself. This is a queer road,
where they expect the passengers to help run it."

"Can't some of you pull that whistle cord?" demanded the man. "Hurry

Jack heard and understood. He had often seen the brakemen or conductor
at the Denton station start the trains by pulling on something under the
hood of the car, as they stood on the platform.

"I guess I can do it," he said as he worked his way through the crowd of
passengers about the door.

He reached up, and his fingers encountered a thin cord. He pulled it
slowly, as he had seen the railroad men do, for as the air pressure had
to travel the entire length of the train it required some time, and a
quick jerk would not have been effective.

Once, twice, three times Jack pulled the whistle cord, and he heard the
hissing of escaping air that told of the signal sounding in the
locomotive cab. An instant later came three blasts from the engine, and
the train began to back up.

"Much obliged to you," called the man at the switch to Jack, as the rear
car passed him. "I'm glad somebody knew how to work it."

"Is that where the whistle cord is?" asked a man. "I was looking for a
bell cord."

The train backed across the switch, and was soon on another track, and
one not blocked by a disabled freight.

"Say," remarked Nat to Jack, "you're getting to be a regular railroad

"Well, I'm in a hurry to get out to camp and take the trail," replied
Jack. "That's why I'm helping 'em run this road."



The train soon began to move forward again, but it had to proceed
slowly, as it was on the wrong track, and a flagman had to precede it to
prevent a collision. It was tiresome traveling, and nearly every one
grumbled--that is, all save the boys. To them the affair was novel
enough to be interesting.

Finally they reached and passed the disabled freight train. As they
puffed past it a girl, who had come in from some car ahead with an
elderly gentleman, took a seat with him just across from where Jack sat.

"There, daddy," said the girl in a sweet, resonant voice that made Jack
look up quickly, "there's the train that made all the trouble. Now we'll
go more quickly."

"Are you sure, Mabel?" he asked.

"Why, yes, daddy. Didn't the conductor say that as soon as we passed the
broken freight train we would get on our regular track? You heard him."

"Yes, I know, but you can't always believe what these railroad men tell
you. They'd say anything to keep a passenger quiet. I'm nervous riding
in these cars. There may be a collision when we're on the wrong track.
Don't you think so?" he asked, turning to Jack.

"Why, no. I don't believe we're in any danger," replied our hero, and
his heart beat faster at the grateful look which the pretty girl flashed
at him from her brown eyes. "There is a flagman ahead of us, and we'll
soon be on the right track. There is no danger."

"I'm sure I hope so," went on the aged man. "I'm not used to this way of
traveling. A wagon, a horse, or hitting the trail for mine. I came out
of the front car, because I thought it would be safer here in case of a
collision. Don't you think so?" he asked anxiously.

"Of course," answered Jack reassuringly, and again the girl looked
gratefully at him.

"My name's Pierce," went on the timid man. "Dan Pierce. What's yours?"

"Oh, daddy!" exclaimed the girl. "Perhaps the young gentleman doesn't
want to tell his name."

"Why shouldn't he?" asked Mr. Pierce quickly. "Every one ought to be
proud of his name. I'm proud of mine. Dan Pierce it is. I'm an old
Western hunter, and this is my daughter Mabel. We've been East on a
visit, and we're going back. I'm glad of it, too. What's your name?" he
went on.

"Father," expostulated the girl, "perhaps he doesn't wish to tell."

"Oh, I haven't the least objection," answered our hero. "I'm Jack
Ranger, and these are some friends of mine."

"I'd like to know 'em," said Mr. Pierce quickly, and Jack introduced the
boys, the old hunter, in turn, presenting his daughter Mabel, who
blushed more than ever. But Jack thought her ever so much prettier when
the color surged up into her brown, olive-tinted cheeks.

"Going far?" asked Mr. Pierce.

"We're taking a hunting trip to the Shoshone Mountains," replied Jack.

"You don't say so? Why, that's where I lived and hunted for forty
years!" exclaimed Mr. Pierce. "That's where me and my daughter live.
About ten miles from Pryor's Gap. But my hunting days are over," he said
a bit sadly. "I have to settle down now and live in a house with Mabel

Jack thought that was not at all a bad arrangement, and he stole a
glance at the girl. He caught her looking at him, and he felt the blood
mounting to his face, while he saw the blush spread again over her

"How long are you going to stay?" asked Mr. Pierce.

Then Jack told of the formation of the gun club, and how it happened
that they had a chance to come West on a late fall hunting trip.

"It makes me feel young again," declared Mr. Pierce as his eyes lighted
up. "I declare, I've a good notion to hit the trail again."

"Oh, you mustn't think of that, daddy!" exclaimed Mabel. "Remember, you
promised me you would stay home now and rest."

"Rest? I guess you mean rust," said Mr. Pierce, his deep-set eyes
sparkling with fun. "I sure would like to hit the trail again."

"We would be very glad to have you come along with us," said Jack. "We
have plenty of shelter tents, and lots of grub."

"I'd like it--I'd like it," said Mr. Pierce musingly.

"Daddy!" expostulated his daughter.

She shot a somewhat indignant glance at Jack for proposing such a thing,
but she was not angry.

"There, there, Mabel, of course I won't go," said her father. "I'll stay
home. My hunting days are over, I reckon, but I sure would like a chance
to wrassle with a bear or draw a bead on a mule deer or a fine big-horn
sheep. Say, if you boys ever get near Pryor's Gap I'll feel mortal
offended if you don't stop off and see us."

"We'll stop," promised Jack heartily, and he looked into Mabel's eyes,
whereat she blushed again, and Jack felt his heart strangely beating.

"Masquerading mud-turtles! but that's a fine view!" suddenly exclaimed
Nat, who was looking from a window. "You can see fifty miles, I'll

Mabel laughed heartily.

"What a funny expression!" she said. "Where did you get it?"

"Oh, he makes them up as he goes along," explained Jack, while Nat was
in some confusion.

"It must be some tiresome," observed Mr. Pierce, while his eyes twinkled
humorously. "But we sure do have fine views out here. You needn't be in
a hurry to look at 'em. There's plenty where you're going. But I meant
to ask you boys how do you calculate to travel after you get to Fort
Custer? I believe you said you were going there first."

"We are," replied Jack, "and from there we have arranged to go in wagons
to Sage Creek and across Forty-mile Desert."

"That's a good route," observed Mr. Pierce. "Who was you depending on to
tote your stuff across the desert?"

"Why, a man named Isaac Blender," answered Jack. "I wrote to him on the
advice of my father, who heard of him through some Western friends he

"Oh, you mean Tanker Ike," said Mr. Pierce.

"Tanker Ike?" repeated Jack.

"Yes. You see, we call him that because he used to drive a water tank
across the desert to the mining camps. So you're going with Tanker Ike,
eh? Well, that's middlin' curious."

"Why so?" asked Sam.

"Because me and my daughter are going to take a short trip with him.
I've got a sister I want to visit before I go back to Pryor's Gap, and
Mabel and I are going in one of Tanker Ike's wagons."

"Maybe we can go together," spoke Jack quickly, and he glanced at Mabel,
who suddenly found something of interest in the scenery that was rushing

"That's just what I was thinking," went on Mr. Pierce. "I'll give you a
proper introduction to Ike. Are you going to have a guide?"

"Yes," answered Jack. "I wrote to Mr. Blender about it, and he promised
to get an Indian guide for us. Do you think he can?"

"Oh, yes. There are plenty of Crow Indians that can be hired. I'll see
that he gets you a good one."

"Thank you," said Jack, secretly delighted that he could travel for some
time longer in Mabel's company.

The rest of the railroad journey seemed very short to Jack, and to his
chums also, for Mr. Pierce proved an interesting talker, and told them
many stories of camp and trail.

Finally they reached Fort Custer, found their camping outfit on hand,
with their guns, tents and other necessaries, and there was Tanker Ike
on hand to meet them.

"Hello, Ike!" called Mr. Pierce as he descended from the car.

"Well, bust my off wheel! If it ain't Dan Pierce!" exclaimed the other.
"Where did you drift in from?"

They greeted each other heartily, and then Mr. Blender approached Jack
and his chums, Mr. Pierce doing the introducing, which was hardly
necessary, as the man who was to pilot the boys across the desert was a
hearty, genial Westerner, whom to meet once was to feel well acquainted

"And I want you to get these boys a good Indian guide," said Mr. Pierce.
"None of those lazy, shiftless beggars."

"I've got Long Gun for them," said Mr. Blender.

"Good!" exclaimed Mr. Pierce. "Long Gun is as good a Crow Indian as
there is. You'll be safe with him, boys."

"Sanctimonious scalplocks!" exclaimed Nat. "Are we going to travel with
a real live Indian?"

"That's what, son," replied Tanker Ike softly. "But don't let off any
more of them curious expressions than you can help. They might scare
Long Gun, and he's sort of timid--for an Indian," and Mr. Pierce joined
the wagon driver in a laugh.

"Well, if we're going to start we'd better be going," remarked Mr.
Blender at length. "Let's see. I guess I can get you all in one wagon,
and pack the grub and camp truck in another."

"Where will the Indian guide meet us?" asked Jack.

"The other side of the desert."

"Do you think he'll be there?"

"When Long Gun says a thing, it's as good as done," commented Mr.
Pierce. "Well, Mabel, climb up, and I'll get aboard in a few minutes."

Jack made a start for the wagon.

"Where you going?" asked Nat quickly.

"I'm going to get in, of course."

"But what about our stuff?"

"Oh, Mr. Blender will look after that, I guess."

Jack kept on, following close after Mabel, and he took a seat beside her
in the big wagon.

"Say, fellows," remarked Nat in a low voice to the other lads, "what do
you think of Jack?"

"He's got 'em bad," commented Sam. "But I don't know as I blame him.
She's awful nice."

"Cut it out! You're getting sentimental in your old age, Sam," objected
Bony, as he cracked a couple of knuckles for practice.



Jack looked down at his chums from his seat in the big wagon beside

"Aren't you going to get aboard?" he asked with a smile.

"Are we going to start soon?" asked Nat.

"As soon as our stuff is loaded in the freight wagon," replied Jack.

"I want to get my gun," replied Nat. "We may see something to shoot at."

"Not much around here," commented Mr. Pierce. "Better leave your truck
all together until you get to camp. It'll carry better that way."

"Juthinkwe'llseeanyrobbers?" asked Budge suddenly.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Pierce slowly, while a look of surprise
slowly spread over his face. "But what was that remark you just made?"

For Budge had not talked much, thus far on the journey, and when he had
spoken he had not used any of his conglomerated remarks.

"He merely inquired if you thought we'd see any robbers," answered Sam
with a smile.

"'SwatIsaid," added Budge, rapidly chewing gum in his excitement.

"No, I don't cal'alate we'll meet up with any bandits," answered Mabel's
father with a smile. "If we do--well, Tanker Ike and I are pretty well
heeled, I guess," and he lifted from his side coat pocket, where he
carried it as if it was a pound of sugar, a revolver of large size.

"Oh, daddy! Don't bring out that horrid gun!" exclaimed Mabel.

"I thought Western girls were used to guns and such things," remarked

"So she is," said her father. "Mabel is as good a shot with the rifle as
I am, but somehow she don't exactly seem to cotton to these pocket

"I think they're dangerous," explained the girl with a glance at Jack
that set his heart to beating faster again. "I don't mind a rifle, but
for all daddy says so, I'm not as good a shot as he is."

"I'd like to see you shoot," said Jack.

"Maybe you will--if you come to see me--I mean us," she corrected
herself quickly, with a blush.

"I'll come," said Jack.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blender and some men from the railroad freight office
were loading the other wagon. This was one with a canvas top, something
like the prairie schooners of the early Western days, and was drawn by
a team of four mules. The passenger vehicle was hauled by four horses.

"Well, I guess I've got everything in," commented Tanker Ike. "Now it's
up to you boys to get the game. There's plenty of it, and I expect when
you come back here to take a train East you'll have a great collection."

"We'll try," answered Jack.

"All aboard!" sung out Mr. Blender, and Sam, Bony and Budge, together
with Nat, who had been wandering about, looking at the view, started to
climb up into the big wagon. Jack had not relinquished his seat by
Mabel's side, and he was oblivious to the winks and grins of his chums.

"Have you got a good seat, Jack?" asked Sam, giving Nat a nudge in the

"I've got the best seat in the wagon," replied Jack boldly, and Mabel
seemed to find something very interesting on the opposite side of the
vehicle from where Jack sat at her elbow.

Mr. Pierce and Mr. Blender took their places on the front seat, the four
other boys distributing themselves in the rear, while a teamster in
charge of the freight wagon drove the mules that were to haul the
camping outfit over the desert and mountains.

It was fine, clear weather, not cold, in spite of the lateness of the
season, and the boys, as well as all the others in the party, were in
fine spirits.

"Hurrah for Jack Ranger's gun club!" cried Nat, when they started off,
the horses and mules plunging forward in response to pistol-like cracks
of the long whips.

"That's right!" sung out Sam.

"Is it your gun club?" asked Mabel.

"Well, they call it that," explained Jack, as he told how it came to be

"Cæsar's side saddles!" suddenly exclaimed Nat, when they had gone a
little farther. "Did you see that rabbit? It was as big as a dog!"

"That's a jack-rabbit," explained Mr. Pierce.

"Why didn't I keep out my gun?" asked Sam with regret in his voice. "I'd
like a shot at it. That's the biggest game I've seen in some time."

"Wait until you see a mule deer, or a big-horn sheep," said Mr. Blender.
"Then you can talk."

They continued on slowly for several miles, the view changing every
moment, and bringing forth exclamations of astonishment and delight from
the boys. To Jack and Nat, who had been West before, there was not so
much novelty in it, but Sam, Budge and Bony said they had never seen
such beautiful aspects of mountain and valley.

They stopped at noon to get dinner at a stage station, and though the
place was of the "rough and ready" style, the meal was good.

"'Sanycowboys?" asked Budge of Jack, as they came out to resume their

"I suppose you mean where are any cowboys," said Jack, and Budge nodded,
being too busily engaged in preparing a fresh wad of gum at that moment
to answer in words.

"There aren't many around here," explained Mr. Pierce, who had heard
Jack's interpretation of the question. "Oh, the West isn't half so wild
and woolly as some book writers make it out to be."

"Are you boys pretty good at going dry?" asked Tanker Ike, turning to
Jack, when they had accomplished several miles more of their journey.

"Going dry?" repeated our hero.

"Yes. Can you go without a drink if you have to?"


"Well, you see, we'll start to cross the desert to-morrow, and though
we'll take plenty of water along, you never can tell what will happen.
It usually takes two days to make it, but sometimes an accident happens
to a wagon, or a horse or a mule may go lame, and then you're longer on
the trip. When you are, your water doesn't always last, and many a time
I've finished the journey with my tongue hanging out of my mouth, and
the poor beasts as dry as powder-horns. So I just thought I'd ask you if
you were pretty good at going dry."

"Well, Nat and I were shipwrecked once," answered Jack, "and if it
hadn't rained we'd have been in a bad way, eh, Nat?"

"That's what. Sanctified sand-fleas! but that was a tough time," he
added, as he thought of the cruise of the _Polly Ann_.

"Well, it never rains on this desert," commented Mr. Pierce.

"Can't you carry enough water so that if you're four days instead of two
crossing the desert you'll have plenty?" asked Bony.

"You can only carry just so much," replied Tanker Ike. "But don't worry.
I was only asking just for fun. I reckon we'll make out all right."

"Were you really shipwrecked?" asked Mabel, interestedly turning to

"Well, yes," he admitted, for he disliked to talk about himself.

"Oh, do tell me about it, please. I love to hear real stories of

"And tell her how you knocked out Jerry Chowden," put in Sam. "Say,
maybe we'll meet him out here. He went West, you know."

"I hope not," responded Jack, and then he told Mabel of his ocean

"Everybody hold on tight now," cautioned Mr. Blender about an hour
later, as he set the brake of the wagon and called back a warning to the
driver of the freight vehicle.

"Why?" asked Jack.

"There's a bad hill just ahead, and I've got more of a load on than I
usually carry. But I guess we'll make it all right," and he gathered the
reins in a firmer grip and braced himself on the seat.

A few minutes later they came to a turn in the road, and started down a
dangerous descent of the bluff that bordered the valley of the desert.

The brake began to screech on the wheels, and the horses threw
themselves almost on their haunches to hold back the heavy wagon, which,
in spite of the fact that two wheels were almost locked, was sliding
down the declivity at a dangerous speed.

"I'd oughter chained the wheels," said Tanker Ike grimly, as he tried to
force the brake lever forward another notch.

"Can't you do it now?" asked Mr. Pierce.

"Nope!" spoke the driver between his clenched teeth. "We've got to go

More and more rapidly the vehicle slid down the hill. The horses were
slipping, but they managed to keep their feet, and the brake was more
shrilly screeching on the wheels.

All at once, as they made a turn and came to yet a steeper part of the
trail, there was a sudden chill to the air, and some white flecks, as if
some one had scattered tiny feathers, swirled in front of those in the

"Snow!" exclaimed Tanker Ike. "I thought it was coming."

A moment later there was a sharp squall, and the air was filled with
white crystals, which came down so thick that it was impossible to see
twenty feet ahead.

"Steady, boys--steady!" called the driver to the horses, which seemed
frightened by the storm and the weight of the wagon pushing them from

The speed was faster now, though Tanker Ike was doing his best to have
the animals hold back the wagon. The horses were almost "sitting down,"
and were fairly sliding along.

Suddenly there sounded a sharp snap, and the wagon seemed to plunge

"What's that?" cried Mr. Pierce.

"Brake's busted!" shouted Mr. Blender. "Now we're in for it!"

He loosened his hold on the reins slightly, and swung his long whip over
the heads of the astonished horses with a crack like that of a rifle.

"Go on!" he yelled. "Go on! Run!"

The steeds began to gallop, just in time to prevent the wagon, so
unexpectedly released from the hold of the brake, from striking them,
and they dashed down the mountain-side, dragging the vehicle after



"Hold fast, everybody!" called out Tanker Ike, giving one glance
backward at his passengers.

The fury of the sudden storm increased. The road became more steep, and
the speed was faster.

"I hope we don't meet any other wagon," thought Jack. He gave one glance
at the girl at his side. He could see that she was pale, but there was
no sign of fear in her brown eyes. She was clinging tightly to the side
of the seat, and Jack edged closer to her, hoping he might be of some

"Look out!" suddenly cried the driver.

An instant later Jack and his chums knew the reason why. The wagon
struck a big stone in the road, and the occupants of the seats were
nearly thrown off them.

Then followed a sound as of something breaking, and the next moment Jack
felt the seat, on which he and the girl were, sliding forward. It had
broken loose from its fastenings. Another jolt of the wagon threw the
end on which Mabel sat down into the bottom of the vehicle, and she
pitched sideways over the edge of the wagon, which at that moment was on
a narrow part of the road, skirting a big cliff. On one side the rock
rose sheer like a wall. On the other there was a precipice, dropping
away for a hundred feet or more.

Mabel could not repress a scream as she felt herself tossed out of the
wagon, and she threw her hands upward, vainly clutching for something to
cling to. Her father turned and saw her. He prepared to leap backward to
her aid, but he could not have done it.

But Jack saw what had happened. His end of the seat was elevated, as the
other was depressed, and, taking in the situation at a glance, he made a
spring toward the girl, and clasped her about the waist just in time to
prevent her falling out.

He braced himself against the edge of the wagon, and held on with all
his strength, for the girl was no lightweight, and the swaying of the
vehicle threatened to toss them both out.

By this time Mr. Pierce had left his seat beside Tanker Ike, who was
doing his best to safely guide the horses down the winding, steep road
in the storm, and Mabel's father came to the aid of her and Jack.

"I've got her!" Jack managed to gasp.

"So I see!" cried Mr. Pierce, and then, lending his strength to that of
our hero, he pulled Mabel safely within the wagon.

"That--that was a narrow squeak," commented Mr. Pierce, when Mabel, pale
and gasping from fright, had been assisted to the seat, which was
replaced and braced up after a fashion.

"Rather," admitted Jack with a smile.

"You saved her life, Ranger," went on Mr. Pierce, and there was a husky
note in his voice. "She's--she's all I've got, and--and--I don't know
how to thank you. If she'd gone over the edge there--well, I don't like
to talk about it."

"Oh, if I hadn't grabbed her some one else would," said Jack modestly.

Mabel did not say much, but the glance she gave Jack from her brown eyes
more than repaid him.

The excitement caused by the second accident calmed down, and then the
occupants of the wagon had time to notice that the progress of the
vehicle was slower. The road was not so steep, and a little later Tanker
Ike guided his horses to a comparatively level stretch. The snow squall,
too, suddenly ceased.

"Well," remarked the driver slowly as he halted the team and got out to
repair the broken brake, "I don't want a thing like that to happen
again. I wanted to help you, Mabel, but I didn't dare leave the horses."

"I--I was helped in time," answered the girl with a little blush.

"Guess we'll wait for the freight wagon," went on Tanker Ike. "Then
I'll fix things up and we'll go on. There's no more danger, though.
We're over the worst part of the road."

Mexican Pete, who drove the freighter, soon came up, he having had no
mishap on the trip down. The three men soon mended the broken brake, and
the journey was resumed. That night they arrived at the stage station,
which marked the beginning of the two days' trip over the desert. It was
here that Mr. Pierce and his daughter were to leave the boys, to go on a
different route.

"Now don't you young fellows forget to come to Pryor's Gap if you get a
chance," commanded Mr. Pierce. "My daughter and I will be there in a few
weeks, after I do a little more visiting. You can get there from where
you are going to hunt without crossing this desert, though it's rather a
long, roundabout way. But I hope I'll see you again."

"Yes, try to come," added Mabel as she shook hands with the boys, Jack
last of all.

Was it fancy, or did she leave her hand in his a little longer than was
absolutely necessary? I rather think she did, or perhaps Jack held it.

"I hope you'll come to see me--I mean us," she said.

"I'll come," was Jack's answer.

Mr. Pierce and his pretty daughter went to stay with a friend that
night, while the boys, Tanker Ike and Mexican Pete put up at the stage

"We'll start early in the morning," said Mr. Blender as the boys were
getting ready to retire. "I'll see to filling the water tanks, and the
grub you ordered in advance is here. I'll stack it in the wagon, and
we'll start off as soon as it's daylight. I've got good horses for us

"Horses? Are we going to ride horses?" asked Sam.

"Of course, from now on," replied Jack. "Didn't I tell you?"

"There's so much about this trip, I guess if you did tell us we'd forget
some of it," said Bony. "But traveling on horses will be sport. I wish
it was morning. Don't you, Budge?"

"I'mungry," was the queer lad's reply.

"Hungry?" remarked Jack. "Didn't you eat enough supper?"

"I guess it must be this Western air," put in Nat. "Salubrious
centipedes! but I could eat a bit myself. I wish we had some of that
last spread you gave, Jack."

Then, though it was almost bedtime, the boys went to the dining-room,
where they bribed the only waiter to set them out some pie, cheese and
glasses of milk, on which they regaled themselves.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blender and Mexican Pete had loaded the freight wagon,
which was to start off ahead of the travelers, who were to go on
horseback. They would catch up with the vehicle at noon, and have dinner
in the shade of it.

Jack aroused his companions next morning, when there was only a faint
light in the east.

"It's time to start," he said.

"How is it you're dressed?" asked Sam suspiciously.

"Oh, I--er--I was up a little earlier," replied Jack.

"Say, I know where he was," commented Bony, cracking his knuckles in the
semi-darkness. "He was off to bid Mabel good-by again. I heard him say
last night he'd come over before the start of the stage she was to

"Masticated mushrooms!" exclaimed Nat. "I wouldn't have thought it of
you, Jack!"

"Come on, get up!" was all Jack replied as he hurried from the room to
see if Tanker Ike had everything prepared.

The boys, after a hasty breakfast, found the horses in readiness for
them. They had taken out the night before their guns and some clothes
from the bundles shipped from the East, and now were equipped to take
the trail and begin hunting.

They started off some time before the sun shone above the horizon, and
almost immediately found themselves upon a bare and partly sandy waste.

"This is Forty-mile desert," explained Ike. "If you have any trouble at
all, it'll be here. But I hope we won't have any."

It was warm, in spite of the lateness of the season, and as they jogged
along on their horses they began to feel the discomfiture of the
journey. But no one minded it.

"We ought to come up with Mexican Pete soon," remarked Ike, when they
had trotted along for several miles. "That looks like the wagon over
there," he added, pointing ahead. Jack and his chums could make out a
white speck on the trackless waste. As they approached it grew larger,
until it evolved itself into the freight wagon.

They halted at it for a meal, and, resting the horses, gave Pete a
chance to get some distance ahead of them. Then they resumed their
jaunt. It was the middle of the afternoon when Ike, who was in the lead,
made a sudden exclamation.

"What's the matter?" asked Jack.

"Mexican Pete's just ahead," replied the old plainsman with a worried
accent in his voice. "I wonder what he's stopping for? I told him not to
halt until we reached Stinking Spring, where we are to camp for the

"Maybe something's happened," suggested Bony.

"I hope not, but it looks so."

A moment later Tanker Ike had leaped from his horse, and was examining
something on the ground. It looked like a small streak of darker sand
than any which surrounded it.

"His water tank has sprung a leak!" he exclaimed. "You can see where
it's been running out. That's why he's halted to wait for us. Come on,
boys; let's hurry up. I can see trouble ahead."

They soon reached the driver of the freight wagon. He met them with a
rueful face.

"Water mos' gone," he said.

Tanker Ike made a hasty examination. There was only a small quantity
left in the second tank, the full one, which had not yet been drawn
upon, being completely empty, from a leak that had sprung in the bottom.

"Well, this is tough luck, boys," commented the plainsman. "I don't know
what to do. We're bound to be up against it bad whatever we do. We
haven't hardly enough water to last us going back for a fresh supply,
and if we keep on we'll be awful dry by to-morrow night. I don't like to
waste time going back, either."

"Didn't you say something about Stinking Spring?" asked Jack. "Can't we
get water there?"

"Yes, but neither man nor beast can drink it. It's filled with some kind
of vile-smelling chemical, and it gives off a gas so deadly that at
times it will kill animals that come too close. I've even seen a big
bear killed by it. No, we can't get water there."

"Then what can we do?" asked Sam.

He and the other boys were alarmed by the accident, the most serious
that had yet befallen them.

"Well, the only thing I see is for us to keep on," replied Ike. "If we
travel all to-night and keep up a pretty good pace to-morrow, we may
strike the Shoshone River in time to--well, in time to wet our whistles.
But it's going to be a hard pull, and I don't know whether the horses
will stand it."

"Let's try," suggested Jack, who never believed in giving up in the face
of difficulties.

"That's the way to talk!" commented Ike. "Maybe we can do it."

They halted for a short rest, then resumed the journey again. But this
time they kept with the freight wagon, and they had to travel more
slowly to accommodate the pace of the horses to the slower gait of the
mules drawing the heavy vehicle.

They made a light supper, and drank sparingly of the little water that
remained, doling out the smallest possible quantity to the horses and
mules, which greedily thrust their tongues even against the wet sides of
the pails, after all the fluid was sucked up.

"Now for the night journey," said Tanker Ike, and they started off, with
the moon shining from a clear sky.

It was a trip that would have been wonderfully interesting to the boys
had there not been the worry about the water. As it was, they enjoyed it
at first, for in the cool, moon-lit darkness they did not suffer from
thirst. But when daylight came, and the sun began to mount into the
heavens, pouring down considerable heat on them, their tortures began.

Tanker Ike served out the water with sparing hand. The animals were
given barely enough to wet their parched mouths, and the boys and two
men got but little more. They made all the speed they could, which was
not much, for the wagon held them back.

"Don't eat much," cautioned Ike as they stopped for a mid-day lunch.
"You'll not be so thirsty then."

But even refraining from food did not seem to make much difference, and
as the day wore on and the supply of water became lower and lower, with
a consequent reduction of the ration, the sufferings of the boys grew

"Oh, for a good glass of ice water," sighed Bony.

"Dry up!" commanded Nat.

"I can't be any drier than I am now," responded the bony lad.

Meanwhile, Tanker Ike had been anxiously scanning the horizon. He
appeared worried, and Jack, seeing this, asked him:

"Do you think we ought to be at the river now?"

"We ought to, yes, but we're not," was his answer. "I'm afraid I've
gotten off the trail. I don't see any familiar landmarks, yet I was sure
I took the right route."

He called a halt and consulted with Mexican Pete. That individual was of
the same opinion as Ike--that they were on the wrong trail.

"Well, there's no help for it," said the plainsman. "We'll have to go
back a ways. I'm sorry, boys. It's my fault. It's the first time I ever
did a thing like that."

"Oh, mistakes will happen," said Jack, and he tried to speak cheerfully,
but his voice was husky and his throat was parched.

They turned around, the horses seeming unwilling to retrace their steps,
and they were beginning to get restive, as were the mules.

"The last of the water," announced Tanker Ike at dusk that evening, when
they halted for a short meal. "We'll have to push on with all speed
to-night. If we don't find water in the morning----"

He did not finish, but they all knew what he meant.

That night was one of fearful length, it seemed. As it wore on, and the
parched throats of the travelers called for water where there was none,
it became a torture.

Morning came, and the sun blazed down hotter than ever. The horses and
mules acted as if crazed, but they were urged on relentlessly. The
tongues of Jack and his comrades began to get thick in their mouths.
Those of the animals were hanging out, and foam was falling from their
lips where the bits chafed.

At noon, though Tanker Ike strained his eyes for a sight of the Shoshone
River or for some water hole, there was no sign of either. On and on
they pushed, trying to swallow to relieve their terrible thirst.

Suddenly the horse which Sam rode gave a leap forward, and then began to
go around in a circle.

"That's bad," murmured Ike in a low voice. "He's beginning to get locoed
from want of water."

He urged his own beast up to Sam's, and gave the whirling animal a cut
with the quirt. That stopped it for a while, and they went on.

Mexican Pete and Tanker Ike said little. They were men used to the
hardships of the West, and it was not the first time they had suffered
in crossing the desert. But it was hard for Jack and his chums.
Nevertheless, they did not complain, but taking an example from the men,
silently rode their horses. The poor beasts must have suffered
dreadfully. Tanker Ike, who was riding ahead, suddenly leaped off his
horse. At first the boys thought he had seen a water hole, but he merely
picked up some pebbles from the sand.

"Put some of these in your mouth and roll them around," he said. "It
will help to make the saliva come and keep down your thirst some."

Mexican Pete followed his example, and the boys were about to do
likewise, when Budge Rankin, reaching into his pocket, called out:


And he held out several packages.



"Gum!" cried Jack. "Gum! That's the stuff, Budge!"

"The very thing!" added Tanker Ike. "I wonder I didn't think to ask for
some. That will be better than the pebbles. Pass it around, young man."

Budge handed out packages of gum, which he was seldom without, and soon
all the travelers were busily engaged in chewing it. In a measure it
relieved their thirst at once, and their tongues felt less swollen, and
not so much like pieces of leather.

"'Stoobad," remarked Budge as he put in a fresh wad.

"What is?" asked Jack.

"That the horses can't chew," replied Budge.

"Hu! I guess it would take a bigger cud than you could muster to satisfy
a horse--or a mule," remarked Tanker Ike. "But it's lucky you had it for
us. I was feeling pretty bad."

The little diversion caused by the production of the gum and the relief
it brought, helped them to pass over several miles in a comfortable
fashion. But the terrible thirst did not leave them, and as for the
horses and mules, they were half crazed, or "locoed," as Tanker Ike
expressed it.

How they traveled the remainder of that day none of them could tell
exactly afterward. But they managed to keep on, and just as it was
beginning to get dusk there was a sudden movement among the animals.

"They smell water," cried Ike as the mules, drawing the heavy wagon,
broke into a run. "They smell water! They do, for sure!"

And he was right. Half an hour later they came to a small water hole,
and here they slaked their thirst, drinking slowly at first, and keeping
the animals back from it by main force, until they had each been given a
pailful, which they drank greedily. Then, after the life-giving fluid
had had a chance to take off the first pangs of thirst, boys, men and
horses drank more freely.

"Petrified persimmons!" exclaimed Nat. "I used to think ice-cream sodas
were the best ever, but now I think a cupful of water from a mud hole is
the finest thing that ever came over the pike. Let's have another,

Their sufferings were at an end, and, their thirsts having been slaked,
they ate a good meal and rested that night beside the water hole.

The next day they reached the Shoshone River and the end of the desert.

"Well, boys, now I'm going to leave you," said Tanker Ike. "Long Gun
will be here pretty soon, and he'll show you where to get some big game.
Then you'll have to sort of shift for yourselves. Mexican Pete will take
your camp stuff wherever you tell him to, and the rest depends on you."

"Oh, I guess we'll make out all right," replied Jack.

"But what about that Indian, Long Gun?" asked Sam. "I thought he was to
meet us here."

"He will," replied Tanker Ike confidently, and, sure enough, about an
hour later there sauntered into the camp a tall, silent Indian guide,
who, as he advanced to the fire, uttered but one word:


"How?" responded the plainsman, and then he introduced the boys.

Long Gun merely grunted his salutations, and then seating himself near
the fire, he took out his pipe and began to smoke.

"I wonder why he doesn't pass it around," whispered Nat to Jack.

"Pass what around?"

"His pipe? Isn't that a peace pipe? I thought Indians always smoked the
pipe of peace with their friends."

Long Gun must have had good ears, for he looked up at Nat's words. Then
he smiled grimly.

"No peace pipe. Corn-cob pipe--plenty bad, too," he said. "Yo' got
better one?"

"No, Long Gun, they don't use pipes," said Tanker Ike with a smile.

"Say, he understands English," remarked Sam.

"That's what," put in Bony.

"Pity he wouldn't," remarked Ike. "He's been guiding hunting parties of
white men for the last ten years."

Early the next morning Tanker Ike started back, taking a longer trail,
that would not make it necessary for him to cross the desert. On the
advice of Long Gun the boys and Mexican Pete started off up into the
mountains, where they were to make a camp, and begin to hunt.

"Here good place," remarked Long Gun that afternoon, as they came to a
level clearing on the shoulder of the mountain. "Plenty much mule deer
and sheep here. Like um jack-rabbits, or um bear? Plenty git here. We

"Hu! Good!" grunted Mexican Pete, and he began to unload the wagon. In a
short time all the things Jack and the other boys had brought were on
the ground, beside the two tents that formed part of their outfit.

"At last it begins to look like camping," remarked Bony.

"It'll look a good deal more like it if you'll give us a correct
imitation of a fellow helping put up a tent," said Jack. "Every one get
busy, now."

Mexican Pete started back with the freight wagon, agreeing to come and
get the camp stuff whenever word was sent to Tanker Ike or him.

They pitched in with a will, Budge helping to good advantage, and soon
the canvas shelters were up, a fire built, and, under Jack's direction,
a meal was in progress, Long Gun volunteering to oversee this.

It was no novelty for the boys to sleep in a tent at camp, but as the
night advanced they found that it was far from being summer, in spite of
the hot days, and they were glad of heavy clothing and the blankets
which they had brought along.

"Now for a hunt!" cried Jack the next morning, after a fine, hot
breakfast. "Long Gun, I want to get a big mule deer."

"I want a bear!" cried Sam.

"A big-horn sheep for mine!" was Nat's stipulation.

"I'd like a mountain lion," remarked Bony.

"How about you, Budge?" asked Jack.

"'FIkillanelkI'llbesatisfied," was the answer.

"An elk!" exclaimed Jack. "I guess so! Why, I'd like that myself."

"Well, I thought I might as well wish for something big while I was at
it," said Budge calmly, as he stowed away some fresh gum.

Under the guidance of Long Gun they mounted their horses and started out
for their first hunt in that region. The Indian gave them some good
advice about how to shoot, for going after big game was something new to

"If git lost, fire gun," was the Indian's final word of caution.

They rode on together for a mile or more, but got no sight of any game.

"I think we'd better separate," suggested Jack. "We'll never get
anything if we stick together. Let's try it alone. We can meet at some
central point. Eh, Long Gun?"

"Hu!" grunted the Indian. "Git lost, maybe."

"That's right," assented Bony. "I don't want to go off alone."

"Well, Nat and I will strike off to the left," went on Jack. "You, Sam
and Budge can keep with Long Gun and go to the right. We'll meet by that
big peak over there," and he pointed to one that could easily be seen.

This was agreed to, the Indian giving his consent with a grunt, and then
Jack and Nat started off alone.

"I hope we get something," remarked Jack when they had traveled for a
mile or more.

"Same here," added Nat. "Let's go closer to that bad lands section Long
Gun told us of."

"I'm afraid we'll get lost," objected Jack.

The bad lands, as they are called, are a peculiar tract covered with ten
thousand little sawtooth peaks and cones of earth and sandstone, rising
abruptly from the plain, and so closely set together, and so lacking in
any distinctive objects to mark them, that one can wander about in them
as in a maze. The two lads had been hunting on the edge of them, but had
not ventured in.

"Oh, I guess we can find our way back, if we don't go in too far," said

"Well," began Jack a little doubtfully, "I don't know----" And then he
saw something that made him change his mind.

"Look!" he whispered to Nat, and his chum, looking where Jack pointed,
saw a big deer, just on the edge of the bad lands, and about to enter

"It's a buck!" exclaimed Nat, bringing his rifle around.

"We'll follow him and get a shot," decided Jack, and they left their
horses and began to stalk the big buck. Fortunately the wind was blowing
from him to them, or the animal might have taken fright. As it was, they
were not far behind him when he entered the maze of little peaks.

Several times they thought they were in a position to get a good shot,
but each time the deer moved just as one or the other of the lads was
drawing a bead on him.

Finally Jack got just the chance he wanted. Kneeling down he took quick
aim and pulled the trigger. The report that followed nearly deafened him
and Nat, so many were the echoes, but when the smoke cleared away they
saw the big deer lying on the ground not far away.


"You've got him!" cried Nat.

"Our first big game!" exclaimed Jack as he ran forward.

"My, but he's big!" commented Nat. "How we going back to camp?"

"Put him on the horses, of course," said Jack. "We can do it. We'll lead
them up here."

"Sure," responded Nat. "I forgot we had 'em. We'll go back and lead 'em

They started back, full of confidence in their ability to find where
they had tethered the animals. They walked on for half an hour, and then
Jack said:

"Say, it seems to me we're a long time finding those horses."

"That's right," agreed Nat. "We didn't take so long coming in here. I
guess we came the wrong way."

"I'm sure of it," declared Jack. "We should have gone to the right."

"No, the left."

They discussed it for some time, and finally decided to try the right.
They went on for some distance, but no horses were seen.

"Let's go back to where we left the deer and begin over," proposed Jack.

They started, but the sawtooth peaks seemed to multiply. They turned
this way and that, but could not find the place where they had made
their first kill.

"Jack," said Nat at length, "do you know it's getting late?"

"It sure is," admitted his chum.

The sun was low in the western sky. The two boys stared about them. On
every side were the peculiar peaks of the bad lands. Jack turned around
in a circle. He was trying to see some landmark, by which he could tell
whether they had passed that spot before. He saw none.

"Nat," he said finally, "we're lost."



For a few seconds after Jack's announcement Nat stared at his chum.

"Lost?" he repeated.

"That's what I said, Nat. Long Gun was right, and so was Tanker Ike.
It's a heap sight easier to get lost in here than I thought. Why, every
one of these peaks looks just like the one next to it. I don't believe
we've been over the same bit of ground twice."

"I know how we can tell."


"Make a mark on one of these peaks, and then walk around and see if we
get back to it."

"That's a good way, but in which direction shall we go?"

Nat shrugged his shoulders.

"You've got me," he admitted. "But, say, didn't we come into this bad
section from the east when we were after the deer?"

"Yes," said Jack after a little thought, "I believe we did. I know when
we were eating lunch I noted the sun. We sure did come in from the
east. But what of that?"

"Why, if we want to go back we must walk toward the east. That is, have
the sun at our backs. Instead of that we've been walking with the sun in
our faces most of the time. Let's try it."

"All right, but first let's make a mark on one of these peaks."

They did so by digging out a hollow with their hunting knives, and
placing some stones in it. This accomplished, they started off again.

"What about the deer you shot?" asked Nat.

"We'll not try to get back to that. Make for camp is what I say. Long
Gun will probably be able to find the deer."

It was getting quite late now, and the sun was barely visible from over
the peaks of the bad lands. But turning their backs to it they started
off. They did not know how far they went, but it was getting dusk
rapidly, and they saw no indication that they were getting nearer to the
edge of the curious region in which they were lost.

"Well?" asked Nat dejectedly as he sat down on a stone. "How about it?"

"We don't seem to be getting any closer to camp," admitted Jack. "Say!"
he exclaimed, "why didn't we think of it before? We ought to yell."

"Yes, and fire our rifles," added Nat. "That's what Long Gun told us
to do if we got lost. Queer we didn't think of it long ago. Well, here

He raised his voice in a loud shout, and Jack joined in. They called
several times, but the echoes seemed to be their only answer.

"Now let's fire a few shots," proposed Jack, and they discharged their
weapons together, making a terrible din, and causing so many echoes that
it seemed as if a thunderstorm was in progress.

"I believe those echoes will confuse them," said Nat. "I know they would

"I guess Long Gun can tell where we are if he hears 'em at all," replied
Jack. "But I think we're quite a way from camp. I wish we'd stuck

"Too late for that now. Fire again."

They did so, and also shouted a number of times, moving about in the

"Well," said Nat at length as he noted the shadows growing longer and
longer, "I guess we're in for the night; and it's getting colder, too."

"You're right, there," answered Jack, turning up the collar of his coat.
"Still there's one consolation."

"What's that?"

"We haven't gone in a circle. We haven't seen anything of that peak we

"No; but it will soon be so dark we can't see anything."

The two lads gazed at each other. Their plight was a serious one, for
they were in no condition to remain out in the cold night without

All at once, from somewhere off to the left, there came a curious noise.
It startled the lads, and Nat exclaimed:

"What's that?"

"I don't know," answered Jack. "Some sort of an animal," and in spite of
himself he felt the cold chills running down his spine.

"Maybe it's a bear," suggested Nat. "I wish----"

The noise came again, louder than before, and closer.

Jack burst into a laugh.

"Aren't we the ninnies?" he exclaimed. "Those are our horses whinnying,
and the echoes made their calls sound strange. Now we're all right, Nat.
We'll find the horses and ride right to camp."

"My! but that's good news!" responded his companion.

Once more came the whinnying, and following the direction of the sound,
the lads soon came to their horses, but, to their surprise, the steeds
were standing in among the sawtooth peaks of the bad lands.

"Didn't we leave them outside, on the edge of this pestiferous region?"
asked Nat in some doubt.

"We sure did," replied Jack, "but they've pulled up the tether pegs and
followed us in. Never mind, they can probably find their way out. We'll
mount them and let them take us back to camp."

With hearts very much lighter, the two lads leaped into the saddle, and
calling to the horses, let the reins lie lightly on their necks,
trusting to the superior intelligence of the beasts to extricate them
from their plight.

As if only waiting for their masters, the horses started off. It was
almost dark now, and one or two early stars could be seen.

"Ho! for camp, and a good, hot supper!" exclaimed Jack.

"Jumping Johnniecakes! but you're right!" cried Nat with something of
his old enthusiasm. "I don't believe I ever was so hungry."

The horses walked at a fast pace, and seemed to have no hesitation in
making their way out of the bad lands.

"Next time I'll ride my horse in," said Jack. "I didn't think it was
good footing, or I'd have done it to-day."

They rode on for some time longer, and then Nat remarked:

"Seems to me it's taking quite a long while to get out of this place.
The horses must have come in quite a distance."

"Maybe they did," agreed Jack, "or maybe they're taking us out on the
other side. I don't know as it makes much difference."

"Well, we're going up hill, anyhow," went on Nat. "It's quite a grade."

It certainly was, and the horses were having no easy task. But they kept
on, as if they knew just where they were going.

The boys were beginning to get a bit anxious again, wondering if, after
all, the horses were taking them right, when the bad lands came to a
sudden end. There were no more of the sawtooth peaks.

"Hurrah, we're out of 'em!" cried Jack.

"Yes, and look where we are," said Jack. "Nowhere near camp."

They were on the shoulder of a steep mountain, while below them, wrapped
in the fast approaching night, was a great valley. Then something else
caught the eyes of the boys.

"There's a fire!" called Nat, pointing to a blaze at the foot of the

"I'll wager it's our camp," declared Jack. "Here goes for a hail."

He shouted and fired his gun. In a few seconds there came an answering
call, and a firebrand was waved in the air.

"That's Bony's voice," cried Nat. "I can almost hear him cracking his
knuckle bones."

"Yes, but how are we to get down?" asked Jack. "I don't see the sign of
a trail."

The next instant his horse answered the question for him by starting
right down the side of the mountain, which at that point was composed of
shaling stones, and quite smooth.

"Where you going?" cried Nat.

"I don't know," answered Jack. "My horse seems to want to take a slide."

Then Nat's steed followed the other, and a moment later the two lads, on
the backs of their animals, were sliding, stumbling and slipping down
the precipitous slope of the mountain.



From below them Jack and Nat could hear cries of alarm, and they could
see several waving firebrands and note ghostly figures circling about
the camp blaze.

"Can you stop your horse, Jack?" called Nat.

"I'm not going to try," was the reply. "I've got all I can do to hold
on. How about you?"

"I'm in the same boat. I hope we don't strike anything, for if we do
I'll shoot over his head and land I don't know where. This is fierce!"

"Hold on tight!"

"That's what I'm doing!"

The horses reached a place that was not quite so steep, and managed to
stop sliding, running for a short distance. Then the slipping began
again, but both animals were like cats on their feet, and seemed to take
it all as a matter of course.

"We're almost there!" cried Jack as he saw the camp fire more plainly,
and could distinguish Sam's and Bony's voices calling to them.

"I'm--glad--of--that," replied Ned brokenly, for he was bounding up and
down in the saddle.

A minute later and the horses had come to a stop on the level ground
where the camp was pitched.

"'Sanyoneurt?" asked Budge anxiously.

"No, I guess neither of us is hurt," answered Jack, "though we're some
shaken up."

"Where in the world have you been?" asked Bony.

"What did you come down that way for?" was Sam's question.

"Were you lost?" inquired Budge.

"Heap long time gone," was Long Gun's contribution.

"Say, if you'll give us a chance we'll tell you," said Jack. "I wonder
if the horses are hurt, though? I never expected to get down with them

"Horses plenty much all right," announced the Indian after a short
examination. "They do that afore. Slide down mountain many times. Know

"Well, I'm glad they knew how," spoke Nat. "I thought it was an

Then Jack told of the shooting of the deer, how they were lost in the
bad lands, and how they found the horses and slid down to the camp fire.

Long Gun, in his broken English, explained that the horses which they
had were often used by hunters, who thought nothing of sliding down a
favorable place in the side of the mountain on the backs of their
steeds. Jack's and Nat's animals had probably thought that their riders
desired to come down that way, as it was the shortest route to camp and

"Well, you certainly had us worried," said Sam as the two wanderers were
seated before the fire, eating a late meal. "We could hear your guns,
but the echoes confused us. Long Gun said you'd be all right, but if you
hadn't come pretty soon Bony and I were going after you."

"Say, what about our deer, that you shot, Jack?" asked Nat a little
later. "Can't we go get it?"

"Not to-night," replied Jack. "I wouldn't venture in among those peaks
in the dark for ten deer. We'll get it in the morning."

"Hu! Mebby none left," grunted the Indian.

"None left? What do you mean?"

"Plenty things eat um. Bears, rats, foxes, mebby."

"Well, we'll have to shoot another, that's all," said Jack. "But did you
fellows have any luck?"

"Bony shot a jack-rabbit," replied Sam, "but the rest of us didn't get
anything, though I fired at a big sheep."

"Too far off," explained Long Gun.

It was getting colder, and there was a promise of snow in the air,
which, the Indian explained, would make it all the better for tracking
game. The boys were glad to wrap themselves up well when they went to
their beds, which consisted of heavy blankets spread over hemlock
boughs, placed inside the tent on the ground. A big camp fire was kept
going, with enough wood at hand, so that if any one awakened in the
night and found it low the fuel could easily be thrown on.

The whole party, with Long Gun included, left after breakfast to bring
in the deer Jack had shot. They found it without any trouble under Long
Gun's guidance, but the carcass had been so torn by other beasts that it
was not fit for food.

"Rambunctious ram's horns!" exclaimed Nat. "I was counting on some nice
venison steaks, too."

"Well, we'll try again," suggested Jack, and the whole party, on
horseback, started off to hunt.

This time they did not go into the region of the bad lands, but to an
easy slope of the mountain, well wooded, yet with rocky precipices here
and there, with bare spots where, the Indian said, the big-horn sheep
might be found.

On Long Gun's advice the party separated, Jack, Nat and Budge going off
to one side, and the others in a different direction. As there was a
plain trail back to camp, and plenty of landmarks, there was no danger
of any one getting lost.

Jack, Nat and Budge rode along, watching for signs of game, but all they
saw were numbers of jack-rabbits.

"ShallIshoot'em?" asked Budge, as a particularly large one dashed by.

"If you want to," replied Jack. "But I'm going to wait for bigger game.
A buck or a ram for mine, eh, Nat?"

"That's what."

But the bucks and the rams did not seem to be on view that day, and
after riding about all the morning the three boys stopped to rest near a
spring and eat their lunch.

"I tell you what we'll do," suggested Jack as they prepared to resume
their journey. "Let's leave the horses here and work up that mountain,"
and he pointed to the steep sides of a towering peak, at the foot of
which they had halted.

"I'm with you," agreed Nat.

"'Stoomuchwork," announced Budge as he turned over on his back and began
chewing some fresh gum. "I'll stay here until you come back."

They tried to get him to come with them, but he would not, so Jack and
Nat started off alone. They had not gone more than a mile before Jack,
who was slightly in advance, came to a sudden halt and motioned to Nat
to make no noise.

"There he is," whispered Jack, when Nat had joined him, and he pointed
to a distant boulder that jutted out from the side of the mountain, a
short distance away.

Nat looked, and saw something that made the blood leap in his veins. It
was a big mountain ram, with a massive pair of horns--a fine specimen.
The animal's back was toward them, and it seemed to be viewing the
valley spread out below it.

"You shoot first, and if you miss I'll take him," directed Jack in a
whisper, wishing to give his chum the first chance.

Fixing his eyes on the ram, Nat brought forward his gun, cocked it, and
aimed. Then for some unaccountable reason his hand began to tremble. It
was his first shot at big game, and he was nervous.

"I--I can't shoot," he whispered, lowering his rifle.

"Nonsense! You've got to," said Jack sternly, and this brought Nat to
himself. Once more he raised his weapon. Jack was in readiness with his
in case his chum should miss.

There was a moment of breathless suspense, and then Nat fired. Instantly
the ram wheeled about and stood facing the spot where the two lads were.
He must have seen them, for the floating cloud of smoke drew his gaze.

"I've missed! You fire!" exclaimed Nat.

And, indeed, he had missed the ram cleanly. Jack threw his gun to his
shoulder, and instantly it cracked out.

"You hit him! I saw him jump!" cried Nat excitedly. "Come on! We'll get

Without a word Jack pumped another cartridge into the chamber, and fired
again. But just as he did so the ram gave a leap and disappeared from
the rock.

"We've got him! We've got him!" yelled Nat excitedly. "Come on!"

"No use," said Jack quietly, placing a restraining hand on Nat's arm.

"No use? Why?"

Jack pointed to a bare spot below the rock and some distance to the
right. Along it the ram was running at full speed.

"Guess I only grazed him," he said. "He isn't hurt much when he can run
like that."

"Side-splitting sandpaper!" exclaimed Nat. "That's tough luck. Why did I

"That's nothing. I missed him, too. We can't hit everything we aim at,
or it wouldn't be any fun--especially for the animals."

"Let's trail him," proposed Nat.

"No, it's too late. We'd better get back to camp."

They found Budge with the horses, and the gum-chewing lad did not appear
to have moved, but three big dead jack-rabbits at his side showed that
he had not been idle.

"Well, you had some luck," observed Jack.

"'Stooeasy--killin' them," remarked Budge. "They are almost tame."

"Well, they'll make good eating," observed Nat. "I hope the others did
better than we did."

And when they were back at camp, which Long Gun, Sam and Bony reached
shortly after they did, they found that Sam had killed a fine deer, and
Bony a small sheep, which gave them plenty of fresh meat.

It was very dark that night, for it was cloudy, and the moon and stars
were obscured. Outside the circle of light from the camp fire, there was
blackness so deep that it seemed like a wall of ebony.

"I'd hate to be lost out there," observed Bony, motioning toward the
dark valley as he prepared to turn in with the others.

"Yes, it wouldn't be very pleasant," admitted Jack. "I wish we

He stopped suddenly. From the black void above them there came a
peculiar sound. It was like the blowing of a wind, that sighs and moans
in the pine trees, but there was no wind blowing. Then it was like the
rush of some mighty wings, while there sounded a deep throbbing, and all
in camp were conscious of some large object passing close over their
heads, but they could see nothing.

The boys stared at each other in wonder, not unmixed with fright.

"Are there any big eagles around here?" asked Jack, quickly turning to
Long Gun.

But the Indian did not seem to hear. He was staring up into the black

The noise passed on, the throbbing becoming fainter.

Then Long Gun cried out:

"Great spirit! Danger come! Bad luck!"

With a howl that did more to frighten the boys than had the mysterious
sound, the Indian made a dive for the tent, and hid himself under his



Long Gun's example and his fright were contagious, to a certain degree.
Seeing him run, Bony and Sam turned also, for they thought the Indian
heard or recognized some danger. Then, as the noise ceased, they stopped
in their progress toward the tent.

"What in the world do you suppose that was?" asked Sam.

"You've got me," was Bony's answer, while, in his excitement, he cracked
his knuckles on the double-quick. "What do you think it was, Jack?"

"Blessed if I know. It sounded like a big bird, or, maybe, a whole lot
of them. But Long Gun wouldn't be frightened of some birds, even if they
were eagles."

"Let's ask him," suggested Nat.

They went into the tent, which was illuminated by a couple of lanterns,
and found Long Gun groveling among his blankets.

"What was that, Long Gun?" asked Jack.

The Indian murmured something in his own tongue.

"Were they birds?" went on Jack. "What's the matter with you?"

"Long Gun 'fraid," was the reply. "No like sound in dark night. Long Gun

"But what sound was it?" persisted Jack.

"Dunno. Great Spirit, mebby. Bad sound. Trouble come."

"That's all nonsense," said Jack, as he saw that his chums looked
worried. "It was probably the wind."

"But there isn't any wind," declared Nat. "It's as still as can be."

"Maybe there is a wind in the upper currents of air," suggested Jack.
"You must remember we're among the mountains, and the air is different

"It isn't different enough to make a noise like that," was Sam's

"That's right," agreed Bony.

"Juthinkitwasacyclone?" asked Budge, all in one word.

"A cyclone?" repeated Jack. "They don't have cyclones in the mountains.
No, I think it was birds."

"No birds," declared Long Gun suddenly. "Birds not got wings go that

"That's right, it didn't sound like birds' wings," said Nat.

They discussed the mysterious happening for some time further, but could
arrive at no solution of it. Jack and Nat went out to look and listen,
but they could see nothing, of course, and the night seemed very silent.
As for Long Gun, he could not be induced to come outside the tent.

The boys passed rather an uneasy night, but fatigue finally made them
sleep, in spite of their alarm, and they slumbered so soundly toward
morning that no one awoke to replenish the camp fire, which went out.

"Well, we're all here and alive, at any rate," remarked Jack as he
looked around on coming out of the tent for a wash.

"Snapping sand-bars! but it's cold!" cried Nat, rubbing his benumbed
fingers and threshing his arms about. "Hi! Long Gun, are you so afraid
of the mysterious noise that you can't build a fire?"

"Hu!" grunted the Indian as he came from the tent, but he speedily had a
genial blaze going, and breakfast in preparation.

"Well, now for some more hunting," said Jack when the camp had been put
in order. "Nat and I want to get that ram we missed yesterday."

"And I want to land a big buck mule deer that I think I hit, but not
hard enough," said Sam.

They started off, and were gone all day, sometimes hunting together,
and, again, separating for a few miles. But they had no luck, though
Jack got an opportunity for a couple of fine shots, missing both of
them. However, they did not much mind, as they had plenty of food in

A day or so later, however, when Jack and Sam were out together, Jack
got the very chance he wanted. They were walking along a rocky ridge,
and, coming to the edge of a deep ravine, were debating whether to cross
it or travel back, as they had seen no signs of game, and it looked as
if a storm was brewing.

"I guess we'll go back," Sam remarked. "There doesn't seem to be

He looked around to see what Jack was doing, and beheld his chum down on
one knee, aiming at something on a distant rock. Sam looked and saw,
outlined in the clear light, a big ram. He did not speak, fearing to
disconcert Jack's aim, and the next instant the rifle of his chum

The ram gave a convulsive leap into the air, turned partly around, and
then plunged over the rock, and went rolling down the steep side of the

"You got him, Jack! You got him!" cried Sam.

"It looks so," admitted Jack with a smile of triumph.

"And he's a beaut!" went on Sam. "But how will we get him?"

"Oh, he's just where we want him," said Jack. "Come on down."

It was no easy task scrambling down the slope, at the bottom of which
they had left their horses, but they managed it, and then rode to the
spot where the ram had fallen. They found the body in the bushes, and
Sam saw that he had not misstated it when he called it a "beaut." The
ram's head was graced with a fine pair of horns, which Jack at once
announced he would take back East as a trophy.

"Put 'em in your room at Washington Hall," suggested Sam.

"Sure," replied his chum.

It was difficult to get the ram back to camp, but they managed it by
constructing a sort of litter from saplings, and having the horses pull
it with ropes, dragging it along behind them. They found on their
arrival that the others had not yet reached camp, and sat down to wait
for them.

Presently Long Gun, Nat and Bony came in.

"Where's Budge?" asked Jack.

"Why, he went off shooting jack-rabbits," explained Nat. "He said he'd
be over near the river, down by the tall pine. He seems to like to pop
over those rabbits better than going after big game."

"I'll take a walk down there and tell him to come in to supper," said
Jack. "Come on, Nat. I guess we had all the luck to-day, Sam."

This was true, for Long Gun and the others had not been able to shoot

As Jack and Nat advanced toward the river, which was about half a mile
from camp, Nat suddenly called out:

"What's that smell?"

"Whew! It isn't very nice," declared Jack as he took a long sniff. "No
wonder they used to call this place Stinking Water before they named it
the Shoshone."

"What makes it smell so?" asked Nat.

"Well, I understand there are springs around here, the water of which is
impregnated with sulphureted hydrogen."

"That's it. Sulphureted hydrogen! Humpty-doodle's hydrangeas! I thought
it smelled like the chemical laboratory at Washington Hall. Is it the

"No, only some small springs, and some of them give off gases that kill
animals. But there's the tree where Budge ought to be. I s'pose he's

As they approached nearer the unpleasant odor became more pronounced.
Then, as they topped a little mound, they looked down and saw their
friend reclining on the ground near a dead cottonwood tree.

"Sure enough, he's asleep," remarked Jack. "Come on, we'll wake him up.
Get close, and then we'll yell like wild Indians and scare him."

They crept softly closer to the outstretched Budge. He did not stir.
Then they united their voices in a terrorizing yell.

But instead of Budge sitting up suddenly he remained in the same
position, his gun by his side, and a couple of dead rabbits at his feet.

"That's queer," remarked Jack. "He's certainly sleeping sound."

He tiptoed up to his chum, and bending over looked closely at him. He
was struck by the paleness of his face and the fact that Budge did not
seem to breathe.

"Nat!" called Jack quickly, "he's dead! He's fallen asleep and been
killed by those poisonous gases!"

Nat ran up. It did seem as if Budge was dead.

"We must carry him away from here," said Jack sadly.

"I--I begin to feel rather faint myself," said Nat as he sat down on the



Jack glanced at Nat. The lad was pale, and Jack himself began to feel
the effect of the poisonous gas. But he made up his mind he would not
give in.

"Brace up, Nat!" he cried. "We must get Budge out of here. Maybe he's
only fainted. Brace up! It will only take us a minute, and then we'll
get where there is better air."

"I will," said Nat faintly.

He stood up, and by a strong effort fought off the feeling of faintness.
Then he and Jack reached down and took hold of Budge, lifting him by his
head and feet. His gun was strapped over his shoulder.

"There's what did the mischief," said Jack, and he nodded toward a
spring, about five feet in diameter, near which Budge had been sitting
when he had been overcome.

The poor lad's body was limp, and it was hard to carry him, but Nat and
Jack strained and staggered along. As they went on, the effect of the
deadly gas became less, and soon they could breathe better.

"Do you--do you think he's dead?" faltered Nat.

"I hope not," answered Jack, but his voice was serious. "It depends on
how long he has breathed that gas. I heard Tanker Ike say he once saw a
grizzly bear killed by it, so it must be pretty powerful."

"Have we got to carry him back to camp?"

"No, we'll take him out of the reach of the vapor, and then one of us
can run back and get the medicine chest. I'll try some strong ammonia on
him. That may revive him--if he isn't dead."

A little later they staggered with the limp body of Budge out on a clear
place, where the fumes of the gas could not be noticed.

"I'll wait here with him until you run to camp," said Jack, and when
Nat, who had recovered from his faintness, had started off, Jack chafed
Budge's hands, and running to the river filled his cap with cold water,
which he dashed into the face of the unconscious lad.

This treatment was effective in a measure, for Budge opened his eyes.
Then he exclaimed:

"Don't--don't drown me!"

"Budge! Budge!" cried Jack. "Do you feel better?"

But the lad's eyes closed again, and Jack feared that it was but a
momentary reviving. He chafed the lad's hands again, and tried to force
some cold water from the river between his set teeth.

Then Nat came running back, bearing a medicine box, which Mr. Ranger had
insisted that Jack take with him. Long Gun, Sam and Bony followed.

Jack took out a bottle of ammonia, and held it beneath the nose of
Budge. The powerful liquid fumes made Budge gasp, and he struggled to
sit up.

"Hi! quit!" he called. "Don't burn me!" For the ammonia stung him.

"Oh, he isn't dead!" cried Nat, much relieved.

"Pretty soon be all right," said Long Gun, who had been told what had
happened. "Plenty much fresh air make um well."

And he seemed to be right, for presently Budge sat up, opened his eyes,
and began feeling in his pockets.

"What do you want?" asked Jack.

"Where'smygum?" was what Budge wanted to know, and his companions

"I guess you're all right when you can chew gum," spoke Jack. "But what
made you go over by that sulphur spring?"

"I was shooting jack-rabbits," explained Budge, "and I thought that
would be a good place. I didn't like the smell, but pretty soon I fell
asleep, and then----"

"Yes, and then if Jack and Nat hadn't come along you'd be sleeping yet,"
added Sam.

"'Sright," admitted Budge.

They helped him back to camp, and he was soon feeling better, but he
registered a firm resolve not to go too near the deadly gas spring
again. Hunting was over for the day, and they were all soon gathered
about the camp fire, telling their various experiences.

It was the middle of the night when Jack, who was rather restless, was
awakened suddenly. At first he thought some one had called him, but as
he raised up and looked over at his sleeping companions he realized that
none of them were awake.

"I wonder what that noise was?" he asked himself.

Just then he heard, in the air above the tent, that same sighing,
throbbing sound that had so startled them on a previous occasion. It was
like the passage of some immense body through the air.

Jack, who was partly dressed, hurried to the flap of the tent. He peered
upward into the blackness of the night.

Was it fancy, or did he see some great, mysterious shape moving over the
camp? He could not tell, but the throbbing, swishing noise became

"I wonder what that is?" thought Jack as he went back to bed. In the
morning he did not tell his chums nor Long Gun of the affair, fearing
to frighten them.

They prepared for a big hunt the next day. There was a light fall of
snow, which the Indian guide said would serve to enable them to track
the game. They were out early in the morning on their horses, and were
gone all day, keeping together. Jack shot a big buck, and Bony, to his
great delight, brought down a fine mountain sheep, while the others had
to be content with jack-rabbits.

Budge had entirely recovered from the effects of the deadly gas, but he
said he felt too nervous to do any shooting, so he and Long Gun, who,
despite his name, was a poor shot, simply trailed along in the rear.

"I'd like to get another pair of big horns for my room," said Jack
toward the close of the day. "What do you think, Long Gun, have we time
to go a little farther and try for a big ram?"

"Hu! Mebby," answered the Indian. "Plenty sheep been here," and he
pointed to where the animals had scraped away the snow to get at the
grass and shrubs beneath.

Jack and Nat started off, while the others made a temporary camp and
warmed some tea. They were to stay there until Jack and Nat returned,
which the lads promised to do within an hour if they saw no signs of

They tramped on, having left their horses in the temporary camp, Jack
eagerly watching for a sign of a big pair of horns.

"I guess I'm not going to find them this time," he said as he mounted a
pinnacle of rock and looked about him. "It looks like a good place,
too," he added.

"Hark, something's coming," said Nat in a whisper.

There was a crackling in the bushes to Jack's right. He turned in that
direction, his rifle in readiness. Something was moving there. Was it a
mountain sheep?

He raised his gun. A dark object could be seen to be moving behind the
screen of bushes, and the snow on them was shaken off.

Suddenly there stepped into view, not a mountain sheep, but the figure
of a lad, all in tatters.

For an instant Jack and Nat stared at the youth. He had appeared so
unexpectedly that they did not know what to say. On his part, the lad
stood there silent, as if he did not know what to do.

Then Jack threw down his rifle and sprang forward, at the same time
crying out:

"Bill! It's Bill Williams! Well, how in the world did you ever get



Will Williams, the strange, new boy, whom Jack had last seen at
Washington Hall, now so far away, rushed forward.

"Jack Ranger!" he gasped, as if he could not believe it.

"That's who I am," responded our hero. "But, Bill, what has happened?
You look as if you were suffering."

"I am suffering," was the answer. "I'm almost starved!"

"Starved!" exclaimed Nat. "Wobble-sided watermelons! And our camp just
filled with good things! Come on, Bill. We'll feed you up."

The two chums clasped Will successively by the hand. Then Jack asked:

"How did you get away out here? The last I heard of you was when I
received a letter and a telegram from your guardian, asking me to send
you home if I saw you."

"You--you're not going to--are you?" faltered Will.

"Am I?" Jack clasped his arm about the shrinking form of the unfortunate
lad. "Well, I guess not! I'd like to have that guardian of yours here,
for about five minutes!"

"Petrified pancakes! So would I!" exclaimed Nat. "I'd send him over
where that bad-smelling spring is to spend the night. But, Bill, you
haven't told us how you got here."

"I hardly know myself," was the answer. "I did run away, just as Mr.
Gabel told you, Jack. I couldn't stand his mean ways any longer. He
refused to let me go camping with you, and said I would have to go to
work, while school was closed for repairs, to make up the money he said
I stole. I decided I would come out West and try to find my uncle. He's
out here somewhere, but where I haven't been able to learn. I had a few
dollars saved up, that I had earned, and I came as far as they would
bring me. Then I worked my way on from Chicago by jumping freights and
by doing odd jobs whenever I got the chance. I heard, in a roundabout
way, that my uncle was either in the southern part of Montana, or the
northern part of Wyoming, and so I came on. I've been traveling around
now for two weeks, trying to find him, and I've been living like a
tramp, but I can't seem to locate him. I met some men who said they knew
him, but they acted so mysterious that I could get no information from
them. They didn't seem to want to tell me where he was. So I decided to
keep on until I found him. I've been tramping all day, and when I heard
you talking I thought maybe you were a party of hunters who would help

"And so we will," burst out Jack. "Come along to camp with us, Bill, and
we'll fix you up. It's a shame, the way your guardian treats you. And
your uncle can't be much better."

"Oh, he used to be kind to me," said the unfortunate lad, "but I don't
believe he knows how things have gone with me. If I could find him I
think he would take care of me."

"Well, maybe we can help find him for you," said Nat.

Little time was lost in getting back to the temporary camp, and there
Will, who was weak and faint from hunger, was given a light meal. Then
the whole party went on to the main camp, Will riding behind Jack, for
the latter's horse would carry double.

"My, but you certainly are doing this up in style," remarked the ragged
lad as he saw the fine tents and noted how comfortably Jack and his
chums lived, in spite of the fact that they were far from civilization.
His arrival created quite a sensation.

"Oh, when Jack Ranger does a thing, it's done good and proper," said
Bony. "It's the first outing out of the gun club, and he wants to make
a record, I guess."

"I want you all to have a good time, that's all I want," was Jack's

Some better clothes were found for Will, and after a good meal some of
the hopelessness faded from his face. He told of his wanderings in the
mountains, and how he had worked his way from camp to camp, and from
stage station to stage station.

"But you're done tramping around now," said Jack.

"Have you--have you got room for me here?" faltered Will.

"Have we? Well, I guess!" was Jack's hearty answer. "You can stay here
as long as you like, or until you find your uncle. You've accepted my
invitation to come camping, after all, and I guess your guardian would
be surprised if he could see you now."

"I guess he would," remarked Will with a smile.

There was plenty of room in the big sleeping tent, and a bed was made up
for the wanderer. It was the first good night's rest he had had in
nearly a week, he said.

As they had plenty of fresh meat in camp they did not go hunting for
several days, but Jack and his chums could not remain inactive, so they
all, including Will, went on short jaunts about the camp. A gun was
provided for the newcomer, and he proved that he was a good shot, at
least on jack-rabbits, which abounded in that region.

About a week after Will had joined his former chums they went on an
all-day hunt. The luck fell to Bony and Sam this trip, for each of them
killed a fine mountain ram, the horns of which were equal in size to the
one slain by Jack.

Nat killed a small deer, and Will was delighted when he also brought one

"Plenty much game," observed Long Gun. "No need hunt right 'way 'gin."

"I guess Long Gun is getting tired," observed Jack. "Well, of course we
don't want to kill just for the sake of killing, so I think we will take
a few days off."

The weather continued fine, being clear, and not too cold, while there
was no deep snow to hamper the movements of the members of the gun club,
though there were several light flurries. The lads went out on short
trips, Will riding the horse assigned to Budge, for the latter was not a
very enthusiastic sportsman, and would rather remain in camp, stretched
on his back, chewing gum, than go after deer or mountain sheep.

"Well," remarked Jack one night, about a week after the last hunt, "I
think we'll go out again to-morrow and try to fill up the cupboard
again. Supplies of fresh meat are running low."

"Good idea," commented Nat. "Maybe you can get another ram with horns to
match your first pair."

Jack was successful in this venture, for after a long day's jaunt he got
a fine shot, just at sunset, bowling over a large ram. They took the
head and horns back to camp, leaving the carcass to be brought in the
next morning, having first taken the precaution, however, of tying the
choicest portions high in a tree, out of the reach of marauding animals.

As they were all gathered about the camp fire that night, discussing the
events of the day, Jack suddenly held up his hand to insure silence.

"Hark!" he exclaimed. "There's that queer sound again."

In the air over their heads was the rushing of great wings, while there
was a throbbing as if some mighty beast was passing over the camp.

"Wow!" cried Long Gun, and he made a dive for the tent.

"That's it!" said Nat softly. "I wonder if we shall ever solve the

The boys looked at each other in alarm. Will sprang to his feet.

"That sound!" he cried. "I heard it one night when I was camping in the

"Where?" asked Jack.

"About ten miles from here. It's the same noise."

"We must solve this mystery!" exclaimed Jack. "I believe it must be----"

But he did not finish the sentence, for from the air above them sounded
the call of a voice:

"To the left! To the left!" was the cry. "There's the camp fire we saw

They all sprang to their feet and looked up into the dark sky. Surely
that was some vast shape hovering over them! And then the throbbing and
the rush of wings died away.



"Fellows," spoke Jack, and his voice trembled in spite of his efforts to
render it steady, "we've got to get at the bottom of this."

"That's right," agreed Bony.

"Maybe Bill can tell us something," suggested Sam.

"Long Gun ought to know something about it. He's lived around here all
his life," said Budge, speaking plainly this time.

"Long Gun thinks it's spirits or something like that," remarked Jack.
"He's so scared he can't speak. But what about you, Bill? Are you sure
you heard it before?"

"Yes," replied the newcomer. "I heard that same noise about a week ago.
I was in a lumber camp, to which I had worked my way, and one night,
just about this time, we all heard that rushing sound in the air. Some
of the men were frightened, but others said it was a flight of eagles or
other big birds."

"That's what we thought it was, first," came from Nat. "But I don't
believe it now."

"Why not?" asked Bony. "It's the same sound."

"But did you hear some men speaking?" demanded Nat. "We didn't hear that

"No, that's right," agreed Jack. "And the voices were quite plain, as if
they were close at hand."

"Maybe they were chasing the peculiar creature, whatever it was,"
suggested Sam.

"That might be it," Jack said.

"Let's give 'em a hail," put in Bony.

The boys thought this a good idea, and united their voices in a loud
shout. After that they fired their rifles in a volley, but no answer
came back.

"Either they don't hear us, or they don't want to answer us," commented

"Or else that big bird or beast, whatever it was they were chasing, has
eaten them up," suggested Budge, preparing to stow away a fresh wad of

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Nat. "I don't believe it was a big bird."

"Waitansee," was all Budge said.

Though the boys discussed the matter for some time longer, they could
arrive at no satisfactory explanation. As for Long Gun, it was useless
to ask him his opinion of the mysterious noise. He cowered under his
blankets, murmured something about "bad spirits," and predicted that
evil would befall any one who sought to solve the secret.

The night was not disturbed by any further alarms, and they were all up
bright and early the next morning, with fine appetites.

"The big bird, or whatever it was, didn't steal any of us," remarked
Jack as he was washing for breakfast. "I hope it didn't steal the ram I
shot yesterday. We must go after that meat as soon as we have

Leaving Budge and Long Gun in camp, the others went to where Jack and
Nat had slain the ram. It was quite a long ride, and they took their

"Look here, Jack," called Nat, as, riding slightly in advance, he was
first to arrive at where the carcass had been tied in a tree.
"Something's been here at it. There's none of it left."

"Do you mean that?" cried Jack, riding up.

"Sure. You can see it's gone."

The boys dismounted and went closer to the tree. There was no doubt but
that the choice portions of the ram were gone. And at the foot of the
tree the dirt was trampled down as if whatever it was that had stolen
the meat had been put to considerable trouble to get it.

"It was a bear that took it!" cried Sam.

"How do you know?" asked Jack.

"Look where he climbed the tree. The bark's torn off with his claws, and
you can see the marks of his paws in the soft dirt."

"That's right," agreed Nat. "Lopsided lollypops! but it must have been a
big one, too! Look where the first marks of his claws begin," and he
pointed to abrasions in the bark a good distance above the ground.

"Do bears eat meat?" asked Bony, cracking all his finger knuckles

"Sometimes, I believe," answered Jack. "Anyway, if the bear that stole
my ram didn't get it for himself he must have pulled it down for some
friends of his."

"What do you mean?" asked Nat.

"Here are the marks of footsteps," went on Jack, "and they aren't ours,
either. Look, whoever made these had heavy boots with hobnails in them,
made in the shape of an arrow."

He pointed to the ground. There, in addition to the paw-marks left by
the bear, were footprints, clearly to be seen, and it needed but a
glance to show that they had not been made by any of the boys or Long

"Some one--some men, that is--have been here since Nat and I were here
yesterday," went on Jack. "Either they or the bear took the ram."

"Maybe they were the men we heard yelling last night," suggested Nat.

"Yes, and maybe they have a trained bear, that goes around stealing meat
for them," added Sam with a laugh.

"Don't get such crazy ideas," objected Nat.

"Well, that might happen," went on Sam. "Almost anything is likely to
happen in this queer country. I wonder what we'd better do about it?"

"I know what I'm going to do," said Jack.


"I'm going to trail that bear. He's left plenty of marks, and maybe I
can get a shot at him. I owe him something for taking my meat, and he'll
make a good substitute."

"That's the way to talk," cried Bony. "I'm with you, Jack."

The marks of the bear's paws were plainly visible for some distance,
leading off to the right, and up the sloping side of a mountain. As for
the footprints of the man or men, they were soon lost to sight. But the
boys decided to trail the bear. They lost the marks after about a mile,
but arguing that the beast would make nearly a straight line for his
den, after he had the meat, the young hunters laid their course as well
as they could by compass and kept on.

They had to travel slowly, because the road was not very good for the
horses, and at noon they had not come up to bruin. Eating a light lunch,
they kept on, and it was mid-afternoon when Jack, who was ahead,
noticed that his horse suddenly stopped and began to shiver.

"Fellows," he cried, "we're near the bear. That's what ails the horse."

The other steeds began to exhibit signs of terror, so it was decided to
dismount and lead them back a short distance.

"I'll stay with the horses," volunteered Bony. "I--er--I don't exactly
feel up to hunting bears to-day."

"You're not afraid, are you?" asked Sam.

"No, not exactly. You might call it--out of practice," and Bony began
cracking his knuckles.

They tried to persuade him to go with them, but he would not, so Jack,
Will, Nat and Sam went on. It did not take much searching to discover a
trail leading farther up the side of the mountain, and following this a
little way they smelled the unmistakable odor of wild animals.

"His cave's near here," whispered Jack.

They came in sight of it a moment later, and then there was no doubt as
to who had stolen part of the ram. For in front of a black opening in
the side of the big hill was a portion of the carcass.

"I wonder if he's in there?" said Jack.

"Maybe you'll wish he wasn't," commented Sam.

"I will not," was Jack's bold reply. "I'm going to get a shot at him

"How are you going to get him out?"

"I'll show you."

Jack quickly made a torch of some dry bark, and lighting it, tossed it
into the mouth of the cave. Then he ran quickly back, and with his chums
stood waiting with ready rifle.

"We'd better separate a bit," said Nat. "If he comes out with a rush,
and you miss him, Jack, we can take a crack at him."

This was voted good advice, and Sam, Will and Nat moved down the slope a
short distance, leaving Jack nearer the cave.

"I guess he isn't going to come out," called Jack to his chums. "He's
asleep, maybe. I'll try to wake him up."

He caught up a large stone, and tossed it into the cave. Hardly had he
done so than there sounded a series of angry growls, and with a loud
"woof!" bruin appeared at the mouth of the cavern, his little eyes
glistening with wrath, and the fur on his back raised in a long ridge.

"Shoot him, Jack!" cried Nat.

But Jack did not need this advice. Dropping on one knee he took quick
aim and pulled the trigger. At the sound of the shot bruin lurched
forward, and without the loss of a second Jack pumped in another
cartridge and let him have it right in the head.

Then the big, tawny brute, with a scream, launched himself forward, and
doubling up into a ball, began to roll down the mountain-side, straight
toward where Sam and Nat stood.

"Look out!" cried Jack, for he saw that the bear was in his death
struggle, and might attack his chums.

Sam and Nat needed no warning, but as they turned to get out of the way
of the infuriated creature, Nat's foot slipped. He fell, and, to save
himself, he clutched at Sam. They both went down in a heap, rolling over
and over, but a few feet in front of the bear, that came bounding after
them, clawing up dirt, stones and little shrubs as it tried to stay its



"Shoot! Shoot!" cried Will Williams, who had remained to one side.
"Shoot him again, Jack!"

"I can't! I may hit Sam or Nat!"

Jack did not know what to do. He and Will had to stand there and watch
their chums rolling and slipping down the mountain-side, with the bear,
in its death struggle, slowly gaining on them.

Suddenly the beast struck a large boulder, bounded up into the air, and
came down nearly on top of the two lads. Jack's heart almost stopped
beating, and Will turned his head aside. Bear and boys seemed to be in
one indistinguishable heap.

"They'll be killed!" cried Will.

Jack started down the hill on the run. He had not taken a dozen steps,
his gaze all the while fixed on that heap, which had now reached a
little ledge, where it came to a stop, when he saw Sam and Nat slowly
extricate themselves.

"They're alive, anyway," he murmured.

He heard Will following after him, but did not look back. He wanted to
see what the bear would do. Sam and Nat appeared bewildered, but Jack
noticed that they moved away from bruin. The brute was quiet.

"I wonder if I killed him?" thought Jack. Then he called out: "Is he

"As a door-nail," replied Sam.

"Are you hurt?" sung out Will.

"Only bruised some," answered Sam, rubbing several places on his body.

By this time Jack had reached his chums. Their clothing was disheveled,
and their hands and faces were covered with dirt, but the bear had not
harmed them.

"I thought it was all up with you," said Jack with relief in his voice.

"So did I," admitted Nat. "But I guess that bear was dead when he
started to roll. It was when it hit us, anyway, for it never made a
move. It rolled right on top of us, and Sam yelled----"

"So did you," spoke Sam quickly. "You were just as frightened as I was."

"I guess that's right," admitted Nat. "But you got your bear, all right,

They looked at the dead animal. It was a large grizzly.

"Another trophy for the gun club," remarked Sam. "Say, we're doing all
right for amateurs. Jack's new organization is a success.

"It's all to the bear steaks!" exclaimed Nat with a grin, as he gently
caressed his elbow, where the skin was rubbed off.

"How are we going to get this back to camp?" asked Will.

"Oh, I guess we can pile it on the horses," said Nat.

"Not until it's cut up," remarked Jack. "Did you ever try to lift a dead

None of them had, and when they tried to raise the lifeless bruin they
found it beyond their strength. They had keen hunting knives with them,
however, and soon had the bear skinned and the choicest portions cut
off. Jack took the skin, intending to have a rug made of it. Then the
horses were brought up, and the meat tied on the backs of the saddles.
Satisfied with their day's hunt thus far, the boys headed for camp, Will
getting a shot at a fine ram on the way back, but missing it, much to
his regret.

"Better luck next time," consoled Jack.

Long Gun and Budge had a fine supper ready for the young hunters, and
never was a meal better enjoyed. Then, as it grew dark, they all sat
about the camp fire, listening to the story of killing the bear.

"Oh, this is the kind of life to lead," said Nat with a sigh. "It's
simply perfect."

"And to think that we'll soon have to go back to Washington Hall," put
in Bony.

"I know where Jack would rather be than here," said Sam with a grin
barely visible in the flickering light of the camp fire.

"Where?" asked Nat.

"Over at Pryor's Gap, where a certain girl with brown eyes----"


A wad of dried leaves took Sam squarely in the face.

"You dry up!" commanded Jack as he looked around for another missile.

"Oh, of course; but I thought you'd like to be reminded of her," went on

"I guess he can think of her without you reminding him," added Nat.

"I'm going to turn in," announced Jack suddenly, and the laughs of his
chums did not seem to disconcert him. They all retired a few minutes
later and slept soundly.

"Well, what's the program to-day?" asked Sam as they stepped from the
tent the next morning into the cold, crisp air. "Hello," he added, "it's
been snowing again."

"Plenty good for track sheep," announced Long Gun.

"Oh, we don't need any fresh meat. What's the use of going hunting
again?" asked Jack.

"What will we do, then--go fishing?" demanded Nat.

"I have an idea that it would be fun to take a trip back over the
mountain," went on Jack. "We've never been in that direction."

"It's quite a climb," said Bony as he looked up the immense hill, at the
foot of which they were camped.

"I know it, but Long Gun says there's a good trail, and we can go on our
horses and take it easy. What do you say?"

"I say let's go," put in Will. "I heard there was some sort of a camp
over there, and maybe I could get a trace of my uncle."

"Then we'll go," decided Jack. "What sort of a camp is it?"

"I don't know exactly. I met a man during my wanderings who told me he
had been delivering supplies at a camp over on the eastern slope of
Rattlesnake Mountain. This is Rattlesnake Mountain, isn't it?"

"That's the name it goes by," said Jack. "But what sort of supplies did
he take?"

"That's the queer part of it. He couldn't tell. They were in boxes, and
he was never allowed to go very close to the camp. He always had to halt
quite a way off, leave his stuff and drive away."

"That's queer," commented Jack. "I wonder if that can have anything to
do with----"

Then he stopped suddenly, without finishing his sentence.

"Well, with what?" asked Bony.

"Never mind," replied Jack as he began oiling his gun. "Let's get ready
to go over the top of the mountain."

They found it a hard climb, but they took it by degrees and did not
hurry the horses, who were used to mountain trails. They reached the
summit at noon, and after a rest and lunch, they started down the slope.

The newly-fallen snow made a white mantle over the earth, and it was
undisturbed by any marks until they came along.

"No signs of game," said Jack, "but I guess we don't need any. Long Gun
and Budge will be able to get up a good supper with what's in camp," for
the Indian and the gum-chewing lad had remained behind.

They traveled on for a few miles farther, admiring the view of a much
more wild and desolate country than was visible on the side of the
mountain where they were staying.

"Well, I guess we'd better turn back," called Sam as he noted that the
sun was getting low in the sky.

"No; let's ride down to that little level spot and look over," proposed
Jack. "Then we'll come back."

They were not long in reaching the place. Nat, who had urged his horse
ahead, was the first to get to it. Suddenly he pulled his animal back
and uttered a cry.

"What is it?" called Jack.

"Some peculiar tracks," replied Nat. "Look here!"

They all rode up. There in the snow were many strange marks. The white
crystals were scattered, and in some places the ground was swept bare.
In other spots there were many footprints.

"See!" cried Jack. "The man with the arrow made in hobnails on the soles
of his shoes has been here!"

He pointed to the impressions.

"Yes, and there's been a fight or a struggle here," added Sam. And,
indeed, it did seem so, for in some places the ground was torn up, the
dirt being scattered over the snow.



For several moments the boys gazed in silence at the strange marks they
had come across. Then Jack said:

"Well, fellows, we seem to be up against some more of that mystery."

"Why?" asked Bony. "Do you think this has anything to do with the

"I do."

"You mean the strange sound we heard at night?" asked Will.

"That's it," went on Jack. "I think we are on the track of something

"And do you intend to look further?" was Nat's query.

"Well, not to-day," answered Jack. "But I will sooner or later. I
believe something happened here which has to do with that queer
disturbance we have heard several times. What it is I don't know, but
I'm going to find out."

"Say, I have an idea," came from Bony.

"Don't let it get away from you," advised Nat.

"No, I'm serious," went on the lanky youth. "I think these men have some
strange beast or bird in captivity, and that it gets away from them at
times. Maybe that's what happened here, and they had to fight to capture
it again."

"That's nonsense!" exclaimed Sam.

"Not so nonsensical, either," Jack hastened to say. "If it was an
immense bird, like a big eagle, it would account for the noises we
heard--at least, some of them."

"But there is no eagle large enough for men to ride on its back,"
objected Nat.

"How do you know men were on its back?"

"Didn't we hear them call and speak about our camp fire? How could they
see it unless they were up high in the air, on the back of some big

"They might have been on some point of the mountain above us," said
Bony. "They could have the eagle, or whatever it was, tied by a cord."

"Yes," admitted Nat; "but I don't believe it's a bird."

"Me either," came from Sam. "But what is it?"

"Let's look at the marks a little more carefully," proposed Jack.

"Several men have been here, struggling with the--the--er--whatever it
was," spoke Will. "See the different footprints."

That much was evident. In addition to the man with the mark on his
shoes of the arrow in hobnails, there were tracks of several other

"And if this isn't the mark of a big bird's wing, I'll eat a pair of
snowshoes!" exclaimed Nat suddenly. "Look here, fellows!"

They hurried to where he was. There in the snow was the unmistakable
print of what seemed to be a wing of a great creature of the air.

"And here's another wing," added Sam a little later as he walked slowly
over the level place. "But they're some distance apart."

"I should say so," agreed Jack. "Sixty feet, if they're an inch."

"But the marks are those of two wings, and they were made at the same
time," went on Sam. "Look, you can see where the body comes between the
wings. The bird was over on its back. That happened when they tried to
secure it."

"But sixty feet," objected Nat. "There's no bird living with a spread of
wings like that. It's out of the question."

"Here's the evidence," spoke Sam obstinately. "You can see for

"Sixty feet spread," murmured Jack. "It doesn't seem possible."

But there was no doubt but that the marks in the snow were those of
wings, and, as Jack paced the distance from tip to tip, they proved to
be over sixty feet apart.

"Maybe the men have discovered some prehistoric monster," suggested
Will, "and are trying to subdue it so they can exhibit it. There used to
be monsters as large as the marks left by this thing, whatever it is."

"Yes," admitted Jack; "but they disappeared from the earth ages ago.
Only their fossil remains are to be found now."

"But might one not be alive, by chance, in some big mountain cave?"
asked Nat.

"I don't know," spoke Jack with a worried look. "It has me puzzled,
fellows. I don't know what to think."

"Let's go back to camp, tell Long Gun about it, and bring him here
to-morrow to see it," suggested Sam.

"Long Gun would never come," said Jack. "He's too much afraid of bad
spirits. No, boys, we'll have to solve this ourselves, if it's to be
solved at all."

The boys walked around the little level place, whereon there was the
mute evidence of some terrific struggle.

"The queer part of it is," said Sam, "that the footsteps of the men
don't seem to go anywhere, nor come from anywhere. Look, they begin
here, and they end over there, as if they had dropped down from the
clouds and had gone up again on the back of the big bird."

Jack looked more thoughtful. As Sam had said, there were no marks of the
men coming or going, and they could not have reached the level place,
nor departed from it, without leaving some marks in the tell-tale snow.

"I give it up!" exclaimed Jack. "Let's get back to camp. It's getting

They started, talking of nothing on the way but the mystery, and
becoming more and more tangled the more they discussed it.

It was getting dusk when they came in sight of the camp fire, and they
saw Budge and the Indian busy at something to one side of the blaze.

"I wonder what they're up to now?" said Jack.

"Oh, probably Budge is teaching Long Gun how to chew gum," was Nat's

A moment later something happened. Budge seemed to shoot through the
air, as if blown up in an explosion. He shot over the top of a small
tree, and coming down on the other side, hung suspended by one foot.

"Help me down! Help me down!" he cried.

"What's the matter?" called Jack, spurring his horse forward.

"I'm caught!" answered Budge.

"It certainly does look so," spoke Nat, and he could not refrain from
laughing at the odd spectacle Budge presented as he hung by one leg in
a rope that was fast to the top of a tree, which bent like a bow with
his weight.

"Take me down!" wailed the unfortunate one.

"How did it happen?" asked Sam.

"Long Gun made a spring trap," gasped Budge, "and--and----"

"And you wanted to try it," finished Jack, as he went to his chum's



"Hurry up and get me down!" pleaded Budge, as he tried to grasp the
sapling with his hands, to ease the strain on his foot.

"I'm coming," replied Jack, who was laughing heartily. "Guess I'll have
to cut the tree down, though."

"No; I have a better plan than that," spoke Will. "I'll show you."

In another moment he was climbing up the thin trunk of the hickory that
served to hold Budge Rankin suspended. Then Will's plan was apparent. As
he climbed up farther, his weight, added to that of Budge, caused the
sapling to sway toward the ground.

"Grab me and cut the rope!" cried Budge.

"All right," replied Jack, and when his queer chum was near enough to
him, Jack seized him around the waist. Nat, with his hunting knife,
severed the thongs of deer sinew from which Long Gun had made the loop.
Then Budge was released, and he assumed an upright position on the
ground, while Will dropped from the bending tree, which straightway
sprang back to its place.

"Hu!" grunted Long Gun, with just the suspicion of a smile on his
copper-colored face. "Boy go up heap fast."

"'Sright," admitted Budge, while he began hunting through his pockets
for a piece of gum.

"What in the world did you ever put your foot in that trap for?" asked
Jack, when it was ascertained that Budge had not been injured.

"Well," he said, "I'll tell you. You see, I asked Long Gun to show me
how to make a spring trap. I thought it might come in handy when I got
back home. He showed me, and made one. But it didn't look to me as if it
would work. So I just touched the trigger with my foot, and--and----"

"We saw the rest," finished Bony. "Cracky! But I thought at first you
were giving us an exhibition of a human skyrocket."

"Or trying to imitate the gigantic bird that left the marks in the
snow," added Sam. "Let's tell Budge about it."

Which they did; and as his chum was usually pretty sharp in his
conclusions, Jack asked him what he thought it was that had made the
mysterious prints in the snow.

"It must have been a roc, one of those birds you read about in the
'Arabian Nights,'" declared Budge.

"There never were such birds," objected Jack.

"Sure there were," declared Budge. "It says so in the book."

"No one ever saw one," objected Sam.

"No, and you never saw George Washington," spoke Budge quickly. "But
you're sure he was here once, ain't you?"

"This is different," remarked Bony.

"'Sallright. You'll find that's a big bird, like a roc," declared Budge,
while he began to help the Indian get supper.

They discussed, until quite late that night, the cause of the mysterious
noises they had heard, and also what peculiar bird or beast had had the
struggle with the men. Then Jack finally declared:

"Oh, what's the use of wasting our breath over it? We can't decide what
it was. There's only one thing to do."

"What's that?" asked Sam.

"Try and find out what it was."

"How can we?"

"Well, I've got two plans. One is to make another trip on the other side
of the mountain, and go farther next time. We can search for some sort
of a camp."

"And the other plan?" asked Will.

"Is to keep watch, and see if we hear that thing passing over our camp
again. If we do, we'll throw a lot of light wood on the fire, and when
it blazes up we may catch sight of it."

"That's a good idea," declared Nat. "We'll take turns keeping watch at
night, and we'll begin right away."

They agreed that this was a good plan, and the night was divided into
six watches, one for each of the lads, as Long Gun positively refused to
have anything to do with seeking a solution of the mystery. Some light
wood was collected and piled near the camp fire, in readiness to throw
on, so as to produce a bright blaze the moment the queer noise was heard
in the air overhead.

But that night passed without incident, and so did the three following.
During the day the boys went hunting in the forest, or fishing in the
Shoshone River, having fairly good luck both on land and in the water.

It was about a week after Jack's plan of keeping night watches had been
in effect, that something happened. He had about given up hearing the
noise again, and was about ready to propose that the next day they
should go on a trip over the mountain.

It was Jack's watch, and he was sitting by the camp fire, thinking of
his father, his aunts and matters at home, and, it must be confessed, of
a certain brown-eyed girl.

"I must take a trip over to Pryor's Gap and see her," he said softly to

The fire was burning low, and Jack arose to put on some more wood. As he
did so he heard a vibration in the air, not far above the camp. Then
came what seemed to be a whirr of wings and a throbbing noise.

"The mystery! The mystery!" cried Jack, tossing an armful of light wood
on the embers.

The fire blazed up at once, and Jack looked upward. He saw a great shape
hovering over the camp, a shape that was fully sixty feet wide, and he
knew he could not be mistaken, for there were the gigantic wings
flapping. The object was flying right across the valley.

Will, Sam and Nat rushed from the tent. They had heard Jack's cry.

"Do you see it?" the watcher demanded. "Right up there!"

The fire blazed up more brightly, and in the glare of it could be dimly
seen something like a great bird.

"That's it!" cried Nat. "Gasolened grasshoppers! but what is it?"

No one answered. The throbbing and whirring grew fainter, and the shape
passed out of sight. From the tent could be heard the howling of Long
Gun, as he prayed in his own tongue.

"Quit that!" yelled Bony from the canvas shelter. "Do you want to
frighten us all to death?"

Then Long Gun's cries were muffled, and it was evident that he had
hidden his head under his blankets.

"This settles it!" declared Jack positively. "We'll make another trip
over the mountain to-morrow and see if we can't solve this."

"That's what we will!" added Nat. "First thing you know we'll wake up
some night and find ourselves gone."

They made preparations to be away all night if necessary, taking plenty
of blankets and food. Budge and Long Gun decided to remain in camp to
look after things.

"S'posin'youdon'tcomeback?" asked Budge, all in one word.

"Oh, we'll come back," replied Jack confidently. "If we don't, you and
Long Gun will have to come after us."


"You'll have to hunt," was Jack's answer as he flicked his horse with
the quirt.

They had decided to do some hunting as they proceeded, and were on the
lookout for game. The weather continued fine, and the snow had
disappeared, though they might expect heavy storms almost any day, Long
Gun said.

They crossed the mountain ridge, and started down the other side,
without having had a chance to shoot anything. They reached the place
where they had seen the mysterious marks in the snow, and made a careful
examination, but could discover nothing new.

"Well, Jack, which way now?" asked Sam as they stood looking about them.

"Down the mountain," decided Jack. "I think we may get a shot at some
deer, if we don't find anything else in the valley. Long Gun said it was
a good hunting ground."

They rode on, Jack and Nat in advance. Whether their horses were better
than the steeds of their companions, or whether Jack and Nat
unconsciously urged them to greater speed, was not apparent, but the
fact was that in about an hour the two found themselves alone, having
distanced their companions.

"Let's wait for them," suggested Nat.

"No, let's keep on. It's a good trail, and they can't miss it. They'll
catch up to us soon. Maybe we can see something to shoot if we go on a
little way, or maybe----"

"Maybe we'll see that mysterious bird," finished Nat. "I believe you'd
rather find that than kill a big buck."

"Oh, I don't know," replied Jack slowly. "I'd like to get a nice buck,
but I'd also like to solve that mystery."

"Speaking of bucks," whispered Nat quickly, "look there! Two of 'em!"

He pointed to a little glade, into which they were turning, and Jack saw
two large mule deer feeding on the grass.

"A buck and a doe," he said as he raised his rifle. "I think we are
close enough to risk a shot. You take the buck, Nat. You haven't had a
good pair of horns yet, and that fellow has some beauts. We'll both fire

Nat nodded to show that he understood. The deer had not scented the
young hunters, but were still quietly feeding. Slowly Jack and Nat
raised their rifles, having dismounted from their horses.

Just as they were about to pull the triggers a curious thing happened.
The deer suddenly raised their heads, and gazed at a spot to the left of
them. Then they bounded away, so swiftly that it was difficult for the
eye to follow them.

"Well, did you see that?" asked Nat. "Something scared them."

"Yes, and it wasn't us," said Jack. "We're out of sight, and the wind's
blowing from them to us. I'm going to see what it was that sent them

He mounted his horse again, an example that Nat followed, and they rode
down the glade to where the deer had been feeding.

"I wonder if it could have been a bear?" asked Jack of his chum. "If it

He did not get a chance to finish the sentence, for even as he spoke the
bushes just in front of the two lads were parted, and three men stepped
into view.

"What are you lads doing here?" asked one of the strangers sternly.

"We--we were hunting," replied Jack. "We saw two deer, but they ran
before we could get a shot."

"Well, you'd better make back tracks to where you came from," said
another man gruffly. "Vamoose, you!"

"Are these private grounds?" asked Jack. "We didn't know. We're camped
on the other side of the mountain, and we understood we could hunt

"Well, you can't," said the third man. "These aren't private grounds,
but we don't want you around here, so you'd better skedaddle. Move on,
now, or it won't be healthy for you."

As he spoke he advanced his rifle in a threatening manner.

"Oh, we don't want to trespass," spoke Nat. "We'll go."

"You'd better," was the grim response of the man who had first spoken.
"Clear out, and don't come here again. We don't want any spies around."

"We're not spies," said Jack, wondering that the man should use such a

"Well, we don't care what you are. Clear out! That's all! Clear out!"

There was nothing to do but turn back. Slowly Jack and Nat wheeled their
horses, meanwhile narrowly eyeing the men. The trio, though roughly
dressed, did not appear like hard characters or desperadoes. They looked
like miners.

"You'll have to move faster than that," said the man who had spoken
first. "If you don't we may have to make you."

There was a movement in the bushes back of him, and Jack and Nat glanced
in that direction to see who was coming. Another figure stepped into
view, the figure of a lad well known to Jack and Nat, for it was none
other than Jerry Chowden, the former bully of Washington Hall.

"Jerry Chowden!" gasped Jack.

"Jack--Jack Ranger!" exclaimed the bully, no less surprised than were
the two lads on horses.

"Do you know him?" asked one of the men quickly of Jerry.

"Yes--er--that is----"

"Come on, you! Move away from here if you don't want to get into
trouble!" fairly shouted one of the men. He advanced toward Jack and
Nat, who, deeming discretion the better part of valor, clapped spurs to
their horses, and raced along the trail to rejoin their companions. As
they galloped on Jack gave one glance over his shoulder. He saw Jerry
Chowden in earnest conversation with the three men, and that our hero
and Nat was the subject of the talk was evident from the manner in which
the bully was pointing toward them.



"What do you think of that, Jack?" asked Nat. "Bullyragging bean-poles!
but who would have expected to meet Jerry Chowden out here? What do you
make of it?"

"I don't know," Jack replied. "I'm as much surprised as you are. Not
only at seeing him, but at meeting those men, and at being ordered

"Do you think Jerry had anything to do with them making us move away?"

"How do you mean?"

"I mean do you think he told those men lies about us? Such as saying we
were dangerous characters, and not safe to have around?"

"No, I hardly think that. I believe those men have something to conceal,
and would order back any one who they thought would discover their
secret. They ordered us back before Jerry appeared and recognized us."

"That's so. But how do you suppose he came to get in with them?"

"I don't know. It's all part of the same puzzle, I think--the mysterious
sounds, the queer marks in the snow, and all that. Of course, Jerry may
have met them by accident, and they might have hired him. We knew he
came out West, you know, after the part he played in kidnapping us, and
very likely he was willing to do any kind of rascally work these men

"Yes, that's probable. But what do you s'pose it is?"

"I give it up; that is, for the time being. But I'm going to solve this
mystery, Nat, if it takes all winter. We've got something to do now
besides hunt. We'll see what these men are up to. Maybe it's something
criminal, such as Jonas Lavine and his gang were mixed up in."

"I hardly think that."

"What do you think, then?"

"I believe they have some rare kind of animal or bird, or, maybe,
several of them, and they are going to place them on exhibition. For I'm
sure the noise we heard, and the marks in the snow, were made by some
gigantic bird."

"Oh, you're away off," declared Jack. "It isn't possible."

"That's all right. 'Most anything is possible nowadays," answered Nat.

They soon rejoined their comrades, and told them what had happened. Sam
was for going on, defying the men, and administering a sound drubbing to

"Then we'll find out what's up," he said, "and end all this suspense."

"Yes, and maybe get into trouble," objected Jack. "There must be several
men in that camp, if it was a camp, and those we saw seemed ready to use
their guns on us. No, I think we'll have to prospect around a bit first,
until we see how the land lays. I'm not going to run into danger. We
made a mistake by moving too suddenly in the bogus stock certificate
case, and only because of good luck were the rascals caught. I'm going a
little slower this time."

"Jerry Chowden is certainly going to the bad fast," declared Bony.

"We don't know that he is in anything bad this time," said Jack. "It may
be all right, and those men may be engaged in some regular business. But
I admit it looks suspicious."

A sharp snowstorm kept the boys in camp the next two days, but on the
third, as fresh meat was getting low, they started off again after game,
leaving Budge and Long Gun, as usual, in charge of the place.

"Boys, we've got to get something this time," said Jack. "The place is
like Mother Hubbard's cupboard, almost bare, so don't despise even
jack-rabbits, though, of course, a nice deer or a sheep would go

They had been directed by Long Gun to take a trail that led obliquely
up the side of the mountain, as the Indian said it was a likely place
for game, and at noon they camped in a little clearing for lunch, having
had no sight of anything bigger than squirrels, which they would not

"I tell you what it is," said Jack, after thinking the matter over, "I
believe we're too closely bunched. We ought to divide up, some go one
way, and some the other. We'd be more likely to see something then. We
can make a circle, and work our way around back to camp by nightfall."

"All right," agreed Sam. "Bony and I will take the trail to the left,
and you can go to the right with Nat and Will. I'll wager we beat you,

"That's a go," agreed Jack. "Come on."

A little later the two parties of young hunters separated, and were soon
lost to sight of each other.

For an hour or more Jack, Nat and Will slowly urged their horses through
the light snow. They kept a sharp lookout for signs of game, but were
beginning to despair of seeing any, when Jack uttered a cry.

"There's been a deer along here," he said. "And not long ago, either, if
I'm any judge of the signs Long Gun taught us."

"It does look so," admitted Nat. "Easy, now, and maybe we can trail

"We'd better leave our horses, though," Jack went on. "It's bad going,
and they make quite a bit of noise."

"I'll stay with them," volunteered Nat. "I've had my share of good shots
lately. Let Will have a show. You and he go ahead, Jack."

Jack did not want to leave Nat, but his chum insisted that some one had
to stay with the animals, and he wanted to do it. So Will and Jack
started off alone to trail the deer.

They went on about a mile, the trail becoming fresher at every step,
until Will, who was close behind Jack, gently touched his companion on
the arm and pointed to the left.

There, framed in a little opening of the trees, pawing the snow off the
grass in a little glade, stood a noble buck mule deer, the largest Jack
had ever seen. The animal had not heard nor scented them.

"Take the shot, Will," urged Jack. "You may never get another like

"No, I'd rather you would."

"Nonsense. I've shot several of 'em. You take it."

"I'd rather you would."

"Go on," urged Jack in a whisper. "Wait, though, we'll move forward a
bit, and you work off to the left. You'll get a better shot then. The
wind's just right."

They went forward a few feet cautiously, until they stood just on the
edge of the clearing. Then Will, stepping a few paces to the left,
raised his rifle. No sooner had he done so than, to his surprise and
regret, his arms began to shake violently. He had a severe touch of
"buck fever."

"I--I can't do it. I'm too nervous," he said in a whisper to Jack.

"Nonsense. Wait a minute and aim again. You'll be all right in a second.
Take a long breath and count five."

Will did as directed, but it was no use. The muzzle of his rifle wobbled
more than ever when he tried to aim.

"I--I can't," he whispered again. "You shoot, Jack."

Then, realizing that Will was too nervous to do it, and not wanting to
see the buck escape, as they needed fresh meat in camp, Jack took aim
and pulled the trigger.

At the instant the report rang out, the buck raised his head, wheeled
around, and catching sight of Jack standing on the edge of the clearing,
came at him almost as fast as an express train. He had been only
slightly wounded, and, full of rage, he had only one desire--to
annihilate the person responsible for the stinging pain he felt.

Jack saw him coming, and threw down the lever of his rifle to pump
another cartridge into the chamber. But, to his horror, the lever
refused to work. It had become jammed in some way, and the exploded
shell could not be ejected. He pulled and tugged at it, the buck coming
nearer by leaps and bounds.

"Jump--jump!" Jack heard Will cry, and realizing that he could not get
in another shot, he leaped to one side, hoping to get out of the way of
the infuriated animal.

But his foot caught in the entangled branch of a bush, and he fell
backward, full length, right in the path of the advancing buck, that was
snorting with rage.

Jack tried to roll over, but the bush held him fast. He felt that it was
all up with him, and he closed his eyes, expecting the next instant to
feel the buck leap on him, to pierce him with its keen hoofs.

Jack could hear the thundering approach of the big creature, and he
could feel the tremor of the ground as the brute came nearer. He fancied
he could see the big bulk in the air over him.

Then there sounded a sharp crack, followed by a thud, and the black
shape seemed to pass to one side. There was a shock as a big body hit
the ground, a great crashing among the bushes, and Jack opened his eyes
to see the buck lying dead a few feet away from him.

Then he saw something else. It was Will, running toward him, a smoking
rifle in his hands.

"Are you--are you all right?" asked Will, his voice trembling.

"Yes," said Jack, hardly able to speak, because of the reaction of the
shock through which he had just passed. "I'm all right. Did you shoot
the buck?"

"I--I guess so," replied Will with a nervous laugh. "I aimed my rifle at
him and pulled the trigger, anyhow."

Jack went over to the big body, that had not ceased quivering.

"Right through the heart," he said, as he saw where the bullet had gone
in. "Bill, you saved my life!"



Jack extended his hand, and clasped that of Will's in a firm grip.

"This would have ended my hunting days if you hadn't fired," he said.

"Maybe he would have leaped over you," said Will. "He was coming very

"I saw he was. He'd have jumped right on me, too, and that would have
been the finish of yours truly. My, but that was a crack shot of yours."

"I didn't seem to take any aim. As soon as I saw him coming for you, I
seemed to get steady all at once, and I didn't tremble a bit."

"Lucky for me you didn't. My rifle went back on me just at the wrong

"What's the matter with it?"

"I don't know. I must take a look. It's risky to be hunting with such a

Jack looked for the cause of the trouble, and found that in taking the
gun apart to clean it he had not screwed in far enough a certain bolt,
which projected and prevented the breech mechanism from working. The
trouble was soon remedied, and the rifle was ready for use again.

"Well, you can shoot the next buck," remarked Will as the two looked at
the carcass of the big animal.

"Not to-day. I'd shake worse than you did if I tried to aim. We'll do no
more hunting to-day. We'll go back and get Nat, and take this to camp.
There's enough for a week."

It was with no little difficulty that the three boys loaded the best
parts of the buck on their horses and started back to camp. They found
that Sam and Bony had arrived ahead of them, Sam having killed a fine

"Well, I know what I'm going to do to-day," remarked Jack the next

"What?" inquired Nat.

"I'm going to have another try at that mystery."

"Do you think it'll be safe?"

"I don't see why. I'm going to try to get to that camp from another
trail, and if they see me the worst they can do will be to order me away

"I'm with you," declared Nat, and the others agreed to accompany the
senior member of the gun club.

They started directly after breakfast, Jack, Nat, Sam, Bony and Will.
Jack, making inquiries of Long Gun, learned of another trail that could
be taken. They rode along this for several miles, and then proceeded
cautiously, as they judged they were near where the hostile men had
their camp.

Suddenly Nat, who was riding along beside Jack, stopped his horse and
began sniffing the air.

"Smell anything?" he asked his chum.

Jack took several long breaths. Then he nodded.

"Gasolene, eh?" questioned Nat. "Cæsar's pancakes! but I believe we're
on the track of those same bogus certificate printers again!"

"It can't be," declared Jack.

"But smell the gasolene."

"I know it, but it might be from an automobile."

"An automobile out here? Nonsense! Listen, you can hear the pounding of
the engine."

Certainly there was an odd throbbing noise, but just as Jack was
beginning to locate it again the sound ceased.

"Never mind, fellows," he said. "We'll follow the smell of the gasolene.
I don't believe it's the same gang that we were on the trail of before,
but we'll soon find out. Keep together, now."

They went on for perhaps half a mile farther, when there was a sudden
motion among the bushes on the trail ahead of them, and a man's voice
called out:


It was one of the three men who had, a few days previous, warned Jack
and Nat away.

"Where are you going?" the man demanded.

"We were looking for your camp," said Jack boldly.

"Our camp?"

The man seemed much surprised.

"Yes. We wanted to see what sort of a place you had. We smelled the
gasolene, and heard the engine, and----"

"Now look here!" exclaimed the man angrily. "You've been told once to
keep away from here, and this is the second time. The next time you
won't hear us tell you. We'll shoot without warning. And we won't shoot
you, either, for we think you're here more out of curiosity than
anything else, but we'll shoot your horses, and you know what it means
to be without a horse out here. So if you know what's good for you, keep

"Yes," added another voice. "You'd better keep away from here, Jack
Ranger, if you don't want to get into trouble."

"Oh, it's you, is it, Jerry Chowden?" spoke our hero. "I wonder if your
new friends know as much about you as we do?"

"Never you mind!" exclaimed Jerry quickly. "You mind your own business,
and let me alone."

"That's what I've often wished you to do for me," spoke Jack. "Do you
know that there is a warrant out for your arrest if you ever come back
in the neighborhood of Denton?"

Jerry gave a frightened look over his shoulder. The man who had halted
the lads had stepped back into the bushes.

"You clear out of here, Jack Ranger. And you, too, Nat Anderson and the
rest of the bunch!" snapped Jerry, and then he drew from his pocket a

"Look out, Jerry, that might go off," remarked Jack with a laugh.

"Don't you make fun of me!" ordered the bully. "I'm working here, and
I've got authority to order you away."

"That's right, Jerry, tell 'em to vamoose," added the man who had first
spoken, as he again came into view. "We don't want any spies around

Another man joined the first, and the two looked angrily at the
intruders. They were armed with shotguns.

"What do you want?" asked the second man.

"Oh," said Nat lightly, "we just came to call on an acquaintance of
ours--Jerry Chowden. The police back East would like to see him, and
we've just told him."

"That's not so!" cried Jerry angrily.

"You're afraid to go back," added Jack.

"I am not! You mind your own business and clear out!"

"Yes, move on," ordered the first man, but Jack noted that he looked
closely at Jerry, as if to determine the effect of the charges made
against the bully.

There seemed to be nothing else to do, and the boys turned back.

"Beaten again," remarked Jack, as they headed for camp. "Well, there's
just one other way of discovering their secret."

"What is it?" asked Nat.

"Go down the mountain, directly back of their camp, only it's dangerous
because it's so steep. We can't take the horses. I'll try that way,
however, before I'll let Jerry Chowden laugh at us."

"So will I," answered Nat, and Sam and Bony said the same thing.

"I think we're in for a storm," remarked Will as they jogged along.
"It's beginning to snow."

A few flakes were sifting lazily down, and they increased by the time
the boys reached camp, where they found Budge and Long Gun busy
tightening the tent ropes and piling the wood and provisions within the
smaller supply tent.

"What's the matter?" asked Jack.

"Storm comin'," replied the Indian. "Plenty much bad. Git ready."

Early the next morning Jack and his chums were awakened by the wind
howling about their tent. It was cold, in spite of heavy blankets and
thick clothing.

"B-r-r-r!" exclaimed Jack as he crawled out and went to the flap of the
tent. Then he gave a startled cry.

"Boys, it's a regular blizzard!" he said.

Nothing could be seen but a white wall of fiercely swirling snowflakes,
while the wind was howling through the trees, threatening every minute
to collapse the tent. But Long Gun had done his work well, and the
canvas shelter stood.



The boys crowded up around Jack and peered through an opening in the
tent flap.

"Blizzard! I should say so!" exclaimed Nat. "It's fierce! How are we
going to cook any breakfast?"

"Me show," answered Long Gun with a grin. Then he pointed to where he
and Budge, the day before, had constructed, inside the living tent, a
small fireplace of stones and earth. There was a piece of pipe that
extended outside the canvas wall, and in the improvised stove a blaze
was soon started, over which coffee was made, and some bacon fried.

"Let's go out and see what it's like," proposed Sam, as he wrapped
himself up warmly.

"No go far," cautioned Long Gun. "No git back if yo' do. Heap bad

"There's no danger of Sam going too far," said Jack. "He's too fond of
the warm stove."

"Get out!" replied Sam. "I can stand as much cold as you can."

But none of the boys cared to be long in that biting cold, for the wind
sent the snowflakes into their faces with stinging force, and the white
crystals came down so thickly that had they gone far from the tent it is
doubtful if they could have found their way back again.

The horses were sheltered in a shack that had been built of saplings,
with leaves and earth banked around it and on the roof, and the animals,
huddled closely together, were warm and comfortable.

Inside the big tent, where the members of the gun club stayed, it was
not cold, for Long Gun and Budge kept the fire going in the stone stove,
and as the tent was well banked around the bottom, but little of the
biting wind entered.

Nothing could be done, as it was not safe to venture out, so the boys
put in the day cleaning their guns, polishing some of the horn trophies
they had secured, and talking of what had happened so far on their
camping trip.

Toward evening Long Gun went out to the supply tent to get some meat to
cook. He came back in a hurry, his face showing much surprise.

"What's the matter?" asked Jack quickly.

"Meat gone!" exclaimed the Indian. "Something take him from tent."

The boys rushed out into the storm toward the smaller canvas shelter
where their food and supplies were kept. One side had been torn down,
and within there was a scene of confusion.

In the fierceness of the storm, while the campers had been in the big
tent, some wild beast, or, perhaps, several of them, had stolen up and
carried away most of the food on which Jack and his chums depended. Nor
could it be said what beasts had robbed them, for their tracks were
obliterated by the snow that had fallen since.

"Well, this is tough luck!" exclaimed Jack. "What are we going to do

"There's some bacon left from breakfast," said Budge. "Have to eat that,
I guess."

"Yes; and, thank goodness, the thieves didn't care for coffee," added
Nat. "We sha'n't starve, at least, to-night."

"There's some canned stuff left, too," went on Will.

"But it won't last long, if this storm keeps up," spoke Jack seriously.
"I guess we're going to be up against it, fellows."

"Like fish?" asked Long Gun suddenly.

"What have fish got to do with it?" inquired Bony.

"Catch fish through ice soon. Storm stop," replied the Indian. "River
plenty full fish."

"That's a good idea," commented Jack. "But when will the blizzard stop?"

It kept up all that night and part of the next day. The campers were on
short rations, as regards meat, though there was plenty of canned baked
beans, and enough hardtack for some time yet, while there was flour that
could be made into biscuits. But they needed meat, or something like it,
in that cold climate.

It was late the next afternoon when Jack, looking from the tent,

"Hurrah, fellows! It's stopped snowing, and the wind has gone down. Now
for some fish through the ice. Long Gun, come on and show us how."

The Indian got some lines and hooks ready, using salt pork for bait.
Then the whole party went down to the river, traveling on snowshoes, for
there was a great depth to the snow, and it was quite soft.

It was no easy task to scrape away the white blanket and get down to the
ice that covered the river, but they managed it. Holes were chopped in
the frozen surface of the stream, and then they all began to fish. They
had good luck, and soon had caught enough of the finny residents of the
Shoshone to make a good meal.

"Um-um!" exclaimed Bony, as they sat down to supper a little later.
"Maybe this doesn't taste fine!" and he extended his plate for some more
of the fish, fried brown in corn meal, with bacon as a flavoring.

The next day Jack, Nat and Sam went out and killed some jack-rabbits,
and this served them until two days later, when Jack killed a fat ram
and Will a small deer.

All danger of a short food supply was thus obviated, and, the damaged
tent having been repaired, the boys prepared to resume their hunt.

"We've only about three weeks more," announced Jack one night. "If we
stay much longer we may get snowed in and have to stay until spring."

"Well, that wouldn't be so bad," spoke Bony.

"I know why Jack wants to start back," spoke Sam. "He is going to stop
at Pryor's Gap and see a certain party with brown eyes, who----"

Then Sam dodged to avoid the snowshoe which his chum threw across the
tent at him.

"When are we going to make another try to discover the secret of the
strange camp?" asked Nat when quiet was restored.

"That's so. When?" asked Will. "We haven't heard that queer noise

"We'll see what we can do to-morrow," answered Jack.

That night the lads were startled by again hearing that strange sound in
the air over their camp. But this time it seemed farther away, and only
lasted a short time, while Jack, who rushed out the moment he heard it,
could discover nothing.

Jack, Nat, Sam, Bony and Will started off early the next morning on
snowshoes for the top of the mountain, in accordance with a plan Jack
had formed of trying to reach the camp of the men from a point directly
back of the place whence they had been ordered away.

They reached the summit of the mountain and found, as Long Gun had said
they would, a trail leading directly down. But it was so steep and so
covered with snow that it seemed risky to attempt it.

"We can never get down there," said Nat.

"Sure we can," declared Jack.

"We might if we had some of those long, wooden snowshoes, like
barrel-staves, which the Norwegians use," spoke Sam. "Otherwise I don't
see how we're going to do it."

Jack did not reply. Instead he was walking slowly along what seemed to
be an abandoned trail. Suddenly he uttered an exclamation.

"The very thing!" he cried.

"What?" asked Bony.

"That old sled," answered Jack, pointing to a sort of bobsled, that had
evidently been made by lumbermen. It consisted of a platform of slabs,
on long, broad, wooden runners, and stood near an abandoned camp.

"How can we use that?" asked Nat.

"Get on it and slide down the mountain," daringly proposed Jack.
"There's plenty of snow. The old sled will hold us all, and maybe we can
ride right into their camp lickity-split. Then they can't put us out
until we've seen what's going on. Will you go?"

The boys hesitated a moment. It was a hazardous plan, one fraught with
danger, but they were not the lads to draw back for that. It seemed the
only feasible way of getting down the mountain.



"Well," asked Jack again, "will you go, or do I have to take the trip

"I'll go!" cried Nat suddenly.

"And I!" "And I!" "And I!" added Bony, Sam and Will.

"Then let's get the sled out and look it over," said Jack.

The old sled seemed to be in fairly good condition. It was roughly but
strongly made, as it had to be to stand dragging over the mountain
trails. The boys hauled it to the edge of the slope.

"Get on," called Jack as he began piling upon the flat top his gun and a
package of food he had brought along.

"Wait a minute," proposed Nat.

"What's the matter now?" inquired Jack. "You're not going to back out,
are you?"

"No, but it just occurred to me that we'd better have some sort of a
brake on this thing. If we get going down that mountain we might not be
able to stop."

"We don't want to, until we get to the camp."

"But s'pose we get to a ravine, or something like that?"

"Well, I guess it would be better to have a brake or drag," admitted
Jack. "I'll tell you how we can make one. Get a long sapling, sharpen
one end, and put it down through a hole in the back of the sled. When
you want to stop, just jab it into the ground, and it will scrape

"Better have two, while you're at it," said Sam. "Then we can steer with
them by jabbing first one, then the other down. They will slew us around
whichever way we want to go."

"Fine!" cried Jack, always willing to give any of his chums the credit
for a good invention. "We'll do it."

With a small hatchet, which they had brought with them, two stout
saplings were cut, trimmed of their branches and sharpened to points.
Then they were thrust down holes in the rear of the sled, near where the
wooden runners came to an end.

"Now I guess we're all ready," remarked Jack as he surveyed the work.
"Get aboard, fellows, for the Snow Sled Limited. No stops this side of

"And maybe not there, if we get going too fast," spoke Bony grimly.

They had taken off their snowshoes, and piled them on the bob, with
their guns and packages of food. Then the boys took their places.

"All ready?" asked Jack as he took his seat in front.

"As ready as we ever shall be," replied Will, who was a trifle nervous.

"Then push off, Sam," called Jack, for Sam and Nat had taken their
places at the two brake poles. They used them to shove the sled nearer
the edge of the hill, and then, as the sled began to move, they slipped
the sharpened saplings into the holes again.

Slowly the sled began to go down the hill. At first the slope was
gradual, and the speed was not great. Then, as the side of the mountain
became more steep, the bob gathered headway, until it was moving along

"Hold on, everybody!" cried Jack. "There's a bump just ahead of us!"

The warning came only just in time, for the sled reached a sort of ridge
in the slope, and bounded up in the air. The boys went with it, and as
they stayed up a little longer than the sled did, when they came down
they did so with considerable force, so that the breath was nearly
shaken out of them.

"Ouch!" cried Nat. "I bit my tongue."

"Lucky it's no worse," spoke Jack. "Did we lose anything off the sled,

"No, but your gun came near going," for the food and other objects had
slid around when the jolt came. "I held on to them," went on the strange
lad, who, from the association of Jack and his chums, was fast losing
his odd manner.

"That's the idea! Well, we certainly are moving now."

And indeed they were. The sled was increasing its speed every moment,
and was now whizzing along over the snow like some racing automobile,
but with none of the noise. The snow, by reason of thawing and freezing,
had acquired a hard, slippery surface, and the sled, the broad runners
of which did not sink in, was fairly skimming along over it.

"Try the brakes!" Jack called back to Sam and Nat. "Let's see if they

"Put on brakes!" called Nat, giving vent to a couple of screeches in
imitation of a whistle.

"That means let off brakes," said Sam. "One whistle is to put 'em on."

"What's the odds?" inquired Nat. "Put your pole down."

He was already shoving on his, and Sam did likewise. There was a shower
of white flakes behind the sled as the sharp points of the poles bit
into the snow. There followed a scratching sound, and two long
depressions appeared to mark the wake of the bob. Then the speed began
to slacken.

"They work all right," Jack announced. "We'll try how they steer, now."

"Off brakes!" shouted Sam, and he and Nat pulled up the poles.

Once more the sled shot forward, coasting down the side of the mountain.
Bony sat beside Jack, in front, while Will was in the centre, surrounded
by the guns and packages.

"Wow!" exclaimed Bony suddenly. "There's a bad place just ahead."

"I see," remarked Jack. "We must go to one side of it."

The place was a little hollow in the face of the mountain, and if the
sled, which was headed directly for it, dipped down into it, there might
be a serious accident.

"Jab your pole down, Nat!" cried Jack, as he calculated to which side of
the hollow it was best to pass. "Jab it hard."

"Hard it is!" repeated Nat, as he bore down on his pole with all his

The result was more than they bargained for. The sled slewed suddenly
around, and only by clinging desperately to it did the boys manage to
save themselves from being spilled off.

"Let go!" yelled Jack quickly.

"Let go it is!" Nat managed to repeat, as he pulled up his pole.

The sled slung around straight again, and continued to slide, but the
steering had been successful, for they passed well to one side of the

"I guess a light jab will be all we'll need to change the course of this
schooner," remarked Bony. "No more of those 'hard 'a port' orders,

"That's right. We had a narrow escape."

On and on they went, Jack watching carefully for holes or rocks, that he
might call orders to steer to one side or the other of them. The sled
answered her "helm" readily, and, when there was need to slacken speed,
the same poles served as brakes.

There was still a long snowy stretch before them, though they had come a
mile or more. It was fully five miles to the bottom of the slope, where
the valley began and where they knew the mysterious men were encamped.

The course they were on led almost straight down, and, by some curious
freak of nature, it was quite like a cleared road down the side of the
mountain. There were few trees in the path the sled was taking, and it
seemed as if, in ages gone by, a great snowslide or avalanche had gone
crashing down the declivity, preparing a path upon which, however, few
would have ventured.

Now the speed, which had slackened on a place where the slope was not so
great, became faster. The wind whistled in the ears of the boys, and
the broad runners were throwing up a fine shower of frozen snow.

Faster and faster the bob went. It was skimming along like a great bird
now, and the course was so clear that there was no need of steering.

Suddenly Jack spied, just ahead of them, a great boulder, partly covered
with snow. To strike it meant a disaster, and the sled was headed right
for it.

"Sam! Sam!" cried Jack. "Put your pole down."

This would slew the sled to one side. Sam, bearing in mind what had
happened when Nat put his sapling down too suddenly, gently dug his
point into the snow. But, so great was the speed, that the sled was
slewed around almost as badly as before.

But it cleared the rock, and then righted itself.

"Say, but we're going some," remarked Bony.

Jack nodded.

"Too fast," he called. "Put on the brakes, fellows."

Nat and Sam prepared to obey this order. They bore down on the saplings,
but the sled seemed only to go the faster.

"Put on brakes! Hard!" yelled Jack.

"We're trying to," called Sam.

He and Nat bore down with all their force. They could hear the ends of
the saplings scraping over the frozen snow, but they did not seem to
take hold. There was no shower of frozen crystals--no depressions behind
the runners.


The sled went faster and faster. Then Nat understood.

"The points of the brakes are worn off!" he cried. "They won't take

"Take 'em up and sharpen 'em!" shouted Jack. "We've got to slacken up or
we'll be hurt! Sharpen the stakes."

It was the only thing to do. The points of the poles, dragging over the
hard snow, had been worn flat and smooth. It was hard work, putting
points on them, aboard the swaying bob, but Sam and Nat, aided by Bony
and Will, managed to do it with the hatchet. All the while the sled was
skimming along, faster and faster.

"Jab 'em in! Jab 'em in!" yelled Jack desperately.

Nat and Sam did so. There was a scraping sound, as the sharp points bit
into the snow, but the speed of the sled did not seem to slacken.

"The snow's frozen too hard!" cried Nat. "We can't stop it now!"

"You've got to!" yelled Jack. "We're going like greased lightning!"

But, try as Nat and Sam did, they could not force the newly-sharpened
stakes into the ground. Jack, Bony and Will added their strength, but
it was of no use.

Faster and faster the sled leaped down the slope. The wind cut the faces
of the boys, and the flying particles of snow, freed by the edges of the
runners, stung them like needles.

"We can't stop!" said Nat, hopelessly.

Straight as an arrow flew the sled.

"Look! Look!" cried Will, and he pointed ahead.

There, right in the path, and not a quarter of a mile away, at the foot
of the hill down which they were shooting like a rocket, was a patch of

"It's a lake! A lake of open water!" cried Jack. "Get ready to jump!"



It seemed that this was the only thing to do. To remain on the sled, as
it plunged into the black water, might mean that they would be drawn
down into the depths, never to come up. So the lads prepared to leap
from the swiftly-moving sled.

Yet they would not jump without their guns, and they hesitated a moment
while they secured them. Then they moved to the edge of the bob.

But to leap from it, while it was traveling almost with the speed of a
railroad train, meant no little risk. No wonder they hesitated,
especially as there was no place to land but on the hard, frozen surface
of the snow, down which they were sliding.

Still, it was a choice of two desperate expedients, and, as they
supposed, they were choosing the lesser evil.

"Here we go!" cried Nat, as he crouched for a spring.

"No! Wait! Wait!" almost screamed Jack. "That's not water! It's ice!
It's ice! We're all right! Stay on!"

He had called only just in time, for, as the sled came nearer to the
black patch, he had seen, from the glint of light upon its surface, that
it was hard, black, thick ice.

A moment later the sled, striking a little hollow place bounded into the
air. It came down with a thump, and in another second was skimming over
the frozen surface of a little pond. Straight across it flew, into a
snow bank on the other side, where it came to an abrupt stop.

So sudden, in fact, was the halting, that Will, who was near the front
end, was shot from the bob, and came down in the bank of snow, head

"Pull him out!" cried Jack, as he leaped off.

"Maybe he's hurt."

The others hastened to the aid of their chum, and he was soon hauled
out. He seemed dazed, and there was blood coming from a cut on his head.

"Hurt much?" asked Jack anxiously.

"No--not much--hit my head on a stone under that pile of snow, I guess.
But where are we?"

"Where we started for, I think," replied Jack. "My, but that was a

"Petrified pole-cats! I should say so!" ejaculated Nat. "I thought we
were goners!"

"Same here," remarked Sam. "But we don't seem to have arrived at any

"We're at the foot of the hill," spoke Bony. "That's something," and he
tried to crack his knuckle joints, forgetting that he had thick mittens

"Let's see what's beyond those trees," proposed Jack, after they had
rested, and he pointed to some dark pines that fringed one shore of the
pond. "Bring your guns, fellows, and come on."

"What about the grub?" asked Nat.

"Leave it on the sled," replied Jack. "We'll probably come back here."

He led the way to the trees, and passed beyond the natural screen they
formed, followed by his chums. No sooner had he penetrated the thick
branches, than he uttered a cry of surprise. And well he might.

For in front of the young hunters was a strange camp, a large one,
consisting of a big shed-like structure, with several small log cabins
grouped around it. And the place smelled of gasolene, while from one of
the cabins came a noise of machinery in operation.

"Boys!" exclaimed Jack, "we've found the place."

"Yes, and there doesn't seem to be anybody here to stop us," remarked

They stood for a few moments on the edge of the camp, the secret of
which they had tried to solve several times before.

"Come on," said Jack. "Might as well take it all in."

As he spoke the doors of the big shed swung slowly open. The boys saw a
man pushing the portals, but something else they saw attracted their
attention, and held them spellbound.

For the "something" was a great bird-like creature in the shed, a
creature with an immense spread of wings, and from the big structure
there came a peculiar throbbing noise, such as that they had heard in
the air over their camp several nights.

"There it is!" exclaimed Nat. "There's the monster that's been flying in
the air over our heads! They've got it captive, and they're trying to
tame it!"

The doors opened wider, the man pushing them with his back to the boys,
so that at first he did not see them.

"Wow! Aunt Jerusha's Johnnie cake!" exclaimed Nat. "See that bird."

Inside the shed the great creature appeared to be fluttering its wings.

The boys were peering forward eagerly. Suddenly there sounded a shout,
and from one of the cabins a figure ran.

"Jerry Chowden!" cried Jack.

Jerry had seen the boys. Pointing one hand at them, he yelled something
to the man opening the shed doors. In an instant the man turned, went
back into the shed, and the doors swung shut. Then, from other cabins
came several men, running toward Jack and his chums. Jerry joined them.

"We're in for it, now," remarked Nat.

"Keep cool," advised Jack. "They can't hurt us."

"That's them! They're the same fellows!" exclaimed Jerry, as he ran up.

"Glad to see that you recognize us," remarked Jack calmly. "I was afraid
you'd forgotten us, Jerry."

"Hu! Think you're smart, don't you?" sneered the former bully of
Washington Hall.

"None of this chinning!" exclaimed one of the men sullenly. "How did you
chaps get here, this time?"

"Slid," replied Jack laconically.

"Don't get fresh. It might not be healthy."

"That's a fact," went on Jack. "We slid down the side of the mountain on
a sled, and landed on your little lake back of the trees."

"You never did it!" exclaimed the man incredulously.

"Well," said Jack slowly, "if you don't believe it you can go back there
and look at the lake."

"Yes," added Nat, "and if that doesn't convince you, you can go look at
the mountain, and see the sled."

The man turned, and spoke a few words in a low voice to one of his
companions. The latter set off toward the fringe of trees.

"Now, what did you chaps come here for?" went on the spokesman.

"To see your big bird fly," replied Jack.

The man started.

"We haven't any big bird," he said.

"Looks mighty like one, in that shed," went on Jack.

The man scowled. Then he resumed.

"Weren't you warned to keep away from here before? Weren't you told that
your horses would be shot if you came?"

"Yes," answered Jack, smiling a bit, "but you see we haven't any horses
with us now."

"Hu! That's a mighty poor joke," sneered the man.

"I don't think much of it myself, but it was the best I could make under
the circumstances."

Jack was as cool as a cucumber, while the man was visibly losing his

"Lock 'em up!" burst out Jerry Chowden. "That Ranger fellow and Nat
Anderson are always making trouble."

"Say, when I want your advice I'll ask for it," said the man curtly.
Just then the individual he had sent off to report about the sled came

"It's there," he said.

"Hum!" murmured the other. Then, turning to the group of men about him
he said: "Better take 'em, and put 'em in one of the vacant cabins for
the time being. Then I'll decide what to do with them."

"You haven't any right to touch us, or detain us!" exclaimed Jack.

"We haven't, eh? Well we're going to take the right, just the same. You
put your head in the lion's mouth, and now you are going to be lucky if
he doesn't bite it off. Lock 'em up, men."

Several of the roughly-dressed men advanced toward the group of boys.
Jack's chums looked to him for advice. He had gotten them into the
difficulty, and it was up to him to get them out.

"See here!" exclaimed our hero boldly. "Don't you lay hands on us. We
are camping on this mountain, and I happen to know that it's government
land, and that any one has a right to travel all around it. We have just
as much right here as you have, and if you annoy us I'll appeal to the

"There ain't no law out here, sonny," said one man. "You are suspicious
characters, anyhow. Better not make a fuss now. We're too many for you.
Next time mind your own affairs and you'll not get into trouble."

The men had seized Nat, Bony, Sam and were advancing toward Will and
Jack, who stood a little to one side of their chums.

One man laid hold of Jack, and our hero tried to wrench himself free.
But the man was too strong for him.

Suddenly Will looked across the camp. He saw the man again coming from
the big shed. For a moment it seemed as if the lad had seen a ghost, his
eyes stared so. Then, with a cry he sprang forward, and ran toward the
person near the big shed.

"Catch him!" shouted the man who had directed that the boys be made
prisoners. "He's locoed--crazy!"

"Andy will look after him! He's running right into his arms," said some
one, and sure enough, the man did catch Will in his arms. The next
moment the two disappeared inside the big shed.

Jack and his chums looked at one another.

"He must have gone suddenly out of his head," said Jack. "That blow he
got when he landed in the snow bank has crazed him."



"Now then, you chaps; are you going to come along quietly, or will we
have to use force?" demanded the man who had hold of Jack.

"It depends on what you're going to do with us," replied the captain of
the gun club.

"Well, I don't know what we are going to do with you," answered the man.
"It will depend on what Andy says."

"Who's Andy?"

"That man who just captured your friend--the lad that tried to get

"Look here!" burst out Nat. "If you hurt Will, or any of us, we'll have
you arrested. Hoptoads and hornets! but you haven't any right to treat
us this way."

"Say, sonny, don't use such big words, or you might break an arm or
leg," spoke the man sarcastically. "I've told you once that you hadn't
any right to come here, but now that you're here, you'll have to put up
with the consequences. You'll have to stay here, until Andy decides what
to do with you."

"Well, you'd better go ask him to decide at once," suggested Sam. "We've
got a long way to go back to camp, and we want to start."

"Now just take your time," advised the man. "You're not running this."

He took off his cap, and scratched his head in perplexity. He had a
shock of thick, red hair, and for want of a better name, since he had
not announced it, the lads dubbed him Sandy.

"Was that Andy, as you call him, who went in the big shed with Will?"
asked Jack.

"That's him. He'll have to decide what to do with you, for I'm blessed
if I know. He's the boss."

"Then go ask him," demanded Jack, backing up Sam's suggestion.

"I can't," was the reply.

"Why not?"

"Because Andy has given orders that no one but himself is allowed inside
that shed, except on certain occasions."

"Is he afraid the big bird will get away?" asked Nat.

"What big bird?" inquired Sandy quickly. He took a tighter grip of
Jack's arm, and the other men in the group, each of whom held one of the
young captives, seemed waiting for Nat's reply.

"Oh, we know you've got some kind of a monster bird in that shed," went
on Nat. "We heard it flying over our camp, and we came out here to see

"Is that all you came for?" asked Sandy.

"That's all," put in Jack. "We wanted to solve the mystery of the
strange noises, and the queer marks in the snow."

"What queer marks in the snow?"

Jack told Sandy what he and his chums had seen, relating in detail how
they had tried, on several occasions, to penetrate to the camp, and how,
at length, they had made the trip on the sled.

"Now why don't you go tell Andy, who seems to be the head of this crowd,
what I say, and ask him to let us go?" went on Jack. "We meant no harm,
but we'd like to see the bird."

"So you think it's a bird; eh?"

"Yes, or perhaps some prehistoric monster."

Sandy laughed.

"You're right in thinking Andy is the head of this camp," he said.
"We're all working for him, but, as I said, he won't let one of us go
inside that shed without his orders. Since your friend went in there
he'll have to stay until Andy brings him out. Then you can make your own
plea. Until then I'm going----"

"If you're going to hold us prisoners, you'd better think twice about
it," went on Jack. "My father has friends out West here, and I shall
telegraph him of this outrage as soon as I get away."

"Now go easy," advised the red-haired man. "I'm not going to harm any of
you, but I'm not going to let you get away until Andy has seen you.
You'll have to stay here, but we'll make you as comfortable as possible.
I guess you can stay in one of the cabins. There are some of them empty,
as a number of the men have left."

"Then we're captives?" asked Jack.

"Well, I wouldn't exactly call it that," spoke Sandy with a grin. "Just
consider yourselves our guests. We'll treat you well, and give you
plenty of grub, such as it is."

"We have some of our own," Bony said.

"You haven't any right to detain us," declared Sam.

"We won't discuss that again," said Sandy. "Now be reasonable. S'pose I
did let you go. You couldn't get back to your camp to-night, over the
mountain, and without horses. You'd have to camp in the open. Isn't it
better to stay in one of our cabins, where it's nice and warm? Besides,
it looks like a storm."

Jack could not but admit that this reasoning was good. They had not
counted on getting back, after their trip on the sled, but it was
obvious that they could not coast back to camp, and if they had started
to return, they would have had to pass the night in an open camp, no
very pleasant prospect.

"Well," said Jack at length, "I guess we'll have to stay. But I don't
like the idea of being considered prisoners."

"Well, don't think of it then," advised Sandy with another grin. "Now,
you're free. I let you go. Where will you head for?"

He released Jack's arm, and motioned for his companions to do likewise
for the other lads.

Jack looked about him. Clearly there was no place to escape to. Besides,
it would never do to go off and leave Will in the hands of the enemy.
There was nothing to do but to stay.

"Now, then," went on Sandy, "you can go to that cabin over there," and
he pointed to a large one. "You'll find some bunks there, a good
fireplace, and some grub. Or you can use your own provisions, just as
you like. All I ask is that you give me your word of honor that you'll
not leave without telling me first. It may be that Andy won't want you
detained at all, but I'm taking no chances. Will you promise?"

"Will any harm come to Will?" asked Jack.

"You mean the lad who ran into the shed? I can't say. I know Andy will
be very much put out at his going there, but I don't believe he'll harm
him. Now, will you give me your parole, or will I have to lock you up?"

Jack hesitated a moment.

"I haven't any right to speak for my chums," he said.

"Then take a few minutes to talk with them. We'll leave you alone for
five minutes, and you can give me your answer then."

Sandy and his men withdrew a short distance, leaving the boys in a group
by themselves.

"Well?" questioned Jack. "What shall we do?"

"I don't see what we can do but give him our promise," replied Sam. "It
will be better to be by ourselves, and comparatively free, than to be
locked up somewhere. Besides, we haven't discovered the secret yet."

"That's so," agreed Nat. "I want to see what's in that shed."

"And we may be better able to help Will, by being somewhat free," added
Bony. "I'm for giving our parole."

"All right," agreed Jack. "I think, myself, that will be the best plan.
I wonder what in the world can be in that shed?"

"And I wonder what's happening to Will in there?" added Nat. "We must
find out, if possible."

"We'll give our parole," called Jack to Sandy, and the red-haired man
approached the group of boys alone, having motioned to his companions,
on hearing this, that they could resume their occupations.

"That's good," answered the red-haired man, apparently much relieved.
"Now you can go over there and make yourselves at home. You say you have
some grub of your own. Fetch it, and get busy. Nobody will disturb you."

"And you'll speak to Andy about us, as soon as you can; won't you?"
asked Nat.

"Sure thing. You're only in the way here, if you'll excuse my saying so,
and the sooner you're off, the sooner we can go on with our work."

The boys went to where they had left the sled, got the packages of food,
and, with their guns, which had first been taken from them, and then
restored, as they gave their parole, they went to the cabin Sandy

The red-haired man seemed to pay no further attention to them, but
entered another cabin, near the big shed, while none of the other men
were now in sight. Jerry Chowden had also disappeared.

"They've left us to ourselves," remarked Jack.

"Yes," added Sam. "I wonder what their 'work' can be?"

"It's got something to do with that gigantic bird, I'm sure," said Nat.
"Queer, though, it doesn't make some sound."

"Maybe it's dead," suggested Bony, absently cracking his finger

"No, for we saw the wings moving when the doors were open," said Jack.
"They were evidently just going to let it out, when they saw us."

"But what puzzles me," went on Nat, "is why Will ran off in that queer

"And why they're keeping him in that shed," added Bony. "Why don't they
let him come here with us? We're all in the same boat, as far as coming
here is concerned."

"Maybe they're going to make an example of him," suggested Nat.

"An example? What do you mean?" asked Jack.

"Well, you know they've got a terrible big bird, or some monster in
there. Maybe they're going to feed Will to it--offer him up as a sort of
human sacrifice, you know. Maybe these men worship that strange bird."

"Say, you've been reading too many dime novels," cried Jack. "Offer Will
for a sacrifice! You're crazy to think of such a thing, Nat!"

"I don't care. Didn't the old Aztecs make human sacrifices?"

"Yes, but these men aren't Aztecs."

"How do you know?"

"How do I know? Of course they aren't! They're Americans, all right."

"But they've got some queer secret in that shed," declared Nat

"True enough," admitted Jack, "and we're going to discover what it is,
if possible. But now let's get something to eat. I'm hungry."

They found a good fireplace in the log cabin, and plenty of dry wood,
and soon had a roaring blaze going. They prepared a simple meal, finding
a sufficient supply of dishes in the place, and after eating heartily of
the food they had brought along, they felt better. It was getting late
in the afternoon, and they prepared to spend the night in the hut.

"I wonder if Budge and Long Gun will worry about our not coming back?"
asked Sam.

"No," replied Jack, "for I told Budge I didn't see how we could return,
in case we were successful in getting to the mysterious camp."

"Well, we got here all right," remarked Nat, with an uneasy laugh. "The
question is, how to get away."

"And rescue Will," added Bony.

"Yes," continued Jack, "I don't like the way he acted. I'm afraid his
brain was affected by the blow on the head, following the fright at
coming down on the sled. He isn't very strong, and it wouldn't take much
to upset him. Besides, he's been worrying about finding his uncle, and
about the mean way his guardian has treated him. I certainly hope
nothing has happened to him in that shed, but I can't understand why
that man Andy should keep him there."

The boys passed rather an uneasy night, not only because of their
strange surroundings, but on account of worrying over the fate of Will.
Nor were they altogether easy regarding themselves.

"Well, we're still alive, at any rate," observed Jack, as he arose the
next morning, and helped to get a simple breakfast. "Did any of you
fellows hear anything in the night?"

"It seems to me that I heard people sneaking around the cabin," said

"Same here," added Sam.

"Guess they didn't altogether trust us," came from Nat. "They looked in
on us every once in a while. I wonder how Will slept?"

"Guess we'll have to wait to have that answered," remarked Jack. "If I
see Sandy I'll ask him----"

He stopped suddenly, and looked from a window.

"Here comes Will now," he added.

"And that man Andy is with him!" exclaimed Sam. "Maybe now we'll solve
the mystery."



Jack opened the cabin door, and stood in it, prepared to greet Will. The
other captives gathered back of their chum.

"How are you, Will?" asked Jack, as soon as his friend came within
speaking distance. "We were quite worried about you."

"I'm all right," answered the strange lad.

"Why did you run away?" inquired Sam, while Nat looked closely at Andy.
The man had a good-natured, smiling face, and Nat's spirits began to
rise. He did not think they had much to fear from such a man.

"It's a strange story," said Will, as he entered the cabin, followed by
the man.

The boys crowded around the two, and waited anxiously for Will's next

"First," began the lad, who had acted so strangely, "let me introduce to
you my uncle, Mr. Andrew Swaim."

"Your uncle!" exclaimed Jack.

"Your uncle!" echoed Sam, Bony and Nat.

"That's right. My uncle, whom I ran away from home to seek," went on
Will. "I never expected to find him here."

"Nor I to see my nephew," explained Mr. Swaim. "I was never more
surprised in my life than when he ran to me in the shed. After he had
called me by name, he fainted dead away. He has been unconscious all
night, and only a few minutes ago did he come to his senses. I remained
at his bedside all the while. As soon as he roused, and felt better, he
told me about coming here with you boys, and insisted that I come out to
look for you. That was the first I knew you were still in my camp. I
hope you haven't suffered any inconvenience. I saw you as I was about to
open the shed doors, but I supposed my men warned you away. I hope you
are not angry."

"Not much," replied Jack with a smile. "And so Will fainted as soon as
he greeted you?"

"Yes. He explained later that he got a blow on the head, and that,
together with the thrilling ride down the mountain, on top of the worry
he had sustained in searching for me, and other hardships he had
undergone, made him go temporarily out of his mind. But he is all right
now, he says."

"Yes, that's what I am," said Will. "All my troubles are over, now that
I've found my uncle. What did you think, when I ran away?"

"We didn't know what to think," replied Jack. "Especially when you
didn't come back."

"This is how it was," explained Will. "I saw my uncle as soon as he
began opening the big doors the second time. Before I knew what I was
doing I had run toward him, and when I was near enough I called his
name, and told him who I was. He recognized me at once, and----"

"Yes, and I saw that he was about to keel over," interrupted Mr. Swaim.
"I caught him in my arms, carried him inside the shed, and I had my
hands full all night with him. I had given orders to my men never to
enter that shed except on certain occasions. They did not disobey my
instructions to tell me you boys were still here, and, of course, Will
could tell me nothing until this morning. Then he insisted that we come
out and find you. I called in Stephen----"

"Is that the red-haired man?" asked Jack.

"He is. I called him in, and he explained about you being in this cabin.
And now here we are--Will and I, and I can't thank you enough, Jack
Ranger, for what you did for him. He has told me a little about it, and
how kind you were to him in school. I shall have a score to settle with
that rascally guardian of his. I never suspected Gabel could be so mean.
But his charge of my nephew is ended. I will make other provisions for
Will. Are you boys all right now? Did you have some breakfast?"

"Oh, yes," replied Jack. "If we had known that Will's uncle was in
charge of this camp, we wouldn't have----"

"Now don't make any apologies," interrupted Mr. Swaim. "It's all right.
I want you to make yourselves right to home here. My regulations were
only intended for men who might try to spy on my work. For I am
perfecting a means----"

"Fellows, you'll never guess what the mystery is," burst out Will.
"Excuse me, Uncle Andy," he went on, "but let me tell them. You see
we've puzzled over it so long, and none of us could guess. Jack, Nat,
Sam, Bony--what do you think it is that my uncle has in the big
shed--the thing that flew over our camp and scared Long Gun so? See if
you can guess."

"A great bird--like the roc of the Arabian Nights," said Nat.


"Some sort of eagle, larger than any ever seen in these parts," ventured

"No, that's as far off as Nat was."

"A kite, carrying an engine, working a camera, for taking moving
pictures at night," was Bony's guess.

"No," said Will. "It's your turn, Jack."

Jack thought for a minute. He glanced at the big shed, and then started,
as a sudden idea came to him.

"A balloon?" he asked.

"No, but you're nearest to it. Shall I tell them, Uncle Andy?"

Mr. Swaim nodded.

"It's a great aeroplane!" exclaimed Will.

"An aeroplane!" exclaimed all the other lads in a breath.

"A new form of aeroplane, with propellers built like the great wings of
a bird," explained Mr. Swaim. "It's an invention of mine, but is not
perfected yet, though it flies fairly well. There are certain parts, on
which I have not yet got my patents, and that is why I do not admit any
of the men to the shed when the '_Eagle_' as I call her, is there. But
Will got in before I could stop him, though I guess he'll not try to get
ahead of his uncle."

"No, indeed, Uncle Andy!"

"And did you fly it over our camp?" asked Jack.

"I did, and that was the sound you heard. It makes quite a whirring
noise, when the wings are working fast, and the engine has a peculiar
throbbing sound. I don't wonder you and the Indian guide were

"Oh, Long Gun was more scared than we were," explained Nat.

"Probably. You see I only flew it at night, because I did not want any
one to see it."

"And it really works?" asked Bony.

"Yes, but not as well as I would like it to. I have only been able to
take up myself and one other man, so far. I want it to carry at least
five passengers, but I shall have to alter my engine, or change the
shape of the wings, or else increase their size, before it will lift
that much. But Stephen and I often flew over the mountain. We used to
judge of our position by your camp-fire. At least I suppose, from what
Will tells me, that it was your fire."

"Yes," said Jack. "We heard you calling to one another one night, and
that kept us guessing more than ever."

"What about those queer marks in the snow?" asked Bony.

Mr. Swaim looked puzzled until Jack explained.

"Oh," said the inventor, "that was when we had an accident. The _Eagle_
came down unexpectedly, and turned turtle. Neither I nor Stephen was
hurt, but we had quite a time righting the machine. The marks you saw
must have been the impressions of the wings in the snow."

"We thought it was a great bird," explained Nat.

"And I wasn't so far out, calling it an eagle," spoke Bony, cracking a
couple of finger knuckles, and ending up with both thumbs.

"I have been out here in this secluded place for several months," went
on Mr. Swaim. "That is why I left no address for my nephew's guardian,
as I did not want to be disturbed. I never supposed my nephew would try
to find me, and he probably would not have done so, except by accident.
But I will soon go back East, for my invention is almost perfected, and
I want to give some exhibitions, and try for some government prizes.
Would you boys like to see it tried?"

"You bet!" exclaimed Jack fervently, and the others nodded assent.

"We were going to give it a trial when you boys arrived here," went on
Mr. Swaim. "Now that Will is all right, I think I will take the _Eagle_
out for a flight. I was considerably worried," he continued, "when my
men brought me reports of strangers trying to enter the camp, and I gave
strict orders to keep them out. That is why my men were rather brusk
with you."

"That's all right," answered Jack. "We had no right to come around, but
we were very curious."

"I don't blame you. Well, I'll go and get the machine ready for a trial

"Excuse me for mentioning it," said Jack, as Mr. Swaim prepared to leave
the cabin, "but you have a chap here named Jerry Chowden? My friends and
I used to know him."

"Is that so?" asked Mr. Swaim in some surprise. "I know little about
him. He came to me one day, and asked for work, saying he needed money.
As I was short of help I took him on, but I am sorry I did so, for my
foreman tells me he is not worth his salt, and is lazy in the bargain.
He never said anything to me about meeting you. I shall get rid of him,
I think. Is he a friend of yours?"

"Well, I guess not!" exclaimed Jack heartily.

"I'm glad of it, for I don't like his manners. Now I'll go and see about
taking the ship out. Will may remain with you."

The boys had plenty to talk about now. Their exchange of experiences of
the incidents of the last few hours was interrupted by the appearance of
the great aeroplane, as the men wheeled it out of the shed.

"Wow! Petrified pancakes!" exclaimed Nat. "That's a dandy, though!"

Indeed the _Eagle_, in spite of the fact that Mr. Swaim had said it was
not completed, was a fine example of an aeroplane. The boys crowded up
close to it, examining the different parts, while Will's uncle and some
of his men got it ready for a flight. As they started the motor, which
worked the great wings, Nat said:

"That accounts for the gasolene smell. I guess the mystery is all
explained now."

"It seems so," spoke Jack.

The aeroplane was taken to the ice-covered pond, over which the sled had
slid on the finish of its perilous trip.

"Is that what this is for?" asked Jack.

"Yes," replied Mr. Swaim. "We cleared the snow off it on purpose to use
for our trials. An aeroplane, you know, as at present constructed, has
to get a start on the ground, in order to acquire enough momentum to
rise. I find it much easier to skim along on the slippery ice, than over
the ground. Well, are we all ready, Stephen?"

The red-haired man, who was the chief mechanic, nodded an assent. He and
Mr. Swaim got into a seat, adjusted some levers and wheels, and then
another man cranked up the motor.

The great propellers, built like the wings of a bird, began to work,
with a sound that was exactly like that heard over the camp. The
aeroplane slid forward, and after going for some distance over the
frozen pond, rose into the air, as Mr. Swaim shifted the elevation

Up, up, up it went, until it was higher than the mountain down which the
boys had slid. Then it began to circle about.

"My! But that's fine!" exclaimed Jack.

"Jupiter's Johnnie cake! But it certainly is!" exclaimed Nat fervently.

For half an hour or more Mr. Swaim circled about in the air overhead;
then he and Stephen came down, landing on the pond with scarcely a

"What do you think of it?" asked the inventor proudly.

"It's great!" exclaimed Jack enthusiastically, and his chums echoed this

"Would you like to try a ride in it?" asked Will's uncle.

"Well--er--not just now," stammered Jack, and Mr. Swaim laughed.

"No, I wouldn't want you to risk it, until I have perfected it a little
more, though Stephen and I have gone twenty miles in it."

One of the workmen ran up, and whispered something to Mr. Swaim.

"Is that so?" he asked, in some surprise. "Well, that simplifies
matters. I have just been told," he went on, turning to the boys, "that
Jerry Chowden has disappeared. I guess he did not want to meet you

"I guess not," said Jack significantly.

The boys spent some time further, examining the aeroplane, and visiting
the machine shop, whence came the throbbing of a gasolene engine--the
same sound they had heard when on their second visit to the camp.

Jack asked Will's uncle if on any occasion he and Stephen had not landed
near the camp, for Jack had in mind the occasion when the meat was
stolen from the tree by the bear.

"Oh, was that your meat?" asked Mr. Swaim with a laugh, when Jack had
explained. "We always wondered whom we had robbed. Stephen and I were
out for a flight that night, and we had to descend because of an
accident to the motor. We came down near the tree where the meat was,
and surprised a bear at work getting it. Bruin scrambled down and ran
away, and we concluded to take some of the meat, as we were short. Then
we started the machine off again, and came here. I hope we didn't put
you to any inconvenience."

"Oh, no," replied Jack. "It only puzzled us some, that was all. But have
you an arrow in hobnails, on the soles of your boots?"

Mr. Swaim lifted his foot and showed the arrow.

"That explains everything," remarked Nat.

"Yes, the mystery is ended," added Jack.



"Well," remarked Mr. Swaim, when the aeroplane had been put back in the
shed, "I'd like to have you boys come to dinner with me. We don't have
anything very elaborate in camp----"

"We don't care for elaborate things," interrupted Jack. "We're camping
on our own hook, and I was just thinking we had better begin to think of
going back, or Budge and Long Gun may get worried, and start out after

"I'd take you back in the aeroplane, only I can't carry you all," said
Mr. Swaim. "However, let's have dinner, and then you can decide what to

The meal was much enjoyed, and at its conclusion, Will remarked:

"Have you decided what to do with me, Uncle Andy?"

"Well--no--not exactly," replied Mr. Swaim. "Do you want to stay with
me, or go back with your friends for a while? One thing is certain,
you'll not go back to that rascal of a Lewis Gabel. I'll take you from
his charge."

"I'd like to go with Jack and his chums," said Will, "only they'll be
going back East soon, I expect, and they haven't got an extra horse for
me to ride."

"We can easily manage that," said Jack. "I've got to send word to Tanker
Ike to come and get our camp stuff, and he can just as well bring along
an extra horse with him. So don't let that worry you."

"I'm afraid I'm giving you a lot of trouble," said Will.

"Not a bit of it. Come, and welcome."

"If you can manage it, I think it will be the best plan," said Mr.
Swaim. "My camp isn't much of a place for a boy, but I will soon be
coming East, Will, and then I'll look after you. In the meanwhile take
this to use for the spending money that Mr. Gabel wrongfully kept from
you," and he handed his nephew a substantial sum.

The boys took a last look at the aeroplane, and bidding Mr. Swaim
good-by, set off on a long tramp over the mountain for their camp.
Fortunately the weather was fine, and they were not hampered by any
storm, so they reached their tent late that afternoon.

"Jugitback?" asked Budge, as calmly as if they had been gone only an
hour or so, and he pulled out a long string of gum, and began to work it
back into his mouth again.

"Yes, we're here," said Jack. "Did you and Long Gun get along all


"Well, we'll soon begin packing for home----"

"Home? You mean Pryor's Gap, I guess," exclaimed Nat. "You're not going
without seeing Mabel; are you?"

"That's none of your affair," retorted Jack, his face reddening under
his tan.

"We ought to have one more hunt before we go," said Sam.

"That's what," put in Bony, and Jack agreed.

They spent two days more tramping over the mountains after game. Will
killed a fair-sized bear, Nat got a large deer, and Jack bowled over a
great ram, that had a fine pair of horns, which our hero declared he was
perfectly satisfied with, as they would appropriately fill a certain
space on the wall of his room.

"And now," he said, as they were gathered around the camp fire that
night, "I think the outing of our gun club is almost at an end."

"Got to go to Pryor's Gap yet!" murmured Nat from the shadows, and the
rest of them laughed.

The next day Long Gun started on his horse to take word to Tanker Ike
that the boys were ready to come back. He was gone two days, which the
lads put in by packing up, and taking little trips, not far from their
camp. The third day the Indian returned with the freight wagon, driven
by Ike, who also brought along an extra horse for Will.

"Well!" he exclaimed, "you certainly had great luck," and he looked at
the collection of skins and horns. "But it's about time to go back.
There's a big storm coming, and it'll be here soon."

"We must take plenty of water this time, so if a tank springs a leak on
the desert we won't get thirsty," said Sam.

"We're not going to cross the desert," spoke Jack.

"Why not?"

"Because we're going back by way of Pryor's Gap," explained Jack boldly,
and he did not heed the shouts of laughter that greeted his
announcement. "We promised to call on Mr. Pierce, you know," he added.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Pierce, with the accent on the _Mister_," shouted Nat, and
then he dodged behind the wagon to get out of Jack's reach.

Two days later they were at Pryor's Gap, and Mr. Pierce was glad to see
them. He insisted that they stay several days at his house, to which
Jack agreed. But his host did not see much of our hero, for, somehow,
there were many sights of interest about the Gap, and no one seemed able
to point them out to Jack, save a certain brown-eyed maiden--but there,
what's the use of rubbing it in?

"Well, I hope you lads will come camping out here again, soon," said Mr.
Pierce, as the members of the gun club prepared to take their leave.

"I hope we can," said Jack. "We have enjoyed the hospitality of you and
your daughter very much."

"Especially the daughter," put in Nat, in a voice intended only for
Jack's ear. "You old duffer, you monopolized her."

"Humph!" exclaimed Jack. "Who had a better right?"

"Good-by, boys!" called Mr. Pierce.

"Good-by," chorused the members of Jack Ranger's gun club.

"Good-by," spoke Mabel, with a blush, but she only looked at Jack. "Come

"We will," said our hero decidedly, as he held her hand at parting a
little longer than perhaps was strictly necessary. But, as we asked
before, what's the use of rubbing it in?

"We certainly had a great time," observed Will, as they started off from
Pryor's Gap.

"The best ever," agreed the others.

"I wonder what we'll do next year," spoke Sam.

But what they did will be told in the next volume of this series, to be
entitled "Jack Ranger's Treasure Box; or, The Outing of the Schoolboy
Yachtsmen." In that story we shall meet all our old friends again and
learn the particulars of a most unusual mystery, and how it was solved.

A few days later the boys were in a train that was swiftly taking them
back East, and to Washington Hall, which institution, as Jack learned in
a letter from his father, that was waiting for him at Denver, had been
repaired, and was ready for the students.

"Oh, dear, to think of going back to studies again," sighed Nat, as he
thought of the fun they had had.

"Never mind, we'll have some sport yet," consoled Jack. "Professors
Socrat and Garlach are still available."

"Yes, and think of the experience we have had," said Will.

"Oh, well, we always have some sort of queer experience when we go out
with Jack Ranger," added Nat. "All out for Pryor's Gap," he shouted, as
the train pulled into a station. Then he ducked down behind a seat to
escape a wad of paper that Jack threw at him.




_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors_

_Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_

_Mr. Chadwick has played on the diamond and on the gridiron himself._


_A Story of College Baseball_

Tom Parsons, a "hayseed," makes good on the scrub team of Randall


_A Story of College Football_

A football story, told in Mr. Chadwick's best style, that is bound to
grip the reader from the start.


_A Story of College Baseball_

Tom Parsons and his friends Phil and Sid are the leading players on
Randall College team. There is a great game.


_A Story of College Football_

After having to reorganize their team at the last moment, Randall makes
a touchdown that won a big game.


_A Story of College Athletics_

The winning of the hurdle race and long-distance run is extremely


_A Story of College Water Sports_

Tom, Phil and Sid prove as good at aquatic sports as they are on track,
gridiron and diamond.

_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers, New York



_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors_

_Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_

_Lively stories of outdoor sports and adventure every boy will want to


_or The Rivals of Washington Hall_

You will love Jack Ranger--you simply can't help it. He is bright and
cheery, and earnest in all he does.


_or From Boarding School to Ranch and Range_

This volume takes the hero to the great West. Jack is anxious to clear
up the mystery surrounding his father's disappearance.


_or Track, Gridiron and Diamond_

Jack gets back to Washington Hall and goes in for all sorts of school
games. There are numerous contests on the athletic field.


_or The Wreck of the Polly Ann_

How Jack was carried off to sea against his will makes a "yarn" no boy
will want to miss.


_or From Schoolroom to Camp and Trail_

Jack organizes a gun club and with his chums goes in quest of big game.
They have many adventures in the mountains.


_or The Outing of the Schoolboy Yachtsmen_

Jack receives a box from his father and it is stolen. How he regains it
makes an absorbing tale.

_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers, New York



_12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_


_or The Rivals of Riverside_

Joe is an everyday country boy who loves to play baseball and
particularly to pitch.


_or Pitching for the Blue Banner_

Joe's great ambition was to go to boarding school and play on the school


_or Pitching for the College Championship_

Joe goes to Yale University. In his second year he becomes a varsity
pitcher and pitches in several big games.


_or Making Good as a Professional Pitcher_

In this volume the scene of action is shifted from Yale college to a
baseball league of our Central States.


_or A Young Pitcher's Hardest Struggles_

From the Central League Joe is drafted into the St. Louis Nationals. A
corking baseball story all fans will enjoy.


_or Making Good as a Twirler in the Metropolis_

How Joe was traded to the Giants and became their mainstay in the box
makes an interesting baseball story.


_or Pitching for the Championship_

The rivalry was of course of the keenest, and what Joe did to win the
series is told in a manner to thrill the most jaded reader.


_or Pitching on a Grand Tour_

The Giants and the All-Americans tour the world, playing in many foreign


_or The Greatest Pitcher and Batter on Record_

Joe cultivates his handling of the bat until he becomes the greatest
batter in the game.

_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers, New York



_12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid_

 The Motor Boys
 _or Chums Through Thick and Thin_

 The Motor Boys Overland
 _or A Long Trip for Fun and Fortune_

 The Motor Boys in Mexico
 _or The Secret of The Buried City_

 The Motor Boys Across the Plains
 _or The Hermit of Lost Lake_

 The Motor Boys Afloat
 _or The Cruise of the Dartaway_

 The Motor Boys on the Atlantic
 _or The Mystery of the Lighthouse_

 The Motor Boys in Strange Waters
 _or Lost in a Floating Forest_

 The Motor Boys on the Pacific
 _or The Young Derelict Hunters_

 The Motor Boys in the Clouds
 _or A Trip for Fame and Fortune_

 The Motor Boys Over the Rockies
 _or A Mystery of the Air_

 The Motor Boys Over the Ocean
 _or a Marvelous Rescue in Mid-Air_

 The Motor Boys on the Wing
 _or Seeking the Airship Treasure_

 The Motor Boys After a Fortune
 _or The Hut on Snake Island_

 The Motor Boys on the Border
 _or Sixty Nuggets of Gold_

 The Motor Boys Under the Sea
 _or From Airship to Submarine_

 The Motor Boys on Road and River
 _or Racing to Save a Life_



 Ned, Bob and Jerry at Boxwood Hall
 _or The Motor Boys as Freshmen_

 Ned, Bob and Jerry on a Ranch
 _or The Motor Boys Among the Cowboys_

 Ned, Bob and Jerry in the Army
 _or The Motor Boys as Volunteers_

 Ned, Bob and Jerry on the Firing Line
 _or The Motor Boys Fighting for Uncle Sam_

 Ned, Bob and Jerry Bound for Home
 _or The Motor Boys on the Wrecked Troopship_

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers, New York

_The Boy Hunters Series_

_By Captain Ralph Bonehill_

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid.


_Or, The Outing of the Gun Club_

A fine, breezy story of the woods and waters, of adventures in search of
game, and of great times around the campfire, told in Captain Bonehill's
best style. In the book are given full directions for camping out.


_Or, The Winter Outing of the Young Hunters_

In this volume the young hunters leave home for a winter outing on the
shores of a small lake. They hunt and trap to their heart's content, and
have adventures in plenty, all calculated to make boys "sit up and take
notice." A good healthy book; one with the odor of the pine forests and
the glare of the welcome campfire in every chapter.


_Or, Out with Rod and Gun_

Another tale of woods and waters, with some strong hunting scenes and a
good deal of mystery. The three volumes make a splendid outdoor series.


_Or, The Boy Hunters in the Mountains_

Takes up the new fad of photographing wild animals as well as shooting
them. An escaped circus chimpanzee and an escaped lion add to the
interest of the narrative.




_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in full color._

_Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid_

_True-to-life stories of the camp and field in the great war._


_or Training for the Big Fight in France_

Two zealous young patriots volunteer and begin their military training.
Together they get into a baffling camp mystery.


_or Doing Their Bit on Sea and Land._

Our soldier boys having completed their training at Camp Sterling are
transferred to a Southern cantonment from which they are finally sent
aboard a troopship for France.


_or Shoulder to Shoulder in the Trenches_

The Khaki Boys reach France, and, after some intensive training in sound
of the battle front, are sent into the trenches.


_or Doing and Daring for Uncle Sam_

A spirited tale, telling how the brave soldier boys went over the top in
the face of a fierce fire from the enemy.


_or Smashing the German Lines_

Another great war story, showing how the Khaki Boys did their duty as
fighters for Uncle Sam under tremendous difficulties.


_or Winning the Honors of War_

Telling of the march to the Rhine, crossing into Germany and of various
troubles the doughboys had with the Boches.

_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers, New York



Author of "The Tom Fairfield Series," "The Boys of Pluck Series" and
"The Darewell Chums Series."

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

A line of tales embracing school athletics. Fred is a true type of the
American schoolboy of to-day.


_or The Rivals of Riverport School_

When Fred came to Riverport none of the school lads knew him, but he
speedily proved his worth in the baseball box. A true picture of school


_or The Football Boys of Riverport School_

When Fall came in the thoughts of the boys turned to football. Fred went
in the line, and again proved his worth, making a run that helped to win
a great game.


_or The Young Oarsmen of Riverport School_

In this volume the scene is shifted to the river, and Fred and his chums
show how they can handle the oars. There are many other adventures, all
dear to the hearts of boys.


_or The Athletes of Riverport School_

Track athletics form a subject of vast interest to many boys, and here
is a tale telling of great running races, high jumping, and the like.
Fred again proves himself a hero in the best sense of that term.


_or The Great Race at Riverport School_

Fred is taking a post-graduate course at the school when the subject of
Marathon running came up. A race is arranged, and Fred shows both his
friends and his enemies what he can do. An athletic story of special




Author of the "Fred Fenton Athletic Series," "The Boys of Pluck Series,"
and "The Darewell Chums Series."

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

Tom Fairfield is a typical American lad, full of life and energy, a boy
who believes in doing things. To know Tom is to love him.


_or The Chums of Elmwood Hall_

Tells of how Tom started for school, of the mystery surrounding one of
the Hall seniors, and of how the hero went to the rescue. The first book
in a line that is bound to become decidedly popular.


_or The Wreck of the Silver Star_

Tom's parents had gone to Australia and then been cast away somewhere in
the Pacific. Tom set out to find them and was himself cast away. A
thrilling picture of the perils of the deep.


_or The Secret of the Old Mill_

The boys decided to go camping, and located near an old mill. A wild man
resided there and he made it decidedly lively for Tom and his chums. The
secret of the old mill adds to the interest of the volume.


_or Working to Clear His Name_

While Tom was back at school some of his enemies tried to get him into
trouble. Something unusual occurred and Tom was suspected of a crime.
How he set to work to clear his name is told in a manner to interest all
young readers.


_or Lost in the Wilderness_

Tom was only a schoolboy, but he loved to use a shotgun or a rifle. In
this volume we meet him on a hunting trip full of outdoor life and good
times around the camp-fire.




12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

All lads who love life in the open air and a good steed, will want to
peruse these books. Captain Carson knows his subject thoroughly, and his
stories are as pleasing as they are healthful and instructive.


_or Lost on Thunder Mountain_

Telling how the lads started out to solve the mystery of a great noise
in the mountains--how they got lost--and of the things they discovered.


_or The Hermit of the Cave_

A weird and wonderful story of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, told in
a most absorbing manner. The Saddle Boys are to the front in a manner to
please all young readers.


_or After a Treasure of Gold_

In this story the scene is shifted to the great plains of the southwest
and then to the Mexican border. There is a stirring struggle for gold,
told as only Captain Carson can tell it.


_or In at the Grand Round-up_

Here we have lively times at the ranch, and likewise the particulars of
a grand round-up of cattle and encounters with wild animals and also
cattle thieves. A story that breathes the very air of the plains.


_or In the Hands of the Enemy_

The scene is shifted in this volume to Mexico. The boys go on an
important errand, and are caught between the lines of the Mexican
soldiers. They are captured and for a while things look black for them;
but all ends happily.

CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers, New York



Author of the "Speedwell Boys Series" and the "Great Marvel Series."

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

Never was there a more clever young aviator than Dave Dashaway. All
up-to-date lads will surely wish to read about him.


_or In the Clouds for Fame and Fortune_

This initial volume tells how the hero ran away from his miserly
guardian, fell in with a successful airman, and became a young aviator
of note.


_or Daring Adventures Over the Great Lakes_

Showing how Dave continued his career as a birdman and had many
adventures over the Great Lakes, and how he foiled the plans of some
Canadian smugglers.


_or A Marvellous Trip Across the Atlantic_

How the giant airship was constructed and how the daring young aviator
and his friends made the hazardous journey through the clouds from the
new world to the old, is told in a way to hold the reader spellbound.


_or A Young Yankee Aviator Among Many Nations_

An absorbing tale of a great air flight around the world, of adventures
in Alaska, Siberia and elsewhere. A true to life picture of what may be
accomplished in the near future.


_or Wizard Work in the Clouds_

Dave makes several daring trips, and then enters a contest for a big
prize. An aviation tale thrilling in the extreme.




Author of "The Dave Dashaway Series," "Great Marvel Series," etc.

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid.

All boys who love to be on the go will welcome the Speedwell boys. They
are clean cut and loyal lads.


_or The Mystery of a Great Conflagration_

The lads were poor, but they did a rich man a great service and he
presented them with their motor cycles. What a great fire led to is
exceedingly well told.


_or A Run for the Golden Cup_

A tale of automobiling and of intense rivalry on the road. There was an
endurance run and the boys entered the contest. On the run they rounded
up some men who were wanted by the law.


_or To the Rescue of the Castaways_

Here is an unusual story. There was a wreck, and the lads, in their
power launch, set out to the rescue. A vivid picture of a great storm
adds to the interest of the tale.


_or The Lost Treasure of Rocky Cove_

An old sailor knows of a treasure lost under water because of a cliff
falling into the sea. The boys get a chance to go out in a submarine and
they make a hunt for the treasure.


_or The Perils of a Great Blizzard_

The boys had an idea for a new sort of iceboat, to be run by combined
wind and motor power. How they built the craft, and what fine times they
had on board of it, is well related.




_12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in full colors_

_Price per volume, 65 cents, postpaid_

_Stories of the great west, with cattle ranches as a setting, related in
such a style as to captivate the hearts of all boys. In each volume
there is, as a background, some definite historical or scientific fact
about which the tales hinge._


_or Solving the Mystery at Diamond X_

Two eastern boys visit their cousin, whose father owns several cattle
ranches in the far West. One of these is the Diamond X. From the moment
of their arrival they are involved in a mystery with their western


_or The Water Fight at Diamond X_

Returning for a summer visit to their western cousin's ranch, the two
eastern lads learn, with delight, that they are to be allowed to become
boy ranchers in earnest. The three lads decide to go into the venture


_or The Diamond X After Cattle Rustlers_

This volume relates how our boy heroes took the trail after Del Pinzo
and his outlaws and, with the help of the loyal cowpunchers from Diamond
X, finally rounded up the cattle thieves.


_or Trailing the Yaquis_

Rosemary and Floyd visiting their cousins Bud, Nort and Dick, are
captured by the Yaqui Indians. The boy ranchers trail the savages into
the mountains and eventually effect the rescue.

_Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers, New York

Changes from the original book:

Table of contents, "A Snow Storm" changed to "A Snowstorm" to match the
chapter heading.

Page 3, "same a splash" changed to "came a splash".

Page 4, "as ist was called" changed to "as it was called".

Page 13, "order Sam Chalmers" changed to "ordered Sam Chalmers".

Page 24, quote added before "and the first verse".

Page 26, "advisd Jack" changed to "advised Jack".

Page 38, "fist shot out" illustration moved from after page 36.

Page 57, "suddeness with which" changed to "suddenness with which".

Page 98, question mark added after "in Wyoming, without money".

Page 153, "took quick aim" illustration moved from after page 156.

Page 161, question mark added after "how are we to get down".

Page 166, apostrophe added before "Stoomuchwork".

Page 176, "At Jack and Nat" changed to "As Jack and Nat".

Page 199, "bear" illustration moved from first page.

Page 242, "Jack want's to" changed to "Jack wants to".

Page 252, "sled" illustration moved from next page.

Page 284, quote removed after "a substantial sum."

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jack Ranger's Gun Club - From Schoolroom to Camp and Trail" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.