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Title: Four in Camp - A Story of Summer Adventures in the New Hampshire Woods
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Four in Camp - A Story of Summer Adventures in the New Hampshire Woods" ***

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                             FOUR IN CAMP



[Illustration: “Coming! Don’t give up, boys!”]



                             FOUR IN CAMP

                     A STORY OF SUMMER ADVENTURES
                      IN THE NEW HAMPSHIRE WOODS

                        By RALPH HENRY BARBOUR

            _Author of “The Half-Back,” “Behind the Line,”
              “Weatherby’s Inning,” “On Your Mark,” etc._

                              ILLUSTRATED

                            [Illustration]

                               NEW YORK
                        D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
                                 1905



                          Copyright, 1905, by
                        D. APPLETON AND COMPANY


_Published September, 1905_



                                  TO
                      THE CHIEF, COUNCILLORS AND
                          FELLOWS OF SHERWOOD
                                FOREST



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                                      PAGE

     I.--INTRODUCES NELSON TILFORD AND WITNESSES HIS ARRIVAL
             AT CAMP CHICORA                                     1

    II.--TELLS OF A TALK BY THE CAMP-FIRE AND OF HAPPENINGS
             IN A DORMITORY                                     10

   III.--SHOWS THAT A MOTOR-DORY CAN GO AS WELL AS STOP         22

    IV.--RELATES HOW NELSON BORROWED A LEAF FROM BOB,
             AND HOW DAN CRIED QUITS                            34

     V.--TELLS HOW DAN PLAYED A TRUMP CARD, HOW BOB
             GAINED HONOR AND HOW THE “BIG FOUR” CAME
             INTO EXISTENCE                                     48

    VI.--OPENS WITH AWFUL TIDINGS AND ENDS WITH A GLEAM
             OF HOPE                                            59

   VII.--PROVES THE TRUTH OF THE SAYING THAT THERE IS
             ALWAYS ROOM AT THE TOP, AND SHOWS DAN WITH
             THE “BLUES”                                        70

  VIII.--TELLS HOW TOM WAS VISITED BY AUNT LOUISA--AND
             SOME OTHERS                                        82

    IX.--STARTS WITH POETRY, HAS TO DO WITH A BEETLE AND
             ENDS WITH A PENALTY                                91

     X.--DESCRIBES AN AFTERNOON ON THE LAKE AND A GALLANT
             RESCUE                                            104

    XI.--TELLS HOW THE FOUR PLANNED AN EXCURSION, AND
             HOW DAN AND NELSON PLAYED HARES, MADE A
             DISCOVERY AND HAD A FRIGHT                        111

   XII.--HAS TO DO WITH A STORM AND LIGHTNING, DISCOVERS
             TOM IN TEARS, AND CONCLUDES THE ADVENTURE         122

  XIII.--RECALLS THE FACT THAT WHAT’S FAIR FOR ONE IS
             FAIR FOR ANOTHER AND RECORDS A DEFEAT AND A
             VICTORY                                           132

   XIV.--BEGINS A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE WHICH THREATENS TO
             END IN DISASTER                                   140

    XV.--CONCLUDES THE ADVENTURE AND SHOWS TOM SLEEPING
             THE SLEEP OF THE JUST                             152

   XVI.--RECORDS TWO VICTORIES OVER WICKASAW AND AN
             EPISODE WITH FISH                                 159

  XVII.--WITNESSES THE DEPARTURE OF THE FOUR ON A CANOE
             TRIP AND BRINGS THEM INTO CAMP FOR THE NIGHT      174

 XVIII.--TELLS HOW THEY FOUND A DERELICT AND A COURSE
             DINNER, AND MET WITH SHIPWRECK                    189

   XIX.--CONCERNS ITSELF WITH THE DANGEROUS PLIGHT OF
             DAN AND NELSON AND THE COURAGE OF THE
             LATTER                                            199

    XX.--RELATES THE CONCLUSION OF THE TRIP AND WHAT
             HAPPENED AT CAMP                                  210

   XXI.--TELLS HOW THE FOUR LAID PLANS AND HOW BOB
             PREPARED FOR A VICTORY                            219

  XXII.--NARRATES THE PROGRESS OF THE CONTEST WITH
             WICKASAW AND WITNESSES THE DISINTEGRATION OF
             ONE WELLS                                         233

 XXIII.--PROVES THE SCORE-BOOK IN ERROR AND CLOSES THE
             STORY                                             242



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                        FACING
                                                         PAGE

  “Coming! Don’t give up, boys!”      _Frontispiece._

  Camp Chicora.                                              6

  He was tracing a monstrous C.                             80

  “Look!” he cried.                                        120

  “Over with them,” said Dan.                              162

  He dashed for the plate.                                 244



[Illustration: Camp Chicora.]



FOUR IN CAMP



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCES NELSON TILFORD, AND WITNESSES HIS ARRIVAL AT CAMP CHICORA


“That’s Chicora over there.”

The man at the wheel turned to the boy standing beside him and nodded
his head at a landing toward which the nose of the big steam-launch was
slowly turning. It lay less than an eighth of a mile away across the
smooth waters of the lake, a good-sized wharf, a float, a pole from
which a blue-and-gray flag hung lifeless, and a flotilla of various
kinds of boats. Several figures stood upon the pier, and their voices
came shrill and clear across the intervening space. From the shore,
which here circled inward into a tiny cove, the hill swept up rather
abruptly for three hundred feet or more, and a third of the way up the
gleam of unpainted boards through the trees told Nelson Tilford of the
location of the camp which was to be his home for the next two months.
It was a pleasant, peaceful scene before him, but the shadow of the
hill had already crept well into the lake, leaving the shore and wooded
slope in twilight, and a slight qualm of loneliness stole over him for
the instant.

He had left the Boston express at Warder, six miles away, at half past
four, and had been rattled over a constantly turning road behind a pair
of stout horses to Chicora Landing, where, followed by his trunk, he
had boarded one of the several small steam-boats which lay at intervals
up and down the long shed like horses in their stalls. A half a mile
at slow speed through a winding river, scarcely wide enough in places
for the boat to scrape through between the low banks, had brought
them into Little Chicora, hardly more than a pond. Another and far
shorter stretch of river followed, and then, with a warning blast, the
steam-launch had thrust her bow into the broad waters of the big lake,
spread out like a great mirror in the evening sunlight, dotted here
and there with well-wooded islands, and guarded by gently rising hills
covered with maples, pines, white and black birches, poplars, and many
other trees whose names Nelson did not know. White farmhouses gleamed
now and then from the shores, and slender purple ribbons of smoke,
rising straight into the calm evening air, told of other dwellings,
unseen for the thick foliage. They had made three stops on the south
side of the lake, first at Chicora Inn Landing, from where the big
hotel was plainly visible a quarter of a mile away, then at Squirrel
Island and Plum Island. Nelson had been interested all the way, for he
had never seen a New Hampshire lake before, and the glimpses he had
obtained of the comfortable summer camps and their healthy, sun-browned
inhabitants had pleased him hugely. But when Plum Island had been left
behind and the boat had entered the shadowed margin of the lake his
spirits began to sink. The water and the dim woods looked cold and
inhospitable to the city-bred lad. He wondered what the fellows of Camp
Chicora would be like, and wished that he had joined at the beginning
of the season instead of a fortnight after it. Now that it was past,
that week at the beach with a school friend had not been especially
enjoyable after all; and the rôle of the new boy was not, he knew
from experience, at all comfortable. He almost wished he had held out
against his father’s desires and stayed snugly at home.

His rueful thoughts were abruptly interrupted by a shrill blast of the
launch’s whistle. They were close to the landing, and Nelson picked up
his suit-case and climbed to the deck. The bell tinkled, the churn
of the propeller ceased, and the boat sidled up to the pier. Nelson
stepped ashore into a group of half-a-dozen fellows and set his bag
down, prepared to lend a hand to the landing of his trunk. But some one
was before him, a man of twenty-three or four, who, when the trunk was
safely ashore, turned to Nelson with outstretched hand and welcoming
smile.

“This is Nelson Tilford, isn’t it?” he asked, as they shook hands.
“Glad to see you. Mr. Clinton didn’t get your letter until this noon,
so we couldn’t meet you at the station. Did you have any trouble
finding your way to us?”

“No, sir,” said Nelson, “every one seemed to know all about the camp.”

“That’s good. Well, let’s go up.” He took Nelson’s suit-case, despite
the latter’s remonstrances, and led the way along the pier to a
well-worn path which wound up the hill. Nelson, sensible of the frankly
curious regard of the other fellows, followed. A bugle sounded clear
and musical from the camp, and Nelson’s companion turned and waited for
him to range himself alongside. “There’s the first supper call, now,”
he said. “I guess you’re a bit hungry, aren’t you? By the way, I’m
Mr. Verder, one of the councilors. There are four of us besides Mr.
Clinton. You’ll meet them when we get up there. The Chief’s away this
evening, but he’ll be back in time for camp-fire. We’re going to put
you in Maple Hall, where the seniors bunk. That’s where I am, so if you
want anything to-night don’t hesitate to ask me.”

“Thank you,” answered Nelson gratefully. His companion chatted on while
they climbed the path, which led by easy stages up the hill through a
thin woods, and Nelson forgot his previous misgivings. If the fellows
were as jolly as Mr. Verder, he reflected, he was pretty sure to get
on. The man beside him seemed scarcely more than a big boy, and his
sun-burned face was good to look at. He was dressed in a gray jersey
bearing a blue C on the breast, gray trousers with a blue stripe down
the seam, and brown canvas shoes. He wore no cap, and the warm tan
extended well up into the somewhat curly hair. His arms were bare to
the shoulders. Nelson concluded he was going to like Mr. Verder; he
looked strong, alert, good-humored, and a gentleman.

Two minutes of up-hill work on the winding path brought them to the
clearing. The five buildings were arranged in what was practically a
semicircle facing the end of the path. Back of them on all sides rose
the forest. In the clearing a few trees had been allowed to remain,
spruce in most cases, and one tall sentinel, shorn closely of its
branches, and standing guard at the head of the path to the lake, had
become a flagpole from which, as Nelson came into sight, the Stars and
Stripes was being lowered, its place to be taken by a lighted lantern.
Boys were coming and going between the buildings, or were scattered in
little groups at the doorways.

Near at hand, by the entrance of Birch Hall, a knot of three men were
standing, and to them Nelson was conducted and introduced. There was
Mr. Ellery, almost middle-aged, slight, rather frail-looking; Mr.
Thorpe, small, rotund, jovial, with twinkling blue eyes; and Mr.
Smith, just out of college, nervous-looking, with black hair and black
eyes, the latter snapping behind a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. It was
difficult to stand in awe of persons attired negligently in shirt and
trousers alone; and, anyway, none of the four councilors seemed at all
desirous of impressing the newcomer with their dignity or authority.
They were a sunburned, clear-eyed lot, troubling themselves very little
with such things, but brimming over with kindly good-nature. After the
greetings Nelson was hurried away by Mr. Verder to the wash-room, from
whence, having hastily splashed his face and hands with water from a
tin basin, he was hustled to the dining-hall, just as the bugle
was blaring the last call to supper and the hungry denizens of the
camp were crowding and jostling into the building. Nelson followed Mr.
Verder, stood while Mr. Ellery asked grace, and then pulled out his
stool and took his place at table. Mr. Verder, who sat at the head of
the table, was beside him. There were three other tables in the room,
and all were filled.

There was very little ceremony about the meal. The clean white boards
held huge pitchers of cocoa, milk, water, generous plates of biscuits
and crackers and cake, saucers of wild raspberries and bowls of cereal,
and to each table two boys were bringing plates of ham and eggs from
the kitchen. Every one talked at once, and, as there were twenty-nine
present, that meant lots of noise. At his own table there were ten boys
besides himself, and Nelson looked them over as he ate. They seemed a
very hungry, happy, and noisy lot; and at first glance they appeared
to lack something of refinement and breeding, but he afterward found
that it was necessary to make allowances for the freedom of camp
life, and for the difference between ordinary attire and that worn
at Chicora; gray jerseys and knee-trunks in conjunction with tanned
bodies and tousled hair naturally lend an appearance of roughness. In
ages the fellows varied from ten to seventeen, the most of them being
apparently of about Nelson’s age, which was fifteen. In the end he
decided they were a very decent-looking lot of fellows.

Naturally Nelson didn’t do all the examining. At some time or other
during the meal every lad there who could get a glimpse of the newcomer
looked him over and formed his opinion of him. Most, if not all, liked
what they saw. Nelson Tilford was slim without being thin, of medium
height for his years, rather broad across the shoulders and chest,
brown of hair and eyes, with good features, and a somewhat quiet and
thoughtful expression. A big, red-haired, blue-eyed youth at the
farther end of the table confided to his left-hand neighbor that “the
new chap looked to him like a bit of a snob.” But the other shook his
head.

“I don’t think so, Dan,” he answered, between mouthfuls of chocolate
cake; “I bet he’ll turn out to be a swell chap.”

Nelson’s appetite failed him long before those of his companions--for
perhaps the only time that summer--and he took note of the room. It
was about forty feet long by thirty broad. There were no windows, but
along both sides and at one end wooden shutters opened upward and
inward and were hooked to the ceiling, allowing great square openings,
through which the darkening forest was visible, and through which
eager yellow-jackets came and went seeking the sugar-bowls or flying
homeward with their booty. At one end a door gave into the kitchen, and
by it was a window like that of a ticket-office, through which the food
was passed to the waiters. At the other end, in the corner away from
the door, was a railed enclosure containing a roll-top desk and chairs,
which Nelson rightly presumed to be Mr. Clinton’s office. Presently the
signal was given allowing them to rise. He rescued his suit-case from
where he had left it inside the door and turned to find Mr. Verder.
At that moment a brown hand was thrust in front of him, and a pair of
excited gray eyes challenged his.

“Hello, Ti-ti-ti-Tilford!” cried the owner of the hand, “what the
di-di-dickens you du-du-doing up here?”



CHAPTER II

TELLS OF A TALK BY THE CAMP-FIRE AND OF HAPPENINGS IN A DORMITORY


An hour later, having discarded some of the garb of civilization for
more comfortable attire, Nelson lay stretched out on a carpet of
sweet-smelling pine-needles. Above him were motionless branches of
hemlock and beech and pine, with the white stars twinkling through.
Before him was a monster camp-fire of branches and saplings built into
the form of an Indian tepee, which roared and crackled and lighted
up the space in front of Maple Hall until the faces of the assembled
campers were recognizable across the clearing. A steady stream of
flaring sparks rushed upward, to be lost amid the higher branches of
the illumined trees. Beside him was the boy with the gray eyes, who,
having recovered from his temporary excitement, no longer stammered.
Sitting cross-legged in the full radiance of the fire, Tom Ferris
looked not unlike a fat, good-natured Indian idol. Not that he was
as ugly of countenance as those objects usually are; what similarity
existed was due rather to his position and a certain expression of
grinning contentment. He really wasn’t a bad-looking chap; rather
heavy-featured, to be sure, and showing too much flesh about cheeks
and chin to be handsome. He was only fourteen years old, and weighed
something over a hundred and thirty pounds. He had a rather stubby
nose, tow-colored hair, very pale gray eyes, and exceedingly red
cheeks. He was good-natured, kind-hearted, eager in the search for
fun, and possessed a positive genius for getting into trouble. Like
Nelson, he was a student at Hillton Academy, but whereas Nelson was in
the upper middle class, Tom Ferris was still a lower-middler, having
failed the month before to satisfy the powers as to his qualifications
to advance. Nelson and he had not seen much of each other at school,
but this evening they had met quite as though they had been the closest
of chums for years. Nelson had already learned a good deal about Camp
Chicora and its customs, and was still learning.

“The Chief’s a dandy fellow,” Tom was saying. “We call him ‘Clint’ for
short. Carter called him ‘Clint’ to his face the other day, and he
just smiled, and said, ‘_Mister_ Clint, Carter; I must insist on being
addressed respectfully.’”

“He looks like a bully sort,” answered Nelson, turning his eyes to
where the Director-in-Chief, the center of a merry group of boys,
was sitting at a little distance. Mr. Clinton looked to be about
thirty-five years old. A few years before he had been an assistant
professor in a New England college, but the confinement of lecture-room
and study had threatened his health. He had a natural love of the
outdoor life, and in the end he had broken away from the college,
built his camp in the half-wilderness, and had regained his health and
prospered financially. Camp Chicora had been in existence but three
years, and already it was one of the most popular and successful of
the many institutions of its kind in that part of the country. He was
tall, dark, strikingly good-looking, with an expression of shrewd and
whimsical kindliness that was eminently attractive. He knew boys as few
know them, and managed them at once surely and gently. Like the fellows
about him, he wore only the camp uniform of jersey and trousers, and
the fire-light gleamed on a pair of deeply tanned arms that looked
powerful enough to belong to a blacksmith.

“What did he say to you?” asked Tom.

“Said he was glad to see me, hoped I’d make myself at home and be
happy, and told me to let him know if I wanted anything. It wasn’t so
much what he said as--as the way he said it.”

“That’s ju-ju-ju-just it!” cried Tom, with enthusiasm. “It’s the way he
says things and does things! And he’s into everything with us; plays
ball, tennis, and-- Say, you ought to see him put the shot!”

“I liked that Mr. Verder, too,” said Nelson.

“Yes, he’s a peach! The whole bunch are mighty decent. Ellery--that’s
him fixing the fire--he’s awfully nice; he’ll do anything for you. The
Doctor’s another mighty good chap. You’d ought to have seen the way
he got a nail out of ‘Babe’s’ foot last week! It was perfectly great.
‘Babe’ came pretty near fainting! Say, don’t you want to get the bunk
next to mine? Maybe Joe Carter will swap with you, if I ask him.”

“Oh, never mind; maybe when I get to know some of the fellows we can
fix it up.”

“Well, and”--Tom lowered his voice--“I guess they’ll try and have some
fun with you to-night; they always do when a new fellow comes; but
don’t you mind; a little ‘rough-house’ won’t hurt you.”

“I guess I can stand it. What’ll they do?”

“Oh--er--well, you see, I oughtn’t to tell, Tilford; it wouldn’t be
quite fair, you know; but it won’t hurt, honest!”

“All right.” Nelson laughed. “After the initiation I went through at
Hillton last fall, I guess nothing short of a cyclone will feeze me!”

“Say, we’ve got a society here, too; see?” Tom exhibited a tiny gold
pin which adorned the breast of his jersey. “I’ll get you in all right.
We’re the only Hillton men here, and we ought to stand by each other,
eh?”

Nelson agreed gravely.

“There’s a chap here from St. Eustace,” continued Tom. “His name’s
Speede, Dan Speede; ever meet him?” Nelson shook his head. “Of course
he isn’t a Hilltonian,” went on Tom with a tone of apology, “but
he--he’s rather a nice sort. He’s in our hall; you’ll see him to-night,
a big chap with red hair; he played on their second eleven last year. I
think you’ll like him--that is, as well as you could like a St. Eustace
fellow, of course.”

“I dare say there are just as good fellows go there as come to
Hillton,” responded Nelson generously but without much conviction.

Tom howled a protest. “Get out! There may be some decent fellows--like
Dan--but-- Why, everybody knows what St. Eustace chaps are!”

“I dare say they talk like that about us,” laughed Nelson.

“I’d lu-lu-lu-like tu-tu-to hear ’em!” sputtered Tom indignantly.

Mr. Clinton arose, watch in hand, and announced that it was time for
prayers. There was a scrambling and scuffling as the fellows arose
from their places on the ground to kneel with heads bent and repeat
the Lord’s Prayer. The dying fire crackled softly and its mellow light
played upon the motionless forms, while overhead the white stars peered
down through the dark branches as though they too were giving thanks to
their Creator.

Then good night was said to the Chief and the fellows separated, the
younger boys to climb the hill to Spruce Hall and the older to go to
their own dormitory. Presently from across the clearing floated the
slow sweet notes of the bugle sounding taps, and the lights in the
junior hall went out. The seniors, however, still had a half hour
before they must be in bed, and they made the most of it in various
ways. When Nelson and Tom entered Maple they found three distinct
pillow or “sneaker” fights in progress, and the air was full of
hurtling missiles. On one bed two youths in pajamas were sitting
cross-legged deep in a game of cribbage when a random shoe struck the
homemade board with all the devastating effect of a bursting shell,
and sent it, together with the quartet of pegs, over three bunks.
Whereupon two voices were raised in rage, cards were dropped, and the
ranks of the belligerents were swelled by two volunteers.

The senior dormitory was erected on the side of the hill, well off
the ground for the sake of dryness, and was a simply but well-built
structure some eighty feet long by twenty wide, with enough pitch to
its gable roof to shed rain quickly and afford a sort of open attic
under the rafters, where bags and wearing apparel were precariously
hung from the beams or supported on occasional planks. The effect in
the dim light was picturesque if not beautiful. There was a multitude
of windows on either side, and at each end large double doors occupied
a third of the space. As neither doors nor windows were ever closed,
save during a driving rain-storm, the occupants of the narrow bunks
ranged along each side of the hall practically slept out-of-doors. A
big stove stood in the middle of the building. At the head of each
bunk, secured to the wall, was a white-pine locker. Sometimes this
was supplemented by a square of matched boards which let down to form
a writing-table. Wooden pegs held the every-day attire, and trinkets
were disposed along the horizontal joists. The bunks, wooden-framed
cots, were guiltless of springs, and were furnished with mattresses,
blankets, and pillows. At Chicora sheets were looked down upon as
emblems of effeminacy. The fellows slept with their feet toward the
walls. From a rafter hung a sheet of wrapping-paper bearing the warning
“NO SNORING ALLOWED!” Some one had crossed out the last word and
substituted “ALOUD.”

Nelson’s bunk was the last but one on the left, and in the opposite
corner was Mr. Verder. At the farther end of the dormitory slept Dr.
Smith. What light there was was given by two reflector lanterns at
either end of the hall, although for purposes of card-playing, reading,
or writing the fellows supplemented this dim radiance by lighting one
or more of the lanterns which were part of each boy’s outfit. Aided by
such extra illumination Nelson’s right-hand neighbor, a curly-haired
youth of about sixteen, whose name later transpired to be Hethington,
was busily engaged in patching a tennis racket with a piece of string.
Near the middle of the hall, a big, good-looking chap with very red
hair was entertaining two companions with a narrative that must have
been extremely humorous, judging from the suppressed laughter that
convulsed them. Nelson had noticed him at table and now concluded that
he was Tom’s St. Eustace friend, Dan Speede.

Nelson undressed leisurely and got into his pajamas, the while
examining the bed and his surroundings for a hint as to the trick
which was to be played him. But there were no suspicious circumstances
that he could see; the bed looked and felt all right, and of all the
sixteen inhabitants of the dormitory not one was apparently paying him
the least heed. When he considered it, the fact that every one seemed
to be resolutely keeping his eyes from his direction struck him as
of ill augury; even the boy with the tennis racket was unnaturally
absorbed in his work. Tom Ferris came over in a pair of weirdly striped
pajamas and sat chatting on the bed a moment until the lights were put
out. Then there was a scrambling, a few whispered good nights, and
silence reigned save for the sounds of the forest entering through the
windows and doors. Nelson found the bunk rather different from what
he was accustomed to, but the fresh night air felt good; there was a
novel pleasure in being able to look out through the branches at the
twinkling white stars, and he sighed contentedly and wished the worst
would happen so that he could go to sleep.

But everything was very still. Minute after minute passed. He strained
his ears for suspicious sounds, but heard nothing save the occasional
creak of a bed. The suspense was most uncomfortable. He had about come
to the conclusion that after all nothing was going to happen, and was
feeling a bit resentful over it, when a sound reached him as of bare
feet on the boards. He turned his head noiselessly and stared into the
gloom. He could see nothing, and the sound had ceased. Probably he had
imagined----

_Bang!_

_Thud!!_

_Clatter!!!_

Down went the bed with a jar that shook the building; down came a
shower of water that left the victim gasping for breath; and Nelson and
a big tin bucket rolled together onto the floor and into a very cold
puddle.

Pandemonium reigned! Gone was the peaceful quietude of a moment before.
From all sides came shrieks and howls of laughter and kindly counsel:

“Pick yourself up, Willie!”

“Swim hard, old man!”

“Try floating on your back!”

“Sweet dreams!”

“Did I hear something drop?” asked a voice.

“Very high sea to-night!” remarked another.

Nelson struggled free of the clinging folds of the wet blankets and
stood up shivering in the darkness. It had been so sudden and so
unexpected, for all the warning he had received, that he didn’t quite
know yet what had happened to him. Then a match flared, a lantern was
lighted, and the tennis-racket youth was holding it out to him.

“Did the water get you?” he asked calmly.

“Rather!” answered Nelson. “I’m soaked clear through!”

“Better get your panoramas off, then,” said Hethington. “I’ve got some
dry ones you can have. I’ll look ’em up.” And he climbed leisurely out
of bed.

By that time Tom had come to the rescue with an armful of dry blankets
from an unoccupied bunk. The tin lard can was kicked out of the way,
the wet mattress turned over, and the new blankets spread. Hethington
tossed over the dry pajamas, and Nelson, his teeth chattering, got
into them and looked about him. As far as he could see in the dim
light white-robed figures were sitting up in their bunks regarding him
with grinning faces. There was something expectant in both faces and
attitudes, and Nelson realized that they were awaiting an expression of
his feelings. With a glance that encompassed the entire assemblage, he
remarked earnestly, but more in sorrow than in anger:

“_Well, I hope you choke!_”

A shout of laughter rewarded him, while a voice from the nearer dimness
remarked audibly:

“I told you he’d be all right, Dan!”

Nelson examined the bed, but found that it could not be made to stand
without the aid of tools. So, thanking Hethington again for his pajamas
and eliciting a calm “All right,” and looking about for evidences of
further surprises without finding them, he blew out the lantern and
descended into his lowly couch. The last thing he saw, as the light
went out, was the amused countenance of Mr. Verder across the dormitory.

Ten minutes later he was asleep.



CHAPTER III

SHOWS THAT A MOTOR-DORY CAN GO AS WELL AS STOP


When Nelson awoke the early sunshine was dripping through the tender
green branches outside the window, the birds were singing merrily, and
Tom Ferris was digging him in the ribs. He blinked, yawned, and turned
over again, but Tom was not to be denied.

“Come on, Tilford, and have a douse,” he whispered. “First bugle’s just
blown.”

“Wha--” (a magnificent yawn)--“what time is it?” asked Nelson.

“Five minutes of seven. Come on down.”

“Down? Down where?” inquired Nelson, at last sufficiently awake to hear
what Tom was saying.

“Down to the lake for a douse. It’s fine.”

“Huh! It’s pretty fine here. And the lake must be awfully cold, don’t
you think, Ferris?”

“It really isn’t, honest to goodness! It’s swell! Come on!”

“Oh--well--” Nelson looked out the window and shivered; then he
heroically rolled out onto the floor, scrambled to his feet and donned
his shoes. One or two of the bunks were empty, and a few of the fellows
who remained were awake and were conversing in whispers across the
dormitory, but for the most part sleep still reigned, and the “No
Snoring” order was being plainly violated. Tom and Nelson pattered
down the room--the former stopping long enough at one bunk to pull
the pillow from under a red-thatched head and place it forcibly on
top--and emerged into a world of green and gold. As they raced past the
flagstaff the Stars and Stripes was fluttering its way aloft, while
from the porch of Birch Hall the reveille sounded and floated echoing
over the lake. The air was like tonic, crisp without being chill in the
shady stretches of the path, pleasantly warm where the sunlight slanted
through, and the two boys hurled themselves down the firm pathway as
fast as lurking roots would allow. At the pier a handful of fellows
were before them. There was very little breeze, and what there was blew
up the lake and so failed to reach the water of the cove. Over on Plum
Island the thin streamer of purple smoke betokened breakfast, while up
at Bear Island, farther away across the sunlit water, the boys of Camp
Wickasaw were moving about the little beach. At the edge of the pier
the water was bottle-green, with here and there a fleck of gold where
the sunlight found its way through the trees that bordered the lake. It
looked cold, but when, having dropped their pajamas, they stood side by
side on the edge of the pier and then went splashing down into fifteen
feet of it, it proved to be surprisingly warm. A moment or two of
energetic thrashing around, and out they came for a brisk rub-down in
the dressing-tent and a wild rush up the hill and into the dormitory,
where they arrived side by side--for, considering his bulk, Tom had a
way of getting over the ground that was truly marvelous--to find the
fellows tumbling hurriedly into their clothes.

Nelson had received his camp uniform, a gray worsted jersey, a gray
gingham shirt, two pairs of gray flannel trousers reaching to the
knees, one gray worsted sweater, two pairs of gray worsted stockings, a
gray felt hat, a gray leather belt, and a pair of blue swimming trunks.
Jersey and sweater were adorned with the blue C, while on the pocket of
the shirt ran the words “Camp Chicora.” Following the example of those
about him, Nelson donned merely the jersey and trousers, slipped his
feet into his brown canvas shoes or “sneakers,” and, seizing his toilet
articles, fled to the wash-house in the train of Hethington and Tom
Ferris. By the most desperate hurrying he managed to reach the door of
Poplar Hall before the last note of the mess-call had died away. He
found himself terrifically hungry, hungrier than he had been within
memory, and applied himself diligently to the work in hand. Mr. Verder
asked how he had slept, and referred jokingly to the bath.

“Every fellow has to go through with it sooner or later,” he said
smilingly. “They don’t even exempt the councilors. I got a beautiful
ducking last week.”

“Oh, I didn’t mind it,” laughed Nelson. “But I was awfully surprised.
I expected something of the sort, but I hadn’t thought of a wetting. I
don’t see how they did it, either.”

“Well, in the first place, they got a wrench and took the legs off your
bunk; then they put them on again the wrong way, tied a rope to the bed
and trailed it along the wall where you wouldn’t see it. All they had
to do then was to pull the rope, and the legs simply doubled up under
the bed. As for the water, that was in a pail on the beam overhead;
it’s so dark you couldn’t see it unless you looked for it. Of course
there was a string tied to that too, and-- Who pulled the string last
night, fellows?”

“Dan Speede,” two or three replied promptly.

“And Carter pulled the rope,” added another gleefully.

The fellow with the red hair was grinning at Nelson in a rather
exasperating way, and he experienced a sudden desire to get even with
that brilliant Mr. Speede. But he only smiled and, in response to
numerous eager inquiries, tried to describe his sensations when the bed
went down. The affair seemed to have had the effect of an initiation
ceremony, for this morning every one spoke to him just as though they
had known him for months, and by the time breakfast was over he no
longer felt like an outsider. Under escort of Tom and Hethington, who
appeared to have detailed themselves his mentors for the present, he
went to Birch Hall to examine the bulletin and find out his duties for
the day.

The recreation hall stood on the edge of a little bluff, and from
the big broad porch thrown out at the side a magnificent view of the
lake and the farther shore presented itself. Across from the porch
was a monstrous fireplace of field stones in which four-foot logs
looked scarcely more than kindling-wood. The hall contained a piano, a
shovel-board, innumerable chairs, one or two small tables for games,
the letter-boxes, and the bulletin-board. Consultation with the latter
elicited the fact that Nelson, whose name was the last on the board,
was one of the ferry-boys. Tom explained that he would have to go
across to Crescent with the mail at nine, two, and six-thirty.

“You can take the motor-dory, if you like. The letters are in that box
over there; and the bag hangs over it--see? You take the mail over and
bring back whatever there is and distribute it in the letter-boxes
yonder. Who’s the other ferry-boy?”

“Speede,” answered Bob Hethington, referring to the bulletin.

“Well, that’s all right,” said Tom. “Dan knows all about it. You let
him attend to it, but you’ll have to go along, you know.”

“Don’t let him work any games on you,” advised Bob dryly.

Nelson made a mental resolution that he wouldn’t.

Then Tom explained about the duties. Every fellow had something to
do. There were four lamp-boys, who filled, trimmed, and cleaned the
lanterns and lamps all through the camp; four shore-boys, who looked
after the landing and the boats; four fire-boys, who cut wood for and
built the camp-fire and the fire in Birch Hall; four camp-boys, who
swept out and tidied up the dormitories and the recreation hall; three
mess-boys, who set the tables and waited at them; two color-boys, who
saw to the hoisting and lowering of the flags in the camp and at
the landing; two ferry-boys; one historian, who wrote the history of
the day; two orderlies, to whom the others reported, and who in turn
reported to the officer of the day (one of the councilors); one police,
whose duty it was to keep the camp-grounds clean, and one substitute,
who stood ready to take on the duties of any of the fellows who might
be ill or away from camp. The duties changed day by day, and the
penalty for intentional non-performance of them, as Tom explained with
gusto, was to be ducked in the lake by the other chaps.

Then a couple of the camp-boys clattered in with brooms, and the
trio were glad to make their escape. Tom and Bob hurried away to
their neglected duties, and Nelson idled back to Maple Hall with the
intention of getting his things arranged. But the other two camp-boys
were busily at work there and raising such a dust that he retreated.
Just outside, on the scene of last night’s conflagration, two fellows
were bringing brush and piling it up for the evening’s camp-fire. In
the rear doorway of Spruce Hall Mr. Ellery was coaching one of the
juniors in Latin. Near-by a freckled-faced youngster with a pointed
stick was spearing bits of paper and other rubbish and transferring
them to a basket which he carried. Every one seemed very busy, and
Nelson wondered whether the fire-boys would be insulted if he offered
to aid them. But at that moment he heard his name called, and saw
Tom beckoning him from in front of the mess-hall. As Nelson answered
the hail he saw that Dan Speede was with Tom, and surmised that an
introduction was in order. Speede shook hands, and said, with that
irritating smile on his handsome face, that he was glad to know Nelson,
and Nelson muttered something that sounded fairly amiable. Speede was
getting on his nerves, for some reason or other; perhaps because he
looked so confoundedly well pleased with himself and appeared to look
on everybody else as a joke prepared for his special delectation.

“I know one or two Hillton fellows rather well,” Dan said, and he
mentioned their names. One of them was a special friend of Nelson’s,
but the fact didn’t lessen his irritation to any degree.

“We’re ferry-boys,” Dan continued. “Suppose we go over now? It isn’t
quite nine, but no one ever waits, anyhow.”

“All right,” Nelson answered.

They left Tom, put the letters in the bag at Birch Hall, and went down
the path. There wasn’t much conversation on Nelson’s part, but Dan
rattled on carelessly from one thing to another without seeming to care
whether his companion answered or not. At the landing he threw the bag
into the motor-dory and climbed in, followed by Nelson.

“They’ve got quite a navy here,” observed the latter.

“Yep; steam-launch thirty feet long, motor-dory, four steel skiffs,
three canoes, one punt, and two four-oared barges--only the barges
aren’t down here yet. All aboard!”

Nelson took the lines and off they chugged straight for the corner of
Bear Island, where the red-and-white banner of Camp Wickasaw floated
above the trees.

“Hold her off a little more,” advised Dan; “there’s a shoal off the
end of the island.” He was gazing steadily toward the landing there,
and Nelson noticed that he looked disappointed. “Pshaw!” said Dan
presently; “I guess they’ve gone on ahead.”

“Who?”

“The Wickasaw fellows. They have a little old sixteen-foot launch which
they think can go. We usually get here in time to race them over.”

“Who beats?”

“We do--usually. Last time I raced with them this pesky dory stopped
short half-way across. I thought they’d bust themselves laughing.
That’s why I hoped we’d meet them this morning.”

“Too bad,” said Nelson. “What sort of a camp is Wickasaw?”

Dan shrugged his shoulders disdainfully. “No good. The fellows sleep
between sheets and sing hymns every night before they go to bed.
Besides, the worst of it is, they have women there.”

“Is it a big camp?”

“Only about twenty fellows this year.”

Presently Nelson asked another question: “Can you walk from the camp
over to the village?”

“Yes, there’s a good road.” Dan nodded toward the end of the lake. “But
it’s pretty near two miles, I guess. I never walked it.”

Crescent proved to be the tiniest sort of a settlement. There were no
more than half-a-dozen buildings in sight. To the right of the landing
was a high stone bridge, through which, as Dan explained, the water
from the lake flowed on into Hipp’s Pond by way of a small river, and
so, eventually, to Lake Winnipesaukee.

“You’d better go up front,” advised Dan, “and jump onto the landing
when we get up to it. Take the painter with you.”

Nelson obeyed. The dory wormed its way in between a lot of rowboats,
the propeller stopped, and Dan poised himself for a leap as the boat
drifted in. When it was still some three or four feet away from the
float he jumped. All would have gone well with him if at the very
moment of his take-off the dory had not, for some unaccountable reason,
suddenly started to back away. The result was that Nelson landed in
five feet of water, with only his hands on the float. It was something
of a task to crawl over the edge, but he managed it finally and sat
down in a pool of water to get his breath. Then he glanced up and
encountered Dan’s grinning countenance and understood. But he only said:

“That was farther than I thought, or else the boat rocked. Throw me the
painter and I’ll pull you in.”

Dan, his smile broadening at what he considered Nelson’s innocence,
tossed the rope and jumped ashore with the bag.

“I guess I’ll let you go up alone,” said Nelson. “I’m too wet to visit
the metropolis.”

Dan said “All right,” and disappeared with the mail-bag. Nelson climbed
back into the boat and started the motor. The sun was warm, and after
taking his shoes off and emptying the water out of them he was quite
comfortable. He even smiled once or twice, apparently at his thoughts.
Presently Dan appeared around the corner of the nearest building, and
Nelson quietly pushed the dory away from the landing.

“What did you start her up for?” asked Dan. “She’ll get all hot and
smelly if you do that.”

“Oh, I just wanted to see if I could do it,” answered Nelson. “Pitch
the bag in; I’ll catch it.”

Dan did so.

“You’ll have to bring her in, you know,” he said. “I can’t walk on
water.”

“But you can walk on land, can’t you?” asked Nelson sweetly.

“Walk on--? Hold on, you idiot, you’re backing her!”

“Must be something wrong with her,” replied Nelson calmly. He reached
for the tiller-line, swung the dory’s nose toward the camp, shot the
lever forward, and waved gaily at Dan. “It’s only two miles, you know,”
he called, as the boat chugged away. “And it’s a good road!”

He looked back, expecting to hear Dan explode in a torrent of anger.
But he didn’t; he merely stood there with his hands in his pockets and
grinned. Half-way across the lake Nelson turned again and descried
Dan’s form crossing the bridge on the road back to camp. Nelson winked
gravely at the mail-bag.



CHAPTER IV

RELATES HOW NELSON BORROWED A LEAF FROM BOB, AND HOW DAN CRIED QUITS


There wasn’t much about gas-engines that Nelson didn’t know, for ever
since he was old enough to walk his family had spent a portion at least
of every summer at the shore, and of late years a gasoline-launch had
been a feature of the vacation program. To be sure, a power-dory was
rather a trifling thing after a thirty-six-foot cruising-launch, and
the engine left much to be desired, but it got along pretty well, and
Nelson wished he didn’t have to return to camp, but might turn the
dory’s head up the lake and go cruising. But perhaps they would let him
take the dory some other time. Tom Ferris was on the pier when the boat
came within easy hail.

“Where’s Dan?” he asked.

“Coming back by road.”

“_Road?_”

“Yes; he decided to walk.”

“What for?” asked Tom incredulously.

Nelson shook his head. “Exercise, I guess,” he answered, as he steered
the dory in under the boom. “Here! catch the bag, will you?”

It was evident that Tom was far from satisfied with the information
supplied, for all the way up the hill he shot suspicious glances
at Nelson, and stumbled over numerous roots and stones in his
preoccupation. But he didn’t discover anything more, at least from
Nelson.

After the mail was distributed in Birch Hall the two boys got their
rackets and balls and climbed the hill, past the spring and the
little sunlit glade where church service was held on Sundays, until a
tiny plateau was reached. Here was the tennis-court, fashioned with
much difficulty and not altogether guiltless of stones, but not half
bad for all that. It was well supplied with back-nets--a fortunate
circumstance, since the woods closed in upon it on all sides, and balls
once lost in the undergrowth would have been difficult to find. Tom,
considering his bulk, played a very fast and steady game, and succeeded
in securing one of the three sets which they managed to finish before
the assembly sounded at eleven o’clock and they fled down the hill to
the lake.

The morning bath, or “soak,” as it was called, was compulsory as
regarded every camper. Nothing save absence or illness was allowed to
excuse a fellow from this duty. Tom and Nelson donned their bathing
trunks and pushed their way out onto the crowded pier. Two of the
steel boats were occupied by councilors, whose duty it was to time the
bathers and keep an eye on adventurous swimmers. The boys lined the
edge of the pier and awaited impatiently the signal from Mr. Ellery.
Presently, “All in!” was the cry, and instantly the pier was empty,
save for a few juniors whose inexperience kept them in shallow water
along the little sandy beach. The water spouted in a dozen places, and
one by one dripping heads bobbed above the surface and their owners
struck out for the steps to repeat the dive. Nelson found the water far
warmer than he was accustomed to at the beaches; it was almost like
jumping into a tub for a warm bath. When he came to the surface after
a plunge and a few vigorous kicks under water he found himself close
to the boat occupied by Dr. Smith. He swam to it, laid hold of the
gunwale, and tried to wipe the water from his eyes.

“What’s the trouble, Tilford?” asked the councilor smilingly.

“I guess my eyes are kind of weak,” Nelson answered. “The water makes
them smart like anything.”

“Better keep them closed when you go under. It isn’t the fault of your
eyes, though; it’s the water.”

“But they never hurt before, sir.”

“Where have you bathed--in fresh water?”

“No, sir--salt.”

“That’s different. The eyes are used to salt water, but fresh water
irritates them.”

“I should think it would be the other way,” said Nelson, blinking.

“Not when you consider that all the secretions of the eye are salty.
Tears never made your eyes smart, did they?”

“No, sir; that’s so. It’s funny, though, isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s like a good many other things, Tilford--strange until you
get used to it. I suppose you swim pretty well?”

“Oh, I don’t know, sir. I’ve swam all my life, I guess, but I don’t
believe I’m what you’d call a dabster.”

“I wouldn’t think of calling you that, anyhow,” laughed the Doctor,
“for I don’t think I know what it means. But how about diving?”

Nelson shook his head.

“I’ve never done much of that. I’ve usually bathed in the surf, you
see. I’d be scared silly if I tried what those fellows are doing.”

The fellows referred to were standing on a tiny platform built up a
good ten feet above the floor of the pier. One by one they launched
themselves into the lake, at least eighteen feet below, some making
straight dives, some letting themselves fall and straightening out just
as they reached the surface, and one, who proved to be Dan Speede,
turning a backward somersault and disappearing feet first and hands
high over head.

“That was a dandy, wasn’t it?” asked Nelson with enthusiasm.

“Yes; I guess Speede’s the star diver here. But he takes mighty big
risks sometimes. If you want to try a dive I’ll watch you and see if I
can help you any with criticism.”

“All right, but I just jump off when I dive,” said Nelson. “But I’d
like to learn, sir.”

So he swam over to the steps, reaching them just ahead of Dan, and
walked along the pier to a place where there was no danger of striking
the steam-launch which was tied alongside. He had just reached a
position that suited him and was standing sideways to the water, when
there as an exclamation, some one apparently stumbled into him, and he
went over like a ninepin, striking the water in a heap and going so
far under he thought he would never come up again. But he did finally,
his lungs full of water and his breath almost gone from his body--came
up choking and sputtering to see Dan looking down with that maddening
grin on his face, and to hear him call:

“Awfully sorry, Tilford. I tripped on a knot-hole!”

Nelson coughed and spat until some of the water was out of him--and it
was odd how disagreeable it tasted after salt water--and turned to swim
back. Dr. Smith was smiling broadly as Nelson passed, and the latter
called, “We won’t count that one, sir.”

Dan was awaiting him on the pier, apparently prepared for whatever
Nelson might attempt in the way of revenge. But Nelson took no notice
of him. This time he made his dive without misadventure, and then swam
out to the Doctor to hear the latter’s criticism.

“That wasn’t so bad, Tilford. But you want to straighten out more and
keep your feet together. And I wouldn’t try to jump off at first; just
fall forward, and give the least little bit of a shove with your feet
at the last moment.”

“I’ll try it again,” said Nelson.

This time Dan did not see Nelson as the latter came along the pier.
He was standing near the edge, daring Hethington to go over with his
hands clasped under his knees, and knew nothing of his danger until
he found himself lifted from his feet. Then he struggled desperately,
but Nelson had seized him from behind and his hands found no clutch on
his captor’s wet body. The next instant he was falling over and over
in a most undignified and far from scientific attitude. He tried to
gather himself together as he struck the water, but the attempt was
not a success, and he disappeared in a writhing heap. Like Nelson, he
came up choking and gasping, trying his best to put a good face on
it, but succeeding so ill that the howls of laughter that had greeted
his disappearance burst forth afresh. But, thought Nelson, he was
a wonderful chap to take a joke, for, having found his breath, he
merely swam quickly to the steps and came up onto the pier looking as
undisturbed as you please.

“That puts us even again, doesn’t it?” he said to Nelson.

Nelson nodded.

He kept a watch on Dan the rest of the time, but the latter made
no attempt to trouble him again. He profited to some extent by Dr.
Smith’s instructions, and when the cry of “All out!” came he believed
that to-morrow he would have the courage to try a dive from the
“crow’s-nest,” as the fellows called the little platform above the
pier. He walked up the hill with Bob and Tom.

“I don’t see why that silly idiot of a Speede wants to be forever
trying his fool jokes on me,” he said aggrievedly.

“That’s just his way,” answered Tom soothingly.

“Well, it’s a mighty tiresome way,” said Nelson, in disgust.

“He has an overdeveloped sense of humor,” said Bob Hethington. “It’s a
sort of disease with him, I guess.”

“Well, I wish he’d forget it,” Nelson grumbled. “I’m afraid to sit down
on a chair now for fear there’ll be a pin in it.”

“Oh, he gets tired after a while,” said Bob. “He was that way with me
for a day after camp began.”

“What did you do?” asked Nelson curiously.

Bob smiled; so did Tom.

“I gave him some of his own medicine. I filled his bunk with
pine-needles--they stick nicely to woolen blankets, you know--tied
knots in every stitch of clothing he had, and put all his shoes in a
pail of water. He’s never bothered me since.”

“Did he get mad?”

“Mad? No, you can’t get the idiot mad. Carter says he laughed himself
to sleep that night--Dan, I mean.”

“I wonder if all the St. Eustace fellows are like him,” Nelson mused.
“If they are, life there must be mighty interesting. Perhaps they have
a course of practical joking there.”

Dinner was at twelve-thirty, and it was a very hungry set of fellows
that dropped themselves onto their stools and attacked the soup, roast
beef, potatoes, spinach, beets, apple pie, and cheese. Nelson marveled
at first at the quantity of milk his neighbors got away with, but after
a day or so he ceased to wonder, drinking his own three or four glasses
without difficulty. After dessert the history of the preceding day was
read by one of the councilors, while the historian, a very small youth
known as “Babe,” grinned sheepishly and proudly as he listened to his
composition. Nelson’s hazing was referred to with gusto and summoned
laughter, and “Babe” was loudly applauded when the history was finished
and the reader had announced “George Fowler.”

At one-thirty the bugle blew for “siesta,” the most trying part of
the day’s program. Every boy was required to go to his bunk and lie
down for half an hour with closed eyes and relaxed body. By the
middle of the summer custom had enabled most of them to accept this
enforced idleness with philosophy, and to even sleep through a portion
at least of the terrible half hour, but at present it was suffering
unmitigated, and many were the pleas offered to escape “siesta.”
When Nelson approached his bunk he was confronted by a square of
brown wrapping-paper on which in black letters, evidently done with a
blacking-brush, was the inscription:

    +--------------+
    | HILLTON IS A |
    | BUM SCHOOL   |
    +--------------+

He felt his cheeks reddening as the snickers of the watchers reached
him. There was no doubt in his mind as to the perpetrator of the
insult, for insult it was in his judgment, and his first impulse was
to march down the aisle and have it out with Dan there and then. But
he only unpinned the sheet, tossed it on the floor, and laid down on
his bunk. Presently, when his cheeks had cooled, he raised his head
cautiously and looked around. The dormitory was silent. One or two
fellows were surreptitiously reading, a few were resolutely trying to
obey orders, and the others were restlessly turning and twisting in
an agony of inactivity. Mr. Verder was not present, and the dormitory
was in charge of Dr. Smith, whose bunk was at the other end. Nelson
quietly reached out and secured the obnoxious placard, laying it clean
side up between his bed and Bob’s and holding it in place with a shoe.
Then he found a soft pencil, and, lying on the edge of the bunk,
started to work. Bob looked on dispassionately. Nelson wondered if he
ever really got interested in anything.

After a while the task was completed. Nelson looked warily down the
room. Dr. Smith was apparently asleep. Finding two pins, he crept off
the bed and secured the sheet of paper to the rafter where it had hung
before. Up and down the dormitory heads were raised and eager eyes were
watching him. This time the placard hung with the other side toward the
room, and the new inscription read:

    +---------------------+
    |         1903        |
    | HILLTON          17 |
    | ST. EUSTACE       0 |
    +---------------------+

Nelson scuttled back to bed. Faint whispers reached him. Then:

“Where are you going, Speede?” asked the Doctor’s voice suddenly.

Dan, creeping cautiously up the aisle, paused in his tracks.

“I left something up here, sir.”

“Get it after siesta, then.”

Dan went back to bed. The whispers grew, interspersed with chuckles.

“Cut that out, fellows,” said the Doctor, and silence reigned again.
For the next quarter of an hour the score of last autumn’s football
game between Hillton and St. Eustace flaunted itself to the world. The
fellows, all save one or two who had really fallen asleep, wondered
what would happen after siesta. So did Nelson. He hoped that Dan would
make trouble, for it seemed to him then that that insult could only be
wiped out with blows; and although Dan was somewhat taller and much
heavier than Nelson, the latter fancied he could give a fairly good
account of himself. And then the bugle blew, fellows bounded onto the
floor, and the ensuing racket more than made up for the half hour of
quiet. Dan made at once for the placard. Nelson jumped up and stood
under it. Dan stopped a few steps away.

“That’s my piece of paper, you know,” he said quietly.

“Get it,” answered Nelson.

“Cut it out, you two,” said Bob.

Nelson flashed a look of annoyance at the peacemaker.

Dan viewed him mildly. “Look here,” he said, “if you’ll take that down
and tear it up, we’ll call quits.”

“I don’t know,” said Nelson. “How about Hillton being a bum school?”
Dan grinned.

“You take that down,” he said.

“I will when you take back what you wrote on the other side.”

“Don’t you do it, Dan,” advised a snub-nosed chap named Wells.

“You shut up, Wells,” said Bob; and Wells, who wasn’t popular, was
hustled out of the way by the others who had gathered.

“Well, ain’t she pretty bum?” asked Dan innocently.

“Not too bum to lick you at football,” answered Nelson hotly.

“Pooh!” said Dan. “Do you know why? Because they wouldn’t let me play.”

That aroused laughter, and Nelson stared at his antagonist in deep
disgust. “What an idiot he was,” he said to himself; “he couldn’t be
serious even over a quarrel.”

“Well, she did it, anyhow,” he said rather lamely.

“Well, it’s over now, isn’t it?” asked Dan calmly. “So let’s take the
score down,” and he moved toward the placard.

“No you don’t!” Nelson exclaimed, moving in front of him; “not until
you’ve apologized.”

Dan smiled at him in his irritating manner.

“Don’t you believe I could lick you?” he asked.

“Maybe you can,” said Nelson, “but talking won’t do it.”

“Well, I can; but I’m not going to. There isn’t going to be any row,
so you fellows might as well chase yourselves. It was just a joke,
Tilford. Hillton’s all right. It’s the best school in the country,
barring one. How’ll that do for an apology, my fierce friend?”

“It isn’t quite truthful,” answered Nelson, smiling in spite of
himself, “but I guess it’ll answer. Here’s your old paper.”

Dan accepted it and tore it up. Then he stuffed the pieces in the first
bunk he came to.

“War is averted,” he announced.

Then he went out, followed by most of the inmates of the dormitory, who
were laughingly accusing him of “taking water.”

“He’s a queer chump,” said Nelson, with something of unwilling
admiration in his tones. But Bob didn’t hear him. He was back on his
bed, absorbed in a magazine.

“And you’re another,” added Nelson under his breath.



CHAPTER V

TELLS HOW DAN PLAYED A TRUMP CARD, HOW BOB GAINED HONOR, AND HOW THE
“BIG FOUR” CAME INTO EXISTENCE


    6.55. First reveille: morning bath.
    7.00. Last reveille: colors.
    7.25. First mess-call.
    7.30. Last mess-call: breakfast.
    8 to 9. Duties.
    11.00. Assembly: “soak.”
    12.30. Mess-call: dinner.
    1.30 to 2. Siesta.
    2 to 5.25. Recreation.
    5.25. First mess-call: colors.
    5.30. Last mess-call: supper.
    7.30. Assembly: camp-fire.
    8.30. Taps: Juniors’ lights out.
    9. Seniors’ lights out.

That was the daily schedule. On Sunday it differed in the rising-time
and time for dinner, the first being half an hour and the latter
an hour later. But there was nothing very hard-and-fast about the
schedule, for frequently an afternoon’s outing on the lake prolonged
itself past the hour for supper, and quite as frequently the tales
about the camp-fire became so absorbing that taps didn’t sound until
long after the accustomed time. Largely for this reason the schedule
never proved irksome. Life moved very pleasantly and smoothly at
Chicora. Ordinary misdemeanors were passed over by the councilors,
to be dealt with by the fellows, and so to a great extent the boys
governed themselves. To be ducked by his companions was the most
degrading punishment a boy could receive, and only twice during the
summer was it meted out. The Chief and the councilors mingled with
the fellows on all occasions, and were tireless in the search for new
methods of enjoyment. Mr. Clinton played the headiest kind of a game at
second base in the scrub games, and knocked out three-baggers and home
runs in a manner beautiful to see. Mr. Verder, too, was a good player,
while Dr. Smith, laying aside his eye-glasses, would occasionally
consent to go into the field and excitedly muff everything that came in
his direction. Mr. Thorpe was the camp champion at ring toss, and Mr.
Ellery was never defeated at shovelboard.

The afternoons were given over to baseball, or tennis, or boating, if
the weather permitted, or, if it rained, to fishing for bass, pickerel,
perch, and chub in the lake, or to the playing of games or reading in
the recreation-hall or dormitories. But always, rain or fine, there was
a bath at five o’clock, which few missed.

By the end of his first week at Chicora Nelson was thoroughly at home,
and any doubts he may have entertained as to his liking the place and
the fellows had vanished. It was a healthy life. He was out-of-doors
all day long, and even at night he could scarcely consider himself
housed. He went bareheaded, barelegged, and barearmed, and rapidly
acquired a coat of tan of which he was very proud. He went to every
meal famished, and jumped into bed at night in a condition of physical
weariness that brought instant slumber. And he made friends on all
sides. The closest of these were Bob Hethington and Tom Ferris. But
there was one other who, if as yet scarcely a bosom friend, had
captured Nelson’s respect and liking; and that one was Dan Speede.

After the incident of the placard in Maple Hall Dan had not offered to
molest Nelson in any way during the two days following; neither had he
appeared to take any notice of him. But on the evening of the second
day Nelson was coming back from the dormitory after supper when he met
Dan.

“You’re the fellow I was looking for,” Dan announced in quite the most
cordial manner in the world. “Want to go down to the Inn with me in the
dory? I’m going to take a note for Clint.”

Nelson hesitated.

“I don’t believe I can, Speede. I promised Bob Hethington to help him
mend his camera.”

“Oh, let that go. I’ll ask him to come along.”

“Well,” said Nelson.

Bob consented, and the three tumbled into the dory and set out. The
distance to the Chicora Inn landing was short, if you kept along the
shore; but Dan suggested prolonging the trip by going around Bass
Island, with the result that they navigated most of the upper end of
the lake before they reached their destination. Dan was evidently on
his best behavior, for the trip was completed without misadventure, and
they got back to camp just as assembly sounded.

After that Nelson and Dan saw a good deal of each other, and the more
they were together the more Nelson liked the big, handsome, red-headed
fellow with the clear blue eyes, and began to understand him better.
There wasn’t a grain of meanness in his make-up. The jokes he was
forever playing were usually harmless enough, and served as outlets for
an oversupply of animal spirits. Nelson thought he had never seen a
fellow more full of life, more eager for adventure and fun, than Dan.
He would go almost any length to secure a laugh, even if it was against
himself, and toil for days at a time to bring about an event promising
excitement. He seemed to be absolutely without fear, and no one ever
saw him really angry.

Nelson’s liking for Dan was not, however, altogether shared by Bob, who
dubbed Dan’s tricks and jokes “kiddish,” and usually treated him with a
sort of contemptuous indifference. As a rule he avoided Dan’s society,
and finally Nelson was torn between his allegiance to Bob and his
liking for Dan. Affairs stood thus when, about two weeks after Nelson’s
arrival, the election of captain of the baseball team came off, and Dan
played a card which, if it did not at once gain Bob’s friendship, at
least commanded his gratitude.

At camp-fire Mr. Clinton announced that he had received a note from
Camp Wickasaw asking when Chicora would be ready to arrange a series of
ball games with them.

“Last year,” said the Chief, “as those of you know who were here then,
Wickasaw won all three games from us. There’s no disgrace in being
beaten, but it’s lots more fun to beat. So this year let’s see if we
can’t do better. They have fewer fellows than we have, and last year
we allowed them to play their councilors. I guess it was that that beat
us. But it was only fair, and unless you fellows object they will make
use of the same privilege this year. How about it?” and Mr. Clinton
looked about the fire-lit group questioningly.

“Let them use them, sir,” exclaimed one of the boys. “We can beat them
anyhow.”

“That’s so, sir; and there’ll be more glory in it,” said another.

And a chorus of assent arose.

“All right,” said Mr. Clinton. “Now we ought to get things fixed up so
that we can arrange dates with Wickasaw and the other nines. There will
be the Mount Pleasant team to deal with, and I suppose there will be a
nine at the Inn as usual. And I guess we can arrange some games with
the Camp Trescott fellows. I propose to supply bats and balls and such
things, as I did last year. We’ll need one new base-bag, too.”

“I think that one can be fixed up all right, sir, with some sawdust,
and a piece of canvas to patch it with,” said Bob.

“Well, we’ll have a look at it. If it can’t, we’ll send for a new one.
We’ll have to have some balls and bats, anyhow. We’ve got two masks and
a protector left from last summer. Is there anything else?”

“We ought to have some mitts,” said Carter.

“Seems to me the fellows ought to buy those themselves,” Dan announced.

“Well, I’ll get some,” said the Chief. “If any one wants to have his
own, he can. Now, how about choosing a captain? Shall we do that here
to-night, or had you rather wait?”

“To-night!” “Now!” were the cries.

“Very well; suppose you nominate your candidates, and we’ll have a
rising vote.”

Much laughter and whispering ensued. Then Dan was on his feet.

“Mr. Clinton,” he began.

“Mr. Chairman,” some one corrected.

“And gentlemen of the convention,” added Mr. Verder.

“Who’s making this speech?” asked Dan good-naturedly. “Mr. Clinton, I
nominate Bob Hethington.” Applause followed. “He’s as good a player as
any of us; he was here last year, and knows the ropes, and he--he’s a
good fellow for the place.”

“I second the nomination!” cried Nelson.

Three other nominations followed, among the candidates being Joe Carter
and Dan himself. The latter promptly withdrew in favor of Bob, and
when the voting was over, Bob, in spite of half-hearted protestations,
was declared elected. Thereupon Carter moved that the election be made
unanimous, and it was. “Babe” Fowler was elected official scorer, an
honor which quite overwhelmed him for the moment, and Mr. Verder was
appointed manager. He and Bob were to get together at once and arrange
dates, issue challenges, and start things moving generally. A call
for candidates was issued on the spot, that constituting Bob’s speech
of acceptance, and it was decided that practise should be held every
week-day afternoon, when there were no games, at four o’clock.

“It seems to me,” said Mr. Verder, “that the best way to get good
practise is to have some one to play against. Couldn’t we form a scrub
team to play against the camp nine? We’ve got plenty of fellows here.”

“That’s a good plan,” said the Chief. “And you and I’ll join it.”

“And the Doctor,” some one suggested. Whereupon there was a laugh, and
the Doctor begged to be excused.

“I tell you what I will do, though,” he said; “I’ll umpire.”

“All right!” they called.

“Kill the umpire!” shouted Dan.

“And I’ll get even with you, Mr. Clinton,” threatened the Doctor.
“You’ll never see first when I’m umpiring!”

“He never does see it,” grumbled Tom. “He runs too fast!”

“Well, that’s all settled, then,” said Mr. Clinton when the laughter
had subsided. “Now, let’s all get to work and turn out a good team, one
that’ll knock the spots off of Wickasaw! And when we can’t find any one
else to play, we’ll have some, good games between the first team and
the scrub, and I’ll put up some prizes--boxes of candy, or something
like that. How’ll that do?”

“Bully, sir!”

“That’s swell!”

“I’m going to play on the scrub!”

And the next afternoon, while the enthusiasm still held, the first
practise was held, with almost every boy in camp as a candidate.
Nelson turned out with the rest, and even Tom, under the excitement of
the moment and with visions of candy before him, essayed to try for
the outfield. Dan and Nelson were practically certain of making the
first, if only by reason of former experience, for each had played on
their class teams at school. The most glaring deficiency was a good
pitcher, and the problem of finding some fellow to work with Bob, who
was catcher, bothered the latter for some time. In the end a rather
likely candidate showed up in the person of Wells, a chunky, snub-nosed
senior, who, in spite of the fact that he was rather unpopular,
decidedly stubborn, and a bit lazy, gave promise of turning into a
fairly good pitcher. Dan was put on first, and soon proved his right to
the place. Nelson went into the field, and finally found his position
at center. He was a good batsman and a heady base-runner. Tom dropped
out of the contest after a day or two, having been thrice struck by
the pitcher while unsuccessfully endeavoring to hit the ball, and
retired to watch the practise from the spectators’ gallery and nurse
his bruises. A series of three games with the rival camp of Wickasaw
were arranged for, and five other dates with hotel and camp nines were
made. This meant an average of two games a week for the remainder of
the season, and Bob got down to hard work. As it proved, it was lucky
that the enthusiasm came when it did, and supplied him with sufficient
material from which to turn out a team, for shortly afterward a
spell of hot weather made its appearance, and while it lasted it was
difficult to get any save the members of the camp nine to make the trip
to the baseball field. But Bob didn’t let the heat bother him much,
and practise was as rigorous as ever. When not enough fellows came
out to make up the scrub, Bob held batting and base-running practise
instead, until Dan declared that he had lost ten pounds in a week.

He and Bob were rapidly becoming friendly, or rather Bob was, for Dan
had liked Bob all along. Dan took hold of baseball affairs in a way
that won the captain’s heart, playing his own position for all there
was in it, and helping cheerfully with the coaching no matter how hot
the sun beat down on the field. As a result of this change of sentiment
on Bob’s part a four-cornered friendship was formed which lasted for a
good many years. Nelson, Dan, Bob, and Tom were together pretty much
all the time, and finally the camp took notice and dubbed them the
“Big Four.” Nelson meanwhile had been taken into the society and had
afforded amusement for the entire camp when he had been put through
his initiation, which, for want of a building affording privacy, was
conducted in the clearing between Poplar and Spruce Halls.



CHAPTER VI

OPENS WITH AWFUL TIDINGS, AND ENDS WITH A GLEAM OF HOPE


Dire news reached the camp one morning, brought over from the village
by a small junior who had gone for the mail. His tale was listened
to with incredulous indignation by a large group of the fellows
congregated outside of Birch Hall. The junior’s name was Rooke, and
he was vastly impressed with his importance when he saw with what
breathless interest his news was received. When Dan joined the group,
after having reported as orderly to Mr. Ellery, officer of the day,
Rooke was telling his story for the second time, and with what Tom
called “imposing detail.”

“There’s a fellow over at Crescent staying at the boarding-house named
Harry Fraser,” began Rooke.

“Queer name for a boarding-house,” said Dan.

“Shut up, Speede!” some one admonished him.

Rooke looked hurt.

“All right; never mind what the boarding-house is called, Kid,” said
Dan. “Fire ahead!”

“I’d met him now and then at the post-office, you know. Well, this
morning, when I came out with the mail, he was there----”

“Were there any letters for me?” asked Dan eagerly. Then he retired to
a safe distance, and waited for his pursuers to become absorbed again
in the narrative.

“‘Say,’ he said, ‘Wickasaw put it on to you fellows good and hard,
didn’t they?’ ‘How did they?’ says I. ‘Oh, you don’t know anything
about it, do you?’ says he. And of course I didn’t, but I wasn’t going
to let on to him.”

“Foxy kid!” murmured Dan.

“‘Oh, that!’ I says; ‘that’s nothing! Any one could do that!’”

“Good for you, Rooke!” his audience laughed.

“Well, pretty soon I found out what he was talking about. And what
do you think those chumps have done?” And Rooke paused dramatically,
looking very indignant.

“You told us once,” said some one unkindly. “Go ahead!”

Rooke resented this remark, and for a moment seemed inclined to sulk.
But Joe Carter patted him on the back, Dan told him he was a smart
kid, and he decided to let the incident pass.

“Why, they’ve gone and painted ‘Camp Wickasaw’ on the rocks over at the
cliff back of Crescent! And Fraser says the letters are done in red
paint and are three feet high, and you can see them for miles!”

“Phew!” said Dan. “Aren’t they the cheeky beggars?”

“When did they do it, Kid?” asked Bob.

“Day before yesterday. They went on a picnic, or something, over that
way.”

“Well, we’ll just have to go over and paint it out,” said Carter
decidedly, amid a murmur of concurrence.

“You couldn’t do it, my boy,” Dan objected. “It would take more paint
than you could lug over there.”

“Don’t you care; they can’t go and paint up the scenery like that,”
answered Joe. “Anyhow, we can daub the letters up so they can’t be
read.”

“How did they do it, Kid--do you know?” Dan asked.

“Why, they climbed up as far as they could, you see, and just did it.”

“All right; then we’ll just have to climb up farther and paint ‘Camp
Chicora’ above it!”

This elicited hearty applause, and Rooke’s small voice was quite lost
for a moment. Then he made himself heard:

“You can’t climb any higher!” he shouted triumphantly. “Fraser says you
can’t!”

“Fraser’s a liar, then!” answered Bob calmly. “You ought to select your
associates more carefully, Kid.”

“But the Wickasaws climbed up the cliff until the smooth rock began,”
said Rooke indignantly; “and you can’t climb any higher than that. Any
one will tell you so, Bob Hethington.”

“Well, don’t get excited, Kid; we won’t ask you to do it,” said Bob
soothingly. “I tell you what, fellows, Dan and I’ll go over there now
and have a look at it, and see what can be done. We can get permission,
I guess.”

“What’s the matter with the bunch going?” asked a chap named Ridley.

“Clint won’t let a lot go, you idiot! We’ll say we want to go over to
Crescent, and then Clint and the councilors won’t need to know anything
about it. If they did, they might-- Who was that went away?”

The crowd turned to look. Mr. Verder was walking off toward Maple Hall.

“Gee! I bet he heard!” said Carter.

“He did,” piped Rooke. “I saw him standing over there!”

“That’s all right,” Bob said. “He won’t say anything about it if we
keep it quiet. Dan and I’ll go over there right off, and we’ll let you
fellows know what can be done. There’s one thing certain: Wickasaw
hasn’t any mortgage on that bluff over there.”

“You bet she hasn’t!” Dan concurred earnestly. “And just think how it
must look from up the lake!”

“And from Camp Trescott!” exclaimed Carter. “Why, thunder! Trescott’s
right under that bluff!”

“Gee!” groaned Carter. “Aren’t they having a fine laugh on us!”

“The laugh will be on some one else when we’re through,” said Dan
determinedly. “Come on, Bob!”

The group broke up, and Dan and Bob sought and received permission to
go to the village. Naturally, Tom and Nelson wanted to accompany them,
but consented to remain behind when Bob explained that they must be
careful not to awaken suspicion.

They lifted Bob’s crimson canoe from the rack under the trees, dropped
it over the side of the float, and tumbled in. Then each took a paddle
and made the craft fairly fly. At the landing by the bridge they pulled
it out of the water and set off along the Pine Hill road through
the tiny village and along the edge of a sloping meadow that skirts
Humpback Mountain. Presently the cliff was in sight, rising sheer from
the meadow to a height of some seventy feet. From the side it looked
for all the world as though a giant had sliced a piece off the end of
the mountain as one might cut the end from a loaf of bread, and had
left the crumbs in the shape of big and little boulders piled up at
the bottom. From the top of the cliff the ground sloped gradually for
a ways and then sprang abruptly upward into the oddly shaped cone that
lent the mountain its name. Their first view of the cliff gave them no
sight of the face, and it was another minute’s walk before they could
see the daubs of bright red paint that adorned it. There, staring down
at them across the field, was the legend:

    CAMP WICKASAW, ’04

But, after all, the reality was not so bad as what Rooke had described.
The letters were _not_ three feet high, and even an eagle would have
experienced difficulty in reading them a quarter of a mile away. But it
was bad enough, and Dan and Bob scowled wrathfully. Then they climbed
the fence and set off across the meadow to get a nearer view. Presently
they reached a sort of terrace of tumbled boulders and stones, some of
them crumbling and some as impregnable as when they had fallen, which
was banked up under the cliff. Bushes and weeds had grown up between
them, and it was all the two could do to thrust themselves through; and
when, after a minute or two, they had gained the edge of the towering
mass of rock their legs and arms were scratched and their jerseys and
trunks torn.

“Phew!” said Bob, looking ruefully at his wounds, “that’s a merry place
to come through, isn’t it? I hope those Wickasaws got as much as we
did!”

Above them the cliff arose at a steep angle for some twenty feet, and
from there sprang almost straight into air. That first twenty feet
could be climbed in places if one used care, and it was evident that
the Wickasaw fellows had climbed it.

“Probably two of them went up there,” said Bob, “and one sort of
steadied the other while he painted. But it was a risky thing to do.”

“Pshaw,” answered Dan, “that wasn’t very hard. The trouble is, they’ve
got their old patent-medicine sign up as high as any one can reach. And
it will be mighty hard work to paint it out, besides taking a whole lot
of paint.”

“That’s so,” said Bob, craning his head back to look. “But it’s got to
be done somehow.”

Dan was silent for a moment; then, “No, it hasn’t, either!” he
exclaimed suddenly.

“What do you mean?”

“Why, what we want to do isn’t to paint out their sign, but to paint
our own above it; see?”

“Yes, but how? Use ladders?”

“Where’d we get the ladders?” asked Dan scornfully. “Now, how would
‘Camp Chicora, ’04’ look about twenty feet above their old letters?”

“Fine, but we can’t get it there, can we?”

“Sure! Get some paint and a good big brush, and about fifty feet of
rope.”

Bob whistled.

“You’re a wonder, Dan!” he said softly. “I choose to do the painting!”

“Like thunder! Whose idea was it?”

“Yours, but I weigh less than you do, Dan.”

“That doesn’t matter. We’ll get rope that’ll hold three times my
weight.”

“Do you think you can do it?” asked Bob, looking upward at the smooth
face of the rock.

“Course I can do it; any fellow could. Hello!” He stumbled over the
rocks and picked up a paint-brush, very sticky with vermilion paint.
“Just the thing,” he chuckled. “We won’t have to buy one. Kind of them
to leave it, eh? And here’s the can over here. Think we’ll want that?”

“I don’t believe so, but you might fetch it out in case we do.”

Dan did so, and carried can and brush down through the bushes to the
edge of the meadow and there hid them. Then, with many a backward look
at the cliff, they made their way to the road, and so to the village,
arranging ways and means as they went.

“We’ll go along the road by the river and strike up the mountain from
there, keeping along this side. I’ll make a seat out of a piece of
board, like a swing, you know, and hitch that to the end of the rope.
Then all you fellows will have to do is to lower me down.”

“That’s all right; but how will you move along from left to right when
you’re down there?”

Dan considered this problem for a minute in silence; then he was forced
to own himself stuck.

“Of course, you can pull me up and move the rope, and then let me down
again, but that will take a month of Sundays.”

Nevertheless, no better solution of the problem presented itself, and
Dan reckoned that he could paint three letters from each position,
necessitating but five changes.

“I guess we’d better not tell the fellows about it,” said Bob. “If we
do, it’s sure to get out and Clint will hear of it. If he does, it’s
all over.”

“That’s so. We’ll just say that we’re trying to think up a way to do
it. And this afternoon some of us had better go to Warder and get a
gallon can of nice blue paint. Then to-morrow morning we can get to
work before any one knows anything about it.”

“We’ll have to have Nelson and Tom, though.”

“Sure! We couldn’t do it without them. It will take a couple of you to
hold the rope. You’ll have to snub it around a tree, or something, you
know. I guess you and I’d better go to Warder, because we’ll have to
buy the rope too, and I want to have a hand in that; I feel a sort of
interest in that rope.”

“I guess you do,” Bob answered with a smile. “But I don’t think I can
go with you on account of practise. Take Nelson.”

“All right. Who’s got any money? I’ve drawn my allowance for next week
already.”

“I guess I’ve got enough. I suppose we’ll have to stand the thing
between us.”

“Sure! What’s the good of trying to collect from the crowd? Besides,
if we did, Clint might hear of it. It won’t come to more than a dollar
apiece, I guess.”

Nelson and Tom were duly let into the secret, and the latter became
wildly excited.

“It’s a du-du-du-dandy scheme!” he sputtered with enthusiasm. “Won’t
Wi-wi-wi-Wickasaw be mu-mu-mu-mad?”

“Look here, Tom,” said Dan, “don’t you get to stuttering when you haul
me up. If you do you’ll jar me off my perch!”

In the afternoon Dan and Nelson set the signal for the Navigation
Company’s boat to stop and take them to Chicora Landing. They found
everything they needed at Warder, and were back in time for supper,
evading inquiries as to what was contained in the bundles they carried.
After supper Dan worked at the bench in the carpenter-shop under Poplar
Hall until it was dark, and then sneaked over to Birch Hall and hid the
result of his labors under his bunk. During camp-fire the quartet of
conspirators sat apart and rehearsed the morrow’s plans in whispers. Of
the four, only Bob was calm enough to fall asleep as soon as the lights
went out.



CHAPTER VII

PROVES THE TRUTH OF THE SAYING THAT THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM AT THE TOP,
AND SHOWS DAN WITH THE “BLUES”


As luck would have it, Bob and Tom were camp-boys the next morning,
and, as their duties required the better part of an hour in the
performance, it was after nine o’clock before they were able to
join Dan and Nelson at the landing. The canoe held Dan, Nelson, and
the bundles, and Bob and Tom followed in one of the rowboats. Their
embarkation was watched by several of the fellows, whose suspicions
were aroused, and questions were hurled after them as long as they were
within hearing. As they passed the landing at Wickasaw three boys who
were making fast the launch after returning from the village with the
mail stopped work and observed them with meaning grins.

“Hello, Chicks!” one called. “Been over to the bluff lately?”

“Hello, Wicks,” Dan replied; “you’re all the ‘bluffs’ we’ve seen.”

“You’ll be lu-lu-lu-laughing out of th-th-the other side of your
mu-mu-mouths pretty su-su-soon!” muttered Tom.

At the village they divided the bundles and started down the road
toward Hipp’s Pond; but presently they turned to the left and began the
ascent of the mountain, keeping along the side nearest the village. It
was tough going, and twice Tom put down his load and suggested that
they pause and have a look at the view.

“The view’s perfectly swell, Tom,” answered Nelson, “but as it’s
getting late you want to forget about it and toddle along.”

So Tom, with many a sigh and grunt, toddled.

Ten minutes later they had reached their destination. Behind them rose
the thickly timbered slope of the mountain, and at their feet was the
bluff. Even Nelson found time now for a look at the panorama of blue
sunlit lake spread below them. The camp landing was hidden from them
by the trees, but the upper end of the lake was in plain sight, each
island standing out distinct against the expanse of breeze-ruffled
water. Below them at a little distance a column of smoke rising from
the trees told of the location of Camp Trescott. Beyond was Joy’s Cove,
and, to its left, Black’s Neck. Chicora Inn looked very near across
the lake. Far away a shimmer of blue indicated Little Chicora. It was
a beautiful scene, and the boys, their hats thrown aside, gazed their
fill while the breeze ruffled their damp hair. Then Dan started to work.

The bundles were undone and their contents laid out on the narrow bit
of turf between the trees and the edge of the cliff; two lengths of
rope, a gallon can of blue paint, a ball of stout twine, a piece of
steel wire bent into a double hook, and an oak board sixteen inches
long and six inches wide, notched on each side near the ends. When they
were all displayed Dan looked them over as a general might view his
troops. Suddenly he struck his right fist into his left palm with a
loud smack:

“Oh, thunderation!” he exclaimed.

“What’s the row?” asked Bob.

“We left the paint-brush down there!”

Sorrowfully they walked to the edge of the bluff and looked down into
the meadow.

“Somebody’ll have to go and get it,” said Nelson.

“Where’d you leave it?”

“You couldn’t find it in a week,” answered Dan in vexation. “Here,
let’s get these things rigged up. It would take half an hour to go down
there and back the way we came. You can let me down with the rope and
I’ll find it.”

So they set to work. The board was lashed firmly to one end of an inch
rope, the can of paint was opened, one end of the other length of rope
was tied into a noose, and the hook was passed through the rope at the
end of the swing.

“That looks like awfully small rope,” said Tom.

“But it hasn’t got to hold you, my boy,” said Dan. “Pass the end of it
around that tree, fellows. That’s it. Now let’s see where to put it
over.” He sank onto his hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the
bluff. “Here’s a good place,” he said, and dropped the swing over the
edge. “Now haul up the slack, Bob.”

“Look here,” said Nelson, “it will be easy enough letting you down, but
are you sure we can pull you up again?”

“Well, if you can’t--!” Dan’s tones spoke volumes of contempt. “But
you’ll have to unwind the rope from that tree, you know, and pull on it
directly.”

“Wouldn’t it be safer if we left it snubbed around the tree and pulled
on it here at the edge, letting some one take up the slack at the tree?”

“Yes, if two of you can lift me.”

“We can, if we don’t have to bear the strain between hauls.”

“That’s proper,” said Dan. “But say, how about having the rope work
over the edge of the turf here?”

“Won’t do,” answered Bob. “It would cut into the turf and scrape on the
edge of the rock. We ought to have a plank or something.”

“That old log over there will do all right,” said Nelson. “Fetch it
over, Tom.”

Tom obeyed, grunting, and the dead trunk was laid at the edge of the
cliff.

“What’s going to keep it from rolling over onto your head?” asked Tom
of Dan.

Dan looked puzzled. So did the others.

“Seems to me,” said Nelson, “we didn’t get this more’n half planned
out.”

“History teaches us,” said Dan, “that even the world’s greatest
generals have been quite frequently ‘up a tree.’”

“Wonder if they were ever up a bluff?” murmured Tom.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Dan, after a moment’s consideration of the
problem, “we’ll have to drive stakes on each side of the log; see?”

“Yes,” Bob answered dryly, “but I don’t see the stakes.”

“That’s easy. Who’s got the biggest knife?”

It appeared that Tom had; so Dan borrowed it, and set to work cutting
down a stout branch and converting it into four stakes some eighteen
inches in length. It took a good while, and the other three fellows
disposed themselves comfortably on the ground and looked on.

“Wish those Wickasaws had broken their silly necks!” grumbled Nelson.
“We’re going to miss our soak.”

“Maybe we’ll miss our dinner, too,” said Tom.

“Oh, cut it out!” said Bob. “You can eat to-morrow. I don’t see what
you want to eat for, anyhow, fat as you are.”

At last the stakes were done and were driven into the turf at each side
of the log, Tom mashing his finger with the rock which he was using as
a hammer. Then Bob and Tom and Nelson manned the rope, and Dan wriggled
over the edge of the cliff, feet foremost, keeping a tight hold on the
rope. When only his head remained in sight he winked merrily.

“If I make a mess of it, fellows, kindly see that you find all
the pieces,” he called. “And don’t forget to put on my headstone
‘Requiescat in pieces.’”

Then the flaming red head disappeared, and the fellows let the
rope slip slowly around the tree. It seemed a long while before it
slackened. When Bob got to the edge Dan was scrambling over the rocks
into the bushes. Presently he was back flourishing the brush and can.

“We don’t need to pull you all the way up again,” shouted Bob. “We’ll
get you up where you are going to paint and then lower the can down to
you. Is that all right?”

“All right,” echoed Dan. Then he stepped onto the seat at the end of
the rope and waved his hand. Bob and Nelson laid back on the rope, and
slowly it began to come up over the log, Tom securing the slack after
each haul with a double turn around the tree. Finally there came a
shout, and, after a glance over the edge, Bob directed them to make
fast, and tied the twine to the can of blue paint and lowered it.
Suddenly there was a yell of dismay and wrath from below.

“See what’s wrong!” cried Bob.

Nelson crawled to the edge and peered over. Then he crawled back, and
seemed to be having a fit on the turf. Tom looked down, and then joined
Nelson.

Bob stared at them as though they had suddenly gone insane. “What’s
the matter, you idiots?” he cried. But Tom only shrieked the louder,
while Nelson rolled onto his back, held his sides, and kicked his heels
into the turf, gasping. In disgust Bob got cautiously to his knees,
tied the line around a stake, and had a look for himself. Thirty feet
beneath sat Dan on his wooden seat, muttering incoherently under a
baptism of bright blue paint. The can had caught on the edge of a tiny
projecting ledge and had tilted in such a way that a portion of the
contents had slopped over onto Dan’s bare head, and even yet was still
trickling a tiny stream. At first glance, so thoroughly was Dan’s head
and face adorned, it seemed to Bob that the entire contents of the can
must have been emptied. But a second glance showed him that at least
three-fourths of the paint still remained at the end of the cord. He
swung it away so that it no longer dripped, and hailed Dan.

“What’s the good of wasting the stuff like that, Dan?” he asked with
simulated anger.

Dan raised a strange blue visage from which his eyes peeped coyly
upward. “If you’ll haul me up I’ll lick you within an inch of your
life!” he said solemnly. Then he spat and sputtered and tried to wipe
the sticky fluid from his face with his arm, his hands being already
well covered.

Tom and Nelson, who had managed to creep to the edge for another look,
here retired precipitately so that they might indulge their mirth where
there was no danger of laughing themselves over the edge.

“Too bad, Dan,” laughed Bob. “Haven’t you got a handkerchief?”

“_Handkerchief!_” said Dan scornfully. “What good would that be? What
I need is a Turkish bath and a dozen towels. Say, did you do that on
purpose, you--you blamed fool?”

“No, honest, Dan, I didn’t. I didn’t know what was up, until Nelson was
taken with a fit.”

“Fit! I’ll fit him!” said Dan with a grin. “How do I look?”

“Like New Haven after a football victory!”

“Huh! Well, let’s have that stuff and get this fool job done!”

“Sure you don’t want to come up and clean off a bit?”

“I’m not coming up until the thing’s done, I tell you. Lower away on
that paint, only for goodness’ sake be careful!”

“Of course I will! What’s the saying about gilding refined gold and
painting the lily, Dan? There’s no use wasting any more of this
precious stuff on you; you’re complete now. I couldn’t add to your
beauty if I had gallons and gallons here!”

“Shut up!” said Dan cheerfully; “and tell those two other idiots that
if they don’t stop laughing I’ll go up there and paint ’em from head to
feet!”

Here Tom looked over.

“Su-su-say, Dan,” he shouted, “di-di-didn’t you mean ‘Re-re-requiescat
in pu-pu-pu-paint’?”

“Shut up, Tom,” gurgled Nelson, thrusting his blushing countenance
over the edge. “Can’t you see he has enough already to make him blue?”

But Dan made no answer. He was tracing a monstrous C on the face of the
cliff with a dripping brush.

[Illustration: He was tracing a monstrous C.]

“Don’t be too generous with that paint,” cautioned Bob. “Remember,
there isn’t very much left.”

“Guess I know that, don’t I?” asked Dan.

An A and an M followed the C, and then it was necessary to move the
artist along. Nelson had solved the difficulty after a fashion the
preceding afternoon. The second rope was made fast to a tree at the top
and lowered down to Dan. He put his foot in the noose and swung free
of the seat, keeping hold, however, of the rope above it. Then this
was moved at the top and made fast anew. Dan stepped back on the seat,
released the rope with the noose, and went swinging across the face
of the rock like a pendulum. The watchers held their breaths, but Dan
clung fast, and presently the swing came to a stop and the painting
was resumed. Four times more was this process gone through with to the
risking of Dan’s limbs before the last numeral of “’04” was completed.
Then Dan heaved a sigh of relief, viewed his work approvingly, and
trickled what remained of the paint down the face of the rock in a
partly successful endeavor to obliterate the red lettering below.

“How does it look?” asked Nelson eagerly.

“Swell,” said Dan. “Pull me up.”

They obeyed, and when he crawled over the edge and stood up they all
sat down and howled anew. And Dan, just to be sociable, sat down and
laughed at his plight until the tears came.

“Oh, Dan, if we could only keep you just as you are!” gasped Nelson,
“and use you for a mascot!”

Head and face were as blue as though he had dipped them in the
paint-can; his hands and arms were a lighter shade; the stuff had
trickled down behind one ear and so down his back, and his jersey was
patriotic to a fault.

“What shall I do?” he asked finally. “I can’t go back like this.”

“We’ll land you just across from the village,” said Nelson, “and you
can sneak back to camp through the woods. No one will see you, because
the crowd will be having soak. Get a lot of kerosene and take a bath in
it.”

The plan was the best they could think of, and so it was carried out.
The ropes and the rest of the paraphernalia they hid in the woods,
and then they got down the hill as fast as their legs would carry
them. Going through the village, Dan created quite a little interest,
although he modestly strove to avoid notice. They put him ashore
a quarter of a mile from camp, and when last seen he was stalking
through the trees like an Indian in war-paint. The others got back to
the landing in time to hurry into their bathing-trunks and get a few
plunges before the signal “All out!” was given. They were very reticent
as to what they had been doing, but somehow the secret was all over
camp by dinner-time, and the fellows spent the most of the afternoon
rowing to and fro across the lake to the point of Black’s Neck, from
where an excellent view of the cliff was obtainable. And what they saw
pleased them immeasurably. Dan had fairly beaten the Wickasaws at their
own game. He had painted his legend in letters fully three feet high
at least fifteen feet above theirs, and there could be no comparison
either in artistic effect or publicity. Camp Chicora hugged itself in
gleeful triumph.

Just before supper Dan ran across Mr. Verder.

“Why, Speede,” asked the latter, stopping him, “aren’t you feeling
well?”

“Me, sir? Oh, I’m all right,” answered Dan uneasily, eager to pass on.

“Sure?” asked the councilor. “You look--er--kind of blue and
unhealthy.” And Dan thought he heard a chuckle as he hurried away.



CHAPTER VIII

TELLS HOW TOM WAS VISITED BY AUNT LOUISA--AND SOME OTHERS


Saturdays at Chicora were by way of being fête-days. Relatives and
friends were given the freedom of the camp, and the visitors’ table
in the dining-hall was usually full. Frequently the father of one of
the boys stayed over until Monday morning, sleeping in one of the
dormitories and getting a genuine taste of camp life. On the day
following the adventure at the cliff the visitors began to reach camp
early, and among the first to put in an appearance was Tom’s Aunt
Louisa, from Boston. Her arrival was so unexpected, and Tom became so
excited over it, that he started at the landing to tell her how glad to
see her he was and only finished at the flag-pole, having been set back
twice in his stuttering by stubbing his toe on the way up. With parents
and friends appeared simultaneously baskets and boxes of fruit, candy,
and cake. Sunday morning found many absent from the breakfast table,
and Dr. Smith made the rounds of the dormitories with what he called
his “Sunday Specific.” But Aunt Louisa wasn’t the sort to bring trouble
to a boy’s digestion; she said so herself in the presence of Nelson and
Dan and Bob and Tom, the first three having been formally introduced by
Tom as “my special friends.”

“I don’t believe in candy, Tom,” said Aunt Louisa, “and you know it.
So don’t expect any. You’re looking so well, my dear, that I wouldn’t
think of bringing you anything that might upset you. I did consider
fruit, but I’m always afraid of fruit; in hot weather--aren’t you, sir?”

Dan, finding the question put to him, answered with alacrity.

“Yes’m,” said Dan soberly.

“Yes, that’s what I think,” continued Aunt Louisa. “And so I said to
myself, ‘If it must be something sweet’--for Tom’s got the sweetest
tooth of any boy I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a good many in my
time--‘if it must be something sweet,’ I said, ‘why, it will be
something healthful.’ And so, Tom, I’ve brought you two of those lemon
pies and a dozen cream-puffs from that nice store on Temple Place.
There’s nothing about a good honest pie can hurt any one--is there?”

“No, indeed,” answered Dan with enthusiasm. Tom murmured his thanks,
but withal looked a trifle dissatisfied. Aunt Louisa saw it.

“I do believe he’s disappointed at not getting candy!” she said.

“No, really, aunt,” Tom answered, striving to put conviction into his
tones. “I’m awfully fond of cream-puffs--and pie.”

But Aunt Louisa shook her head, unconvinced. “I’m afraid you are,
though,” she said. “I kind of felt you would be. That’s why I said
to myself, ‘Now, there’s mighty little use in being in good health
if you’re unhappy. If the boy’s going to get more enjoyment out of
having a stomach-ache than by not having one, why, he shall have it.
Boys aren’t real happy, anyhow,’ I said to myself, ‘unless they’re in
trouble, and I guess a stomach-ache’s about as harmless a trouble as he
could have.’ And so I just went down to Sage & Paw’s and----”

“Hooray for you, Aunt Louisa!” shouted Tom. “What d’you get?”

“Mixed chocolates,” said Aunt Louisa, her eyes dancing, adding grimly,
“I guess they’ll do the work as quick as anything!”

Candy never tastes so good as when a chap has been subsisting on what
the school catalogues call “a plain, wholesome diet with a sufficiency
of pure milk and butter and fresh eggs.” The box, a generous
four-pound affair, was quickly obtained, and the five--Aunt Louisa
reminding one of a valuable transport under the protection of four
men-o’-war--sought a quiet spot in the forest above the clearing where
they, or at least four of them, could do the matter full justice. Aunt
Louisa sat on a fallen tree, with her neat gray traveling-gown well
tucked up around her, and encouraged them to eat all they could.

“You might just as well have it over with,” she declared. “You’re all
bound to be ill, and the sooner you’re ill the sooner you’ll be well
again. Mr. Hurry, you mustn’t let Tom get ahead of you.”

“Dan’s name’s Speede, auntie,” corrected Tom.

“Speede, is it? Well, he’s real slow compared to you, Tom, when it
comes to candy.”

They unanimously voted Aunt Louisa a “brick,” and hospitably pressed
her to come again. And in the afternoon, when the camp turned out in a
body and traveled to the ball field for the first game of the season,
Aunt Louisa was escorted in state. The box of candy didn’t go along
however; they had lost the edge of their appetite. So Tom bore the
depleted box to Maple Hall, and, because his locker no longer locked,
and because the sign artistically done on the door with a hot poker,
which sign surrounded a grinning skull and cross-bones and read,
“DANGER! KEEP OUT!” had no meaning for the other occupants of the hall,
he secreted it at the head of his bunk under the mattress.

Chicora’s adversary that day was Camp Trescott. Trescott was situated
directly across the lake in Joy’s Cove. It was a small camp, and the
dozen and a half fellows inhabiting it were all from one school.
Trescott rather prided itself on being select. But select or not, it
wasn’t much at baseball, and Chicora had little difficulty in winning
as she pleased. But despite a very one-sided score--17 to 3--there
were some good plays, and the spectators were well repaid for their
half-mile walk through the woods. Bob found plenty of things that
needed remedying, but on the whole the Chicora team played very well
for a first game.

There was quite a gallery of spectators at the evening plunge, and
Dan excelled himself at diving, bringing forth screams of terrified
protest from Aunt Louisa, who “just knew that Mr. Hurry would drown
himself, if he didn’t break his neck first!” Even Nelson, who of late
had been profiting by Dan’s instruction, did some very respectable
stunts in the line of what Tom called “high and lofty tumbling.” Aunt
Louisa, together with nearly a dozen other guests, stayed to supper and
camp-fire, being taken back to Chicora Inn at nine in the steam-launch.
A dozen or so of the boys went along with the guests, the Four among
them. There was a jolly big white moon that made a wide sparkling path
across the water, and there was a nice nippy little breeze from the
east that rendered the seats about the boiler very popular. Mr. Clinton
ran the launch, and coming back he made no protest when Bob, who was at
the wheel, turned the head of the Chicora across the lake and hugged
the opposite shore all the way back, explaining _sotto voce_ to Nelson
that “the longest way around was the shortest way home.”

It was after ten when they finally made the landing, and nearly half
past when, having helped the Chief make fast the boat for the night
and partaken of a lunch of milk and crackers in the dining-hall, the
Four tumbled into bed and put out their lanterns. And it was just about
midnight when a heartrending shriek broke out on the stillness and
brought every fellow into a sitting position in his bunk with visions
of murder. In the momentary silence ensuing there was a loud _thump_ of
a body striking the floor, the building shook on its foundations, and
Mr. Verder’s alarmed voice rang out:

“What’s the matter? Who yelled, fellows?”

“_Wha-wha-wha-what’s the mu-mu-mu-matter?_” shrieked a voice midway
down the hall. “I du-du-dunno what’s the mu-mu-mu--what’s the
mu-mu-mu-matter! I only know I’m bu-bu-bu-being eat-tu-tu-eaten alive!”

A howl of laughter rewarded the explanation, and lanterns were quickly
lighted. Dan was one of the first on the scene. Tom, his blankets
scattered around him, stood in his pajamas with staring eyes and busy
hands. First he rubbed and slapped one part of his body, then another,
and all the time he kept up an indignant stuttering.

“Tu-tu-talk about pu-pu-pu-pins an’ nu-nu-needles! Gu-gu-gee!
Su-su-somebody’s put a whole pu-pu-pu-package of ’em in mu-mu-my bed!”

“Shut up your howling,” said Dan with a grin. “What’s the fun?”

“_Fu-fu-fun!_” yelled Tom. “I wish you had it!”

“Had what?”

“Wha-wha-whatever it is, you bu-bu-bu-blamed idiot!” answered Tom
wrathfully. Then, with a sudden shriek, he leaped a foot into the air,
grabbed his pajamas above his left knee, and danced nimbly about the
floor, at last becoming entangled in the blankets and tumbling headlong
at the feet of Mr. Verder, who came hurrying up. Every fellow was on
hand by that time, and Tom was pulled sputtering to his feet. Mr.
Verder took the nearest lantern and investigated. The cause of Tom’s
unhappiness wasn’t far to seek. Over the bed and blankets swarmed a
veritable army of big black ants!

“Ants!” said Mr. Verder, laughing. “What are you doing, Ferris,
studying entomology?”

“Probably _ant_omology,” hazarded Nelson.

“Ants?” exclaimed Tom, still rubbing himself busily. “Ants! Gee,
I thought they were bu-bu-bu-bees at least! They haven’t done a
th-th-th-thing tu-tu-tu-to me, sir!”

“Well, I’m sorry, Ferris,” said the councilor. “The Doctor will get you
something to put on the bites. But what are they doing on your bed?”

“I gu-gu-guess it’s the cu-cu-cu-candy, sir,” said Tom sheepishly.

“Candy? What candy?”

For answer Tom raised the mattress, revealing a box about which the
ants were crawling excitedly to and fro.

“Well,” said Mr. Verder when the laughter had somewhat subsided, “after
this you had better keep your candy somewhere else.”

For answer Tom seized the box gingerly and hurled it out the nearest
window. Dr. Smith appeared with a bottle of witch-hazel, and Tom,
dispensing with his pajamas, received medical assistance. After that
order and quiet were restored only with much difficulty. Tom went
elsewhere to continue his interrupted slumber, hugging the bottle of
witch-hazel to his breast, but he couldn’t get beyond the gibes of
his companions. They sat on the edge of his new bunk and pointed out
the moral to him, which, according to them, was to the effect that
selfishness had been justly rewarded. And Tom, rubbing and grimacing,
had no spirit left with which to defend himself.

“It proves,” declared Dan, “that a fellow can have too many ants!”

Tom only groaned, whether at the pun or at his pain they didn’t know.



CHAPTER IX

STARTS OUT WITH POETRY, HAS TO DO WITH A BEETLE, AND ENDS WITH A PENALTY


Nelson read with a nod of approval.

    “And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
     Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
     Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

He was sitting at the table on the porch of Birch Hall, and the lines
that pleased him were burned on a wooden tablet affixed to the big
stone chimney across the room. His gaze, returning from the quotation,
fell on Tom, who at a neighboring table was, like Nelson, writing home.
One of Tom’s legs was twined around the camp-stool upon which he was
seated, as a morning-glory vine twines about a post. The other leg was
stretched straight ahead, as though seeking inspiration at a distance.
His forehead was puckered with wrinkles until it resembled the surface
of a washboard, and he chewed ravenously at the tip of his pen. Nelson
smiled, and let his gaze wander back to his own task only to have it
prove truant again, attracted by the scene at his left.

The porch overhung the hill, and from where he sat he looked into the
swaying branches of the trees. Between them, like turquoises set in a
field of emerald and chrysoprase, shone patches of the lake ruffled to
a tender blue by the breeze that sang amid the trees. Near-by a silver
poplar flashed the under surface of its leaves into the sunlight, so
that they seemed to have been dipped in pale gold. A gray squirrel
chattered and scolded on a neighboring limb, and all about birds sang
blithely. Nelson sighed, and brought his eyes resolutely back to the
half-written letter before him. It wasn’t a morning for letter-writing;
the woods called too loudly; his thoughts would stray.

“Oh, hang it!” exclaimed Tom, “I don’t know what to write!”

“Did you tell them about the ants last night?” asked Nelson innocently.

“You bet I did! And say, one of those bites still aches like the
mischief. I never thought ants could nip like that!”

“You probably rolled over on them; that’s enough to make any
self-respecting ant angry.”

“Oh, dry up and blow away! What are you writing about?”

“Not much of anything--yet. I mentioned the ants. And the weather;
I suppose they’ll be pleased to know what sort of weather we had
two days before they get my letter! I’ve got almost a page about the
weather.”

“Gee! I wish I could write like that. I told ’em it was a fine day, but
it only took a line. Wish I could string it out like you can! I guess
I’ll just say that I’m well, and that it’s time for dinner, so no more
at present.”

“Time for dinner! Why, it’s only half past nine!”

“Oh, you’re too fussy,” answered Tom, drumming on the table with his
pen. “Besides, it’s always time for dinner!”

“Have you told them about your aunt?”

“Great Scott, no! I forgot all about her. Say, you’re a true friend,
Nel!” And Tom, after scowling fiercely at the tip of his pen for a
moment, took a firmer hold of the camp-stool with his leg and began to
write vigorously, so vigorously that Nelson feared he would break his
pen. Ten minutes passed, during which Nelson finished his own letter,
and Tom, having told of Aunt Louisa’s visit in a scant half-dozen
lines, informed his parents somewhat unnecessarily that “the weather
continues fine,” and that “I will tell you more in my next,” and signed
himself “Your loving son, Thomas Courtenay Ferris.”

Then, having hastily sealed and stamped their letters, they dropped
them into the mail-box with sighs of relief and hastened out-of-doors.

“Let’s go up to the tennis-court and be lazy until time for church,”
suggested Tom.

So they climbed the hill, found a place where the grass offered
comfort and the overhanging branches promised shade, and stretched
themselves out. Above them was a wide-spreading oak, behind them a
little settlement of young birch carpeted with trailing evergreen and
partridge-berries. Bordering the path were blueberry and raspberry
bushes and goldenrod, the latter already beginning to glow, although
August was but just at hand. Thereabouts grew wild strawberries, if
Tom was to be believed, although they had long since ceased fruiting.
Rocks outcropped on every side, and tall ferns grew abundantly. It was
Tom who presently wiggled forward and plucked from a tiny covert of
evergreen and grass three oddly shaped blossoms, pallid and translucent.

“What the dickens are these things?” he asked perplexedly. He viewed
them suspiciously as though he feared they might poison him.

“Indian-pipe,” answered Nelson. “_Monotropa uniflora._ Let’s see one.”

“Are they poisonous?”

“No, indeed, but they do look a bit unhealthy, don’t they? Corpse-plant
they’re called, too.”

“They sure do; look like mushrooms gone wrong. Indian-pipe, eh? Gee, I
guess nobody but an Indian would want to smoke such a thing! Say, they
smell nice, don’t they?”

“Nice?” repeated Nelson suspiciously. “Smell pretty bad, I suppose. By
jove, they don’t though. Say, they’re real sweet! I never knew that
they had any odor before. If it was stronger it would be mighty sweet,
wouldn’t it? It’s--it’s what you might call illusive.”

“That’s a fine word,” said Tom lazily. “Ill-use-ive, of no use.”
He tossed them aside and settled his hands under his head, staring
drowsily up into the sun-flecked branches. “Good night; wake me in time
for dinner.” He was really dropping off to sleep when Nelson called to
him softly:

“Say, Tom, come over here.”

“What for?” asked Tom sleepily.

“I want you to see this beetle,” giggled Nelson. “He’s the craziest dub
you ever saw. Come, look!”

“Beetle!” muttered Tom disgustedly. Nevertheless he found sufficient
energy to wriggle along on his stomach to the other’s side. “Where’s
your old bu-bu-beetle?” he asked.

“There,” answered Nelson, pointing with a twig. He was a small chap,
grayish-black in color, with what Nelson declared to be the Morse code
written down his back. He was trying to get somewhere, just where
wasn’t apparent, for no sooner did he make headway in one direction
than he changed his route and started off in another. He was laughably
awkward, and bumped into everything in his path.

“Bet you he’s been eating toadstools,” said Tom, “and is very ill.”

“I’ve named him ‘Tom,’” said Nelson soberly.

“Think he looks like me?” asked Tom.

“N-no, but he walks like you.”

“Huh! Look at the idiot, will you?” The beetle had encountered an acorn
at least ten times his size and was vainly striving to shove it out of
his path. Again and again he stood on his hind legs and tried to move
the acorn, acting in a most absurdly exasperated way.

“He’s getting terribly mad,” said Nelson. “It doesn’t occur to him, I
suppose, that he can walk around it. Let’s take it out of his way; if
we don’t, he’ll stay there all day and never get home to his family.”
So the acorn was flicked aside with Nelson’s twig. But the effect on
the beetle was not what they had expected. He immediately began to
run around very hurriedly in a tiny circle as though trying to make
himself dizzy.

“Bet you he’s wondering where the acorn went to,” said Tom. “Look at
the idiot! Hey, get up there!” And Tom, borrowing Nelson’s twig, gave
the beetle a shove. Apparently that was just what he needed. After a
moment, spent perhaps in gathering his thoughts, he started off in a
new direction and covered six inches of ground, knocking into every
blade of grass and every tiny obstruction on the way. Then, for no
apparent reason, he crawled in at one end of a dried and curled leaf
and proceeded to try and get out again by climbing the sides. As the
sides curved inward he had a terrible time of it. Six times he fell
onto his back, all legs waving wildly, and had great difficulty in
regaining his equilibrium. At last, quite by accident, he got too near
one end of the leaf and tumbled out. Then he took up his journey again.

“I don’t think insects have much sense,” said Tom disgustedly.

“This one hasn’t, that’s certain,” said Nelson. “If he doesn’t look out
he’ll-- There he goes, plump into that spider-web. Why, any one could
have seen it! Look at him! Tom, you’re an awful fool!”

“Huh?” said Tom in surprise.

“I was addressing your namesake,” explained Nelson.

The namesake was blundering deeper and deeper into the tiny web,
reminding the watchers of a man walking through a series of hotbeds as
depicted in a comic paper. Finally, by sheer weight, the beetle came
out on the other side with a large part of the web trailing behind him,
and a very small spider, looking like the head of a black pin, emerged
from her hiding-place and began to run excitedly over the scene of her
former habitation.

“Don’t blame her,” grunted Tom. “Things are certainly torn up.”

The beetle, doubling in his tracks, progressed without further
misadventure for almost a foot. Then he stopped, dug his head into the
earth, and waved his legs vexatiously.

“Oh, he’s plumb crazy!” laughed Nelson.

“I guess he dropped something and is looking for it,” said Tom.
“Perhaps it’s his watch. Or maybe----”

Tom’s further surmises were rudely interrupted. Up the hill floated a
most unmelodious shout. Nelson sat up as though he had touched a live
wire.

“Great Scott!” he exclaimed, “what’s that?”

“It’s Joe Carter,” said Tom. “He learned that yell from his brother,
who was on the Yale freshman crew.”

“It sounds like--like a banshee!”

“Never heard one,” said Tom.

“Really? I had a tame one once,” answered Nelson, laughing.

“You mean _bantam_, I guess. Hello, there he goes again. Maybe he’s
calling us.” And Tom lifted up his voice in a weak imitation of
Carter’s awful effort.

“Oh, you can’t do it, Tommy, my boy. Why, I couldn’t have heard that
ten miles!”

But Carter wasn’t that far off, and presently, after sending an
answering hail, he appeared in the path.

“Say, you fellows, Clint wants to see you in the office.” Then he
dropped his voice to an awed whisper. “He’s found out about the sign on
the cliff,” he added.

“Phew!” said Nelson. “Was he mad?”

“N-no, I don’t think so, but it’s hard to tell,” Carter replied. “But
he looked pretty serious. He’s sent for Bob and Dan, too.”

The latter were coming up the hill into the clearing as Nelson and Tom
appeared from above. They exchanged sympathetic grins and shakes of the
head, and then composed their features and filed into Poplar Hall. Mr.
Clinton was at his desk behind the railing.

“Bring some chairs over here, boys, and sit down so that I may talk to
you. That’s it. Now, how about this blue-paint episode?”

His glance encountered four rather sheepish faces, but every eye met
his fairly. It was Bob who spoke first.

“We all had a hand in it, sir.”

“That’s so, sir,” Tom supplemented. And Nelson nodded. Dan alone gave
no sign. Mr. Clinton observed the fact and looked surprised.

“You didn’t have a hand in it, then Speede?” he asked.

Dan’s face suddenly wreathed itself in a broad smile and his blue eyes
twinkled.

“I was pretty near all in it, Mr. Clint,” he answered. “You see, sir,
they emptied the pot of paint over me!”

The Chief smiled a little.

“Too bad they didn’t use it all that way,” he said. “Now, look here,
boys; I’ve heard how you rigged up ropes and slung--slung one of your
number over the cliff----”

“That was me, sir,” interrupted Dan modestly.

“Whoever it was, it was a foolhardy and dangerous piece of business.
You might have fallen and broken your neck. I’ll confess to a feeling
of admiration for the pluck displayed, but I have no sympathy for the
achievement. I am responsible for the welfare of you boys while you’re
here in this camp. How do you suppose I could have faced your folks,
Speede, if you had injured yourself?”

“I don’t think the danger was so great as you think, sir,” answered
Dan. “We--we took every precaution.”

The Chief sniffed audibly. “The only sensible precaution would have
been to have an ambulance waiting at the bottom,” he said dryly. “If
you had to endanger your limbs--and I confess I can’t see the necessity
of it--I’d prefer you did it in some better cause. In plain language,
what you committed was an act of vandalism. To daub up the scenery with
a lot of blue paint is nothing else. It shows not only mighty poor
taste, but selfishness as well. The Lord put that cliff there to be a
part of the natural scenery, for people to look at and enjoy. And when
you deface it you are depriving others of their rights, merely to give
yourselves an instant’s selfish satisfaction.”

He paused and awaited a reply; finally:

“It was Wickasaw started it, sir,” said Tom. “They painted their name
there first, and they hadn’t any business doing that, sir; and so----”

“And so you thought you had to outrage good taste also? A very poor
excuse, Ferris. Now I want you to promise never to attempt anything of
the sort again. And I want you to promise, too, that whenever, not only
while you’re here but all your lives, you know of an attempt on the
part of any one to deface the natural scenery, you will do all in your
power to prevent it. What do you say?”

“I’ll promise, sir,” said Bob, and the others chimed in.

“Very well. I am pretty certain you went about this thing thoughtlessly,
and I don’t want to be hard on you; but at the same time I can not
altogether overlook it. Let me see; you asked for permission, didn’t
you, to take dinner at the Inn?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And I gave it. Now I fancy you accord me the right of retracting that
permission, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” said Nelson softly.

“Yes; well, I think you had better stay in camp the rest of the day.
That’s all, boys.”

“Mr. Clinton,” said Tom, as they replaced their chairs, “please, sir,
will you stop at the Inn landing for my aunt? I told her we’d be over
to dinner and take her on the launch afterward, and I guess she’ll be
worried.”

“H’m. I’d forgotten your aunt was here, Ferris. When does she return to
the city?”

“First train in the morning, sir.”

“Well, you may come along on the launch, I guess, all of you. But no
going to the Inn for dinner, you understand.”

“No, sir. Thank you, sir.”

Outside they heaved sighs of relief.

“Gee!” said Dan, “we got out of that cheap, didn’t we?”

And all concurred. Only Tom looked sorrowful.

“They have swell grub at the Inn,” he murmured regretfully.



CHAPTER X

DESCRIBES AN AFTERNOON ON THE LAKE AND A GALLANT RESCUE


The Chicora was a trim-looking steam-launch, thirty feet in length, and
with a comfortable beam. And when she steamed away from the landing, at
three o’clock, she held sixteen boys, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Verder, and Mr.
Thorpe. She was pretty well loaded, but there still remained room for
several parents and relatives who were to be picked up at the Inn. Dan,
Nelson, Tom, and Bob were perched on the tiny deck space aft of the
cabin and looked very, very good. When Aunt Louisa appeared, looking
rather doubtful of the enterprise, she was conducted to a seat near-by.

“You needn’t tell me why you didn’t come to dinner,” she said at once.
“I felt pretty certain you’d made yourself sick with that candy, and
now I’m sure of it. I never knew you to look like an angel, Tom, save
when you were sick or getting well.”

Whereupon she was acquainted in whispers of the real reason of their
non-appearance, and wouldn’t believe that “Mr. Hurry” had performed
such a hazardous feat until, the launch having turned its nose across
the lake, the cliff came into sight and the staring blue letters were
quietly pointed out to her.

“Well, I never!” she ejaculated. “If that wasn’t a clever thing to do!
And a very wicked one!” she added quickly and disapprovingly.

“Scenery’s very pretty to-day,” remarked Carter, grinning at Dan. And
Dan, with an apologetic glance at Aunt Louisa, kicked Carter good and
hard. Mr. Clinton, busy at the engine, refused to hear. Neither did he
show that the offensive inscription on the cliff ahead of them was in
existence. Once headed down the lake the launch got the full effect of
the waves, which, under a strong easterly wind, were kicking up quite
a rumpus. Those in the bow received frequent wettings, and there was a
struggle for places there. Aunt Louisa was quite certain she was going
to be seasick, and insisted cheerfully that, in such a contingency, she
must be set ashore at once, no matter where.

“I always say,” she announced, “that it’s a heap better to go ashore,
even if it’s on a desert island, than stay in a boat and be sick. And I
do hope Mr. Clinton will keep near land, for seasickness does come on
so suddenly!”

But the foot of the lake was reached without any signs of illness on
her part other than a slight uneasiness, and when they had passed under
the bridge by the village and began to wind through the little river,
even that was forgotten. In many places the trees almost swept the
boat with their branches, and the channel was so narrow that the most
careful steering was necessary. Half-way through to Hipp’s Pond there
was a shout from the fellows in the bow.

“Look at the duck!” they cried. Those aft struggled for a view. A small
duck, and evidently a young one, was bobbing up and down in the boat’s
waves scarce three yards away. As they passed, it watched them with
staring, beady eyes, but made no move toward flight.

“Gee!” said Tom, his own eyes quite as starey as the duck’s, “if we
only had a gun!” Then the duck came alongside him and the temptation
was too great. With one hand on a stanchion, he leaned far out and made
a wild grab. He didn’t get the duck he expected, but he got one kind;
for he lost his balance and his hold simultaneously, and went overboard
head foremost with a mighty splash. Aunt Louisa gave a shriek of terror
and turned to Dan:

“Go after him, Hurry! Save him!”

“Yes’m,” answered Dan, with a grin. Then over he went just as the
engine was stopped, and just as Tom came up sputtering some twenty
yards away.

“Keep up!” called Dan. “I’ll save you!” And Aunt Louisa, watching
anxiously, couldn’t understand why the fellows laughed so uproariously.
Tom, shaking his head to get the water from his eyes, turned and
started toward the boat. But Dan wasn’t a life-saver for nothing.

“Don’t give up!” he called. “Fight hard! I’ll have you in a moment!”

“You ku-ku-ku-keep away from mu-mu-mu-me!” answered Tom.

“Saved!” shouted Dan, and then rescued and rescuer disappeared from
sight.

“Oh!” shrieked Aunt Louisa, “they’re both drowning!”

And every one else laughed harder than before.

Then up came Dan’s head, and up came Tom’s, and a merry struggle took
place. Dan insisted on pulling Tom back to the launch by the back of
his sweater, and Tom refused.

“Lu-lu-lu-let mu-mu-mu-me alone, you, i-i-i-idiot!” he protested.

“You shut up!” answered Dan. “I was asked to save you, and I’m going
to do it if I have to drown you.” He got a fresh grip on Tom and--down
they went again. In the end Mr. Clinton had to take a hand, otherwise
they might have been there yet. Tom, looking sheepish, was helped over
the side, and Dan pulled in after him. Aunt Louisa began a speech of
thanks to the latter, but Nelson, wiping the tears from his eyes, at
last found his voice.

“He didn’t do anything, ma’am,” he explained. “Tom can swim like a
fish; he’s the best swimmer in camp!”

“Do you mean to tell me,” she demanded, “that he wasn’t drowning?”

“No’m--yes’m--I mean he wasn’t.”

“Well!” she said vigorously, “well!” And she looked indignantly at Dan.
But the hero looked so penitent that she said no more; besides, it
wasn’t necessary, for Mr. Clinton was already reproving him for adding
to the lady’s distress, and, even if his eyes twinkled a good deal,
what he said was straight to the mark. Meanwhile the Chicora had taken
up her voyage again. Tom and Dan removed their shoes and sweaters and
hung them near the boiler to dry, and tried to bring warmth into their
chilled bodies by alternately turning faces and backs to the engine.
The incident enlivened the party, and afterward the laughter was never
quite stilled. Coming back “Babe” Fowler, who had lived all his short
life by the salt water, proclaimed himself awfully thirsty and wished
he had a drink.

“Gee,” said a neighbor, “you must be awfully tony if you can’t drink
this water!”

The changing expression of “Babe’s” face was worth seeing. Finally:

“Why, it’s fresh water, isn’t it?” he cried. “I was thinking it was
salt!” And thereupon he had his drink, and was unmercifully teased by
the fellows, one of whom recited, “Water, water everywhere, and not a
drop for ‘Babe,’” all the way back to the landing.

The stay-at-homes were having their evening dip when the launch bumped
up to the pier, and the newcomers joined them in short order. The
guest-table was filled again at supper-time, and Aunt Louisa was one
of those who remained. After the meal was over Bob and Tom took her
over to the village in one of the rowboats and got the Sunday mail. The
wind had died down, and the lake was a great limpid pool in which the
afterglow was reflected in changing hues of steel and copper and dull
gold. Half-way back the bugle’s summons floated down to them and was
echoed back from the farther shore. As they glided past Bear Island the
boys of Wickasaw could be heard singing, and, although Tom pretended to
think such doings beneath contempt, he followed Bob’s example when the
latter rested on his oars.

“Oh, it’s perfectly heavenly!” exclaimed Aunt Louisa softly.

“Huh!” said Tom, “you wait till you hear Joe Carter sing ‘Bluebell’ on
his banjo!”

“That must be quite a stunt,” laughed Bob.

“Oh, well, you know what I mu-mu-mean. I’ll ask him to sing at
camp-fire. I’ll tell him you want to hear him, auntie.”

“But I don’t think--” began Aunt Louisa.

“Oh, he won’t mind; he likes to make a noise!”

And so, when the flames were leaping and dancing under the big trees,
Joe produced his banjo and sang, and every one else helped him. And Mr.
Thorpe got his guitar and sang rag-time melodies in a way that caused
half his audience to laugh until the tears came, while the other half,
composed of the visitors and the more sedate campers, showed a desire
to shuffle their feet or clap their hands in time to the rollicking
tunes. Then came prayers, and a trip down to the Inn landing, where
Aunt Louisa said good-by, and invited each of Tom’s friends to visit
her in Boston. And as “Mr. Hurry” was included in that invitation it is
probable that Aunt Louisa had forgiven him for his too gallant rescue.



CHAPTER XI

TELLS HOW THE FOUR PLANNED AN EXCURSION, AND HOW DAN AND NELSON PLAYED
HARES, MADE A DISCOVERY, AND HAD A FRIGHT


“I think it’s a deuce of a note that I’m going to get left on the long
trip!” said Dan aggrievedly.

They were sitting, the Four, in front of the fireplace in Birch Hall.
Before them a couple of giant logs were crackling merrily. Outside it
was raining steadily, and through the open door and windows the breeze
swept in damp, and redolent of wet earth and vegetation. Now and then
a rain-drop found its way down the big chimney and fell hissing into
the fire. Siesta was over with, and the weather made outdoor pursuits
uncomfortable, if not impossible. Besides the Four, the room held a
dozen or so other lads, three of whom--juniors these--were busily
engaged in filling a soap-box with torn paper for the hare-and-hounds
chase scheduled for the morrow.

“Well, so am I,” said Nelson. “I’ve got to get back home by the first
of September myself. We’re going to the St. Louis Fair about the first.”

“Wish _I_ was,” Dan responded gloomily. “I’ve got to put in a couple of
weeks with the oculist. He’s going to do something to my eyes, and I’ll
have to mope around for about a week with a bandage over ’em.”

“Hard luck,” said Bob. “And I wish you fellows were going on the trip
with us, I certainly do. It’s the finest sort of fun. Can’t you stay,
Nel? What do you care about their old Exposition?--a lot of machinery
and fool pictures, and such truck!”

“I’ve got to go. Anyhow, I want to see it; I didn’t get to the one in
Buffalo. I saw the Chicago Fair, though. That was swell!”

“You bet it was!” said Tom, his patriotism to the fore. “There hasn’t
been one to come up to that yet, and there won’t be for a long old
while!”

“Oh, forget it,” answered Dan, “you and your old Chicago! To hear you
go on, a fellow’d think Chicago was the only place in the world!” Dan
was from New York, and pretended a deep scorn for the Windy City.

“That’s all right,” said Tom. “But you’ve never had anything like our
fair in your tu-tu-tu-town!”

“Don’t want one,” answered Dan calmly. “You just lost a lot of money on
it.”

“Mu-mu-maybe we du-du-du-did,” said Tom warmly. “Bu-bu-but mu-mu-money’s
not the only th-th-th-thing. We sh-sh-showed you fu-fu-folks what we
cu-cu-could--could do, by gum!”

“Cut it out now!” laughed Nelson. “Tommy’s getting excited, and
excitement isn’t good for him. Besides, he wants to save his breath for
the chase to-morrow. He says he’s going to get home before you and I
do, Dan.”

Dan and Bob found the idea amusing.

“Another case of the hare and the tortoise,” suggested Bob. “You and
Dan will have to be careful, and not fall asleep.”

“If it keeps on raining we won’t have a chance to do much sleeping, I
tell you,” answered Nelson. “The ground will be as soft and slippery as
anything!”

“Hares don’t mind soft ground,” said Tom.

“This hare does,” replied Dan.

“So does this one,” Nelson added.

“I guess Tommy wants to lose flesh,” said Bob. “There’s nothing like a
good hard run to remove superfluous avoirdupois.”

“Oh, isn’t he good?” cried Tommy. “Did you hear him say that?”

“That’ll do for you, Bob,” said Dan.

Bob made an unsuccessful attempt to pull Dan’s stool from under him,
and then gave his attention to the workers.

“Come now, ‘Babe,’ this isn’t a funeral, you know. You’ll have to tear
paper faster than that, or you won’t have enough to trail from here to
the dining-hall. Say, Kid Rooke, you’ve got a wrong idea of the game
of shovelboard; it isn’t necessary to throw those weights on the floor
_every_ time! Besides, you’re making a beastly lot of noise.”

“All right, Bobby,” was the disrespectful reply. “Bobby” promptly threw
a stick of kindling-wood with admirable precision, and Rooke played
badly for some time in consequence of nursing a lame arm.

“Say, Bob, why couldn’t we get off on a little trip of our own?” asked
Dan. “Don’t you think Clint would let us, seeing we’re not going to be
here for the regular one?”

“Maybe he might,” answered Bob. “Last year he let six of the big
fellows go off on a two days’ canoe trip.”

“Just the thing!” said Dan. “We’ll take your canoe and Carter’s--he’ll
let us have it, all right--and we four’ll go. What do you say, fellows?”

“Great scheme!” said Nelson.

“Perfectly swell!” seconded Tom.

“Maybe, though, he wouldn’t let Tommy and me go,” objected Bob,
“because we’ll be here for the long trip.”

“Well, don’t go on the long trip, then,” suggested Nelson. “Come to
‘St. Louis, Louis’ with me.”

“By ginger! I’d like to, all right. I’ll see what Clint says. If he
makes that objection, I’ll tell him I’m thinking of cutting the long
trip out this year; and maybe my folks would let me go to the fair.”

“Still, there’s Tommy; what about him?” asked Dan.

“What do you think I care about the trip, if you fellows aren’t
gu-gu-gu-going?”

“Noble youth!” said Bob. “Who’ll ask Clint?” Silence ensued.

“Whoever asks him,” said Dan presently, “had better wait until he’s
sort of forgotten about that painting affair.”

“Maybe,” answered Bob, “but I don’t believe he holds that against us;
Clint isn’t that sort. When a thing’s done with, it’s done with for
him. I don’t mind asking. You leave it to me, and I’ll wait until I
find him feeling his best.”

“Good for you, old man!” said Dan heartily. “I always said you were the
bravest of the lot.”

“Brave nothing!” scoffed Tom. “He thinks he has a winning smile. Bob’s
a regular fusser at home, I’ll bet!”

“Hey!” exclaimed Nelson, arising and stretching his arms in
accompaniment to a mighty yawn, “who’s going to soak?”

“I am,” said Bob; and the other two expressed themselves similarly.
“Babe” came up, kicking his box before him.

“Isn’t that enough, Bob?” he asked pathetically.

“Sure, ‘Babe,’ that’s enough. Come on and soak. Ho, for ‘Babe’s’ briny
ocean!”

The next day dinner was a half hour earlier, and promptly at the stroke
of two Nelson and Dan left Spruce Hall and trotted down the road to the
village, each bearing a bag of “scent” in the shape of torn paper, and
each wearing the scantiest costume modesty would permit. The hounds
were to start twelve minutes later, and the trail was to be laid for a
distance of about three miles and return, at least half the trail to be
over roads. Nelson thought twelve minutes rather scant time allowance,
but Dan, who fancied himself a bit as a cross-country runner, was quite
satisfied. Almost every fellow in camp was going to have a try at the
chase, although it was a foregone conclusion that many of them would
drop out the first mile. Mr. Verder was leader of the hounds, and he
was the only member of the pursuit that Dan feared.

Once out of sight of the camp, and having reached the beginning of
the slight slope that led down to the foot of the lake, the hares
let themselves out. It was a cloudy, threatening day, somewhat chill
for the month of August, and the rain, which had fallen continually
from Monday morning until some time last night, had left the ground
soft, and in some places decidedly slippery. Once or twice during the
forenoon there had been tiny showers, and there was every indication of
more to follow before night. The distance to the village of Crescent,
Dan’s estimate on the day of his enforced return to camp by way of the
road notwithstanding, was but a trifle over the mile, and they made
it in short order, and passed over the bridge and by the post-office,
running well, having got their second breaths. They followed the road
around to where Dan and Bob had cut across the meadow when they had
made their trip to the base of the cliff. There they climbed the fence
and struck across the field under the cliff, exchanging smiles as they
caught fleeting glimpses of the inscription on the rocks, and swung
around to the right on the farther side of Humpback Mountain. Their
plan was to keep along the lower slope of the mountain, return to the
road at the farther end of Hipp’s Pond, and come back by the highway
to some spot near the village, where they were to ford the river and
reach the road to camp near the forks. Once in the forest their going
was necessarily slower. It was slightly up-hill, and the wet leaves
made anything beyond an easy trot impossible. They lost nearly a minute
on one occasion, when Nelson tripped on a log which he had tried to
hurdle and came down sprawling, emptying most of the contents of the
bag he carried. The paper had to be picked up before they could go on,
since already they had begun to wonder whether the scent would hold
out. Half-way along the side of the mountain it suddenly grew dark, and
the tree-tops began to sway in quick gusts of wind.

“By Jove,” panted Dan, “I’ll bet we’re in for a wetting!”

“Well, I haven’t got anything on that will spoil,” laughed Nelson.

And then a few big drops pattered down on the leaves.

“Coming!” shouted Dan.

And it came!

It was a veritable torrent that lashed aside the leaves and pelted the
boys with great hissing drops. For a moment they stumbled on through
the darkness. Then there was a blinding flash of white light, and a
crash of thunder seemed to shake the mountain from top to bottom. As
though by mutual consent, they dived beneath a clump of underbrush and
huddled up out of the worst of the storm.

“Gee!” said Dan, “that scared me.”

“Me too,” answered Nelson. “It was kind of sudden.”

“I should say so! I don’t suppose there’s much use in our staying here,
though. We can’t get much wetter by going on.”

“And there isn’t much use in going on,” answered Nelson. “I’ll bet the
others have given up the chase by this time. Besides, our paper’s about
soaked through, I guess. I vote we hike up over the mountain and get
home.”

“Seems to me we’d better go back the way we came.”

“It will be lots nearer if we strike up hill here. It’ll be hard going
until we reach the top, but easy going down the other side. We ought
to strike the road about half-way between the pond and the village.
Perhaps we’ll find a place where we can get out of the wet. Anyhow,
there’s no use staying here. I’m getting wetter and wetter every
minute, and there’s a regular cascade running down my back. Here, let’s
empty out this fool paper and stuff the bags in our pockets.”

“All right,” answered Nelson; and the paper chase came to an
ignominious finish then and there.

It was tough work climbing that slope in the face of a blinding
torrent, but they struggled upward, slipping and stumbling and
panting. The lightning had become almost continuous, and the thunder
did its part with might and main. What with the darkness of the sky
and the gloom of the forest, there was very little light to go by;
and as the rain forced them to close their eyes half the time, they
were continually butting into trees, tangling themselves up in the
undergrowth or stumbling over dead branches.

“This is a deuce of a note!” grumbled Dan as he picked himself up for
the fifth or sixth time, and tried to dry his wet hands on his wetter
trousers. “I’d give a dollar for an umbrella!”

“Or a tent,” sputtered Nelson. “I’m mighty nigh drowned and-- Hello!
Look yonder!”

Dan looked, and the next instant they were floundering toward shelter.
What Nelson had seen was an old log house. It wasn’t in the best of
repair, for the roof had fallen in at one end and the door had long
since disappeared. But it was a case of any port in a storm, and when,
breathless and dripping, they reached it, they found that it afforded
ample protection. It was about twelve feet long by eight feet wide,
with a door at one end, and a tiny opening at the other that had
probably served in its day as a window. It was unfloored, but, save
near the doorway and at the farther end where the roof had fallen
inward, it was quite dry. It was as dark as pitch in there save when a
flash of lightning momentarily illumined it.

“Gee,” sighed Dan, “this is great!”

“Swell!” murmured Nelson, with a shiver. “But I wish we had a fire.”

“Got any matches?”

“Yes.”

“Good boy! Let’s see if we can’t find something that’ll burn.”

Carefully they felt their way toward the back of the cabin, their eyes
gradually becoming accustomed to the gloom. Suddenly Dan, who was
slightly in the lead, gave a cry of fear.

“Look!” he cried.

[Illustration: “Look!” he cried.]

At the same instant there was a glare of lightning, and Nelson, peering
fearsomely ahead, saw a sight that sent an icy chill down his back.

Almost at their feet stretched a pile of bones that glared white and
gruesome in the uncanny light.



CHAPTER XII

HAS TO DO WITH STORM AND LIGHTNING; DISCOVERS TOM IN TEARS, AND
CONCLUDES THE ADVENTURE


When Mr. Verder gave the word, twenty-three hounds started in pursuit
of the hares, and in the foremost group trotted Tom. They had just
reached the village when the rain burst, and the way in which they
piled into the post-office led the village gossips there assembled to
jump from their chairs in terror, thinking they were attacked by a gang
of desperadoes. And when the fellows had slammed the door behind them
and gathered at the windows to watch the torrent, they saw through
the hissing sheets of water the solitary form of Mr. Thomas Courtenay
Ferris trotting doggedly on up the road. Then the door opened and
closed again, and Bob sped after him.

“What are you going to do, you crazy dub?” panted Bob when he had
caught up.

“Cu-cu-catch those fu-fu-fu-fellows,” answered Tom resolutely.

“Why, they’ve given it up by this time, you idiot!”

“I haven’t. I su-su-said I was going to finish, and I am!”

“Poppycock!” muttered Bob. “However, I’ll see you through.”

“You’ll gu-gu-gu-get wet,” said Tom.

“So’ll you.”

“I du-du-du-don’t mind.”

“Neither do I; I like it. Fine, isn’t it?”

“Su-su-swell!” gasped Tom.

So on they plodded, every footfall sending a spray of muddy water
against their bare legs, keeping the trail in sight with difficulty,
since the torn paper had in many places been washed aside or covered by
the pools of water that had already formed along the road. They overran
the trail where it left the highway and had to cast about for fully a
minute before they found it again, and took off across the field, which
was rapidly becoming like a cranberry bog. Once in the forest it wasn’t
quite so bad, for the trees afforded some slight protection. But poor
Tom’s breath was almost gone, and when they finally reached the place
where a pile of wet paper told its own story, he was glad to throw
himself down on the wet ground and rest. What to do next was a problem.
Finally Bob, with a fair idea of their whereabouts, suggested climbing
the hill and reaching the road on the other side. So Tom, with a final
gasp, struggled to his feet, and they took up their way again. It was
Tom who caught sight of the hut.

“Lu-lu-lu-look over there, Bu-bu-bu-Bob!” he spluttered.

And that is how it happened that Nelson and Dan, horrified one instant
by the ghastly object at their feet, were terrorized the next by a
sudden loud shout behind them. They turned and fled ignominiously to
the door. The flash of lightning had intensified the darkness that
followed, and neither saw anything until their exit was suddenly
impeded, and even then not enough to understand what was up. Dan
collided with Tom just inside the doorway, and, like a center putting
out his opponent, bore him backward to the ground. Tom, stammering in
surprise at the welcome, clung desperately to his assailant.

“Lu-lu-lu-let go of me! Wha-wha-what’s the mu-mu-mu-matter with you?
Gu-gu-gu-get off mu-mu-my stomach!”

Nelson, tumbling out with scared face on the heels of Dan, ran into
Bob outside. The latter grabbed him just in time; in another moment he
would have been a hundred yards away, and still going.

“What’s the row?” cried Bob, turning from Nelson to where Dan and Tom,
the latter on his back in a litter of wet leaves, and the former
sitting on top of him, were viewing each other in wide-eyed surprise.
“What kind of a game are you fellows playing?”

“Is that you?” muttered Nelson sheepishly.

“Hu--hallo, Tommy!” grunted Dan, pulling him up.

“‘Hallo, Tu-tu-tu-Tommy’ be bu-bu-blowed!” muttered that youth as
he found his feet and viewed Dan angrily; “wha-wha-what kind of a
fu-fu-funny fu-fu-fool are you?”

At that instant the rain, which had momentarily let up as though
interested in the proceedings, came down harder than ever, and the
Four crowded inside the hut, Dan and Nelson, however, keeping close to
the doorway and casting uneasy glances into the darkness. At length
the matter was explained, and Bob, lighting a match, advanced toward
the back of the cabin, the others following breathlessly and gazing
nervously over his shoulder. As the match flared up, there lay the
skeleton, and even Bob drew a sudden breath and backed away a foot,
thereby stepping on Nelson’s toes and eliciting an exclamation of pain
that almost resulted in another stampede to the door. It was Tom who
stayed the rout.

“Huh!” he cried; “it’s nothing but a calf!”

And so it proved. Grown suddenly brave, they examined more carefully,
and Bob began to tease Dan and Nelson for being frightened at the
skeleton of a calf.

“That’s all right,” said Nelson, “but I noticed you were looking up the
exits a minute ago!”

“Let’s have that fire,” suggested Dan. “Any matches left?”

Tom had a pocket full of them, and in a minute they had found several
dried branches on the floor and a box nailed to the wall. They tore
down the latter and soon had a fire going. As the heat began to
penetrate their chilled bodies their spirits arose.

“I wish it had been a human skeleton,” said Dan regretfully.

“Yes, you do!” responded Bob sarcastically. “Why?”

“So I could have had the skull. My uncle has one for a tobacco jar;
it’s swell!”

“I can see you getting the skull!” said Bob laughingly. “Why, you
wouldn’t have stopped running before to-morrow morning if we hadn’t
stopped you!”

“Get out!” answered Dan good-naturedly. “I’d have come back for it. But
I tell you, fellows, that old pile of bones looked mighty unpleasant in
the lightning. I’d have sworn the thing moved.”

“It was you that moved,” said Tom, “and you moved fast.”

“Say, what the dickens are we going to do, fellows?” asked Nelson. “We
can’t get home in this storm. Just listen to it!”

“Oh, it’ll let up after a bit. What time is it?” asked Bob.

“Ten of four,” answered Tom. “Wish we had something to eat; then we
could stay all night. Wouldn’t it be swell?”

“Yes,” said Dan, “but we haven’t, and I, for one, prefer to get wet
again rather than go without supper. I’m starved now.”

“Well, let’s wait a bit and see if it doesn’t hold up some. This fire’s
immense! Wonder can we find any more wood?”

At that instant there was a blinding flash of lightning, a terrific
crash of thunder, and a shock that threw Dan and Tom, who had been
standing, off their feet. Simultaneously a portion of the roof of the
cabin fell, with a cloud of dust and débris, and one of the timbers
crashed into their midst, scattering the fire. For an instant there was
silence. Every one of the quartet had been momentarily stunned by the
lightning. Then they were on their feet, white-faced and trembling;
all save Nelson, who lay stretched on the floor, with the blood
flowing from a gash in his head. Here and there a brand from the fire
flickered, but a new light flooded the cabin from without, where a
giant pine, its trunk lying across the cabin, was burning fiercely.
After the first instant of terror Bob ran to Nelson.

“Get some water, somebody!” he called.

“Is he dead?” asked Tom weakly.

“I don’t know; he’s got a beast of a cut here from that log; stunned
him, I guess. Where’s the water?”

Dan hurried back with his cap dripping.

“Here’s some,” he panted. “Fetch some more, Tom; hold your cap under
the corner of the house. Is he much hurt?”

But Nelson answered the question himself, reaching up to push away the
hand that was bathing his face and head, and opening his eyes to blink
dazedly about him.

“You lie still a minute,” commanded Bob. “That log fetched you a whack
on the head, but you’ll be all right in a minute.”

“Oh,” said Nelson, memory returning, “say, that was a peach of a bump,
wasn’t it? Any one struck? Where’s Tommy?”

“He’s here. Shut up a minute and lie still.”

“I’m all right.” He felt of his wound, and wiped the blood from his
fingers onto his jersey. “If I had a handkerchief----”

“Here’s one,” said Dan. “You tie it on, Bob.”

Bob did so, and Nelson was helped to his feet, where he stood an
instant swaying unsteadily.

“Say, we’ll have to get out of this,” said Dan. “The hut’ll be on fire
in a minute. Gee, but that was a close shave! That tree wasn’t thirty
feet away!”

“We got some of it as it was,” said Bob. “I felt as though some one had
hit me with a plank. Can you walk, Nel? Here, we’ll give you a hand.
We’ll have to get out at the corner there; the doorway’s blocked up.
Where’d Tommy get to?”

“He went for some more water,” said Dan. “Come on; it’s getting hot!”

Outside they came on a strange sight. Tom was sitting on a log, with
his face in his hands, sobbing as though his heart was breaking.
Beside him lay his cap, and a small rivulet of water from the top of
the cabin was spattering down onto his bare head. The three stared in
bewilderment. Then Bob patted him on the back:

“Come on, Tommy,” he said kindly. “You’re all right; cheer up!”

But Tom only shook his head without looking up.

“He’s du-du-du-du-dead!” he wailed.

“Who’s dead, you idiot?”

“Nu-nu-nu-Nelson,” sobbed Tommy.

“No, I’m not, Tommy,” called Nelson; “here I am!”

Tom raised a wet and miserable face; then he leaped to his feet,
tumbled over a branch, and fell into Nelson’s arms.

“I th-th-th-thought you were a gu-gu-gu-goner!” he cried.

“I’m all right,” answered Nelson, cheerfully submitting to Tom’s hugs.
“Get your cap and come along, or we’ll be drowned.”

Tom sniffed a few times, picked up his hat, and sheepishly joined the
procession that wound its way up the hill in the rain.

“Poor old Tommy!” chuckled Dan.

“He’s a good-hearted dub,” answered Nelson softly.

Five minutes of toil brought them to the summit, and after that it was
easier work. By the time they had reached the road the rain had almost
ceased, and for the rest of the way they had only the mud and their
chilled bodies to contend with. Twenty minutes later they straggled
into camp to find Mr. Clinton in the act of leading a search party
after them. Nelson was conducted to the surgery, where Dr. Smith washed
and bandaged his head, and the other members of the party hied them
to the dormitory and dry clothes, followed by half the fellows of the
camp eager to hear the story of their adventures. And when it had been
told--losing nothing in the telling by Dan--Bob suddenly exclaimed:

“Well, if he didn’t do it!”

“Do what?” “Who did?” “When?” were the queries fired at him.

“Why, Tommy did! He said, before we started, that he was going to beat
the hares home, the cheeky kid! And he did it!”

“But we all came home together,” objected Dan.

“Yes, but if you’ll recollect, it was Tommy who headed the procession
coming into camp.”

“So it was,” said Dan.

“So I did,” said Tom. “Ain’t I a smarty?”

Whereupon Dan tumbled him over backward onto the bed and sat on top
of him a long, long time, and told him how very, very smart he was.
And it was not until Nelson, appearing on the scene with a wealth of
surgeon’s plaster adorning his brow, asked innocently, “Who’s going to
soak?” that Dan’s attentions ceased; and then it was only because he
felt obliged to stand firmly on his feet in order to put the necessary
amount of withering sarcasm into his reply to Nelson.



CHAPTER XIII

RECALLS THE FACT THAT WHAT’S FAIR FOR ONE IS FAIR FOR ANOTHER, AND
RECORDS A DEFEAT AND A VICTORY


A week later Wickasaw came over to the mainland and met Chicora on the
diamond. The final score, when the game came to an end at the last
of the seventh inning, was 18 to 4, and I had rather not say which
side scored the 18. However, defeat is not dishonorable; Chicora had
that thought to comfort her. Wells, he of the snub-nose, pitched a
magnificent game for five innings, and then went so high into the air
that he wasn’t able to get down again while the game lasted. And while
he was up there Wickasaw unkindly batted in eight runs and scored
seven more on errors, four of them being due to Wells’s wildness.
Wickasaw played every last one of her councilors--four in all--and
would probably have won by a small margin even if Wells hadn’t gone to
pieces. But the result was a disappointment to Bob, and he worried over
it a good deal during the ensuing three days. Wickasaw went home in
her launch and rowboats audibly pleased with herself, and the next day,
beneath her camp-flag on the pole at the landing, floated a square of
white sheeting inscribed:

    +-------------+
    | W. 18; C. 4 |
    +-------------+

And every time Bob saw that flag floating in the breeze he ground his
teeth. And Dan smiled his widest smile, and drew a sketch of the flag
_they_ were going to put up after the next game. And in the meanwhile
everybody went to work harder than ever at the batting-net and in the
field; for the lesson of defeat is renewed endeavor.

On the following Saturday Chicora played again, this time with the
nine from the Chicora Inn, a nine made up of guests and employees of
the hotel. It was the finest kind of an August afternoon, warm enough
to limber the players’ muscles, and yet not so hot that the spectators
were uncomfortable under the shade of the trees. Wells went into the
box again for the Camp, while the Inn had her head clerk, a Dartmouth
College man, do the pitching for her. For the first three innings the
Camp had everything its own way. Nelson started things going with a
three-bagger in the second, and after the bases had filled up Bob
went to bat and cleared them, himself reaching second. Again, in the
third a base on balls to the second man up proved costly, the runner
on first reaching second on a passed ball and taking third on a single
by Carter. Then Wells got in the way of an in-shoot and limped to base
amid the laughing applause of the Camp rooters, and the bags were
all occupied. It was Nelson’s chance again, and he made the most of
it. With two strikes and three balls called on him he found what he
wanted, and hit safely for two bases over short-stop’s head. The Inn
had meanwhile scored but one run, and so at the beginning of the fourth
inning the score stood 6 to 1, and the spectators who were gallantly
flaunting the crimson flags of Chicora Inn were becoming anxious.

When the Inn next went to the bat it was seen that she had substituted
a new player for the one who had thus far been holding down second
base. The new man was about six feet tall, and fully thirty-five years
old, and his face seemed dimly familiar to Bob. And when, having gone
to bat, he lined the first ball pitched between first and second for
three bases, Bob recognized him as “Monty” Williams, an old Princeton
player who had made a reputation for himself while in college as a star
ball-player. In that inning the Inn netted three runs, and the score
was no longer so one-sided. But Bob was worried, and as the teams
changed sides he made his way to the captain of the opposing team.

“Look here,” he said, “I don’t think it’s a fair deal for you fellows
to play Williams. He’s an old college player, and we know that he isn’t
staying at the Inn. He’s visiting over at Bass Island.”

“Oh, what’s the use in being fussy?” asked the other good-naturedly.
“This isn’t a championship game; we’re only here for the fun of
playing. Besides, Williams hasn’t played baseball for at least ten
years.”

“Well, it isn’t according to the understanding,” answered Bob; “but if
you insist on playing him, all right; it’s a bit raw, though. We’re
playing fellows on our side some of whom aren’t sixteen years old; and
we’re not playing a single one of our councilors.”

“Well, why don’t you? Go ahead and play any one you like. We don’t care
who you play; we’re here for the fun of playing, that’s all.”

“All right,” answered Bob; “I don’t intend to be nasty about it. We’ll
beat you, anyhow.”

“That’s the stuff,” laughed the other captain. “Go ahead and do it.”

But it didn’t look very easy during the next two innings. To be sure,
the Camp managed to tally two more runs, but the Inn wasn’t idle. The
next time Williams came to bat the bases were full, and as a result
of the long drive he made into left field three tallies were set down
to the Inn’s credit, and a minute or two later Williams made it four
by heady base stealing. That tied the score, 8 to 8. Bob didn’t mind
a defeat at the hands of Chicora Inn very much, but to be beaten two
games running was more than he could relish; and while he was doing a
lot of hard thinking Tom came to the rescue:

“Say, Bob,” he whispered, “we’re going to be licked if you keep Wells
in there. That fellow Williams can hit him easy.”

“I know it, but they insist on playing Williams. They say I can put in
any one I want to, but we haven’t played our councilors, and I don’t
want to start it now. And as for Wells, there isn’t any one on our team
can do any better.”

“Get Billy Carter to pitch.”

“Billy Carter? Who’s Billy--? You mean Joe’s brother? Can he pitch?
Thought he was a crew man.”

“He is, but he pitched for the Yale freshman nine last spring, and I’ll
bet he’s a peach!”

“Good stuff! Will he play, do you think?”

“I don’t know, but he seems a decent chap. Get Joe to ask him.”

“I will. Oh, Joe! Joe Carter!”

The result of this conference was that two or three minutes later
when the teams again changed sides Wells retired to the shade of the
apple-trees and his place in the pitcher’s box was taken by a stocky,
fair-haired, and sun-burned chap of eighteen who, having discarded his
coat and cap, picked up the ball and began pitching to Bob in a way
that suggested a good deal of experience. He was a fine-looking fellow
with a chest that brought murmurs of admiration from the spectators.
He had rowed on the winning Yale freshman eight and pitched on the
Yale freshman nine, and so his chest development and the muscles that
played so prettily along his arms were there of good reason. He had
reached camp only that forenoon on a visit of two or three days to his
brother, and there hadn’t been a moment’s hesitation on his part when
Joe, earnestly seconded by Bob, had asked him to play. He had kept in
training since the boat races and had not forgotten his cunning in the
box.

And the opponents had occasion to note the fact. For in the next two
innings not a man on their team reached first base. Carter’s delivery
puzzled them effectually, and when the mighty Williams had three
strikes called on him and tossed down his bat with a grim shake of his
head the supporters of the blue and gray shouted their delight. But
shutting out the Inn wasn’t winning the game, and when at last the
ninth inning opened with the score still 8 to 8 Bob had visions of
a tie game. But he had reckoned without the new pitcher. That youth
didn’t have a chance at bat until with one out in the ninth things
were looking their darkest for the Camp. Then he selected a bat and
faced the Inn’s pitcher calmly. He allowed two balls to go by him,
but the third one he liked. And the way in which he lit on to it was
beautiful to behold; at least that’s the way it seemed to Bob and Dan
and Nelson and all the other Chicorians. For that ball started off as
though it had got tired of being knocked around so much and was going
straight home to sit down and rest. That it didn’t get all the way
home, but only as far as the woods behind center-fielder, didn’t affect
the result of the contest. It went quite far enough. And Billy Carter
romped home like a playful giant and subsided under the trees and
fanned his face, while about him danced the delighted cohorts from the
Camp. After that it was only necessary to keep the Inn from scoring,
and with Carter still in the points that was an absurdly easy task.
It wasn’t a very decided win, 9 to 8, but it sufficed, and Bob was
comforted.

After the game was over the captain of the Inn’s forces sought out Bob.

“Who was the chap that pitched for you?” he asked curiously.

“Oh,” Bob answered, “that’s Carter, pitcher on last year’s Yale
freshman team. You told me to play any one I liked, you know;
otherwise, of course----”

“Oh!” said the other.

On the way back to camp Dan alone seemed not entirely happy.

“Oh, yes,” he said in response to inquiries, “the game was all right
enough. But did you notice that Wickasaw was over there cheering for
the Inn?”

“I didn’t notice who they cheered for,” answered Bob. “What of it?”

“What of it? Lots! Call that sportsmanlike? Huh! You wait, that’s all,
my friends. We’ll get even with Wickasaw!”



CHAPTER XIV

BEGINS A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE WHICH THREATENS TO END IN DISASTER


“I haven’t said anything about it to Bob,” Dan explained. “You see,
he’s so kind of--kind of--well, proper, you know.”

They were sitting--Dan and Nelson and Tom--on the edge of the landing.
Supper was over and camp-fire was still an hour distant. Behind them
the hillside was darkening with the mysterious shadows of night. Before
them the lake lay like a sheet of purple glass, streaked here and there
with pencilings of steely blue. At the end of the lake and at intervals
along the farther shore the lights twinkled in windows or at landings.
From the direction of Crescent came the _chug--chug--chug_ of the
motor-dory returning with the evening mail. Overhead gleamed the white
light of the lantern, pale and wan as yet against the sky. Tom beat a
tattoo with his feet against the spile beneath. They had come down
here because the camp was infested--to use Dan’s language--with kids
and visitors, and they wanted to be alone to plot and conspire. But Tom
didn’t relish just sitting here and watching the afterglow fade over
Bass Island. He yawned.

“Seems to me,” he said disgustedly, “we’re a mighty slow lot of
conspirators. If some one doesn’t get busy pretty quick and conspire
I’ll go back and read that book. There’s more conspiracy in that than
you can shake your ears at. When I left off the villain was creeping up
the lighthouse stairs in his stocking feet with a knife a foot long in
his hand.”

“What for?” asked Nelson interestedly.

“To kill the hero and the girl he was shipwrecked with, of course!”

“Of course there’d have to be a girl in it,” sighed Nelson. “That’s the
way they spoil all the good stories nowadays, putting a silly girl into
it! Wait till I write a story!”

“This girl’s all right,” answered Tom warmly. “Why, she saved the
hero’s life; swam with him over half a mile from the wreck to the
lighthouse, carried him in her arms to the door, and fell fainting on
the threshold!”

“Rot! No girl could do that!”

“Why couldn’t she? I’ll bet you she could!”

“Oh, get out! Swim half a mile and lug a man with her? And then carry
him in her arms another half mile----”

“It was only a little ways, and----”

“She must have been a--an Amazon!”

“She wasn’t, she was a Spaniard.”

“Maybe she was a Spanish mackerel,” suggested Dan. “They can swim like
anything. Now shut up, you chaps, and listen.”

“The chief conspirator has the floor,” murmured Tom.

“You know those Wickasaw dubs came over here to-day to our ball field
and had the cheek to cheer for the Inn, don’t you?”

“Sure,” muttered Tom.

“Well, they had no business doing it.”

“That’s so,” Nelson concurred.

“And so we’re going to get square with them.”

“Hooray!” said Tom in a husky whisper.

“How?” questioned Nelson.

“I’m coming to that,” answered Dan importantly.

“You’re a long old time coming,” Tom grumbled. “I’ll bet that fellow
has got up-stairs by now and murdered the hero and the girl, and I
wasn’t there to----”

“Cut it out, Tommy!” commanded Dan. “You see that flag over there at
Wickasaw’s landing?”

“I see something sort of white that may be a flag, or may be some
fellow’s Sunday shirt,” answered Nelson.

“Well, that’s that old white flag with the score on it. They’re too
lazy to do anything shipshape, and so instead of tying it onto the
lanyards under the camp-flag----”

“Bending it on, you mean,” said Tom.

“You be blowed,” said Dan. “You know too much, Tommy. Well, instead of
_fixing_ it on to the rope they just nailed it on to the pole. That’s
the lucky part of it; see?”

The others looked across at the blur of white and then looked at Dan.
Then they shook their heads.

“I may be stupid, Dan,” said Nelson apologetically, “but I’m blowed if
I do see.”

“I guess the answer’s a bottle of ink,” said Tom flippantly.

“Why,” said Dan impatiently, “if they’d taken it in we couldn’t have
got it.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Nelson. “Then we’re going--to--to----”

“Swipe it!” said Dan.

Tom heaved a sigh of relief.

“Bully! I was afraid it was something to do with blue paint!”

“What’s your scheme?” asked Nelson, beginning to take interest. But Dan
had nothing more to say until the motor-dory had come alongside and its
occupants had finally taken themselves off up the hill, whooping like
an Indian war-party.

“When it’s good and dark,” he continued then, “we’ll swim over there
and get the old rag; that’s all.”

“But why not take a boat?” asked Tom.

“Because somebody would be sure to hear us.”

“Then what’s the matter with a canoe?”

“Well, that might do,” answered Dan thoughtfully. “But we don’t want to
have any trouble about it; Clint’s got his eye on us, I’ll bet, and if
we get caught swiping Wickasaw’s flag we’ll get what for!”

“But there won’t be any fun in it if they don’t know who’s taken it,”
Nelson objected.

“Oh, they’ll know all right,” said Dan; “only they won’t be able to
prove anything.”

“I tell you what,” Tom exclaimed. “We’ll tear it up and tie it around
that stake off the end of the island, the one that marks the sand-bar.”

“That’s so,” said Nelson. “And look, Dan, we can take a canoe and
paddle down the shore until we’re opposite the landing and then swim
across. That way we won’t have to swim over a half mile in all.”

“All right,” agreed Dan. “I don’t care whether we paddle or swim; but
that flag’s got to come down from there.”

“They’ll probably put another one up,” said Tom.

“Let ’em! We’ll have had our fun,” said Nelson. “What time had we
better go, Dan?”

“About eleven, I guess. We want to wait until Verder and Smith are
asleep so that they won’t hear us sneak out.”

“You don’t think Bob will be hurt at being left out, do you?” asked
Nelson.

“I don’t believe so; anyway, I don’t think he’d go. And if any row
comes up he won’t get into it because he won’t know anything about it.
Come on; let’s go up.”

So the plotting ended and they went back to camp-fire looking
beautifully innocent, and were so sleepy, all three of them, that no
one would have suspected for an instant that they intended to stay
awake until midnight. After camp-fire the launch took the visitors back
to the Inn, but none of the Four went along; they didn’t know what time
they would get back and they wanted the senior dormitory to be wrapped
in slumber as early as possible; for, after all, the day had been a
busy one and it might prove to be no easy task to keep eyes open until
even eleven. The lights went out promptly at half past nine, and Dan
and Tom and Nelson stretched themselves out between the blankets with
the other occupants of the hall. It was hard work to keep awake during
the next hour and a half. Nelson, despite his best endeavors, dozed
once or twice, but was sufficiently wide awake to hear Dan’s bed creak
and Dan’s bare feet creeping up the aisle.

“Awake, Nel?”

“Yes,” Nelson whispered.

“All right; come on. I’ll get Tommy.”

Nelson slipped noiselessly out of his bunk and as noiselessly out of
his pajamas and crept along to Tom’s bed. That youth was fast asleep,
breathing like a sawmill, and Dan’s gentle shakes and whispers were
having no effect.

“Oh, come on and let him stay here,” said Dan finally. “We can’t wake
up the whole place on his account. The silly dub ought to have kept
awake.”

“Wait, let me try him,” whispered Nelson. Some one had told him that
the best way to awake a person so that he wouldn’t make any noise was
to take hold of his nose with the fingers and press it. So Nelson got
a firm hold on that organ and gave a vigorous pull. The effect was
instantaneous.

“_Lemme ’lone!_” said Tom drowsily but sufficiently loud to be heard
all over the dormitory. Dan slapped his hand over the slumberer’s
mouth, and Nelson whispered “Hush!” as loudly as he dared. Luckily,
save for a sleepy murmur from the next bunk, there was no notice taken
of Tom’s remonstrance. By this time Tom had gained his senses and a
realization of what was up, and in a moment the three conspirators were
stealing down the aisle and out of the dormitory, naked and shivering.

Once on the path they could talk, and Dan called Tom to task for going
to sleep and nearly spoiling everything. “It would have served you
bloody well right if we had left you behind,” he ended severely.

“Wish you had,” muttered Tom. “I’m as sleepy as a cat.”

“Did any one hear the launch come back?” asked Dan presently.

“I didn’t,” said Nelson; “but I dropped off to sleep a couple of times.”

“So did I,” said Tom truthfully but unnecessarily.

“Well, I was awake all the time,” Dan said, “and I’ll swear I didn’t
hear a sound from it. But they must be back by this; it’s ten minutes
to eleven.”

“Well, just as long as we don’t meet them at the landing it’s all
right,” said Nelson cheerfully. “Hush! What’s that?”

They stopped short at the foot of the hill and listened breathlessly.

“What?” whispered Dan.

“I thought I heard voices,” answered Nelson.

But after a moment, as no sounds reached them, they went on, and found
the landing dark, save for the little glare of the lantern, and quite
deserted. It was but a moment’s work to put one of the canoes into
the water, and soon they were paddling stealthily along the shore
toward the foot of the lake. The stars were bright overhead, but for
all of that the night was pretty dark and here under the trees it was
difficult to see their course and to keep from running aground. As a
result they made slow progress. Bear Island was a darker blotch against
the dark water. Wickasaw never displayed a lantern at night, but the
boys thought they could make out a dim light where the landing ought to
be. When they had reached a point along the shore about opposite the
farther end of the island they drew the canoe half onto the shore and
waded out into the darkness.

“Swim for the landing,” instructed Dan, “and don’t make any noise.
We’ll see what that light is before we get very near.”

Then they struck out, swimming slowly and silently, Dan and Tom abreast
and Nelson a length behind. The water was warm and felt grateful to
their chilled bodies; although the days were warm the nights were
getting cool. It was very good fun, this stealthy progress through
the dark water with only the white stars to see. Nelson experienced
an exhilarating sensation of excitement as they drew near the shadowy
island; he felt like a conspirator, indeed, and one on a desperate
mission. To be sure, the danger of being caught was very slight, he
supposed, but there was enough of it to lend spice to the venture. The
distance from shore to island was well under a quarter of a mile, but
at the slow speed they went it was almost ten minutes before Dan called
a halt a hundred feet from the landing. Nelson swam up to the other
two boys, and they remained quiet for a moment, looking and listening.
There was no sound to be heard, but an orange glow slightly above
the level of the float puzzled them. Finally Tom was sent forward to
reconnoiter. Presently he was back again.

“It’s the Chi-chi-chi--” he sputtered excitedly.

“Cut it out,” whispered Dan. “Say it quick without thinking.”

“It’s the Chi-chi-chi-chi-chi----”

“Steam-engine,” suggested Nelson _sotto voce_.

“Chi-chi-Chicora!” blurted Tom finally in a hoarse whisper.

“What?” asked Dan. “The Chicora? Then, Clint’s there visiting Doctor
Powers. Wonder who’s with him?”

“I think Thorpe went along in the launch,” said Nelson.

“Lu-lu-let’s go back,” suggested Tom uneasily.

“What for? It’s better to have Clint here than at camp, I think,” said
Dan. “Come on. Did you hear any one, Tommy?”

“No, but I could see a light in the main house.”

“That’s it, then; Clint and Thorpe are paying a call on Powers,
probably about the water sports. Shall we go on? What do you say?”

“Yes,” answered Nelson. “Let’s do what we started to do.”

“I don’t care,” said Tom.

So ahead they went, and in a minute were pulling themselves up onto the
float. Beside it lay the steam-launch, her engine sizzling gently. The
light they had seen came from the lantern which hung by the steam-gage.
Softly they crept up the gangway to the pier above and there listened.
The main building of Camp Wickasaw, a rather elaborate cottage, stood
about two hundred feet away. Light shone from the door and from the
window to the right of it. Both were open, and the boys thought at
times they could hear the hum of voices. But they couldn’t be certain,
for Tom’s teeth were chattering loudly and they were all shivering
so they could scarcely keep still. But no one was in sight, and so
they hurried to the end of the pier and Dan mounted the railing. The
flagpole, a small affair, was secured to the floor of the pier and to
a post of the railing, and on it, barely visible in the darkness, hung
the obnoxious white flag. Unfortunately, it was two feet out of Dan’s
reach.

“I’ve got to shin up a ways,” he whispered. Then he wound his legs
about the slender pole and started up. And then--well, then there was
a sharp sound of breaking wood, an involuntary cry from Dan, and an
instant later a mighty splash as boy and pole and a section of railing
went down into the water six feet below. And at that moment voices came
from the house and footsteps crunched the gravel of the path!



CHAPTER XV

CONCLUDES THE ADVENTURE AND SHOWS TOM SLEEPING THE SLEEP OF THE JUST


At the first alarm Nelson and Tom had sprung down the gangway to the
float, ready to lend assistance to Dan. Luckily there were no boats at
the head of the pier, and so Dan had struck nothing harder than the
water. He was up in an instant.

“Are you hurt?” called Nelson anxiously.

“No, I’m all right,” was the reply. “Did they hear?”

“Yes, they’re coming!” And Nelson slipped into the water, followed by
Tom, and struck out vigorously.

“Swim like the dickens!” counseled Dan. “Make for the shore!”

Back of them a lantern was swaying down the path and a voice cried:

“Who’s that? What’s the matter?”

But the boys offered no explanations. They were very busy at that
moment. There was no thought now of quietness; their one endeavor was
to get to shore as soon as possible. Once Nelson turned to look. The
light of the lantern showed two or possibly three forms on the pier,
and from the way the lantern was lowered and carried back and forth he
knew that they had seen the wet footprints and, perhaps, had discovered
the loss of the pole.

“Some of your boys on a lark, I fancy,” said a voice. “I’m certain I
heard them swimming away as I came down. No, I won’t go along, thanks.”

When Nelson glanced back again the lantern was moving about the float.
After that he attended strictly to business. Tom and Dan were well in
the lead and he swam his hardest to overtake them. Hand over hand he
went, _splash_, _splash_, his eyes full of water, and his breath coming
harder and harder. Then a new sound came to him, the steady churn of
the Chicora’s propeller. Desperation lent new strength and in a dozen
strokes he was even with Dan; Tom still led by a couple of lengths.

“They’re after us in the launch,” gasped Dan. “When we get--near
shore--spread out--and take--to the woods. They won’t see--the canoe.”

“All right,” answered Nelson.

The camp record for the quarter mile was something a little under
nine minutes, but there is no doubt but that that record was smashed
to fragments that night, at least by Tom. Yet in spite of their best
endeavors the launch gained on them from the start. Had they had
much farther to go they would have been caught beyond a doubt. As
it was they were in the darkness under the trees before the Chicora
could reach them. The launch could not come nearer than twenty yards
from shore because of her draft, and that fact saved them. As they
floundered, up to their waists, over the submerged branches and rocks
toward land they heard a hail from the boat:

“Stop where you are or I’ll fire at you!”

“Down!” whispered Dan. Nelson heard, but Tom, who was well ahead,
splashed on, sounding in the stillness like an elephant at his bath.
The Chicora had stopped her screw, and those on board were listening
intently. Dan and Nelson, flat on their stomachs in two feet of water,
made no sound and waited nervously for the report of Mr. Clinton’s
revolver. They were certain that he couldn’t see them and certain that
he wouldn’t shoot them if he did; but he might discharge his revolver
to scare them, and there was just an unpleasant possibility that one or
other of them might be hit by mistake. Tom had subsided on the ground
at the edge of the woods, and they could hear him panting heavily where
he lay. Then:

“I heard only one,” said Mr. Clinton, his words coming clear and
distinct across the water. “Surely one of our boys wouldn’t do such a
trick alone.”

“There may be more around, though,” said Thorpe.

“I doubt it. More likely it was some one looking for a chance to steal.
Although why he wanted a flagpole is beyond me. Anyhow, we can’t get
any nearer. We’ll go on to camp, I guess.”

Then, to the boys’ relief, the screw started again and the light that
marked the position of the launch moved away up the lake.

“Quick!” whispered Dan. “We must make a run for it. If we can get into
our bunks before he gets there we’ll be all right.”

They floundered out of the water, were joined by Tom, and went crashing
through the woods, bumping into trees, lashing their faces with
branches, and making enough noise to be heard by those on the launch
had it not been for the beat of the propeller. Fortunately the road was
but a short distance, and once on that they made fine time.

“Talk about your hare-and-hounds!” gasped Nelson. “Gee!”

When they reached the clearing they stopped running and went forward
cautiously. All was silent and deserted. In a moment they had gained
Maple Hall. But Dan stopped them before they had laid foot on the porch.

“We must wipe our feet,” he said, “or Clint will see the tracks. Here.”

Some one had left a towel over the railing, and with this they
hurriedly wiped their feet clean of dirt and leaves. Their bodies had
dried long since and were glowing from their exertions. Just as the
towel was thrown aside and they had mounted the porch a light gleamed
between the trees of the path from the landing and voices reached them.

“Quick!” whispered Nelson. “What did you do with the towel? We mustn’t
leave it here.” He picked it up and followed the others into the
gloom of the dormitory, treading softly over the creaking boards. If
Dr. Smith was awake it was all up with them. But the bed by the door
gave no sound. The hall was silent save for the deep breathing and
occasional snores of its occupants. Nelson found his bunk, tossed the
soiled towel beneath it, dived into his pajamas, and slipped into bed
just as the door at the end of the dormitory became suddenly illumined
and footsteps sounded on the porch outside. He was panting hard, but
he drew the clothes up to his chin, threw one arm over his head, and
strove to look as though he had been asleep for hours. Then he waited,
hoping that Tom and Dan had gained their bunks and that Mr. Clinton
would not look too closely at his hair, which was still wet.

Then the light glowed against his closed lids and he heard the Chief
and Mr. Thorpe walking slowly down the aisle. And at the same moment
he became aware of a sound he had not heard before, a loud, unmusical
wheeze and gurgle that came from his side of the hall further down. The
next instant he realized what it was and would have given much to have
been able to give vent to the laughter that threatened to choke him.
Tom was snoring!

To have heard that snore would have satisfied any one that Thomas
Courtenay Ferris had been sleeping the sleep of the just for many
hours. And Mr. Clinton was no exception. When he raised the lantern
over Tom’s wide-open mouth and listened to the evidence that poured
forth he smiled and walked on. Up the aisle he went, stopping at each
bunk. And then:

“Everything seems all right here, Thorpe,” Nelson heard him mutter.

“Yes, I guess you were right, sir,” answered Mr. Thorpe with a yawn.

“I guess I was, only--what any one should want with a flagpole is more
than I can see!”

Then they retraced their steps, passed out of the door and disappeared,
and Nelson, raising his head with a sigh of relief, saw the lantern’s
light grow dimmer and dimmer. Two minutes later they were all on Dan’s
bunk, hysterically whispering and giggling, and it was an hour later
when sleepiness at last broke up the meeting. When the first bugle
sounded three of the occupants of Maple Hall only muttered and turned
over again, to arise finally with heavy eyes and aching limbs.



CHAPTER XVI

RECORDS TWO VICTORIES OVER WICKASAW AND AN EPISODE WITH FISH


That afternoon a new flagpole was raised at Wickasaw and on it appeared
again a square of white cloth bearing the inscription “W. 18; C. 4.”
But Dan and Nelson and Tom only smiled knowingly when they saw it.
There are flags and flags; and they knew of one flag that would never
flutter again over the Wickasaw landing. For Dan had greatly surprised
the other two that morning by producing a very bedraggled square of
white sheeting bearing marks that, before its immersion in water, had
been two letters and two numerals.

“Why, you got it after all!” exclaimed Tom.

“You didn’t think I was coming away without it, did you?” asked Dan
scornfully.

It was subsequently cut into four equal pieces and distributed
among the quartet, Bob having been duly apprised of the midnight
proceedings and having been so evidently hurt at being left out
of their confidence that he was made a recipient of a share of the
spoils of war. Directly after breakfast the Four had taken themselves
unobtrusively off through the woods to bring back the abandoned canoe.
When they neared the spot where they had left it they heard voices and
paused to consider.

“Some of the fellows are ahead of us,” said Dan. “It’s Carter’s canoe
and they’ll want to know how the dickens it got down here. If Clint
hears of it he will put two and two together----”

“And make we three,” finished Tom.

“Come on,” said Bob. “You can say you paddled down a little while ago
and left it there.”

“Which would be a silly lie,” said Dan. “Besides, they know we haven’t
had time. We’ll see who it is and ask them not to say anything about
it.”

So they went on and emerged from the woods just in time to see two boys
in the white jerseys and trunks of Camp Wickasaw climb into the canoe
and start to paddle away to where, a little ways out, the Wickasaw
launch, manned by three other fellows was waiting.

“Here, that’s our canoe!” shouted Dan.

The two stopped paddling and looked doubtfully at the new arrivals.

“Come on, Jack!” called a voice from the launch. “Don’t mind them!”
Whereupon the pair in the canoe dug the paddles again.

“Drop those paddles and let that canoe alone, I tell you,” commanded
Dan again. “That canoe belongs to us and you know it.”

“We found it,” said one of the fellows. They stopped paddling again and
would undoubtedly have relinquished the craft then and there had not
their companions in the launch encouraged them to keep on.

“I don’t care if you did,” answered Dan. “We left it here.”

“When?” asked a Wickasaw youth.

“That’s no affair of yours,” said Bob. “Just you tumble out or we’ll
throw you out.”

“Bring it along, you fellows!” came from the launch. “If it’s theirs
they’ll have to prove it.”

“It was on our land,” said Nelson, raising his voice and addressing the
party in the launch.

“No, it wasn’t either. Your line’s away over there. This land belongs
to Mr. Carpenter. You fellows swiped our flag last night and if you
want that canoe you’ll have to come over to camp and prove it belongs
to you. Bring it out, Jack.”

“Come on,” said Dan quietly. “We can get to ’em before they reach the
launch.” And he led the way into the water on the run, stumbling over
hidden obstacles and making straight for the canoe. Bob and Nelson and
Tom followed. As soon as there was depth enough they threw themselves
forward and began to swim. Meanwhile the two lads in the canoe were
paddling for all they were worth and the launch had started up and
was coming in gingerly to meet them. Had they been expert paddlers
the two Wickasaw youths might easily have won that race with the long
start they had, but neither of them knew very much about it and their
strokes got more and more flurried and ragged as Dan and the others
began to overhaul them. The launch had sighted obstructions and was now
backing again, the while its occupants shouted encouragement to their
companions and defiance to the foe. Half a dozen yards from the launch
Dan’s hand reached up and seized the end of the canoe. The nearest
paddler raised his “beaver tail” threateningly.

“If you hit me with that,” said Dan calmly, “I’ll just about drown
you.” And while the other hesitated Tom, coming through the water
like a torpedo-boat, joined Dan. The launch, its occupants angry and
excited, was trying to reach the scene. But it didn’t get there in time.

“Over with them,” said Dan, and the next instant the two Wickasaw boys
were struggling in the water. Dan grabbed one of them and Bob, who had
arrived on the scene of action meanwhile, seized the other. The
wearers of the white and red disappeared from sight. When they came up
a moment later, choking and sputtering, the paddles had been wrested
from them and the capsized canoe was yards away in charge of Nelson. A
big youth with a very red and angry face stood on the bow of the launch
aiming blows at Dan with the boat-hook. But he was a yard too far away
and Dan only grinned at him exasperatingly and said:

[Illustration: “Over with them,” said Dan.]

“Say, if you don’t look out you’ll fall overboard, and if you do--well,
I won’t do a thing to you!”

The former occupants of the canoe had been released and the way they
were striking out for the launch was beautiful to see. Bob brought down
the paddle he held behind one of them, which so alarmed the swimmer
that he went down again. Nelson, having dragged the canoe out of range,
returned, eager for the fray. But the fray was over, all save verbal
encounters, and the Four, with a final retort to the revilements thrown
at them, turned their backs to the enemy and swam leisurely back to
land, rescuing and righting the canoe on the way. Then they got into it
and paddled off up the shore, leaving the Wickasaw launch churning the
water angrily in an effort to get free of a sunken tree trunk or rock
upon which she had run her bow. As long as they were in ear-shot taunts
and challenges followed them, but they could afford to be calm and
undisturbed; they had come off victorious. When last seen the launch
had finally got clear and was chugging its way home.

The Four returned to camp in the best of humor and set about their
neglected duties. Luckily they all had easy tasks that morning and so
were able to report on time to the orderly. Bob felt in such conceit
with himself that he selected that morning for his interview with Mr.
Clinton regarding the proposed canoe trip and half an hour afterward
sought out the others with cheerful countenance.

“It’s all right,” he announced. “Clint says we may go for three days.
We’re to start next Monday morning and we must be back to camp by
Wednesday night. We’re to keep away from hotels and behave ourselves.
He wanted to send one of the councilors along with us at first. Then he
thought better of it; said he guessed we could be trusted to look after
ourselves for three days. Isn’t it great?”

“Bu-bu-bu-bully!” sputtered Tom.

“Swell!” said Nelson.

“Out of sight!” declared Dan. And they began to lay plans for the trip
then and there. Bob produced a map of the country thereabouts and they
proceeded to mark it up with pencil lines until, had they followed
all the routes laid out, they would have been busy for the rest of the
year. When it was time for “soak” the route was still undecided, but as
the hour of departure was yet six days off that didn’t much matter.

The next day Dan and Nelson went fishing up at the head of the lake
near Evergreen Island. They brought home seven bass and four chub. The
bass went to the cook, and appeared on the supper table, but the chub
Dan took up to the storehouse with the explanation that he was going to
put them on ice until the next day.

“Oh, throw them away,” said Nelson. “Nobody wants to eat chub.”

“That’s all you know about it,” answered Dan. “Bob’s terribly fond of
them. I’m going to give them to him, but don’t say anything about it
because I want to surprise him.”

Nelson eyed him suspiciously.

“I’ll bet you’re up to one of your silly jokes,” he said. Nevertheless
he kept his own counsel.

That night Bob and Joe Carter and his brother, who since Saturday’s
baseball game was looked upon as a veritable hero, played euchre on
Bob’s bunk from after camp-fire until it was time to go to bed. Dan
looked on awhile but seemed very fidgety and quoted somebody whose
name he didn’t remember to the effect that cards were only fit for
fools and imbeciles. Finally he wandered back to his own bunk and began
to prepare for slumber. Tom was already in bed with his lantern rigged
up beside his pillow and was deep in his fascinating book.

“What are that silly hero and the girl doing now?” asked Dan.

“Escaping from the lighthouse,” answered Tom without raising his eyes
from the volume.

“How? In a trolley car?” asked Dan sarcastically.

“Boat; and they’ve only got one oar and there’s a peach of a storm
coming up, and they haven’t got anything to eat, and----”

“Tommy, you ought to be ashamed to read such trash,” said Dan severely.
Then he seized the book and sent it with excellent aim to the farther
end of the hall, where it narrowly missed Bob’s nose and created
consternation among the card-players. Tom leaped out of bed and raced
after it, and during the next thirty seconds Dan, unnoticed of all,
worked very hard. Having recovered his book Tom started to retrace his
steps.

“Don’t you bring that pernicious literature around here,” warned Dan.
“If you do I shall be forced to take it away from you. I must protect
my morals at any cost.”

Tom told him what he thought of his morals and then annexed Nelson’s
bunk and returned to his story. When he was ready for bed Dan went
visiting farther down the dormitory. The result of this maneuvering
was that when bedtime came and the lights at the ends of the hall were
put out by the councilors Tom and Dan were still out of their bunks.
The former closed his book with a sigh of regret and stumbled down the
aisle. Dan heard him putting the book away. Then there was a moment of
silence save for the whispers of the fellows, and then----

“_Gu-gu-gosh!_” shrieked Tom, leaping out of bed again.
“Wh-wh-wh-what’s in my bed?”

Instantly the dormitory was in a turmoil, the fellows, scenting fun,
tumbling out of their bunks to gather about Tom, who stood, wild-eyed
and disgusted, in the middle of the aisle.

“What’s the matter?” they asked him expectantly.

“Somebody’s pu-pu-put something nu-nu-nasty in my bed,” he answered. “I
bu-bu-bu-bet it was Du-du-du-Dan did it!”

“What’s that about me?” asked Dan innocently. By this time there were
plenty of lanterns, and Tom gingerly threw back his blankets. In the
bed repose four slimy, cold chub, their round eyes seemingly fixed
reproachfully upon Tom.

“Fish!” shouted Nelson quite as though he hadn’t expected it.

“Chub!” cried Dan.

Tom, cautiously examining his bedfellows, caught the expression on
Dan’s face.

“You du-du-did it!” he shrieked wrathfully, and seizing one of the fish
by the tail he whirled it once around his head and let it fly at Dan.
Now, as anybody who had ever attempted to throw a fresh fish by his
tail must know, accuracy is impossible. That’s why the chub, instead of
hitting Dan, smacked itself straight into Dr. Smith’s face. But Tom was
not to be easily discouraged. Without stopping for apologies he seized
upon the remaining fish and chased Dan down the aisle and out into
the darkness under a veritable fusillade of chub. Tom’s aim was hasty
and the chub were slippery, and so Dan escaped all save one of the
missiles. That one took him squarely in the back and imprinted itself
upon his nice clean light blue pajamas. Then Tom went back to make his
peace with Dr. Smith.

That night was long remembered. Tom’s misadventure was the forerunner
of others. Several beds were upset with their contents and “sneakers”
were so thick in the air that Dan, cautiously returning from outer
darkness into inner gloom, was struck twice between the door and his
bunk.

It was almost midnight when the councilors at last secured quiet.
And then, just when most fellows were getting drowsy, there was a
strange, uncanny noise like that of a man talking through a hundred
feet of gas-pipe, a whirring and buzzing, and finally a loud discordant
laugh and a jumble of shrill words that sounded as though they were
coming from the stove. Somebody in some manner had got hold of Wells’s
phonograph and started it going. Up and down the hall fellows sat up in
bed and laughed and shouted their applause. Bedlam was loose again!

“Give us ‘Bluebell’!” some one demanded.

“I want ‘Hiawatha’!” called another.

“Cornet solo, please!”

Then Dr. Smith’s voice was heard above the babel.

“Cut it out now, fellows! Wells, stop that noise!”

“I didn’t do it, sir.”

“I don’t care who did it; I want it stopped.”

“Why, Wells, you know you did it!” said some one up the hall.

“Sounded just like your voice, Wells!” called another.

“Cut it out, fellows,” said Dr. Smith sternly.

“Yes, sir.”

“All right, Doctor!”

“Good night, sir!”

“Thank you for stopping the noise, Doctor; I’m very sleepy!”

“Yes, sir; thank you, sir!”

Then followed giggles--silence--slumber.

Three of the Four were very busy for the balance of the week. Every
afternoon there was hard practise on the diamond for the baseball team
in preparation for the second game with Wickasaw on Saturday afternoon.
If Wickasaw should win this game she would have the series; if not,
a third game would be played. Dan had made up his mind to conquer,
and the way he worked the team was a caution. On Thursday there was
a spirited contest between the camp nine and the scrub in which Mr.
Clinton distinguished himself by knocking three home runs out of five
times at bat. But for all that the first team won handily, displaying
far better form than at any time during the season.

Besides the practise there was a lot of planning to do in regard to
the trip. By Friday all arrangements were complete, and at last they
had agreed on a route. They were to go through to Hipp’s Pond, carry
across to Northwest Bay, and so reach Lake Winnipesaukee. Tuesday they
would cruise on the lake and on Wednesday they would return as far as
The Weirs by train and from there paddle home again. They were to take
two canoes, not so much because they were both necessary as because
it looked more imposing. A 7 x 9 canoe tent, blankets, an aluminum
cooking outfit, a waterproof duffle bag, a few provisions, hatchet,
fishing-tackle, camera, and compass made up the bulk of their luggage.
Tom was strongly desirous of taking a great many more things, among
them a checker-board, a pack of cards, and his wonderful book--but the
others refused.

“We may have to carry a good ways,” explained Bob. “If we do you’ll be
glad we haven’t any more truck, Tommy.”

Mr. Clinton gave his counsel and help and regretted many times that he
wasn’t going along. By Saturday morning all luggage was assembled under
Dan’s bed and nothing remained but to await as patiently as possible
the hour of embarkment. Naturally, they were much envied by the other
boys and many were the applications received for membership in the
expedition.

Wickasaw appeared on the field Saturday afternoon minus one of their
councilors, who was too ill to play. As he was one of the best of the
Wickasaw nine his absence was partly accountable for the result of the
contest. But Chicora’s playing had a good deal to do with it. Wells
pitched a good game and very few hits were made off his delivery. On
the other hand Nelson and Bob and Loom, who played short-stop, were
able to find the Wickasaw pitcher for a number of timely hits. At the
end of the sixth inning Chicora had a comfortable lead of four runs. In
the seventh an epidemic of errors in the Wickasaw infield enabled her
rival to pile on three more, and the game ended with a score 9 to 3 in
Chicora’s favor.

Dan spent most of the evening manufacturing a flag of victory, while
the other three lent him valuable advice. He sacrificed one of his
two pillow-slips and on it drew a broom--which he explained was
emblematic of victory and a clean sweep--from the upper right-hand to
the lower left-hand corner. Above it, in amazing letters and numerals,
he inscribed “Chicora 9!”; below it in much smaller characters he
traced the inscription: “Wick. 3.” As his exclamation point had much
the appearance of a figure 1, the score at first glance was a bit
startling. When they went for their dip in the morning they attached
the flag to the line under the camp banner.

“They won’t be able to steal it if they want to,” said Dan. “Because,
you see, it’ll come down at night and go up to camp.”

The only thing that marred his happiness that morning was the fact that
there was no breeze and consequently the flag hung straight downward
and failed to flaunt its message to the eyes of the inhabitants of Bear
Island.

Sunday passed very slowly for the Four. In the forenoon they wrote
their regular weekly letters home and had their “soak.” At noon
they ate a great deal of dinner. In the afternoon they secured the
motor-dory and with three others went for a trip around the lake. But
for the most part their thoughts were set on the morrow. In the middle
of the night Nelson awoke in a most unhappy frame of mind. He had
dreamed that it was raining so hard that the dormitory was afloat and
Dr. Smith was dealing out rowboats so that they could get to breakfast.
But one glance through the open window at the foot of the bunk brought
relief. The night was still and cool and through the silent leaves the
white stars were twinkling merrily.



CHAPTER XVII

WITNESSES THE DEPARTURE OF THE FOUR ON A CANOE TRIP AND BRINGS THEM
INTO CAMP FOR THE NIGHT


Half the inhabitants of the camp saw them off and, being envious,
professed to be glad they were not going themselves.

“Look out for bears, Tommy,” counseled Joe Carter. “You’d make a nice
fat breakfast for them.”

Joe had very willingly contributed his canoe to the expedition, but he
would have liked mightily to go along.

Finally the last of the things were stowed away in the two canoes and
the paddles were dipped.

“Be very careful,” said Mr. Clinton, “and take good care of yourselves.
Good-by.”

“Good-by!” yelled the crowd on the landing, and----

“Good-by, sir,” called the Four. “Good-by, fellows!”

In the excitement of the moment the “Babe” fell off the pier, and
during the subsequent hilarity the two canoes sped out into the lake.
In one sat Nelson and Dan, in the other Bob and Tom. They were to
change about when they reached Northwest Bay. As they swung around the
corner of Bear Island a number of the Wickasaw fellows were on the
pier. From the flagpole hung the objectionable white banner.

“Take it down,” shouted Dan. “It’s out of date!”

“Come and get it,” answered one of the assembly.

“Oh, we haven’t got time,” said Nelson.

“One’s enough for us,” added Tom.

Whereupon they were subjected to a chorus of angry jeers and hoots.
That raised their spirits still higher and they shot under the bridge
at Crescent as happy a quartet as ever paddled their own--or any one
else’s--canoe. There was very little wind and what there was favored
their progress. Little of interest happened during the voyage to the
head of Hipp’s Pond. By that time they were all glad to lay down the
paddles and stretch tired arms and legs. From the pond across to
the bay was a matter of two miles over a well-traveled trail. After
a few minutes of rest the outfit was apportioned and they set out.
Dan carried one canoe and Bob the other, and Nelson and Tom shared
the luggage. A seventy-pound canoe weighs one hundred pounds at the
beginning of the carry, two hundred at the end of the first half mile,
and something like a ton at the end of the mile. After that it gains
four tons every three hundred yards. That’s one reason it took the
party just short of an hour and a half to cover that two miles. They
changed burdens frequently, but, even so, when Nelson suggested that
they return all the way by water and train, cutting out the present
feature of the trip, they were unanimous in favor of the suggestion.

“I never knew a canoe weighed so much,” grunted Dan, stumbling over a
log. “I’ll bet the Chicora isn’t half so heavy as this pesky thing!”

“Wish we’d brought only one of them,” said Tom, who was struggling with
the other. “Don’t see what we needed two for. You fellows wouldn’t let
me bring things that were really necessary, but you had to saddle us
with a canoe that isn’t needed at all.”

“Dry up, Tommy,” said Nelson. “You’re doing finely, if only you’d lift
your feet now and then. Talking about unnecessary things, now, I don’t
see what you have two feet for; one of them is big enough for any
ordinary person. Look out there! I told you so!”

Thereupon burdens were set down, not unwillingly, while the canoe was
lifted off of the prostrate form of Tom and balanced over his shoulders
again.

“Well, we’re almost there,” said Bob encouragingly. “And this is the
last time we’ll have to lug things.”

“Almost there!” grumbled Tom. “You’ve been saying that ever since we
started. Don’t believe there is any ‘there’!”

But there was, and presently it came into sight, a narrow strip of blue
water just barely ruffled in the breeze. When they reached the bank
they laid aside their loads and stretched themselves out gratefully in
the shade.

“Hooray!” murmured Dan.

“Me too,” sighed Tom.

Bob, who appeared the least fatigued of the party, got out the tin
cup and served drinking water and was called blessed. Nelson took the
camera from the case and snapped it several times at the recumbent
forms. Then the canoes were slipped into the water and the luggage
arranged again. This time Nelson and Bob paddled together, and Dan and
Tom. As they started away Tom waved his arm politely toward the trail
through which they had journeyed.

“Good morning, Carry,” he called.

And Dan was heard threatening that if he ever said anything like that
again he would be tipped out of the canoe.

“And this time,” added Dan, “I won’t jump in and rescue you!”

Noon saw them opposite Beacon Point, and heading across the water they
found a comfortable spot and drew the canoes up on to a tiny sandy
beach. They had provided themselves with a cold lunch for the first
meal and they ate it lying around on their elbows or stretched flat
on their backs in the shade of a big white birch which fluttered its
leaves above their faces. The lunch was principally sandwiches and
gingerbread and apples, but it tasted better than any meal they had
eaten for a long time, and Tom begged to be allowed to attack the other
supplies after his share of the feast had vanished. He was heartlessly
denied and presently fell asleep, where he lay and snored beautifully
in four distinct keys for half an hour. Perhaps the others slept a
little as well. The sun was delightfully warm and life held no cares.

By one o’clock they were on their way again. Camps and their
attendant landings, with here and there a hotel or boarding-house,
became frequent along the shores, while in the distance launches and
steam-boats shone like white specks against the blue water. Now and
then a canoe or sailboat passed them with its merry party.

“Seems to me,” said Dan, who was paddling at bow in Bob’s canoe, “that
folks down here don’t have anything to do but float around on the
water. It’s a sick way to spend vacation.”

“What ought they to do?” asked Bob carelessly.

“Anything so as not to be so plumb lazy. Look, there’s a swell camp
over there, Bob.”

“And that’s a dandy on the little island over there. Hey, Nelson, how’d
you like to have to live there all summer?”

“I wouldn’t kick. That’s swell, isn’t it? There are some mighty fine
places along here. It’s prettier than Chicora in that way.”

“Yes, but you’d soon get tired of having so many camps around you; it’s
too crowded. What’s the point over there, I wonder.” And Bob pulled his
map out for the fortieth time. “Shingle Point,” he announced. “Now, why
the dickens do they call it that? It doesn’t look like a shingle, it
doesn’t feel like a shingle, and it doesn’t smell like a shingle.”

“You’re a silly chump, Bob,” said Dan. “It’s called Shingle Point
because it scratches like a shingle, of course.”

“How does a shingle scratch?” asked Nelson.

“With its nails,” chuckled Dan.

“Splash him for me, please,” Nelson begged, and Bob obligingly obeyed,
sending a fine shower against Dan’s back.

“I suppose that’s Clapboard Island there off Shingle Point?” asked Tom.

“And that’s Shutter Cove yonder,” said Dan.

“Well, that looks like a boarding-house on the hill,” added Nelson.

“Maybe we could get a planked steak there,” Bob suggested.

“Oh, this is awful,” laughed Nelson. “Come on, Tommy, let’s get out of
this atmosphere.” And they bent to their paddles in an endeavor to draw
away from the other craft. But Bob and Dan were ready for a race and
they had it out for a quarter of a mile, nip and tuck, Tom, who had yet
to acquire skill at paddling, throwing water over himself and whoever
came within six yards of him, but nevertheless managing to keep his end
up. When they called the contest off, both parties claiming victory,
they had reached a point where it was necessary to choose their course.
Before them the island which Tom had dubbed Clapboard barred their
direct path and it became a question of going to right or left. Bob
consulted the map once more.

“It doesn’t make much difference,” he said. “The right is a bit nearer
according to this.”

“Right it is, then,” answered Dan.

“Let’s quit for a while,” said Tom. “My arms are lamer than thunder.”

“All right, Tommy.” So they laid aside their paddles, scooped the water
up in their hands and drank, and then disposed themselves comfortably
in the canoes.

“Is the tide going in or out?” asked Nelson absent-mindedly. Then he
wondered why the others laughed at him until he recollected that he was
not on salt water. Bob brought his canoe alongside the other and held
it there while they bobbed lazily about in the afternoon sunlight.

“Who knows where the fishing-tackle is?” asked Tom.

“I do,” Dan answered, “but we haven’t any bait.”

“I’ll go ashore and dig some. We ought to have some fish for supper.”

“I’ll eat myself all the fish you’ll catch, Tommy,” said Bob. “But go
ahead and get your bait. How many lines are there?”

“Two,” said Tom. “You take the other and I bet I’ll catch more’n you
do.”

“All right, Izaak Walton. Run away and get your bait. But it’s
dollars to doughnuts you won’t find anything but earthworms, and no
self-respecting fish will bite at those.”

“A chub will take anything,” said Dan.

“Yes, but we won’t take the chub,” answered Nelson. “I’ll go hungry
before I’ll eat those things.”

“Chub are all right,” said Dan. “You ask Tommy; he knows all about
chub, don’t you, Tommy?”

But Tommy, searching for the hatchet, made no response. Armed with
this weapon in lieu of a spade he paddled in to the shore, Nelson, on
his back with one foot over each gunwale, taking slight interest in
the proceedings. Tom disappeared into the woods and was presently back
again with a varied collection of worms and bugs gathered from rotten
logs and from the earth. They returned to the other canoe, and he and
Bob made ready their lines.

“I’d like to know what sort of beasts these are,” said Bob disgustedly.
“I’m afraid to touch some of them. Here, I’ll use the earthworms and
leave these fancy things to you; and I hope they bite you. There, here
goes for a whale.”

He threw his line out, and Tom followed a moment later with his. Then
they waited while Dan and Nelson sarcastically made bets on the result.
After five minutes without a nibble Bob grew restive.

“Any one know whether there are any fish in this lake?” he asked.

“All fished out, I guess,” said Dan. But at that moment Tom gave a
suppressed whoop of excitement and began to let out his line.

“Play him, Tommy,” said Nelson lazily. “It’s probably a codfish.”

“Fu-fu-fu-feels like a wh-wh-whale!” answered Tom.

“Now don’t get excited,” advised Dan. “Give him his head for a while.
Maybe it’s a sunfish.”

But Tom was really having all he could attend to, for whatever was on
the end of his line was making the gamest sort of a fight. Tom had to
let out several yards of line, for he was none too sure of his leader.
Then he began to take it in again a little at a time until the fish,
which seemed to have given up the struggle, was not six feet away. They
all peered wonderingly into the water, but it was too rough to allow
the fish to be seen.

“I’m going to pull him in,” said Tom in a hoarse whisper. “You fellows
su-su-stand by to gu-gu-grab him!” Then he pulled in hand over hand,
there was a thrashing a yard away and a momentary glimpse of a big
silvery body that turned and twisted. Then Tom sat down suddenly in the
canoe, sending it down to the gunwale and shipping several quarts of
water, while the end of the line, minus leader and hook, flew over his
head.

“_Gosh!_” exclaimed Tom, picking himself up and looking disgustedly
into the water.

“Say, he was a peach!” said Dan. “What do you suppose he was?”

“Trout,” said Bob.

“Salmon,” said Nelson.

“He was the biggest I ever saw in fresh water, anyway,” Dan declared.
Tom was feverishly fitting a new leader and baiting his hook.

“Maybe he’ll be back,” he whispered excitedly.

“Not he,” said Bob. “He’s scared to death. I’ll bet he’s half a mile
away by this time. Hello!” He had drawn in his own line, forgotten in
the excitement, and found the hook empty. “I got a bite at last.”

“So did the fish,” laughed Nelson.

Tom’s “whale” didn’t put in any appearance, but at the end of half an
hour or so he had four fair-sized bass and two chub to his credit,
while Bob had only one small perch to show.

“You win, Tommy,” he said, winding up his line. “The old farm is yours,
to say nothing of the wood-lot on the hill. Now let’s get along. It’s
after four and we ought to get to Morris Island by five.”

So they took to the paddles again and glided on through the channel
that divided the island from the mainland. At the end of the island
they met one of the steamers, her deck well filled with passengers who
waved and shouted to them as they swept past. There was lots to see
now, for they were well inshore and the houses and cabins were thick
thereabouts. At the end of an hour their camp-site was in view. Morris
Island lay well out in the lake and was one of the largest there. A
few camps were scattered over it, but there was plenty of room for a
night’s lodging. They crept along the shore until they found a little
cove with a gravelly beach. Here they disembarked, stretched their
limbs, and set about making camp.

The canoes were emptied, carried up under the trees, and laid bottom
side up for the night. Tom went off after firewood, and the others
unpacked the cooking things and set up the tents. Bob, who had had
experience in camping, took command. The blankets were distributed,
water was brought, and a big log was rolled down to the edge of the
beach. Tom came back with his first armful of wood, and Bob set about
the building of the fire. With some small stones dug from the beach
he built a fireplace, the back wall of which was the tree trunk.
Between the side walls he dug out the gravel for a depth of six inches,
continuing the excavations for a foot or so in front. Then with a
broad, flat stone he made a hearth, fixing it in such a way that there
was a draft from front to back. On the flat stone he threw some dried
grass and twigs and lighted them. Then Tom’s supply was drawn upon
and in a moment there was a roaring fire. With the hatchet Bob cut a
stout branch, sharpened one end, and thrust it into the earth so that
it leaned over the fireplace. From this, just above the flames, he
depended the water-kettle. The cooking utensils and the provisions were
spread out and Nelson and Dan were set to cleaning the fish. The bread
was cut--Tom managing to gash his finger in the operation--the coffee
made, and the potatoes were washed and plumped into the boiling water.
Meanwhile the skillet was leaning against the fireplace getting hot.

Dan and Tom and Nelson sat down and watched, jumping up now and then to
do Bob’s bidding, but for the most part cultivating their appetites by
observing the preparation of supper. Bob seemed to know just what to do
and how to do it. By the time the potatoes were almost done the fish
were frying in the skillet and the coffee-pot was singing a tune of its
own.

Then plates were passed around and in a moment there was a deep and
eloquent silence that lasted until Tommy, with a sigh, laid down his
plate and reached for the frying-pan. “Work,” quoth Tom, “makes a
fellow hungry.”

“Work!” answered Nelson scathingly.

“Work!” grunted Dan.

“Work!” laughed Bob.

“Huh!” Tom retaliated. “Who caught these fish?”

“Well, even if you did catch them you needn’t eat them all,” said Dan,
wresting the skillet from his hands. “There are others, my boy. Pour me
some more coffee, Bob, will you?”

While they ate, with the smoke from the dying fire floating straight
into the air and the last rays of the sun tinging the lake with
rose-gold, the steamer from The Weirs passed a little way out, her
cabin windows alight and her lanterns flashing red and green and white
across the mirror-like surface. Bob waved the coffee-pot, incidentally
splashing Tom’s face with the contents, and a group at the stern of
the boat fluttered their handkerchiefs. Then the dishes were washed at
the edge of the lake and the fire replenished. After that they took
a stroll along the shore, pausing now and then to shy pebbles at the
muskrats which, with little bullet-shaped heads just above the water,
swam hither and thither, leaving long ripples behind them. Back to
camp they wandered just at dark and sat for a while in the light of
the little fire, and then they rolled themselves in their blankets and
dropped off to sleep one by one, Tom’s unmusical snores alone breaking
the silence. And so ended the first day of the trip; not an exciting
one, to be sure, but one of the happiest of the summer.



CHAPTER XVIII

TELLS HOW THEY FOUND A DERELICT AND A COURSE DINNER, AND MET WITH
SHIPWRECK


When they awoke nature presented a far different aspect. A stiff, cold
wind blew out of the northeast, the sky was hidden by dark clouds
that hurried up the lake, and the water was of a leaden green hue and
crested with whitecaps. They viewed the prospect gloomily while they
tumbled into their clothes and lighted the morning fire. But a good
breakfast put them in better spirits, and at half past eight they were
in the canoes again battling with wind and waves. It was hard paddling,
and to make it worse the spray drenched them before they had made a
half mile of progress. Long before noon, in spite of many rests, they
were ready to seek the shore. The wind increased with every hour and
the heavy clouds drove faster and faster into the southwest. At half
past ten they decided to land and so turned the bows of the canoes
toward a fair-sized island that guarded the entrance to a bay. It was
while making for this that Bob, who was in the leading canoe with Dan,
pointed to an object which drifted along a quarter of a mile up the
lake.

“Looks like a boat, doesn’t it?” he asked.

“It surely does,” Dan answered after studying it a moment. “But it
seems to be empty. Let’s go and investigate.”

So they shouted to the others and paddled away in the direction of the
derelict. When they drew near they saw that it was a cedar rowboat,
apparently a yacht’s tender. At the stern was the word “Elf.” It was
almost half full of water and a crimson sweater washed to and fro in
the bottom. There were no oars in it and the rowlocks were not in place.

“If it wasn’t for the rowlocks being out,” said Dan, “I’d think there’d
been an accident. But I guess no one ever went overboard and stopped to
take the rowlocks out. What’ll we do with it?”

“Tow it over to the island,” answered Bob promptly. “That’s maybe where
it belongs. It’s a derelict and we can claim salvage. She’s a fine
little boat, isn’t she?”

When they worked the canoe up to the tender’s bow the mystery was
explained. A few feet of rope, frayed at the end, told the story.

“She’s blown away from the landing,” said Dan. “That painter probably
sawed itself in two during the night; probably rubbed against the edge
of the wharf. We’ll claim the reward if we can find the owner.”

So they took the end of the rope aboard and tried to paddle away.
They’d probably been there yet had not Nelson and Tom come up presently
and lent assistance. A half-filled rowboat is no light tow in a heavy
sea, and by the time they had beached it they were all well tired out.
After turning the water out of it, and wringing the sweater until it
was somewhat drier, they set out on a tour of discovery.

There were no habitations in sight from their landing-place, but a
few minutes’ walk took them around a corner of the island and brought
them in sight of a sumptuous camp building which, planned like a Swiss
chalet, stood on a little bluff above the edge of the lake and towered
up among the trees. Jutting into the water was a long pier with several
craft of different kinds about it, while further out a sixty-foot steam
yacht was moored.

“Bet you this is the place,” said Tom. “How much we going to ask for
reward?”

“Nothing,” said Bob. Tom looked disappointed, but the others agreed
that they wouldn’t take any money for the rescue of the tender. As they
approached a ferocious-looking bull-terrier made a dash at them and
barked savagely, only to change his behavior on closer acquaintance
and leap about them joyfully. The noise brought one of the inmates
of the house to the front door, and he waved greetings to the party
and awaited their approach. He was a middle-aged man, rather fussily
dressed--as Dan put it--for camp-life, and he held a newspaper in his
hand and smoked a pipe. At the steps Bob became spokesman and explained
their errand.

“A cedar tender named ‘Elf,’ eh?” asked the man. “That’s mine, sure
enough. Found her afloat, eh? Well, I’m mightily obliged to you,
gentlemen. Come in, come in! Get out of the way there, Pete. Oh, Jack!
tell Barry to go around the island on the lake side and bring home the
tender. The fool thing ran away last night and a party found her half
full of water.”

“All right,” answered an unseen voice from the house, and the Four,
following the host, found themselves in a great living-room at one
end of which big logs blazed in a monstrous fireplace. The room was
beautifully furnished; bright-hued rugs covered the floor, heads of
deer, bears, and caribous adorned the walls, and a giant moose head
glared down from the stone chimney above the high mantel. A flight of
stairs led past the chimney to a gallery which ran around three sides
of the building and from which the up-stairs rooms opened. Over the
gallery railing hung hides and pelts of deer, bears, foxes, and other
animals. The host led the way to the fire, before which two ladies
and a second man were sitting. The latter proved to be “Jack,” and
“Jack’s” last name proved to be Merrill. The boys gave their names,
and were duly introduced. The host’s name was Carey; one of the ladies
was Mrs. Carey, and the other was a Miss White. The inhabitants of
the camp were dressed as though they were in a city house instead of
a log building on the edge of the wilderness, and the boys regretted
their own scanty attire. That is, three of them did; I can’t honestly
say that Tom looked worried about the matter. But, for that, neither
did their hosts. The boys were given places about the broad hearth,
and the bull-terrier threw himself down at their feet and viewed them
with a friendly grin. Bob, with occasional help from his companions,
told about their trip, about Camp Chicora, and about the finding of the
tender. The matter of reward was broached, but, upon their refusal to
consider it, was not pressed.

“But you’ll have to take dinner with us,” said Mr. Carey, and the
others indorsed him. The boys were nothing loath to change camp-fare
for the luxuries promised by the appearance of the camp and its
inmates, and Tom, who had possibly feared a refusal on the part of his
companions, heaved a sigh of relief when they accepted the invitation.
After that they spent the jolliest kind of an hour until dinner
was announced. They were taken over the house and marveled at its
conveniences and appointments; they were challenged to a game of pool
by Miss White, accepted, and were one and all badly beaten; they were
shown the contents of the gun-racks by Mr. Carey, and listened to his
tales of moose and caribou hunting in the north with tingling veins;
and finally they were conducted by a smart servant to a cozy up-stairs
room to get ready for dinner.

“Wish I had a little more on,” said Bob ruefully, looking at his scant
camp uniform in the big mirror. “I don’t feel decent.”

“I wouldn’t mind so much,” said Dan, “if I even had long trousers. My
legs look awfully bare.”

“Bet we have a swell dinner,” was Tom’s contribution to the subject.

And Tom was quite right. The dinner came on in so many courses that he
lost count of them, and was as perfect as though served in the heart
of New York city. Afterward they went back to the big fireplace and
watched the four-foot logs blazing and crackling, and talked lazily
while the wind blustered against the windows. Tom almost fell asleep
once, and Dan had to kick him hard before he was fully awake again.
About two o’clock Bob suggested departure.

“Why don’t you stay overnight with us?” asked Mrs. Carey. “You really
ought not to go out on the lake in canoes a day like this.”

“That’s so,” said her husband. “No sense in it at all. You stay right
here until this storm blows over. If you like, in the morning I’ll take
you up the lake on the yacht. I can get you up to Northwest Bay in no
time.”

But Bob thanked them and declined. And Tom sighed dolefully. So a
half-hour later they took their departure amid cordial invitations to
come again. Mr. Carey walked around to their landing-place with them
and was much interested in their canoes and outfit. And after they were
afloat and paddling away he waved to them from the shore and laughingly
cautioned them not to get drowned.

Tom was loud in his expressions of disfavor of their course.

“Don’t see why you fellows wouldn’t stay,” he grumbled. “Gee! you don’t
know when you’re well off. Think of the supper and breakfast we’ve
missed! And the dandy beds! And that peach of a fire! And----”

“Mind your paddle,” said Bob. “You’re kicking up an awful mess with it.
If you can’t do better than that you’d better take it out.”

And Tom, still protesting under his breath, set to work again.

Bob, who had fallen naturally into the position of chief navigator,
had planned to keep down the southwest side of the lake to West Alton
and camp near the village for the night. The next morning they would
start early and cross to Wolfeborough, take the forenoon steamer back
to The Weirs, and from there return to Camp Chicora by the afternoon
train. But once past the shelter of the island they began to doubt
their ability to make West Alton. The wind had swung around into the
south, and to hold the canoes in an easterly direction was a difficult
task. After laboring some time with little success Bob decided to run
across the lake before the wind in the direction of Long Island and go
into camp on one of the smaller islets thereabouts or, failing that, on
the mainland. So they swung the canoes about and headed north-by-east
and found a chance to rest their tired muscles. With the wind almost
directly aft it was only necessary to paddle easily and keep the noses
of the craft in the right direction. The canoe containing Bob and Tom,
being somewhat less heavily weighted, rode higher out of water and
consequently presented more surface to the wind. As a result, when they
were half-way across the lake they were leading by almost an eighth of
a mile. Nelson suggested catching up with them, but Dan objected.

“Let them go,” he said. “I’m tuckered out and I’m going to rest. That
was a pretty hefty bit of paddling back there, Nel; we made about a
foot to every ten strokes. I’m wet through with perspiration.”

“Well, I’m wet through, too,” answered Nelson, who was in the bow, “but
not with perspiration. You’d better pull your sweater on or you’ll
catch cold.”

“Guess I will,” said Dan. “This breeze is pretty chilly on a fellow’s
back. Where is that sweater of mine? I see it. Hold steady and I’ll get
it.”

Dan shipped his paddle, arose cautiously to his feet, and took a step
toward the middle of the canoe. At that instant a tiny squall of wind
struck them, he lost his balance, and the next thing Nelson knew he was
struggling up through yards and yards of dark water. When his head was
finally above the surface and he had shaken the water from his eyes he
stared bewilderedly about him. Fifty feet away the overturned canoe was
drifting heavily before the wind. About him here and there such of the
luggage as had not sunk at once was bobbing about from wave to wave.
Near by, Dan’s head with the red hair plastered to it was visible.
Every moment the canoe was drifting farther away, and Nelson realized
that their strait was already desperate and was growing more so with
every instant of delay.

“Come on, Dan!” he shouted. “Make for the canoe; we’ll pick up the
stuff afterward.”

He heard some sort of a response from the other and then struck out
fiercely for the craft. If he could get on top of it it might be
possible to attract the attention of Bob and Tom to their plight. It
was a hard chase, and when his hand finally touched the wet surface
of the canoe he was pretty well tuckered. Throwing one arm across the
bottom he managed to get his head some two feet above the water and
could catch glimpses now and then above the waves of the other craft
well to the right and apparently a long distance away. Then he turned
to shout to Dan, turned and saw only the empty water. He dashed the
drops from his eyes with his free hand and looked again, searching the
hollows between the racing waves. Once he thought he saw for an instant
Dan’s head above the surface, but it was gone again instantly.

“_Dan!_” he shouted in terror. “_Dan!_”

There was no sound but the ceaseless splashing of the waves. With an
awful fear clutching at his heart he threw himself away from the canoe
and plunged back in the teeth of the gale.



CHAPTER XIX

CONCERNS ITSELF WITH THE DANGEROUS PLIGHT OF DAN AND NELSON AND THE
COURAGE OF THE LATTER


As long as he lives Nelson will never recall that struggle through
the angry waters without a sudden sinking of the heart. Wind and wave
were dead against him, mocking his frantic efforts at haste, burying
him for moments at a time in ugly swirls of white-frothed water, that
blinded and confused him. In those moments which, brief as they must
have been, seemed minutes long, the monotonous sound of rushing wind
and splashing wave were silenced and only the stealthy swish of water
flowing over his submerged head reached him. It was pleasant, that
calm, after the confusion of the world above, and once he found himself
giving way to a sort of stupor. What was the use of struggling? Under
the water it was calm and peaceful; down here there was rest for tired
limbs. Involuntarily his aching arms and legs ceased their labors,
and even the swirling of water past his ears no longer came to him,
and he knew that he was sinking. Then the benumbing stupor passed,
fright gripped him with icy hands at his heart, he opened his mouth
to cry aloud, and arose, fighting wildly, to the surface, his lungs
half filled with water. For a moment a panic held him; he fancied
unseen hands were clutching at him, striving to drag him down again to
that awful stillness, and he thrashed and struggled and shrieked at
the leaden sky. Then recollection of Dan came to him and the terror
passed. Blinking his streaming eyes, he looked about him. Almost at
hand was something half submerged that at first he thought might be
his companion. But as he reached it, swimming hand over hand with
the waves breaking above his head, he saw that it was only the canoe
tent, which, partly on account of its wooden pole and partly because
a certain amount of air was imprisoned beneath the canvas, was still
afloat. Grasping it with one hand he turned to search the water. And as
he turned fingers gripped themselves about his wrist in a feeble clutch
and Dan’s face arose white and drawn beside him. The eyes were wide
open and staring, and for a moment Nelson believed that they were the
eyes of a dead person. But the clutching fingers told a different tale,
and as he reached across the tent and seized Dan under one armpit the
staring eyes seemed to flicker with recognition. Then the lids closed
slowly, wearily over them.

He was not dead, thought Nelson with a sudden rush of blood to his
chilled heart. And then, driving before it that brief sensation of
relief, came to him a knowledge of the hopelessness of their situation.
The canoe was drifting bottom upward hundreds of feet away. No hail
came from Bob or Tom. He must keep afloat himself and sustain Dan as
well, and for aid there was only the canvas tent lashed about its pole
and already half water-logged. But the feeling of panic was a thing of
the past. Even fear had gone from him. Discouragement was left, but
with it was a determination to fight the battle to the very end and win
if strength and wit could do it.

After a moment, during which he strove merely to keep his head above
water and regain his breath, he set about getting Dan over the tent.
The latter would not hold the weight of both of them, but it might
keep Dan up for a while. It was hard work, with the waves battling
against his every effort, but at last he succeeded in getting Dan’s
shoulders over the bundle of canvas. Then, with a firm grasp on the
other’s forearm, he let himself float. To swim was out of the question,
since it would only exhaust what little strength remained to him. The
wind and waves were already bearing them along to some extent toward
land. Sooner or later Bob must discover the disaster and turn back, and
all that could be done was to keep afloat until he came. The minutes
passed. Dan’s eyes remained closed, but the lids flickered now and
then. Once Nelson strove to wake him by calling his name, but there
was no response; and as it exhausted his breath Nelson gave it up.
One thing he was thankful for during those lagging minutes, and that
was his and Dan’s attire. The light jerseys and trunks were scarcely
more than bathing suits, and even the rubber-soled canvas shoes added
little to their difficulties. With something almost approaching a smile
he wondered what Mr. Carey would have done in his place, wearing the
clothes which they had envied him an hour or so before.

Presently he began to feel drowsy and longed to close his eyes for a
moment, but was afraid to do so. The canvas tent lost more and more
of its buoyancy as the imprisoned air escaped, and Nelson dreaded the
moment when it would no longer give him aid. It seemed at least an hour
since the overturning of the canoe and yet could have been scarcely
more than ten minutes. Time and again he strove to lift himself high
enough from the water to see over the white crests, but always his view
encompassed only seething lake and dull, stormy sky. His arms and legs
ached. The water, warm when the involuntary bath had begun, now felt
like ice against his body, and his teeth chattered together whenever
he opened his mouth. Dan’s face looked blue, and the fear that he would
die before rescue arrived began to creep into Nelson’s heart. Suddenly
there came a strain on his arm and he looked and saw the end of the
canvas bundle disappearing under the water. Seizing Dan by the shoulder
of his jersey, Nelson pulled the other toward him so that his head and
upper part of the body lay across his chest. So, with the waves washing
over them, they floated awhile, Nelson swimming slowly with legs and
one arm. But it couldn’t keep up long, that sort of thing, and he knew
it. And with the knowledge came a certain sensation of relief. He had
struggled almost as long as human power was capable of; surely he had
done his duty, and now----

His half-closed eyes suddenly opened. Surely he had heard----

“_Coming! Don’t give up, boys!_”

The cry now reached him plainly, borne on the rushing wind, and told
of succor near at hand. He had lost all sense of direction, nor did
he try to recognize the voice. His first sensation was one of mild
annoyance. It seemed so silly to bother about rescuing him now. He was
sure that Dan was drowned and sure that he had but a moment or two
longer to struggle himself. They would try to haul him into the canoe,
and things would be very fussy and troublesome; he would much rather be
left alone. However, since they insisted he would do what they asked.
And so he urged his weary limbs to further effort and was still afloat
with one hand gripping Dan’s arm when a boat shot alongside.

The next thing he knew he was still rocking in the waves, as it seemed,
and the dark clouds were still racing across the heavens above him.
But the water had grown delightfully warm, and he felt deliciously
comfortable. Some one, it must have been Dan, of course, said:

“Hard on your left! All right; you’re straight for the pier!”

It was a foolish thing for Dan to say, and Nelson closed his eyes again
in an effort to puzzle out the meaning. And doing so he fell asleep
once more, and didn’t wake again until an hour later to find himself
snug and warm in a big white bed with a sound of crackling flames in
his ears. A little bald-headed man was leaning over him holding out a
spoon, and Nelson obediently opened his mouth. Some one said something
about supper, and the word suggested many things to him, and he closed
his eyes again and scowled his forehead and tried to think. Plainly he
was no longer in danger of drowning, for people don’t drown in beds.
They had rescued him and brought him ashore, and he was--where was he?
He opened his eyes and moved his head. Things were dimly familiar and
he was sure he knew the man by the hearth. And--yes, there was Bob.

“Hello, Bob,” he whispered. He had meant to say it right out loud just
to let Bob know that all was well with him, and the result surprised
and annoyed him. But Bob had heard, and he came over and put a hand on
Nelson’s shoulder.

“How are you feeling, Nel?” he asked with affected cheerfulness. Nelson
considered a moment. Then:

“Hungry,” he said. This time it wasn’t so much of a whisper and he was
encouraged. “Where’s Dan?” he asked.

“In the next room. He’s--he’s all right, Nel,” was the answer. Then the
little bald-headed man, whom Nelson didn’t know, came and took his hand.

“Don’t talk now, my boy. Try to go to sleep. When you wake up next time
you shall have some supper.”

Nelson viewed him suspiciously, but the face was rather a nice face
even if it did extend up to the back of the head, and so he closed his
eyes and forgot everything very quickly.

Later he awoke again to find the room in darkness. But even as he
opened his mouth to demand attention a match was scratched and the room
became so bright that he had to blink his eyes. A nice-looking woman
came and sat on the side of the bed and stirred a spoon around in a
blue-and-white bowl.

“Are you awake?” she asked. “Here’s your supper. Don’t get up, but just
turn your head this way and I’ll feed it to you. It’s beef tea. Do you
like it?”

“Yes,” answered Nelson. “Thank you.”

It tasted terribly good, he thought, and between spoonfuls he
surreptitiously studied her face. He had seen her before, only--he
couldn’t think where.

“Would you mind telling me your name, please?” he asked presently.

“I’m Mrs. Carey,” she answered smilingly. “Have you forgotten me?”

Then he remembered and understood.

“No, ma’am,” he answered. “That is, not now. I guess I’m in your house
again, but I don’t see how I got here, do you?”

“Mr. Carey was watching you from the landing when your canoe was
overturned, and he and Mr. Merrill and the skipper went out to you in a
boat and brought you in. But you mustn’t talk. The doctor said so.”

“What doctor?”

“Dr. Ames. He came over from the mainland, where he has a cottage.”

Nelson pondered this between mouthfuls of hot broth. Then:

“Is Dan alive?” he asked.

“Yes; you will see him in the morning. Now, that’s all. You are to have
some more at nine.”

“What time is it now, please?”

“Half past six.”

“That’s a pretty long time, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Oh, but you’re going to sleep now and you won’t know how long it is.
I’ll turn the light down low so it won’t hurt your eyes. Is there
anything else you’d like?”

“No ma’am, thank you. You--you won’t forget, will you?”

“Forget----?”

“I mean about the broth at nine o’clock,” he explained wistfully.

“Indeed I won’t,” she answered heartily. “And I wish I could give you
some more now, but the doctor said----”

Nelson never learned what the doctor said, for he fell asleep just
then. Later there was another brief waking spell and more hot broth.
And then, in some strange way, it became morning, and the sun was
shining in the window at the foot of the bed, and the birds were
celebrating the passing of the storm. While he was still stretching his
limbs and trying to recollect things the door opened and Mr. Carey came
in.

“Well, how’s the boy, eh?” he asked. “Feeling pretty good after your
bath, are you?”

“Fine, sir. Can I get up?”

“Surely you can. Breakfast will be ready in half an hour. I’ll send
your clothes up; I guess they’re dry by this time. Take your time and
rest off if you feel weak. I’ll look in again presently to see how
you’re getting on.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll be all right. Mrs. Carey said you went out and
picked us up, and I’m very much obliged--I mean--” He paused, at a loss
for words to express what he did mean. “It sounds awfully foolish to
say you’re very much obliged to a person for saving your life, doesn’t
it, sir? But I don’t know quite what to say, and----”

“Well, well, don’t let it trouble you, my boy. What we did is what any
one would have done, and I’m mighty glad we were here to do it. You
did a pretty plucky thing yourself, and after that our little rescue
doesn’t look like much.”

“I guess we wouldn’t look like much if you hadn’t come along, sir,”
said Nelson soberly. “We’re not likely to forget it, sir, I can tell
you that!”

“Well, well, we won’t say anything more about it, eh? All’s well that
ends well, and--er--I’ll send your clothes up.”



CHAPTER XX

RELATES THE CONCLUSION OF THE TRIP AND WHAT HAPPENED AT CAMP


Half an hour afterward Nelson passed along the gallery and down
the stairs into the arms of Tom, who hugged him ecstatically and
stuttered his delight; and of Bob, who, if less demonstrative, showed
his pleasure none the less plainly. Mr. Merrill shook hands in a way
that brought the color into Nelson’s cheeks, and the ladies when they
appeared a few moments later were so attentive that Nelson’s blushes
threatened to become permanent. When they were seated at table only Dan
was absent, and Nelson asked if he was not coming down.

“No,” answered Mr. Carey. “The fact is, your friend had a pretty
narrow call. It took us all of half an hour to bring him around. He
had swallowed about a gallon of lake water and had played himself out
pretty well besides. But he’s all right now, and I’m only waiting for
the doctor to come over before I let him up. ‘Orders is orders,’ you
know. But of course you can go up and see him whenever you like. He’s
asked for you once or twice already.”

Nelson wanted to go then and there, but consideration for his hosts led
him to await the end of the meal. There were a great many questions
to answer, and he had to tell his side of the adventure from start to
finish. Then Mr. Carey and Bob began comparing notes, and pretty soon
Nelson had a very good idea of what had happened.

“After I got back here to the house I began to worry about you chaps,”
said Mr. Carey, “and pretty soon I took the field-glasses and went down
to the pier. From there I could see you pretty well, but those canoes
looked mighty small, just the same! I happened to have the glasses on
the nearest canoe when the accident happened. I saw Speede stand up
and then stumble and go over. The glasses made it look so near that I
yelled like sixty. Then when I’d found the place again the canoe was
drifting along bottom upward and there were two fellows in the water.
Well, I knew they’d never make the canoe in that wind, so I shouted for
Mr. Merrill here and Barry, my skipper, and we had the skiff out in no
time. But it was a long ways out to where you were, and I thought we’d
never get there. And when we did get alongside I thought we were too
late. Two deader-looking live men I never saw in my life! The waves
were washing all over you two, Tilford, and you seemed on the point
of sinking. But you had hold of Speede good and hard; it was all we
could do to loosen your grasp on his arm, and I guess he’ll have a
black-and-blue bracelet there for some time. Hethington and Ferris got
there in the canoe a moment later and helped us get you two into the
boat. From the looks of them I guess they’d done some tall paddling.”

“We did,” said Bob grimly. “It was Tommy who discovered you had gone.
He looked around when we were pretty near land and let out a yell. Then
we turned the canoe and started back. It was like pulling yourself up
by your shoe-straps. The wind was almost on our quarter and we could
just see that we were moving. Tommy paddled like an Indian. And all
the time he kept yelling to me to hurry up, just as though I wasn’t
breaking my back at every stroke! As it was, though, he pulled me
around several times; I was in the bow. I thought we’d never get to the
canoe; we could see it now and then over the waves; and when we did we
found you two weren’t there, and had to start off on another course.”

“Tommy was like a crazy man; kept crying that you were both drowned
and that it was our fault for leaving you. And I was--was pretty well
worried myself. Then we saw Mr. Carey’s boat, though we didn’t know
then who was in it, and we made toward it, and pretty soon we saw you
two chaps floating around in the water like a couple of logs. And Tommy
was for jumping over and swimming to you. Nel, you certainly had the
pluck. If it hadn’t been for you Dan would have drowned before we could
have turned around or Mr. Carey could have started out there.”

“But I don’t understand about Dan,” said Nelson. “He can swim like a
fish. I never thought that anything was the matter with him until I
looked back and couldn’t see him.”

“Cramps,” said Mr. Carey. “He told me this morning that he couldn’t
seem to move himself below the waist. He got pretty warm paddling, I
suppose, and then when he went overboard the shock was too intense. He
had a close shave of it, and he owes his life to you, Tilford.”

“And we both owe our lives to you, sir. If you’ll excuse me I’d like to
go up and see him a minute.”

“Certainly,” said Mrs. Carey. “I’ll see that cook keeps some waffles
hot for you.”

“He’s in the room next to yours, further along the gallery,” said her
husband.

Nelson didn’t knock because he thought Dan might be asleep and he
didn’t want to wake him. But when he had cautiously opened the door and
peeked in he saw Dan sitting up in bed and smiling broadly at him.

“Hello, Life Saver!” called Dan.

Nelson bounded across and seized his hand.

“Dan, are you all right?” he asked eagerly. “Gee, I’m glad to see you,
you old chump!”

“I’m feeling right as a trivet. What’s a trivet, anyway, Nel?”

“Oh, a thingumbob with three legs,” laughed Nelson.

“Well, I’m glad I wasn’t one of them yesterday. Two legs were all I
wanted. They ached like thunder and I couldn’t swim a stroke. Nel, you
saved my life, and----”

“Cut it out! If any one says anything more about saving lives,
I’ll--I’ll hurt them!”

“I dare say it is a bore,” answered Dan soberly, “having folks talk
about it, but I want you to know that--that I’m mighty grateful, old
fellow, and that if the chance ever comes for me to even things up,
why, you can count on your Uncle Daniel. It was a swell thing to do,
Nel, stand by me like that, only I wasn’t worth it and you might have
got drowned yourself. That’s all. I won’t bother you with any more
thanks, only--only--” Dan’s hand found Nelson’s on the coverlid and
squeezed it until Nelson winced. Then: “Where’s that fussy old doctor?”
he asked. Nelson, relieved at the change of subject, laughed.

“He will be along pretty soon. If you’re all right he’s going to let
you get up. Then we can get the afternoon train back.”

“Of course I’m all right; right as a three-legged thingumbob. Say,
won’t Clint be waxy? He’ll never let us out of his sight again.”

“I suppose he’ll have to be told?” said Nelson ruefully.

“I guess so; it’s up to us to tell him, Nel. Not that I want to, you
know, but--well, it’s more honest.”

“That’s so; I guess we’d better. Say, Dan, these Careys have been
mighty good. We’d ought to do something for them. Do you think we
could?”

“I’d like to, but I don’t see what we could do. We’ll have to think it
over. Maybe Bob can suggest something. He’s got a heap of sense, that
chap.”

Then Mr. Carey and the doctor came in and Nelson left the room. Dan
was pronounced able to travel, and at two o’clock, after thanking the
ladies and promising to come again when they could, they loaded their
canoes on to the steam-yacht--the overturned craft had been recovered
the evening before--and, with Mr. Carey and Mr. Merrill accompanying,
were taken over to The Weirs in time to catch the afternoon train for
Warder. At the landing more good-bys were said.

“I want you boys to promise to come and visit us here some time, this
year if you can; if not, next. And when you’re in New York look us up.
Both Mrs. Carey and I will be delighted to have you. We feel a sort of
proprietary interest in you after yesterday’s little incident and don’t
want to lose sight of you completely. I’ve written a line or two to Mr.
Clinton, so I guess you won’t get lectured very hard. Good-by and good
luck, boys!” And Mr. Carey shook hands all around, was followed by Mr.
Merrill and the skipper, and at last the train pulled out, the Four
waving from the car steps until the crowded platform was a speck in the
distance.

“He’s a swell fellow,” said Dan, as they sought their seats. “And we’ve
got to make him a present or something.”

“Good scheme,” said Bob heartily. And they talked it over most of the
way up to Warder, and finally decided that a silver loving cup with a
suitable inscription would be as appropriate as anything they could
afford.

“We’ll put her name on it too,” said Tom.

“Mrs. Carey’s?” asked Bob. “You bet we will!”

“Sure!” said Nelson. “I’ll never forget that beef broth she fed me!”

They caught the five o’clock launch, as they had planned, and climbed
the hill to camp just as the last supper-call was blowing.

“That sounds good,” muttered Dan. “It’s like getting home.”

When they entered Poplar Hall and sought their seats at the tables it
was at once evident that the news of yesterday’s escapade had preceded
them. Such a hand-clapping and cheering as burst forth was quite
disconcerting, and Nelson, at whom the most of it was directed, poured
milk into his bowl of cereal until it overflowed and ran into his lap.
After supper the Four were mobbed and made to give a public recital of
events; but long before Bob, to whom the task of narration fell, had
finished they were summoned to the office. After all, it wasn’t so bad.
Mr. Clinton had some forcible things to say to Dan on the subject of
standing up in a canoe during a wind, but after that he demanded the
story and became so interested that they began to take courage. And
afterward he complimented Nelson and shook hands with him.

“It was a bad business,” he said gravely, “but it’s happily over with,
and there’s no use denying that you all acted in a sensible, plucky
way. I’ve had a letter from this Mr. Carey in which he begs me to
go easy with you. I don’t think I should have been very hard on you
anyhow. It was an accident arising from a piece of foolhardiness that
none of you are likely to repeat. It will probably be worth all it has
cost as a lesson to you. It is a good thing to learn the limitations of
a canoe. You’d better get to bed early to-night, all of you, and I’ll
ask Doctor Smith to have a look at you, Speede, and see if you need any
medicine. Good night.”

“Good night, sir,” they chorused. And outside they heaved sighs of
relief.

“I think,” said Dan thoughtfully, as they picked their way across the
darkening clearing toward Birch Hall, “I think it’s about up to us to
settle down and be good for a while.”



CHAPTER XXI

TELLS HOW THE FOUR LAID PLANS AND HOW BOB PREPARED FOR A VICTORY


Nelson awoke the next day to find himself a hero. Being a hero has
its discomforts, and Nelson encountered them. The smaller boys dogged
his footsteps and were proud and haughty for the rest of the day if
they succeeded in getting a word from him. The older boys had less
transparent ways of showing their admiration, but show it they did, and
Nelson, naturally somewhat shy, suffered much annoyance. This state of
things, however, lasted but a few days, for the end of the vacation
was almost at hand and the inhabitants of Camp Chicora had many things
to occupy their minds. The water sports were almost due and on the
next Saturday but one came the final game with Wickasaw, to decide the
summer’s supremacy in baseball. On the following Monday the long trip
began for all save Bob, Nelson, and Dan, who were to return home on
that day.

During his three days’ absence from camp the nine, minus their captain,
had met defeat at the hands of a team from a near-by resort, and
Bob regretted the fact and resolved that nothing should deter them
from winding up the baseball season with a decisive victory over
their particular rival, Camp Wickasaw. With this in view he began
morning practise, by which there was a good three hours a day of
batting, fielding, and base-running instead of two as heretofore. The
preparations for the water carnival interfered somewhat with the work,
for Dan and Joe Carter, as well as a couple of the lesser baseball
lights, were to take part in the sports. But Bob put in substitutes
from the scrub when necessary and kept at it, having set his heart on
final success.

The carnival came on Saturday afternoon and was held in Joy’s Cove, on
the shore of which Camp Trescott was situated. Chicora, Trescott, and
Wickasaw were the contestants, and the audience numbered fully three
hundred persons, friends of the boys of the three camps, visitors from
neighboring hotels, and residents from near-by towns and villages.
Chicora went over in the steam-launch, the motor-dory, the skiffs,
and the canoes, after an early dinner, with flags flying. Wickasaw
followed them across, and the rival cheers echoed over the lake. Camp
Trescott was in holiday attire, the camp colors, green and white, being
everywhere displayed. The pier and adjacent shore were thronged with
spectators, and many boats floated on the waters of the cove.

The events started off with the four-oared barge race. Only Chicora and
Trescott entered. The course was a little under two miles in length
and led to a buoy near Evergreen Island and return. Chicora’s four got
the better of the start, and when the turn was reached they were two
lengths to the good. But poor steering around the buoy lost them almost
all of that advantage, and the Trescott four were quick to profit. On
the return course they overtook Chicora’s boat, passed it a few hundred
yards from the finish, and crossed the line a good three lengths in the
lead. So first honors went to the green and white, and cheers for Camp
Trescott awoke the echoes.

Chicora did better in the race for steel boats, her entry, manned by
Joe Carter, finishing a hundred feet ahead of the Wickasaw boat, which
in turn led the Trescott skiff by many yards.

The fifty-yard swimming race for boys under sixteen brought out a
large number of entries, Chicora offering seven of the number. Her
hopes rested on “Kid” Rooke. With such a large field there was lots
of crowding and splashing at the line, and many a good swimmer was
put out of it at the start. Rooke luckily had the forethought to swim
under water for the first eight or ten strokes and so avoided some of
the youths who, with little hope of winning themselves, were anxious
to get in the way of dangerous rivals. It was a pretty contest from
start to finish, Rooke fighting it out to the very end with Peterson of
Wickasaw and White of Trescott and only winning by an arm’s length in
fifty seconds. The race over the same course for the elder boys proved
a walkover for an eighteen-year-old Wickasaw youth, who never had to
hurry, and finished in forty-seven seconds.

In the half-mile event Tom entered for Chicora and found himself
opposed to two Wickasaw and three Trescott fellows. The course was laid
straight out from the landing to a boat moored off Bass Island. The
swimmers were to round the boat and return on the same course. The six
contestants lined up on the edge of the landing and at the word from
Mr. Powers of the Wickasaw Camp dove head foremost and struck out for
the stake-boat.

Tom wasn’t much at sprinting, and so when half the distance out had
been covered he was several yards behind the leaders. But the pace had
been a fast one, and Tom knew that sooner or later it must slow down.
And it did. As the six approached the boat, the leaders, two Trescott
fellows, were swimming at ordinary speed and were making hard work of
it. They turned homeward first, but after that dropped rapidly behind.
A quarter of the way back Tom, still swimming the same stroke he had
started with, passed them and pulled himself into third place. Twenty
yards farther on he came abreast of the Wickasaw crack; while, still
maintaining a good lead, sped the third Trescott entry.

On the landing and along the curving shore of the cove and out on the
point scantily attired youths were jumping and shouting encouragement
to the swimmers. Cheers for Chicora, for Wickasaw, and for Trescott
mingled. A hundred yards from the finish it seemed that Trescott had
the race beyond a doubt. But Tom, twenty yards in the rear and well
past the Wickasaw rival, still swam steadily, hand over hand, burying
his face in the water at every stroke, and putting every ounce of
strength into his work. Not quite every ounce, either, for when some
eighty yards from the finish his arms began to move just a little
faster but not less regularly, and the distance between first and
second men slowly lessened. Chicora saw this and her cheers took on a
more hopeful note.

If Tom couldn’t sprint, at least he had wisely saved something for
just such an emergency as this. It wasn’t so much that he increased
his stroke as that he put more power into it. With fifty yards yet to
cover he had cut the twenty yards in half, and he was still gaining.
Trescott’s cries grew frantic, but her representative failed to
respond. He had made a long, hard race, had set the pace all the way
from the turn, and had used himself up in striving to beat the Wickasaw
swimmer, whom he had believed to be the only dangerous opponent. And
now he had nothing in reserve. The nearer he fought to the finish
line the weaker grew his strokes, and Tom, swimming like a piece of
machinery, moving arms and legs slowly but powerfully, came abreast of
him sixty feet from the line, and without raising his dripping head
from the surface or altering his stroke a mite drew steadily away from
him and won by ten or twelve feet in the creditable time of seventeen
minutes and nineteen and two-fifths seconds. And Chicora laughed and
cheered as Dan walked into the water up to his knees and, lifting Tom
bodily in his arms, brought him ashore in triumph.

Meanwhile Trescott had won the fifty-yard underwater race and Wickasaw
had come in first at the same distance, swimming on the back. Chicora
again triumphed in the canoe race for doubles when Carter and Dan drove
the former’s crimson craft across the finish fifty or sixty feet ahead
of the opponents. And again, in the diving contest, Dan excelled.
But after that the blue and gray was forced to take second and third
places. Trescott won the relay race, the tilting and the fancy
swimming contests. Wickasaw won the canoe race for singles and the tub
race. As only first places counted, the sports came to an end with the
question of supremacy still in doubt, Chicora and Trescott each having
won five events and Wickasaw four.

It was dusk by this time, and audience and competitors hurried away
for supper, to reassemble at eight o’clock for the fireworks and boat
parade. The latter, at least, was well worth seeing. There were over
forty boats in line, the Chicora leading, and each was gay with Chinese
lanterns and colored fire. In and out across the lake they went,
rounding the islands, skirting the shores, and tracing strange patterns
on the dark surface of the water. On the point sky-rockets and bombs
sizzed and boomed their way upward in trails of fire, and from the
Chicora and the Wickasaw Roman candles spilled their colored stars into
the lake.

In Joe Carter’s canoe he and Bob paddled along near the end of the
parade, while Tom, attired in a hastily improvised costume of Turkey
red, impersonated a rather stout Devil and flourished a pitchfork,
while at his feet red fire burned in a tin plate and made his round
face almost as lurid as his costume. They had lots of fun out of it,
but the crowning glory of their enjoyment came when they accidentally
ran into a Wickasaw canoe and spilled two boys and a councilor into
the lake. They worked heroically at the task of rescue--when their
laughter would allow them to--and none of the three unfortunate “Wicks”
sustained further damage than a good wetting. After that the fun was
tame until, shortly before ten, they reached their landing and the
“Devil” slipped on the edge of the wharf and went down to his waist in
water and sputtered and stammered as no Devil ever has before or since.
Joe said he was sure he heard the water sizzle when Tom struck it.

They took their lanterns up the hill with them, such as were still
burning, and hung them about the trees in the clearing so that the
place looked like a garden set for an outdoor party. Long after Nelson
was in bed and he and Bob had ceased their whispering he could see
the mellow lights among the branches. Perhaps that is why, when he
did finally fall asleep, he dreamed that Dan was the proprietor of a
Chinese laundry next door to the post-office at Crescent and that he
(Nelson) had lost his check for a pair of “sneakers” which he had left
there to be waterproofed and could not get them back. To add to his
annoyance he was quite certain that the “sneakers” on the counter,
in which Dan was growing Chinese lilies, were his. Unfortunately he
couldn’t prove it, and Dan refused to give them up, offering, however,
to share the lilies with him. This offer Nelson indignantly refused,
and Dan said:

“Wake up, you lazy dub! Second bugle’s blown!”

And Nelson, opening his eyes dazedly, found the sunlight streaming
through the window and painting golden silhouettes on the gray blanket,
while Dan, attired principally in a bath towel and having got rid of
his queue, was impatiently tugging at his arm.

Followed a wild race down the hill, a scramble to the diving platform,
and a long plunge into cool green depths. Three dives and it was time
to be out, for they had overslept. A brisk rubbing in the tent until
the body glowed, a race up-hill that brought them panting and laughing
to the dormitory, a hurried dressing and a brief toilet with brushes
and comb, and--breakfast! Blueberries and cream, cereal, chops and
potatoes, hot muffins, and milk administered to hearty appetites. And
so began the last week of camp-life, a week that, like all that had
gone before, passed wonderfully quickly and brought the fellows with
disconcerting suddenness to Saturday afternoon and the final contest
with Wickasaw.

During that last week at Chicora Bob and Nelson and Dan and Tom stuck
together like brothers. The realization that in a few days’ time they
must part with small likelihood of getting together again before next
summer, if then, made them anxious to see as much of each other as
possible in the time remaining. Two months is a long time in the life
of a boy and in it he can make undying friendships. Whether such had
happened in the present case remained to be seen, but certain it is
that the Four had grown extremely fond of each other. Tom was quite
forlorn over the parting.

“It’s all well enough for the rest of you,” he said. “You’re going home
together, and Bob and Nel will have a dandy time at St. Louis. But I’ve
got to go on this beastly trip all alone!”

“You’ll have a fine time, Tommy,” said Bob consolingly. “And then
you’ll be going back to Hillton. And you’ll have Nel with you there. If
any one has a kick seems to me it’s me. You three chaps will see each
other pretty frequently, but I’ll have to dig along all by my lonesome.”

“Don’t forget your promise to come down for the football game,” said
Dan.

“I’ll come, but I sha’n’t know who to cheer for.”

“Hillton,” said Nelson and Tom in a breath.

“St. Eustace,” said Dan.

“I wish we didn’t all live so far away from each other,” said Tom.
“You’re away up in Portland, Nel’s in Boston, Dan’s in New York, and
I’m out in Chicago.”

“You ought to live in a decent part of the world,” answered Dan.

“Cut it out, you two,” said Bob. “Don’t get started on one of your
arguments about New York and Chicago. They’re beastly holes, both of
’em. Come to Portland.”

This suggestion brought forth three howls of derision.

“Anyway,” said Dan, “I wish we might go to college together.”

“Why can’t we?” asked Nelson. “You fellows all come to Harvard!”

“I couldn’t,” Dan replied. “My dad went to Yale and he’d scalp me if I
told him I wanted to enter Harvard.”

“And I’m booked for Chicago,” said Tom mournfully.

“Poor chap,” said Dan commiseratingly. Whereupon Tom flared up.

“It’s a gu-gu-gu-good college, and you know it. Only I-I-I-I’d like to
be with you fu-fu-fu-fellows!”

“That’s easy,” said Bob. “You all come with me to Erskine.”

“It’s such a little place,” objected Dan.

“It’s got as much land as Yale, and more too, I guess.”

“I mean there are so few fellows there.”

“Well,” answered Bob thoughtfully, “maybe there aren’t very many people
in heaven, but that’s no sign it isn’t a good place to go to!”

“Do you mean,” laughed Dan, “that Yale is--er--the other place?”

“Or Harvard?” asked Nelson in mock anger.

“Or Chicago?” added Tom.

“Well, now, as to Chicago, Tommy,” answered Bob, “you said yourself you
were going there, and you know what you were Saturday night!”

After the laughter had subsided they discussed the subject seriously
and at length. In the end it was decided that if their parents would
consent Nelson, Dan, and Tom were to join Bob at Erskine College three
years from the approaching month--examination boards permitting.
Incidentally it may be announced that their parents did consent, that
examiners did permit, and that their plans succeeded. But that is a
story all to itself and has nothing to do with the present narrative.

Mr. Clinton had been called in to aid in the matter of the silver
loving-cup for the Careys and had attended to the selection of it on
one of his trips to Boston. On Friday it arrived. Lack of funds had
prohibited the purchase of anything very elaborate, but the gift was
quite worthy of acceptance. It was a plain cup, in shape like a Greek
vase, seven inches high. The handles were of ebony, and there was a
little ebony stand for it to rest upon. The inscription had caused the
Four not a little worry. As finally decided on it read:

                   TO MR. AND MRS. CHARLES A. CAREY
                           A TOKEN OF ESTEEM
                             AND GRATITUDE
                                 FROM
                               THE FOUR
                            AUGUST 18, 1904

                         ROBERT W. HETHINGTON
                           NELSON E. TILFORD
                          DANIEL H. F. SPEEDE
                           THOMAS C. FERRIS

They were hugely pleased with it and kept it a whole day to admire and
exhibit. Then it went off by express, and in due time there came a
reply which, as the Four had scattered, went from Chicago to Portland,
to Boston, to New York, to Chicago, and from there came east again in
Tom’s trunk to Hillton.

But, lest you make the mistake of thinking that final week a period of
laziness, it should be said that the baseball diamond was worn almost
bare of grass. Every morning and every afternoon the nine practised
in preparation for the Wickasaw game. As for eight of the nine, they
didn’t feel that life would be ruined even if Wickasaw did beat them.
But Bob was of another sort; he had set his heart on winning and would
go home feeling that the summer had ended in disgrace if Wickasaw again
triumphed; and so the others caught some of the infection from him and
labored zealously in the hottest kind of a sun morning and afternoon
until Friday. On Friday there was only a half hour’s easy work, for
Bob had his ideas on the subject of training. That night, about the
camp-fire, the prospect was talked over and it was generally agreed
that if Wells, who was again to pitch, didn’t go up in the air Chicora
was pretty certain of victory. That, as events turned out, was a big
“if.”



CHAPTER XXII

NARRATES THE PROGRESS OF THE CONTEST WITH WICKASAW, AND WITNESSES THE
DISINTEGRATION OF ONE WELLS


    TILFORD, c.f.
    SPEEDE, 1b.
    CARTER, 2b.
    RIDLEY, r.f.
    LOOM, ss.
    BRYANT, l.f.
    HETHINGTON, c.
    VAN RODEN, 3b.
    WELLS, p.

That’s the way the names were written in the score-book by the Official
Scorer, Mr. “Babe” Fowler, who sat on a soap-box and looked and felt
vastly important. Behind him and about him--sometimes, much to his
wrath, interfering with his view of the proceedings--sat and stood
the boys of Camp Chicora. Across the plate were the supporters of
Wickasaw, while here and there, wherever shade was to be found, were
spectators from the Inn, the village, Camp Trescott, and the smaller
hotels and boarding-houses around. Behind Bob stood one of the Trescott
councilors, Mr. Downer, who was to umpire. Mr. Clinton, and Mr. Powers
of Wickasaw, watched the contest side by side from under the latter’s
big linen umbrella.

The afternoon was roasting hot, and by mutual consent the beginning of
the game had been postponed from three until four. But even now, as
Mr. Downer called “Play!” the sun beat down on the meadow in a manner
far from pleasant, while not a breeze stirred the leaves along the
lake. But the players were too much interested to notice such a small
matter, while as for the lookers-on they good-naturedly made the best
of conditions, cheered by the knowledge that they could seek launches
or rowboats whenever they pleased and speedily find a cooler spot than
this low-lying meadow with its encompassing walls of forest. Under a
near-by apple-tree Tom and Mr. Verder were fanning their faces and
munching the half-ripe apples that lay about them.

“I wonder if Wells will last out,” mused Tom. “He’s a queer dub. He
told me this morning that he couldn’t stand hot weather and asked if I
thought Bob couldn’t have the game postponed.”

“Yes, he is a bit funny,” answered Mr. Verder. “Well, they’re starting.
I’m glad we’ve got our last innings. That’s Bremer, one of Wickasaw’s
councilors, at bat. I used to know him at prep school. He didn’t know
much about baseball in those days.”

“I guess he doesn’t know much now,” chuckled Tom as Bremer struck at a
ball so wide of the plate that Bob disdained to even attempt to stop
it. Bremer went out on strikes, the next man popped a tiny fly into
short-stop’s ready hands, and the third batsman was thrown out at first
by Wells.

“No safe hitting there,” said Mr. Verder.

“Wonder if there’ll be any in this inning?” said Tom.

There wasn’t. Nelson struck out ignominiously, Dan failed to reach
first ahead of the ball, and Joe Carter sent up a fly that seemed aimed
at the third baseman’s big mitten. And so things went, with slight
variations, until the first half of the fourth. Then Hoyt, the Wickasaw
captain and first-baseman, found Wells for a long drive into left field
that netted him two bases. Bennett, a councilor and the rival pitcher,
followed this with a scratch hit that took him to first and sent Hoyt
on to third, and the next man up, although he went out at first,
brought in the first tally of the game.

And the score remained 1 to 0 until the last of the sixth. In that
inning Chicora developed a batting streak, Dan, Carter, and Ridley each
finding Bennett for singles, and the bases were full when Loom sent
a long fly into right field. Dan scored, Carter went to third, and
Ridley to second. Loom went out. Bryant retired after three strikes,
but Bob, who followed him, hit safely for two bases, and the score was
3 to 1. Nothing happened in the seventh, and it looked as though 3 to 1
might be the final figures. But with the beginning of the eighth inning
affairs took on a different appearance.

Wickasaw’s center-fielder went to bat, waited for a pass to first
and got it. Bob called out for the infielders to play for second. As
expected, the next man attempted a sacrifice. Had Carter not muffed
a good throw from Van Roden all might have been well, but as it was
there was a man on second and one on first with none out. Wells looked
worried and the coaching across the field added to his discomfiture.
The immediate result was that the Wickasaw third-baseman received the
ball on his elbow and trotted to first base. Bob informed the umpire
persuasively that the batsman had not tried to avoid being struck, but
the umpire couldn’t see it that way. Things looked bad for Chicora; the
bases were full and not one of the opponents was out.

The next man was Bremer, a councilor, and he should have been an easy
victim. But Wells seemed unable to pitch a decent ball, and after four
efforts Bremer went down the line and the man on third trotted home
amid the wild applause of Wickasaw. Bob walked down to Wells, keeping a
close watch on the bases, and strove to put confidence into him.

“Take your time, Wells,” he whispered. “There’s no hurry.”

But Wells had become sullen and stubborn.

“I can’t help it,” he muttered. “I told you I didn’t want to pitch
to-day, that I couldn’t do anything. The heat----”

“Oh, never mind the heat,” answered Bob soothingly. “Just put the balls
over; let them hit; we’ll attend to them all right.”

“That’s easy enough to say, but I’m not feeling well,” grumbled Wells.
“My arm’s tired, and it’s so hot----”

“Well, try your best, that’s a good chap. Get them over the plate;
never mind if they hit them.”

“All right,” answered the pitcher despondently.

The Wickasaw captain found the first ball, but it went up in an infield
fly. The next man, too, went out; Loom pulled down his liner head-high
and the man on third scurried back to his base. Then came the Wickasaw
catcher--and Wells kindly presented him with his base, and again the
“Babe” was forced to score a tally for the enemy. The honors were even
now, but the inning was not yet at an end. Wells went thoroughly to
pieces. A two-base hit by one of the rival nine’s councilors brought
in two men and still left second and third bases occupied. Wickasaw’s
supporters kept up a continuous shouting, hoping doubtless to add to
the discomfiture of the Chicora pitcher, while back of first and third
bases the Wickasaw coachers screamed and yelled with the same end in
view. Naturally enough, Wells’s wildness eventually proved contagious,
and it was Bob himself who let in the next run, missing a throw to the
plate after a hit. But if he was accountable for that tally he was also
accountable for the termination of the inning. For he managed to toss
the ball, while lying flat on his back, to the plate in time to put out
the next ambitious Wickasaw runner. And so the rout finally came to an
end with the score 6 to 3 in Wickasaw’s favor.

Bob was an anxious-looking youth when the side trotted in and threw
themselves about the ground to rest and cool off.

“I don’t know what the dickens to do,” he said to Dan and Nelson.
“There’s no use putting Wells in again, even if he’d go, and he says he
won’t. Little Morris can’t pitch on account of his ivy-poisoning. Van
Roden has done a little of it, but he can only pitch a straight ball,
and it isn’t even swift. Who’s up, ‘Babe’?”

“Ridley up, Loom on deck!” piped the “Babe.”

“For goodness’ sake, Rid, hit the ball!” called Bob. “We’ve got to get
four runs this inning.” And after Ridley had nodded and stepped to
the plate Bob went on: “The worst of it is we’ve got our tail-enders
coming up. After Loom there isn’t a man can hit. However--” He turned
frowningly to watch Ridley, chewing savagely at the blade of grass
between his teeth. Ridley made a safe hit and went to first, and
Chicora applauded wildly.

“Joe, coach at first, will you?” Bob called. “You’re up, Loom. You know
what to do, old chap. We need runs, you know.” Then he turned to Dan
and Nelson again. “Look here, what do you fellows think? Shall I give
Van a chance?”

“No use,” answered Dan gloomily. “He’s no pitcher. Isn’t there any one
else?” Bob shook his head.

“Not a soul that I know of. I’ll try it myself, if you say so,” he said
with a feeble effort at humor.

“You cu-cu-cu-couldn’t do mu-mu-mu-much worse!” stuttered Tom, who had
long since left the shade of the apple-tree and was now hopping around
wide-eyed with excitement. “Why du-du-du-don’t you mu-mu-make Nel
pu-pu-pu-pitch?”

“Can you?” cried Bob.

“No; that is, mighty little, Bob,” answered Nelson. “I pitched one
season on a class team. But I’m willing to try if you want me to. Only
don’t expect much; I’ll probably be worse than Wells was the last
inning.”

“Find a ball,” said Bob quickly, his face lighting up with hope, “and
pitch me a few. Where’s my mitten? Say, Nel, why didn’t you tell me you
could pitch?”

“I can’t, not enough to call pitching. I can get a ball over now and
then and I used to be able to work a pretty fair drop, but that’s about
all. You’ll have to explain signals to me.”

“All right. Say, Van, run over and tell Kendall I want him to play
center field, will you? There he is talking to Clint. Scoot!”

There was a yell at that moment, and Bob and Nelson looked up in
time to see Loom drive out a pretty liner toward first. He was out
without question, but the sacrifice had advanced Ridley to second, and
Chicora’s little group of cheerers made themselves heard. Bob ran over
to speak to Bryant, who was next up, and then came back to Nelson. The
signals were quickly explained, and Nelson began throwing into Bob’s
big mitten, slowly at first, then increasing in speed as something
of the knack came back to him. Bryant offered at a close ball, and
Ridley, who was ready and waiting, shot out for third. Catcher lost a
half a second in getting the ball down, and the umpire waved his hand
downward; Ridley was safe. Dan took Bob’s place in front of Nelson,
and Bob hurried over to Ridley’s assistance, relieving Loom on the
coacher’s line.

Nelson felt some of his old power returning to him and slammed ball
after ball into Dan’s hands in a way that made that youth grin with
approval. Once or twice he essayed a drop with but indifferent success;
somehow, he couldn’t yet make that work.

Bryant connected with a straight ball over the plate, which, had he
allowed it to pass, would have been the third strike, and lit out for
first. At the same instant Ridley started for home. But Wickasaw’s
short-stop smothered the ball on its first bounce and lined it in to
the plate. Ridley doubled back, slid for the base, and got there an
instant ahead of the ball. Bryant was safe at first. Chicora’s shouts
were deafening. The audience had gradually edged toward the infield
until now the paths to first and to third were lined with excited
partizans of the rival teams. Bob trotted in and selected his bat,
pulled his gray cap firmly down on to his head, and went to the plate.
Nelson stopped his work to watch. There were two on bases; a home run
would tie the score.



CHAPTER XXIII

PROVES THE SCORE-BOOK IN ERROR AND CLOSES THE STORY


As the first ball left the pitcher’s hand Bryant trotted along to
second, secure in the knowledge that catcher would not throw down there
with a man on third. Chicora clamored for a home run. Bob watched the
pitcher calmly. The first two balls were wasted, but the next sailed
over the corner of the plate and was a strike. Bob refused to offer at
the following one, and the umpire indorsed his choice. The score was
three and one. It looked as though a base on balls was to be given in
order to get Bob out of the way. But, whether that was the pitcher’s
plan or not, Bob was not satisfied with so easy a victory. When the
next delivery came to him he reached out for it, caught it on the end
of his bat, and sent it sailing down the line over first-baseman’s head.

For a moment it looked like a home run, and the wearers of the blue and
gray leaped and shouted. In raced Ridley and Bryant and around the
bases flew Bob. Out in right field the ball had fallen untouched to the
ground and was now speeding back to second-baseman, who had run out to
relay it in. Bob passed second and reached third just as second-baseman
turned and threw, and Loom held him there. The score was 6 to 5 and
only one man was out.

Van Roden stepped to the plate looking determined. But he had no chance
to distinguish himself very greatly, for the Wickasaw pitcher was
pretty well rattled and four successive balls sent him to first at a
walk. Kendall, who followed him at bat, was a substitute and owed his
position on the team to his fielding rather than his batting ability.
But even Kendall managed to connect with the second ball offered him,
and might, with speedier running, have beaten it out to first. As it
was, he made the second out and Bob’s hopes began to fall. Nelson was
the next man up and Nelson had all day been unable to bat in anything
like his real form. Bob decided that if the score was to be even tied
in that inning, risks must be taken. “Two out, run on anything!” was
his order, while Wickasaw’s catcher reminded his men to “play for the
runner!”

Nelson went to bat resolved to do the very best he knew how, but not at
all sanguine of success. The thought that with him probably rested the
fate of the nine worried him. To be sure, Chicora might be able to do
something in the next and last inning, but that wasn’t to be depended
upon. The time was now, when, with two runners on bases, a clean hit
would put them in the lead.

The first delivery looked such a palpable ball that he let it go by,
discovering too late that it was an in-curve and a strike. Van Roden
trotted to second and went on to a position half-way between that base
and the next. Bob was ten feet away from his bag, on his toes, watching
pitcher and catcher intently, ready to be off on the slightest pretext.
Another ball went across the plate, and again a strike was scored
against poor Nelson, who mentally called himself names and gripped
his bat more fiercely. Bob decided that it was now or never. As the
catcher, with a glance in his direction, threw the ball back to the
pitcher, Bob started calmly up the line toward the home plate at a walk.

The pitcher was walking back to the box, and for three or four seconds
Bob’s leave-taking went unnoticed. Then the third-baseman discovered
his absence and yelled wildly for the ball. The pitcher, wheeling
about, looked here, there, and everywhere save in the right direction,
ran a few steps toward second, thought better of it, and finally
obeyed the frantic injunctions of half the players to “put it home,”
although he didn’t see why it was necessary, since Bob, who by that
time had increased his pace slightly, looked like any of the other
gray-and-blue-clad fellows behind him.

But Bob had been watching from the tail of his eye, even if he had
seemed so unconcerned, and the instant the pitcher raised his arm to
throw he dashed for the plate, now only fifteen feet away. For the last
ten feet he was in the air and when he came down and slid across the
plate in a cloud of dust he had beaten the ball by just a fraction of
a second. He picked himself up, patted the dust from his jersey, and
stepped back to where he could watch Nelson, while Chicora went wild
with delight, laughed and shrieked and tossed its caps in air. There
followed a delay during which Wickasaw strove to find some rule which
would nullify that tally. But there is no law prohibiting a runner from
becoming a walker if he so pleases, and finally, much disgruntled,
Wickasaw went back to the game.

[Illustration: He dashed for the plate.]

As may be supposed, Van Roden had not neglected his opportunity, and
now he was on third. But his chances of getting any farther seemed
very slim as Nelson stepped up to the plate again with two strikes and
no balls against him. A hit would make the score 7 to 6 in Chicora’s
favor, but he doubted his ability to secure it. The Wickasaw pitcher
had suddenly become very deliberate. He eyed Nelson thoughtfully for
quite five seconds before he wound himself up, unwound himself, and
sped the sphere forward.

“Ball!” said the umpire.

Catcher returned to pitcher. On third Van Roden, coached by Dan, was
eager to score, and was taking longer chances than even Bob approved
of. As the pitcher poised himself to deliver again Van Roden made a
dash up the line. His plan was to rattle both pitcher and catcher and
secure a passed ball to score on. But although the pitcher threw wide
of the base the Wickasaw captain refused to muff the ball, and Van
Roden, sliding head foremost for the plate, felt the ball thump against
his shoulder while he was still two feet away. But the crowd was close
up to the line, and the umpire, back of pitcher, had not seen it very
well. He shook his head and dropped his hand. A howl of angry protest
arose from the Wickasaw players who had been near enough to see the
out. In a moment Mr. Downer, the center of a wrathful group of players,
had called “Time,” and was listening patiently to the protests. Van
Roden, grinning with delight, climbed to his feet and walked off. Bob,
in front of whom the affair had taken place, walked out to the center
of the diamond. As soon as he might he gained the umpire’s attention.

“Could you see that very well, sir?” he asked.

“Not very, I’ll acknowledge, because of the crowd about the base. But
it looked to me as though the runner touched base before he was tagged.
And that’s my decision, boys.”

Again the protests arose. Bob raised his hand.

“Just a moment, please,” he said. “I was there, Mr. Downer, and saw
it----”

“Well, so was I there!” cried the Wickasaw catcher and captain angrily.
“I tell you I caught him two feet off base!”

“That’s right!” cried the pitcher.

“I was there and saw it,” repeated Bob dryly. “The runner was out.”

There was an instant of silence during which the Wickasaw players
observed the captain of the rival team as though they thought he had
gone suddenly insane. Then:

“Their own captain says he was out!” exclaimed the pitcher, turning
eagerly to the umpire, “and if he acknowledges it----”

“I’m satisfied,” responded Mr. Downer, with a smile. “Out at the plate!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Almost an hour later Chicora, cheering as though after a victory,
steamed home in the launch or trudged back through the woods, while
Wickasaw, apparently no less elated, took herself off across the lake
to Bear Island. It was almost dark. The game had come to an end after
thirteen innings with the score 6 to 6. Time and again Chicora had
placed men on bases only to have them left there. For five innings
Nelson had held the opponents down to a handful of scratch hits, none
of which yielded a score. It had been a hard and well-fought contest
and only darkness had brought it to a close. Although the score-book,
sedulously guarded by the “Babe,” pronounced the game a tie, yet there
were many among those that knew how the eighth inning had ended who
credited a victory--and a gorgeous one--to Chicora. Scores do not
always tell the whole story.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days later, while the sun was just peeping over the hills, Bob,
Dan, and Nelson stood on the deck of the Navigation Company’s steamer,
their trunks on board and their bags beside them. On the landing was
assembled Camp Chicora in a body, and well in front, in momentary peril
of an involuntary bath, stood Tom, a rather doleful Tom, whose eyes
never for an instant left the faces of the three on deck.

The line was cast off, the propeller churned impatiently, and the head
of the launch swung toward the foot of the lake, the railroad, and
home. The departing ones had been cheered separately and collectively,
and as the boat gathered way only a confused medley of shouts and
laughter followed them. Only that, do I say? No, for as the boat
reached the point and the group on the pier was lost to sight there
came a final hail, faint yet distinct:

“Gu-gu-gu-good bu-bu-bu-by!”


THE END



By RALPH HENRY BARBOUR.


On Your Mark!

A Story of College Life and Athletics. Illustrated in Colors by C. M.
RELYEA. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

Mr. Barbour’s boys are real boys living in a very real world; and no
other author has caught so truly the spirit and ideals of school and
college life.


The Arrival of Jimpson.

Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

Good stories of college pranks, baseball, football, hockey, college
newspapers, and all the features that go to make the little world of
college life.


The Book of School and College Sports.

Fully illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.75 net; postage additional.

The author has been assisted in preparing this work by Messrs. Paine,
Robinson, Shick, Jr., and Abercrombie. The book is thoroughly up to
date.


Weatherby’s Inning.

A Story of College Life and Baseball. Illustrated in Colors by C. M.
RELYEA. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

In this recent book Mr. Barbour tells a story of college life and sport
that will appeal to all readers who enjoy a well-written story with a
good plot.


Behind the Line.

A Story of School and Football. Illustrated by C. M. RELYEA. 12mo.
Cloth, $1.50.

“He writes with a picturesque vigor and a knowledge of his subject.”
--_St. Louis Post-Dispatch._


Captain of the Crew.

Illustrated by C. M. RELYEA. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

One of those fresh, graphic, delightful stories that appeal to all
healthy girls and boys.


For the Honor of the School.

A Story of School Life and Interscholastic Sport. Illustrated by C. M.
RELYEA. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

“It is a wholesome book, one tingling with health and activity,
endeavor, and laudable ambition to succeed in more fields than one.”
--_New York Mail and Express._


The Half-Back.

Illustrated by B. WEST CLINEDINST. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

“It is in every sense an out-and-out boys’ book.”--_Boston Herald._


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



BY HEZEKIAH BUTTERWORTH.


Brother Jonathan; or, the Alarm Post in the Cedars.

A Tale of Early Connecticut. Illustrated. Colored Frontispiece. 12mo.
Cloth, $1.50.

A stirring tale of the early days of Connecticut, dominated by the
forceful personality of Jonathan Trumbull, whose name, through its
affectionate use by George Washington, has become the familiar nickname
of the nation that he helped to make.


In the Days of Audubon.

A Tale of the “Protector of Birds.” Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst
and others. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.


In the Days of Jefferson; or, The Six Golden Horseshoes.

A Tale of Republican Simplicity. Illustrated by F. T. Merrill. $1.50.


The Story of Magellan.

A Tale of the Discovery of the Philippines. Illustrated by F. T.
Merrill and others. $1.50.


The Treasure Ship.

A Story of Sir William Phipps and the Inter-Charter Period in
Massachusetts. Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst and others. $1.50.


The Pilot of the Mayflower.

Illustrated by H. Winthrop Peirce and others. $1.50.


True to his Home.

A Tale of the Boyhood of Franklin. Illustrated by H. Winthrop Peirce.
$1.50.


The Wampum Belt; or, The Fairest Page of History.

A Tale of William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians. With 6 full-page
Illustrations. $1.50.


The Knight of Liberty.

A Tale of the Fortunes of Lafayette. With 6 full-page Illustrations.
$1.50.


The Patriot Schoolmaster.

A Tale of the Minutemen and the Sons of Liberty. With 6 full-page
Illustrations by H. Winthrop Peirce. $1.50.


In the Boyhood of Lincoln.

A Story of the Black Hawk War and the Tunker Schoolmaster. With 12
Illustrations and colored Frontispiece. $1.50.


The Boys of Greenway Court.

A Story of the Early Years of Washington. With 10 full-page
Illustrations. $1.50.


The Log School-House on the Columbia.

With 13 full-page Illustrations by J. Carter Beard, E. J. Austen, and
others. $1.50.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



BY WILLIAM O. STODDARD.

Each Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.


The Fight for the Valley.

Colored Frontispiece and other Illustrations.

A narrative of the brave defence of Fort Schuyler and the battle of
Oriskany.


The Spy of Yorktown.

Illustrated. Colored Frontispiece.

A story of the Yorktown campaign and Benedict Arnold.


With the Black Prince.

A Story of Adventure in the Fourteenth Century. Illustrated by B. West
Clinedinst.

The absorbing interest of this stirring historical romance will appeal
to all young readers.


Success Against Odds; or, How an American Boy made his Way.

Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst.

In this spirited and interesting story Mr. Stoddard tells the
adventures of a plucky boy who fought his own battles, and made his way
upward from poverty in a Long Island seashore town. It is a tale of
pluck and self-reliance capitally told.


The Red Patriot.

A Story of the American Revolution. Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst.


The Windfall; or, After the Flood.

Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst.


Chris, the Model-Maker.

A Story of New York. With 6 full-page Illustrations by B. West
Clinedinst.


On the Old Frontier.

With 10 full-page Illustrations.


The Battle of New York.

With 11 full-page Illustrations and colored Frontispiece.


Little Smoke.

A Story of the Sioux Indians. With 12 full-page Illustrations by F. S.
Dellenbaugh, portraits of Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and other chiefs,
and 72 head and tail pieces representing the various implements and
surroundings of Indian life.


Crowded Out o’ Crofield.

The Story of a country boy who fought his way to success in the great
metropolis. With 23 Illustrations by C. T. Hill.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



By C. C. HOTCHKISS.


The Land Hero of 1812.

Illustrated by B. WEST CLINEDINST. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.

Mr. Hotchkiss, who is well known through his stories for grown-ups, has
chosen as the subject of his first book for boys the life of Andrew
Jackson. While the facts of history are presented, the author adroitly
constructed his story upon the most picturesque incidents of Jackson’s
varied career. The book is therefore instructive as well as interesting.

=The Strength of the Weak.= 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

=For a Maiden Brave.= Illustrated in colors. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.


By GABRIELLE E. JACKSON.

Three College Graces.

With Illustrations in tint by C. M. RELYEA. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

A charming story of college life, its ideals, recreations, temptations,
and rewards. This book tells of the maturer years of the three little
girls described in

=Three Graces.= Illustrated in colors by C. M. RELYEA. 12mo. Cloth,
$1.25 net; postage additional.

A story for girls of boarding-school life, full of incident and
wholesome characterization, with delightfully cozy scenes of indoor
enjoyment and an exciting description of a Hallowe’en escapade.


By OTTILIE A. LILJENCRANTZ.

The Vinland Champions.

Illustrated by the KINNEYS. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

A rousing good boy’s book with plenty of dash and go, and a glimpse of
the wild, free life of the Vikings in it. Every school-boy has heard of
the vague rumor that the Norsemen discovered America before Christopher
Columbus. This story tells of the party of one hundred Icelanders who
went and dwelt there and called it the “Peace Land.”


By JULIE M. LIPPMANN.

Every-Day Girls.

Illustrated in colors. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

The best book for girls that has appeared in years; it has all the
charm and sweetness that is contained in “Little Women.” It is not
merely a chronicle of events, however, but teaches a valuable lesson.
The girls are sweet and lovely, and quarrelsome and impulsive, just as
every-day girls are. They have a hard and exciting time, and they fight
a battle and win it. It is a charming, wholesome book.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_); text in
   bold by “equal” signs (=bold=).

 --Except for the frontispiece, illustrations have been moved
   to the text that they illustrate, so the page number of the
   illustration may not match the page number in the Illustrations.

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

 --The Author’s em-dash style has been retained.





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