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Title: Camp Lenape on the Long Trail
Author: Saxon, Carl, Day, Arthur Grove
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                     CAMP LENAPE ON THE LONG TRAIL


                               CARL SAXON
  _Author of “Blackie Thorne at Camp Lenape” and “The Mystery at Camp
                                Lenape”_

                       [Illustration: Decoration]

                              BOOKS, INC.
                           NEW YORK    BOSTON

                  COPYRIGHT 1940, 1935 BY BOOKS, INC.
              MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



                                CONTENTS


  I. A Feud Begins                                                     7
  II. “Brick Ryan’s Not for Sale!”                                    17
  III. “Help!”                                                        29
  IV. Dirk Jumps                                                      40
  V. The Sinking of the _Sachem_                                      54
  VI. Fight! Fight!                                                   66
  VII. The Red Hand Revengers                                         78
  VIII. Shenanigans for Brick                                         91
  IX. Dirk Hears of the Long Trail                                   103
  X. Off for Camp Shawnee                                            116
  XI. The Captain                                                    127
  XII. The Mysterious Watcher                                        138
  XIII. On the March                                                 151
  XIV. The Watcher Again                                             164
  XV. The Trap on Flint Island                                       175
  XVI. Fire in the Forest                                            187
  XVII. The Flight into the Hills                                    200
  XVIII. The End of the Trail                                        212



                     CAMP LENAPE ON THE LONG TRAIL



                               CHAPTER I
                             A FEUD BEGINS


Brick Ryan was bending over a washtub out behind the Lenape lodge when
the big, shiny automobile roared up the road into camp.

Brick paused in the act of wringing out his best and only flannel shirt,
straightened, took one look at the glittering limousine, and whistled.

“Whew! Will you look at the golden chariot!” he exclaimed to himself.
“Brick, my boy, can it be that a young millionaire is comin’ to Camp
Lenape?”

He bent his flaming mop of copper-colored hair over the tub once more,
but kept a watchful blue eye on the big car, which had now drawn up
beside the kitchen wood-pile.

From the wheel of the limousine stepped down a man smartly garbed in the
uniform of a chauffeur. He swiftly threw open the silver-trimmed rear
door, saluted, and offered his arm as the first of the occupants of the
car descended. This person was a lady, somewhat stout, with a worried
look on her face. Brick saw the flash of many diamonds glitter on her
hands as she turned and spoke to those still remaining within the
shadowy interior.

“Dirk, dearest, here we are! Gracious, what a rough and dusty road it
has been! This camp must be in a perfect wilderness! John, you must come
with me right away to see the camp director. I simply must explain to
him about Dirk’s diet, and I do hope he will see to it that Dirk wears
his rubbers and heavy underwear when it rains!”

Her husband, an older man with hair gray about the temples, nodded
reassuringly as he joined her. “There, there,” he said soothingly, “it
will be all right, I’m sure. The director knows his job; he’s quite
accustomed to looking after all the boys.”

“But you know Dirk has always been so delicate! I declare, I wish we had
sent him to Wild Rose Camp again this year—the nurse there was so
sympathetic. But you would insist that he be brought to this outlandish
place, even when you knew that none of the boys of our social set would
think of coming to such an ordinary sort of camp!”

“I know, Marcia,” the man replied. “But Dirk is growing up now. I want
him to mix with a regular gang of fellows his own age, and do all the
things they do. Maybe at first it will seem a bit like roughing it, but
he’ll soon get used to it and be into everything with the best of them.
Isn’t that right, old man?”

“Yes, Papa,” a bored young voice answered from the depths of the back
seat.

“That’s splendid, dear,” the mother said. “I know you will be a brave
lad. Now, your father and I are going to speak to the director about
your diet. Benson will help you with your luggage, and you can find out
which house you are going to sleep in.”

“They sleep in tents here, Mama.”

“Tents! You see, John, what sort of place you have chosen! And you know
how easily Dirk catches cold! The idea of having the boys sleep in
drafty tents! I really must speak to the director at once!” She picked
her way delicately down the hill toward the front of the lodge, followed
by her apologetic husband.

“Gollies!” Brick Ryan muttered to himself, and watched for further
developments.

They were not long in coming. The chauffeur went around to the heaped
luggage-rack of the car, and began unloading its bulky contents. Several
shiny suitcases landed on the ground, followed by a leather hat-box, a
bag of golf-clubs, two tennis racquets, a gun-case, fishing rods, and
finally a large wardrobe trunk, which the man handled with difficulty.
Shouldering the latter, the man also disappeared down the hill. Brick
scratched his head, stared at the pile of baggage that still remained,
and hung a patched pair of khaki pants on the line to dry in the fresh
morning air.

He wheeled about as the same drawling voice he had heard from within the
car came to his ears.

“I say, would you mind lending a hand with this luggage?”

Brick looked at the speaker with open mouth. He saw a tall,
pleasant-looking boy of about his own age, with brown eyes and yellow
hair, spick and span in white flannels and straw hat. Brick was so
startled by the fact that the stranger wore a stiff white collar and
necktie that at first he did not comprehend what the boy had said.

“Huh?”

“I said,” the newcomer repeated carefully, “that I would like you to
help me with all this luggage of mine. That is, if it won’t interfere
with your laundering work.”

Brick slowly drained the soapy water from the tub, and considered this
request. Then he took a second look at the strange lad.

“You’re not a cripple, are you?” he asked solicitously.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What’s the matter with you grabbin’ some of those bags and hikin’ down
with ’em yourself?”

“You don’t understand,” the other said patiently. “Of course I shall
carry my rod and racquets, but I don’t care to lug these heavy bags
about myself. Just take them down to my tent like a good chap. I’ll pay
you, naturally.”

Brick’s Irish temper, never far from the surface, blew up.

“Say, Mr. Dirk Astorbilt, or whatever your name is, you’ve got me all
wrong! Where did you get the idea that Camp Lenape fellows were a bunch
of Pullman porters, standin’ around waitin’ to carry bags for a ten-cent
tip? Just because I happen to be washin’ out my duds so I wouldn’t look
like a hobo, you must think I’m a bellhop or somethin’. Well, up here,
mister, every man totes his own pack, see?”

“But—— Do you really mean that you are a fellow-camper, like myself?”
the blond boy asked awkwardly.

Brick snorted, stuck his hands in his pocket, and stared pugnaciously at
the other.

“Go climb a tent-rope!” he exclaimed rudely, and swaggered off down the
hill toward the grove of pine trees that shadowed the white canvas
dwellings of the Lenape campers.

In the shade beside the flagpole, he sat down on a log to cool off. With
a blue bandana handkerchief he mopped his freckled brow and snub nose. A
pine-scented breeze fluttered down the mountainside at his back and
ruffled his unruly red hair. Perhaps he had been a little too hasty in
taking affront at the new boy’s request. He sniffed the air, and its
fragrance soon made him forget the unpleasant encounter with the strange
boy in white flannels. For the thousandth time, he gazed over the
spreading campus of Lenape, and peace descended on his fiery soul.

Before his eyes, under the limpid blue sky of August, between the
mountains and the little lake, lay Camp Lenape, summer home of a hundred
lively boys and the dozen councilors who guided their many outdoor
activities. Over his head, on the long porch of the lodge, he could hear
the uplifted voices of Jake and Jerry Utway; the twins were skylarking
about, followed by the laughter of “Happy Face” Frayne, the genial
assistant director. Beyond, from the kitchen, came a clatter of pans and
a snatch of song as Ellick, the chef, and his dusky minions prepared
lunch. Brick looked down the steep hill to the boat dock, where a
rowboat full of boys with fish-poles was just coming in from a trip to
the south end of Lake Lenape. He yawned sleepily, and stretched. From
the rows of tents to his left someone shouted his name.

A group of campers trailed through the bushes in the wake of Mr.
Carrigan, the camp naturalist. Among the boys who were thus returning
from a nature-study hike were Blackie Thorne, Soapy Mullins, and Lefty
Reardon, the latter of whom had called out.

“Hi, Ryan!” Lefty repeated. “Come on down to the tent, you loafer, and
clean up for inspection!”

“Right away!” Brick answered lazily, but did not stir. He hated to break
the spell of contentment that lay over him.

Brick Ryan loved Camp Lenape. It meant everything to him, the camp life,
and for three summers now he had whooped with delight when the time came
to leave the hot city streets behind and make for the Lenape hills for
two months of busy, carefree sport in the green out-of-doors. Here,
among his camper friends and the wise leaders like the Chief and Happy
Face and Lieutenant Eames and Mr. Carrigan, he could do to his heart’s
content the things he loved—swim and fish and get up shows and take long
hikes through the mountains—— And this year, for the first time, he
would be allowed to go on the Long Trail——

The blare of Ted Fellowes’ bugle, sounding Recall, broke forth over his
head. He rose, stretched, and sauntered down to Tent One, his new
quarters for the next two-week period. Every fortnight during the season
was moving day for Lenape; then some of the boys who could not stay the
entire summer would leave, and other boys would come up from the city to
take their places. At this time, too, the tent assignments were shifted
about so that each camper could get to know, and live as tent-mates
with, a wide variety of other boys. Brick, who had that morning been
given a bunk in the tent nearest the lodge, presided over by “Sax”
McNulty, the comical leader who directed camp dramatics, wondered idly
what sort of gang his new tent-mates would turn out to be.

As he entered the tent, Lefty Reardon looked up as he was spreading his
blankets neatly over his canvas bunk.

“Well, it’s about time you were on the job,” he grinned. “What you been
doing, Brick? Picking daisies? How about doing a little fancy work with
a broom?”

“All right, Mr. Tent Aide,” Brick answered good-humoredly, and set about
making his own bed. “What have you guys been doin’ all mornin’—lookin’
for filly-loo birds up in the tall timber?”

“Mr. Carrigan showed us some partridge. That’s better than loafin’ in
the sun. Say, have any of the pups hit camp yet?”

This was Lefty’s belittling way of referring to new boys, tenderfeet who
were that day coming to camp for the first time. Brick groaned.

“Don’t remind me—I’d almost forgot about it! Gollies, I was just
exchangin’ sweet words with one of the juiciest specimens that you’ve
ever seen! Mr. Chauncy Montmorency, the Dude from Swellville! Such a
pretty boy, too!”

Lefty grunted. “What’s he like?”

“You’d have to see it to believe it. Mama and Papa and the shover all
come along in the family limmyzine to see that little Algy gets here
without getting his tootsies wet! ‘And I sye, me good feller,’” he
mimicked, “‘would you be kind enough to carry me bags down to the
_ho_-tel?’”

Lefty’s jaw gaped. “Gee, he sure must be a green one!”

“Wait till you see him! He’s the Millionaire Baby, and no mistake! I
pity the poor guys that get in his tent——” Brick Ryan broke off suddenly
as a shadow fell over his shoulder. He looked up, and gasped.

At the door of the tent stood a blond young fellow in white flannels. A
few paces away a chauffeur in uniform stood respectfully, laden with
shiny suitcases and sporting goods.

“Oh, there you are again,” the lad said breezily. “Sorry to trouble you,
but is this Tent One? If it is, I believe I shall have the pleasure of
sharing it with you chaps. My name is Dirk Van Horn, and the camp
director has assigned me to stay here. I hope that we shall all be very
happy and friendly tent-mates!”



                               CHAPTER II
                      “BRICK RYAN’S NOT FOR SALE!”


Brick was too aghast to think of anything to say. He scowled, threw up
his hands helplessly, and deliberately turned his back on the smiling
Van Horn.

But Lefty, whatever he might think about “pups” in private, had been
appointed councilor’s aide for Tent One, and as such was camper-leader
in charge when Sax McNulty was not in sight. He rose and extended a hand
to the newcomer.

“Glad to meet you, Van. My name’s Reardon. I see you’ve got a baseball
glove there among your things. We need good fielders on the camp
team—some stiff games are coming up. We’ll talk about it later. Yes,
this is Tent One. I hear you’ve met Brick Ryan, over here,” he said
easily. “The rest of the bunch will be along pretty quick, except for
some of the new boys that are hitting camp today.”

“Thanks. We passed a hay-wagon full of young chaps down the road a few
miles,” answered Van Horn. “They seemed to be having lunch.”

“They’ll be along later, I guess. Hope we get some good ones for Tent
One. Sax McNulty went down to show them the way. He’s our leader—you
ought to hear him shake out a tune from that saxophone of his! Then,
outside of you and Brick and myself, we’ve got little Joey Fellowes and
Slim Yerkes—— But dump your stuff down here on the floor, and after
lunch I’ll show you where to stow things.”

Benson, the chauffeur, gladly stacked his load of baggage inside the
tent, and returned for the remainder. His young master spread his legs
apart and looked over the tent with a patronizing air.

“Nice little place you’ve got here, but it could be fixed up better.
I’ve got some pennants and a few pictures in my trunk that we can stick
around to make it look quite homelike, I fancy.”

Lefty smiled grimly. “We mostly do our decorating up at the lodge, where
there’s plenty of room. With seven fellows and a leader in a tent this
size, we have to save space for the things we use every day. You seem to
have a lot of junk there—enough to take up a whole tent yourself. After
lunch we’ll weed out what you need and the rest can be stored under the
lodge.”

“I don’t know about that. A chap wants to be comfortable, doesn’t he?
Oh, I guess there are my folks coming to say good-bye! Hello, Mama!”

Brick scornfully watched the approach of the fond parents. The lady,
after embracing her boy, looked disdainfully about the tent and its
simple furnishings. She did not sniff, but she looked as if she might at
any moment.

“Gracious, John, do you really think we should leave Dirk here? I’m glad
we thought to bring up his spring cot and mattress—the idea of having a
growing boy sleep on plain canvas stretchers like these!”

“The other boys don’t seem to have suffered,” Mr. Van Horn smiled
feebly.

“This is Reardon, Papa,” his son said. “Plays baseball, you know.”

“Fine! Fine! Well, young men, Benson is bringing down a big watermelon
for Dirk’s tent-mates. Guess you won’t mind a cool slice later on? Now,
Dirk, your mother and I are going. We’ll have lunch in Elmville. If you
want anything, write or wire me and we’ll see what the old man can do.
That canoe ought to be along in the morning.”

“Thank you, Papa.” Dirk turned to Lefty. “Back in a minute, old chap.”
He waved a hand and accompanied his parents up the hill toward the
waiting automobile, where no doubt a fond farewell was to take place.

As soon as they were out of sight, Brick faced his friend.

“What a fine sister we drew!” he exclaimed. “Well, what do you think of
the Millionaire Baby now?”

Lefty returned to his task of tidying up the tent beside his bunk. “Aw,
lay off, Brick. It isn’t his fault he’s a poor little rich boy. He seems
to me like a pretty decent sort, and that watermelon will come in mighty
handy, too. Just because he took you for a kitchen mechanic, you’ve got
it in for him. Snap out of it! There goes First Call, and here’s the
tent still in a gosh-awful mess. Stir yourself!”

Brick Ryan bent moodily to the work. After a moment, he snorted as his
eye fell once more on the shiny heap of luggage and sport outfits, and
his scorn broke forth anew.

“Just the same, Lefty my son, Little Lord Fauntleroy will need a bit of
polishin’ before he’s a true-blue Lenape man, and F. X. A. Ryan is the
lad to give it to him,” he muttered darkly. “Mark my words, young
Chauncy is in for a lot of fine adventures he never dreamed of back in
dear old Swellville!”

During lunch, Brick listened with ill-concealed disgust while young Van
Horn chatted with Lefty about baseball and prep school and asked the
usual list of silly questions that a new camper always puts. When the
meal was over, Brick and silent Slim Yerkes washed the dishes in short
order, and then retired to the tent for quiet hour. Slim soon left to
visit a friend in a neighboring tent, and Brick stretched out on his
bunk with a copy of the life-saving manual, to study up for the various
tests that were a part of the badge requirements. But no sooner had he
settled himself than Dirk Van Horn, followed by the admiring little Joey
Fellowes, came down from the camp store.

“What a silly rule they have here, that a fellow can’t spend more than
fifteen cents a day at the store!” Dirk was complaining, munching a
chocolate bar. “Up at Wild Rose Camp last year we could spend as much as
we wanted, and they had everything—ice-cream cones every day. Why, I
could buy out this little store if I wanted to! Here, youngster, have a
bag of almonds.”

“Thanks,” said Joey admiringly. “Say, what kind of a place was that Wild
Rose Camp?”

“Very select. I believe it cost me five hundred dollars a season, not
counting extras, such as piano lessons, archery, and so on.”

Brick Ryan said “Humph!” in a loud tone, but Joey was visibly impressed.

“Well, youngster,” Dirk went on, “shall we get busy unloading all these
traps of mine?”

“Sure. Say, if you could go to such a swell place as that, how come
you’re here at Lenape?”

“Oh, just a notion of Papa’s. You see, he used to go to college with the
camp director here. I made Papa buy me a canoe all my own if I promised
to come here, but I tell you, if I don’t like this place, I shan’t stay
very long.” Dirk turned airily and stooped to open the large wardrobe
trunk that stood amidst his heap of luggage. “Shall we get to work?”

Brick Ryan, whose sole possessions had come to Lenape with him in a
canvas dunnage-bag, pretended to read, but he kept one eye on the
proceedings. Languidly Dirk, aided by the awed Joey, began to unpack his
multitude of belongings. First he unrolled a thick mattress—the only
mattress in camp aside from those in the hospital tent—and spread it on
the lower bunk nearest the lodge. Brick felt called upon to interfere.

“Say,” he began, “that bunk belongs to Sax McNulty, our leader. All the
other lower bunks are already taken. You’ll have to take one of the
uppers.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Joey broke in hastily. “Say, Van, I got a lower, but I don’t mind
sleeping up in Heaven—I’m used to it. You can have mine, over here, and
I’ll take the upper.”

Dirk nodded. “Thanks. Very sporting of you, youngster.” He spread the
mattress on the bunk that Joey had relinquished, and with an
inexperienced hand spread sheets and fine woolen blankets in the
semblance of a bed.

Next he began unpacking the trunk and suitcases, and Brick Ryan’s snorts
grew louder and louder as the stack of the newcomer’s possessions grew
higher. In a short time the tent was strewn with clothing and objects of
all sorts. The leader’s empty bunk was piled high with suits of every
kind and shade, among them a trim blue yachting outfit with white cap,
and a khaki uniform with Sam Browne belt and white helmet such as
African explorers wear. One suitcase was almost completely taken up with
books and a portable typewriter. Between reading the books and dressing
up in the dozen different suits, Brick reflected, the new boy would have
very little time to do any camping.

But this was not all. It seemed as if Dirk must have gone into a big
sporting-goods store and ordered at least one of everything in stock. He
had complete outfits for baseball, basketball, and track. Joey was set
to work stringing up an aerial for a portable radio receiving set that
was carefully packed in a leather case. The interior of the tent was
submerged beneath such objects as a big electric lantern, a fisherman’s
creel, two swimming suits, a sketching outfit, golf clubs, hats and
shoes of all sorts, and a black bag such as is carried by doctors on
their rounds. Dirk opened the latter, and took from its well-filled
interior a bottle of pills.

“That reminds me!” he said. “Forgot to take my prescription.” He
swallowed two pills, made a face, and picking up an armload of shoes and
a banjo case, approached Brick.

“Excuse me, old fellow,” he said agreeably, “but would you mind awfully
if I parked these things under your bed? These tents don’t seem to have
any closets in them, and that clothes-line from the tent-poles doesn’t
look very strong.”

“Can’t do it,” Brick answered shortly.

“Why not? You don’t seem to have a great deal of junk yourself.”

Brick groaned. “Listen!” he said with some heat. “Lefty Reardon told you
he’d show you where to put your stuff. He’s up at aide’s meeting now,
and since Sax is still away, I don’t mind tellin’ you what the rules
are. We got eight people in this tent. Suppose every single one of them
had as much stuff as you’ve got?”

“But I can see they haven’t, so——”

“Wait! We have inspection here every day, to see which tent wins the
pennant. Everything has got to be in its place, and there’s a place for
everything. Beds made in a certain way, clothes folded in a certain way,
shoes in a line under the bunk, everything polished up and swept out. Do
you figure on cleanin’ up all that stuff every day, or are you goin’ to
hire Joey as a valet?”

“My dear chap, I merely——”

“My advice to you,” Brick went on, “is to pick out from that mess just
what you need every day, and store the rest in the lodge. Then we might
have some room to move around. Do you get that?”

A crimson flush mounted from beneath Dirk’s immaculate white collar and
spread over his pale features, but he said nothing. He dropped the
things on the floor in a heap, and sat down on a locker-box, watching
Joey sort out a collection of stockings and handkerchiefs. Brick
pointedly returned to his life-saving manual.

For the first time since he had arrived at Lenape a few hours before,
Dirk Van Horn paused to think. He could not see that he had done
anything to merit such a harsh tone as that used by the red-headed Irish
boy. Of course there was that awkward mistake when Ryan had been washing
his things back of the kitchen; but that might have happened to anyone.
Dirk had never before met a boy of the independent stripe of Brick Ryan.
There had been no boys like him at “select” Wild Rose Camp, nor in what
his mother called their “social set” back in the city. But Dirk wanted
everybody to like him. He wanted Brick to like him and admire him. He
went about it in the only way he knew—but it was the wrong way.

Brick was aware of a tap on his shoulder. He turned; before him stood
the despised Van Horn in his citified garments. There was a smile on his
face. His right hand was outstretched frankly; his left hand held a
tennis racquet of the most expensive make.

“Look here, Ryan, old chap,” Dirk began. “We have to live together.
Let’s be friends! What say? I know I was a chump a while ago, but I
apologize, and I hope we’ll get along splendidly. Now, just to show you
I think a lot of you, I hope you’ll accept this little present. It’s
just a trifle, and I have two of them—but perhaps it will prove how much
I want to be your friend.”

Before the amazed Brick knew what was happening, the other had pressed
the handle of the racquet into his hand, and clapped him on the
shoulder.

“That’s the spirit! Now we’re fast friends, you know!”

Brick stared at the gift. Fashioned of finest wood and gut, it
represented at the least an amount that Brick would have had to work on
his paper-route, back in the city, for a month to earn. Unbelievingly he
looked from the gift to the giver. A sudden tide of red anger flooded
his freckled face to the roots of his red hair. He jumped up, flung off
the outstretched hand, and faced Van Horn. There was an ugly look on his
face, and ugly words rose to his Irish tongue.

“Friends, is it!” he shouted. “Gollies, you and your little presents!
Pup, get this! You or the likes of you can’t buy Brick Ryan’s little
finger, and you can’t bribe him, either! You and all your pretty junk
may go over big with kids like Joey that don’t know any better, but
Brick Ryan’s not for sale!”

Dirk’s mouth fell open, and he backed off hastily. “Why—Why, I’m sorry—I
didn’t think you’d take it that way! Of course, if you don’t care to
accept it——”

“Yah!” cried the Irish boy. With sudden fury he flung the offending
tennis racquet in a wide curve. It fell out of sight into a clump of
bushes some yards away; and Brick Ryan, with clenched fists, turned on
his heel and stalked from the tent.



                              CHAPTER III
                                “HELP!”


Dirk Van Horn wondered if he were going to like Camp Lenape. There
seemed to be far too many uncomfortable rules that got in the way when a
fellow wanted to have some fun. Then, too, outside of little Joey
Fellowes, nobody had seemed duly impressed with his father’s wealth and
his luxurious camping outfit. It was clear that this was going to be
quite different from Wild Rose Camp, where everyone knew that he was J.
T. Van Horn’s only son, and where he and his tutor had shared a cosy
cottage with every convenience that money could buy.

Dirk sighed; then turned suddenly as a new idea struck him. He’d show
these kids what a real sportsman could do!

“Joey, old son,” he said, “would you mind clearing up the rest of this
stuff? I’m going to take a look around the woods and see what the
chances are for a bit of sport.”

“What you going to do, Van?”

“Oh, just a bit of gunning. That chap Reardon mentioned at lunch that he
had scared up some partridge on the mountain this morning. I thought I
might get a shot at a few.”

Joey Fellowes stood aghast at such daring. “Whe—you mean, shoot them?
Say, nobody at Lenape ever does that! We just go out and watch birds and
animals and things, and try to study them and take pictures of them.
Nobody in camp is supposed to have a gun!”

“Humph! What do they come up here in the woods for? Well, here’s one
person who isn’t going to overlook a chance if he happens to see one!”

“But—but—— Why, Sax McNulty or any of the rest of the councilors would
sure bawl you out if they found you with a gun! It’s against the camp
rules!”

“Bother the old rules! Good heavens, McNulty may change his mind pretty
quick if I present him with a nice bag of partridge ready for Tent One
to eat for supper.” With deliberate casualness, Dirk slung his gun-case
over his shoulder, unearthed from a suitcase a large box of chocolate
cake as provisions, and paused at the door of the tent. “Come along if
you like, Fellowes.”

“No—no thanks,” blurted Joey. “You better report to the Chief before you
go.”

“I won’t be long,” said Dirk carelessly. “Well, then, ta-ta! If you’ve
got most of my things stowed away by the time I come back, I’ll slip you
a dollar or two.”

With these generous words, Dirk waved an easy farewell, and strode off
through the trees, taking care to make a wide circle about the lodge,
where some fussy councilor might see him and keep him from his purpose.
His plan was simple. He wanted to make Brick Ryan and the rest of the
campers realize what a fine fellow was now in their midst. If he could
casually stroll into the tent with a dozen partridge in one hand and his
shiny new rifle in the other, they would see at a glance that here was a
comrade to be reckoned with! He conjured up pleasant pictures of their
surprise and admiration, himself the center of the group.

Still lost in these happy visions, he crossed a sunny meadow and picked
his way over the dusty, rutted country road that led to camp. Here he
plunged into thick woods, making straight up the mountainside. It was
cool in the leafy forest, and he would have been very well contented
save that a swarm of gnats hovered over his hatless head in a buzzing
cloud, following wherever he went. His coat was too warm, but he did not
want to carry it as his hands were already full, and he wished to be
free in case he located the desired covey of partridge.

Ahead lay a flat, marshy stretch of ground, where clumps of grass and
rotting tree-limbs formed a half-submerged, muddy mass. There was no
path going around, and Dirk, balancing his burdens dangerously, jumped
from one solid-looking tuft to another. More than once he slipped on the
rotting stuff, and floundered ankle-deep in slimy water. Long before he
reached the other side, he regretted that he had not changed his city
flannels for togs more suited to mountain work. His low sport shoes were
caked with ooze and half full of water; his erstwhile spotless white
flannels were muddied, streaked with green scum, and a triangular tear
on one leg showed where he had come up against a sharp branch.

Ruefully he sank to a seat on a decayed oak-trunk and unloosened his
wilted linen collar. He would have liked a drink, but he knew that the
stagnant pools at his feet were unhealthy, and he settled back,
inspected his glistening rifle to see that the magazine was full of .22
caliber cartridges, and then slowly began munching the cake he had
brought with him.

He had barely eaten half of it, however, when he leaped hastily from his
seat with a cry. One arm was afire, beneath the sleeve, with a thousand
prickling stings! A simmering stream of large black ants that infested
the rotting wood—no doubt attracted by the chance of refreshment in the
shape of sweet crumbs of cake—was flowing over his hand and arm, and
even beneath the collar of his shirt. In a painful frenzy he dropped the
cake and began brushing off the stinging insects, stripping off his coat
and shirt. It was several minutes before he could fight free of the
crawling horde, and then, grabbing his things, he rushed off up the
hillside away from the treacherous lower ground. Even then, he was
reminded now and again of his misadventure by a red-hot sting in some
part of his tender skin beneath his clothing.

So far, his expedition had not been successful. He had not seen any sign
of a partridge or any other small game. Even had there been any of the
birds in that part of the mountain, his stumbling progress would
undoubtedly have given them warning long before he could train his rifle
on them. But he kept on up the slope, smashing his way through the thick
underbrush and trying not to turn his ankles on the rocky ground
underfoot.

To his right he saw through the leaves a long scar of gray rock
outcropping on the hillside. This promised easier going than the tangled
underbrush. Besides, he thought, if he could get high enough, he might
be able to look around and see in just which direction lay the camp. His
flight from the marsh had twisted him around somehow, and a glance at
the sky gave him the feeling that the sun was not where it should
rightly be at this time in the afternoon. He altered his course and
began scaling the sloping, moss-encrusted rocks.

Before he was half-way up the rocks, he began to wish he had not chosen
such a steep and rough road. His shoes and trousers were in pitiful
shape. Still he scrambled upward in the hot sunshine, dripping
perspiration, ascending on hands and knees and trailing his rifle after
him. He was glad to see that the rocks ended a few feet above his head
in an overhanging bank of earth and matted shrubs. Over the top! He
charged the little cliff, seized with his free hand the roots of a
sapling oak that grew on the edge, and tried to haul himself up. His
first heave loosened the soil; he could feel his hold slipping. He cast
a fearful eye backwards; if he fell on those sharp rocks——!

A shower of dirt, twigs, and small pebbles rattled down upon his head;
with a rending noise, the roots he was gripping parted. Clawing the air
helplessly, Dirk fell backwards, and slid painfully a few feet down the
smooth rocks. His rifle flew from his hand, described a short circle in
the air, and landed with a bruising crash upon his outstretched right
leg.

Dirk cried out, and rubbed his shin. The sharp blow brought tears of
pain into his eyes, and he gritted his teeth. He realized now that it
had been a foolish thing to trust his weight to such a sketchy
hand-hold. Well, he had suffered for his error!

He clutched the rifle, whose wooden stock was badly scarred by the fall,
and began crawling across the rocks to the shelter of the brush. Every
movement heightened the ache in his leg, which was now throbbing
brutally. When he gained the wooded hillside, he rose and tried to walk;
but after a few steps he gave up, sat down, and began rubbing his
shinbone once more.

Dirk was not used to giving up an idea easily, and he hated to think of
limping back to camp with torn clothes, and lacking the game he had set
out so proudly to get. Here would be a very different return from that
he had visualized! But now he began looking about him and puzzling just
in which direction lay Camp Lenape.

The sound of a bugle call floating up from the lake came to his ears,
and faintly he could hear shouting, off to his right, where the woods
were thickest. He could not be exactly sure where it came from, but
evidently camp was not far away. Of course, he could back-track on his
own trail, but that would mean going through the marsh again. There must
be a short cut that he could take. He rose and began hobbling through
the trees, hoping to find a stream where he could quench his hot thirst.
As he went he thought of his mother and father, by this time far on the
way back to the city. Dirk Van Horn was just a little homesick.

Again came the bugle-call. But this time it sounded from behind him! He
wheeled about, listening. Where was camp? He could see nothing through
the trees. Perhaps if he could climb high enough, he might catch a
glimpse of the flagpole or the tents; but his leg was now swollen and
stiff, and useless for climbing. Where was he, anyway? Could it be that
he was lost among the mountains? Lost! Dirk began to run unsteadily
through the thick brush. His eyes were wild, and the little hammers of
panic were beating in his brain.


Brick Ryan was slipping into his swimming suit in Tent One when Sax
McNulty, followed by a racing pack of boys, appeared at the lower end of
the campus. The new recruits had hit camp just in time for afternoon
swim period.

“Hi, Sax!” the red-headed boy greeted his leader. “You look hot. Just in
time for a dip.”

The long-faced young man gave him a mournful look. Sax always looked
gloomy, even when he was saying his funniest things.

“I’m a little sunbeam,” he announced. “I can keep smiling even after
piloting twenty little greenhorns up from Elmville. Dusty but smiling.
Say, who made my bed so nicely?”

“Me and Lefty.”

“Good lads.” Sax sank on his bunk and began stripping off his dust-laden
garments. “I met two of the new fellows who’ll be with us this section.
Nig Jackson was one—you remember him from last year. Another is a new
kid, Eddie Scolter, who claims he can play a clarinet. But one fellow
didn’t come after all, I guess. The Chief said his name was Van Horn.”

“Oh!” grinned Brick, “you mean the Millionaire Baby! Well, don’t worry
about him. He got here this mornin’, and has been around all day, big as
life and twice as natural.”

“Millionaire Baby?”

Brick pointed to the scattered array of suitcases, clothes, and other
possessions that Joey Fellowes had given up trying to sort out and
arrange. Sax McNulty whistled as he looked at Dirk’s heaped outfit.

“This all belong to Van Horn?”

“Junk enough for ten guys. Wait till you get a look at him.”

Sax shook his head. “Can’t have that. Where is he, anyway? He’ll have to
stow that stuff before Nig and Eddie and the rest get here.”

“Search me,” Brick shrugged. “Haven’t seen him since siesta. He’s
probably off tellin’ the little kids what a rich guy his dad is, and how
Wild Rose Camp is much sweller than this joint.”

The leader pulled on his swimming suit, and looked up thoughtfully.
“Don’t tell me he’s the son of Van Horn, the bank president! Don’t tell
me that!”

“I’m afraid so.”

“And he’s going to be here in Tent One this section. Well, well, and a
couple more wells! You don’t seem to have taken to him very kindly,
Brick.”

“He just sort of riled me from the start, I guess.”

“Well, he’ll be all right after a couple days here. No quarreling, now!
We must all be like little birdies in the nest, Brick—— Hark!”

Brick Ryan had heard it too. From the mountainside had come a despairing
cry.

“Help!”

He jumped to his feet, and the two, leader and boy, stared solemnly into
each other’s faces. Then McNulty grabbed for a pair of rubber-soled
tennis shoes, and began furiously lacing them on his bare feet.

“Come along, Brick!” He dived for the door of the tent and up the wooded
hillside, his red-headed follower close on his heels. “Somebody in
trouble on the mountain! We’ve got to run, old boy—and I mean run!”



                               CHAPTER IV
                               DIRK JUMPS


In the wake of his racing leader, Brick Ryan dashed through the thickets
behind the tent, and crossed the road. Here Sax paused and shouted
toward the mountainside.

“Hello! What’s the matter?”

Ahead came a faint cry in answer, and a spitting crack. Something buzzed
through the leaves of a maple overhead, and a detached twig drifted
down.

“That was a gun!” said Brick in amazement. “Somebody shootin’ through
the trees.”

Sax was angry. “The fool!” he cried. “Is he trying to pick us off?” He
raised his voice and shouted again to the unknown. “Cut out that
shooting! We’re coming right along!”

Again he plunged into the woods. Brick, who had been rubbing his
uncovered arms and legs where his swimming suit had not protected him
from scratches and whipping branches, panted at his side. “Over this way
it came from, Sax,” he said. “Not very far off, either.”

McNulty saved his wind for running, and his long legs bounded out of
sight. In short order, Brick heard the man’s voice upraised in stinging
rebuke.

“Put that gun down! Here, give it to me, before you kill a few of us!
Now, What do you mean by this——”

Brick came to the edge of a little glade, and saw the leader standing
threateningly above a youth who crouched on the sward, guiltily handing
over his weapon. His body was covered with a stained blue coat and the
wreckage of a pair of white flannel trousers; his yellow hair was
rumpled; and on his pale face there was a look of mingled relief and
dismay.

“Begolly,” said Brick to himself, “it’s the Baby!”

Sax McNulty seized the rifle and poured out the contents of the magazine
into his hand. “What are you trying to do?” he asked. “What do you mean
by shooting around Camp Lenape? Who are you, anyway?”

Brick came up, and grinned at his councilor, indicating the prostrate
figure on the ground. “It’s the guy I was tellin’ you about, Sax,” he
sneered. “Young Moneybags. What else could you expect?”

“My—my name is Van Horn,” the other boy stammered. “I’m a camper.”

“A camper? You?” McNulty was scornful. “Well, you must be in the wrong
camp. At Lenape we don’t go around firing rifles all over the place.”

Dirk Van Horn swallowed, and began clambering to his feet. “I—I got
lost,” he began. “I read somewhere that three shots was a signal for
help. They didn’t sound very loud, so I shouted, too. I imagined that
someone might hear me and direct me back to the camp ground. You see,
sir, I hurt my leg——”

“Badly?”

“No—I can walk on it now. But then I got a trifle frightened, I suppose,
and things got mixed up somehow.”

Brick broke into a rasping laugh. “Lost, is it! He gets lost a few
hundred yards from camp, and yells for help! You got a job ahead of you,
Sax. He don’t need a councilor—it’s a nurse-maid he needs!”

“That’s enough, Brick,” the man said shortly. “Now, Van Horn, if you can
walk all right, we’ll go back to the tent. I understand you’ve been
assigned to my outfit. Well, first off, if you’ve got any more guns,
they’re going to be locked up with this one. We can’t have bullets
flying about. Come along—I’ll show you where camp is. After swim, we’ll
see about clearing up that mess of stuff you left on the floor.”

He led the way back toward the campus, bearing the forbidden weapon,
followed by the crestfallen Dirk. Brick Ryan began cautiously picking a
path through the underbrush—a swimming suit was not the best uniform for
mountain rescue-work. He chuckled. “Lost, he was! And Sax and I thought
we were goin’ to pull somebody out of trouble!”

The bushes ahead crackled as somebody ran through, and Brick paused. The
face of his friend Kipper Dabney appeared from behind a tree.

“What’s all the shootin’, Brick?”

Brick answered the question with a laugh. “You may think you’ve seen
greenhorns at Lenape, Kipper,” he said, “but I want to tell you we’ve
got the juiciest tenderfoot in Tent One that you ever saw. He’s a lily,
he is! There he goes—Sax McNulty just grabbed his gun in time to keep
him from shootin’ us for a couple of moose.”

Kipper was interested. “You sound as if you figured on doing something
about it.”

“Maybe I will,” smiled Brick wickedly. “Out of the goodness of my heart,
I might show him a few handy tricks. He sure needs a workout!” He
lowered his voice. “About twelve o’clock tonight, eh? What about it, my
boy? Are you game?”

“You mean—pass him the runaround?” the other asked doubtfully. “He looks
like a pretty husky fellow. He might go for us.”

“Not a chance! But if you’re nervous, we’ll get Ugly Brown to come too.
This baby is easy. Is it a go? Swell! Now let’s get down to the
dock—that guy and his fool stunts have made me miss half my swim!”


Dirk Van Horn did not fall asleep until some while after taps had
sounded bedtime for the Lenape campers, and their big bonfire had died
down to embers. He had gone through one of the liveliest days he had
ever known, but although weary, he was too wakeful to join his
tent-mates in their slumbers. He lay stretched on his bunk, staring up
at the dim, quiet stars glowing above the sighing branches of the pines,
and recalling the events of the crowded day.

Around him, snug in their blankets, slept his new tent-mates. It was a
strange feeling. Last night he had gone to bed in his familiar room back
home in the city, with his father and mother close at hand. Tonight he
lay out under canvas, in the forest-clad Lenape hills, listening to the
unknown noises of the night and the deep breathing of his new-found
companions—Mr. McNulty, and Lefty, and Joey, and the other Tent Two boys
he had met at supper. On the line from the ridgepole hung his brand-new
camping togs, and the other things he needed were neatly stowed beneath
the bunk or in his wooden locker, as Lefty had shown him. Lefty had said
that some baseball games were coming——

Dirk sighed. Lefty must know all about his ignominious return from his
hunting trip that afternoon. If Lefty thought him a chump, perhaps he
wouldn’t put him on the camp team! He could see now that he had made a
fool of himself with his silly rifle, but how was he to know all the
camp rules? And that Brick Ryan chap had snickered at him! Why did Ryan
dislike him so? Thinking of Brick Ryan, the new camper drifted off into
slumber....

He opened his eyes. His cheek was tingling. Something had trailed across
his face in the dark!

Through the trees he saw the yellow sickle of a new moon. He remembered
now. He was at Camp Lenape—— But whose was the voice close to his ear,
whispering cautious words?

“Shh! Listen, Van Horn, are you awake?”

He turned his head, and saw the outline of a strange face above him. A
boy whom he did not know had thus quietly aroused him in the dead of
night.

“Put on your slippers and bathrobe and come on!” the voice urged. “Don’t
wake up anybody else. This is just for you.”

“But what—what——” Dirk asked hoarsely. “I don’t believe I know you. What
do you want me for?”

“Hurry up!” the strange boy urged. “It’s a party. We want you to be our
guest. Just a little fun after taps, old man. Quick, now!”

Wonderingly, Dirk obeyed. He found his slippers and robe in the pale
light, while his guide waited motionless. Taking care not to make the
least noise to disturb the sleeping leader and the other boys of Tent
One, Dirk crept softly out into the thin moonlight. His guide took his
arm, and led the way down a path that skirted the upper row of tents,
and then wandered into the mysterious shadow of the forest. A hundred
yards beyond the farthest tent, the unknown boy stopped, and whispered
close to Dirk’s ear.

“We’re giving a party for you, Van,” he explained. “Very select. Some of
the best blood in camp is waiting to greet you.”

“Why—that’s very kind of them.” Dirk was flattered. “Where are we
going?”

The other hesitated. “Well, you see, our meeting-place is supposed to be
kept a secret. Would you mind wearing this for a minute?”

Before Dirk knew what his guide was about, he felt a large handkerchief
drop over his eyes. He muttered a protest, but already the blindfold was
knotted about his head, and even the dim glow of the night was shut from
his sight.

“Just hang on to my arm,” said the stranger reassuringly. “We’re not far
off now. This way.”

He gave Dirk a slight push ahead. Slowly, with arms outstretched, Dirk
felt his way forward along the rough path. He did not quite know what to
make of this midnight game of blind-man’s-buff; but he had no reason to
think that the other boy meant him harm. He remembered that at Wild Rose
Camp last summer, it was often the thing to have quiet little “spreads”
after bedtime, without the knowledge of the councilors. Seemingly,
Lenape also enjoyed this adventurous custom; and he took it as a tribute
to himself that he, a newcomer, should have been selected to be honored
on his first night on the campus.

While he was pondering this he was stumbling ahead over the rough
ground, now and then tripping over a rock or tree-root and leaning
heavily on the arm of the boy at his side. Suddenly, that arm was
withdrawn; he felt a rude thrust into his back; he stepped forward to
catch himself, found his ankles snared in a rope that had been stretched
across his path. He tripped and crashed to the earth, throwing his arms
out with a grunt of pain. He had landed with a smashing thud into a
thicket of scratching branches.

The shock of the impact had driven his breath out of him; he could not
cry out. He thrashed about upon the rocky ground, trying to tear the
blinding bandage from his eyes. But a sharp knee was now pressing into
the small of his back, and even as he struggled, someone unseen lashed
his hands together with a skillful handcuff knot.

“Take it easy, Baby!” urged a mocking voice above him, and the knee dug
deeper into his aching back. “How do you like our little party?”

He knew this voice! Brick Ryan!

He thrashed about, striving to regain his feet; but the torturing knee
pinned him fast.

“Don’t get worked up,” his tormenter advised. “We just want you to do a
few little tricks for us. Lift him up, Kipper!”

Dirk was jerked roughly to his feet, pinioned on both sides by strong
arms. Behind him rose again the jeering voice of Ryan.

“Now, don’t go wild and hurt yourself. If you’re a nice baby, and do
what we tell you, maybe we’ll let you off easy—maybe!”

Dirk choked, and found his voice. “You are a coward, Ryan! A coward and
a bully!”

“Shut up!” came the savage answer. “Do you want to wake up the whole
camp?” A sharp point of metal prodded the flesh of Dirk’s leg. “Feel
that? Any more hot air and you’ll get a touch of this! Now, march!”

Biting his lip to keep back the cry that rose to his tongue, Dirk Van
Horn was dragged through the woods. His blindfold was still knotted
tightly over his eyes, and he was helpless in the hands of his captors.
Soon, he could tell by the’ feel of smooth earth under the thin soles of
his slippers that they had come to some sort of clearing. Here his
torturers—he judged that there were three of them—halted. Again Ryan
spoke.

“Now, you’ve got so much sportin’ goods with you, we thought you must be
a swell athlete. We want to see what you can do on the high jump and the
dash and the obstacle race. That right, boys?”

“I won’t do it,” said Dirk stubbornly. “Let me out of this, Ryan. If the
camp director knew you were hazing me——”

“Shut up! Now, the first event will be the runnin’ high jump. When I say
‘go!’ you take off and show us how to break a record! Don’t try to pull
off that blindfold, either, or you’ll get another jab with my knife.
Ready?”

The restraining arms were drawn away, but Dirk stood motionless,
refusing to reply. Sightless, he knew that he could not run, or even
walk, more than a few steps before he would again be brought to the
ground with a crash. Where was he? Far from any help, any sympathetic
leader who could put a stop to the cruel hazing. Was Ryan determined to
push him, helpless, through the motions of a travesty of a track meet,
in disregard of bruises and broken bones?

“Go!” rasped the voice. “Run! Run, or——”

Dirk flinched as he felt the sharp knife-point pierce the skin of his
thigh. His terror was rising, but he did not cry out.

A horrible moment of waiting; then Dirk heard his unseen tormenter laugh
wickedly to himself.

“He won’t play with us, boys! Well, that’s his hard luck! Too bad! It’s
over the cliff for him!”

“Over the cliff!” echoed the henchmen hollowly. “We gave him his chance.
Come on, you!”

Again Dirk was dragged through the forest, more roughly than before. His
captors twisted about so that he had not the least idea in which
direction they were heading, but it seemed as if ages passed before they
halted at last. During the painful journey he had tried to make some
plan for escape; but it was of no use—there were three of them, holding
him closely; he could neither see them nor his surroundings, and his
hands were tightly bound. Was their threat merely a sham, or were they
really now nearing some steep, jagged wall of rock in the forest?

“Don’t move!” warned Ryan suddenly. “We’re right on the edge of Indian
Cliff! Now, Baby, we’ll give you one more chance. Will you behave and do
your stuff in our moonlight track meet? Or do you want to end up a
hundred feet below, down on those big rocks, with a busted neck?”

Dirk’s head was whirling. He tried to fight free, but the clutch of the
restraining arms tightened, and an ungentle hand made sure his blindfold
was still secure. He cautiously felt out with one slippered foot. A few
inches before him, the grassy earth ended in a crumbling edge. A tingle
of horror rose up the boy’s spine.

“Indian Cliff,” Ryan’s voice assured him harshly. “That’s where they’ll
find you in the mornin’. Well, what about it? Yes or no?”

“You don’t dare go through with it!” Dirk cried. “You’re trying to
frighten me! Well, I won’t be fooled! I don’t believe you!”

“He don’t believe us!” jeered Brick. “We’ll have to show him. Get ready.
Let him go, my lads!”

The two henchmen fell back. Dirk turned swiftly; but the point of the
knife caught him in the side, and he recoiled to the treacherous edge of
the embankment.

“So long, Baby! One jump, and it’s all over with you! Well, will you
jump yourself, or will we have to heave you over?” Another prod of the
blade accented his words.

Dirk swallowed heavily, and tears came into his shrouded eyes. “You’ll
be sorry for this, Ryan, you mucker!” he shouted. His teeth were
chattering, and a faint breeze fanned his brow where beads of cold sweat
stood out. “You’re a coward——”

“That’s enough!” Ryan’s tone was ugly. “Do I have to prod you again, or
will you jump?”

Dirk took a deep gasp of air, and his muscles tensed.

“I’ll jump,” he said, and leaped blindly forward.



                               CHAPTER V
                      THE SINKING OF THE _Sachem_


He still lived!

Dirk drew himself up on one elbow, choking. His mouth was filled with
powdery dust, and every bone ached. Frenziedly, he thrashed about, and
found he had shaken free of the rope that had bound his hands together.
He reached up and tore off his blindfold.

In the light of the waning crescent moon, he looked up. A few inches
above his head lay the bank from which he had leaped into the unknown.
Standing there, doubled with silent laughter, were the three figures of
his torturers. Instead of jumping to death from a precipitous cliff, he
had plunged dramatically from a ledge barely a foot high!

He knew where he was now. To his scattered senses came the knowledge
that he had landed sprawling in the dirt road that led to camp. The
tents could not be far away, although, blindfolded, he had thought that
Ryan and his gang had led him for miles through the woods. He scrambled
painfully to his feet and ran up the road.

Behind him rose an alarmed, muffled shout from Brick Ryan. “Head him
off, Kipper! He’s goin’ back to camp! Get him, Ugly!” The shout only
made him run faster. Up the rutted road he sped, flying to
security—anywhere, away from the clutches of those who had so brutally
mistreated him. His pursuers scattered, seeking to head through the
woods and cut him off from the tent. Dirk lost a slipper, but did not
pause. If they got their hands on him again——!

A shape darted out at him from behind a tree. He dodged, and raced
ahead, gasping for breath. Now he could see the gray sheets of canvas
that marked the tents close beside the dark silhouette of the lodge.
Behind him hammered the running feet of Brick Ryan. He was almost upon
him!

Dirk stumbled into Tent One, and fell upon the bunk where Sax McNulty
slept the sleep of the weary councilor.

“Save me! They’re after me!”

The leader started up open-mouthed, blinking his eyes. “What—who——” he
mumbled. “Get off!”

“Save me, sir! It’s Brick Ryan, and he made me jump over a cliff, and
they chased me—— Don’t let him get me again!”

Others in the tent stirred. Slim Yerkes, in the bunk above the
councilor, sat up and silently looked at the sobbing figure beneath him.
Young Eddie Scolter woke and giggled uncomprehendingly at the scene.

“Why, it’s Van Horn!” exclaimed McNulty. “Having a nightmare, old chap?
Wake up!”

Brick Ryan had halted just outside the tent, and taking advantage of the
commotion, sought to gain his bunk unobserved. He had not intended that
his captive should escape him and return thus to the tent and arouse the
ire of the leader. He began shedding his garments quickly, hoping to be
found peacefully snoring when Sax should waken sufficiently to take
charge. But McNulty caught a glimpse of him just as he was pulling the
blankets over his head, and read the situation in an instant.

“This some of your work, Brick?” he asked grimly. “There, there, calm
down, Van, old man—why, you’re shaking like a leaf! What happened?”

“They hazed me!” Dirk gulped back the tears. “I’m sorry to make such a
fuss, but it hurt——”

The councilor snapped on the flashlight he always kept under his pillow,
and examined the haggard boy at his side. “Anything serious the matter
with you? No bones broken, or anything like that?”

“I—I don’t think so, sir. I’m ashamed to act this way,” Dirk stammered
bravely, “but you see, there were three of them, and they were pretty
rough——”

“All right. Now, just get back to bed, and we’ll straighten things out
in the morning. We’ve already roused the whole tent, so don’t make any
more noise tonight.” McNulty climbed from his bunk, helped the shaking
boy to his own blankets, covered him gently, and looked about the tent
to assure himself that all was well. Then he crossed to where Brick Ryan
lay crouched, listening furtively.

“You know what the Chief thinks about hazing, Brick,” he said sternly.
“You’ll start the day tomorrow with two hours on the wood-pile.”

“All right, Sax,” the Irish boy answered sullenly. “But I didn’t know
the big baby was going to run and tattle! Why didn’t he take it like a
man?”

“That’s enough! Now, everybody get to sleep again. We’ve had enough riot
for one night.”

Dirk stretched out his aching body, and closed his eyes. Through the
dark drifted the vengeful tones of his enemy.

“All right! But anyway, he’s a tattle-tale, and I’ll fix him for it—you
see if I don’t!”

The morning period of camp duty found Brick Ryan on the wood-pile,
serving his time chopping sawn logs into stove lengths and vowing
vengeance upon the boy who had brought the punishment on him. He looked
darkly from time to time toward the rear door of the camp kitchen, where
the rest of the Tent One campers were helping to make the ice-cream for
the Sunday dinner. Among them lounged Dirk Van Horn, who now and then
lent a hand at the job of turning the heavy churn in the freezer, or
packed some more salted ice around the revolving container. Brick noted
that his foe was now dressed in garments more suited to a Lenape
camper—basketball shorts and a light, sleeveless shirt. If Van Horn
didn’t watch out, Brick mused, he would be laid up with a bad case of
sunburn, for his shoulders were pale and lacked the protective coat of
tan that marked the boys who had already spent a month in the mountain
sunshine.

“Some people never learn,” Brick muttered, viciously splitting a stick
of smooth birchwood. “Runnin’ home to mama just because we was havin’ a
little fun with him, and squealin’ to Sax so he’d make me do wood-pile
duty! Well, all I can say is, my time will come yet!”

He was interrupted by the noisy clatter of the motor of the camp flivver
which, driven by Mr. Lane, rattled down the road and drew up at the rear
of the lodge. In the back of the small truck, tightly lashed to prevent
jolting, was a long, curved object wrapped securely in burlap. As Brick
watched, Dirk Van Horn gave a shout and ran to the driver, who was just
descending.

“That’s my canoe you have there, isn’t it, sir? Listen—doesn’t it say
it’s for Van Horn? That’s me!”

“Yes, it’s for you, I guess,” answered Lane; “and the dickens of a time
I had bringing it over these roads up from Elmville. We’ve got plenty of
canoes here at camp—what any boy wants with one all to himself, I don’t
know.”

Dirk was not listening. He ran to the group around the ice-cream
freezer, and summoned them excitedly.

“Come on, you chaps! I made my father buy me a new canoe because I
promised to come to camp, and here it is! Help me unpack it, and then
we’ll try it out. It’s a beauty!”

“Listen!” Lefty Reardon protested. “We’re on squad duty—we have to make
this ice-cream, and if we go away now, it won’t freeze——”

His tent-mates paid no attention to his objection. Dirk darted into the
kitchen and returned with a long butcher-knife, with which he began
ripping the seams of the burlap that wrapped the canoe. In a few minutes
the casing was torn away, and the beautiful slim craft, painted a bright
crimson, lay on the ground with its paddles along its bottom.

Dirk was jumping around excitedly, pointing out the features of the
superb workmanship that made the canoe a delight to the eye. “Look at
her lines, you fellows! See those soft seats. Those duck-boards on the
bottom are to keep your feet dry. I tell you, you have to pay plenty of
money for a boat like this! She’s a real Indian canoe, and I gave her a
real Indian name, too. See?” He pointed to the shapely bow, where in
golden letters was blazoned the name _Sachem_. “Now, who wants to help
me try her out?”

“Yes, let’s try her out!” echoed Eddie Scolter. “Come on!”

“Down to the lake!” shouted Dirk. “Here, Slim, grab hold of that end.
She’s light as a feather—we’ll have her in the water in no time!”

Slim Yerkes obediently lifted one end; Eddie, Nig Jackson, and Joey
Fellowes seized the sides, and led by the excited Dirk, the group made
off down the path to the boat dock, bearing the gleaming canoe aloft,
leaving her burlap wrappings to clutter the ground. Lefty, wrestling
alone with the heavy churn of the ice-cream freezer, shouted a last
warning to them, but by this time his truant comrades were out of sight
down the hill, bent on taking part in the first launching of the lovely
little vessel.

Brick gazed after them disdainfully, impressed in spite of himself. It
was a swell canoe, all right, and no boy could help being proud of it.
Think of hitting the Long Trail in a craft like that! But the fellows
had no right to leave their squad duty and run off to play with Van
Horn’s new toy——

An amazed shout rose from the back of the kitchen. Sax McNulty, who had
been working up in the ice-house, digging out large blocks of ice and
heaving them down to his young assistants, had finished and returned to
the scene to find that his squad, with the exception of the faithful
Lefty, had disappeared.

“Hey, what’s happened? Where is everybody, Lefty? Have they walked out
on the job?”

Lefty grunted, struggling with the freezer handle that grew stiffer at
each turn. “Yeah, Sax—I told ’em not to beat it, but Van Horn just got a
canoe, and they all took it down to the lake to christen it.”

“They did, eh? Well, they’ll have to learn that they can’t run away like
this when their duty is still to be done. Here, let me take a turn at
that, Lefty. When you’re rested, you can chop some more ice. Huh! If you
hadn’t stuck to the job, the camp would be missing its dessert this
noon, all right!”

The leader grappled with the freezer. Brick turned to his chopping once
more, and at the sound of his ax, McNulty looked over toward the
wood-pile and saw him.

“Oh, Brick! I guess you’ve served your time. Do me a favor, will you?”

“Sure, Sax. What do you want?” replied Brick, sinking the ax blade into
the chopping block.

“Chase down to the lake and head off that bunch of runaways. Tell ’em to
come right back and finish what they started, before playing around with
canoes and things.”

Brick needed no urging. He wanted to see what would happen at the lake
shore. By this time, the canoe was no doubt already in the water. He ran
off down the hillside in a bee-line for the dock. Behind the lower row
of tents he sped, across the stone wall, and cut across the edge of the
baseball field to the grove of trees that fringed the rocky lake shore.
Here he almost tumbled over the bent backs of Wally Rawn, director of
water sports and captain of the camp life-saving crew, and the seven
boys who made up his tent-group. Rawn had chosen as his squad duty the
task of repairing the steps that led down the steep bank to the dock;
and Brick had to circle around the busy group to gain the edge of the
lake where the boat dock jutted out from the shore.

Here, in the shallows of the bathing beach, the _Sachem_ was already
afloat, riding high above the rippling, shadowed waters of Lenape. She
was held at one end by the proud Dirk, while the other boys gazed
admiringly at her daintiness, that made the moored string of
round-bottomed steel rowboats of the camp fleet look like clumsy craft
indeed.

“Watch me get in her!” Dirk was shouting in a high voice. “Let me paddle
her around a bit, and then maybe I’ll take you all for a ride!”

He drew the light vessel close beside the flooring of the dock, and
balancing the paddles in one hand, started to step into the bow. Brick
clattered on to the end of the pier.

“Say, you fellows!” he began. “Sax says to come back on the job right
away. He’s pretty mad, too—you’re not supposed to sneak off squad duty.”

Dirk turned upon him coldly. “Don’t be foolish, Ryan. Can’t you see
we’re busy christening the _Sachem_? If you don’t make a fuss, I’ll take
you for a little spin after a while.”

“But——”

The blond boy was not listening. He was too much interested in making
his maiden trip in the newly-launched crimson canoe. Teetering
precariously, he stepped into the bobbing bow. Before he could clutch
the piles of the dock to hold the craft steady, the _Sachem_ sheered off
and, overburdened by the standing figure at one end, began rocking
dangerously from side to side. Dirk swayed, trying to keep his balance
as a wave slapped the dancing vessel.

“Sit down!” shouted Nig Jackson. “Look out, she’ll turn over!”

Dirk, alarmed, dropped the paddles overside and grabbed at the gunwale
to keep himself from following them into the shallow waters of the
beach. In sudden panic, he scrambled to a seat; but it was too late. The
_Sachem_ heeled over across the wind; a sheet of water slid easily over
the low side, slapped the light canoe to leeward, and dipped it once
more below the surface. Water filled half the interior, sloshing about
and rocking so that still more water was taken over the gunwale. Dirk
gripped the seat desperately, trying to right the canoe; but his efforts
were now of no avail.

Slowly, steadily, the _Sachem_ sank to rest on the pebbled shallows
beneath the surface of the lake, and Dirk Van Horn, with a comic look of
amazement on his face, found himself sitting waist-deep in the water
with his lovely possession beneath him, out of sight.



                               CHAPTER VI
                             FIGHT! FIGHT!


Brick burst out in a cry of derision.

“Sunk!” he roared. “You sure scuttled yourself, all right! You don’t
know any more about canoes than a baby! The Prince of Whales, that’s
what you look like!” The other boys joined in laughing at the joke.

Dirk still sat helplessly in the sunken canoe, his mouth half open. He
didn’t know a boat could act like that. His clothes were drenched. He
had thought he was making a brave show, pushing out boldly in his fine
canoe, and now they were all laughing at him for a lubber.

He scrambled out somehow, and splashed about in the shallow water,
dragging the water-filled craft to the land beside the rock. A shout was
heard, and a man came galloping down through the trees. It was Wally
Rawn, who had witnessed the performance from the hillside, but who had
arrived too late to stop it.

“You there, with the canoe!” he hailed. “What’s your name?”

“He’s Van Horn, the Prince of Whales!” put in Brick. “Old Sink-Easy, the
boy sailor—that’s him!”

“Well, Van Horn,” said Wally, looking down at the sodden, crestfallen
figure, “stop trying to pull off that canoe’s bottom by dragging it on
those rocks, and listen to me. I could see in a minute that you don’t
know the first thing about a canoe. Where did it come from, anyway?”

“It’s mine,” stammered Dirk. “My father gave it to me.”

“H’mm. Well, before you can go out paddling in it, you’ll have to learn
how to treat it. And you’ll have to learn how to step into it without
sinking the poor thing. In the first place, you ought to know that this
is no time for campers to go boating—when squad-duty period is over, and
you have reported to whoever is in charge here at the dock, you might be
given permission to go out. In the second place, no boy is allowed to
take out a canoe unless he has passed his swimming and boat tests. You
haven’t done that, I know.”

“Well, you see, sir, I just wanted to try the canoe and see how it
looked in the water——”

Wally shook his head impatiently. “Look here, Van Horn—can you swim?”

“Why, no, sir. That is, only a little——”

“Whew! This beats me!” The councilor scratched his head, and turned to
the other boys. “Isn’t there anybody here who has any sense? Here a new
boy comes down without a leader, and without knowing how to swim, puts a
canoe in the water and sinks it under him! Suppose you had launched it
from the end of the dock, Van Horn, where the deep water is—what would
you have done if you had gone over then? That’s the reason we have canoe
tests—so a boy won’t go out unless he can take care of himself in the
water, no matter what happens. Now, lift that canoe on the dock, drain
the water out, and leave it to dry. Then get back to your work. When we
have swimming instruction tomorrow morning, come down and I’ll try to
show you how to swim. It will be several days before you know enough
even to take out a rowboat; but if you work hard, maybe I can teach you
how to take care of yourself and your canoe. That’s all.” He turned on
his heel and went back to his work.

Sheepishly, Dirk obeyed, and with the help of his grinning comrades,
drew the canoe on the dock and tilted it so that it would drain. Then
Dirk once more waded about, rescuing the drifting paddles he had lost.
At last, dripping and downcast, he joined the others. Brick looked at
him with a wry grin.

“Well, if you’re not a sweet sight! It’ll be a long while before your
old canoe gets another bath, believe me. She’ll be laid up until you
pass your canoe tests—and you can’t even swim! The Prince of Whales!”

“Aw, let him alone, Brick,” put in Slim Yerkes. “We should get back and
help with that ice-cream.”

“You can bet you should! Sax is sure mad. Well, if the Prince is ready,
let’s go.”

The group straggled up through the trees. Dirk stalked along, saying not
a word; but Brick did not give him a chance to forget his misadventure.
Instead, he kept up a running stream of ridicule that would have
penetrated a skin much thicker than Dirk’s. Something of the bully still
remained in Brick Ryan, even though he had spent three summers at
Lenape; and now it came out in his words. Besides, he was still smarting
from the punishment he had been given for his midnight hazing escapade,
and he did not intend to let the despised tattler get off easily.

They skirted the lower corner of the baseball field, and, crossing the
wall, entered the meadow below the campus. Brick had not stopped jeering
all the while, and now his remarks were growing more and more cutting.

“Yeah, a baby, that’s all you are—a tattle-tale, canoe-sinkin’ baby. I
haven’t forgotten what happened last night, and I’ll fix you for it,
too, Baby.”

For the first time, Dirk replied to the irksome words. He stopped,
turned, and spoke with his head up.

“Ryan,” he said deliberately, “you’re a mucker.”

Brick stuck out his chin, and put his hands on his hips mockingly. “Oh,
I am, huh? Did you hear that, boys? F. X. A. Ryan is a mucker! Dear,
dear, it must be true—the Millionaire Baby says so! Well, what are you
goin’ to do about it, Baby?”

Dirk refused to lose his temper. “I shan’t listen to all your talk any
longer, that’s all. From now on, please don’t speak to me unless it’s
necessary. If we can’t be friends, we’d better keep apart.”

“Dear, dear! Now he won’t speak to me! My heart is breakin’, boys!”
Quickly Brick dropped his mocking tone, and his next words were
threatening. He scowled fiercely into the face of his enemy. “Now,
listen, you! I hate sissies, and I hate tattle-tales, and if you don’t
like the way I talk, you may wake up with a ring around your eye, and a
lily in your hand!”

Slim Yerkes tried to interpose. “Come on, Brick—don’t pick on him too
much. Let’s get back to the lodge.”

Brick wheeled on the peacemaker. “He’s lookin’ for trouble, Slim, and
he’s more than likely to get it. I’ve got half a mind to poke him one
right now for good luck.”

Dirk’s eyes flashed. “That might not be as easy as you seem to think!”

“Huh! Tough, aren’t you?” His open hand darted out swiftly, and
unexpectedly shoved Dirk off his balance. Dirk cried out, caught
himself, and his fists clenched. He was pale save for two red spots that
glowed in his cheeks.

“That’s enough, Ryan!” he said, his lip trembling. “If you really must
settle this by scuffling like a street boy, who—— I’ll fight you!”

Brick’s laugh was unpleasant to hear. “He’ll fight! Listen, sissies like
you take a chance on gettin’ murdered if they talk fight to Brick Ryan!
Why, you mama’s boy, I’ll knock you so cold you’ll think you’re at the
North Pole!”

His words were louder than he thought. From a tent a hundred yards away,
a tousled head appeared, and shouted something to those within the tent.
“Fight! Fight!” In no time at all, the two Utway twins, followed by Al
Canning, had run down from the tent and joined the little ring of boys
from Tent One.

Dirk was silently peeling off his wet gym-shirt.

“You’re really going to go against Brick Ryan?” Slim Yerkes asked in
astonishment.

“I’m not to blame,” responded Dirk shortly. “It’s his lookout.”

Brick, a grim smile on his pugnacious face, was secretly sizing up the
lad whom he had driven by taunting words to defend himself with his
fists. He was not quite so sure, now, that Dirk was the sissy he had
proclaimed him to be; those shoulders and arms looked quite husky and
muscular, now that he looked closely. Brick decided that the thing to do
was to pitch in at once and overpower his opponent from the start.

Jerry Utway was looking around the circle eagerly. The Utway brothers
were never far away when a scrap arose; it would seem that they smelled
the signs of battle from afar. “Gee, Jake!” he exclaimed, “the Van Horn
fellow is going to tackle Brick! I’m going to be his second!”

“And I’ll be Brick’s second,” responded his twin. “Come on, men, form a
ring here. Let’s have this scrap with regular rules. Al, you can be
referee. It’s a good thing no leaders are around to stop it!”

Al Canning pulled out his watch. “Are you ready?”

“Just a minute more,” answered Jake. “Come on, Brick, strip off your
shirt. Gosh, this will be a real fight—bare knuckles to the finish!”

Brick shook him aside. “Aw, I won’t need anything like that. It’ll take
me just one good smack to finish this fight. He’s a coward.” But
inwardly Brick was not so sure. Dirk Van Horn had said nothing since he
had issued his amazing challenge. He had calmly prepared for the fray,
and stood waiting quietly with no sign of fear on his set features. He
did not cower in fright, or try to bolster up his courage with a string
of biting words; and there was nothing amateurish about his pose as he
stood with his clenched fists hanging loosely at his sides.

“I am ready,” he said in answer to a question from the eager Jerry.

“Good,” said Al. “When I say ‘Time!’, you can start. All set? Time!”

At the summons, Brick Ryan plunged forward over the grassy ground, fists
doubled, head down, and struck a sweeping blow at his enemy. To his
surprise, his flailing arm landed on thin air. Dirk had side-stepped
easily, and still stood with his arms hanging loosely at his side, his
face still calm.

Brick whirled about and spat. “Come on and fight, will you? None of this
duckin’ like a snake. And you guys get back, so I can have some room.”
He plunged again at his foe, and aimed a second wide swing at Dirk’s
face.

This time Dirk did not dodge. Instead, he parried with the palm of his
left hand, and his right fist shot forward, taking the surprised Brick
in the side. It was a stinging blow, and Brick stepped back with a
grunt. He had not expected this. There were few boys at Lenape who would
dare to stand up against Brick Ryan even in a friendly bout with gloves;
yet here was the despised Van Horn, the pampered city boy who couldn’t
even swim, not only defending himself skillfully from the Irish lad’s
attack, but even striking back!

The blow had made Brick more wary. This time he did not leap in with his
head down—too much chance of getting caught off guard again for those
tactics! He circled cautiously, trying to find an opening where a thrust
would do most good. His anger was rising, too. The breathless watchers
looked at his face, and waited awestricken for the terrible moment when
the aroused Brick Ryan would wade in and demolish his daring opponent.

Jerry Utway, his eyes ablaze with excitement, jumped up and down, urging
his champion with delighted cries. “That’s the boy, Van Horn, old scout!
Wade in and tap him one!”

“Shut up, Jerry!” his brother Jake put in. “Let them alone, or there’ll
be two fights going on here! Whee, look at that one! Go it, Brick!”

Brick was again in the lists, this time depending upon speed and the
violent fury of his attack. It seemed to the onlookers that no one could
long withstand the force of his charge; his arms whirled and jabbed, and
his face was red with the exertion of his onslaught. Indeed, Van Horn
was quickly driven backwards, and more than once a doubled fist made its
red mark on his naked chest. But he still kept his feet, and although he
was given no chance to take the offensive, he guarded his face
skillfully. Yet slowly he gave ground; Brick had maneuvered about until
he was above where the other stood, and was driving him down the sloping
hillside.

Nig Jackson gave vent to a yell. “He’s got him now! Go it, Brick! Wow,
he’s down!”

Al Canning, in his capacity as referee, rushed forward. Dirk was
sprawled out upon the uneven ground, crouched on one side. His face was
whiter than ever.

“Slipped on some grass,” he mumbled through swollen lips. “I—I’m all
right.” Unaided, he staggered to his feet, and looked about in a dazed
way. Brick, who had stepped aside when his foe had fallen, now advanced
confidently for the final sortie.

“Finish him off, Brick!” yelled Eddie Scolter. Ryan, encouraged by the
shouts of the watchers, marched slowly and triumphantly to a stand just
beyond arm’s length of where Dirk stood, dazedly shaking the sweat from
his eyes.

“Had enough?” Brick taunted. His blows had taken effect in more than one
place on Dirk’s face and body, and one shoulder was badly scraped by his
fall. But Brick himself did not go unmarked from the fray; his cheek was
coloring where a clenched fist had got through his guard, and his right
arm was weak from panting effort.

Dirk Van Horn clenched his teeth without answering. For an instant, the
watching boys saw a stab of fury flare up in his dark eyes. He set his
feet, held his head high, and his arms swung into the guard position.

Brick advanced still one further step. “Had enough, Baby? I won’t ask
you again. If you’ll apologize, I won’t hurt you any more today——”

He was too close for his own safety. Dirk grunted as he shot his arm
forward in a telling blow straight from the shoulder. His bunched
knuckles caught the surprised Brick on the point of the jaw.

A ludicrous look of amazement came over Brick Ryan’s face. For an
instant he tottered, grinning stupidly at the staring circle of boys;
then, with a soft groan, he slid backward, his knees gave way gently,
and he slumped senseless upon the ground.



                              CHAPTER VII
                         THE RED HAND REVENGERS


“Ten!” counted Al Canning. “Van Horn wins with a sweet knockout!”

“Yay, Handsome Van, the K. O. Kid!” cried Jerry Utway, hammering his
champion upon the back. “Gee, what a beautiful swat that was!”

Brick Ryan opened his eyes. His head was still spinning from the force
of the blow that had vanquished him. As through a mist he could see the
dim faces of the boys about his prostrate form. Among them stood out the
triumphant, smiling features of Dirk Van Horn.

A hand shook his shoulder, and Jake Utway spoke in his ear. “Are you all
right now, Brick? Tough luck. He sure packs a wallop!”

Brick tried to grin, and groaned in spite of himself. His jaw still
ached mightily where his antagonist’s doubled fist had struck, and his
swollen lower lip was bleeding slightly.

“I have to hand it to him,” he mumbled, and with Jake’s help clambered
unsteadily to his feet.

“Gollies, how did he do it? It was as clean a knockout as I ever seen.”

“Well, you were asking for it,” observed Slim Yerkes.

“I guess I was.” Brick smiled ruefully. “Van Horn, I guess we’ve been
gettin’ each other wrong. There may be some things about campin’ that
you don’t know, but when it comes to scrappin’——! Say, you beat me
square, but I don’t hold any grudge. From now on, let’s forget
everything and be friends. What do you say?” He held out his hand in a
frank gesture.

Dirk looked at the outstretched hand, and his lip curled slightly.

“Ryan,” he said deliberately, “I said you were a mucker, and I still
think so. Any time you want another boxing lesson, come around.
Otherwise, kindly keep to your own affairs and leave me to mine.” He
pointedly turned his back, picked up his wet shirt, and stalked off up
the path to the lodge.

Brick bit his lip, and his hand dropped with an angry gesture to his
side; but he said nothing. Jerry Utway left the group and ran after
Dirk, catching up with him and walking at a fast pace by his side.

“Hey, Van, will you show me some time how you made that knockout? I want
to try it out on my brother next time we have a row. Gee, if anybody had
told me you could put out Brick Ryan’s lights, I wouldn’t have believed
it! Where did you learn how to fight like that?”

“My father has seen to it that I had the best boxing lessons that money
could buy.” Dirk smiled grimly. “Yesterday Ryan seemed to think that
having money wasn’t of much value; but I hope that now he has learned
that scientific self-defense is a good thing to acquire. And because my
father could pay for those boxing lessons, I don’t have to be bullied by
any street-boy that comes along.”

“It sure did make Brick sit up and take notice,” chuckled Jerry. “But
why didn’t you make up with him afterward?”

“It’s not so easy. He hazed me pretty badly last night, and I’m not done
with him yet.”

“But Brick is a pretty good fellow when you get to know him. Why don’t
you——” Jerry broke off, and cocked his ear as bugle-notes rattled down
from the porch of the lodge. “Say, we better hurry—there goes Church
Call.” He glanced with amusement at the battered features and wet,
stained garments of the boy at his side. “Gosh, you sure are a sight!
You and Brick Ryan will look like a swell pair, sitting on a bench
together at church this morning!”

Dirk was quite late for church. He went to the empty tent, washed, and
changed his wet clothing for garments more suitable for Sunday service;
and the hour of camp worship was more than half over by the time he
slipped into a log seat in the woodland chapel overlooking the lake.
Brick was down at the front with the rest of the complement of Tent One,
but did not turn his head. One or two boys near by looked at Dirk’s
marked face curiously, and Jake Utway once caught his eye, winked, and
grinned from behind a hymn-book.

During the bountiful Sunday dinner in the lodge, Dirk, sitting with his
councilor on one side of him and Nig Jackson on the other, intercepted
many inquiring glances directed from neighboring tables toward himself
and Brick Ryan. The red-headed boy, for his part, ate with his head
down, saying nothing. If Sax McNulty had heard of the fight, he gave no
sign.

When dessert was served, Sax looked whimsically at the plate of
ice-cream before him.

“Your consciences ought to hurt you slackers,” he observed. “If Lefty
hadn’t stuck to his guns, the camp would be missing their ice-cream
today, all right. I’ve never had my squad sneak out on a job before.
What do you fellows think about it?”

Dirk Van Horn felt the leader’s eyes upon him. He flushed and tried to
look unconcerned; but the ice-cream, for some reason, stuck in his
throat, and he soon pushed the plate away, to melt into a shapeless
mass.

When the time came for announcements, Dr. Cannon, who was officer of the
day, awarded the pennant for highest points in inspection to Wally
Rawn’s tent; then, with a grin, marched over to the Tent One table and,
amid the good-natured jeers of the assembled campers, presented a
different sort of emblem. It was a big tin oil-can, across which was
printed in white letters: “Booby.”

“Tent One wins the Goof Loving Cup,” the doctor announced with a
flourish, “for being lowest in honor points for today. And the first
shall be last!”

“What’s that for, Sax?” Eddie Scolter asked, pointing to the strange
object.

“It means we have to hang that up on our tent-pole in full sight, so
everybody in camp can see we’re a bunch of dubs,” explained the leader,
with a glance around the table. “And that’s just what we’ve been today.
Van Horn, you may have the privilege of carrying this little token down
to the tent.”

Dirk opened his mouth to protest, but the whistle sounded just then, and
the campers leaped to their feet and began pouring out the doors.
Picking up the loathed booby-can, Dirk started walking down toward the
tent. He had not gone far when he felt a hand on his arm, and he looked
up, frowning, to see Sax McNulty’s serious face.

“I didn’t say anything at the table just now,” began the leader, “but of
course you know you’re to blame for most of our demerits today. I’m
afraid you’re not getting off to a very good start at Lenape, Van.”

“Why blame me for everything?”

“Well, I don’t, exactly. The other fellows should have known better than
to drop their duty and help you launch your canoe this morning—but
you’ll have to admit you were the main cause of it. Then, Wally Rawn
told me about your fool stunt at the lake. Also, and moreover, when the
inspection staff came around this noon, our tent was cluttered up with
your things strewn all over the place, wet clothes dumped on the
floor—plenty demerits. You’ll have to learn not to do the first thing
that enters your head, Van Horn—you’ll have to think of the other
fellow, and consider what will be for the good of the camp and your own
gang. I haven’t mentioned anything about your fight with Ryan, but——”

“He started that!” retorted Dirk.

“I won’t interfere there,” promised McNulty gently. “Ryan is a decent
chap, and so are you; and I know that after a couple of days you will
get along together fine. Try to get his point of view. We’ve got a fine
bunch of fellows in Tent One this time, and as soon as we get to pulling
together, we’re going to show Lenape some speed! I didn’t mean to make
you listen to another sermon today,” he ended wryly, “and I don’t expect
you to learn everything about camping in a few hours. Come to me next
time you feel the urge to do something startling, and I’ll try to put
you wise first.”

Dirk smarted under the words, but held back the bitter reply that rose
to his lips. He slammed the booby-can on a nail sticking into the front
tent-pole, and retired sulkily to his untidy bunk. The other boys, with
the exception of the two who were doing the dishes, were stretched
about, taking a restful siesta after their bountiful dinner. Across from
Dirk sat Brick Ryan, busied as usual over his life-saving manual, and
apparently unaware that there was anybody named Van Horn within a
thousand miles of him. For the first time, Dirk noticed that Brick wore
a curious insignia stitched to the front of his jersey. It was outlined
in green and white, and showed a large L superimposed upon a swastika.
Dirk’s eyes passed to Lefty Reardon. Lefty also wore the green L.

Dirk decided that the camp monogram would look most attractive on one of
his sweaters. He jumped up, and hurried back to the lodge before the
small camp store closed.

On the porch of the lodge, a short string of boys stood before the
window, waiting their turn to make small purchases of candy, peanuts,
and gum. Dirk joined the end of the line. When he came abreast of the
window, he issued his demand.

“I want one of those camp letters to put on my sweater.”

Long Jim Avery, the lanky councilor charged with the duty of looking
after the camp supplies, leaned far over the counter and looked at the
boy with astonishment.

“You want what?” he asked with widening eyes.

“Oh, you know what I mean, sir—one of those green and white things with
an L on them. I want to buy one.”

The boy in back of Dirk snickered. Long Jim gulped.

“Somebody’s trying to play a joke on you, Van Horn. Why, I thought even
a new boy knew that you can’t buy an honor emblem!”

Dirk flushed. “But—some of the chaps have them. Where do you get them,
then?”

“My, my! You can’t buy one—you have to earn it, and then it’s awarded to
you at Council Ring. That’s a good one! Why, before you have the right
to wear an honor emblem, you have to pass a lot of tests—you have to
know a bunch of trees and birds and flowers and rocks and stars, and how
to swim and handle a boat, and hike and cook and build woodcraft
objects, and—oh, lots of things! Here, I’ll get you a card with all the
requirements printed on it, and when you pass a test, the leader who
passes you will put his initials down. Campers have a chance to pass the
tests all the time. If I can help you learn some of the things, come
around.”

“Never mind,” stammered Dirk miserably, backing away. “I didn’t know—— I
guess I don’t want to start in right now.”

He stumbled off down the steps. They were making fun of him again! The
boys would spread the story around—how he had tried to buy an honor
emblem at the store—and soon the whole camp would be laughing at his
latest fool stunt! No matter what he started to do at Lenape, it always
turned out to be the wrong thing! Now McNulty would have more of his
comments to make!

Dirk was feeling very sorry for himself. Tears of helpless rage welled
into his eyes, and he did not see that someone was standing in front of
him until he heard his name called in a mysterious whisper.

“Psst! Van Horn! Say, I want to see you a second!”

Dirk looked up. The speaker was a runty-looking boy with a large nose
and close-set black eyes. He took Dirk’s arm with a familiar gesture,
and patted him on the back.

“Say, I want to tell you. I heard about how you licked Red Ryan. Gee,
that was swell! I wish I’d seen you do it!”

“How did you know about it?” asked Dirk.

“Why, everybody in camp knows about it! You’re a hero, that’s what you
are! A real tough fighter, you must be! There are lots of guys in this
camp that don’t like Ryan, and are glad he got it good at last! Say, we
don’t want anybody to notice I’m talkin’ to you, see? Come on, duck in
here and I’ll tell you somethin’ real important!”

“What do you want? Why can’t you tell me here?”

“It’s too secret, see? Quick—slide in here.”

Dirk, fearing some new pitfall, followed suspiciously; but the
mysterious manner of the big-nosed little fellow impressed him in spite
of himself, and he allowed himself to be drawn under the shadow of the
overhanging porch of the lodge. Here several small rooms had been
built—a dark-room for the convenience of the camp photographers, and a
larger compartment in which were stored trunks, suitcases, old tents,
and the like. Through the door of the latter room he followed his guide,
who shut that door carefully and then sat on a pile of lumber.

“Don’t talk too loud, see?” he warned Dirk. “We don’t want nobody to
guess what we’re after.”

“Well, what are you after anyway?” Dirk asked impatiently. “Who are you,
and why are you acting so mysterious about everything?”

“My name’s Blum,” the other whispered hoarsely. “‘Dumb’ Blum, the guys
call me, but that’s only a nickname—I’m not so dumb as most people
think. Now, listen. You’ve got it in for Brick Ryan, haven’t you?”

“Well, we haven’t got along together so far. But what has that to do
with you?”

“You’ll see! And you don’t like Sax McNulty any too well, do you? He
bawled you out pretty heavy a little while ago, didn’t he?”

“How did you know?”

“I know lots of things!” the other chuckled. “Some people in this camp
are not treatin’ you right, Van! But me and some other guys can see what
a swell feller you are, and we’re ready to help you.”

“Help me to do what?”

“Revenge! That’s what! How would you like it if you could get back at
everybody that ever does anything to you around here? Brick Ryan, for
instance—if somethin’ pretty terrible happened to him, nobody would
guess who done it; but you could laugh up your sleeve all the time!”

Dirk looked puzzled. “What are you driving at?”

A malicious laugh answered him.

“I got a gang. We do pretty well what we like around this camp, and if
anybody don’t like it—even leaders, or even the Chief himself—why,
they’re good and sorry for it! We have meetings in the middle of the
night, and we sign the oath with our own blood, and swear that if
anybody hurts any one of us, why, we get revenge! We go under the secret
name of the Red Hand Revengers, and we want you to join with us, see?”



                              CHAPTER VIII
                         SHENANIGANS FOR BRICK


It didn’t seem a bad idea, the way Blum put it. The Red Hand Revengers,
with their mysterious meetings in the dead of night, their oaths of
blood brotherhood, and their secret signs and deeds of vengeance against
those who thwarted them, sounded most exciting. Even before the leader
of this mystic society had finished speaking, Dirk Van Horn had made up
his mind.

“I’ll join!” he declared. “What do I have to do?”

“Oh, you won’t need to be initiated,” Blum assured him. “We’ll have our
first meeting tonight after taps, and you can meet the rest of the guys.
We all wear masks over our faces, and have secret names. My Revenger
name is——Swear on your heart and liver you won’t tell anybody?”

“Yes, I swear.”

“Well, I’m known as the Headless Green Dragon, see? When you send me a
secret note, always draw a picture of a headless dragon, and I’ll know
it’s for me. If you want to, you can be the Silent Dagger, or anything
like that——I know! How about Iron Gauntlet, on account of the way you
knocked out Brick?”

“All right. That sounds splendid. And I’ll bring a watermelon to the
meeting tonight. My father brought it up to give to the other fellows in
the tent, but they don’t deserve it. And listen——”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll write home and have my mother send up a big box of cake and candy
and stuff, just for the Revengers!” said Dirk. “And when they let me use
my canoe, we’ll all go out in it, and——”

“No!” objected Blum. “Don’t forget we mustn’t be seen together! When I
want to get in touch with you, I’ll leave a note under your pillow. Now,
we’ll have to separate pretty quick. I’ll get you when everybody is
asleep tonight, and we’ll have our first meeting. You stay here a couple
minutes after I leave, so nobody will guess what we’re up to. And right
today, Iron Gauntlet, old revenger, we’ll start putting the Red Curse on
that varlet Brick Ryan!”

Blum, master of the sinister Red Hand, tip-toed to the door.

“So long, Headless Green Dragon!” Dirk whispered after him.

That night Brick Ryan returned from Indian Council Ring to find the
first of his troubles upon him. The campers had been summoned to their
quarters after an evening spent about the four-square fire of
friendship, and by the light of the tent lantern, the inhabitants of
Tent One were undressing for the night. Brick Ryan slipped into his
pajamas and turned down his blankets, ready to jump in. An angry cry
escaped him.

“What’s the matter, Brick?” asked Lefty Reardon sleepily.

“Somebody’s hashed my bunk, that’s what!” the Irish boy exclaimed. “Look
there, will you? The whole bed is stuck full of cockleburrs! I can’t
sleep in it!”

“Gee, that’s too bad,” said his friend sympathetically. “Here, I’ll help
you pull ’em out. Sax will be back in a few minutes—why don’t you tell
him about it? What a dirty trick to play on a fellow!”

“If I knew who did it, I sure wouldn’t have to tell a leader about it!”
said Brick through clenched teeth. He looked about in the dull light at
the faces of his mates. All of them looked innocent; Dirk Van Horn
looked suspiciously so, and there was a faint trace of a smile on his
good-looking features. Could Van Horn have——? But the heartless trick
must have been done during Council, and Dirk had been sitting in his
place every moment of the time.

“Somebody must have it in for you, Brick,” commented Lefty as the two
bent over the blankets and began pulling out the prickly burrs with
which they were covered. “Gee, this is going to be a long, slow job. Who
do you suppose hates you so much that he’d do a mean thing like this to
you?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Brick. “But I’m sure going to find out, and
when I do, you can bet he’ll get paid back for his low, sneaking work!”

Brick slept but poorly that night, for it had been impossible to remove
all the sharp, pin-like burrs with which his blankets had been coated.
He tossed and turned, and kept finding new spines that had penetrated
through the woolen mass to irritate him. Muttering to himself, he at
last drifted off to sleep. Later, he awoke for a moment, and looked
across the tent, where some unseen person was crawling back into his
bunk; but he thought nothing of it, and in the morning had forgotten all
about it.

The morning was cloudy, and a cool wind swept down from the northeast.
When Brick piled out of his uncomfortable bedclothes at Reveille, he
thrust his feet into his shoes, as usual. But the state of those shoes
was far from usual. Brick let out a yell of rage. His shoes were
brim-full of icy water, and the strings were knotted a dozen times. He
had to hurry to setting-up drill barefoot over the rough ground; and to
crown it all, his bathrobe was missing, and he shivered in the raw
breeze until he caught sight of the garment hung in a pine tree far
below the parade ground. And he found that when he went to brush his
teeth before breakfast, his tooth-paste tube had been stuffed with soap;
but he did not find out until his mouth was burning with the choking
stuff, and he was frothing and blowing sudsy bubbles, much to the
delight of two small boys who scrubbed away beside him. He washed out
his mouth, but the vile taste remained until long after the morning
meal.

Brick began to wonder if he were bewitched. What was the meaning of this
series of afflictions? He could find no trace of whoever had committed
these acts. If it was Dirk Van Horn, he covered it up pretty well.
Besides, why should Van Horn resort to such stealthy tricks, the acts of
a cowardly soul? Van Horn had fought him the day before, and won fairly;
why should he now begin a campaign of cockleburrs, watered shoes, and
soapy tooth-paste?

The bewildered Brick spoke to his friend Lefty about it when the two
were walking up from morning swim.

“And when I got back after breakfast, I found a big hoptoad in my
clothes locker,” he concluded, “and nobody was around but a little kid
from Tent Seven. Who do you suppose it can be, Lefty? How long will it
go on? I swear, I’m about ready to soak somebody in the nose if I catch
him getting into my things. Am I haunted, or what?”

“You are,” agreed Lefty promptly. “You’re haunted by some sneaking
coward who is trying to get your goat. Van Horn fought you fair
yesterday, didn’t he?” he went on in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Sure. I didn’t mind that. But the Millionaire Baby, although he has
some crazy ideas, wouldn’t stoop to those tricks, I guess.”

“If he did, he wouldn’t stand a show of getting on the baseball team,
Shawnee game or no Shawnee game,” said Lefty. “As long as I’m captain,
we’ll have only square-shooters playing for Lenape. You comin’ down for
practice this afternoon, eh?”

“You bet, if my glove hasn’t been stolen by that time. I swear, Lefty,
I’m gettin’ so I’m scared to turn around, for fear somebody will swipe
my pants when I’m not lookin’! But, say, do you think this Van Horn guy
is really baseball material?”

Lefty shrugged. “We’ll try him out. Goodness knows we can’t pass up any
promising players, when we only have today and tomorrow to get ready for
the Shawnee game. I hear Shawnee has got back Hook Bollard and Widelle
this year, and that catcher of theirs—what’s his name?—that made three
runs last time we played them. If Lenape wants to take the best end of
the score on Wednesday, we’ve got to show some steam!”

When the announcements were made at lunch, Lefty Reardon rose and read a
list of names of the campers who had been chosen to form the team that
would defend Lenape’s honor on the baseball diamond on the following
Wednesday. On that day, the whole of Lenape would trek northward to the
shores of Iron Lake for a visit to their rival, Camp Shawnee. The
crowning event of the day would be a ball game between the two camp
teams, thus renewing a yearly custom of friendly sportsmanship. Lenape
had been badly beaten the season before, and among the campers there was
much talk of the coming encounter, and predictions that this time they
would pay back the old score with a rousing victory.

Dirk Van Horn noted with disappointment that his name was not among
those called; but no sooner had Lefty seated himself than he turned to
Dirk and said: “Say, Van, I hear you’re supposed to be a fielder. If you
want to come down to the diamond with the rest of the team, we’ll try
you out and see if we can find a place for you.”

“Sure, try out!” urged Sax McNulty. “You were on your prep school team,
weren’t you, Van?”

Dirk nodded. “I’ll come down, sir.” He had spent the morning lolling in
his bunk with a book of stories, and had disregarded Wally Rawn’s offer
to teach him to swim. Neither had he made any move to join in the many
other activities of the camp routine. But baseball was different, he
felt; he knew and liked that sport best of all, and had little doubt
that with his school training, he could hold a position on a scratch
team such as he thought the Lenape squad to be.

When the bugle sounded recall, Dirk, resplendent in a brand-new baseball
suit and bearing a well-oiled glove under his arm, sauntered down to the
field and reported to Captain Reardon, who with Kipper Dabney was
warming up a few curves. Lefty slammed a sizzling drop into Gil
Shelton’s padded mitt, and turned to Dirk with a nod.

“You can get out there with the bunch and get under a few of those
fungoes that Mullins is knocking,” he directed, “and show us what you
can do. Later on, we’ll have batting practice and you’ll have a chance
to prove you can hit.”

Dirk, with a confident smile, trotted out into the tall grass behind
third base, and for half an hour, in company with Ollie Steffins,
Blackie Thorne, and a youngster named Tompkins, he fielded lofty flies
and grounders from Soapy Mullins’ resounding bat. Now and then he
glanced at the other members of the squad. The infielders were tossing
the ball back and forth with easy skill, and Brick Ryan, hovering over
first base, missed few of the shots that came near his post.

When the players were warmed up sufficiently, they lined up one after
another to face the delivery of Captain Lefty and his relief pitcher,
Dabney. At last it came Dirk’s turn. He selected a bat and approached
the plate with a cocky grin. Lefty, noting his short grip, thought to
teach this arrogant newcomer a little lesson, and slipped over a neat
inshoot that took him up short.

“Strike!” called out Lieutenant Eames, whose service on the West Point
team qualified him as volunteer umpire.

Dirk did not lengthen his grip; but when Lefty sought to repeat his
trick, he was ready for it. As the whirling ball neared the plate, Dirk
stepped back a pace and his levelled bat met the horsehide smartly. A
clean single flew through the infield well inside the lines and through
the fingers of Ken Haveland, who was covering the domain of shortstop.
The few scattered spectators set up a quick shout of approval.

When the period of practice was over, Lefty announced that there would
be a short game with a team of leaders the following afternoon; and the
players strolled in twos and threes back to their tents to prepare for
swim. Lefty, on his way to the lodge burdened with bats and other
equipment, found Brick Ryan sitting on a bench under a huge black cherry
tree at the gate.

“Why so thoughtful?” Lefty hailed him. “And by the way, where were you
for batting practice? You slipped off without telling me.”

“I had an idea,” responded his friend grimly.

“I see—and it gave you a headache.”

“No, it gave somebody else an ache, but not in the head. I put a stop to
all these shenanigans that have been raisin’ cain with my belongin’s—at
least, I put a stop to them for a while, anyway. I sneaked up on Tent
One durin’ battin’ practice. Not a soul was around, except that nasty
little Toby brat from Tent Eight. Do you know, I caught him in the very
act of dumpin’ a pail of water right on my bed!”

“No!”

“Yes. I spanked him, Lefty.”

“But what would he do that for? What’s he got against you?”

“Not a thing that I know of. It’s a mystery.”

Lefty threw back his head and laughed. “Better not let young Sherlock
Jones hear about it,” he advised. “He’ll pester around with clues until
he’s dizzy. Well, I’m glad Van Horn didn’t have anything to do with it.
He was down at the field all the while.”

“Well, he’s stretchin’ his bunk right now, readin’ bedtime stories. How
did he look in there today?”

“Not bad. He’s a better fielder than Terry Tompkins, that’s sure. And
he’s fairly brainy with a bat. Tomorrow we can see what he can do
against the councilors.”

Lefty picked up his equipment and started on. He had only gone a few
paces when Brick, who had not moved, called after him in a low voice:

“Say, my son, what do you guess is the meanin’ of R.H.R.?”

Lefty considered. “Why, it might be Red-Hot Rhubarb, or Right-Handed
Rattlesnake, or anything. Why do you ask?”

“Nothin’,” muttered Brick. “But maybe tonight I’ll find out, and if I
do, Lefty me boy, I’ll tell you all about it!”



                               CHAPTER IX
                      DIRK HEARS OF THE LONG TRAIL


Six masked figures sat with their heads together in the starlight of the
deserted Council Ring. It was late. Two hours gone, Camp Lenape had
retired to a rest welcome and well-earned. But here in this lonely spot,
their presence unknown to their fellows and councilors, the mysterious
six plotted mischief. In the shadow of the tall stone seat of the Chief,
on the north side of the ring, they crouched, listening to the graveyard
tones of their undersized leader.

“Brother Revengers, we will now have a report from the Stealthy Stabber.
He’s goin’ to tell us all about the Ryan Curse affair, see? Speak up,
Stabber!”

“He walloped me!” spoke up a shrill voice, more whimpering than
bloodthirsty, and the little fellow rubbed himself tenderly at the
painful memory.

“And served you right, too!” put in a third Revenger. “I didn’t know you
were going as far as you did. I think it was a bunch of cowardly
tricks—soaping up his tooth-paste and trying to soak his blankets with a
pail of water—and if I had known, I wouldn’t have let it happen!”

“Aw, say, Iron Gauntlet, old fellow,” whined the leader; “you ain’t
goin’ to back out like that, are you? Why, Stabber and Red Rover and the
rest of us only did all this stuff to help you out!”

“I don’t need that sort of help, thank you,” replied Iron Gauntlet,
settling back in his place. “It was mean, and from now on I want to tell
you that I——”

“What’s that?” cried a small lad to his right, starting up in his place
and listening fearfully. The leader laughed sneeringly.

“Don’t get scared, kid. Ain’t the Headless Green Dragon here to protect
you? That was only an owl hootin’. Gee, you guys are sure a bunch of
babies. A fine gang of Revengers you turned out to be!”

“But it sounded pretty terrible, Dumb,” muttered the lad, shivering. “I
don’t like it here in the woods—it’s too spooky! Suppose a bear or
something came after us!”

Dumb Blum laughed again. “No bears around here. And even if there was, I
guess they wouldn’t bother me! Now, we got to figure what to do next. If
Iron Gauntlet here thinks we ought to lay off Brick Ryan for a while,
why, there’s lot of other varlets around camp we could torture—— Ooh!
Look there!”

The bold master of the dread secret society pointed a shaking hand. His
small followers fell back, several of them squealing with terror.

Dirk Van Horn looked in the direction at which Blum was fearfully
pointing. Above the stone dais of the Chief before them rose a horrible
shapeless form, gleaming with unearthly fire. Slowly, as they watched,
rooted to the spot, the monster stirred, the folds of its skin glowing
with a pale green luminescence, and uttered at the horrified boys a
sepulchral bellow!

“It’s—it’s the Green Dragon!” babbled the Stealthy Stabber, with
chattering teeth.

Even as he spoke, the gaping mouth of the creature yawned open. A
fizzing spurt of yellow sparks darted from the cavity. With a blinding
flash, a ball of crimson fire shot out at them, throwing a bloody glow
over the scene. The horror was coming after them, belching flame and
smoke!

Another ball of fire, this time a deathlike blue in color, burst in
their midst. Without a further glance, the terrified youngsters took to
their heels and ran through the underbrush, stumbling, falling, crying
out as they fled from that ghastly spot. Far in the van was the doughty
Blum, almost out of his head with fear, racing as though that glowing
green devil was right at his heels!

Dirk Van Horn had risen to his feet, and had backed away from the
oncoming monster. He could flee no further; his legs were weak with
fright; his back was braced against the towering totem-pole of the
Lenape tribe; and his teeth were clenched to keep himself from crying
out. Straight toward him shambled the glowing shape, showering
many-colored sparks as it came!

He stared petrified. The dragon paused in the center of the ring, shot
forth a final rain of sparks, and collapsed to the ground, its
phosphorescent hide thrown back. From within its folds rose a
high-pitched, mocking laugh that was harder for Dirk to bear than the
blood-curdling groans it had formerly given forth.

That laugh! Dirk drew out his forgotten flashlight, and snapped the
button. A ray of light shot out, and revealed Brick Ryan, rolling on the
ground in a tempest of mirth, clutching in one hand a smoking thick tube
of paper. At his side lay the cast-off skin of the “dragon” that had put
to rout the brave band of Red Revengers.

Always Brick Ryan! Dirk sank limply to a seat, and put his head in his
hands. The shock had been greater than he thought.

Brick, still chuckling, rose and came toward him. “Gollies! Did you see
those bold lads run for it! They won’t stop until they’re safe in bed
with the covers pulled over their heads! And nothin’ after them but F.
X. A. Ryan wrapped up in an old piece of canvas rubbed with phosphorus!”

“But that terrible fire—those lights——” murmured Dirk. “Why—how——”

Brick burst into another peal of laughter. “Just a little old Roman
candle left over from the Fourth of July! And in case you want to know
how I found out what was up, I discovered a bit of a note under your
pillow this afternoon, tellin’ all about your fine meetin’ and how you
were goin’ to fix Ryan for keeps. But when Ryan came himself to see
these brave laddies, they scooted like the pack of rabbits they are!
Revengers! Huh! Dumb Blum and his gang of babies may be all right for
sneakin’ around and messin’ up a fellow’s things, but they sure aren’t
very happy out here in the woods at night!”

Dirk lifted his head wearily. “I wanted to speak to you about that,
Ryan. I didn’t know they were going to fill your shoes with water and
steal your things, or I wouldn’t have stood for it. Those were coward’s
tricks; and I want you to know I’m sorry.”

“Bein’ sorry won’t help you much. Maybe I believe you, and maybe I
don’t; but anyways, you were out here with that bunch, cookin’ up
trouble, and you sure looked pretty cheap. Blum was tryin’ to get you to
do his dirty work, and he’s such a coward himself he has to pull this
secret society stuff and make little kids that don’t know any better
follow him around like he was somebody, the nasty little brat. So that’s
the kind of a friend you pick, huh?”

Dirk sighed. “I said I was in the wrong, Ryan, and I apologized. I’m
sorry I got mixed up in this affair. What else can I say?”

“You’ve said enough, as far as I’m concerned. Now, unless we both get
back to Tent One pretty quick, you and I will be spendin’ tomorrow on
the wood-pile. Those scared kids have probably wakened up the whole
camp.”

Dirk nodded, rising to his feet. “But before we go, Ryan, tell me just
one thing. I—I guess I’m not the right sort of chap to get along here at
Lenape. I try to do the right thing, but I always seem to end up in
trouble. Tell me, what is the matter with me?”

Brick, taken aback at the other’s frankness, looked at the ground. “I’m
no preacher,” he mumbled slowly. “When—when I first came to Lenape, I
guess I was just as bad as you, and a lot worse. And maybe my trouble
was the same as yours. I was always thinkin’ first of Brick Ryan, and
never stoppin’ to wonder how it struck the other fellow. Then one of the
leaders got me to see that I could get most fun out of campin’ by doin’
things for Lenape instead of bein’ selfish and tryin’ to show how smart
a guy F. X. A. Ryan was. I—I guess that’s what they mean when they talk
of camp spirit,” he ended lamely; “thinkin’ about the good of the crowd
instead of just showin’ off for your own benefit. Now, let’s get along!”

“You mean—— Say!” cried Dirk with glowing eyes, “I’d like to do
something for the camp! No, I don’t mean asking my father for some money
and buying stuff for everybody to use. I mean, well—if we won that
baseball game Wednesday, I guess it would be a thing to be proud of!
Ryan, I’m going to play as I never played before—for the honor of the
camp!”

“That would be a starter,” Brick admitted. “Now, for gosh sakes, let’s
get out of here!”

The two made their way back to their bunks without mishap, and turned in
to take a much-needed sleep. However, before he shut his eyes for good,
Dirk pondered over the events of the night; and he decided that he would
not forget the advice that his red-haired tent-mate had offered him in
the Council Ring.

Next morning, as Dirk was racing down to Indian Dip in the sparkling
lake along with the rest of the newly-risen campers, he found Dumb Blum
at his side.

“Say, what happened last night, anyway?” asked the erstwhile leader of
the Revengers. “Did that thing catch you, or what? What was it, Van?” he
asked with Wide eyes.

“It was Brick Ryan,” Dirk replied; and ignoring the other’s cry of
amazement, went on: “He made me realize what a silly thing we were
doing, having a secret society and all that foolishness. Listen, Blum; I
think you’re a coward, and if I find out that you and your friends are
having any more meetings of your absurd R.H.R., I promise I’ll make you
regret it.”

He clenched his fist, and Blum, his jaw dropping, backed off hastily.

“I won’t have anything to do with it!” he promised. “Don’t hit me, Van
Horn!” He fell back, and Dirk, unmindful, trotted down to the dock,
leaving the despised Blum far in the rear.

That afternoon the promised game with the councilors kept the Lenape
team on the jump to defend their positions against prime competition.
With Lieutenant Eames on the mound for the leaders, and Chief himself,
in mask and chest-protector, behind the plate, the camper squad were
hard put to it to score. However, Soapy Mullins got home on a two-bagger
made by Lefty Reardon, and in the fifth inning, which was by agreement
the last, Blackie Thorne surprised himself as much as the others by
hitting a long fly that landed among the rocks of the stone fence, and
was not found until he had completed a tour of the bases for the second
tally. But when the leaders came up for the last time, they began a
merry procession that ended only with Swim Call, leaving the final score
5-2 in favor of the councilors.

“You had us going for a while, Captain,” the Chief called to Lefty as
the game ended. “If your team plays as well on Wednesday, Shawnee will
have to use ten men to beat you!”

“Thanks, Chief,” responded the pitcher, with a grin. “But it won’t be a
cinch by any means. They have the toughest outfit this year they’ve ever
had, and I’m sure going into the box with my pockets full of four-leaf
clovers!”

Although the game had not been a victory for the camper team, it had
ended happily for Dirk Van Horn. Inspired by his resolve of the previous
night, he had never played a better game in all his days at prep school.
He had fielded like a veteran, and once he scooped in a pop fly in such
quick time that he had slammed it down to Brick Ryan on first for a
double play against the unprepared Mr. Lane, who was caught trying to
regain first base. At the finish, when Lefty told him that his position
in left field would be confirmed for the Shawnee game, he glowed with
the most pleasant feeling he had enjoyed since he first put foot on the
Lenape campus.

He strolled back to Tent One with Lefty, chatting eagerly of their
prospects. When the pair reached the tent, they found Sax McNulty and
the rest of their comrades gathered in an excited group around Brick
Ryan, who was grinning broadly and trying modestly to conceal his pride.

“What’s up, men?” challenged Lefty. “Why all the celebration?”

“We just got the news that our gang will be represented on the Long
Trail this year!” answered the councilor. “Congrats again, Brick! He’s
going to help plant the Lenape pennant on old Mount Kinnecut. Stand up,
you red-headed riot, and bow to the ladies and gentlemen!”

Brick blushed beneath his freckles. “Aw, it’s not so much to talk
about.” He choked as his friend Lefty Reardon pounded him on the back
heartily.

“You’re wrong there, old scout!” Lefty shouted. “I went last year, and
it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Talk about fun! And
we had some exciting adventures, too. Boy, when you’re tenting by Lake
Moosehorn and catching a mess of bass for your supper, think of poor
Lefty back at Lenape, wishing he was along again this season!”

Sax McNulty stared into the distance. “I scaled Kinnecut five—no,
six—years ago, it was,” he said softly. “I’ll never have such a great
time if I live to be a hundred and fifty! Tiny Krouse, my canoe-mate,
was chased two miles by a mama-bear who thought he was trying to kidnap
her cubs! And the view from the Lookout! Why——”

“Tell us about it, Sax!” begged Nig Jackson.

Dirk, who had been looking from one to another of the eager boys, now
broke in. “Yes, but first tell me what all this is about! What is Brick
going to do, anyway? Where is the Long Trail?”

“Tell him, Lefty,” nodded McNulty.

“Well, Van, it’s this way. The Long Trail is an old Lenape custom that
was started by six fellows the first year the camp began. They went for
a sixty-mile trip from here to Mount Kinnecut, up the river by canoes
and over the ponds to Lake Moosehorn, then hiking through the big timber
and climbing the mountain. Since then, every year, six boys under a
leader make the same trip, and now there are nine Camp Lenape pennants
nailed to the tallest tree on the very top of old Kinnecut, to show that
the chosen campers can come through a long endurance test with flying
colors. It’s not an easy trail, and so only the fellows who are best
fitted for it can go. Once you’ve made the trip, you can’t go again—only
Mr. Carrigan, who is in command, has been over it before. I want to tell
you youngsters that it’s the one big thing at Lenape that you can never
forget! Brick, I say it again, you’re a lucky bum!”

Dirk was still puzzled. “How do they pick the fellows to go?”

“Well, they have to be in first-class shape all around—healthy, full of
pep and camp spirit, and they have to know their way around on the water
and in the woods,” said McNulty. “And Wise-Tongue Carrigan has made a
good choice this year, if you ask me. Besides Brick, he’s picked Steve
Link, Wild Willie Sanders, Spaghetti Megaro, Cowboy Platt, and Ugly
Brown. Ugly is younger than the rest, but he’s a fine little woodsman
and can handle a canoe like an Indian. I tell you, Van Horn, if you make
the most of your chances this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see you
leading the list of Long Trailers next season!”

Dirk stared at the friendly face of the leader, and at Brick Ryan’s
happy grin. It must be the most wonderful adventure in the world, the
Long Trail. But next season—that was a long time to wait!



                               CHAPTER X
                          OFF FOR CAMP SHAWNEE


“Come in!” called the Chief, looking up from the papers on his desk.
“Oh, hello, Dirk! Sit down and tell me what’s on your mind.”

Dirk Van Horn carefully closed the door of the little office, and faced
the genial camp director.

“If you aren’t too busy, sir, I’d like to ask you something.”

“Never too busy to talk to campers! But it’s a fact that I haven’t seen
very much of you, Dirk, since your folks brought you up here to Lenape.
Of course”—the Chief smiled slightly—“I’ve heard reports of your doings,
now and then. How do you like Lenape so far?”

The boy looked at the man ruefully. “I’m beginning to wonder,” he said,
“if you shouldn’t ask how Lenape likes me!”

“You’ve learned a lot, if you know that, Dirk.”

“I have learned a lot. I’ve only been here a few days, Chief, but even I
can see that I have been an utter chump, all along. It’s taken me a long
time to get things straight, and I’m still pretty green, I guess. But
from now on, I want to tell you I’m trying to be a real camper!”

The Chief leaned back in his chair, and rubbed his chin reflectively.
“You seem to be in the right frame of mind to do it, Dirk. We leaders
can help some, but unless a boy learns these things from other boys and
by thinking about them himself, we can’t do very much. But I know,” he
went on, “that you didn’t come here this morning just to tell me you
want to be a true Lenape camper. What’s on your mind?”

Dirk gulped. “It’s a big thing to ask,” he blurted, “and maybe I
shouldn’t say it.”

“Come, out with it!”

“Well—well—Chief, I want to go on the Long Trail!”

For some space of time after this pronouncement, the man said nothing.
Dirk, searching his chief’s face for some sign, breathed a heavy sigh of
disappointment, and rose to go.

“Sit down, Dirk! The Long Trail, eh? I suppose you know what you’re
asking?”

Dirk, with new eagerness in his eyes, sank again into his chair. “Mr.
McNulty and some of the chaps have been talking about it, and Ryan, in
our tent, is going. It must be a splendid experience, sir, and I—I——
Yes, I know I’m not much as a woodsman—why, I got lost within a little
way from the camp!—and I guess I’d be a drag on the rest of the fellows
on a long trip like that. But, oh, sir, give me a chance!”

The Chief stared through the little window over his desk, a tiny square
through which came a glimpse of the pines and the rippling waters of
Lake Lenape.

“The boys that Mr. Carrigan has chosen are all picked campers,” he said
at last. “Most of them have spent three seasons here, and in that time
have learned the many things they must know to take care of themselves
on a long trip that would test the endurance of many grown men.
Moreover, these boys realize that in order to get through and plant our
banner on Mount Kinnecut, they must work together as one, must share
alike for the good of the tribe, as the old Indians and scouts used to
do. Out of the hundred boys here each summer, only six are ever chosen
to take this trail for the honor of Lenape. Now, knowing all this, do
you still want to go?”

Dirk nodded dully. “But I’m bigger and stronger than Ugly Brown, and
he’s going! And I’d do my best to learn everything, and try to keep up
with the rest of the party——”

“Brown is one of the best young campers we have,” observed the Chief,
“even if he is small. If you knew a tenth as much as he does about the
woods and the water, you might stand a chance. Come, now, Dirk, I know
how you feel. I’ve known your dad for years, and I can guess that if you
ever wanted anything, he would get it for you. But this thing you speak
of is different. You can only get it for yourself; and the harder you
work to earn it, the more you’ll value it. Learn as much as you can this
summer, and next year, we’ll see about letting you hit the trail for
Kinnecut! How about it?”

Dirk, not trusting himself to speak, shook his head dumbly, and looked
at the floor. He might have known the Chief would say no, but—but——

The director was watching him with new interest. “Well, you are
persistent!” he exclaimed. “That might count for something in your
favor. Now, let me ask you a question. You’ve been at Lenape for four
days. What have you learned that will stand you in good stead on a stiff
hike and canoe-trip through some of the wildest country in the state?”

“Nothing, I guess,” confessed Dirk humbly. “I haven’t even learned to
swim, and even the littlest fellows make fun of me wading around in the
shallow water. But I’ll try, Chief, I will! Only let me——”

“Your canoe is still on the dock, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Mr. Rawn said he wouldn’t let me take it out until I could swim
and learn how to handle a paddle. I—I haven’t bothered to learn. I can
see I’ve wasted my time fooling around with silly things, and loafing——”

“All right. That’s enough. Dirk, you have lots of stuff in you that, if
you want it badly enough, can help you become a first-rate camper.
You’ve shown it by getting out and chasing flies on the baseball team,
and that’s a fine start. If you really believe what you’ve told me just
now, your spirit in the future will be the finest thing that could come
to you. You can see that your chances of holding your own on the Long
Trail this year are pretty slim. But, since you’re so eager, I don’t
mind telling you that there is a chance!”

Dirk’s eyes widened, and he jumped up. “You mean—— What do you want me
to do, Chief?”

“I’ll make a bargain with you. Man to man. The Long Trailers will start
next Monday for the river. That gives us five days. If, during those
five days, you can pass all the requirements for the Lenape honor
emblem, I’ll ask Mr. Carrigan to take you along!”

“Do you really mean it? Why, Chief, that’s a wonderful offer! And I’ll
do it—I know I will!” Dirk cried.

The director was amused. “Don’t be too sure, Dirk. You don’t know what
you are up against.” He opened the drawer of his desk and drew out a
printed card. “Here is a list of the things you will have to do. It’s a
long list, and four days is a short time. Remember, too, that you must
not neglect your regular camp duties to work on any of the tests. One of
the requirements, and the biggest, is that you must show a fine,
all-around camp spirit; and that means you will have to think of the
honor of your tent and the welfare of everybody and everything in camp.
But if you do a good job out there in left field tomorrow at Shawnee,
I’ll sign this card in this space calling for participation in an
inter-camp athletic contest, and that will be one less test for you to
do before Sunday night.”

Dirk took the card, and glanced at the rows of print upon it. “It’s a
bargain!” he cried. “And I’ll start working on the tests this very
minute!”

“Hold on! There’s one thing more I want to say before you rush out and
start your job. Remember what I’ve told you—your chance of fitting
yourself for the Long Trail is a very slim one indeed. Promise me that,
in the event you don’t come through with your part of our bargain, you
will take it like a sportsman, and even though you miss out this season,
you will continue in the same spirit that you are starting now. It may
be bitter medicine to take, but take it like a man!”

“I—I promise, Chief.”

Dirk fumbled for the doorknob, his heart full of gratitude and a
determination that was new to him. He found himself outside the office,
standing on the porch with a cool wind about his hot forehead. Through
blurred eyes he scanned the printed card in his hand, reading the list
of things that he must do within the coming days, if he was to join
Brick Ryan and the rest on the Long Trail:

                  REQUIREMENTS FOR LENAPE HONOR EMBLEM

  1. Know the North Star and five constellations.
  2. Collect fifteen wild flowers.
  3. Identify fifteen trees.
  4. Collect and identify five kinds of rocks.
  5. Know ten birds.
  6. Handle a rowboat and name ten parts of a boat.
  7. Swim 100 yards.
  8. Make a permanent woodcraft exhibit, or build some camp improvement.
  9. Build a good cooking fire and cook potatoes, rice pudding, twist
          biscuit, and broiled meat.
  10. Play on an athletic team in an inter-camp contest.
  11. Take a part in a camp show.
  12. Act as a tent aide for one day.
  13. Show at all times the finest spirit as an all-round Lenape camper.

Dirk whistled as his eye ran down the list. No wonder Brick and Lefty
and the others wore their green L badges with pride! And now, in the few
days remaining before the canoes cut the water on the first leg of the
journey to Kinnecut, he must do all these things, or stay behind. But,
although he had never in all his life faced such a task as this, he did
not admit even to himself that he might fail.

He buttoned the card carefully in his breast pocket. Then, with a new
light in his eyes, he ran down the steep path toward the lake shore. Mr.
Wally Rawn, on duty at the dock before morning swim period, was startled
by the tall figure of a boy who clutched his arm, and gasped
breathlessly: “Wally, sir! Do you think you could teach me to swim a
hundred yards today? I want to learn to swim, and I want to learn now!”

By nightfall, Dirk had not learned all that there is to know about
swimming, but Wally’s first lesson had given some confidence in handling
himself in the water, as well as a hope that diligent practice should
enable him to swim the required number of yards at no distant date.
Moreover, the boy’s lips tilted in a satisfied smile as he glanced at
the spaces on the requirement card in his hand. Three items were already
initialed. Wally Rawn had found time to teach him the rudiments of
managing a rowboat. Lefty Reardon, a bit doubtful of this sudden
interest in campcraft by the new boy but unaware of its cause, had been
persuaded to coach him upon trees and rocks, and Van Horn’s collection
and identification were vouched for by the initials of Mr. Jim Avery.

“Only ten more to go!” Dirk breathed to himself. “I’ll get somebody to
show me the stars tonight, and in the morning——” He caught his breath.
“Why, how could I forget? Tomorrow is the day of the big game with
Shawnee!”

In the morning Sax McNulty looked over at him curiously.

“What’s come over you, young lad?” the leader asked. “I didn’t know you
loved to chase flies so much that you’re bubbling with boyish glee.”

“I love to chase flies, Sax.”

“But not that much. There’s something else. I never saw anybody in such
a burning hurry to have an honor emblem pinned on his shirt. I’m
suspicious.”

“I can’t tell you now, Sax. But will you help me?”

McNulty snorted. “Do you have to ask? Now, hop into your bathrobes, you
birds—What will become of Camp Shawnee if you sleep all day?”

“Shawnee” was the word that rose oftenest in the babel at the breakfast
table. All the boys were in hiking clothes, ready for the ten-mile trail
that fringed the mountains running north. Within a few minutes after the
meal was over, Dirk had seen disappear into the woods all his tent-mates
with the exception of Lefty and Brick, who, with the rest of the Lenape
nine, were to ride to Shawnee and thus keep fresh for the big contest of
the afternoon.

Dirk fingered his glove nervously, and wondered what sort of ball field
the Shawnee campus would provide. Somebody slapped him on the back. It
was Spaghetti Megaro, second baseman, and a gay light shone in the
Italian boy’s eyes.

“You’re worried, huh? Well, forget it! If we don’t win, we lose. But I
think we win! Come, the truck is loaded—pile on and hang tight. If you
can ride this flivver, the bucking broncho is nothing!”

“Sure, Spaghett.” Dirk joined the crowding band that jostled each other
laughingly as they sought places in the body of the camp truck. Stirring
up a cyclone of dust, the car left Lenape deserted, and rattled off up
the rutted lane. Dirk Van Horn, clinging to the dashboard with both
hands, stared into the distance.

“I think we win!” he repeated softly. “And I—I must do a good job, the
Chief said. Well, in just a few hours I’ll have my chance!”



                               CHAPTER XI
                              THE CAPTAIN


It was the end of the fourth inning, and Camp Shawnee had players on
second and third with two out. The eager boys were on their toes, taking
long leads and praying that Widelle, at bat, would bring them in with
one of his famous sky-high clouts.

Lefty wound up and delivered a whistling curve that landed in Gil
Shelton’s mitt with a satisfying smack.

“Strike two!” called Judge Kinney of Elmville, umpire for the day. The
boys of Camp Lenape, grouped along the sidelines of the Shawnee diamond,
raised a cheer of praise for their pitcher’s prowess.

Widelle, who wore on his jersey the red arrow-head insignia of Lenape’s
rival camp, shifted his bat slightly and set himself, ready for what
might prove the final toss of the inning.

“You got him measured for a homer!” Captain Hook Bollard was encouraging
his team-mate with loud yells. “Take it on the nose!” He, as well as the
two hundred other spectators, invader and defender alike, held his
breath as Lefty uncorked a fast one. More than one person in the stands
didn’t see that ball coming. But Widelle saw it; moreover, he connected.

“Zowie!” shrieked Bollard. “Go it, Widdy! A love-ly skyscraper!”

It was a perfect hit; a bit too lofty for security, but nevertheless
pretty. Two hundred pairs of eyes watched the horsehide sphere climb
over left field, then drop with increasing speed toward the earth.
Widelle was nearing first, and already had his eye on second. The man on
third was trotting confidently toward the home plate. But no one saw
them. Lenape and Shawnee eyes were fastened on that descending ball; and
now they were aware of a lithe figure in a tailored baseball suit,
streaking backwards with head tilted to avoid the afternoon sun. Back,
back the figure raced; a sudden daring leap, a slap as leather hit
leather.

“He dropped it!” howled Bollard. The Lenape ranks groaned as the fielder
fell sprawling; but the groan changed to unbelieving cries as they saw
that one arm was still raised aloft, and a hand still clutched the fatal
sphere! The fielder was on his feet again, slamming a long, easy toss to
Brick Ryan at first. Brick touched the bag, and the Lenape team trooped
in to take their turn at bat.

“That was Van Horn! Boy, what a catch!”

“Yay, Van! Pretty stuff, old kid!”

Dirk trotted toward the bench, and the cheers of his fellow campers
grew. He tried to put on a modest, matter-of-fact look, but he could not
hold back a confident grin. The Chief was there; he must have seen that
catch, and the least he could do would be to sign his card for
inter-camp athletics. Now, he would come to bat this inning, and then
he’d show these kids some real prep-school league hitting——

He felt his arm seized roughly, and a voice, low yet angry, rasped in
his ear.

“Say, Van Horn, there’s eight other guys on this team!”

Dirk wheeled. It was Lefty Reardon who spoke, and his face was ominous.

“Why, what do you mean by that?” Dirk asked.

“You know what I mean! With the score three to one against us, why do
you have to go playing tiddley-winks to the grandstand? Another pass
like that, and you’ll be holding down the job of water-boy for this
team!”

“What was the matter with that play?” grumbled Van Horn sulkily. “They
went out, didn’t they?”

“What was the matter? Everything! These kids here in the cheering
section thought you were a regular daredevil, but I know better! Try
that stunt again and you’ll get a rain-check instead of a bouquet. Talk
about playing to the gallery! That was an easy catch—but you had to make
it look like hero stuff. And taking all those chances, falling down and
so on, just to look like the bozo that saved the day! Well, Terry
Tompkins ain’t got a swelled head, and if you don’t button up quick,
you’ll be benching for the rest of the season. And I’m saying it!”

He turned away, leaving Dirk with a flaming face. Suppose he had made
that catch seem a bit harder—what was the harm? He really had stumbled,
but there had been no danger of dropping the ball. What right had
Reardon to call him a swell-head, just because——? But secretly, Dirk
knew that Lefty had spoken justly.

With burning cheeks, he watched Soapy Mullins fan out. Brick Ryan, after
tipping two fouls, was allowed to walk. Ken Haviland stalled, taking two
strikes while Brick stole second, and outguessed on a fast inshoot,
dropped his bat as the umpire called him out.

“Wake up, you fielder!” Lefty was calling. Dirk realized that he was
next.

A little chill chased itself up his spine as he grabbed his own bat and
hurried to the plate. But as he stepped up and faced Bollard’s wind-up,
all his nervousness left him. He’d show these kids—and Lefty Reardon in
particular—that he could save their old ball-game yet. He knew he was
good. He knew he was going to hit.

“Ball one!”

He hadn’t moved. Bollard was worried, and he kept a wary eye on Brick,
who was fully prepared to steal to third at an instant’s notice. The
Lenape boys set up a roar.

“He’ll walk you, Van! Let him do it!” advised Captain Reardon.

Dirk’s face did not show that he had heard. He was out after a hit. He
let the next one go by, and waited for a good one. It came.

Sock! He had placed it just right, a red-hot cannonball that went
through shortstop like a rocket. Dirk’s cleats spurned the dusty track
that led to first base.

Behind him rose the shrieks of Lenape and Shawnee. Among them he thought
he heard the voice of Lefty Reardon, but he gave it not a thought. That
swat was good for a two-bagger or nothing. He tapped first with his toe,
and streaked for second. The shouts grew louder, but there was nobody in
his path. Evidently the fielder was still tangled up in his own feet.
Maybe a three-bagger——? Dirk leaped on second base, shook the sweat out
of his eyes, and looked ahead.

There was a knot of players at third, and one of them must have the
ball. Another was on the ground—— Why, it was Brick Ryan! Dirk had
forgotten all about Brick; but there he was, with one arm stretched out,
just touching the bag. Another boy, a Shawnee baseman, was crouched at
his side, while above them stood a man who, as Dirk watched, shouted
“Safe!” It was the field umpire.

Remorse showered on Dirk like a torrent. Brick had made it, but only
because he was a top-notch player; while he, Dirk, had been to blame for
the worst fool stunt in his baseball career. He could feel Lefty
Reardon’s despairing eye on him, and could imagine what the captain was
thinking. “Grandstand stuff again!” Van Horn, thinking only of himself
and his own glory, had made a two-bagger, but had forced Ryan into a
tight fix at third; it was only a matter of an instant’s decision that
had saved the Lenape team from missing their big chance to score.

For half a minute, Dirk was rattled. The knot at third base broke up;
the boys resumed their places, and Brick, grinning, rose and dusted his
trousers while keeping an eye on Bollard, who strolled back into the
box. The Shawnee team was now on the defensive; the pitcher had two men
to watch, and Megaro was up—Megaro, the heaviest slugger on the Lenape
side.

“I won’t quit!” Dirk swore under his breath. “It was a fool trick—but
I’ve got to play it through!” He took his eyes from Reardon, at the
bench, and watched the pitcher. Bollard put across two wild throws, and
Megaro tipped a foul. Dirk took a wary lead, and Brick Ryan did the
same.

A roar from two hundred throats sounded from the watching crowd. Crack!
When the dust lifted, Megaro was safe at first; Brick Ryan was clear of
home plate and Dirk Van Horn stretched over that same plate with the
umpire’s cry in his ears: “Safe by a mile!” He had slid for the tying
run almost on Ryan’s heels.

But there was no joy for Dirk in the rousing applause of the watchers.
From the tail of his eye, he saw Lefty approaching, and knew what was
coming.

“All right, Captain,” he said humbly; “you can take me out now.”

Brick Ryan put in a word. “Let him alone, Lefty! You know those things
happen.”

“Never mind, Brick,” snapped Reardon. “It was only luck you got out of
it, and I already warned him. He’s done. Tompkins will play left field
for the rest of this game.”

“Aw, don’t you see he cleared himself? We made two runs, and that ought
to make you happier, Lefty. Gollies sakes, it’s all in a ball game——”

“Thanks, Ryan, old chap—you’re white about it, but Lefty’s right,”
admitted Dirk. “I forced you, just to show off. Maybe some day,” he
ended miserably, “I’ll learn how to play on a team.”

Many a curious glance followed him as he pushed through the admiring
bunch of Lenape boys who clustered on the sidelines; but Ollie Steffins
was at bat, and the invading campers, thirsting for more rapid-action
runs, did not notice him as he headed behind the tent-houses that ringed
the Shawnee diamond. He passed the lodge overlooking the brown waters of
Iron Lake, and started down the road by which the hikers had marched
that morning into the rival encampment. There were still two innings to
play, but Dirk Van Horn did not want to see the end of that game. Camp
Lenape was ten miles away, and he must hike. He went on his way; and as
he went, he thought....

That night there was jubilation in Camp Lenape. Hated Shawnee had been
taught a lesson on the diamond, by the slender margin of one run made in
the last inning by Blackie Thorne. There were comments at the supper
table, however, upon the sportsmanship and hospitality of the defeated
camp, who had taken their defeat in good nature, and in parting had
promised vengeance at the next inter-camp tilt. Tired hikers ate like
wolves, assuring each other between mouthfuls that it had been a swell
day.

Dishes had to be washed. At Tent One table, Lefty and Eddie Scolter were
due for this detail. The latter, however, could hardly keep his eyes
open—the long hike, the swim in Iron Lake, and the excitements of the
day’s visit at Shawnee had been almost too much for the small lad. He
nodded gratefully when Dirk Van Horn offered to take his place. Sax
McNulty raised his eyebrows at this generosity, but made no remark.

Lefty busied himself with a broom and piled the dishes while Dirk mixed
up suds in the pan. It was Lefty who spoke first.

“I got a bit heated up this afternoon,” he confessed casually. “Hope you
didn’t take me too seriously, Van. Sometimes, when a guy is captain of a
team, he has to say things and do things he doesn’t like.”

Dirk nodded.

“I’m sorry if you’re sore about it,” the aide went on. “Brick Ryan was
taking your part, on the way home, and darned if he didn’t convince me
that I was wrong in bawling you out the way I did.”

“I am sore,” admitted Dirk; “but at myself, not at you. You were quite
right to kick me out. It’s—it’s not easy to say it, but I’m pretty much
of a swell-head any way you put it. Will you do me a favor, Reardon?”

“Sure.”

“Well, next time you see me getting ready to do any more stunts like
that, will you oblige me by a swift kick in the seat of my pants?”

Lefty laughed. “I will! Now, I want to ask you something. You want to go
on the Long Trail, don’t you?”

The blond boy stared and almost dropped a dish on the floor. “How did
you know?”

“Oh, I can see! But the Long Trail is a pretty stiff proposition. What
makes you think you can tackle it?”

“It’s just a crazy hope. But the Chief said there was a slim chance, and
I want to go more than I ever wanted to do anything.”

“You’re right—it’s worth working for, I’ll say! So now you’ve given up
bunk-stretching and are going full speed ahead on your emblem and
winning ball-games and thinking of the other fellow first—— Well, I’m
here to say I’ll help you all I can, and any other older camper will do
the same! Now, what things do you still have to do to get your emblem?”



                              CHAPTER XII
                         THE MYSTERIOUS WATCHER


Dirk pushed back his unruly hair, pulled a sheet of paper from the
roller of his portable typewriter, and read what he had just written.

                                                 “Camp Lenape, Thursday.

  “Dear Dad:

  “I am writing this to you especially because I want to thank you for
  sending me up here to Camp Lenape. I must admit that at first I didn’t
  seem to get over so well with the fellows, but that was all my own
  fault, and now that everything is going fine, I can see why you wanted
  me to spend my summer with such a swell bunch of campers and leaders.
  My, the Chief must have been a great man to be friends with when you
  were in college together! He has certainly been nice to me.

  “It would take a whole book to tell you all the things that have
  happened to me since you and Mama left. We played baseball with a camp
  named Shawnee, and beat them. I was fielding for a while, but got
  kicked out of the game in the middle because of a fool stunt, so I
  didn’t help the team any. You met the captain—Lefty Reardon, a
  splendid pitcher that I wish we had on our prep-school squad. He’s
  just one of the chaps in my tent—all of them are awfully lively and
  full of fun. I had a fight with a kid named Brick Ryan, but now we’re
  good friends. He’s a red-headed kid in our tent. Mr. McNulty, our
  leader, looks gloomy all the time but that is just his way, and the
  things he says would make you die laughing. He plays the sax, so they
  all call him Sax. He’s our councilor.

  “I’ll bet you would be surprised if you knew all the things I learned
  about stars and flowers and boats and things. One of the kids tried to
  fool me and say that one tree was a castor oil tree that the castor
  oil came from, but I guess I’m not so green as to believe that,
  though. I’m learning to swim some, and Brick Ryan is showing me about
  diving into the water head first. He’s got what they call a Lenape
  honor emblem, which you can get for your jersey if you know a lot of
  camp things.

  “We have to work hard here to keep the tent clean and get merit points
  to win a pennant every day to show which is the best tent. The first
  day I didn’t clean up enough and we got the ‘booby can’ that we had to
  hang up with ‘booby’ written on it. Each of us has to be waiter and
  wash dishes, but that’s fun too, like seeing if you can get ‘seconds’
  on meat and potatoes when you’re the waiter. Tell Mama not to bother
  sending up all that candy and cake and stuff I asked for, because
  Wally Rawn, the swimming coach, says it’s bad to eat a lot of junk
  between meals all the time. I have to be in training now, because I
  want to learn to swim good.

  “Now for the big news. The Chief told me that if I got my honor emblem
  all done and know everything by Sunday night, he will ask Mr. Carrigan
  to take me on the Long Trail. The Long Trail is a swell trip up the
  river and a hike through the woods and up a mountain, and I want to go
  if I can, so if the Chief will let me, say you won’t mind! I guess
  it’s quite exciting, because everybody wants to go, but only six can
  go every year, and if I go that will be seven. One of the fellows that
  is going is Brick Ryan. Reardon went last year, and he says you can
  catch bass fish and you take along a flag and nail it to a tree on top
  of the mountain. ‘Sax’ went once and a bear chased his canoe-mate, but
  don’t tell Mama that part or she will worry. But Mr. Carrigan is quite
  a woodsman and knows all about nature and things, although to look at
  him you wouldn’t think so, because he looks sort of funny and has a
  big nose. He knows all about bears. I can take along the canoe you
  gave me, the _Sachem_. The other fellows are Steve Link and a fellow
  we call ‘Spaghetti’ because his name is Megaro and he’s Italian, and
  Wild Willie Sanders and Ugly Brown and a fellow named Cowboy Platt who
  comes from Arizona where the cowboys come from. Ugly Brown is smaller
  than I am, but he knows a lot about the woods. Before we go we have to
  pass a physical examination but I never felt better in my life because
  I’m in training.

  “Today I am being the tent aide. That is a rather important job, as
  you see it means you have to be a sort of assistant to the leader and
  keep all the fellows on their toes doing the right things, and yet do
  it without being bossy or mean. Lefty is the regular aide, but he let
  me do it to try for one part of my honor emblem. I still have lots of
  tests to pass for it yet. ‘Gollies,’ as my friend Brick Ryan would
  say, I sure hope that I don’t miss out and can’t finish it all by
  Sunday, for then I wouldn’t dare ask the Chief to let me go on the
  Long Trail.

  “Well, I must get busy now and do some more things, but don’t forget
  that I’m to go to Mt. Kinnecut with the long trailers, and that if the
  Chief gives his permission, you will too. You can explain things to
  Mama, but don’t mention the bears.

                           “Your affectionate son,
                                                        “Dirk van Horn.”

The writer surveyed this composition thoughtfully, scratched his ear,
and replacing the page in the machine, added a brief paragraph.

  “P.S. Tell Mama not to worry about getting my feet wet. I haven’t
  taken any of those pills for several days, but I thought it over and I
  think that anybody that feels as good as I do doesn’t need any pills.
  I’m getting nice and tan like a sailor.”

Slipping his letter into an envelope addressed to “Mr. John T. Van Horn,
President, Commerce National Bank,” Dirk stuck on a stamp and his
missive was ready for the mail. He had just stepped outside the tent
when he caught sight of Brick Ryan, lugging a sack on his shoulders and
making his way down the hillside at a fast pace.

“Hi, Brick!” Dirk hailed him. “Say, wait for a chap! Is that the
mail-bag you have?”

Brick halted and nodded. “Long Jim gave me the chance to take it down to
Heaven for him today. He’s busy at the store.”

“Well, here’s a letter I want to go in, special.” He caught up to his
red-headed tent-mate and slipped his letter into the top of the canvas
sack. Brick grunted.

“Everybody must be writing to their mamas and sweethearts today, all
right. Gollies, what a hefty load! Say, Van, do you want to go along and
help row the boat? Give you some practice.”

“Could I?” Dirk became reflective. “I’m supposed to be acting as aide
today, but maybe I can go. I sure would like to help. I tell you—you go
on down, and if I can get away, I’ll be down to the dock in a jiffy.”

They parted, and Dirk raced to the lodge, where he found his councilor
practicing with the camp orchestra in preparation for a vaudeville show
that was on the program for the following night. Securing his ready
permission to assist the mail-carrier of the day, Dirk cut through the
trees below the tents and reached the dock almost as soon as the
burdened Brick arrived.

Selecting a steel-bottomed rowboat from among those moored in the lee of
the diving tower, the two boys pushed off on the waters of Lake Lenape.
Dirk, amidships, took the unwieldy oars and with unskilled motions began
sculling in the direction of the north end of the lake, where a landing
jutted from the weedy shore, beyond which faintly showed the roof of
Heaven House, the little cottage that was used for the accommodation of
parents and guests who visited the mountain camp.

They had gone only a few hundred yards when Brick, lounging easily on
the stern-sheets with the mail sack between his knees, made an offer.

“Say, my lad, how would you like to see some baby kingfishers?”

“Fine!” answered Van Horn. “Where are they?”

“Well, cut over a few points toward the shore, and we’ll just stop in up
the creek a ways. They have their nest in a hollow stump. We’ve got
plenty of time to take a look, if we hurry.”

Dirk pulled on his oars with renewed vigor, and the boat headed toward
the reed-masked inlet of the marshy creek that cut into the camp side of
the lake. He was already getting the knack of handling the little craft
with greater ease, so that they slipped softly under an overhanging
maple branch and entered the weed-bordered reach of water without a
splash.

“That’s right!” whispered Brick. “Keep quiet, or you’ll scare ’em. Say!
Who’s that guy?” He pointed.

Dirk clumsily shipped his oars, and at the sound a man on a little
hillock above them wheeled sharply and stared, at the same time whipping
one hand behind his back. The keel of the boat grated on the shore,
barely missing a slender bamboo fishing rod that lay there neglected.

The man ran toward them.

“Sorry, sir!” cried Dirk cheerily. “We seem to have spoiled your fishing
for you.”

The stranger did not return his smile. He stared for a second, then
queerly enough, exclaimed: “Why, if it ain’t young Van Horn!”

For a space there was silence, except for the resounding thuds of axes
on wood and the far shouts of boys toward the head of the creek where,
Dirk recalled, a woodcraft squad was building a bridge of birch-trunks.
He surveyed the unknown fisherman. The man was short and slender; and
his dress was poorly adapted to the waterside, for he wore a suit of
creased and dusty serge, and thin-soled, pointed low shoes. A cloth cap
was pulled down over his pale face, almost hiding a pair of the
steeliest blue eyes Dirk had ever seen, that stared at him coldly all
the while as the man stood, hands behind back, biting his lip as if he
would have cut short his surprising cry of recognition.

Brick Ryan had all this time spoken no word. Finally Dirk broke the
uncomfortable silence.

“How did you know my name?”

The man hesitated. “Why—I guess everybody knows by sight a famous kid
like you. I thought I was right. Your old man’s the banker, ain’t he?
Say,” he went on more easily, “how would you and your smart-lookin’
partner there like to take a little joy-ride around the country with me
for half an hour or so? I got a little car over by the road, and you can
drive a ways if you want to.”

Such an offer a few days previously might well have tempted Dirk’s
adventurous instincts; but he remembered that he and Brick were charged
with a mission to perform.

“That’s nice of you, especially since we upset your fishing here,” he
returned; “but Brick and I have to take care of the mail. Besides, we
don’t leave the camp without permission.”

“Yeah, let’s beat it,” put in Brick, shoving the oars into the rowlocks.

Dirk nodded, and began backing water. The man made a quick step toward
them, and his right arm jerked impulsively; but he made no effort to
detain them. He stood gazing at them with his cold blue eyes until they
vanished again beyond the leafy screen that hid the entrance to the
creek.

Once more heading across the lake toward Heaven House, all thoughts of
kingfishers’ nests forgotten, Brick spoke reflectively.

“There’s something funny about that bird,” he began. “Ever seen him
before, Van?”

“Why, not that I remember. Funny he knew my name. I guess we spoiled his
fishing—too bad.”

Brick snorted. “Haven’t you got eyes? He’s no fisherman—not in that
outfit. His rod didn’t even have bait on the line, and besides, any sap
would know that there’s no fish in that part of the creek.”

“Well, then, what was he doing?”

“He was spyin’, that’s what!” the red-haired boy exploded. “Spyin’ on
the camp, or I’m a monkey’s uncle! I guess you didn’t notice when we
first saw him, but he was standin’ there on the hill, lookin’ through
the trees with a pair of field glasses, straight at the lodge! He’s
after no good, if you ask me!”

“Why, Brick, are you sure?”

“Sure, I’m sure! What I want to know is, what’s his game? ‘Let me take
you for a joy-ride,’ he says. Huh!” Brick spat into the rippling wake of
the boat.

Dirk pulled thoughtfully at the oars. They were now nearing the wharf
that was their goal.

“It’s puzzling, all right. But I still think you’re too suspicious,
Brick.” Nevertheless, he was not altogether sure that Ryan’s distrust
was wholly without grounds, and he could not rid himself of the feeling
that he had somewhere before seen that pale grim face and frosty eyes.

The two boys tied their craft at the end of the jutting wharf, hauled
the mail-sack ashore, and between them carried it up the path to Heaven
House. The little cottage was empty at that time, but the flower garden
in front was carefully weeded and tended. As they reached the gate, a
cloud of dust bearing up the Elmville road told them that they had
delivered their burden with little time to spare.

The rattling flivver that served the rural route drew up before them
with a screeching of brakes, and Lem Shuttle, the driver, took off his
straw hat and wiped his bald head.

“That there the camp mail, boys?” he asked. “Hot today, bean’t it? Got a
mighty heap of letters for ye to take back, and a couple parcels.”

Brick heaved the sack into the rear seat of the rattletrap car. “Say,
Lem,” he said, “we just saw a strange guy fishin’ down by the creek.
Know who he is? Wearin’ a blue suit, and doesn’t know much about how to
catch fish.”

Lem scratched one ear. “Heard tell of him as I come along. Peaked kind
of little feller, eh? Yep, he drove up to the Petties last night in a
blue sedan, and they took him in to board. Give his name as Brown or
McGillicuddy or Harkins or some such. Claimed he wanted to do a bit of
fishin’.”

“Well, he was tryin’ to catch ’em without any bait on his hook. Down by
the creek, too.”

The mail-carrier chuckled. “Don’t surprise me a mite, now! Them city
folk is all of ’em crazy as coots! Most of ’em don’t know oxen from
buttercups! Wal, got to be goin’.” He tossed out the sack of incoming
mail, released the brakes, and stepped on the gas. “Giddap, Napoleon!”

The boys watched him as he careened off down the dusty road. Brick Ryan
nodded reflectively.

“H’mm! He wants to catch some fish, so he takes along a pair of field
glasses to see ’em with! Stayin’ up at the Pettie house. Well, Van, old
oyster, I’ll bet you this won’t be the last time we see Mr. Nosey
Fisherman, or my name’s not F. X. A. Ryan!”



                              CHAPTER XIII
                              ON THE MARCH


The mysterious fisherman, none the less, was pushed out of Dirk’s mind
by the crowded hours of the camp routine. There were still half a dozen
blank spaces on the emblem card that pointed his way to the Long Trail;
and as the end of the week drew near, he was in a fever of excitement,
wondering if ever he would complete all the needful tests in time.

His day of service as aide to Tent One was finished without mishap; and
late the same afternoon he managed, after scorching a pan of rice and
burning his fingers, to produce an edible meal cooked over an open fire
built by himself. On Friday morning he rose before Reveille and in
company with Long Jim Avery and Nig Jackson penetrated silently into the
dewy woods, noting the plumage and song of many birds that Long Jim
pointed out to the interested boys. At the performance that evening of
the Lenape Vode-Villians on the improvised stage in the lodge, he won
applause with a short act entitled “A Wee Drop of Scotch.” In golf sox,
a kilt made of a plaid blanket, and a tam-o’-shanter, he sang several
songs of Scotland and cracked all the jokes he knew about the canny
race, marking his points with a crooked and knobbed cane cut from one of
Farmer Podgett’s apple trees.

One by one the blank spaces on the card were filled in by the initials
of some councilor. On Saturday afternoon Dirk, after helping Jim Avery
after lunch at the store, raced to the boat dock and took his final
swimming test, diving into the water head-first as Brick Ryan had taught
him, and rounding a life-boat stationed fifty yards out, in all handling
himself so neatly that he won a nod from Wally Rawn and a promise to be
allowed to help keep the score in the inter-tent Boat Regatta that
afternoon.

Dirk arose at dawn on Sunday morning, when around him all the camp was
asleep. He shivered as he looked into the misty drizzle that fell among
the pines; but screwing up his resolution, threw off the warm blankets
and slipped into his heavier clothing and high laced boots. His
woodcraft exhibit, a rustic birchwood bench circling the wild-cherry
tree beyond the lodge, was still uncompleted; and his skill at axmanship
was far from great. He sighed as he shouldered his hand ax and went
through the dripping woods to a grove of birches beyond the Council
Ring; but the work warmed him in short order, and he was soon whistling
as he trimmed the smooth white saplings and split them for his purpose.

It still lacked half an hour to Reveille—which always came later on
Sundays—when Dirk stepped back from his work at the base of the cherry
tree, and surveyed his progress. The little bench needed only a few more
slats in the seat to be completed and ready for the use of all campers;
the braces were as steady as Dirk could make them, each sunk some inches
into the ground and set with wedged rocks. The boy stood sucking his
thumb, which had received a blow of his ax-head instead of the nail at
which he had aimed; and thus he was unaware that the Chief had
approached in his silent fashion and was at his elbow.

The Chief’s face was as unreadable as ever as he nodded in answer to
Dirk’s “Good morning!” merely striding to the bench and testing it with
his weight. Sitting there, he gazed at the eager lad and smiled gravely.

“A good bench,” he said, and paused. Then:

“Dirk, you’ve been working mighty hard on your emblem, haven’t you?”

“I only have two more things to finish, sir.”

“H’mm. Dirk, what would you say if I told you that, even if you finished
these two things, you couldn’t go on the Long Trail this year?”

The boy’s face went white, and he gulped.

“I—I’d say you know best about that sir,” but his lip trembled with
disappointment.

The Chief, who had been watching him closely, laughed—rather cruelly, as
Dirk thought.

“Let me see your emblem card.” He took it from Dirk’s hand, and pointed
to the thirteenth item. “It says here that any boy winning the Lenape
honor emblem must show at all times the finest spirit as an all-round
camper. Well, any boy who can answer me as you have just done——Look
there!”

He pointed behind the lodge, where a large hay-wagon pulled by two
horses came into sight, sweeping toward the road leading up the
mountain. Upon it were securely lashed three canoes—and on top, gleaming
red, was the _Sachem_. The _Sachem_!

The Chief was scrawling his initials on the two empty spaces of the
card. Dirk let out a whoop like an Iroquois on the warpath.

“I’m going, Chief!” he cried. “You mean it! I’m going on the Long
Trail!”

“It looks that way. Last night I got an answer from my telegram to your
father. He’s given his permission for you to join Sagamore Carrigan’s
trailers. You still have much to learn, Dirk, but with this new spirit
of yours, I think you’ll win out!” He clasped hands with the dancing
boy.

At breakfast, Mr. Carrigan ordered that all Long Trailers report to him
immediately to have their outfits inspected, and to receive
instructions. Within fifteen minutes Dirk and Brick Ryan had carried
several armloads of belongings up to the lodge porch and stacked them
alongside of the kits of their five comrades who had been chosen to bear
the Lenape flag. Cowboy Platt, lounging at the rail, opened his eyes
wide as he took in the heap of things that Dirk had thought necessary to
bring.

“You shore must be goin’ to take a pack-hoss along to tote all that,” he
remarked in his sleepy drawl. “Wait till old Wise-Tongue sees that pile,
pardner!”

Sure enough, when Mr. Carrigan arrived a few minutes later, his first
words were on the necessity of “travelling light.”

“We’re going Indian fashion,” he began, “and since each one of you will
have to carry all your outfit on your back, we must take only the things
that we cannot do without. Now, Dirk, suppose that when we come to the
first portage, you have to pack all those clothes and shoes and that big
flash-lantern, as well as your blankets and your end of the canoe! Let’s
see what you can do without.”

The councilor began laying aside only those belongings that would be
needed on the trip. When he had finished, Dirk found his kit reduced to
a sturdy hiking outfit of khaki shirt and breeches, puttees, and high
shoes, a change of underclothing, a warm sweater, and four pairs of
socks. In addition, he had for canoe-work a pair of shorts and light
shoepacks. Since two boys would sleep together, one large warm blanket
and rubber poncho apiece was adjudged sufficient, even though the
mountain nights would be cool.

“I’m glad to see you have a pocket compass and a good knife,” concluded
Sagamore Carrigan. “I’ll take my large woodsman’s ax, and Sanders will
take his hand ax—that should be enough for the whole party. Cowboy Platt
here has offered to do all the cooking, if we take turns at K.P. I’ve
drawn from the kitchen only the grub that we can’t get along the way,
and we’ll save it for ‘iron rations’ in the back-country. Ellick also
gave me some pots and pans, but each trailer will have to take his own
cup and plate and fork. Before we leave tomorrow, I’ll have another
inspection and try to see that we don’t forget anything we need. Have
your blanket-rolls ready immediately after breakfast. Any questions
about outfits?”

Spaghetti Megaro and young Brown had need of the councilor’s advice
about selecting certain of their garments. After he had given it, he
unrolled a large map and tacked it to the pine shingles of the lodge
wall, where all could see.

“I want you trailers to get every line of this map into your minds,” he
urged. “Learn it so you could draw it blindfolded. It will be riding in
my pocket for the whole trip, and whenever any of you has a minute to
spare, study it. You can see that I’ve lined in the Long Trail in red
ink.”

Dirk breathed faster as his eyes followed Sagamore Wise-Tongue’s
pointing finger.

“Here’s Lenape, and way off here in the corner is old Mount Kinnecut,
where nine green-and-white pennants are flying. That’s where we’ve got
to go, and we’ll make it in three days, if all goes well. The first
day’s run—tomorrow—will be an easy stage, just to get in trim and harden
up. And see that your feet are in good shape, for that’s what you’ll
have to travel on most of the way. We’ll stop at Pot-Hole Glen at noon,
and make the river before dark. The canoes left on a wagon this morning,
and we’ll find them at Skinner’s Ferry when we get there. Now, I’ll
leave this map posted here for the rest of the day, so that you can get
its details clear in mind before we leave. Anything else?”

“Yes, I got one!” put in Ugly Brown. “Who’s going to carry the flag?”

Sagamore Wise-Tongue smiled, and drew from his blouse a triangular bit
of green bunting on which was stitched a large L in white. “The trailer
who carries this,” he said, “will have to be watchful and cunning, for
he will bear with him the honor of all of us, and the honor of Lenape.
I’ll leave it to you to choose which trailer it shall be.”

Before anyone else could speak, Dirk cried out: “Brick Ryan! He’s the
best of us! Let it be Brick, sir!”

“Sure,” agreed Megaro, “I bet you my life Brick is the one. I vote for
him too.”

The others added their votes with shouts of approval; even Ugly Brown,
who secretly had hoped to be the standard-bearer, swallowed his
disappointment, and taking the banner, presented it to Ryan, whose face
grew almost as red as his flaming hair.

“I’ll take it,” he muttered with some feeling; then, looking the leader
straight in the eye, added: “You can bet nobody is goin’ to get this
away from me, Wise-Tongue. It’s not goin’ to leave me until we nail it
to the flagpole on the big mountain over beyond!”

With a cheer, the little council of war broke up. Brick stowed the
pennant inside his shirt.

“Thanks, kid,” he mumbled. “That was swell of you to say that about me.”

“I meant it, Brick! Say, will you show me how to make a blanket-roll?”

The day passed swiftly for Dirk, eager as he was for the morning that
would mark the beginning of the Long Trail hike. He was kept busy
getting his outfit into shape and seeing that everything was in order;
but he found time now and again to study the map posted on the wall. The
names on it gave him a thrill that he could not have explained—Flint
Island, Lake Moosehorn, the Chain of Ponds, even the few scattered towns
that lay among the folds of the hills that skirted Mount Kinnecut. He
was a Long Trailer now!

When dusk fell, and the whippoorwills could be heard trilling in the
thickets, the Lenape tribe draped their blankets about them and trooped
to council. There was no happier or prouder member of that tribe than
Dirk Van Horn when, at the time for awards and coups, he rose and was
given his honor emblem before the throne of the Chief. It seemed
impossible that little more than a week had passed since he had first
landed on the Lenape campus. So many wonderful things had happened that
he felt a different person from the—as he thought, looking
back—pitifully ignorant tenderfoot who had tried to buy Brick Ryan’s
friendship with an expensive gift. He had that friendship now, but he
had won it as a man should.

He drifted off to sleep clutching his new honor, and when he awoke at
dawn, rose and sewed it carefully on the front of the sweater that he
would wear on the trail. Brick Ryan was astir too, dressing in his worn
hiking clothes and rolling his blankets into a neat pack to be strapped
over his shoulders. He winked over at Dirk and whispered: “The pennant
is still safe, by gollies! I pinned it to my pajama shirt with a big
blanket-pin!”

The eight trailers were off up the mountainside before nine o’clock,
after a brief but thorough inspection by their leader. They travelled in
close marching order, for as Sagamore Wise-Tongue explained, they were
like a war-party and must not lose their strength through straggling or
getting out of touch with each other. It might be necessary, when they
were in wilder country, to put out scouts, but since the road to Indian
Glen was well known to them, they would take it in regular stages.

Although Dirk’s unaccustomed blanket-roll was heavy and grew heavier as
the morning wore on, his heart was light. He joined in the songs of the
gay trailers as they threaded their way through the trees on the slope
above camp, pausing as they reached the road at Fiddler’s Elbow and
taking a last glance at the placid waters of the lake and the white
tents they were leaving behind. Dirk laughed aloud as he thought of all
the adventures he would have before he again caught sight of Camp
Lenape. But had he guessed that his life would be more than once in wild
danger on the path that lay before him, he might well have shivered
instead.

Up and down, over one ridge after another of the Lenape range, the boys
took their way, resting now and then for a few moments in the shade
beside some bubbling mountain spring. Mr. Carrigan, in the lead, bearing
a first-aid kit and many other necessities in the knapsack over which
his blankets were strapped, strode along silently, ever on the alert for
some wilderness creature that he might point out to his eager followers.
Once he pointed out the marks of a fox, and several times their progress
stirred up a covey of stupid, drumming partridge. And in one breathless
instant, before they came to the end of the forest, he paused and
pointed through the trees. Dirk caught a glimpse of a swift-moving
dun-colored animal that with a flick of its stubby tail was off in long
easy leaps to the shelter of the far thickets—a young deer, the first he
had ever seen in its native haunts.

He marched beside Brick and Ugly Brown, the young, snub-nosed lad whose
blunt, sun-burnt face was somewhat likable in its very ugliness. He
remembered that these two, with Kipper Dabney, had hazed him one
moonlight night—long ago, it seemed—but he made no mention to them of
that night when he had leaped, blindfolded, over Indian Cliff.

“What’s this Glen like that we’re heading for, Ugly?” Dirk asked.

“Ain’t you ever been there? Say, it’s a swell place. We hike over here
lots of times. Whillikers, I’m ready for a swim there right now, even if
the water feels as if it had just melted from snow. It’s called Pot-Hole
Glen because down below, the water has run across the rocks so fast that
there are a bunch of deep, smooth holes worn down by pebbles whirlin’
around—right through solid rock. It used to be an old Indian camping
place, I’ve heard. We’ll be there soon, right after we cut across the
fields over yonder.”

At that moment Mr. Carrigan turned off the dusty road and cut through a
meadow where a herd of white-faced cows grazed. Dirk climbed the rail
fence slowly, for he was hot and more than a little tired by the march;
but he joined in the whoops of his companions as they raced the short
distance that separated them from the goal of their noonday pause and
the swim that was to come. And thus Dirk Van Horn came to Pot-Hole Glen,
which he was never in his life to remember without a chill of horror
creeping up his spine—the horror of strangling death.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                           THE WATCHER AGAIN


The little plateau above the Glen was a pleasant place enough—a smooth,
shadowy stretch of greensward marked here and there with the remains of
more than one Lenape campfire. Here the trailers paused only long enough
to cast off their blanket-packs, and then raced in a body for the steep,
twining path leading down the wall carved out in past ages by the
running stream at its foot.

“Now for a swim!” was the cry as, helter-skelter, the boys scrambled
down the path that zigzagged through the underbrush.

Dirk paused at the bottom of the cleft, and falling slightly behind the
others, searched for the pot-holes that Ugly Brown had described. There
they were—smooth shafts of varying widths, sunken into the rocky floor
over which the stream trickled softly. Taking a stick, Dirk probed one
of them, and found at the bottom a few water-worn stones whose action
had drilled, in the course of many decades, a deep hole in solid
granite.

“The biggest hole of all is under the falls,” Brick Ryan shouted from
below him. “Come on, my son—all the other guys are gettin’ wet already!”

He disappeared from sight at a turn in the path leading down-stream,
from whence Dirk could hear the boisterous shouts of his comrades rising
above the splashing roar of falling water. None the less, he did not
hasten, for the wonders of the Glen were too many to be hastily passed
over.

He walked slowly, gazing at the many-colored flowers and unknown trees
that arched the stream. Several hundred yards down, the path wound about
a steep drop over which the water boiled and bubbled—a miniature
Niagara. From his place, Dirk could look directly down into a seething
basin hollowed in the rock. Below this fell away the bed of the stream
in an incline of sheeted, mossy shale, upon which sprawled the naked
forms of the trailers. Wild Willie Sanders, with ear-splitting yells,
was coasting down the slide head first, and landed in the broad pool
below like a noisy otter.

Spray from the falls sprinkled Dirk’s face, and he hurried to strip off
his dusty garments and join in the fun. As he took his place on the
slide, the rills of water from the side of the falls were so icy that he
cried out.

“Brr-r-r! Boy, talk about cold!”

“Get warmed up swimming down here in the pool,” advised Sagamore
Carrigan, who was floating about in the crystal water beneath the slide.
“Then you won’t feel it!”

Dirk watched Spaghetti Megaro, who was plunging a long pole into the
great pot-hole directly underneath the falls. The pole sank out of
sight, and shortly after shot into the air, to be caught by the Italian
lad.

“That’s plenty deep, you bet!” grinned Megaro. “They call this one the
Devil’s Cauldron. Some shower-bath if you get in this tub! Once when I
was here, Wally Rawn got in and tried to dive down to bottom—but he
didn’t find no bottom, not at all. He got out plenty quick.”

Dirk hastily removed himself from the brink of the treacherous-looking
hole, and joined the divers who plunged into the pebble-bottomed pool
below. The swim period was short, not only because the hikers were
hungry, but because the water was so chill that too long exposure might
be dangerous to health. After a brisk rub-down the trailers, glowing
with vim, donned their cast-off clothes and started for the plateau
above, where Cowboy Platt was already building a small cooking-fire for
the noonday meal.

Lingering behind alone, Dirk dressed slowly, pausing now and then to
watch the flight of a bird, or to mark some strange formation of rock
along the walls of the Glen. At last he picked up his dripping towel and
started up the path to rejoin his friends.

When he came once more to the bend directly above the falls, he paused
for a last look at the impressive sight. As he stared down at the racing
waters, a clump of star-shaped flowers on a tough-leafed bush caught his
eye. He had never seen such strange bright blossoms before, but Sagamore
Carrigan could tell him all about them. It struck him that it would be a
good thing to get some and take them with him to the others.

Spreading his feet firmly on the slippery path, he reached down to
snatch the plant from its perch in a crevice in the rocky cliff. It was
too far. He knelt, and dropping one leg over to balance himself, made a
second attempt. Still the nodding flowers were a tantalizingly few
inches from the tips of his fingers. Tossing his head with annoyance, he
made a swift swoop. As his hand touched the fringe of the bush, he felt
the earth beneath his weight stir and slip.

In sudden terror, he dropped the fragment of the bush and dug in the
toes of his heavy shoes, painfully trying to scramble back to safety. He
grunted with the effort; but inch by inch the treacherous loose dirt
gave way. A fearful glance over his shoulder, and he shut his eyes,
dizzied by the hissing rush of the leaping rapids beneath his kicking
legs. A rattle of stones; and then, with a despairing shriek, he plunged
backward into the foaming falls!

The breath was knocked from his chest as he struck the seething surface
of the giant pot-hole—the Devil’s Cauldron! Down, down he sank, freezing
water filling his nose and open mouth and shutting off all chance of
summoning help. The sunshine was far above him, seen dimly through a
glassy green froth, and the roar of the rattling falls was drumming in
his ears.

Desperately he kicked his leaden feet and fought his way upward, the
blood hammering in his veins. One outstretched arm caught at the
slippery edge of the hole and clung fiercely.

Upon his unsheltered head, battering drops fell like hailstones.

He had barely time to suck in a mouthful of air when the force of the
spinning current tore his handhold loose, and again he dropped into the
Cauldron’s depths. This time he felt weaker, chilled by the glacial
stream and beaten by its pounding force. It was dark now. Dimly he
wondered if they would ever find his body in that bottomless well....

An unseen hand was gripping him by the hair, hauling him upward toward
light and life. Again the bullets of water struck his face and throat,
but strong arms were about his shoulders. His chest scraped against the
jagged margin of the pool; like a sodden bag of meal, he was pulled out
of the clutch of that grim torrent.

He gasped, spat, and rolled over on his back. Somewhere above him, a
bird was whistling. He opened one eye. Bending over him, with a serious
look on his freckled face, was Brick Ryan.

“Are you alive, my lad? Gorries, say you’re all right!”

Dirk choked, and tried to sit up, but fell back weakly.

“I—I’m safe! It was horrible, down there——”

“Now, don’t try to talk. Take it easy for a minute. There, that better?
Gee, you sure must have had a bad time of it! I was comin’ along down
the creek to see what was keepin’ you, and heard you yell.”

“I was—trying to get some of those flowers up there, and slipped.”

Above him, through his moist eyelashes, he saw the coveted blossoms
swaying slightly in the midday breeze.

“Huh! Well, that’s called rhododendron, and it’s against the law to pick
it in this state! If you’re feelin’ better, I’ll help you up to camp,
and we’ll dry out your duds.”

Fearing that delay might bring severe consequences, Dirk crawled to his
feet, and shivering in his sodden garments, allowed himself to be led
up-stream, leaning heavily upon the lad who had pulled him from that
deadly bath. At the foot of the path leading to the camping place, he
turned and faced his friend.

“Brick,” he said soberly, “you’ve saved my life. I—I can’t put it in
words, but if ever there’s anything——”

The red-haired boy grinned and patted his arm. “Forget it!” he muttered
gruffly. “You’d have done the same if it had been me.”

“But all the same——”

“Come on, old son, before you freeze to death. Climb, my lad!”

At the summit, the rest of the trailers were lying about on their packs,
and there was a brisk smell of wood-smoke and frying bacon in the air.
Mr. Carrigan leaped to his feet as he saw the two boys, and without
asking for any explanation, had Dirk’s dripping garments stripped off in
short order, and after a rough rub-down he was stowed between a pair of
warm blankets and told to rest.

Dirk had been living in the open for more than a week now, and long
before his wet clothes were dried before the fire, he felt none the
worse for the mishap that might so easily have taken his life. The
councilor brewed him a cup of warm, heartening soup that brought his
strength back quickly; and when an hour had passed he convinced the man
that he was himself again and ready to travel.

“We don’t have far to go now,” announced Sagamore Carrigan. “It’s only a
couple miles to the river and Skinner’s Ferry, where the canoes are; and
from there we can paddle to Kittahannock Lodge in no time—that’s where
we stop for the night.”

Once more the hikers put their blanket-rolls over their shoulders and
set out, following the dirt road that led westward from the Glen toward
the river. The councilor now had a hard time to keep them together, so
anxious were they to reach the ferry where the canoes waited for them;
but he held them to the same steady pace. Dirk was forced to admit to
himself that he was tired now, and he was glad when they crossed a stone
bridge over a creek and came in sight of the ferry.

An unpainted, low frame building with a roof of “shakes,” or shingles
split with an ax, lay beside a rude wharf at which was moored a
flat-bottomed scow. Such was the ancient Skinner’s Ferry that dated back
to Revolutionary days. On the wharf lay the three Lenape canoes, ready
for their voyage into the wilderness. There was now no thought of
restraining the eager lads, and Dirk, with the rest, broke into a run
that ended on the narrow wharf. An old and bent ferryman came from the
house to announce that the equipment brought from camp on the wagon
awaited them within.

Now began a busy half-hour of packing and launching the light craft. It
was settled that Dirk and Brick Ryan would handle the _Sachem_, in which
would be stowed the cooking outfit, rations, and odds and ends of camp
outfit, while the other members of the party divided into two crews of
three campers each to manage the _Red Fox_ and the _Whiffenpoof_. When
the equipment had all been stowed inside the rubber tarpaulins and
lashed firmly to the thwarts, so that it would not be wet or lost in
case of an upset, Dirk and his partner each took an end of their vessel
and dropped it overside into the sheltered water below the wharf. As
Dirk climbed into his place at the bow, he took care to make sure that
his first misadventure with his canoe at Lenape should not be repeated;
and in the wake of the other two craft, they shoved forth into the
stream, shouted a farewell to the bent ferryman, and began paddling
swiftly.

Mr. Carrigan, in the stern of the _Red Fox_, led the way, with Megaro at
the bow paddle and Ugly Brown riding amidships. At a distance of a few
lengths followed the _Whiffenpoof_, carrying Cowboy Platt, Saunders, and
Steve Link. Dirk dipped and pulled his paddle in fast time, for their
course lay diagonally across the current, which at this place rippled
whitely over its stony bed.

“Make for the point!” shouted the councilor.

“That’s Kittahannock Lodge, where we sleep tonight!”

Ahead the broad river made a turn, and at the bend a tall white flagpole
rose from a clump of trees, tinged with sunset gold. Dirk gave it a
glance, and bent to his straining task, while Brick fulfilled the
delicate job of keeping the light vessel on its path. On flew the
_Sachem_, as if glad to be afloat and bearing her owner farther and
farther toward the northern wilds.

Once Dirk paused momentarily to catch his breath. He looked back to the
shore that they were leaving. A road wound along the edge of the river,
above the ferry, and along it crawled a small automobile with a plume of
dust rising behind it. Dirk saw it only for a moment before it
disappeared from sight behind a low hill. But he was sure, as he turned
again to his paddling, that the car was a blue sedan, and that he knew
the slight figure of the man that hunched over the wheel. It was the
mysterious fisherman they had surprised on the shore of Lake Lenape some
days before.



                               CHAPTER XV
                        THE TRAP ON FLINT ISLAND


Sagamore Carrigan and his trailers were greeted in hearty fashion by the
campers of Kittahannock Lodge, and the director, who each year was glad
to extend his hospitality to the Lenape Long Trailers, offered an empty
tent-house to the canoe party. He also invited them to supper at the
lodge, but when Mr. Carrigan explained that they had provisions with
them, assigned them a grassy spot above the river. Here, after they had
washed up in the camp bath-house, the trailers were drawn about the fire
by the aroma of Cowboy Platt’s cookery, and attacked with no little
gusto the meal he handed out.

As soon as each man had washed his plate and fork, the trailers joined
in the campfire merriment of the Kittahannock tribe within the lodge of
hewn timber, on the walls of which were hung many examples of their
woodcraft skill and collections of natural objects. The band was a
lively and merry crowd, and the Lenape lads joined in the fun in
friendly spirit. Games and stunts passed the time until the call to
quarters sounded, and the eight hikers sought their cabin sleepily with
many thoughts of their exciting first day on the trail.

Sagamore Carrigan yawned as he pulled his blankets over him and switched
off his flash-lantern. “Not many stars out,” he remarked; “and I didn’t
like the way the campfire smoke hung low in the chimney tonight. I
wouldn’t be at all surprised if we had a wet cruise tomorrow, fellows.”

Dirk woke in the night to hear a splatter of drops on the roof of the
tent-house; and he fell asleep again thinking drowsily that the leader’s
words had come true. The next morning dawned mistily over a wet world,
and a swirling fog hung low over the river, shrouding the farther shore.
The gloomy weather, though, penetrated no deeper than the ponchos of the
Lenape boys, who after a warming breakfast, were afloat at an early
hour. In a mysterious silence they pushed off into the overhung waters
to continue their cruise up-stream, keeping close together so that no
canoe should be separated from the others in the fog.

After an hour’s stiff paddling against the stubborn current, they saw
the sun shine through once or twice, and the fog cleared away. But it
was plain to be seen that the rain would continue steadily throughout
the day. Through the downpour, Dirk caught sight of the river banks, now
much closer together than they had been at Skinner’s Ferry. Shallow
rapids became much more frequent, and Brick in the stern had to exercise
unusual care to see that the _Sachem’s_ bottom was not ripped on some
jagged rock.

Dirk, paddling doggedly with his arms thrust through the slits in his
rubber poncho, felt the muscles of his shoulders stiffening with the
unwonted labor; and he was happy when, in the middle of the morning, the
little fleet came into sight of the white houses of the small river town
of Port Jermyn. They tied up at the wharf where the main street of the
town ended, and strolled about through the rain-swept village while the
councilor, assisted by Steve Link, purchased the supplies that would be
their sole provisions until their return from the wilds into which they
were about to plunge.

The stop at Port Jermyn, short as it was, refreshed the paddlers, and
Dirk found that he had gained his second wind. He still retained his
place in the bow, however, for he did not feel that he owned the skill
necessary to guide the _Sachem_ through the ever-increasing shallows of
the river above the town. Feeling that he had left civilization behind
for some time to come, he worked with a will, chewing a piece of
butterscotch and waiting patiently for the signal that would mean a halt
for the midday meal.

Shortly after noon, Mr. Carrigan beckoned to the following canoeists to
turn off the main stream into the mouth of a wide creek flowing from the
west. A few hundred yards from the outlet, they turned their craft
toward the bank, and climbed out stiffly to stretch and gather dry wood
for a smoky fire built beneath the shielding branches of a large oak.
The canoes were turned on their sides, ponchos were taken off and
stretched on sticks above the openings, and within these snug shelters
the trailers lounged on their backs and lazily devoured heaping plates
of beans and bread and slightly damp cookies.

“We-all are goin’ to fix some spaghetti for supper, in your honor, Wop!”
Cowboy Platt twitted Megaro. “How will you like that?”

“O. K., I bet!” answered the Italian boy. “Say, maybe I catch some
bullheads in Lake Moosehorn, and if I get more than fifty, I give you
one to eat in your honor!”

Dirk laughed, not because the joke was good, but because he was well fed
and warm and happy to be with such a game crowd of campers. Although the
rain might have dampened the holiday moods of many boys, not one of
these lads had uttered a word of complaint. Later that eventful day,
Dirk was to look back wistfully at that scene; for neither he nor Brick
Ryan was fated to partake of that contemplated meal of fish and
spaghetti on the shore of Lake Moosehorn.

Refreshed and rested, the boys broke camp and prepared to leave the
broad river behind. Dirk recalled that this stream they were now
following must be the Sweetwater Creek shown on the map that Sagamore
Carrigan carried in his breast pocket. If so, it would lead to the first
of the Chain of Ponds, where the first portage would begin.

His surmise was correct. Close together, their bows sometimes brushing
overhanging limbs of trees as they rounded a bend in the creek and a new
reach of rain-spattered water met the paddlers’ eyes, the three canoes
wended up-stream. On either side the walls of the forest closed in about
them, and in some places it was as gloomy as though it had been
nightfall instead of broad afternoon. Before two miles had slipped past
their dripping paddles, the creek ended in a rough dam of logs that
marked the outlet of the lowest of the ponds; and here was the first
portage.

It was a short one, merely circling the dam and so to another launching
on the dark mirror-like water of the pond. The boys landed and hauled
their canoes ashore; then, without bothering to remove the contents,
they each seized an end and carried the craft up a narrow trail,
slippery with weeds and mud, to the edge of the pond. Once more afloat,
they pulled through the dripping rain in the rippling wake of the _Red
Fox_. Dirk, brushing the drops from his glistening face, wondered how
the leader could find his way through the winding passage. Reeds and
ugly, misshapen snags jutted upward from the murky, black bottom covered
with dead leaves, and somehow brought a chill to the boy in the canoe,
so close were they beneath his paddle. He wondered what would happen to
any daring soul that might try to swim in the dark forbidding water.

Sagamore Carrigan knew his way, however, and unerringly came out at the
end where the next portage began. This was a long one, for these two
ponds were connected only by a swampy trickle that wound across hummocks
of mud. For half a mile the boys threaded through the ankle-deep muck;
and though the councilor sent Spaghetti Megaro back to bear a part of
the overburdened _Sachem_, Dirk was ready to call a halt before a third
of the way had been traversed. Gritting his teeth, he tried to forget
the cutting, swaying load pressing his aching shoulders, meanwhile
thanking his stars that his shoes were strong and waterproof.

By the end of the afternoon all the trailers, although they would not
have admitted it under torture, were heartily sick of ponds and
portages. Everlastingly climbing in and out of the vessels, slipping and
sliding through an overgrown footpath with one end of a staunch canoe on
one’s shoulder and dripping branches catching at garments and whipping
into one’s face, all in a semi-darkness that depressed the heartiest
spirit—it seemed to all of them that they could not last out another
hour of this winding progress through the lowlands, when from the van
came Sagamore Wise-Tongue’s cheering cry: “Lake Moosehorn ahead!”

The broad expanse of clear water uplifted the souls of all. Dirk,
feeling glad that reeds and snags and winding dark ponds were left
behind at last, threw himself on a grassy bank beside his canoe,
breathing a sigh of relief. It was late in the afternoon and the rain
had slackened to a filmy drizzle. Across from them loomed the hump of
Flint Island, while over the tree-clad summit of Mount Kinnecut toward
the west, the descending sun was bravely trying to show forth before
sinking into night.

“We’ll be pitching camp inside an hour, men,” said the leader. “Our
headquarters will be at the old spot at the far end of the lake, up by
that tall dead spruce. From there we’ll have to use our feet instead of
our paddles, to make the summit of Kinnecut.”

“Huh!” remarked Ugly Brown. “I’ve been usin’ my feet all day. I don’t
mind hikin’, if I don’t have to carry a canoe with me. Why, after today,
I’ll probably race up to the top of that little mountain tomorrow just
to get an appetite for breakfast!”

“We’ll never even pitch camp before dark if you yearlings don’t stop
argufyin’ and get started,” drawled Cowboy. “I want lots of wood cut for
the fire, and somebody mentioned he was goin’ to hook some fish.”

“Well, we’ll move along, then, and do our resting when we get to camp,”
said Mr. Carrigan. “It’s the old earth that will be your bed tonight, if
I don’t cut some spruce tips for mattresses—so let’s be on our way!”

The _Red Fox_ and the _Whiffenpoof_ pushed out on the lake for the last
lap of the day’s long journey.

“Well,” asked Brick Ryan, paddle in hand, “aren’t you goin’ to stir, my
son?”

“I suppose so.” Dirk rose stiffly, and stretched. “Gollies, I hate to
move, though. I could go to sleep right now.”

“Not here, my bucko.” The red-headed boy playfully prodded his
canoe-mate in the ribs. “Stir your stumps. Look, the other guys are
almost out of sight around Flint Island. Old Wise-Tongue is wavin’ for
us to come on.”

The two foremost canoes vanished behind the bulk of the little island as
the _Sachem_ pushed out.

“Steer over along the shore of the island, will you?” asked Dirk, after
a moment. “I thought I saw something moving in the bushes. It looked
like——See it? Why, it’s a man! And he’s waving to us! What do you
suppose he wants?”

He quickened his stroke, and they pulled toward the rocky edge where the
waterline of the lake marked the island. A low, hoarse cry rose from the
twilight of the thickets.

“Ay! Help me, you come help! I caught!”

A man’s head was visible through a gap between the trees. The hair was
long and black, the skin dark, and the features that could be made out
were rugged and wild-looking. The voice was that of one in pain.

“Why, it’s an Indian! Hurry, Brick—he’s hurt. Maybe a tree fell on him!”

“Don’t you think you better take it slow till you know what’s up?”

“Nonsense! He needs us right away. Here’s a good place to land.” Dirk
leaped ashore as he spoke, and ran to the spot where the Indian lay
moaning in his broken pidgin-English.

As he approached, the man rose to his feet and leaped at the boy like a
wildcat. As the outstretched arms caught Dirk about the shoulders and
threw him backward, he realized, too late, what was happening.

“Get away, Brick!” he screamed. “It’s a trick!” He fell on the rocky
ground, with the strange Indian upon him, holding his body so that he
could not move an inch, nor see what Brick was doing.

“No, he won’t get away,” said a cruel, level voice. “And if you yelp
once more, young Van Horn, you’ll get a bullet in your noisy mouth!”

Dirk felt the heavy body above him suddenly removed; the Indian was
rising to his feet. The boy staggered upward, and was again thrown to
the earth by a fierce thrust.

“Lie there and cool off!” ordered the unseen. “Yes, I’ve got a gun on
you, and on your smart pal, too. Get out of that canoe quick, Red, if
you know what’s good for you.”

“If you didn’t have that pistol on me,” muttered Brick Ryan savagely
through clenched teeth, “I’d—I’d——”

“Enough of that!”

At last Dirk made out the form of the man who, with the aid of the
rascally Indian, had trapped them. He felt only a dull throb of surprise
as he recognized him. Brick’s warning at Lake Lenape had been justified,
after all. The mysterious fisherman had tracked them down and caught
them alone at last.

The man deliberately walked up to Brick, the gleaming nose of his pistol
showing in his right hand. With his left he thrust swiftly upward. There
was the sound of a blow against flesh, and Brick fell heavily upon the
pebbled shore.

“Lie there, both of you. Now, Mink,” their captor addressed the Indian,
“dump that stuff out of their canoe and put it in ours. We need it more
than that dumb bunch of kids up the lake. Then tie up these two birds
tight, and dump them in too. We’ve got to get away before the ones up
ahead come back to see what’s wrong. Wish I could see their faces when
they find out!”

“What—what are you going to do with us?” asked Dirk hoarsely.

The stranger laughed unpleasantly. “You’ll find out soon enough, kid.
Ready, Mink? That’s good. Now, turn over that fancy red canoe and shove
it way out in the channel, so that when the main gang come back, they’ll
know for sure that these two wise little scouts are drowned to death and
sunk to the bottom of the lake!”



                              CHAPTER XVI
                           FIRE IN THE FOREST


Trussed with light rope like a pair of fowl ready for slaughter, the two
boys were lifted one by one in the Indian’s arms and laid in the bottom
of his dirty canoe. Neither could speak, for bandana handkerchiefs were
knotted tightly between their teeth, so that they had barely a chance to
breathe. They lay on the unyielding ribs of the craft, which apparently
leaked, for several inches of chilly water sloshed about beneath them
and ran down their necks, soaking their already damp clothing.

The tarpaulin-wrapped bundle containing the provisions stolen from the
Lenape trailers was dumped next to their heads. The man with the pistol
crouched in the bow, his slicker thrown open, now that the rain had
stopped. His dark-skinned henchman, whom he had called Mink, cast
another glance at the _Sachem_, which was caught in the channel current
and, bottom upward, drifted toward the outlet. Then, seizing his paddle,
he pushed off the heavy-laden vessel and began paddling furiously toward
the far shore.

Although they were effectively hidden from the eyes of any returning
Lenape canoeists as long as they kept the length of the island between
them, the two men kept a wary lookout until they gained the shelter of
the far shore, where the deepening twilight hid them from any
possibility of discovery. Dirk, squirming painfully in his bonds, could
see only the body of the muscular Mink above him, his moving head and
arms outlined against the purple sky, in which one star already gleamed.
He could hear Brick Ryan breathing heavily beside him, and bit at his
gag angrily, realizing that he could help neither his comrade nor
himself. If only he had departed with the other members of the party,
the two desperate men would not have had opportunity to snare them as
they had done. It had been all his own fault, Dirk condemned himself. If
only he had listened to Brick——

But why were they thus trapped and taken from their friends toward an
unknown fate, leaving an overturned canoe behind to give the cruel
impression that they had drowned? What was the meaning of it? Why had
this man, who now sat slumped in the bow of the leaky canoe, followed
Dirk so relentlessly into the wilds?

He puzzled until his head throbbed, but could piece out no answer to
those questions. The steady rhythm of the paddle might have lulled him
off to a fitful stupor, so weary was he; but the filthy water in the
bottom of the canoe slapped him again and again into wakefulness. It
seemed as if hours passed before the canoe made a sudden swerve
shoreward, and the bottom beneath him scraped on a gravel spit of land.

It was already quite dark. The two lads were bundled out of the canoe
and were glad to be relieved from their painful position. Had their
captor not untied all their bonds save those holding their hands behind
their backs, they would have fallen over when they were first put on
their feet; as it was, Dirk was forced to lean against a tree to keep
himself erect.

The Indian’s master pulled the gags from their mouths with a warning.
“Not a word out of either of you! Not that it would do you any good, at
that. You don’t know where you are, but I can tell you it’s miles from
anybody that could hear you, or would care what I did to you if you
yelled. So be good little kids and follow my half-breed friend Mink. And
remember, I still have my gun handy.”

The half-breed, who during this time had been pulling his canoe ashore
and hiding it in a pile of brush near by, now silently raised the pack
of provisions to his shoulder and began stolidly tramping through the
darkness. The driven boys stumbled in his wake, too weary to know or
care where the overgrown path might lead. Behind them marched the
nameless man, who now and then uttered an oath as he tripped over a root
or sank ankle-deep in a forest pool.

After half a mile, the guard dropped so far behind that Dirk ventured a
cautious whisper in the direction of his friend; although, since the
half-breed looked back from time to time, it was impossible to attempt a
flight.

“Where do you think they’re taking us, Brick?”

Brick shook his head hopelessly. “Don’t know—too dark to see. I think
we’re on the west side of Moosehorn, but maybe not.”

“I’m sorry I was such a fool as to let them take us so easily. If I’d
listened to you——”

“Don’t worry, my lad.” Brick’s voice was somehow cheering. “They won’t
hurt you. Me, maybe, but not you.”

“You mean—you know why they captured us? I’ve been trying to figure it
out. Why, why did they do it?”

“Mean to tell me you don’t know? Why, I’ve been suspectin’ it since the
first time I saw that guy with the gun. Don’t you realize that he
kidnaped you so that he could make your dad pay a wad of money to get
you back?”

Dirk Van Horn gasped incredulously. “But—kidnapers! Why, my father isn’t
a wealthy man! He’s quite well off, but even if he is president of a
bank, he doesn’t own all the money in it!”

“Well, wouldn’t he give all he’s got to have you back home safe again?
Sure, he’d do that, and this tough bird that’s got us counts on it. No,
you’re safe until he gets some ransom for you.”

“Quiet, there!” commanded an angry voice, with a curse. Their guard had
caught up to them, and a wave of his weapon put a stop to their
whispered comments. But Dirk at last understood why he was a prisoner.
He understood, too, the strange invitation of the man when they had
surprised him at Lake Lenape. He had tried to lure them away from their
friends, and failing in that, had kept watch on the boy’s every
movement. Seeing that a capture was impossible so close to the camp, he
had somehow found out about the long trail expedition, and no doubt
hiring the villainous half-breed Mink to help him in his criminal
purpose, had gone before them and waylaid them at Flint Island by a
ruse, at a time when the two boys were by chance separated from the main
party.

At long last the man ahead stopped and put down his burden. A dim shape
loomed before them, a rough hut of logs chinked with mud, that was
evidently the dwelling of the half-breed. He fumbled with the latch on
the door. The man in the slicker tossed away a glowing cigarette, and
pushed them inside, harshly ordering Mink to shut the door and cover the
window before lighting the lantern.

In the glow of the battered oil-lantern that the half-breed brought
forth, the boys looked about with half-shut eyes. A heap of cured skins
lay in one corner, and the single room smelled vilely of stale smoke and
damp walls and animal remains. The Indian knelt on the hearth of the
rough stone fireplace, but his master stopped him with a word.

“Quit that! Do you want to tell the world where we are? They could see
that smoke ten miles away! We’ll grab a cold supper tonight, and
tomorrow when you’re here with them, don’t take any chances, or you’ll
end up in the jug! There must be some stuff in that bundle that we can
eat.”

He sank down on a stool and lit another cigarette, while the half-breed
rummaged in the Lenape provision-sack and discovered some cans of fruit
and vegetables, which he opened with the blade of an ax. The two
prisoners, too tired to care what befell, sank to the floor and lay
there half-asleep, until the Indian roused them roughly and shoved food
at them, untying their chilled hands so that they might eat.

Hungrily, they wolfed down the unappetizing fare. Cold corn from a can,
dry bread, and still dryer prunes do not constitute an ideal repast for
famished boys, but they made the best of what was given them. Brick,
indeed, was so strengthened by the meal, poor as it was, that his Irish
fighting spirit came back to him. Chewing a crust, he lifted his head
and directed a fierce glance at their enemies.

“You’ll go to jail for life for doin’ this!” he challenged.

The man wiped his mouth leisurely, rose, and strode over to the hapless
lads.

“Still full of pep, eh? Well, Redhead, it won’t take us long to put that
out of you! Young Mr. Millionaire Van Horn here will be all right if
Papa comes across tomorrow, but you ain’t worth a nickel to me, and
don’t forget it!” His cold blue eyes widened. “Say, what’s that thing
stickin’ out of your shirt?”

Brick drew back, fumbling at his breast, where the honor of Lenape, in
the shape of a rumpled bit of green-and-white bunting, had been carried
throughout the journey.

“It’s—nothin’, just a flag,” he muttered, trying to stuff it out of
sight.

His tormentor laughed jeeringly. “Just a flag, eh?” With a sudden
movement, he tore it from the boy’s grasp. After a slighting glance, he
crumpled it in his fist, strode to the door, and tossed the Lenape
pennant into the mud outside the step.

He whirled to meet Brick’s leap. Dirk sprang to help, but was
disdainfully pushed aside by the silent half-breed. When next he looked,
Brick lay sprawled out on the floor, with an ugly red blotch on his
forehead and helpless rage crackling in his eyes.

The man’s doubled fist threatened further punishment. Then, with another
empty laugh, he turned on his heel.

“Go to sleep, you brats,” he flung out over his shoulder. “Toss them
some blankets, Mink. I’ve got to get some rest if I’m hoofing over to
Yanceyville in the morning.”

The blanket-rolls of the two trailers had been taken from their canoe
along with the larger pack; and these were now thrown over them as they
crouched in one corner of the hut. The walls and crude floor-boards let
in draughts of chill, damp night air, and they hunched together dumbly
for warmth and companionship. With the moaning of the wind through the
trees above their heads as a doleful lullaby, they sank into the
despairing slumber of the captive.

After a century of nightmares in that dark, noisome hole, Dirk stirred
his cramped limbs and opened his eyes to find a ray of daylight slanting
through the single window. His enemy stood with one hand on the latch of
the door, giving parting orders to his servile guide. The man’s pasty
face showed the effects of an existence that was not natural to him,
whose haunts were those of the city. His serge suit was stained and
creased, while his cheek bore a clotted scratch where he had scraped it
against the projecting limb of a tree during the dark passage of the
previous night.

“And remember,” he was snarling, “that you ain’t to let those brats out
of your sight for a minute! They’re slippery little imps, especially
that red-headed one. If all goes well and the old man comes across with
the money, I’ll be back with your share by night.”

“You not try to fool me, eh? You pay me what you said?”

“Sure, Mink. We’re partners on this—split the dough fifty-fifty. I’ll
telegraph old Van Horn from Yanceyville, and if he’s got any sense,
he’ll send the cash by wire right away. It’s a cinch.”

He passed out into the sunlight, scratched a match, and began puffing
the eternal cigarette. As he disappeared, the Indian shrugged and set
about putting together a breakfast as cold and cheerless as the meal of
the previous night.

Miserably the boys roused themselves to face another day of
imprisonment, in the tumbledown cabin of the half-breed, who handed food
to them silently and whose watchful, savage glare made them break off
each time they attempted to speak to one another. In fact, so closely
did he watch their least move that Dirk, after an hour, gave up all hope
of finding any avenue of escape from beneath the half-breed’s eye.

More than two hours had passed, Dirk judged, since the departure of
their nameless foe, who was evidently now well on his way to Yanceyville
on his nefarious errand of attempting to extort a large sum of money
from Dirk’s father as a ransom. What would happen? Even if the money
were paid promptly, would this man free them at once, or would he
attempt some further villainy to prevent them from putting the law on
his track as soon as they had won to civilization?

Mink, who had been sitting on his stool with his back against the door,
passing the time by whittling idly at a stick of firewood, sat up
suspiciously. His nose was in the air, sniffing like a hound that has
lost the scent. He rose with a clatter and paced, still sniffing, to the
dead fireplace. After a few seconds, he shrugged and returned,
apparently satisfied, to his post.

Dirk went back to his gloomy thoughts, which were now turned toward his
companions, who had set out so blithely with him on the Long Trail. Were
they even now mourning his death and Brick’s, as victims of a canoe
accident? He recalled his clumsiness the first time the _Sachem_ was
launched—no doubt they thought him still a lubber who would upset his
craft and drag his friend with him to the watery depths. But Mr.
Carrigan was wise; and though their captors were cunning, they had left
several clues that might be read. For instance, the provision-sack had
been tightly lashed within the canoe; Sagamore Wise-Tongue would think
it strange that it had worked loose when the canoe overturned. They had
left no tracks, except a trampled spot in the bushes on Flint Island,
but perhaps, perhaps the Lenape men had not given up hope. Their stock
of food was gone, but they would find some way to exist, even in the
wilderness——

He woke from his reverie. Mink had again jumped to his feet, nose in
air. Dirk sniffed too. Something stronger than the heavy odor of the
cabin was sifting through the chinks in the logs. It smelled like the
lodge at Lenape, in the evening with the whole tribe gathered around the
fireplace——

With a wild cry, the Indian threw open the door, leaped across the
threshold, and slammed it behind his retreating form. A frozen instant
of hushed wonder—the smell became undeniable—a smell of charring
timber——

Dirk dashed for the window, but Brick was before him. Together, the boys
stared through the dirty pane. The forest showed them no danger signals,
but from over their heads came the thuds of a scrambling body and the
low hiss of flames in dry shingle-boards.

Brick turned to his friend, his freckled face aglow with renewed hope.

“This cabin must be afire, Dirk!” he muttered, trying to keep down the
exultation in his heart. “Gollies, listen to that! The roof must be
blazin’ like sixty!”

It was true; rising above the beats of his heart, the listening Dirk
could hear the crackling of hungry flames.

“Our chance!” Brick’s eyes were dancing. “Come on! Old Mink sure will be
busy for a minute, and he won’t think about us. Now’s our chance to make
a getaway!”



                              CHAPTER XVII
                       THE FLIGHT INTO THE HILLS


The two captives were out the door of the burning cabin in an instant,
and broke wildly for cover in the thickets beyond the clearing.

Dirk, as he fled, cast a desperate glance over his shoulder. Mink, their
half-breed guard, had climbed somehow to the roof of his shanty, and
with his khaki shirt, which he had torn off in haste, was striving to
beat out the licking flames that fed on the dry, rotten shakes. His back
was toward them, and he was so immersed in his furious task that he took
no notice of their flight.

With Brick at his side, running stealthily and gasping for breath, he
found himself beneath the shadow of a clump of pines. Pausing now to
look about and get some feeling of the direction of the lake where their
friends must be, he was startled by having his comrade seize his arm and
shake it roughly.

“Gollies, how could I forget?” the red-headed lad panted. “I left the
flag back there at the hut—the other guy chucked it in the mud last
night!”

“We can’t stop!” urged Dirk. “That Indian will get us——”

“No! Sagamore Carrigan give it to me to keep safe—it’s the honor of
Lenape, he said! I got to get it! Say, Van, these birds don’t want me.
It’s you they’re after—you keep runnin’, and maybe I’ll catch up with
you!”

He was off before Dirk could speak further, racing back the way they had
come, perhaps into the very arms of the enraged Mink. Dirk, however, had
no intention of deserting his friend. He could see nothing in the
direction of the hut save a thin column of greasy-looking smoke through
the trees. He threw himself on the needle-carpeted earth, his chest
heaving with exertion and excitement. If Brick came back this way, with
the Indian after him, perhaps he could divert his attention, lead him a
chase through the underbrush——

A squawking flight of large birds, crows and bluejays among them,
swooped over his head. He rose on his elbow to mark their noisy passage.
Not five yards off, the low scrub-oak bushes rustled and parted,
revealing a rusty-coated, sharp-nosed animal with a brushy tail. It was
a fox. Dirk did not move; the fox saw him, but cast only an incurious
eye on him, and trotted off swiftly as if on urgent business at a far
place.

Dirk jumped to his feet. A curl of smoke crept across the slanting bars
of sunlight that fell to the floor of the glade. A distant murmur like a
rising wind came to him, and his mouth went dry with fear. Why wasn’t
Brick back? What was happening there through the screening forest?

He took a step forward, as if to run to his comrade’s assistance. As he
did so, he caught sight of Brick on the other side of the glade, waved,
and ran to his side. The Irish lad’s face was pale, but he clutched in
one hand the bedraggled banner he had risked recapture to save.

Dirk took his arm. “Are you all right, old fellow? Where is Mink?”

“I—I fell down once, and he saw me, but he couldn’t get down from the
roof. Say, some of the bushes and trees are on fire—I could hear ’em
sizzle. Let’s get out of here!”

“Which way is the lake, do you know?”

“We can’t stop to think about that—we’ve got to run! Soon as he puts out
the fire, that Indian is goin’ to start trackin’ us down—they can follow
like a bloodhound!”

“He won’t put it out soon. Look there!” Dirk pointed into the tree tops.
The crackling roar had grown louder now, and as they looked, a leaping
rope of flame bridged the gap between two trees nearly overhead. A
smoking twig whirled to the ground beside them, starting a slow spark in
the dry pine-needles.

“We can’t tell which way to go—but I think the fire is between us and
the lake! We must get away!”

He began to pull Brick forward, following the direction taken by the
fleeing fox.

“Say, thanks for waitin’ for me,” gasped Brick. “But you better——”

“Save your wind!” Dirk fought his way through a scratching barrier of
brush. The horror of a hissing wall of flames at their backs put wings
on his heels.

They labored in silence up a steep hillside, crossed a rocky ridge, and
scrambled down into a blasted ravine on the other side. Dirk was aware
that his friend was muttering shakily.

“I got to stop a minute! You can’t hear the fire now—get my wind——”

Both spoke softly, as if even now some enemy, concealed near them, might
overhear.

“All right,” Dirk replied, watching Brick sink down upon a moss-covered
ledge of rock. “But that Indian will be following us as soon as he can,
if he knows we’ve gone this way. Maybe we should go in another
direction.”

A few moments passed in silence.

“I wish I knew where the lake was,” said Dirk finally.

“Well, this creek here probably runs down into it.”

“That’s true—but as near as I can see, this is the same one that goes
right by the cabin. We’d only run right back into Mink’s arms. Guess
we’ve got to make for the hills. Then if one of us climbs a tree, we can
get our bearings.”

Brick sighed heavily, and Dirk stared at him. Their adventures had put
them both in sad case. Garments were stained and torn, bareheaded and
grimed with dirt were they, looking like two scarecrows. Dirk wondered
why Brick was so laggard in the flight. It was not like him to drag
behind. The boy’s freckles stood out against his white face, and his lip
was trembling.

“Know what I think?” asked Dirk. “I’ll bet that man with the gun was the
person that started the fire. Of course he didn’t do it on purpose, but
he was always smoking cigarettes and throwing them away without putting
them out first. This morning, when he went away, he was smoking. A spark
probably caught somewhere and set fire to the shack—it’s a regular old
tinderbox. Well, shall we start again?”

“I’m game,” answered Brick; but he took his time getting to his feet.

They began the second stage of their flight by crossing the creek, where
they paused for a hasty draught of water, and then attacked the long
steady slope on the far side, toiling upward through a dense growth of
evergreens. It seemed as if they would never get clear of the towering
trunks and branches that seemed to push down upon their shoulders,
smothering them and impeding their way. When at last they attained the
height, Dirk was reluctantly forced to abandon his plan to climb a tree
and thus get a view of the surrounding country. The lower branches were
still so far above his head that it would be impossible for the most
agile boy to get a foothold on the smooth trunks.

He turned to Brick. “Say, old lad, perhaps if you give me a boost——” He
broke off, seeing the pain in his friend’s drawn face. The eyes were
shifting feverishly above the hollow cheeks, and the boy was biting his
lip to keep back a moan of anguish. “Why, Brick, are you hurt? Why
didn’t you tell me?”

Brick swayed, and had Dirk not run to his side to support his body,
would have collapsed to the ground. “I’m—all right,” he gasped out. “You
go on—get to the top of the darned mountain—the honor of the camp——”

“What’s the trouble? Are you sick?”

“Fell down that time—the Indian was lookin’—kind of knocked my ankle
over a rock——” He fell backward in his comrade’s arms, and Dirk realized
that he had fainted.

That was Brick Ryan, all right—floundering along gamely without a word,
although his ankle must have made him want to scream out at every step!
Then a realization of the seriousness of the situation came over Dirk,
and he began tearing at the loose collar at his injured friend’s throat.

Fortunately, he had not spent his time at Camp Lenape without picking up
some bits of knowledge of first-aid. “When anyone faints, never try to
move him—give him lots of air—lean him forward so the blood rushes to
his head——” Muttering these half-remembered instructions, he bent the
limp body forward and began rubbing Brick’s dangling wrists and
forearms. He wished they had brought some water, but there had been no
way to carry it——

Brick moaned weakly, and his eyelids fluttered. “What—what happened,
huh? Is it Van? Whillikers, to think that F. X. A. Ryan passed out like
a baby——”

“Don’t talk,” his friend ordered. “Just rest a minute. We’re safe for a
while now. When you feel better I’ll go get you a drink.”

The injured boy fell back, his chest heaving irregularly. Dirk stripped
off his sweater and folding it into the form of a pillow, placed it
under Brick’s head, slightly downhill. His next care was to examine the
ankle that had been struck when the boy had escaped, for a second time,
from the half-breed’s clearing.

The ankle was swollen badly—no doubt about that. Dirk, feeling glad that
their captors had not searched him, found his pocket-knife and carefully
slashed away the strings of Brick’s shoe; he then tenderly removed it,
although not without causing a slight groan from its owner. The stocking
was also pulled off, exposing the wounded area.

The ankle looked puffy and discolored, but as near as Dirk could tell,
it was not broken or even seriously sprained. But none the less, it was
almost a catastrophe for a pair of fugitives in their plight. Without
food of any kind, their ponchos and blankets left behind them when they
fled from the hut, and with a savage pursuer no doubt already on their
track, they must travel far and fast. Now, one of them was crippled, in
pain.

“Brick,” said the boy urgently, “do you think you’ll be all right if I
carry you a ways? We’ve got to get to water, and I think there’s a brook
at the bottom of this hill somewhere. If you’re sure you won’t faint
again——”

Brick clenched his teeth. “Go ahead,” he answered bravely. “Gee, I hate
to think that I’m holdin’ up the party this way. Maybe if you left me,
you might find somebody who would come back and get me.”

“Nonsense! Whatever happens, I won’t leave you, old lad. It won’t be
much of a job if I take you with the fireman’s lift.”

Brick grunted as he was hoisted upon his friend’s right shoulder, his
body hanging downward from the waist; but he made no outcry as Dirk bore
him in this fashion down the hill. In fact, he was so silent that Dirk
feared he had fainted for a second time; but since his head hung low, he
was in no danger. The truth was that he was gritting his teeth to keep
from moaning when the injured ankle swung slightly in their progress.

Dirk, for his part, made haste to reach the brook, for he bore no light
burden. But a vision of what might happen were he to injure his own legs
among the treacherous roots and rocks of the hillside made him step
warily. If both of them lay hurt in the wilderness, with none knowing
their plight or whereabouts, they would eventually starve, if they did
not sooner die of exposure.

At long last, the burbling of water over stones was heard close at hand,
and Dirk eased his burden to the ground. The rains of yesterday had
swollen the little watercourse, and a fairly deep pool, overhung with
brambles and scrub-oak, glistened beside them.

Dirk wiped the sweat from his face, and took a deep breath. His first
care was to bring his companion a drink of water in his cupped hands,
and to wash away the sticky grime that clung to Brick’s pale cheeks and
forehead.

“That’s swell!” sighed Brick. “Now, if my foot was tied up good and
tight, maybe I could hobble on a ways further.”

“I’m taking no chances,” answered Dirk grimly. “That hoof of yours looks
bad. Here, move to the bank, right over this place, and dangle it in the
cold water. Best thing to take down the swelling.”

Brick Ryan obediently did as he was told. The shock of the chill water
on his ankle set his teeth chattering, for all the moist heat of the
forest; but soon the injured part became numb, and the throbbing ache
nearly stopped.

Almost an hour passed. During this time Dirk had not been idle. He had
found a straight, tough sapling of ash with a fork at the top, and with
his knife had shaped the ends to the semblance of a rude crutch.

“Mighty warm today,” he remarked to the watching Brick, as he pulled off
his khaki shirt over his head. “Won’t need this.” He proceeded to tear
the shirt into strips. The narrowest of these he laid aside, and bound
the rest over the forked head of the improvised crutch, making a smooth
padding.

“Now, let’s have a look at the ankle again.”

Brick summoned up a tired grin. “It’s much better, Doc. You couldn’t
look after me any better if you had a beautiful nurse to help you. Say,
what do you keep lookin’ over your shoulder all the time for?”

“Am I doing that? Humph! Guess I’m still scared old Mink will pop his
head out at us. I sure don’t want to get kidnaped again with that ugly
lot, do you?”

While he was speaking, he had deftly wound the strips torn from his
shirt tightly about the bruised ankle. The cold-water treatment had
reduced the swelling almost completely, but the skin showed an ugly
black and blue patch.

“Yell out if I hurt too much,” he ordered; “but the tighter I tie it,
the better it will be.” He rose, and helping Brick to his feet, offered
him the crutch he had made. “Now see if you can get around.”

Brick gingerly took a few steps. “Gollies, this is a swell crutch, all
right! I’m good for a hundred-mile hike right now. But where do we head
for?”

For a moment Dirk made no answer. Then something snapped inside him, and
he cried out bitterly.

“I don’t know! Where are we? Where is the Lenape gang? We’ve got to find
food and shelter before night, and already it’s getting late! Oh, I
don’t know where to go, Brick—but we’ve got to go now, or we’re done!”



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                          THE END OF THE TRAIL


Dirk’s momentary outburst passed as soon as it had come, leaving him
heartily ashamed of his despair. He should not be the one to lose hope;
now, if ever, he must show the manhood that was in him.

He clapped Brick Ryan on the back, and tried to summon a smile. “There,
old man, it’s all right. This whole mess is really my fault—I was dumb
enough to let myself get kidnaped in the first place. If you think that
crutch of yours will work, take a good drink and let’s hike.”

Brick set off eagerly, stumping across the creek and manfully following
Dirk’s leadership through the forest, trying not to drag his
tightly-bound foot or to knock it against the stumps and boulders that
littered the earth. Dirk kept looking backward to see how his friend was
progressing, stopping now and again to lend an arm in crossing some
marshy bog or climbing a steep bank. He tried to keep his bearings and
follow a straight line that eventually would bring them out upon high
ground from which he hoped to spy the lake, the only landmark that
either of them knew.

He forced Brick to stop frequently, for otherwise the red-haired lad
would have gamely plodded on until he dropped. During one of the pauses,
Brick asked: “Say, since it looks like we’re lost for certain, what
about buildin’ a smoky signal fire? Maybe if the gang is around, they’ll
see it and come to help.”

“I thought of that. But we don’t know that they are still around. Don’t
forget they think we’re drowned. And we do know that Mink will be
looking for us. A smoke signal would give us away—he’d get us before
anybody else could find where we were.”

On, on they went at the maddeningly slow pace that made their journey
seem like a dream, one of those nightmares in which the sleeper is
pursued by unknown terror, but must stagger onward like a man walking
under water. The sun dropped lower and lower above the endless tree
tops.

Brick sank down, and threw his crutch away from him with a groan.

“It’s no use!” he panted. “I can’t go on, Van. My foot’s achin’ like it
was stung by a million bumblebees. If I had somethin’ to eat, maybe I
could get a little further, but gollies, this hike is too much for me.
You go on,” he pleaded, “wherever you can go, and leave me—leave me——No
half-breed in any old canoe will ever turn me over and shoot me in the
leg——” His crazy jargon trailed off into a feverish moan.

It was painfully clear to Dirk that his friend’s strength was completely
gone, and that he was already on the fringes of delirium. The shadows
were lengthening on the mountainside where they lay; during the last
hour they had been climbing steadily. Soon it would be dark.

The boy looked about him helplessly. Was this the end? The end of that
long trail the two comrades had followed together, through capture and
fire and flight and injury——He stood on a rocky shoulder of mountain in
trackless wilds, with his hurt friend huddled at his feet. If he had a
part of the skill of Sagamore Carrigan, he might, even with only his
jack-knife to help him, rig up some sort of shelter against the coming
cold night, might find some wild food or trap a small beast. But he
could lean on no other person now; he was alone with his helpless
charge. A keen wind swept up from the valleys below. It was Dirk Van
Horn’s dark hour.

As he stared out over the gently waving tree tops, he could see only
endless ridges of hills, one beyond another, above which the red torch
of the sun blazed like a burning ship. They must have circled around too
far, until now they were on the other side of the slopes that guarded
Lake Moosehorn. He turned his face upward, where the summit of the
mountain showed against the sky. As he looked, a pale spark came into
being against the dimming sky. It was a star. No! Could it be——

He cried out, and shook Brick’s shoulder in a sudden frenzy. “It’s not a
star!” he screamed. “It’s—it’s a light! A light up there, Brick!”

“Never get back,” moaned the injured boy drearily. “It’s a long way from
Lenape we are——”

“Wake up, Brick! I tell you, I see something up there. It looks like a
tower of some kind. Brick, we’ve got to get there now!”

But Brick Ryan was beyond caring. He did not even stir as he was lifted
in the arms of a haggard, wild-eyed lad whose heart burned with new
hope. Saving his breath, Dirk made no further effort to speak. The body
of his comrade hung in his arms, a leaden weight, as he stumbled
forward, his muscles crying out in weariness, his teeth clenched in a
last despairing endeavor.

A few hundred yards up the slope his feet touched a worn path, along
which was strung on tree-trunks a line of black wire, leading upward. It
was a telephone line. Somebody was up there, somebody who could give
them food, and fire, and a place to lie in peace and safety!

“Cheer up, F. X. A. Ryan, my son!” Dirk murmured. “You’re safe now, old
lad! Up we go!”


In the deck-house of the fire tower at Lookout, young Ugly Brown was
staring through the gathering twilight, scanning the slopes below
through a pair of field glasses lent to him by the young warden who
stood at his side. He was startled to hear a ringing cry from below,
among the trees bordering the trail. He could not make out the words,
but the tone was desperate. He was out through the trap-door in an
instant, and was half-climbing, half-sliding down the iron ladder that
hung from the steel cross-pieces of the tower.

“Hey, go slow there, youngster!” the warden shouted down after him.
“You’ll break your monkey neck!”

Ugly did not answer. He had a feeling that he knew the voice that had
uttered the cry that had come floating up to him through the dusk.

He leaped the last few feet at the bottom, and raced down the trail.
From the dimness of the woods, a strange pair staggered toward him—one
ragged, stumbling ghost bearing another, a limp form in his arms,
marching onward with the high valor that will not admit defeat.

“It’s Van Horn!” Ugly shouted joyfully. “Say, what’s the matter with
Brick? We thought you guys were drowned, but Sagamore Carrigan wasn’t
sure, and all the bunch has been huntin’ for you all day——” He broke off
sharply, and rushed forward to support the tottering figures.

The young fire warden, who had only delayed in his tower to snatch a hot
thermos bottle and a pair of blankets, came to his assistance, and
together they knelt over the two exhausted wanderers where they had
slipped to the ground.

Dirk felt himself lifted up. The steaming aroma of hot coffee was under
his nose, and a strange voice was ordering him to drink. The hot fluid
burned his tongue, but sent new life coursing through his veins.

He pushed away the mouth of the bottle, and sat up. “I’m all right,” he
croaked. “Look after Brick. His ankle’s hurt pretty bad, and it got
worse because we had to hike.”

“He’ll be all right,” came an answer. “The fire warden will fix him up
pretty quick. Do you know me, Van? It’s Ugly Brown. Gee, this has sure
been an exciting trip! I bet none of the other gangs that went on the
Long Trail ever had as much fun as we’re havin’!”

“It may have been fun to you, Ugly, but Brick and I have had a tough
time of it. Last night and today—I don’t want to think about it! Every
minute we thought that half-breed Indian, Mink, was going to jump out on
us and take us back to be held for ransom.”

The fire warden, who had been working over Brick and making him as
comfortable as possible on a blanket, looked up from his task.

“I was sure that’s who it was, when the hut caught fire this morning,”
he put in. “That is one bad Indian—or maybe I should say was. There’s a
pretty good chance that he may not be in the land of the living
tonight.”

Dirk sat up suddenly. “You mean—he was—killed?”

The man shrugged his shoulders. “That was a pretty bad blaze they had
down there at his shack. It would have been worse, only thank goodness
the woods were damp after the rain; otherwise our outfit would have had
a nice crown fire to fight today. Collins was patrolling down by the
lake, and had to call a general alarm. By the time he got there, the
whole clearing was burned over, and all that was left of the trapper’s
cabin was a heap of cinders. The men are still on guard down
there—several acres were burned over.”

“And Mink—what happened to him?”

“Nobody knows. If he wasn’t burned to death, you can bet he’s cleared
out of this country for good. You’ll never be bothered with him again.”

Dirk laughed feebly. “And to think that all day we were running away
from a danger that didn’t exist! We thought he was trailing us.”

The warden looked at him curiously. “You must be pretty done in.”

“We got lost, and couldn’t find our way back to the lake.” The boy
looked about him. “Where is this place, anyway, and how is it that
you’re here, Ugly?”

“This is the Lookout, where the fire tower is,” explained the other boy,
alive with excitement. “If you get up on top of the hill here, you can
see for a million miles all over these mountains. The lake is right
below. You must have come around from the other side. Mr. Carrigan
looked at the canoe we found turned over. When he saw that all the stuff
was gone, he said he thought somebody had captured you. Then he found
where the bushes were tramped down, over on Flint Island. We couldn’t do
much last night in the dark, but he got the chief warden to give us some
grub and a tent. Then, since early this morning, all of us have been
scoutin’ around these woods, lookin’ for signs of you. They ought to be
comin’ in pretty soon. Boy, won’t they be mad when I tell ’em I was the
one to see you first!”

“We must tell my father,” said Dirk. “Can anybody get word?”

“Don’t worry,” answered the warden. “Soon as I get back up the tower,
I’ll telephone to Yanceyville, and they can wire from there. He’ll be
glad to hear. There was a chance that you two might have been caught in
the fire. Ever since Riccio was caught, we’ve had orders to hunt for
you.”

“Who’s Riccio?”

“Why, that’s the name of the man that kidnaped you! You see, he turned
up at the telegraph office in Yanceyville this morning and sent a funny
message to your father. The telegraph man was suspicious, and as soon as
he left, he put the sheriff on his trail. It turned out that this Riccio
had a police record, and a bad one, too. He was arrested, and finally
admitted that he’d caught you and that Indian Mink had you in his shack.
He must have been a fool to try and get ransom money by telegraph. Well,
perhaps a fat jail term will teach him a lesson.”

“Then—then——” Dirk was bewildered. It seemed as if all their troubles
were ended. The half-breed dead or flown, his master in jail, and soon
the Lenape trailers would again be united. “Then everything’s all right,
and tomorrow we can go on to the top of Mount Kinnecut——” He stopped,
for Ugly Brown could not conceal his amusement, and was laughing loudly.

“Say, Van, how do you get that way? You’re right on the top of Mount
Kinnecut at this very minute!”

At the words. Brick Ryan stirred among his blankets and tried to sit up.
“Mount Kinnecut?” he mumbled. “Gollies, that’s the place we got to find.
Dirk will help me get there, won’t you, Dirk, my boy? Dirk’s the best
guy that ever hit the trail, and I’ll lick the bird that says he’s not!”

Dirk Van Horn leaned over and patted his friend’s arm. “There, take it
easy, Brick! We’re there, old chap—we’re right on the top of old
Kinnecut, and you can go to sleep now.”

“Can’t go to sleep! Got to do somethin’—can’t climb, though, because I
got a bum leg. You’ll do it, though, won’t you, Dirk?” He fumbled at his
breast.

“Do what?” the fire warden asked gently. “What must he do? Listen, you
come along with me now, and you’ll soon be stowed away in bed.”

“No, I won’t. Dirk’s got to do it first! And it’s right he should, too.
He’s the best of all of us. I wanted to quit, but he fought along, game
as a bull-pup, and carried me. I won’t move till I see him do it!”

“I think I know what he means,” said Dirk gently. “Shall I? I guess he
won’t rest easy until it’s done.” He reached out and took the crumpled
bit of cloth that Brick was clutching. “Ugly, where is the tree that has
all the Lenape trailers’ flags nailed to it?”

“Why, it’s right up the trail about a hundred yards. A big old dead
pine—you can’t miss it. I’ll go with you.”

“No, you stay here with Brick. I won’t be long.”

Brick fell back, watching Dirk’s face. “It’s the honor of Lenape, Dirk!”
he whispered. “You brought us through. There’s a couple nails in my
pocket. Good luck to you, pal!”

Dirk clasped the outstretched hand, and ran up the trail alone. There
was the tall pine. A few wooden cleats were fastened on the lower part
of the trunk, leading up to the thick branches. As he swung himself
upward, all his weariness fell away from him like a cast-off garment of
care. Up, up he climbed, until he was among the smooth limbs of the
pine. Upward, above the tree tops that swept down before his eyes to the
sunset-dyed waters of Lake Moosehorn, that lay in a curving sweep far
below, with the red spark of a campfire on its banks to mark the
rallying place of the Lenape clan. Still he climbed. Now he was at the
very top of the world; in all directions stretched the unbroken
wilderness that he and his comrades had conquered. And now his hand
touched the lowermost of a string of tattered pennons that were nailed
to the peak of this mighty tree that others of the Lenape brotherhood
had scaled before him, in years gone.

Dirk Van Horn smiled to himself, and waved a hand at his watching
partner far below. Then, still smiling, he drew a stone from his pocket,
and with a few resounding blows, nailed a bit of green and white bunting
in its place. A finger of light, the last ray of the dying sun, tipped
the little banner with gold, as the honor of Lenape fluttered bravely in
the evening breeze.


                                THE END



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)





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