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Title: Joe Wayring at Home - or The Adventures of a Fly-Rod
Author: Castlemon, Harry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: THE BATTLE WITH THE SQUATTERS.]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                      _FOREST AND STREAM SERIES._

       ---------------------------------------------------------



                          JOE WAYRING AT HOME;


                        ADVENTURES OF A FLY-ROD.

                          BY HARRY CASTLEMON,

          AUTHOR OF “GUNBOAT SERIES,” “ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES,”
                     “SPORTSMAN CLUB SERIES,” ETC.



                        THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.,

                             PHILADELPHIA,

                    CHICAGO,               TORONTO.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                        FAMOUS CASTLEMON BOOKS.


=GUNBOAT SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 6 vols. 12mo.

    FRANK THE YOUNG NATURALIST.
    FRANK IN THE WOODS.
    FRANK ON THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI.
    FRANK ON A GUNBOAT.
    FRANK BEFORE VICKSBURG.
    FRANK ON THE PRAIRIE.

=ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    FRANK AMONG THE RANCHEROS.
    FRANK IN THE MOUNTAINS.
    FRANK AT DON CARLOS’ RANCH.

=SPORTSMAN’S CLUB SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    THE SPORTSMAN’S CLUB IN THE SADDLE.
    THE SPORTSMAN’S CLUB AFLOAT.
    THE SPORTSMAN’S CLUB AMONG THE TRAPPERS.

=FRANK NELSON SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    SNOWED UP.
    FRANK IN THE FORECASTLE.
    THE BOY TRADERS.

=BOY TRAPPER SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    THE BURIED TREASURE.
    THE BOY TRAPPER.
    THE MAIL-CARRIER.

=ROUGHING IT SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    GEORGE IN CAMP.
    GEORGE AT THE WHEEL.
    GEORGE AT THE FORT.

=ROD AND GUN SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    DON GORDON’S SHOOTING BOX.
    THE YOUNG WILD FOWLERS.
    ROD AND GUN CLUB.

=GO-AHEAD SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    TOM NEWCOMBE.
    GO-AHEAD.
    NO MOSS.

=FOREST AND STREAM SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    JOE WAYRING.
    SNAGGED AND SUNK.
    STEEL HORSE.

=WAR SERIES.= By HARRY CASTLEMON. 5 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

    TRUE TO HIS COLORS.
    RODNEY THE OVERSEER.
    MARCY THE REFUGEE.
    RODNEY THE PARTISAN.
    MARCY THE BLOCKADE-RUNNER.

                    _Other Volumes in Preparation._

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  COPYRIGHT, 1886, BY PORTER & COATES.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          JOE WAYRING AT HOME

                                   OR

                        THE STORY OF A FLY-ROD.



                               CHAPTER I.

                      IN WHICH I INTRODUCE MYSELF.


I AM called “Old Durability”; but for fear my name may prove misleading,
and cause those of my readers who are not acquainted with me to fall
into the error of supposing that I am a very aged article, I desire to
say, at the outset, that I am only four years old, and that I have been
in active service just sixteen months. During that time I have seen a
world of excitement and adventure, and have performed some exploits of
which any fly-rod might be justly proud. I have hooked, at one cast, and
successfully landed, two black bass, weighing together eight and a
quarter pounds; I have so often been dumped in the cold waters of
mountain lakes and streams that it is a wonder my ferrules were not
rusted out long ago; I have been dragged about among snags and
lily-pads, by enraged trout, pickerel and bass; I have been stolen from
my lawful owner, been kept a prisoner by boys and tramps who either
could not or would not take care of me, and one of my joints has been
broken. Of course, I was skillfully patched up, but, like the man whose
arm has been fractured, I am not quite as good as I used to be, and am
reluctant to exert all my strength for fear that I shall break again in
the same place. I can’t throw a fly as far as I could when I took my
finest string of trout in front of the “sportsmen’s home” at Indian
Lake, and when I am called upon to make the attempt, my ferrules groan
and creak as if they were about to give away and let me fall to pieces.
For this my master laid me up in ordinary (that is what sailors say of a
war vessel when she goes out of commission, and is laid up in port to
remain idle there until her services are needed again), saying, as he
did so, that my days of usefulness were over, but that he would keep me
for the good I had done.

After having led an active life among the hills, lakes and forest
streams almost ever since I could remember, you may be sure that I did
not relish treatment of this sort. After doing my level best for my
master, and landing more than one fish for him that he ought to have
lost because he handled me so awkwardly—after going with him through
some of the most exciting scenes of his life, and submitting to
treatment that would have used up almost any other rod, must I be laid
upon the shelf in a dark closet and left to my gloomy reflections, while
a new favorite accompanied my master to the woods, caught the trout for
his dinner, slept under his blanket, and listened to the thrilling and
amusing stories that were told around the camp-fire? I resolved to
prevent it, if I could; so when my master took me out of my case one day
to assist him in catching a muskalonge he had seen in the lake back of
his father’s house, I nerved myself to do valiant battle, hoping to show
him that there was plenty of good hard work left in me, if he only knew
how to bring it out.

The muskalonge, which was lurking in the edge of the lily-pads ready to
pounce upon the first unwary fish that approached his lair, took the
frog that was on the hook at the very first cast, and then began the
hardest struggle of my life. My rheumatic joints complained loudly as
the heavy fish darted up and down the lake, and then dove to the bottom
in his mad efforts to escape, but I held on the best I knew how until he
leaped full length out of the water, and tried to shake the hook from
his mouth; then I was ready to give up the contest. He was the largest
fish I ever saw.

“Scotland’s a burning!” exclaimed Joe. “Isn’t he a beauty? If this old
rod was as good as he used to be, wouldn’t I have a prize in a few
minutes from now?”

I ought to have told you before that my master’s name is Joe Wayring;
and a right good boy he is, too, as you will find before my story is
ended. Nearly all the young fellows of my acquaintance, and I know some
of the best there are in the country, have some favorite word or
expression which always rises to their lips whenever they are surprised,
excited or angry, and the words I have just quoted are the ones Joe
always used under such circumstances. No matter how exasperated he was
you never could get any thing stronger out of him.

I will not dwell upon the particulars of that fight (my joints ache yet
whenever I think of it), for I set out to talk about other matters. It
will be enough to say that I held fast to the fish until he became
exhausted and was drawn through the lily-pads to the bank; then the
gaff-hook came to my assistance, and he was safely landed. He was a
monster. I afterward learned that he weighed a trifle over nineteen
pounds. Wasn’t that something of an exploit for an eight ounce rod who
had been threatened with the retired list on account of supposed
disability? I was so nearly doubled up by the long-continued strain that
had been brought to bear upon me, that when my master threw me down on
the ground while he gave his prize his quietus with the heavy handle of
the gaff-hook, I could not immediately straighten out again, as every
well-conditioned rod is expected to do under similar circumstances.

“Why, what in the world have you got there?” cried Joe’s mother, as the
boy entered the kitchen, carrying me in one hand and dragging the fish
after him with the other. She seemed to be a little afraid of the young
fisherman’s prize, and that was hardly to be wondered at, for his mouth
was open, and it was full of long, sharp teeth.

“It’s the biggest muskalonge that was ever caught in this lake,” replied
Joe, as he laid me down upon a chair and took both hands to deposit his
fish upon the table. “Didn’t he fight, though? I say, Uncle Joe,” he
added, addressing himself to a dignified gentleman in spectacles, who
just then came into the room with the morning’s paper in his hand, “I
shall not need that new split bamboo you promised me for my birthday,
though I thank you for your kind offer, all the same. This old rod is
good for at least one more summer on Indian Lake. There is plenty of
back-bone left in him yet.”

Uncle Joe was a rich old bachelor and very fond of his namesake, Joe
Wayring, on whom he lavished all the affection he would have given to
his own children, if he had had any. He was an enthusiastic angler, a
skillful and untiring bear and deer hunter, and he generally timed his
trips to the woods and mountains so that Joe and some of his particular
friends could go with him.

“He is the most durable rod I ever saw,” added my master.

“Well, then, call him ‘Old Durability’,” suggested Uncle Joe.

The boy said he thought that name would just suit me, and from that day
to this I have been known by every one who is acquainted with me as “Old
Durability”.

Having introduced myself, because there was no one to perform the
ceremony for me, and told you how I came by my cognomen, I will now go
back and relate how I made the acquaintance of my master, Joe Wayring.

If you will review your own life, boy reader, you may be able to find in
it some incident, which happened, perhaps, long before you were out of
pinafores, and which you remember perfectly, while all your life
previous to the occurrence of that particular incident is a blank to
you. Just so it was in my own experience. When I first came to my
senses, I found myself snugly tied up in my case and standing in a
corner, looking through a glass door into a large store in which guns of
all makes and fishing tackle of all kinds were kept for sale. At first I
was greatly bewildered. I felt, if I may judge from what I have seen
during my trips to the woods, like a boy who has just awakened from a
sound sleep; but after a while my wits came to me, and then I found that
I was not alone in the show-case. There were a dozen or two fly and bait
rods standing in the corner beside me, and a little further down,
looking toward the back end of the store, were single and
double-barreled shot-guns, muzzle and breech-loading rifles, game-bags,
creels, hunting knives, dog-whips, and almost every thing else that a
sportsman is supposed to need. In the show-case, which rested on the
long counter in front of me, were revolvers, pen-knives, lines, leaders,
flies and ordinary fish-hooks without number; and on the opposite side
of the store was an array of barrels containing glass balls, traps for
throwing those balls, bicycles, tricycles, rowing and lifting
machines—in fact, I saw so many things that I did not then know the name
or use of, that I became confused while I looked at them.

“Hallo, there! Have you waked up at last?” cried a voice, breaking in
upon my meditations.

A short investigation showed that the voice came from the case that
stood next on my right. I did not know, of course, what sort of a rod he
was, or whether or not he would prove to be an agreeable acquaintance;
but wishing to be civil, I replied that I _had_ waked up, and that, if
he could tell me, I should be glad to know where I was and how I came
there.

“Why, you are in a one-horse country town, a thousand miles from
nowhere, and you have always been here,” was the answer, given as I
thought in a tone of contempt. “I have traveled. I came all the way from
New York.”

“Who are you?” I ventured to ask; for my new acquaintance spoke in so
dignified and lofty a tone, that I stood somewhat in awe of him.

“I am a split bamboo,” said he; and then I saw very clearly that he was
disposed to throw on airs, and to lord it over those who were not as
fortunate as himself. “I am a gentleman’s rod, and it takes the ducats
to buy me. I am worth forty-five dollars; while I see by the card tied
to your case, that you are valued at only six and a half.”

Not being quick at figures at this early period of my life, I could not
tell just how much difference there was between forty-five dollars and
six and a half, but I knew by the way the bamboo spoke, that the gulf
that separated him from me was a wide one. I have learned some things
since then. I know now that the qualities of a fly-rod do not depend
upon the varnish that is put on the outside of him, any more than a
boy’s qualities of mind and heart depend upon the clothes he wears. The
stuff he is made of and the company he keeps have much to do with the
record he makes in the world. While I was turning the matter over in my
mind, somebody who had been listening to our conversation, suddenly
broke in with:

“You are neither one of you worth the money you cost.”

I looked around to see who the new speaker was, and presently discovered
him in the person of a handsome bird gun, who rested upon a pair of
deer’s antlers a short distance away.

“You can’t bring a squirrel out of the top of the tallest hickory in the
woods, or stop a woodcock or a grouse on the wing, but I can,” continued
the double-barrel.

“I can catch a trout, if I have some one to back me who understands his
business, and that’s more than you can do,” retorted the bamboo,
spitefully. “I can throw a line sixty or seventy feet; I heard the
proprietor of this store say so.”

“And I can throw shot sixty or seventy yards, which is three times as
far as you can throw a line,” shouted the double-barrel. “You seem to
think yourself of some consequence because you came from New York. I
came all the way from England, and that is on the other side of the
ocean.”

“So you are an assisted immigrant, are you?” cried the bamboo, in tones
indicative of the greatest contempt. “Well, that’s all I care to know
about you.”

The disputants grew more and more in earnest the longer they talked, and
pretty soon there were some hard words used. I took no part in the
controversy, for I felt rather bashful in the presence of those who had
seen so much more of the world than I had, and who were worth so much
more money, and besides I could not see what there was to quarrel about.
My sympathies were with the bamboo, arrogant as he had showed himself to
be, because he was an American like myself; but still the English
fowling-piece, “assisted immigrant” though he was, had a right to live
in this country so long as he behaved himself, and as he was a showy
fellow, I had no doubt that he would get out of the store before either
the bamboo or myself. And so he did. While the dispute was at its height
the door opened and a young man came in—a tall young man, with very thin
legs, peaked shoes, gold eye-glasses and a downy upper lip. He walked
with a mincing step and drawled out his words when he talked.

“A dude!” whispered the bamboo.

Before I could ask what a “dude” was, the proprietor came up, and the
talking was for a moment hushed. Being impatient to be released from the
show-case so that we could see what was going on in the great world
outside, each one of us cherished the secret hope that we might find
favor in the eyes of the prospective purchaser. We were so inexperienced
and foolish that we didn’t care much who bought us, so long as we got
out.

“I—aw! I want to look at a nice light bird gun,” said the young man;
“something you can recommend for woodcock and the like, don’t yer know?”

“Why, that’s a countryman of mine,” exclaimed the double-barrel, who
seemed to be highly excited by the discovery.

The bamboo hastened to assure me that he wasn’t—that he was an American
trying to ape English ways.

“Do you want a hammerless?” asked the proprietor.

“I—aw! They come pretty ’igh, don’t they?”

“Not necessarily. Here’s one worth a hundred and twenty-five dollars,”
replied the storekeeper; and as he spoke, he opened the show-case and
took from it a double-barrel who was so very plain in appearance, that I
had not before taken more than a passing glance at him. “I judge from
your speech that you are an Englishman, and if you are, you of course
know more about this make of guns than I can tell you. It is a Greener.”

The young man seemed pleased to know that he had succeeded in making the
proprietor believe that he was not an American, but he did not seem to
appreciate the gun, nor did he handle it as if he were accustomed to the
use of fire-arms. He hardly knew how to bring it to his face properly.

“I—aw! Hit’s wery fine, no doubt,” said he, after he had made an awkward
pretense of examining the gun, “but I—aw! I want something a little more
showy and not quite so ’igh-priced, don’t yer know? Something that I can
take pride in exhibiting to my ’unting friends, don’t yer know?”

“We have guns that are more showy than this, but they are cheap affairs,
and we don’t recommend them. How would this one suit you?” said the
proprietor; and as he spoke, he opened another door in the show-case,
and took my bragging friend down from his place on the antlers.

It may have been all imagination on my part, but I would have been
willing to affirm that his nickel-plated ornaments grew a shade dimmer
as he was taken out of the case, and I am of the same opinion still. By
his boasting he had led us all to believe that he was worth at least two
or three hundred dollars; and you can imagine how surprised we were when
we learned that he was valued at a very small fraction of that sum.

“Aw! That looks more like a gun,” said the customer. “That’s a piece,
don’t yer know, that a fellah can show to his friends. Hit’ll shoot, I
suppose?”

“Oh, yes, it will shoot, but it will not do as clean work as the one I
just showed you.”

“Hi’ll take the risk. ’Ow much for ’im?”

“Twenty-five dollars; and that includes a trunk-shaped case,
loading-tools, wiping-rod and fifty brass-shells.”

The young man handed over the money and went out, after requesting that
his purchase might be sent up to the Lambert House at once, as he wished
to start for the woods on the following day. As soon as the door was
closed behind him, the proprietor called out to the porter:

“Oh, Rube! Come here and take this Brummagem shooting-iron up to the
hotel. Thank goodness it is the last one we have in stock, and I’ll
never buy another.”

“I wonder how that boastful bird gun feels now,” whispered the bamboo.
“His pride had to take a tumble, didn’t it? There’s no Brummagem about
me, I can tell you.”

“What do you mean by—by—” The word was too hard for me, and I stumbled
over it.

“By Brummagem?” said the bamboo, who felt so good over the discomfiture
of the English fowling-piece that he was disposed to be friendly as well
as civil. “Why, it’s something that is fine and showy, but which is not
in reality worth any thing. A Yankee would say that that double-barrel
was a ‘shoddy’ article.”

“I feel guilty every time I sell one of those guns,” continued the
proprietor. “They are made in Birmingham, England, at the cost of nine
dollars apiece by the dozen.”

“That dude will never hurt any thing with it,” observed the porter, who
had taken a good look at the customer and heard all that passed between
him and his employer.

“I hope he will not hurt himself with it,” answered the latter. “What
does he want to go into the woods for? He doesn’t know a woodcock from
an ostrich.”

“He goes because it is fashionable, I suppose,” said Rube; and I
afterward found out that that was just the reason. I saw him in the
wilderness a few weeks later, and had an opportunity to exchange a word
or two with the Brummagem breech-loader. The latter looked decidedly
seedy. He was covered with rust, his locks were out of order, and he had
been put to such hard service that every joint in his make-up was loose.
The second time I met him he could scarcely talk to me, because there
was not much left of him except his stock. His ignorant owner—but we’ll
wait until we come to that, won’t we?

The next customers who came into the store were an elderly gentleman and
a young lady. I certainly thought my chance for freedom had come, for
when the gentleman said that his daughter wanted to look at a fly-rod,
something light enough to be managed with one hand, and strong enough to
land a perch or rock-bass, the proprietor pushed open the door in front
of me and took me out.

“Aha!” exclaimed the bamboo. “Your fate is to be the companion and
plaything of a little girl, who will probably set you to catching
sunfish and minnows, and throw you down in the mud when she gets through
with you. I know that I am destined for the trout streams, and I have an
idea that I shall be taken to Canada to have a shy at the lordly salmon.
Good-by; but I am sorry for you.”

I did not thank the bamboo for his words of sympathy, because I did not
believe they were sincere. I thought I could detect a hypocritical twang
in them; but before I could tell him so, I was taken out of my case, and
for the first time given an opportunity to see how I looked.

“There is a rod I can recommend. Lancewood throughout, nickel-plated
ferrules and reel-seat and artistically wound with cane and silk,” said
the proprietor, glibly. “I will warrant him to do good work, and if the
lady breaks him she will not be much out of pocket—only six dollars and
a half.”

“Oh, I don’t want a cheap thing like that,” exclaimed the young lady,
who would not take a second look at me after she heard that I was worth
so little money. “I want a nice rod.”

The storekeeper laid me on the show-case, and brought my friend the
split bamboo out for exhibition. He was a splendid looking fellow, and I
did not wonder that the young lady went into ecstasies over him, and
declared at once that he was just the rod she had long been wishing for.
Neither could I resist the temptation to say to him, as he was put back
into his case:

“What do you think now of your chances of going among the trout streams
and of taking a shy at the lordly salmon! Good-by; but I am sorry for
you.”

The bamboo was so crest-fallen that he could make no response. He was
carried away by his new owner, and I did not see him again until I was
almost ready to be laid upon the shelf in my master’s closet, to enjoy a
long winter’s rest after a season of the hardest kind of work. The pride
and arrogance were all gone out of him, and he did not look much as he
did when he left the store. If he had been a man, folks would have
called him a tramp.



                              CHAPTER II.

                  THE HISTORIAN OF THE WAYRING FAMILY.


THE bamboo having been disposed of I was returned to the show-case,
where I spent two very lonely days. The rods around me were worth more
money than I was, and feeling their importance they would scarcely speak
to me, even to answer a civil question; so all I could do was to hold my
peace and listen to their conversation. But fate had decreed that I
should not long remain a captive. One afternoon there came into the
store a gentleman in gold spectacles, accompanied by two bright boys
about fifteen years of age. They must have been well known to the
proprietor, for he shook their hands with all the cordiality which
shopkeepers know how to assume toward their rich patrons, and greeted
them with:

“Ah, colonel, I am glad to see you. Well, Joseph, have you come after
that rod?”

“Yes, sir,” answered one of the boys, a curly-headed, blue-eyed lad, who
looked so good-natured and jolly that I took a great fancy to him at
once. “You remember what I told you the last time I was here, Mr.
Brown—that I want something light and strong and inexpensive. I can’t
afford to pay a high price for a rod that I may break at the very first
cast. You know I never threw a fly in my life.”

“Yes, I know that,” said Mr. Brown, “and I know, too, that as a bait
fisher you have few equals and no superiors among boys of your age.”

“I thank you for the compliment, but I am afraid I don’t deserve it,”
said the blue-eyed boy, modestly.

“Oh, yes, you do. Now here’s a rod that will suit you exactly,” answered
the proprietor, pushing open the show-case and laying hold of me. “He
weighs only eight ounces, hangs beautifully, and will answer your
purpose as well as one worth five times the money. Only six and a half,
and that’s cheaper than you could steal him, if you were in that line of
business.”

“What do you say, Uncle Joe?” asked the boy after he and his companion,
whom he addressed as Roy Sheldon, had shaken me up and down in the air
until it was a wonder to me that they did not break my back.

“Since Mr. Brown has recommended him, I say that you can’t do better
than to take him,” was the reply, and that settled the matter. I had a
master at last, and a good one, too, if there were any faith to be put
in appearances. I took him for a restless, uneasy fellow who would not
let me rust for want of use, and I found that I had not been mistaken in
my opinion of him.

Joe, as I shall hereafter call him, next purchased, under his uncle’s
supervision, three long water-proof lines, a Loomis automatic reel, a
dozen cream-colored leaders of different lengths, a creel who afterward
became my constant companion, and a fly-book filled with all the most
tempting lures known to anglers, such as coachmen, white millers, red
and brown hackles, and many other things whose names I did not know.
With these under his arm and me on his shoulder he set out for home
accompanied by Roy Sheldon, Uncle Joe taking leave of them at the door,
saying that he was going to the post-office.

“I wish every fellow in the world had an uncle like that,” said Joe, as
he turned about and waved his hand to the gentleman with the gold
spectacles.

“So do I,” answered Roy, “excepting, of course, Tom Bigden and his
crowd.”

“I don’t except even them,” said Joe. “Tom pulls a lovely oar, and I
never saw a fellow who could play short stop or train a spaniel like
him. I have nothing against any of them, and should be glad to be
friends with them if they would let me.”

“But haven’t you seen to your satisfaction that they won’t let you?”
demanded Roy, rather sharply. “They’ve got something against you, and
they’ll continue to make you suffer for it; see if they don’t.”

I wondered what it was that any one could have against so fine a young
fellow as my new master appeared to be, and it was not many days before
I found out. Tom Bigden and his followers _did_ make Joe suffer, but it
was principally through his friends, that is, through his sail-boat, his
shell in which he used to train for his races, his canvas canoe that had
carried him safely down the most difficult rapids in Indian River, and
finally through me. In fact, I became a regular shuttle-cock of fortune,
and was so roughly knocked about from pillar to post, that it is a
wonder to me that I am as good a rod as I am.

After a few minutes’ walk along a quiet street shaded on each side by
grand old trees, Joe and his companion turned into a wide carriage-way
which led them by a circuitous route through a little grove of
evergreens to the house in which Joe lived—a fine brick mansion, with
stone facings, a carriage-porch at the side door, and a croquet ground
and lawn tennis court in front. Behind the house the grounds sloped
gently down to the shore of a beautiful lake, with an island near the
center, and with banks on each side that were thickly wooded, save where
the trees and undergrowth had been cleared away to make room for the
cozy summer residences of the visitors who came there every year. For
Mount Airy, that was the name of the village in which Joe Wayring lived,
was acquiring some fame as a watering place. There were four springs in
the vicinity, whose waters were supposed to possess some medicinal
virtues, the scenery was grand, the drives numerous and pleasant, and
the fishing (and the shooting, too, in the proper season), could not be
surpassed.

At the foot of the path that led from the carriage-porch to the lake,
was a boat-house which afforded shelter to some of Joe’s friends whose
acquaintance I was soon to make, and a short distance from its door his
sail boat, the _Young Republic_, rode at her moorings. It was indeed a
pleasant scene that was spread out before me; but before I had time to
admire it sufficiently, Joe and his companion went up the stone steps
three at a jump, rushed into the hall, fired their caps at the hat-rack,
and without waiting to see whether or not they caught on the pegs at
which they were aimed, ran up the wide stairs that led to the floor
above. I held my breath in suspense and wondered what in the world was
the matter now; but I afterward learned that I had no cause for
uneasiness, and that that is the way boys generally conduct themselves
when they go into a house. It saves them the trouble of hunting up their
father and mother and telling them that they have got home without being
run over by the cars, or knocked down by a runaway horse, or drowned in
the lake.

The room into which Joe conducted his friend was like the private
sanctum of every other boy who delights in the sports of the woods and
fields, with this exception: It was in perfect order, and as neat as a
new pin. Joe’s mother wouldn’t have it any other way, and neither would
Joe. Indeed it was a favorite saying of his that if folks would keep
away and let his things alone (by “folks” he meant to designate old
Betty, the housekeeper, who, according to Joe’s way of thinking, was
“awful fussy”), he could find any thing he wanted, from a postage-stamp
to a spoon-oar, on the darkest of nights, and without a lamp to aid him
in the search.

The room looked a good deal like a museum I afterward saw, only it was
on a much smaller scale, of course, and it contained so many rare and
curious things that Joe’s friends were always glad of an invitation “to
step up for a few minutes.” Uncle Joe’s love for the rod and gun had led
him to roam all over his own country, as well as to some remote corners
of foreign lands, and during these rambles he never forgot the boy at
home who thought so much of relics and souvenirs of all kinds, and took
such good care of them. He gave Joe the Alpine stock which had assisted
him in his ascent of Mount Blanc; the Indian saddle and bridle he had
used when fleeing from the agency at the time the Utes rose in rebellion
and killed Meeker and all the other whites who did not succeed in making
good their escape; the head of the first bison he had ever shot, and
which, having been mounted by an expert taxidermist, had been hung above
the looking-glass over the mantle to serve as a resting place for the
sword and pistols Uncle Joe carried during the war, the elk-horn bow,
quiver of arrows, scalping knife and moccasins presented to him by a
Sioux chief; and for the prize lancewood bow won by my master at a
shooting match; for Joe was an archer, as well as an angler and wing
shot, and he had been Master Bowman of the Mount Airy Toxophilites until
he became tired of the office and gave it up. These articles, and a good
many others which I did not have time to look at, were so neatly and
artistically arranged that it did not seem to me that a single one of
them could be moved without spoiling the effect of the whole. Nothing
looked out of place, not even the black, uncouth object that lay in a
little recess on the opposite side of the room. Having never seen any
thing just like him before, I could not make out what he was, and I
waited rather impatiently for his master to go out of the room so that I
could speak to him; but Joe did not seem to be in any hurry to leave. He
stood me up in a corner, and then he and Roy seated themselves at a
table in the middle of the room, and proceeded to “fix up” a debate that
was to be held at the High School on the afternoon of the coming Friday.
The question was: “Ought corporal punishment in schools to be
abolished?” No doubt it was a matter in which both Joe and Roy had been
deeply interested in their younger days, but it did not affect me one
way or the other, and consequently I paid very little attention to what
they said. My time was fully taken up with the strange things I saw
around me.

At last, to my great satisfaction, the boys concluded that they could
“fix up” the matter while sailing about the lake in the _Young
Republic_, better than they could while sitting by the table, especially
if they could find some boat to race with, so they bolted out of the
room with much noise and racket, and left the house, banging the hall
door loudly behind them. Then I turned to speak to the object that
occupied the recess on the other side of the room, and found that he was
quite as willing to make my acquaintance as I was to make his.

“Hallo!” said he; and I afterward learned that that is the way in which
school boys and telephones always greet each other.

“Hallo!” said I, in reply. “Who are you? if I may be so bold as to
inquire.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” answered my new acquaintance, cheerfully.
“Everybody who sees me for the first time wants to know all about me. I
don’t suppose I am much to look at—indeed, I know I am not, because I
can see my reflection in the mirror over the mantle—but I am the boss
boat on the rapids, and am worth more on a ‘carry’ than all the cedar
and birch-bark canoes in America. I am the historian of the Wayring
family, or, rather, of the youngest branch of it,” he added, with no
little pride in his tones. “I carry secrets enough to sink any ordinary
craft, and if I only had the power to communicate some of them to my
master, perhaps he wouldn’t open his eyes! I am a canvas canoe, at your
service.”

“Oh!” said I.

“Yes,” said he. “And unless my judgment is at fault, you are a fly-rod.
I heard Joe say that his uncle was going to get one for him.”

“That is just what I am,” I made answer. “Nickel-plated ferrules and
reel-seat, artistically wound with cane and silk, and lancewood
throughout.”

My lofty speech did not have the effect I thought it would. The canvas
canoe seemed to have rather an exalted opinion of himself, and I did not
see why I should stay in the background for want of somebody to praise
me, and so I praised myself; and that’s a bad thing to do. I only
succeeded in exciting the merriment of every occupant of the room, for I
heard derisive laughter on all sides of me.

“Don’t throw on airs, young fellow,” said the canvas canoe, as soon as
he could speak. “You have come to the wrong shop for that sort of work.
I wouldn’t boast until I had done something, if I were in your place. If
there is any good in you, you will fare well in Joe’s hands, and he will
do your bragging for you; but if you fail him when the pinch comes, you
will most likely be chucked into the lake, or given away to the first
little ragamuffin he can find who wants a rod that is good for nothing.
So take a friend’s advice and hold your tongue until you have seen
service.”

I felt somewhat abashed by this rebuke, for, of course, I was desirous
of making a favorable impression upon those with whom I was to be
associated all the days of my life. I thought I had made them despise
me; but the next words uttered by the canvas canoe showed me that I need
have no fears on that score.

“A boat and a rod generally go together, you know,” said he; “so I
suppose that you and I will see much of each other hereafter.”

“And how about me?” piped a shrill voice close beside me.

I looked down, and there was the creel. I had not thought of him before,
and it was plain that the canoe hadn’t either, for he exclaimed, in a
tone of surprise:

“Who spoke? Oh, it was you, was it? Well, I don’t know just what Joe
will do with you, for he never owned a creel before. He has always
carried his dinner in his pocket when he went trouting, or in a basket
if he went out on the lake after bass, and brought his fish home on a
string; but he will find use for you, you may depend upon that. He is a
busy boy, is Joe, and he keeps every body around him busy, too.”

“I understood you to say that you are the historian of the Wayring
family,” I ventured to remark, when the canoe ceased speaking.

“Of the youngest branch of it—yes. I have been a member of this
household for a long time. Can’t you see that I am a veteran? Don’t you
notice my wounds? I have been snagged more times than I can remember, I
have had holes punched in me by rocks, and some of my ribs have been
fractured; but I am a pretty good boat yet. At least Joe thinks so, for
he is going to take me somewhere this coming summer, probably up into
Michigan to run the rapids of the Menominee; and, to tell you the honest
truth, I am looking forward to that trip with fear and trembling. I have
heard Uncle Joe say that those rapids were something to make a man’s
hair stand on end; but if my master says ‘go’, I shall take him through
if I can. I have carried him through some dangerous places, and whenever
I have got him into trouble, it has been owing to his own carelessness
or mismanagement.”

“I suppose he thinks a great deal of you?” said I.

“Well, he ought to,” replied the canoe, with a self-satisfied air. “I
have stuck to him through thick and thin for a good many years. I was
the very first plaything he owned, after he took it into his head that
he was getting too big to ride a rocking-horse. He used to paddle me
around on a duck pond, where the water wasn’t more than a foot deep,
long before it was thought safe to trust him with a rod or gun. But Joe
does not seem to care much for a gun. He is fairly carried away by his
love of archery, and a long bow is his favorite weapon.”

“Do you know who Tom Bigden is, and what Joe has done to incur his
ill-will?” I inquired.

“I have some slight acquaintance with that young gentleman,” answered
the canoe, with a laugh. “It was through him that I was snagged and sunk
in the Indian Lake country. I don’t know how the fuss started, and
neither does any body except Tom Bigden himself; but I suppose that
fellow over there and a few others like him, are wholly to blame for
it.”

“What fellow? Over where?” I asked; for of course the canvas canoe could
not point his finger or nod his head to tell me which way to look.

“This fellow up here,” said a new voice, which came from over the
bookcase.

I looked up, and there was another lancewood bow, resting on a pair of
deer’s antlers. He was not quite as fancy as the prize bow of whom I
have already spoken. His green plush handle was beginning to look
threadbare, and that, to my mind, indicated that he had seen service.

“You wouldn’t think that a few insignificant things like that could be
the means of setting a whole village together by the ears, would you?”
continued the canoe.

“Insignificant yourself,” retorted the long bow; but I was glad to
notice that he did not speak as if he were angry. The various articles I
saw about me all cherished the most friendly feelings for one another,
but when they had nothing to do, they were like a lot of idle
boys—always trying to “get a joke” upon some of their number. “You never
won a prize for Joe, did you? Well, I have. Go and win a race before you
brag. You can’t; you’re much too clumsy. One of those Shadow or Rob Roy
canoes out there on the lake would beat you out of sight in going a
mile.”

I cared nothing at all for this side sparring. I knew that I would have
plenty of time in which to listen to it during the long winter months,
when canoe, long bow and fly-rod would be laid up in ordinary, while
skates, snow-shoes and toboggans took our places in the affections of
our master for the time being. For I saw snow-shoes and a toboggan
there, and I knew what they were, because I had seen some like them in
Mr. Brown’s store. They came from Canada, and were almost as full of
stories as the canoe was. Joe had worn the snow-shoes while hunting
caribou in Newfoundland in company with his uncle, and the toboggan had
carried his master with lightning speed over the ice bridge at Niagara
Falls. Many an hour that would otherwise have dragged by on leaden wings
did they brighten for us by relating scraps of their personal history,
and at some future time I may induce them to put those same narratives
into print for your benefit; but just now we are interested in Tom
Bigden. We want to know why he disliked Joe Wayring, and what made him
take every opportunity he could find to annoy him.

“When you talk about racing you don’t want to leave me out,” observed
the toboggan, “for I am the lad to show speed. Give me a fair field, and
I would not be much afraid to try conclusions with an express train. And
it takes as much, if not more, skill to manage me than it does to handle
an awkward canvas canoe, who is always bobbing about, turning first one
way and then another as if he were too contrary to hold a straight
course.”

“I wasn’t intended for a racing boat, and I know I can’t compete with
such flyers as you and a Rob Roy,” said the canvas canoe, modestly; and
I afterward found that none of my new acquaintances were half as
conceited as they pretended to be. They boasted just to hear themselves
talk, and because they had no other way of passing the time when they
were unemployed; but each was perfectly willing to acknowledge the
superiority of the other in his own particular line of business. “I was
intended for a portable craft—something that can be folded into a small
compass and carried over a portage without much trouble; and in that
respect I am far ahead of a stiff-necked Canuck, who, having made up his
mind just how much space he ought to occupy in the world, would rather
break than bend to give elbow-room to his betters.” “You wanted me to
tell you something about Tom Bigden, I believe,” added the canoe,
addressing himself to me. “Well, it is a long story, but you will have
plenty of time to listen to it; for if Joe and Roy have gone out on the
lake, they will not return much before dark. You ought to know the full
history of Tom’s dealings with Joe, for you may become the victim of
persecution as the rest of us are and have been ever since Tom came
here; and if you were not posted, you would not know how to account for
it. A long time ago—”

But there! I never could learn to tell a story in the words of another,
so I will, for a time, drop the personal pronoun, which I don’t like to
use if I can help it, and give you in my own homely way the substance of
the narrative to which I listened that afternoon. But please understand
one thing before I begin: The historian was not a personal witness of
all the incidents I am about to describe. He couldn’t have been, unless
he possessed the power of being in half a dozen different places at the
same time. He saw and heard some things, of course, but much of his
information had been obtained from the long bow, and from Joe and his
friends, who had freely discussed matters in his presence; and by
putting all these different incidents together, he was able to make up a
story which, to me, was very interesting. I hope it may prove so to you.



                              CHAPTER III.

              SOMETHING ABOUT TOM BIGDEN AND HIS COUSINS.


MOUNT AIRY, the village in which Joe Wayring and Roy Sheldon lived, was
situated a few miles away from a large city which, for want of a better
name, we will call New London. It was so far distant from the city that
it could not properly be spoken of as one of its suburbs, and yet the
railroad brought the village so near to it that a good many men who did
business in New London, Joe’s father and Roy’s among the number, had
their homes there. It was a veritable “hide and seek town”. Sometimes,
as you were approaching it on the cars, you would see it very plainly,
and then again you wouldn’t. It was nestled in among high mountains, and
in the woods which covered them from base to summit could be found an
abundance of small game, such as hares, squirrels and grouse, that
afforded sport to the local Nimrods, and even received attention from
the New London gunners. It was surrounded by a perfect network of
babbling trout brooks, and there were several lakes and ponds in the
vicinity in which some of the finest fish in the world awaited the lure
of the skillful angler. And it required skill to take them, too. They
were shy of strangers, and it wasn’t every body who could go out in the
morning and come back at night with a full creel.

Nor was larger game wanting to tempt the hunter who plumed himself on
being a good shot with the rifle. Visitors standing upon the veranda of
the principal hotel in the village had often heard wolves howling in the
mountains, and on more than one occasion a deer had been seen standing
on the opposite shore of Mirror Lake (it was generally called Wayring’s
Lake, because Joe’s father owned the land on all sides of it), regarding
with much curiosity the evidences of civilization that had sprung up on
the other side. More than that, a bear was expected to make his
appearance at least once every season; and when word was passed that he
was in sight, what a hubbub it created among the visiting sportsmen! How
prompt they were to seize their guns and run out after him, and how sure
they were to come back empty-handed! Uncle Joe used to say that he
believed the managers of the hotels would close their doors against the
man who was lucky enough to shoot that bear, for unless Bruin had a
companion to take his place, his death would spoil their advertisements.
For years the proprietor of the Mount Airy House had been accustomed to
tell the public, through the New London papers, that bear could be seen
from the piazza of his hotel, and the announcement had brought him many
a dollar from sportsmen who came from all parts of the country to shoot
that bear. Why didn’t Uncle Joe shoot him? He owned the hotel.

We have said that Mount Airy was acquiring some fame as a
watering-place; but that must not lead you to infer that it was like
other places of resort—lively enough in summer, but very dull in winter,
for such was by no means the case. The village was lively at all seasons
of the year. Of course there were many more people there in summer than
there were in winter, for during warm weather the hotels and all the
boarding houses were crowded with visitors, and so were the cottages on
the other side of the lake; but when these visitors went away, the
citizens did not hibernate like so many woodchucks and wait for them to
come back, because they were not dependent upon tourists either for
their livelihood or for means of entertainment. Strangers were
astonished when they found what a driving, go-ahead sort of people they
were. They were proud of their village, of its churches, its hotels, its
fine private residences, and its high-school was so well and favorably
known that it attracted students from all parts of the country. It could
boast of an efficient fire department, composed of all the leading men
in town (the ministers and teachers, to a man, belonged to it), a
military company which formed a part of the National Guard of the State,
and a band of archers known as the Mount Airy Toxophilites. We ought,
rather, to say that there were _two_ bands of archers, one being
composed of boys and girls, and the other of their fathers, mothers and
older brothers and sisters. They were both uniformed, but the boy
members of the Toxophilites were the only ones who ever paraded.

It was worth a long journey to see these forty young archers turn out
and march through the streets to the music of the band. They looked as
neat in their green and white suits, with short top boots, and black
hats turned up at one side and fastened with a black feather, as the
military company did in their blue uniforms and white helmets: and as
for their marching, it was nearly perfect. They had a manual of arms
which originated with Uncle Joe, who, for more than a year, acted as
their instructor and drill-master. They were governed by a constitution
and by-laws, and fines were imposed upon those who did not turn out
regularly to the drills and parades. They had shooting matches at which
prizes were distributed, also a grand annual hunt, followed by a dinner
that was equally grand; and every year some of the boys spent a week or
two camping in the mountains, taking bows and arrows with them instead
of guns. A good many of the young archers were very fine shots with
these novel weapons, and there were about half a dozen of them, of whom
Joe and Roy made two, who stood ready at any time to meet an equal
number of riflemen at the trap, the archers shooting at twelve yards
rise and the riflemen at twenty.

On the morning of July 4, 18—, a large party of newly-arrived visitors
were seated on the wide veranda of the Mount Airy House, enjoying the
refreshing breeze that came to them from over the lake, and
congratulating themselves on having left the city, with all its dust,
heat and noise, behind them for one good long month at least. Some of
these visitors had never been there before, and consequently they knew
little or nothing about the village and its inhabitants. Among these
were Tom Bigden and his two cousins, Ralph and Loren Farnsworth, who
were leaning over the railing, fanning their flushed faces with their
hats, and wondering how in the world they were going to put in four
weeks’ time in that desolate town. They were city boys, any body could
see that, and they were disappointed, and angry as well, because their
parents had not decided to spend a portion of the summer at some place
convenient to salt water, so that they could enjoy a dip in the surf now
and then.

“I see a boat down there,” observed Loren. “I wonder if we could hire it
for an hour or two? I think I should like to take a sail on that lake,
it looks so cool and inviting.”

“Humph!” exclaimed Tom. “I’d much rather take a run up to Newport or
over to Greenbush in my father’s yacht.”

“I wouldn’t,” answered Loren. “I can go down to the Sound any day, but a
gem of a lake like this is something I haven’t feasted my eyes upon in a
long time. I am going to see if I can hire a boat; and after I get tired
of sailing around in her, I’m going to lie to under the shade of some
tree that hangs over the water, and be as lazy as I know how. That’s
what I came up here for.”

“Boom!” said a field-piece, from some distant part of the village.

“What was that?” exclaimed Ralph. “A cannon?”

“Naw,” replied Tom, in a tone which implied that he had no patience with
any one who could ask such a question. “What would a cannon be doing up
here in the woods? Do you think these greenhorns are going to try to get
up a celebration for our benefit?”

“No, I don’t; but they’ve got up one for their own. Do you hear that?”
answered Ralph, as the warning roll of a drum, followed by the music of
a band, rang out on the air. “The procession, or whatever it is, is
coming this way, too. Now I shall expect to see something that will
eclipse any thing New London ever thought of getting up.”

It wasn’t a celebration; it was only the annual review of the Mount Airy
fire department, which was always held on the Fourth of July. Ralph and
his cousins were fully prepared to make all sorts of fun of it, but when
the head of the procession came into view around the corner of the
street below, they were so surprised at the size of it that they had not
a word to say. It took up the whole width of the street, and that it was
determined to have all the room it wanted, was made plain by the actions
of a couple of mounted policemen who rode in front to clear the way.

“That’s good marching, boys,” said Loren, who had seen so much of it in
New London that he thought himself qualified to judge. “It is a very
creditable display for so small a place as this.”

“Every body seems to think it’s going to be something grand,” sneered
Tom, who was really amazed at the rapidity with which the spacious
veranda was filled by the guests, who came pouring out of the wide doors
in a steady stream.

“Why, there’s a military company in line with the firemen—two of them,”
exclaimed Ralph.

“Visiting companies, no doubt,” said Tom, “and that’s what makes every
one so anxious to see them.”

“There’s where you are wrong, Tom,” said Mr. Farnsworth, who,
approaching them unobserved, had heard every word of their conversation.
“You never saw a parade just like this, and I don’t believe you will
ever see another unless your father and I carry out some plans we have
been talking about, and come up here to live.”

“To live?” echoed Tom.

“Up here in the woods?” cried Ralph.

“Among all these country greenhorns!” chimed in Loren.

“You will find very few country greenhorns in Mount Airy,” said Mr.
Farnsworth, with a laugh. “Why, boys, those fire companies represent
millions of New London’s business capital.”

“Oh!” said Tom.

“Ah!” said Ralph.

“That makes the thing look different,” added Loren. “I supposed that
they were made up of the same material we used to find in the old
volunteer organizations.”

“By no means. They are all rich and intelligent men. They own valuable
property here, and by taking an interest in their fire department, they
get their insurance at much lower rates than we do in the city.”

The near approach of the column put a stop to the conversation. First
came the drum-major, a big six-footer, with a high bear-skin cap, which
made him look a great deal taller than he really was, and behind him the
band, which discoursed as fine music as any body wanted to hear. Then
came the hook and ladder company, two hundred strong, marching four
abreast and drawing their heavy truck after them without the least
apparent exertion. Next came a steam fire engine, drawn by men instead
of horses, after that a hose cart, followed by a small company of about
twenty young fellows in black dress-coats and white trowsers and caps,
who pulled along something that looked like a skeleton road wagon,
loaded with Babcock fire extinguishers.

“That’s a little the queerest looking turn-out I ever saw,” Tom
remarked. “_They_ couldn’t do any thing toward putting out a fire. I
suppose they are more for show than any thing else.”

“Wrong again,” said Mr. Farnsworth. “They have done good work, and the
citizens, in recognition of their services, presented them with money
enough to build an engine house for themselves, and furnish it in fine
style.”

Next came the soldiers, veterans, every one of them, and behind them a
company of oddly uniformed youngsters, whose movements were governed by
the blast of a bugle instead of the word of command. They must have been
the ones the guests were waiting for, for when they came in sight, and,
following the movements of the military company, executed the maneuver:
“Platoons right front into line,” which they did with as much
soldier-like precision as the veterans themselves, the gentlemen on the
veranda cheered them lustily, while the ladies waved their handkerchiefs
and bombarded the ranks with bouquets, which were deftly caught by the
boys, and impaled upon the ends of their long bows.

“Now, then, can any body tell me who and what those fellows are?”
exclaimed Ralph.

“They are the Mount Airy Toxophilites,” replied Mr. Farnsworth.

“Lovers of a bow or arrow,” said Ralph, who was well up in his Greek.
“What do they do?”

“Oh, they have regular shooting-matches, drills and parades, and now and
then a hunt and a camp in the woods.”

“They can’t hit any thing with those bows, of course.”

“Yes, I believe they can,” replied Mr. Farnsworth. “I am told that when
they go on a hunt, they are as sure of coming back full-handed as those
who use guns. After passing in review before the trustees, they are to
have a drill in the park. I see that a good many of the guests are
getting ready to go down, and if you would like to see it, we will go
also.”

Tom and his cousins had found reason to change some of their opinions
during the last few minutes, and that was just what Mr. Farnsworth
desired. He had talked with that very end in view—to make them see that
New London was not the only place in the world in which boys could enjoy
themselves, and to prepare them for the change which he and his
brother-in-law, Tom’s father, intended to make that very summer. They
were anxious to get their boys away from New London, for it was full of
temptations which Tom and his cousins found it hard to resist. They were
learning to think more of billiards than they did of their books, and
they had even been known to roll ten-pins for soda water. Soda water
wasn’t hurtful, and neither were ten-pins nor billiards; but the
conditions under which the one was imbibed and the others played
certainly were. In Mount Airy there was none of that sort of thing. Of
course there were billiard rooms and ten-pin alleys there, but they
belonged to the hotels, and were kept for the exclusive use of the
guests. The men who had just marched up the street owned all the land
for miles around, and they would not sell a foot of it. They were
willing to lease it for a term of years, but before they did so, they
wanted to know all about the man who applied for the lease, and the
business he intended to follow while he remained in town. In that way
they made the society of the village just what they wanted it to be. It
is true that some objectionable characters now and then secured a
temporary foothold there, but as soon as they were detected, they were
“bounced” without ceremony.

Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Bigden thought Mount Airy would be just the place
for their boys, but the latter would have raised the most decided
objections if the subject of a change of residence had been broached to
them before they witnessed that parade, and learned something about the
men and boys who composed it.

“I’ll tell you what’s a fact!” said Tom, as he and his cousins walked
with Mr. Farnsworth toward the park where the drill was to be held.
“Uncle Alfred was right when he said that we would not find many country
bumpkins here. Those bowmen must have lots of fun. Do you and father
really intend to come here to live?” he added, turning to Mr.
Farnsworth.

“We have been thinking and talking about it for a long time,” was the
answer.

“All right. I am in favor of it,” said Tom. “I wonder if we could get
into that company of archers!”

“Of course we could,” said Loren.

“There’s no ‘of course’ about it,” answered his father. “You would be
balloted for the same as the rest; and I have been told that one
black-ball would keep you out for a year.”

“Humph!” exclaimed Tom. “They wouldn’t black-ball _us_. I guess our
folks have just as much money as any body here.”

“No, they haven’t; and even if they had, it would make no sort of
difference. Money doesn’t rule the world up here as it does down in New
London. I am informed that some of the boys in that company are so poor
that the others had to help them buy their uniforms.”

“Humph!” said Tom. “Well, if that’s the sort of trash they take into
their company, I don’t know that I care to belong to it, do you, boys?
We don’t have any thing to do with such fellows in the city.”

“Couldn’t we gradually weed them out?” asked Loren. “That’s the way we
did with our ball club, you know.”

“Yes, and what was the consequence?” demanded his father. “You ‘weeded
out’ your very best players, and you have been beaten by every club you
have met since. Served you right, too.”

“Well, I would rather be beaten than be chums with fellows who were too
mean to chip in two or three dollars when we wanted to get up a dinner,”
observed Loren.

“They were not too mean; they couldn’t do it. The two or three dollars
that you speak of so lightly, were a large sum in the eyes of boys whose
fathers gain a livelihood by working by the day, and you ought to have
exercised a little common sense in your dealings with them. If it were
necessary that you should have the dinner or starve, why did you not pay
for it yourselves, and not ask those poor boys to ‘chip in’, as you term
it? There’s the high school,” said Mr. Farnsworth, pointing with his
cane to an imposing building, standing in the midst of extensive and
well-kept grounds which occupied one whole block of the village
property.

“That’s my great objection to Mount Airy,” said Ralph, shaking his fist
at the school house. “Our teacher told us one day last term that the
binomial theorem is just the same in China and Brazil that it is in New
London, so I suppose it must be the same up here. Fine scenery around a
school house doesn’t make the lessons inside any easier.”

“You’re right there,” growled Tom, who was thinking of those Orations of
Cicero to which he would have to devote his attention next term, “I’d
much rather go fishing.”

The boys reached the park long before the procession did, and took up a
position near the pagoda in which the president of the village and the
trustees were to stand while the line passed in review. When it arrived,
the band led the way around the park until it met the advancing column;
then it turned inside of it and went around again, and thus the whole
line, with the exception of the Toxophilites, was wound up like a coil.
The archers kept straight ahead, the boys in the ranks carrying arms,
and the captain saluting by bringing his bow to a position that somewhat
resembled the “secure arms” of the tactics, until they reached a clear
space at the other end of the park which had been reserved on purpose
for them. There they halted, and, when the firemen had broken ranks, and
the soldiers had been brought to parade rest, their commanding officer
put them through the manual of arms and some intricate evolutions in the
school of the company, giving his orders to the bugler who stood beside
him, and not to the company itself. Ralph and Loren were delighted with
every thing they saw, and had many words of praise to bestow upon the
young bowmen; but Tom was silent and sullen. He didn’t like to hear so
much cheering when none of it was intended for him. When he was engaged
in a game of ball he always flew into a passion if he made an error, or
if any of the other side made a play that called forth applause from the
spectators. He was angry now; but it would have puzzled a sensible boy
to tell what reason he had for it.

“That captain, or whatever you call him—” began Loren.

“Master bowman,” said his father.

“Well, he is a nobby fellow, and that bugler looks gorgeous in his green
uniform with its white facings,” continued Loren. “I wonder who they
are, any way?”

“Why don’t you go and inquire?” asked Mr. Farnsworth.

“They wouldn’t speak to you,” snarled Tom. “They’re little upstarts; I
can tell that from here by the frills they throw on.”

Loren and his brother didn’t care if they were. The signs seemed to
indicate that they were coming to Mount Airy to live, and if that was
the case, they wanted to know something about the boys they would have
for their associates. So as soon as the drill was brought to an end and
the ranks were broken, they set out to scrape an acquaintance with the
master bowman and bugler, Tom following them with rather a listless,
indifferent air. But in reality he was as eager as his cousins were.
Would he not be willing to give something handsome if he could make
himself the leader of a select band like that?



                              CHAPTER IV.

                      THE MOUNT AIRY TOXOPHILITES.


LOREN and Ralph Farnsworth, in spite of Tom’s predictions to the
contrary, had no trouble in scraping an acquaintance with the first
bowman they met. It was Arthur Hastings, the secretary of the company
and one of the best shots in it. They drew his attention by touching
their hats to him as he passed (that is, the brothers did, Tom being in
too bad humor to be civil), and Arthur seeing that they desired to speak
to him, stopped and opened the conversation himself.

“I know almost every stranger here this summer, but I don’t remember to
have seen you two before,” said he, pulling off his white gloves and
extending a hand to each of them.

“We came on the early morning train,” replied Ralph. “We were just in
time to witness your parade, which I assure you was something we did not
expect to see up here in the woods. You bowmen are bully soldiers.”

“Thank you,” said Arthur, raising his hand to his hat in response to
Tom’s very slight nod. “There must be something in what you say, for
every one who comes up here tells us the same. The truth is, we ought to
be proficient. We have been under the strictest kind of a drill-master,
and have done plenty of hard work since our organization two years ago.”

“What first put the idea into your heads?” inquired Loren. “You got it
out of your history, didn’t you?”

“And if you did, why don’t you dress up like Indians and adopt their
system of tactics?” chimed in Tom, who for the moment forgot that he had
resolved that he would not have a word to say to any of the bowmen. “I
have read that the Sioux have a drill of their own which is so very
bewildering that our best troops can’t stand against it. It seems to me
that you make hard work of something that might, under different
management, be made to yield you any amount of pleasure.”

“We are very well satisfied with the way our affairs are managed,”
answered Arthur, who did not quite like the tone in which Tom uttered
these words. “You must know that we are not copying the aborigines, but
the Merry Bowmen of Robin Hood’s time. Of course we have to work, for if
we didn’t we couldn’t give exhibition drills; but somehow we see plenty
of fun with it all. The idea was suggested to us, not by our histories,
but by an old man who lives up here in the woods,” added Arthur, turning
to Loren, at the same time jerking his thumb over his shoulder and
nodding his head toward an indefinite point of the compass. If he
intended by these motions to give his auditors an idea of the direction
in which the old man referred to lived, he failed completely. “He has
seen better days. He used to belong to an archery club in his own
country—that’s England, you know—and I tell you he is a boss shot. He
makes a very good living with his bow now; but he is so much ashamed of
the accomplishment—”

“Excuse me,” interrupted Loren. “I don’t see why he should be ashamed of
it.”

“Neither do I,” said Arthur. “But you see, there are very few people in
this country who take any interest in archery, and sportsmen, as a
general thing, look upon the long bow as a toy; but they always change
their minds when they see what it can be made to do in the hands of an
expert. Now take those two boys, for example,” added Arthur, directing
Loren’s attention to the master bowman and his bugler. “It isn’t every
rifle shot who can break as many glass balls in the air as they can.”

“Who are they?” inquired Tom. “We noticed them particularly during the
drill.”

“They are Wayring and Sheldon. Would you like to know them? They’re good
fellows.”

Arthur looked at Tom as he said this, but Tom didn’t act as though he
heard him. He wasn’t anxious to make the acquaintance of boys who could
beat him at any thing, but his cousins were not so mean spirited.

“Certainly we would,” replied Ralph. “It looks now as though we were
coming here to live; and if we do, we should like to know something
about the boys into whose company we shall be thrown.”

It would seem from this that Ralph took it for granted that he and his
brother and cousin would get into the company without the least trouble,
and he was somewhat surprised because Arthur did not offer to take in
their names at the very next meeting; but he did not even ask them what
their names were. He led them to the place where the master bowman and
his bugler were standing in the midst of a party of their friends, and,
as soon as the opportunity was presented, introduced them as visitors
who thought it possible that they might one day become permanent
residents of the village. Then he excused himself and went off to hunt
up one of the girls with green and white badges, who were carrying
little buckets of lemonade around among the thirsty firemen and
soldiers.

Tom and his cousins found the young archers to be very pleasant and
agreeable fellows, but a trifle too independent to suit them. They did
not seem to think that Tom was better than any other boy because his
father was a banker, and owned a yacht in which he talked of going to
Florida during the coming winter, and neither did they ask him and his
cousins to step up to the armory when they fell into ranks and marched
up to put away their bows and quivers. They left them standing in the
park, as they did scores of others who had been talking to them, and
that was a slight that Tom said he would not soon forget.

“You are altogether too touchy,” said Loren, with some impatience in his
tones. “You appear to think that every boy who lives outside the city
limits must, of necessity, be a greenhorn. These fellows know as much
about New London as we do.”

“When I become a member of that company, I shall use my best endeavors
to bring about a different state of affairs,” said Tom, decidedly. “If
they are taking pattern after Robin Hood, why don’t they pass their time
as he and his men did, lounging about in the greenwood under the shade
of the trees, instead of parading through the streets on a hot day like
this? I don’t see any fun in that.”

Nevertheless, before he had passed a week in Mount Airy, Tom Bigden
decided that it was just such a place as he had always thought he should
like to live in, and his cousins came to the same conclusion. So did
their fathers and mothers; and so it came about that a couple of Mr.
Wayring’s handsome cottages, on the other side of the lake, were rented
until such time as Mr. Farnsworth and his brother-in-law could erect
houses on the grounds they had leased in the village.

Tom and his cousins lost no time in getting ready to enjoy themselves.
Before another week had passed away, they had the finest sail and row
boats, and the most expensive canoes on the lake; and in anticipation of
their immediate admittance to the ranks of the Toxophilites, they sent
for a supply of bows and arrows and ordered uniforms of their tailor.
But the old saying, that there’s many a slip, held good in their case;
and this was the way they found it out:

One afternoon they and their parents were invited to a lawn party, at
which the Toxophilites, girls as well as boys, appeared in force and in
uniform, the girls wearing white dresses, green sashes and badges, and
light straw hats, turned up at the side and fastened by a tiny silver
arrow, which, at the same time, held in place the long black plume of
the company. Tom declared that they looked stunning; and when he saw how
they sent their arrows into the target, hitting the gold almost as often
as they missed it, and played croquet and skipped about the lawn tennis
ground, he added that he had never been to such a party before, nor seen
handsomer girls. He was going to apply for admission to the club, and he
wasn’t going to waste any time in doing it, either. With this object in
view, he hurried off to find Arthur Hastings.

“I don’t wonder that you fellows are happy here,” was the way in which
he began the conversation.

“Yes, I suppose we see as much pleasure as falls to the lot of most
people,” answered Arthur, “but we have any amount of hard work as well.”

“I never see you do any,” said Tom.

“That’s because you are not acquainted with us or our ways. I drilled
until after ten o’clock last night, and spent this forenoon in working
in the garden and wrestling with my geometry; getting ready for next
term you know.”

“Do you study and work during vacation?” exclaimed Tom, who had never
heard of such a piece of foolishness before.

“Of course I do; we all do.”

“I’m glad that I haven’t such parents as you seem to have,” said Tom,
rudely.

“Our parents have nothing whatever to do with it. It’s the rule of the
company.”

“That you shall work during vacation?” cried Tom.

“That we shall keep busy at something—yes. We are told that an idle
brain is the workshop of a certain old chap who shall be nameless, but
we go further, and hold that there is no such thing as an idle brain. It
is at work all the time during our waking hours, and sometimes when we
are asleep—dreams, you know—and if it is not busy with good things, it
is ready to take in bad ones. Have you seen any boys loafing around the
corners since you have been here? Then you can bet your bottom dollar
that they didn’t belong to us.”

“Well, when I get to be a member of the company, I shall vote down all
such rules as that,” said Tom to himself. “A fellow needs a little time
to be lazy, and I shall take it, too, without asking any body’s
consent.” Then aloud he asked, as if the thought had just occurred to
him: “By the way, when do you hold your next meeting?”

“Thursday night.”

“Well, take in our names, will you? Mine and my cousins’.”

“I should be glad to oblige you, but I can’t do it.”

“You can’t do it?” said Tom, who was angry in an instant. “Why not, I’d
like to know?”

“There are two reasons. In the first place, you have not been here long
enough—we don’t know any thing about you.”

“If that isn’t a little ahead of any thing I ever heard of I wouldn’t
say so!” exclaimed Tom, as soon as his rage would permit him to speak.
“My father is—”

“We don’t care who or what your father is; we must know what _you_ are.
In the second place, our membership is limited, and the boys’ roster is
full.”

“Couldn’t you suspend the rules for once?”

“That’s no rule. It is a part of the constitution.”

“Well, couldn’t you amend it?”

“No, we couldn’t. It has been tried in the case of one of the best
fellows in town—or, rather, he was one of the best until he found that
he couldn’t wind eighty boys and girls around his finger, and then he
turned against us and stands ready to-day to do us all the harm he can.”

“And you will find, to your cost, that my cousins and I will do the same
thing,” thought Tom, and it was all he could do to keep from uttering
the words aloud. “Things have come to a pretty pass when a lot of Yahoos
can make gentlemen knuckle to them. Who is this boy?”

“His name is Prime; but I tell you, as a friend, that you must not have
any thing to do with him if you want to get into the company. There are
half a dozen of our fellows going away this fall, and then, if you feel
like it, you can make a try for membership. Perhaps I shall be able to
help you to the extent of one vote, though I can’t promise to do so.”

“How about the yacht and canoe clubs?” said Tom, with something like a
sneer in his tones. “No doubt they are full, too.”

“Oh, no, they’re not. Any good fellow who owns a boat or who intends to
get one, can come in there. Are you and your cousins good swimmers? Then
why don’t you join us and enter for the up-set race that will come off
next month.”

“I don’t know what kind of a race that is.”

“It’ll not take long to tell you. You see the contestants come out clad
in some light stuff that won’t hold much water, and when they are well
started in the race, a signal is given, generally the blast of a bugle,
whereupon each fellow must overturn his boat, climb into her again and
go ahead as if nothing had happened. The one who crosses the line first,
is of course the winner.”

“Who among you is the best at that kind of a race?”

“Well,” replied Arthur, with some hesitation, “it is nip and tuck
between Wayring, Sheldon and me.”

“I expected as much,” said Tom, to himself. “Wayring, Sheldon and
Hastings are better than the rest at every thing. I shall enter for that
or some other race, and if I don’t take the conceit out of all of you, I
shall never forgive myself. Then it would not be of any use for me to
try to get into the Toxophilites?” he said, aloud.

“Not the slightest. I’ll tip you the wink when there is an opening, and
you can apply or not, just as you think best. We never ask any body to
join us.”

“But you asked me to join the canoe and yacht clubs.”

“I know it, and I had a right to. The three organizations are governed
by entirely different rules. There’s the bugle,” said Arthur, catching
up his bow which lay on the rustic bench on which he and Tom had been
sitting during this conversation. “I must go and shoot as soon as I can
find my girl. Come on, and see us punch the gold three times out of
five.”

“I can’t,” replied Tom. “I must hunt up the hostess, tell her I have had
a very pleasant time and all that, and bid her good-by. I have another
engagement.”

This was not quite in accordance with the facts of the case. Tom had no
other engagement, but he wanted to go off by himself, or in company with
Loren and Ralph, and give full vent to his feelings of disappointment
and rage. He shook his fist at Arthur when the latter turned his back
and hurried away, and it would have afforded him infinite satisfaction
if he could have followed him up and knocked him down. He found his
cousins after a while, and although they stood in the midst of a jolly
group and were laughing gaily, and appeared to be enjoying themselves,
Tom was well enough acquainted with them to tell at a glance that they
were as angry as he was.

“Sorry to break in upon so pleasant a gathering as this one seems to
be,” said Tom, approaching the group, one of whom was the young lady in
whose honor the party was given, “but our time is up.”

“Why, Mr. Bigden, you don’t mean to say that you are going away so soon,
and before supper, too?” exclaimed the young lady, who looked so
charming in her neat uniform that Tom had half a mind to go back and
pound Arthur Hastings for telling him that he couldn’t become a
Toxophilite at once.

“Must—can’t be helped,” answered Tom, giving his cousins a look which
they understood. “We are indebted to you for a very pleasant afternoon,
Miss Arden.”

“I don’t believe you have enjoyed yourselves one bit,” exclaimed the
fair archer. “If you have, why do you go away so early? The next time
you attend one of our lawn parties, be sure and arrange your business so
that your other engagements can wait.”

After a little more badinage of this sort, Tom and his cousins lifted
their hats and walked off. As soon as the front gate had closed behind
them, the expression on their faces changed as if by magic, and the
three boys turned toward one another with clenched fists and flashing
eyes. After each one had glared savagely at his neighbor as if he were
going to strike him, they all put their hands in their pockets and moved
away. Tom was the first to speak.

“Now that I look back at it, I don’t see how I kept my hands off that
Hastings boy while he was talking so insolently to me,” said Tom. “He
told me that he didn’t care who or what my father was, but I couldn’t
get into the archery club, and that was all there was about it. They
must stick to their constitution, no matter if the world goes to pieces
on account of their obstinacy. He asked me to join the canoe and yacht
clubs, but said they never asked any body to apply for admission to the
Toxophilites.”

“I guess Ralph and I know just what he said to you first and last,”
remarked Loren, “for Sheldon talked to us in about the same way. We are
going to enter for the upset race.”

“I thought you would,” answered Tom, “and so I made up my mind to go in
too. We’ll make it our business to see that neither Sheldon nor Wayring
wins that or any other race. If we find that we can’t beat them by fair
means, and I have an idea that I can paddle a boat about as fast as the
next boy, although I never got into one until last week, we’ll foul
them, and sink their boats so deep that they will never come up again.”

“Loren and I talked that matter over, and resolved upon the same thing,”
said Ralph. “Did Hastings tell you any thing about a George Prime who is
down on them because they would not take his name before the
Toxophilites? Sheldon told us to give him a wide berth, but Loren and I
thought we would do as we pleased about that.”

“That’s just what I thought,” answered Tom. “I think it would be a good
plan to hunt him up the very first thing we do. If he has reason to
dislike Wayring and his friends, we might induce him to strike hands
with us.”

“That was our idea,” said Ralph. “It can’t be possible that Prime is the
only boy in this village who does not like Wayring and the rest, and if
we find them to be the right sort, and can raise enough of them, what’s
the reason we can’t get up a club of our own?”

“That’s another idea,” said Tom, who was delighted with it. “I wish I
had thought to ask Hastings where Prime lives.”

“I know where his father’s drug-store is, for I saw the sign over the
door,” said Loren. “Let’s go down there and get a cigar, and trust to
our wits to learn something about him.”

The others agreeing to this proposition, Loren led the way to the
drug-store, and the three stopped in front of the show-case near the
door in which the cigars were kept.

“That’s Prime, and I know it,” whispered Tom, as a dashing young fellow,
who was seated at the further end of the store reading a paper, came up
to attend to their wants. “He looks to me like a chap who isn’t in the
habit of allowing himself to be imposed upon, and that’s the sort we
want to run with.”

“See-gahs? Yes, sir,” said the clerk. “Being from the city, you want the
best, of course. There you are, sir. Genuine imported.”

“How do you know that we are from the city?” inquired Loren, as he made
a selection from the box that was placed on the show-case.

“Because I was a city boy myself, until father took it into his head
that he wanted to spend a summer at Mount Airy,” replied the clerk.
“That was a bad move for me, for we have been here ever since. Besides,
in a little place like this, every body knows more about your business
than you do yourself. I know who you are, and where you came from, and
all about it.”

“Then it was a bad change for you, was it?” said Ralph. “You don’t like
to live here? Neither do we.”

“I don’t blame you,” said the clerk. “Wait until you get acquainted with
some of these old-timers and find out what an exclusive lot they are,
and you will dislike it worse than you do now. There are a few of them,
especially the Toxophilites, as they call themselves, who try to
monopolize all the fun there is going.”

“Why don’t you join them?” asked Tom.

“Because they won’t let me—that’s why.”

“Then you must be George Prime.”

“That’s my name, and you are Tom Bigden, and you two are Loren and Ralph
Farnsworth.”

“You’ve hit it,” answered Tom. “They wouldn’t take us in either. They
told us so not more than an hour ago. Why didn’t you go to the party?”

“Because they didn’t invite me,” said Prime, angrily. “I don’t get
invitations to any thing any more. I showed rather too much spirit to
suit them, and so they dropped me.”

“Probably they will do the same by us,” said Loren. “We have always been
in the habit of doing as we pleased, and we don’t intend to change our
mode of life for the sake of getting into an archery club that makes its
members drill until ten o’clock when they might see more fun in playing
billiards. There will be some vacancies this fall, and then we shall
make another attempt to get in.”

“Is that what you have made up your minds to? Well, now, look here.” As
Prime said this, he came out from behind the counter and stood in the
open door, looking up and down the street. “You must begin by doing your
smoking in secret,” he continued, as he came back and motioned to the
boys to follow him toward the rear of the store.

“Do you mean to say that the Toxophilites look with disfavor upon a good
cigar?” demanded Tom.

“I do, indeed. You mustn’t use tobacco in any form, and you must be
temperate in all things—in eating, drinking and talking. They’ll fine
you if you use any language while you are out with your companions, that
you wouldn’t use if your mother or sister was present. Now sit down
here, and if you see any body coming, you can put your cigars out of
sight.”

“But we don’t know all the members of the club,” said Loren.

“No difference. Don’t let any one see you with a weed in your mouth. If
you do, good-by to all your chances of being a Toxophilite.”

“Why, it’s the meanest little town I ever heard of!” exclaimed Ralph,
who was greatly surprised as well as disgusted. “I didn’t suppose that
there were any such boys in this wicked world. I thought they all lived
in Utopia.”

“So did I, until I found some of them right here in Mount Airy,”
answered Prime. “The girls are at the bottom of it—you know that they
are never easy unless they are kicking up a row of some kind—and if I
had been a member of the club when it was organized, wouldn’t I have
worked hard to keep them out? I was very anxious to get into it once,
but I don’t believe I care to be one of them now.”

Tom and his cousins began to feel the same way.



                               CHAPTER V.

                      TOM INTERVIEWS THE SQUATTER.


“I DON’T believe I care to be one of them now,” repeated Prime, who,
being a pretty good judge of character, knew that he ran no risk in
speaking freely in the presence of the three boys before him. “I wish I
could see their old organization knocked higher than the moon; or else I
wish that a few more new fellows of the right sort would come in, so
that we could have a club of our own.”

“I was about to suggest that very thing,” said Tom. “It can’t be
possible that Wayring and his cronies have got every boy in town under
their thumbs.”

“Not by a long shot!” exclaimed Prime. “There are ten or a dozen besides
myself who do not bow to them.”

“And my cousins and I add three to the number,” replied Tom. “That’s
enough for a hunting club. But we will talk about that at some future
time. Do you belong to the other clubs?”

Prime replied that he did, adding that any body could get into them, for
there was no limit to the membership.

“The canoe and yacht clubs are getting large enough to be unwieldy,”
said he. “I know of a good many boys who are not satisfied with the way
things are managed, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there should
be a split some day. There are a few of us who are talking it up as fast
as we can. We are getting tired of seeing the same old tickets elected
every year, and think it high time we had a change.”

“Is Wayring much of a canoeist?” asked Tom.

“Indeed, he is. He can walk away from any one around here, I am sorry to
say, and in fact, there’s hardly any thing that boy can’t do. I would
give almost any thing to see him beaten, and I—say!” exclaimed Prime, a
bright idea striking him. “Are you fellows canoeists?”

“My cousins are; but I can’t say as much for myself,” answered Tom. “I
have always been called a very fair sculler, and after I learn how to
balance a canoe, I know I have muscle enough to make her get through the
water. Hastings led me to believe that it was a tight squeak between
Wayring, Sheldon and himself.”

“Aw!” said Prime, in a tone of disgust. “You let Hastings alone for
shoving in a good word for himself as often as the opportunity offers.
He never won the first prize in his life. Joe Wayring walks away with it
every time. Suppose you fellows come in and see if you can’t make Joe
lower his broad pennant for a while. If you find that you can’t beat
him—and, although I am no friend of his, I tell you plainly that it will
be the hardest piece of work you ever undertook—you might get in his way
and let him foul you, you know. I tried my level best to do it last
year, but he was too smart for me.”

By this time it was plain to all the boys that they understood one
another perfectly. The truth of the matter was, that Joe Wayring and
some of his particular friends had won too many honors, and made
themselves altogether too popular in the community. These boys were
angry about it, because they wanted to be first in every thing
themselves. Tom Bigden and his cousins had fully intended to take Mount
Airy by storm, and to establish themselves at once as leaders among
their new acquaintances; and their failure to accomplish their object
bewildered as well as enraged them. If they had known how to go about
it, they would have disgraced Joe Wayring before he saw the sun rise
again. So would George Prime. Of course they did not say it in so many
words, but that was what each boy told himself.

Before Tom and his cousins left the store they entered into an alliance
with Prime, both offensive and defensive, and talked over various plans
for annoying the boys who had unwittingly incurred their displeasure. If
they could not injure Joe and his friends in any other way, they could
put them to some trouble and expense, and this they resolved to do the
very first good chance they got. They did not decide upon any particular
course of action, but Prime said that if Tom and his cousins would come
to the store the next day, he would introduce them to a lot of good
fellows who did not like Joe and his “clique” any too well, and who
would be glad to be revenged upon them for some real or imaginary
grievance.

“I see very clearly that there is a good deal of feeling against Wayring
and his followers, and if we handle it rightly we can make it work to
our advantage,” remarked Tom, as he and his cousins walked slowly
homeward. “It is a wonder to me that something hasn’t been done to him
before this time. What they lack is a leader—some one to propose a plan
and go ahead with it.”

“Well, they have found him at last—three of him,” said Loren. “I always
was opposed to living in a little country town, because you invariably
find fellows there who think they know more than any body else—”

“And plenty of others who are willing to uphold them in that belief,”
chimed in Ralph. “I say, don’t let’s have any thing to do with the
Toxophilites. Let’s get up a club of our own and manage it as we see
proper.”

“I am in favor of that,” replied Tom. “We’ll have no fines and drills,
for one thing, and neither will we admit any girls who stick up their
noses at a good cigar. But there is one thing we must not forget to do
when we meet those fellows at the store to-morrow. If we decide upon any
thing, we must be careful how we carry it out. If we are foolish enough
to let Joe and the rest know that we are down on them, and that we
intend to do them all the injury we can, they will make things very
unpleasant for us. We don’t want them to serve us as they have served
Prime, and read us entirely out of their good books—”

“And that is just what they will do if they see us in Prime’s company,”
interrupted Loren. “Sheldon said so.”

“There is no need that they should ever see us in his company,” replied
Tom. “Our best plan would be to hold all our meetings in secret—”

“And keep our organization, if we have any, a secret,” chimed in Ralph.

“That’s the idea,” said Tom. “Then we can do as much damage as we please
in the way of setting boats adrift, and so on, and Joe and his followers
will be at loss to know where the annoyance comes from. We mustn’t
forget to speak to the fellows about that to-morrow.”

Unfortunately an incident happened that very afternoon which made it
comparatively easy for the three schemers to carry out the plans they
proposed. It was, in fact, a fight between a squatter and the Mount Airy
authorities, to whom he had made himself obnoxious. Tom and his cousins
were witnesses of the preliminary skirmish, that is, the serving of the
notice of ejectment, and when they heard a full report of the matter
from one of the boys to whom Prime introduced them, their delight was
almost unbounded. Tom danced a horn-pipe in the excess of his joy, and
repeatedly declared that nothing could have happened that was so well
calculated to further their designs. It came about in this way:

Mr. Wayring’s summer cottages were all located on the opposite shore of
the lake. The road that led to them ran down the hill, around the foot
of the lake, and through a little settlement which bore the euphonious
name of “Stumptown.” Why this name had been given to it no one seemed to
know. It certainly was not appropriate, for there was not a stump to be
seen in any of its well-cultivated gardens, from which the Mount Airy
and Lambert Houses drew their supplies of vegetables and small fruits.

The male members of this little community were licensed guides and
boatmen—the only ones, in fact, who had the right to serve the guests of
the hotels in that capacity. They lived on Mr. Wayring’s land, and in
neat little cottages which the liberal owner had erected for their
especial benefit. When the season was over and the guests returned to
their homes in the city, these men hunted and trapped in the mountains,
and entertained the village boys, with whom they were great favorites,
and who often invaded their humble abodes during the long winter
evenings, with thrilling and amusing tales of life in the wilderness.
They taught the boys woodcraft, and made themselves so useful in other
ways, that the young Nimrods of the village had never been able to
decide how they could manage to get on without them.

Into this settlement there came one day an unkempt man, with a red nose
and a very forbidding face, who brought with him a large punt, into
which he had crowded all his worldly treasures, including his wife and
two stalwart sons, not one of whom was one whit more prepossessing than
the husband and father. Without saying a word to any body the red-nosed
man, who answered to the name of Matt Coyle, took possession of a piece
of ground that had been cleared but not fenced in, and began the
erection of a shanty with boards which formed a part of the punt’s
cargo. While he and his sons were at work Mr. Hastings, who was one of
the village trustees, rode by. He did not at all like the appearance of
the new-comers, but he had nothing to say to them. There was room for
more guides and boatmen, and Matt and his family might turn out better
than they looked. If they proved to be honest, industrious people who
were willing to work for a living, Mr. Hastings was perfectly willing
that they should stay, and he knew that Mr. Wayring would provide a
house and garden for them. If they proved to be objectionable in any
way, it would be an easy matter to get rid of them.

Shortly after Mr. Hastings passed out of sight Matt Coyle wanted a
drink; and he found it—not in the lake, or in the ice-cold spring from
which the guides obtained their supply of water, but in a jug which he
fished out from a lot of miscellaneous rubbish in the punt. After he had
quenched his thirst he passed the jug over to his wife and boys, the
whole proceeding being witnessed by Nat Clark, the oldest man and best
guide and boatman in the settlement, who was getting his skiff ready to
take out a fishing party from one of the hotels.

“Look a yer, friend,” said Nat. “What you got into that there jug o’
your’n?”

“The best kind o’ whisky,” answered Matt Coyle, cheerfully. “An’ I’ve
got as much as half a bar’l more in the punt. Want a drop?”

“Not much,” replied Nat, emphatically. “An’ if you’re goin’ to stay
about yer, you’d best knock in the head of that there bar’l an’ smash
that there jug without wastin’ no time.”

“What fur?” demanded the red-nosed man, who was very much surprised.

“’Cause why, it’s agin the law fur stuff of that kind to be brung into
these yer grounds.”

“Who made that there law?”

“The trustees. You’d best do as I tell you, ’cause if they find out that
you’ve got it, they’ll spill the last drop of it fur you.”

“They will, eh?” exclaimed Matt. “I’d like to see ’em try it on. They’d
better not try to boss me, ’cause me an’ my boys have got rifles into
the punt, an’ we know how to use ’em too. Them there trustees ain’t got
no more right to say what I shall drink than they have to say what I
shall eat. Besides, how are they goin’ to find out that I have got it?”

“_I_ shan’t tell ’em, ’cause I’ve got enough to do without botherin’ my
head with other folks’s business,” answered the guide, who knew by the
tone in which they were uttered that there was a threat hidden under
Matt Coyle’s last words. “But you can’t keep it hid from ’em, an’
they’re bound to find it out.”

And sure enough they did.

Having built his shanty and moved his household goods into it, Matt
Coyle and his boys presented themselves before the manager of the
Lambert House and demanded employment as guides and boatmen. That
functionary, who did not know that there were any such disreputable
looking people in town, gazed at them in surprise, and told them rather
bluntly that he had nothing for them to do. The manager of the Mount
Airy House told them the same thing. The hotel guides were neat in
person and respectful in demeanor, and Matt and his boys were just the
reverse. The managers would not insult their guests by giving them boats
manned by such persons as they were. Matt and his boys were angry, of
course, and after wasting the best portion of the day grumbling over
their hard luck, they put the jug into the punt and started out on a
fishing excursion. They came back with a good string, but the hotels and
boarding-houses refused to purchase, because their guests, with the
assistance of the guides, kept the tables well supplied.

Things went on in this way for a month, during which Matt and his boys
had twice been thrust into the calaboose for attempting to “run the
town” to suit themselves, and at the end of that time the trustees
decided that he and his family were of no use in Mount Airy, and that
they had better go somewhere else. On the day the lawn tennis party was
held, a notice to Matt Coyle to pull down his shanty and vacate the
ground of which he had taken unauthorized possession, was given to a
constable, and Tom Bigden and his cousins happened along just as the
officer had begun to read it to him. The boys knew that there was
something going on in the settlement before they came within sight of
it, for when the officer took the notice from his pocket the squatter
declared that he would not have any papers served on him: and then
followed a loud and angry altercation in which Matt Coyle and his
family, the constable and half a dozen guides took part. Tom and his
companions quickened their pace to a run, and arrived upon the scene
just in time to hear the squatter say, in savage tones:

“I know what’s into that there paper, an’ I tell you agin that I won’t
listen to it. Some of them rich fellers up there on the hill want me to
go away from here, but I tell you I won’t do it. I’ve got just as much
right—”

“Keep still, can’t you?” shouted the officer. He had to shout in order
to make himself heard, for Matt Coyle’s voice was almost as loud as a
fog whistle. “I am going to read this notice whether you listen or not.”

“No, I won’t listen,” roared the squatter, swinging his arms around his
head. “I’ve got just as much right on this here ’arth as them rich folks
up on the hill have. Where shall I go if I leave here?”

“I am sure I don’t care where you go,” replied the officer. “But you are
not wanted in Mount Airy and you can’t stay.”

“But I tell you I will stay, too,” shouted Matt, who was so nearly
beside himself that Tom and his companions looked for nothing but to see
him assault the officer. Probably he would have laid violent hands upon
him had it not been for the presence of the stalwart guides, who stood
close behind him. “I came here ’cause I heared that there was plenty
that an honest, hard-workin’ man could do.”

“And so there is,” answered the constable, “but you are neither honest
nor hard-working.”

“They wouldn’t have me an’ my boys fur guides, ’cause we didn’t have no
fine clothes to wear,” continued Matt. “An’ nuther would they buy the
fish we ketched, ’cause—look a yer. You needn’t try to read that there
paper to me, ’cause I won’t listen to it, I tell you.”

But the constable, who had grown tired of talking, paid no attention to
him. He read the notice, raising his voice as often as the squatter
raised his; then Matt’s boys, and finally his wife came to his
assistance, and this started the guides, who flourished their fists in
the air and shouted until they were red in the face. Among them all they
raised a fearful hubbub, and, of course, the officer’s voice was
entirely inaudible; but he read calmly on, and when he had finished the
document he walked away, followed by the guides, and leaving the
squatter and his family in a towering rage. Ralph and Loren were afraid
of them now that the constable and his broad-shouldered backers were
gone, but Tom looked serenely on, and could hardly resist the impulse to
laugh outright when he saw Matt and his family stamping about, shaking
their clenched hands in the air, and acting altogether as though they
had taken leave of their senses.

“Let’s get away from here,” whispered Loren, when Matt made a sudden and
furious rush toward the shanty, and began trying to kick the side of it
in with his heavy boots, just to show how mad he was, and to give his
wife and boys some idea of the damage he would do if he only possessed
the power.

“What’s your hurry?” asked Tom, indifferently. “Can’t you see how we can
turn this to our advantage?”

“I can see that those people are in a terrible rage,” replied Loren, who
was really alarmed, “and I am afraid they will turn on us next.”

“There’s no danger of that,” answered Tom, confidently. “When men rant
and rave in that way they are not to be feared for any thing they may do
openly. They are the ones who work in secret.”

At this moment Matt Coyle became aware that he and his family were not
alone—that there were three interested spectators close at hand; and as
if to show Tom that he was mistaken in the opinions to which he had just
given expression, Matt rushed toward him as if he meant to annihilate
him, followed by all the members of his family, who shook their fists
and shouted as if they were very angry indeed. Ralph and Loren shrank
back, but Tom, who was nobody’s coward, stood his ground, looked
squarely into Matt’s eyes, and coolly put his hands into his pockets.

“What you standin’ here gapin’ at?” demanded the squatter, fiercely. He
had drawn back his fist with the full intention of striking Tom; but
when he saw that the boy did not appear to be at all afraid of him, he
thought better of it.

“Why do you come at us in that savage way?” demanded Tom. “We don’t
scare worth a cent. If you want to get even with any one for the
shameful manner in which you have been treated, there’s the man you must
go for,” he added, pointing toward the grove which concealed Mr.
Wayring’s house from view. “He is entirely to blame for all the trouble
you have had. Your cabin is on his land, and the trustees never would
have thought of ordering you off if he had not complained of you.”

Matt and his family were greatly astonished. They thought that every one
in town looked down on them because they were poor, but here was
somebody who sympathized with them. Tom, quick to see that he had made
an impression upon the angry squatter, went on to say—

“If the people of this village should treat me as they have treated you,
it would make a regular Ishmaelite of me.”

“What sort of a feller is that?” asked Matt.

“Why, Ishmael was a hunter who lived a good many years ago,” answered
Tom. “His hand was against every man, and every man’s hand was against
him. He didn’t have a friend in the world.”

“That’s me,” exclaimed Matt, who seemed pleased to know that there was,
or had been, at least one other man in existence who knew what trouble
was. “I ain’t got no friends nuther. These rich folks have tried to
starve me since I came here, but they didn’t do it—not by a long shot.”

“Now, if I were situated as you are,” continued Tom, “I would draw a
bee-line for Sherwin’s pond—”

“Where’s that?” inquired Matt.

“It lies off that way, fifteen miles from the head of this lake,”
replied Tom, indicating the direction with his finger, and wondering at
the same time how Matt could have expected to render acceptable service
as guide to the guests of the hotels, when he was not acquainted with
the surrounding country. “There are about twelve miles of rapids in the
stream that connects the lake with Sherwin’s pond, but your punt will go
through easy enough if you can keep her clear of the rocks. As I was
saying, I would go down there, put up my cabin and live in peace. I’d
make more money, too, than I could by acting as guide and boatman.”

“How would you do it?” asked the squatter, whose anger was all gone now.

“Simply by keeping my eyes open. You see those sail-boats anchored out
there? Well, if one of them should happen to get adrift some stormy
night, and come safely through the rapids into the pond and I should
catch it, I wouldn’t give it up until I got a big reward for saving it,
would I? Then again, the pointers, setters and hounds that hunt in these
fields and woods very often get lost, and their owners are willing to
give almost any price to get them back. I tell you,” exclaimed Tom, who
knew by the gleam of intelligence that appeared on the swarthy faces
before him that Matt and his family understood him perfectly, “I could
make plenty of money by taking up my abode down there on the shore of
that pond. If the things I have been talking about didn’t happen of
themselves, I’d _make_ them happen—do you see? Well, good-by, and
remember that we three boys had no hand in driving you out of Mount
Airy.”

So saying Tom walked off followed by his companions, while Matt and his
family faced about and went toward their shanty.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                         TOM’S PLANS ARE UPSET.


FOR a while the three boys walked along in silence, Loren and Ralph
being too amazed to speak, and Tom pluming himself on having done
something that would, in the end, bring Joe Wayring and some of the
other boys he disliked no end of trouble. The fact that it might bring
trouble to himself as well, never once entered his mind. Ralph was the
first to speak.

“I wouldn’t have had that thing happen for any thing,” said he.

“What thing?” demanded Tom.

“Why, that interview with the squatter. I could see, by the expression
on his face, that you put the very mischief into his head.”

“And that was just what I meant to do,” replied Tom, who laughed
heartily when he saw how troubled his cousins were over what he had said
to Matt Coyle. “I saw he was thick-headed and needed help, and so I gave
it to him.”

“But don’t you know that it is dangerous to trust a man like that? If he
gets into trouble through the suggestions you made to him—and he will
just as surely as he attempts to act upon them—he’ll blow the whole
thing.”

“What in the world has he got to blow, and how have I trusted him?”
asked Tom, rather sharply. “I didn’t tell him to turn the sail-boats
adrift or to steal the guests’ hunting-dogs, did I? I simply told him
what I should do if I were in his place.”

“But you intended it for a suggestion, and hoped he would act upon it,
didn’t you?”

“Well, _that’s_ a different matter,” answered Tom. “If he tries to
revenge himself upon the citizens of Mount Airy for refusing to employ
him or to buy his fish, and his efforts in that direction bring him into
trouble, it will be his own fault. You and I want to see some of these
conceited fellows, who think they know more and are better than any body
else, brought down a peg or two, and if that squatter is accommodating
enough to do the work for us—why, I say let him do it.”

Tom continued to talk in this way for a long time, and to such good
purpose that when they reached home his cousins had forgotten their
fears, and even expressed much interest and curiosity regarding the
course of action that Matt Coyle might see fit to pursue. If he followed
Tom’s suggestion and built his shanty on the shore of Sherwin’s pond,
they might expect to hear from him before many days more had passed
away.

“I hope that if Matt does take it into his head to do any thing, he’ll
run off Wayring’s sail-boat,” said Loren, gazing proudly at his own
beautiful little sloop, which rode at her moorings in front of the
boat-house. He had brought her up there on purpose to beat the _Young
Republic_, which was said to be one of the swiftest boats on the lake;
but the first time they came together under sail, the _Republic_ had run
away from her would-be rival with all ease, and it began to look as
though the “Challenge Cup” would become Joe’s own property. He had won
it twice, and if he won it again it would be his to keep. There were
those in the village who didn’t want to see him get it. They had
expected great things of the _Uncle Sam_—that was the name of Loren’s
boat—and indeed she did look like a “flyer”; but when they witnessed the
short race, which Joe Wayring purposely brought about one afternoon to
test the _Uncle Sam’s_ speed, they were much disappointed, and told one
another that the cup was Joe’s for a certainty.

“If Matt will only take that boat, I’ll win the next regatta,” continued
Loren. “If he does take her, Joe will never see her again, for she will
be smashed to pieces in the rapids.”

“If I could have my way, I should prefer to have Matt run off Joe’s Rob
Roy, for then you and Ralph would stand a chance of winning some of the
canoe races,” observed Tom. “But, of course, he couldn’t steal the canoe
without breaking into the boat-house, and that would send him up for
burglary.”

“Oh, no; he won’t do that,” exclaimed Loren.

Tom made no audible reply, but to himself he said:

“I don’t suppose he will; but _I_ might do it, and let Joe and the rest
blame Matt Coyle for it.”

There were still several hours of daylight left, and for want of some
better way of passing the time, as well as to put themselves in trim for
the coming canoe meet, Tom and his cousins decided that they would spend
the rest of the afternoon on the water. Ever since their canoes came
into their possession they had been assiduously practicing with their
double paddles, and Tom, who was quick to learn any thing that required
strength and skill for its execution, was fast becoming an expert
canoeist. In a hurry-scurry or portage race he could beat either of his
cousins, and on this particular afternoon he wanted to try an upset
race, of which he had that day heard for the first time.

“I saw an upset race rowed, or rather paddled, during the meet of the
American Canoe Association at Lake George last summer, and I wonder that
I didn’t think to speak of it,” said Ralph. “Well, better late than
never. We will go up to the head of the lake, where no one will be
likely to see us, and make our first trial. We are all good swimmers,
and it seems to me that we ought to make good time. The secret lies in
getting back into our canoes after we have upset them. If we can learn
to do that easily and quickly, we will stand a chance of putting Joe
Wayring to his mettle, even if we don’t beat him in the race.”

The boys went into the boat-house by a side door, and about ten minutes
afterward the front door swung open, and two Shadow canoes and one Rob
Roy were pushed into the water, and as many young fellows, dressed in
light gymnastic suits, sprang into them and paddled up the lake. They
met a few sailing parties, who waved their handkerchiefs and hats to
them as they shot by, and at the end of half an hour reached a wide and
deep cove near the head of the lake. This was their practice ground.
They had chosen it for that purpose because it was a retired spot, and
so effectually concealed by the long, wooded point at the entrance, that
a fleet of boats might have sailed by without knowing that there was any
one in the cove.

“We’ll start from this side and go across and back, as we have done
heretofore,” said Ralph, who led the way in his Rob Roy. “We’ll upset
twice—once while we are going, and once while we are coming.”

“But how does a fellow get into his canoe after he gets out of it?”
inquired Tom.

“The rule is to climb in over the stern and work your way to your seat,”
replied Ralph. “But at Lake George I saw some of the contestants throw
themselves across the cock-pit and get in that way. We’ll try both
plans, and each fellow can adopt the one that suits him best.”

When the boys had taken up their positions at safe distances from one
another, Ralph gave a shrill whistle and away they started, the light
Rob Roy taking the lead with Tom close behind. A few minutes’ work with
the double paddles brought them to the middle of the cove, and then
Ralph uttered another whistle. An instant later the three canoeists were
in the water. The Rob Roy turned completely over and came right side up
in a twinkling; and at the same moment Ralph’s head bobbed up close
alongside. He threw himself across the cock-pit and climbed in with the
greatest ease; and while bailing out the water with a tin basin that was
tied to one of the timbers of the canoe so that it could not float away
or fill and sink, he looked complacently at his companions, who were
making desperate efforts to regain their seats by climbing over the
sterns of their respective crafts.

“Grab hold of the side of your canoe, draw yourself as far as you can
out of the water, turn a hand-spring and land on your feet in the
cock-pit,” shouted Ralph, addressing himself to no one in particular. “I
saw that done at Lake George last summer by two or three different men.”

“Suppose you do it yourself and show us how,” answered Tom, who having
at last succeeded in gaining the deck, was slowly working his way toward
his seat; but instead of sitting astride of his canoe, as he ought to
have done, he tried to make headway on his hands and knees in order to
beat Loren, who was making all haste to reach the cock-pit of his own
craft. In his eagerness Tom forgot how cranky his canoe was, and,
neglecting to trim her properly, she turned over and let him down into
the water again.

Ralph, of course, could have won the race very easily, but he lingered
to watch the others, so that they all reached the turning point at the
same moment. On the home stretch another upset occurred, and this time
Tom and Loren did not waste as many minutes in getting back as they did
before. They learned rapidly, and when half a dozen more races had been
tried they became so expert that Ralph had little the advantage of them.
By this time they began to think they had had enough of the water for
one afternoon, so they pulled away for the boat house, Tom easily
distancing his cousins, who tried in vain to keep up with him.

“This afternoon’s work has opened my eyes to a thing or two,” said
Ralph, after they had changed their clothes and sponged out their
canoes.

“So it has mine,” exclaimed Tom. “Let me talk first, and see how far my
conclusions agree with yours. In the first place, you ought to win the
upset race.”

“That’s my opinion,” said Loren. “He shall win it, too, if strategy is
of any use.”

“You are no sooner out of your canoe than you are back into it again,”
continued Tom. “I am sure that neither Wayring, Hastings nor Sheldon can
do better than that. I only wish you had a little more muscle.”

“But I haven’t got it and can’t get it between this time and the race,
and so you fellows will have to help me.”

“Trust us for that,” answered Tom. “Then we’ll turn to and foul the best
contestant in the hurry-scurry race, so that Loren can win that; and if
you will lend me your Rob Roy, I’ll take my chances on carrying off the
honors in the portage race.”

“That is just the way I had planned it,” exclaimed Ralph. “We’ll show
these fellows who think themselves so smart, that there are others in
the world who are quite as smart as they are.”

It was a very pretty programme, no doubt, but it never occurred to Tom
and his cousins that possibly the boys to whom Prime was to introduce
them the next day, might not think favorably of it. There were those
among them who had never been first in any race, although they were very
expert canoeists; and it was not at all likely that they would consent
to see these new-comers carry off the prizes for which they had
contended ever since the club was organized.

Tom and his cousins were tired enough to rest now, and they found it
lounging in their hammocks under the trees, and watching the boats that
passed up and down the lake. They took another short run in their canoes
by moonlight, spent the next forenoon sailing about in Loren’s sloop,
and at one o’clock bent their steps toward the store where they were to
meet George Prime and his friends. When they arrived at the place where
Matt Coyle’s shanty stood the day before, they were surprised as well as
delighted to find that it wasn’t there.

“He’s gone, as sure as the world,” cried Ralph. “Now we shall very soon
know whether or not he has the pluck to do any thing to the men who
would not give him a chance to earn an honest living.”

Tom laughed loudly.

“Did you really think I was in earnest when I told Matt yesterday that I
thought he had been shamefully treated?” said he, as soon as he could
speak. “Why, Ralph, I thought you had more sense. I said that just to
make him mad. If I succeeded, he will do the work that we would
otherwise have been obliged to do ourselves.”

When they reached the drug-store they found Prime waiting for them.
After he had treated them to a cigar apiece, he led them through a rear
door into a store-room, where they discovered a dozen or more fellows
perched upon boxes and barrels, each one puffing vigorously at a cigar
or pipe. They were engaged in a very earnest conversation which they
brought to a sudden close when the door opened.

“Here they are,” exclaimed Prime, as the boys arose to their feet and
took their pipes and cigars out of their mouths. “Tom Bigden, and his
cousins Ralph and Loren Farnsworth, gentlemen. I believe you have met
some of my friends before at lawn parties, ball matches and the like,”
added Prime, addressing himself to the new-comers.

“I had the good fortune to meet them yesterday at Miss Arden’s,” said
one of the boys, Frank Noble by name, advancing and shaking Tom and his
cousins by the hand. “And I also had the pleasure of putting them to
their speed one day last week, when I happened to catch them out on the
lake with their canoes. You ought to make a good one,” he added, turning
to Tom. “I could see by the way you made that Shadow spin through the
water that you’ve got the muscle. All you want is practice. If you keep
it up, you can go in next year with some hope of winning.”

Tom was somewhat disconcerted by these words, and so were Ralph and
Loren, if one might judge by the blank look on their faces. It was clear
to them that there were others besides themselves who wanted prizes, and
who looked to their friends to assist them in winning those prizes.

“I thank you for your compliment and for your words of encouragement,”
replied Tom, concealing his disappointment as well as he could, and
turning to shake hands with another boy he had met at the lawn party on
the previous day, “but I am going to win the portage race this year.”

“And if I don’t come in first in the paddle race, it will not be because
I do not try my level best,” added Loren.

“And I’m going to give somebody a pull for the upset race,” chimed in
Ralph.

It was now Noble’s turn to be astonished. He looked inquiringly at
Prime, and Prime looked at Tom and his cousins. The latter saw very
plainly that while they were laying their plans they had interfered with
arrangements that had already been made by the boys by whom they were
surrounded, but they were none the less determined to have their own way
in the matter. Tom, who could hardly conceal the rage that had taken
possession of him, resolved then and there that he would stick to his
programme, no matter what promises he might be obliged to make to the
contrary. He was like an Indian, in one respect: When he wanted a thing
he wanted it with his whole heart, and he wanted it immediately. He
wanted a prize to show to his city friends when they came to visit him,
and he wanted the honors that prize would bring him.

“Well—yes,” said Prime, who knew that Noble and the rest expected him to
say something. “We’d like to have you win under different circumstances,
but as it is, I think—you see—look here; I suppose you are with us
against Wayring and the other fellows who have been walking off with the
prizes every year since the club had an existence!”

“Certainly I am,” answered Tom. “We all are, and we’re going to do the
best we can to beat them, too. Didn’t you tell us no longer ago than
yesterday that you wished we would come into the club and make Joe
Wayring lower his broad pennant for a while?” he added, turning to
Prime.

“I did; but I have had opportunity to talk the matter over with my
friends since then, and we have decided that those who have worked so
long and so hard for the prizes, ought to have them in preference to any
new-comers.”

“All right,” said Tom, silencing by a look the words of indignant
protest that arose to Ralph’s lips and Loren’s. “Who comes in for the
paddle race?”

“I do,” said Noble.

“And who is put down for the upset race?” continued Tom.

Bob Lord said that he was; and a young fellow named Scott volunteered
the information that his friends had decided that he ought to be allowed
to win the portage race, because he came so near winning it fairly the
year before.

“Then it seems that my cousins and I are to be left out in the cold,”
observed Tom, who was mad enough to break things.

“By no means,” some of the boys hastened to explain. “There are some
handsome prizes offered for the sailing races, and we intend that you
shall win them if we can make you do it.”

“Don’t want ’em,” said Tom, gruffly. “Couldn’t enter for them if we
did.”

“Why not?”

“Because we bought our canoes for exploring purposes, and not for
sailing. We received such contradictory advice from those to whom we
applied for information, that it was all we could do to make up our
minds what kind of canoes to get; and when it came to the sails, we
thought we would let them go until we could decide upon the style of rig
we needed without asking any one’s advice. We may make up our minds that
we don’t want any sails at all.”

“Oh, you mustn’t do that,” exclaimed Noble, “for if you do you will lose
half the sport of canoeing. By the way, the club meets Saturday evening,
and if you say so, I will take in your names.”

“I am obliged to you,” replied Tom. “But we had about half agreed with
Wayring and Hastings to propose us for membership.”

Ralph and Loren were greatly astonished, and Prime and his friends saw
that they were.

“I am sorry you did that,” said Noble. “Every one of us here present has
pledged himself not to vote for any thing brought forward by Wayring and
his crowd.”

“I did it before I knew what sort of boys they were,” said Tom,
apologetically, “and I don’t like to go back from my word. Are you going
to black-ball us for it?”

“By no means,” exclaimed all the boys, in a breath.

“We want you to help us carry out our programme,” added George Prime.

“Well, all the help you will get from me won’t amount to much, you may
be sure of that,” said Tom, to himself; and his cousins were so well
acquainted with him that they could tell pretty nearly what he was
thinking about.

“Have you spoken to Wayring about proposing you for the yacht club?”
asked Scott.

Tom, with unblushing mendacity, replied that he had.

“I don’t believe the regatta will amount to much this year,” remarked
one of the boys who had not spoken before. “If Matt Coyle carries out
the threats he made yesterday, there won’t be any yachts to contend for
the prizes. You heard about that, I suppose?” he added, turning to Tom
and his cousins.

“We were present when a legal process of some kind was served on him
yesterday, and we heard Matt say that he wouldn’t go away,” answered
Loren. “But when we came around the foot of the lake a little while ago,
we found that he had cleared out, taking his shanty with him.”

“You saw the constable serve him with a notice to quit, did you!”
exclaimed Noble. “Well, you missed the best part of it. You ought to
have been there about three hours later, and witnessed the fight that
took place between Matt and his family, and the officer and his posse.
The old woman proved herself to be the best man in the lot. Matt
evidently knew that an effort would be made to eject him by force, and
his wife prepared for it by boiling a big kettle of water. When the
constable, with a crowd of guides at his back, presented himself at the
door, she opened on him with that hot water; and if you could have seen
the stampede that followed, you would have laughed until your sides
ached, as I did.”

“You didn’t laugh much when it happened,” Prime remarked. “I was there,
and I know there wasn’t a man or boy in the party who showed a neater
pair of heels than one Frank Noble.”

When the burst of merriment that followed these words, and in which
Frank joined as heartily as any of his companions, had somewhat
subsided, the narrator continued:

“I am free to confess that I didn’t see any thing funny in the way the
old woman jammed that long-handled dipper into the kettle and sent its
boiling contents flying toward us, but it was very amusing after it was
all over, and I woke up in the night and laughed about it. Of course the
defiant squatters were over-powered after a while, but not until Matt
and both his boys had been knocked flat, and one of the guides had
disarmed the old woman by running in and kicking over her kettle of
water. The officer was determined to arrest the last one of them for
resisting his authority; but Mr. Hastings, who happened along just then,
and who thought that neighbors so undesirable could not be got rid of
any too quick, told the constable to chuck the squatter and all his
belongings into the punt and shove them out into the lake, after giving
them fair warning that they would be sent up as vagrants if they stopped
this side of Sherwin’s pond.”

“Did he do it?” asked Ralph.

“Of course he did. But before Matt put his oars into the water he made
us a speech containing threats which I, for one, hope he will have the
courage to carry out.”

Here Noble stopped to light his cigar which had gone out while he was
talking.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                         A DOG WITH A HISTORY.


“YOU don’t want to say that out loud, Frank,” observed Scott.

“Say what out loud?” demanded Noble, after he had taken a few long pulls
at his cigar to make sure that it was going again.

“That you hope Matt Coyle will have the courage to carry out the threats
he made yesterday.”

“Of course not. But I can express my honest sentiments here, for we are
all friends, I take it. Matt’s speech was a short one,” said Noble, once
more addressing himself to Tom Bigden and his cousins, “but it was to
the point. ‘You see all them there sail-boats ridin’ at anchor, an’ all
them fine houses up there on the hill?’ said Matt. ‘Wal, the boats’ll
sink if there’s holes knocked into ’em, an’ the houses’ll burn if
there’s a match set to ’em, I reckon. Good-by till you hear from me
agin.’ He hasn’t got a very handsome face at any time, Matt hasn’t, and
his intense rage, and the black and blue lump as big as a hen’s egg,
which had been raised on one of his cheeks by a whack from a guide’s
fist, made him look like a savage in his war-paint. He was in dead
earnest when he uttered the words, and if the Mount Airy boys, and men
too, who have incurred his enmity don’t hear from him again, I shall be
surprised.”

“And disappointed as well,” added Prime.

“I didn’t say that,” replied Noble.

“Of course you didn’t. Nobody said it, but I think we understand one
another.”

Ralph and Loren looked frightened, while Tom drew admiring applause from
the boys and gave expression to his feelings at the same time by dancing
a few steps of a hornpipe.

“Well, we must be off,” said he, suddenly. “Another engagement, you
know.”

“What’s your hurry,” exclaimed Prime. “Stay and smoke another cigar.”

“Can’t,” replied Tom, turning a significant look upon Loren and Ralph,
who wondered what new idea he had got into his head. “We’ll go and see
Wayring according to promise, and then start for home.”

“But we haven’t said a word about organizing that new archery club,”
interposed Noble. “Prime told us that you three fellows were strongly in
favor of it.”

“So we are,” was Tom’s reply; “and some day, when we have plenty of
leisure, we’ll talk it over. We are happy to have met you, and will now
say good-by until we see you again.”

So saying, Tom bowed himself out of the store-room followed by his
cousins, who could hardly hold their tongues until they reached the
street, so impatient were they to know what he was going to do now. They
were certain of one thing, and that was, that Tom did not think as much
of George Prime and his friends as he thought he was going to.

“I am disgusted,” declared Loren, as soon as they were safely out of
hearing.

“Not with me, I hope,” said his cousin.

“Yes, with you and with the fellows we have just left.”

Tom thrust his hands deep into his pockets, looked up at the clouds and
laughed heartily.

“I expected it,” said he; then he stopped laughing and scowled fiercely.
His merriment was forced, and he was as angry as he ever got to be.

“Are you willing that Prime and his crowd should lay out a programme for
the races without saying a word to us about it?” demanded Ralph, who
forgot that that was just the way in which he and his two companions had
treated Prime.

“And did you really ask Wayring to propose our names at the club’s next
meeting?” chimed in Loren.

“No, to both your questions,” replied Tom, emphatically. “They must be a
bright set of boys if they think we are going to let them rule us. Why,
that was the reason we decided that we did not want any thing to do with
Wayring and his followers. But I have thought better of that resolution,
and I’m going to make friends with Joe if I can.”

“And cut Prime and the rest?” exclaimed Ralph.

“Not directly. Look here,” said Tom, suddenly stopping in the middle of
the sidewalk and facing his cousins. “We’ve got our choice between two
cliques, both of which have showed a disposition to make us do as they
say. Now which one shall we take up with? I prefer Joe’s. He and his
friends are in the majority, and they are not one bit more overbearing
than Prime and _his_ friends. Besides, they will let us win a race if we
can do it fairly, but the crowd we have just left want all the honors
themselves.”

“If you try to carry water on both shoulders you will be sure to spill
some of it,” observed Loren.

“I’ll risk that,” replied Tom, confidently. “I didn’t ask Joe to take
our names in to the club, but I’m going to before I am ten minutes
older.”

“Why didn’t you ask Prime or Noble to take them in?” inquired Ralph.

“Because I didn’t want Joe to know that we had become intimate enough
with those two boys to ask favors of them. Now, then, here we are. You
know Joe invited us to call as often as we could, so we are sure of a
welcome if he is at home. Stand ready to back me, if you think
circumstances require it, but don’t be surprised at any thing I say.”

As Tom uttered these words he opened one of the wide gates that gave
entrance into Mr. Wayring’s grounds, and the three walked up the
carriage way toward the house, until their progress was stopped by the
sudden appearance of one of Joe’s pets—a Newfoundland dog, which came
out from among the evergreens and stood in their path. He was a
noble-looking fellow, and although he was gray with age, the attitude of
defiance he assumed seemed to say that he considered himself quite as
able to keep intruders off those premises as he had been during his
younger days.

“Come on,” shouted a familiar voice. “Mars won’t trouble you. He don’t
like tramps,” added Joe Wayring, leaning his double paddle against the
side of the house, and coming forward to greet his visitors. “But
fellows like you could go all over the place; and so long as you did not
pick up any thing, Mars would not say a word to you. How are you, any
way; and where are you going on foot? Why didn’t you come over in your
canoes, so that we could have a little race all by ourselves? Come on.
Sheldon and Hastings are down to the boat-house waiting for me.”

“We came over to ask a favor of you,” replied Tom, as soon as Joe gave
him a chance to speak. “Would you mind taking in our names at the next
meeting of the canoe club?”

“On the contrary, I shall be pleased to do it,” answered Joe, readily.
“You have been pretty sly since your canoes came to hand, but we know
more about you than you think we do,” he added, as he led the way
through the carriage-porch and down the terraced bank toward the
boat-house.

“I don’t quite understand you,” said Tom.

“I mean that we have watched you while you were taking your morning and
evening spins up and down the lake, and we have come to the conclusion
that some of us are going to get beaten. I’ll say this much for you,
Bigden: I never saw a Shadow canoe get through the water, until I saw
yours going down the lake yesterday afternoon.”

“Thank you,” said Tom. “Do you know who are booked for winners this
year?”

“Booked!” repeated Joe. “There’s nobody booked. The best men will win,
as they always have done.”

“I am afraid you are mistaken.”

“Oh, no; I guess not. We don’t have any jockeying here, and if any
member of the club should so far forget himself as to interfere with one
of the contestants, he would never row another race on this lake.”

“I know some boys who are going to take their chances on it,” said Tom,
quietly.

“On fouling the head man so that somebody else can win?” cried Joe.

“That’s just what I mean.”

Joe could hardly believe his ears, and neither could Loren and Ralph
believe theirs. This, then, was what Tom meant when he cautioned them
against being surprised at any thing he might say! They _were_
surprised—they couldn’t help it; and in order that Joe might not see
their faces they fell behind, and allowed him and Tom to go on ahead.

“You know boys who are going to try to win by foul means!” repeated Joe.
“I didn’t suppose that there was any one in the club who would be so
mean. It is true that last year a certain canoeist persisted in keeping
as close to me as he could, and drove the bow of his craft toward the
stern of my own as often as he got the chance; but I thought it was
accident, while some of my friends on shore declared that it was his
intention to run into me, and claim the race because I got in his way.
But, as luck would have it, I was able to paddle fast enough to keep out
of his road. It seems to me that if I couldn’t win a prize fairly, I
shouldn’t want to win it at all.”

“I know who that fellow was,” said Tom, “and I know, also, that he tried
his very best to foul you. It was Prime. I heard all about it.”

Tom and his cousins supposed that Joe’s next question would be: Who told
you about this plot, and what are the names of the boys who are “booked”
to win by fair means or foul? But greatly to their surprise Joe
propounded no such inquiry. The latter knew very well that if some one
had not reposed confidence in him, Tom never would have heard of any
plot; and Joe was too much of a gentleman to ask him to violate that
confidence. He wanted to turn the conversation into another channel, and
so he began talking about Mars, who was walking along the path before
them.

“That fellow is the only foreigner in the party,” said Joe. “He was born
and received the rudiments of his education on the bleak shores of
Newfoundland.”

“Then how did you come to get hold of him?” inquired Tom.

“I was up there two winters ago with my uncle, hunting caribou.”

“What sort of an animal is that?” asked Tom. He spoke before he thought,
and was provoked at himself for it. He did not want to be constantly
asking information of a boy who never came to him for any. As Tom would
have expressed it: “He didn’t care to make Joe and his friends any more
conceited than they were already.” Joe, however, was not at all
conceited; but if Tom Bigden had known as much as he did, and been as
expert in all sorts of athletic sports, he would have thought himself
too grand to associate with common fellows.

“The caribou is the American reindeer, but it is not broken to harness
like the European animal of the same species,” replied Joe. “It is
hunted as game, and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland are the
best places to go to find it. Uncle Joe went up there two years ago,
taking Hastings, Sheldon and myself with him. We went in a little
fishing schooner that was bound from Gloucester to the Bay of Fundy for
swordfish.”

Tom would have been glad to know where the Bay of Fundy was, and what
the schooner’s crew intended to do with the swordfish after they caught
them, but his pride would not let him ask. The sequel proved that it was
not necessary, for Joe went on to explain.

“The Bay of Fundy runs up between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as you
of course know as well as I do, and the fish are used for food. When
they are put on the market they are sliced up like halibut. They are
caught with harpoons. They are ugly, I tell you, and when one of them
weighing four hundred pounds comes flopping over the rail and begins to
swing that sword of his around like lightning, you may be sure that he
gets all the room he wants.”

“What do you do with the swords after they are taken off?”

“Keep them as curiosities or sell them, just as you please. There is
great demand for them. I have one that I should not like to part with.
It belonged to a two hundred pounder. The sailors thought they had
killed him before they hauled him aboard; but he gave one expiring flop
after he reached the deck, and the point of his sword cut a big hole in
the leg of my trowsers. If I had been a little closer to him, he might
have injured me very badly. If a man had his only weapon of offense and
defense made fast to his nose, he wouldn’t do much with it, would he?
But it just suits the swordfish, which, according to Captain Davis,
delivers his blows so rapidly that he will kill half a dozen out of a
school of albicore before they can get out of his reach.”

“But what has all this got to do with Mars?” inquired Tom.

“I came pretty near forgetting about him, didn’t I?” said Joe, with a
laugh. “Well, we went back to Gloucester with Captain Davis, who, as
soon as he had disposed of his swordfish, fitted out for the banks—for
codfish, you know—and went with him. He was to land us at some little
fishing hamlet, whose name I have forgotten, where we were to obtain
guides and go back into the interior after caribou; but he managed to
run the schooner ashore in a thick fog, and there we stuck until Mars
brought off a line to us. That was all that saved us. The sailors hauled
in on it, and finally brought aboard a larger and stronger line to which
a hawser was made fast. We took a turn with that around the capstan, and
after a good deal of hard work, succeeded in pulling the schooner over
the bar into deeper water nearer the shore. We got off just in the nick
of time, too; for that night a storm came up, and raised a sea that
would have made short work with us if we had been exposed to its fury.”

“Were there men on shore opposite the place you struck?” inquired Tom.

“Certainly. If there hadn’t been, who would have tied the line to the
dog’s collar and told him to take it out to us?”

“I should think they would have gone to your assistance in their boats,”
replied Tom.

“So they would, under ordinary circumstances; but no boat that was ever
built could have lived a moment in the surf that was breaking over the
bar when we ran on to it. I don’t understand to this day how Mars
managed to get through it. I have seen him swim a good many times since
that day, and in smooth water he doesn’t seem to be any better than any
other dog. It is when the wind is blowing and the white caps are running
that he shows what he can do. Uncle Joe was so well pleased with the
dog’s performance that as soon as he could find his owner, he offered to
buy him. Of course the man didn’t want to sell, but he was poor, and
when he thought of the comforts that the hundred dollars which uncle
counted out before him would buy for his wife and children, he came to
the conclusion that we could have the dog. He’s mine now, for Uncle Joe
gave him to me as soon as the bargain was struck.”

“Did you get any caribou?”

“Plenty of them, and, would you believe it? we had to take along a
supply of food for that dog the same as we did for ourselves. He
wouldn’t look at any thing except salt meat or codfish. I really believe
he would have starved with a meal before him that would have made any
other dog’s mouth water. But he is civilized now, and takes his rations
like other white folks. He’s got a history, Mars has, and if his
adventures and exploits were written out, they would make a good-sized
book.”

A loud and hearty greeting from the two boys who were standing on the
dock in front of the boat-house, put a stop to the conversation. Tom and
his cousins expected that the first thing Joe Wayring did would be to
acquaint his two friends with the fact that a plot had been formed to
keep the best man from winning at the next canoe meet, and to throw the
different races to those who could not by any possibility win them
fairly; but again they were disappointed. Joe did not say a word on the
subject, and the reason was because it was too serious a matter to be
discussed in the presence of boys with whom he was so little acquainted.

“A dog that will fetch a bone will carry one,” was Joe’s mental comment.
“Tom and his cousins may be friendly to us, and then again, if there is
any truth in this report, they may have brought it to me on account of
some spite they have against those from whom they got it. It’s best to
keep on the safe side, and so I will hold my tongue until I have a
chance to speak to Hastings and Sheldon in private. We have received
warning, and if they beat us, it will be our own fault.”

“We were just going over to ask you three fellows to come out and take a
spin with us,” exclaimed Hastings. “We have had our eyes on you, and to
tell you the truth, we don’t quite like the way you handle those paddles
of yours.”

“Of course we don’t ask you to do your best—indeed we would be foolish
to expect it,” chimed in Sheldon. “But still we should like to try a few
short races with you, if you don’t mind.”

“We shall be glad of the chance to see how much we lack of being good
canoeists,” said Loren, readily. “We’ll walk back and go around the foot
of the lake—”

“Oh, no,” interrupted Joe. “That’s too hard work, and besides it would
take up too much time. There’s my skiff. We can put her into the water
and step the mast in a minute, and she’ll take you over flying. Come in
here; I want to show you something. We three belong to the committee
which was appointed to draw up a programme for the meet,” added Joe,
taking a folded paper from a little writing desk that stood in one
corner of the boat-house, “and here’s what we shall submit to the club
at the next meeting.”

Tom Bigden and the Farnsworth boys ran their eyes over the paper, and
the only things they found in it that possessed any particular interest
for them were the following:

“_Portage race._—Paddle a quarter of a mile, carry canoe twenty-five
yards over a stony point, re-embark and paddle back to starting point.

“_Single paddling race._—Half a mile and return.

“_Hurry-Skurry race._—Run ten yards, swim twenty-five yards, paddle
three hundred yards.”

These were the ones, as we know, which Tom and his cousins had “booked”
themselves to win. Then there were sailing races, tandem races, and boys
and girls’ races; and the meet was to wind up with a greasy pole walk.

“You fellows must certainly enter for that,” said Sheldon. “You have no
idea how much sport there is in it. Some of the Mount Airy people say
that it is the best part of the performance.”

Tom replied that he did not know just what a greasy pole walk was, and
reminded Sheldon that he and his cousins were not yet members of the
club.

“But you will be members before the day set for the races, you may be
sure of that,” said Joe. “I’ll propose you at the next meeting, and I
know there will not be a dissenting vote.”

“I wish you could give us the same assurance in regard to the archery
club,” said Tom.

“So do I, but I can’t,” answered Joe; and then, as if that were a
subject that he could not talk about just at that time, he hastened to
add: “I can soon tell you what a greasy pole walk is. Did you notice
that high derrick built on the end of our pier? Well, a long, stout spar
is run out from that derrick, and after being braced and guyed so
securely that it will not sway about under any reasonable weight, it is
thickly covered with slush to make it slippery. There is a prize of some
sort at the outer end of it, and the boy who can walk along the pole and
capture that prize before he falls off into the water, is the best
fellow.”

“What is the prize?” inquired Ralph.

“Last year there were so many lucky fellows that we had to provide
several of them,” was the reply. “The one that created the most fun was
a pig in a bag. Noble captured that, and I tell you he had a time of it.
You see, the pig was greased as well as the pole, and the bag was tied
in such a way that when Noble dived for it—that was the only way he
could get hold of it, you know—the mouth of the bag opened and the pig
slipped out. Then the uproar began. Noble, who is a plucky fellow and a
splendid swimmer, didn’t know that the pig was greased, and he tried for
a long time to tow him ashore by one of his hind legs, but, of course,
he couldn’t do it. At last he began to suspect something, and the way he
larruped that pig over the head with the bag to make him turn toward the
shore, was a caution. He finally succeeded in his object, and the
instant the pig’s feet touched the beach, Noble sprung up, threw the bag
over his head and secured him easy enough. Whatever you do, you mustn’t
miss the greasy pole walk.”

“I suppose we shall be laughed at if we tumble off the pole into the
water?”

“Certainly. That isn’t down in the programme, but it is a part of it,
all the same.”

“How many trials does each contestant have?”

“Only two. You see, there are so many of us and so much fun in trying to
secure the prize, that if we didn’t set some limit to the number of
trials, the boys would keep on trying for an indefinite length of time.”

While the boys were talking in this way they had pushed Joe’s skiff out
of the boat-house into the water, stepped the mast and unfurled the sail
that was wrapped around it. Every thing being ready for the start, the
little fleet set out for the opposite side of the lake, Tom and his
cousins in the skiff, and Joe and his companions in their canoes. The
skiff was made fast to Mr. Bigden’s pier, and a quarter of an hour later
three more canoes shot out of the boat-house, and the trials of speed
began. They continued nearly all the afternoon, and when the rival
factions bade each other good-night and paddled off toward their
respective boat-houses, there was a decided feeling of uneasiness among
some of them, while the others were correspondingly confident and happy.

“It doesn’t seem possible that this is Bigden’s first season in a
canoe,” said Sheldon, as soon as Tom and his cousins were out of
hearing. “He is going to crowd the best of us this year, and if he keeps
up his practice until the next meet, there won’t be a boy in the club
who can touch him with a ten-foot pole. He’s going to make an expert.”

“I’ll just tell you what’s a fact,” said Loren, after the canoes had
been wiped out and hoisted in their slings, “I am not so much afraid of
Joe and his crowd as I was. I don’t think there will be any need of the
fouling business. I kept pace with Hastings in spite of all he could do
to shake me off, and could have passed him if I had let out a little
more strength.”

“That shows how much you know about these things,” said Tom, in reply.
“Do you suppose that Hastings did the best he could? I kept up with Joe
without any very great exertion, but I don’t crow over it. They had
plenty of speed in reserve, but you will have to wait till the day of
the races if you want to see what they are capable of.”

The sequel proved that Tom was right.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                          RUNNING THE RAPIDS.


“NOW that we are here by ourselves,” continued Ralph, “I’d like to ask
you why you told Joe that the best man was not to be allowed to win at
the next meet. I never heard of such a thing before in my life. What do
you suppose Prime and his crowd would say to you if they should find it
out?”

“I don’t believe they will ever find it out,” replied Tom, who did not
seem to think that he had been guilty of any thing mean. “If I have
formed a correct estimate of Joe Wayring’s disposition and character, he
is a boy who knows how to hold his tongue. I posted him simply to
off-set the coolness and impudence displayed by Prime and his friends in
shutting us out of all the races, without so much as saying by your
leave. Since they would not give us a chance to win some of the prizes,
I say that _they_ shall not win _any_ of them. We are not going to play
into the hands of boys who work against us.”

“That’s what I say,” exclaimed Loren. “But I thought Joe acted very
indifferently.”

“Because he did not ask me to go into the particulars of the scheme, and
give him the names of the fellows who were in it?” said Tom. “I thought
so myself at first, but after turning the matter over in my mind, I came
to the conclusion that his indifference was put on; and that the reason
he did not ask me to go into details was because he was afraid I would
say to him that I was taught not to tell names and tales too.”

“It seems to me that that is about the size of it,” Loren remarked. “But
look here, Tom. You have undertaken a pretty big contract if you expect
to keep on the right side of both those crowds. One or the other of them
will very soon have reason to suspect you, and then down you will go.
What are you going to do about the races?”

“My proposition is, that we keep up our regular exercise and training,
and do the best we can to carry out our own programme, leaving Prime’s
clique and Joe’s to carry out theirs, if they are able to do it. If we
find that we stand no show, I would much rather see Joe and his friends
win than Prime and _his_ friends.”

“So would I,” said Ralph. “Now I should like to have some one tell me
what excuse we have for being down on those boys. We got mad at them
simply because they would not break their rules and take us into their
archery club.”

“And wasn’t that reason enough?” cried Tom, hotly. “I wasn’t used to
such treatment while I lived in the city, and I won’t submit to it now.
I don’t think any more of Hastings than I did on the day he so coolly
told me that he would not help me get into their club. I don’t care
whether he wins or not. What I mean to say is, that Prime and the rest
shall not carry off any of the prizes if I can help it. I intend to show
them that the next time they want any help from me, they had better let
me have a voice in making up the programme; and I shall do it in such a
way that they can not possibly misunderstand me. You two can do as you
please, of course; but if you are going to weaken, I wish you would say
so at once, so that I may make my arrangements accordingly.”

Ralph and Loren hastened to assure their cousin that they had not the
slightest intention of going back from their original agreement, and
that they would stick to him through thick and thin, no matter what
happened; but still they wished that Tom would learn to like Joe
Wayring, and give up his idea of being revenged upon him for slights
which were wholly imaginary. Joe had a much larger following than Prime
and Noble, through him they could get more invitations to parties,
picnics and hunting and fishing excursions than they could in any other
way, and his influence might eventually gain for them an honor which
they craved above all others—a membership in the Toxophilites; for those
young ladies they met at Miss Arden’s lawn party were handsome and
stylish, that was a fact, and Ralph and Loren had more than once told
themselves that they would even be willing to give up their cigars, if
by so doing they could win the privilege of shooting with those same
young ladies twice a week. If they became intimate with George Prime,
and were often seen in his company, the Toxophilites would drop them
like so many hot potatoes; and then, when invitations for any social
gathering were issued, they would be left out in the cold, the same as
George was. But whatever they decided to do they must keep on the right
side of Tom, for if they did not, he would be sure to make things
unpleasant for them. It looked as though Ralph and Loren would have to
do the very thing against which they had cautioned their vindictive
relative, that is, try to carry water on both shoulders and take their
chances of spilling some of it.

“Now we’ll take Joe’s skiff back and put it where we found it, provided
the boat-house is open,” said Tom. “If there is any boy in the world who
ought to be supremely happy, he is the fellow. He has every thing he can
ask for, including a rich and good-natured uncle, who takes him off on
hunting and fishing trips nearly every year. Why that boy, young as he
is, has shot caribou and moose and caught salmon.”

Yes, Joe Wayring was happy, but it was not wholly on account of his
pleasant surroundings. His source of happiness was within himself, and
he knew it. He had been taught that lesson at the same time that he was
being instructed in athletics and field-sports. He thought more of
others than he did of Joe Wayring, and he would go into the dumps in a
minute if he saw any of his friends in a disconsolate mood. If things
didn’t go right with him—and they went wrong sometimes, as they do with
every body—it made no sort of difference with Joe’s good-nature. He kept
his troubles to himself; but Tom would get angry and go into the sulks
and make all around him miserable. While going on the principle that
whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well, Joe was nevertheless
perfectly willing to be beaten by any one who could do it fairly; but
Tom wanted to be first at any cost. This was the principal difference
between the two boys.

Tom cast off the skiff’s painter while Loren and Ralph stepped the mast
and shook out the sail, and in twenty minutes more they found themselves
in the boat-house, where Joe and his two friends were waiting for them.

“I saw you coming and took the cover off one of my pets so that you
could take a look at her,” said the former, directing the attention of
his visitors to a neat cedar shell in which he had been wont to win
honors before he became a convert to canoeing. “She has taken me first
by the judges’ boat in more than one hotly-contested race while I was
going to school at Dartmouth Academy. Handsome, isn’t she? No doubt you
will be surprised to hear me say it, but _there_ is something that I
think more of than I do of her.”

As Joe said this, he pointed toward an ungainly looking object which lay
on the floor at the further end of the boat-house. It was a canvas
canoe, whose battered sides bore evidence to numerous encounters with
sharp-pointed rocks and snags.

“It must be on account of its associations,” replied Loren, looking
first at the clumsy canoe and then at the clear-cut lines of the shell.
“If I had my choice between the two, it would not take me long to make
up my mind which one I wanted.”

“Of course not. There is as much difference between them as there is
between a trotter and a plow-horse; but each one has served the purpose
for which it was intended, and served it well, too. I like the canoe
better, because she was the first thing in the shape of a boat I ever
owned. She has carried me a good many hundred miles, first and last, and
although she has often got contrary and spilled me out into the water
when I wasn’t expecting it, I have had any amount of fun with her
exploring creeks and ponds that I could not otherwise have reached. She
is fourteen feet long, weighs fifty pounds fully equipped, and packs in
that little chest you see there. I know she isn’t very good-looking, but
when it comes to running the rapids she is there, every time. That’s the
reason I took her out of the chest. We are going down to Sherwin’s Pond
to-morrow after bass; will you join us?”

Tom and his cousins replied that they would be glad to do so, and Joe
went on to say:

“You see, the fishing in the pond is better than it is in the lake. The
people who come here to spend the summer do not often go down there,
because there is no wagon road through the woods, and they are afraid to
trust themselves to the rapids. Well, they are frightful to look at,
that’s a fact, but—”

“We know that very well,” interrupted Ralph. “We have gone down there a
dozen times with our minds fully made up that we would run those rapids,
or smash our canoes in trying, and we have as often come back without
making the attempt. When we reached the place where the water leaves the
lake, and goes foaming and boiling over the rocks in the gorge below,
our arms always went back on us.”

“Your arms?” repeated Sheldon.

“Yes. Our hearts were brave enough for any thing, but our cowardly arms
wouldn’t pull the canoes into the rapids.”

“Oh!” said Sheldon. “Well, your cowardly arms were the wisest part of
you, for you certainly ought not to try to go through until you know
where the channel is. Those rapids have been run hundreds of times,
though not always without accident to be sure, and if you will follow
close in our wake to-morrow, we’ll take you safely to the bottom.”

“We must make an early start,” said Hastings, “for we want to reach the
pond just about the time the first rays of the sun strike the water. Can
you be ready at four o’clock? All right. Catch a good supply of minnows
to-night, and then you won’t have to waste valuable time over it in the
morning.”

“And take the strongest and stiffest bait-rod you have,” added Joe.
“Leave your fly-rods, if you have any, at home, for you will have no use
for them. About June 1st, when the bass season opens, those who know how
to throw a fly have very fine fishing among the rocks close to the
shore; but as the weather grows warmer the fish gradually draw off into
deep water, and all the bass we shall catch to-morrow will be near the
middle of the pond where the springs boil up.”

“And don’t forget your gun,” said Sheldon.

“Nor your rubber blankets,” chimed in Hastings.

“Do you think it will rain?” asked Ralph.

“We hope not, and indeed there are no signs of it. When we reach the
head of the rapids we will pull off our heaviest clothing, so that we
will be ready for a swim in case we are unlucky enough to capsize, and
the things we don’t wear we will wrap up in our rubber blankets so that
they won’t get wet.”

“Suppose we get down all right,” said Loren. “How are we going to get
back?”

“We’ll shoulder our canoes and come up the portage road which has been
cut through the woods around the rapids. For that reason we don’t want
to take any thing with us that we can possibly dispense with.”

After listening to a few more hints like these, Tom and his cousins set
out for the post-office; and having secured their mail they went home by
the road that led around the foot of the lake, running at the top of
their speed all the way through the woods to improve their wind. Their
skiff, patent minnow buckets and dip nets were at once brought into
requisition, and by the time the supper bell rang, they had caught bait
enough to last them through a long day’s successful angling.

Promptly at four o’clock the next morning Tom Bigden opened the front
door of the boat-house, and waved his hat in response to a similar
signal of greeting which came to him from over the lake. Joe Wayring and
his friends were just putting their canoes into the water.

“Splendid day,” said the former, when the two little fleets came
together near the middle of the lake. “There’s going to be just wind
enough to ripple the water, but not enough to raise a sea, and I
wouldn’t take a dollar for my chance of catching the finest string of
bass that has been seen in Mount Airy this year.”

“So say we all of us,” exclaimed Sheldon; and this suggested the song
which every school-boy knows, but to Tom Bigden’s ill-concealed disgust,
it was sung to the words: “Joe Wayring is a jolly good fellow,” and that
was a sentiment in which Tom did not fully concur. It put him in bad
humor for the whole of the day, or, rather, until circumstances threw in
his way an opportunity to make that jolly good fellow as miserable as he
was himself. After that he felt better.

Under the steady motion of the sinewy arms which swung the long double
paddles, the light canoes made quick work with the three miles that lay
between the boat-houses and the lower end of the lake, and presently
Arthur Hastings turned toward the nearest shore, looking over his
shoulder as he did so to call out to the canoeists behind him:

“Let’s make believe this is a hurry-skurry race, and that there is a
prize in the pond waiting for the man who reaches the bottom of the
rapids first.”

The challenge was promptly accepted. In a twinkling the little crafts
were going toward the beach with greatly increased speed, and in a
remarkably short space of time six young athletes, clad only in
flesh-colored tights, were prancing around their canoes, busily engaged
in wrapping their clothing in their water-proof blankets, and lashing
their rods and minnow buckets fast so that they would not be thrown out
into the water by a heavy lurch, or even by a capsize. Tom Bigden was
the first to shove his canoe away from the shore, but there he had to
stop. He was not acquainted with the channel, and needed a guide to show
him the way through; but he won the second place, and was prompt to fall
into it when Arthur Hastings caught up his paddle and pulled away from
the beach.

Tom and his cousins had often viewed the rapids from the bank while
trying in vain to screw up courage enough to attempt their passage, and
if they looked dangerous to them then, they looked ten times more
frightful when they surveyed them from their canoes on this particular
morning. The sight of them was enough to make any body’s nerves quiver.
They looked as steep as the roof of a house, and the bottom of the gorge
through which they ran, seemed to be literally covered with bowlders.
Tom could not see a single place which looked wide enough to admit of
the passage of a canoe.

“What do you think of them?” asked Arthur, as he and Tom backed water
with their paddles to keep their canoes from taking the plunge before
they were ready.

“Who was the first man who went down here?” said Tom, in reply.

“One of the hotel guides.”

“Was he a graduate of a lunatic asylum, or did he go there afterward?”
inquired Tom.

Arthur laughed until the woods echoed.

“Neither,” he answered, as soon as he could speak. “He’s got a level
head on his shoulders yet, if one may judge by the constant demands that
are made upon his time. Some of the people who come here every summer
like him so well that they begin to make bargains with him before the
ice is out of the lake. They wouldn’t do that if they had any reason to
believe he was crazy, would they? Well, what do you say?”

“I say, go ahead whenever you get ready,” was the response.

“All right,” said Arthur, who saw by the expression on Tom’s face that
he had no intention of backing out. “Now, watch every move I make, and
let me get at least twenty or thirty feet ahead of you before you start.
Look out for both ends of your boat. You won’t run on to an isolated
rock unless you try, because the water runs away from it. That has a
tendency to throw the bow from the obstruction, and the stern toward it;
so the minute the bow is out of harm’s way, drop your paddle into the
water on the side opposite the rock, and use it the best you know how.”

“Why, that will throw me square upon the rock,” cried Tom.

“No, it won’t,” insisted Arthur. “It will throw you away from danger,
and the current rushing around the rock will carry you still further
away. But if you use the paddle on the other side, you will come up
against the rock ker-chunk; and then you will have to swim the rest of
the way down, because the stern of your canoe will, most likely, be
smashed in. Understand?”

Tom replied that he did; whereupon Arthur settled his cap more firmly on
his head, took his paddle in both hands and with one bold stroke sent
his frail craft into the rapids. The moment the current caught him in
its grasp, he began to shoot ahead like a boy coasting down hill. Tom
shut his teeth hard and gripped his paddle until the muscles on his bare
arms stood out like a gold-beater’s; and so intent was he upon watching
every move his guide made, that he forgot to look out for himself, until
he was called to his senses by a warning shout from his friends behind.

“Look out, there,” yelled Joe and Roy, in concert. “You’ll be over the
brink the first thing you know.”

Tom heard the warning, but it came too late. He dropped his paddle into
the water and made desperate efforts to check his canoe, which had
already gained rapid headway; but the swift current had taken firm hold
of him, and finding that it was much stronger than he was, he resolved
to go ahead and trust to luck to keep from running into Arthur Hastings,
in case the latter met with an accident.

[Illustration: SHOOTING THE RAPIDS.]

Tom afterward said that he did not remember much about that wild ride.
He was lost in admiration of Arthur Hastings’s skill as a canoeist, and
followed in his wake through all the turns he made, which were so
numerous and bewildering that Tom did not see how one boy’s head could
contain them all. It was a lucky thing for him and his cousins that they
did not attempt to go through there without a guide. He did not hear the
waters foaming and roaring around him, nor did he see a single one of
the rocks past which he went with such speed that the wind whistled
through his hair; but he did see the smooth surface of the pond the
instant he came within sight of it, and when he shot into it, propelled
by the momentum he had acquired during his descent of the rapids, he
called out gleefully that he had not touched a solitary obstruction on
the way.

“Of course not,” answered Arthur. “If you had, you would not be as dry
as you are now. There is a clearly defined channel all the way through
the gorge, and you won’t touch any thing if you keep in it. What would
happen to you if you should get out of it, I don’t know; but I think you
would be fortunate if you came off with a simple capsize.”

It was a thrilling sight that was presented to their gaze as they sat
there in their canoes at the bottom of the rapids and watched the others
as they came down. First Joe Wayring dashed into view around the bend,
closely followed by Ralph Farnsworth, who seemed to be quite as much at
his ease as his guide was, and handled his paddle and managed his canoe
quite as skillfully. By the time they reached the smooth water at the
foot Roy and Loren came in sight, and in five minutes more the little
fleet was reunited. The hearts of three of the canoeists beat a trifle
faster than usual, but they had accomplished the run in perfect safety,
and without a wetting, and they were ready to try it again at the very
first opportunity.

“Take time to learn the channel before attempting any thing reckless,”
cautioned Joe. “After that you can come down by yourselves as often as
you feel equal to the task of carrying your boats back over the
portage.”

The boys went ashore long enough to put on their clothes, untie their
rods, and put fresh water on their minnows, and then they were ready for
the bass.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                      THE SQUATTER TURNS UP AGAIN.


ONE fishing excursion is much like another, and any boy who has handled
a nicely-balanced bait-rod when the black bass, perch, and yellow pike
were hungry and full of fight, as they were on the morning of which we
write, will have a clearer idea of the sport Tom Bigden and the rest
enjoyed there on the pond than we could possibly give him. We did not
follow them through the rapids to tell how they played their fish and
how many they caught, and so we shall have but little to say about it.
Joe Wayring affirmed that the twenty minutes’ fight he had with a nine
pound pike, which began in less than half a second after he dropped his
hook into the water, gave him solid comfort and enjoyment for a week
afterward; but whether or not he found any comfort in something that
happened when they went ashore to eat their lunch, is another matter
altogether.

About eight o’clock the fish gave notice that they had quit business for
the day by refusing to notice any of the lures that were dropped among
them, and then the boys discovered that their long pull before breakfast
had made them hungry.

“Did you ever eat a fish that had been baked in the ashes?” inquired
Joe, addressing himself to Tom and his cousins. “Then you have yet one
enjoyment in store for you. You won’t think much of house-cooking after
you have eaten one of Roy’s dinners. We know a nice place on the point
above, with an ice-cold spring handy, and we’ll—”

“Excuse me for interrupting,” said Loren, suddenly. “But did you ever
see a dog like that before?”

The speaker was not a little surprised by the effect his words produced
upon some of his companions. They all looked in the direction indicated
by his finger, and then Joe began pulling up his anchor with almost
frantic haste, while Arthur and Roy reached rather hurriedly for their
guns.

“You can’t do any thing with him from here,” said Joe.

“And if we paddle for the shore he will see us and take to his heels,”
added Roy.

“Why who—what are you going to do to him?” stammered Ralph.

“We’d be glad to shoot him if we could,” replied Joe. “He’s no dog. He’s
a half-grown bear.”

Tom and his cousins, of course, asked a good many questions with their
lips and more with their eyes, but Joe and his two friends were too busy
to answer them. They made all haste to raise their anchors, and then
pulled rapidly but silently toward the shore, all the while keeping a
close watch over the movements of the bear, which was wandering
listlessly about, now and then stopping to look into the water or to
sniff at a log, as if he were hunting for something he had lost. Tom and
his cousins thought he looked too small for a bear, but as he did not
walk or act like a dog or any other animal they had ever seen at large,
they were forced to conclude that he really was a bear, and that he was
in search of his breakfast. They didn’t know whether to be afraid of him
or not; but when they saw how anxious Joe and his two friends were to
bring themselves within shooting distance of him, they lost no time in
pulling up their own anchors and falling in behind them. The bear,
however, was not to be taken unawares. He did not appear to notice their
approach, but he had his eyes on them nevertheless, and when he thought
they had come close enough, he left the beach and lumbered off into the
bushes.

“There!” said Tom, who was glad to see the last of him. “He has taken
himself safely off.”

“We expected it,” said Roy, redoubling his exertions at the paddle. “If
we only had Mars with us we could see more fun with him in half an hour
than we could in a week’s fishing. He begged hard to be allowed to come,
but Joe made him stay behind. You see, he won’t sit anywhere but in the
bow, and he is so heavy that he makes a canoe hard to manage in rough
water.”

“He wouldn’t trail the bear, would he?”

“Of course he would, and be glad of the chance. If he found him, he
would set up such a yelping that you would think there were a dozen dogs
in the woods.”

“What are you going to do now?” inquired Ralph, as the six canoes ran
their bows upon the beach, one after the other.

“We are going to stretch our legs, and that will be a comfort after
sitting in such cramped positions for four long hours,” replied Joe, at
the same time catching up his double-barrel and springing ashore with
it. “We’ll follow up his trail, which we can easily do for a mile or
more, because all the ground about here is swampy, and when we lose it,
we’ll knock over a few squirrels and go up to the point and eat our
breakfast. Keep close to us, or else stay within sight of the beach. The
woods are thick, and you could get lost without half trying.”

Led by Arthur Hastings, the boys ran up the shore of the pond until they
reached the place where the bear had turned off into the bushes, and
then the pursuit began in earnest. Whether or not Loren and Ralph were
as anxious to get a shot at the game as they pretended to be, it is hard
to tell; but they made a great show of eagerness and enthusiasm, and
Tom, not wishing to be out-done, floundered along the trail behind them.
But he did not keep his companions in sight for more than five
minutes—in fact, he didn’t mean to. He gradually fell to the rear, and
when the bushes closed up behind Roy Sheldon, who was the last boy on
the trail, Tom sat down on a log and thought about it.

“That bear doesn’t belong to me, and I don’t know that it is any concern
of mine whether they find him or not,” said he to himself. “It is easier
to sit here in the shade, even if one does have to fight musquitoes,
than it is to go prancing about through a swamp where the water, in some
places, is up to the tops of a fellow’s boots.”

Tom suddenly brought his soliloquy to a close and jumped to his feet.
There was a frightened expression on his face, but the determined manner
in which he gripped his gun showed that he had no intention of running
away until he had had at least one shot at the bear; for that it _was_
the bear which occasioned the slight rustling in the thicket a short
distance away, Tom had not the slightest doubt. Probably the animal had
made a short circuit through the woods, and was now coming back to the
pond to finish his breakfast. While these thoughts were passing through
Tom’s mind, the bushes toward which he was gazing parted right and left,
and a big red nose, with a shock of uncombed hair above and a mass of
tangled brown whiskers below it, was cautiously thrust into view, being
followed a moment later by the burly form of Matt Coyle, the squatter.
He was as ragged and dirty as ever, and carried a heavy rifle on his
shoulder.

The meeting, which was entirely unexpected, was a surprise to both of
them. To tell the truth, Tom was more alarmed when the squatter emerged
from the thicket than he would have been if the bear had made his
appearance. Matt Coyle was very angry at the Mount Airy people on
account of the indignities they had put upon him, and who could tell but
that Tom Bigden himself was included in the list of those against whom
he had threatened vengeance? The squatter seemed to read the thoughts
that were passing in the boy’s mind, for as soon as he could speak he
hastened to say:

“You needn’t be no ways skeary about meetin’ us. We ain’t forgot that
you was the only one who said a kind word to us while we was down
there”—here Matt gave his head a backward jerk intending, no doubt, to
indicate the village of Mount Airy—“an’ of course we ain’t got nothing
agin you.”

Tom drew a long breath of relief as he listened to these words. Matt
wouldn’t do any thing to him, and neither would he injure any of his
property.

“But as fur the rest of ’em, they had better watch out,” continued the
man, in savage tones. “I shan’t forget ’em, an’ I’ll even up with them
some day. It may be five year, an’ it may be ten; but I’ll even up with
’em.”

“What are you and your boys doing now?” inquired Tom. He did not like
the way the squatter glared around him when he spoke of the village
people, and he wanted to turn the conversation into another channel if
he could.

[Illustration: TOM UNEXPECTEDLY MEETS MATT COYLE.]

“We ain’t doin’ nothin’,” was the surly reply, “’cause why, we ain’t got
nothin’ to do with. We ain’t got a bite of meat in the house, an’ I was
after that there b’ar when you fellers come up an’ skeared him away. So
thinks I to myself, I’ll jest go down to the pond where their boats is,
an’ I’ll take the best one of ’em an’ cl’ar out afore they gets back.
Then I’d have somethin’ to do with.”

“Where would you go?”

“Up to Injun Lake. I’m the bulliest kind of a guide fur that neck of the
woods, an’ so’s my two boys; but you see we ain’t got no boats, an’
we’re too poor to buy ’em.”

“Why don’t you go to the hotels and hire out to them?” demanded Tom; and
then he wondered if there were a landlord in the world who would trust a
boat-load of passengers, ladies and children for instance, to the care
of the walking whisky barrel he saw before him.

“Didn’t I try that very thing down there”—another backward jerk of the
head—“an’ didn’t they tell me that they didn’t have no use fur sich
lookin’ fellers as me an’ my boys was?” exclaimed Matt Coyle, fiercely.
“They did fur a fact. But if I had a boat of my own I could go up to
Injun Lake where they ain’t so perticular about the clothes a man wears,
so long as he understands his business, an’ I’d make piles of money,
too; ’cause why—I’d work fur less’n the reg’lar hotel guides. See?”

“Yes, I see; but how long would it be before the regular guides would
run you out, the same as the Mount Airy people did? They would make the
country so hot for you that you couldn’t stay there.”

“Suppos’n they tried that little game on?” answered Matt, laying down
his rifle long enough to shake both his huge fists in the air. “Ain’t
that somethin’ that two can play at? I’d break up the business of
guidin’ in less’n two seasons.”

“How would you do it?”

“Yes, I would,” Matt went on. “If I only had a boat that was easy to
slip around in an’ light to tote over the carries, I’d make the folks
who come there fur fun so sick of them woods that they wouldn’t never
come there no more; then what would become of them two big hotels when
there wasn’t no custom to run ’em?”

“How would you go about it?” repeated Tom.

“Oh, there’s plenty of ways,” answered the squatter, shaking his head
knowingly.

“Give us one of them.”

“Wal, s’pos’n I should see a big party, with childern among ’em, start
out from one of them hotels as big as life, an’ I should foller along
after ’em, easy like, an’ some day, when there wasn’t no men folks
about, I should slip up, grab one of them childern an’ run him off to
the mountains? An’ s’pos’n one of my boys should happen to be loafin’
around that hotel when the party come back without the child, an’ should
hear that a reward of a hunderd, mebbe two hunderd dollars had been
offered fur his safe return? Couldn’t my boy easy hunt me up, an’
couldn’t I tote that young un back to his pap an’ claim them dollars?
Eh?”

Tom was so astounded that he could say nothing in reply. Matt Coyle was
a great deal worse than he thought he was. The squatter saw that his
solitary auditor was interested, and went on to tell of another way in
which he could break up the business of guiding in the wilderness about
Indian Lake, in case the people living there didn’t treat him and his
family as well as Matt thought they ought to be treated.

“Or s’pos’n there wasn’t no childern into the party,” said he. “There’d
be fine guns an’ fish poles an’ lots of nice grub, in course; an’
couldn’t I slip up to their camp when there wasn’t no body there to
watch it, an’ tote some of them guns an’ things off into the bresh an’
hide ’em? Oh, there’s plenty of ways to bust up guidin’ an’ them big
hotels along with it. They would think twice before bein’ too rough on
me, ’cause they know me up there to Injun Lake.”

And the man might have added that that was the very reason they drove
him away from there—because they knew him.

“But the trouble is, I ain’t got no boat of my own to run about with.
The punt, she’s too heavy, an’ I ain’t got no other,” continued Matt
Coyle; and then he stopped and looked hard at Tom, and Tom, in return,
looked hard at Matt. An idea came into his head; or, to speak more in
accordance with the facts, Tom suddenly recalled some words which the
squatter had let fall at the beginning of their interview.

“You said you were on your way to the pond to pick out a boat when you
met me,” said Tom. “Well, why don’t you go ahead and get it? There is
one among them that will just suit your purpose. It is a canvas canoe.
It is very light, and you can pack it across a four mile portage without
any trouble at all. If you don’t want to do that, you can take it to
pieces and carry it in your hand as you would a grip-sack. It will hold
up eight hundred pounds, and you can’t over-turn it by rocking it from
side to side.”

“Who belongs to it?” inquired Matt, who had never heard of such a craft
before.

“Joe Wayring; and his father is one of the Mount Airy trustees. Your
house was on his land, and if Mr. Wayring had said the word, you might
have been living happily there now, with plenty to do in the way of
boating and guiding and with money in your pocket,” said Tom, hoping
that this reference to Mr. Wayring and the influence he might have
exerted in Matt’s behalf, if he had seen fit to do so, would make the
squatter angry, and awaken in him a desire to be revenged on the son
since he could not harm the father in any way. The plan succeeded
admirably. Matt laid his rifle on the ground so that he could shake both
his fists, and the oaths and threats he uttered when he had thus
relieved himself of all incumbrance, were frightful to hear. He did not
yell, as he would like to have done, for he knew that the boys who had
gone in pursuit of the bear were not far away; but he hissed out the
words between his clenched teeth, and kicked and trampled down the
bushes in his rage.

“I’d take the boat now, even if I knowed it wouldn’t be of no use to
me,” said he, as soon as he could speak. “It’ll cost ole man Wayring
five an’ mebbe twenty dollars to buy him another—”

“More than that,” said Tom. “A good deal more.”

“Wal, it’ll be jest that much out of his pocket whatever it is,”
answered Matt Coyle. “Where did you say them boats was?”

“Right down there on the beach,” replied Tom, indicating the direction
with his finger. “You know which one I mean, don’t you? You’re sure you
can tell a canvas canoe from a Shadow or a Rob Roy?”

“Am I sure that I can tell a pipe from a shot gun?” retorted Matt.

“Yes, I suppose you can do that, but I am not so positive that you can
tell one canoe from another,” answered Tom. “Of course it wouldn’t be
safe for me to go down to the beach with you, for if Joe should happen
to be anywhere within sight, I’d be in a pretty fix. You may be sure I
shall not so much as hint that I saw you here in the woods, and you
mustn’t lisp it to a living person.”

“Course not,” said Matt. “Mum’s the word between gentlemen.”

Tom could scarcely restrain an exclamation of disgust. It looked as
though this blear-eyed ragamuffin considered himself quite as good as
the boy he was talking to.

“Take the canoe just as it stands,” continued Tom, “and you will find a
good lunch as well as a fine fishing-rod in it. Be lively now, for Joe
may come back at any moment. I’ll keep out of sight, for of course I
don’t want to know any thing about it.”

“I don’t care fur them new-fangled poles what’s got a silver windlass
onto the ends of ’em, an’ I wouldn’t tech it if I didn’t think I could
sell it to somebody; but I’ll go fur the grub, I tell you.”

So saying Matt Coyle went through with some contortions with the left
side of his face which were, no doubt, intended for a friendly farewell
wink, and stole off toward the beach; while Tom turned and walked away
in the opposite direction. When he thought he had put a safe distance
between himself and the pond, he sat down to await developments. Nor was
he obliged to wait long. A rifle cracked away off to the left of his
place of concealment, then a shot gun roared, and presently voices came
to him from the depths of the forest. Joe and his companions had given
up the chase, and were now on their way back to the pond, shooting
squirrels as they came. Tom knew when they passed by within less than a
hundred yards of him, and he knew, too, that they were surprised because
they did not meet him in the woods or find him on the beach, for they
set up a series of dismal whoops as soon as they reached the water’s
edge.

“Now for it,” thought Tom, drawing his hand over his face and looking as
innocent as though he had never been guilty of a mean act in his life.
“I’ve got to meet them some time, and it might as well be now as an hour
later. Whoop-pee!” he yelled in answer to the shouts that were sent up
from the shore of the pond.

Tom’s ears also told him when Joe Wayring first discovered that his
canvas canoe was missing. The yells suddenly ceased, and Tom heard no
more from Joe and his companions until he came out of the woods and
halted on the beach a short distance from the place where they were
standing. They were gathered in a group around Roy Sheldon, who was bent
over with his hands on his knees, and his eyes fastened upon a
foot-print in the mud. They were listening so eagerly to something Roy
was saying, that Tom walked up within reach of them before any of the
group knew that he was about.

“What have you found that is so very interesting?” inquired Tom, who
knew that he ought to open the conversation in some way.

“Oh, here you are,” exclaimed Hastings. “We could not imagine what had
become of you. Until we heard you call out there in the woods, we
supposed that the bear had come back, and that you had gone after him in
Joe’s boat.”

“Not by a long shot!” cried Tom, who saw very plainly what Arthur was
driving at. “I haven’t seen the bear since I lost sight of you, and if I
had, I should have gone away from him and not toward him. I have no
ambition to shine as a bear hunter, and consequently I am here safe and
sound.”

“But Joe’s canoe isn’t,” said Roy.

Tom looked, and sure enough the place where Joe had left his boat when
he went into the woods was vacant. With much apparent anxiety and
uneasiness he turned toward his canoe as if to satisfy himself that his
own treasures were safe, when Roy broke out with—

“Oh, you’re a sufferer the same as the rest of us. Your lunch and your
fine bait-rod have gone off to keep Joe’s canoe company. He took all our
rods and his pick of the fish, too, and it is a great wonder to me that
he was good enough to leave us our paddles.”

Tom was really surprised now, and he was deeply in earnest when he said:

“If I ever meet the man who did that I’ll have him arrested if I can
find any one to make out a warrant for him.” Then suddenly recollecting
that he was not supposed to know who the thief was, he added: “Do you
suspect any body?”

“No, we don’t suspect; we know,” answered Joe. “Look at that!”

“Can you tell a man’s name by looking at the print of his foot in the
mud?” asked Tom.

“I can tell that man’s name, for I know how he was shod the last time I
saw him,” replied Joe. “It was Matt Coyle. He made a good many threats
before he left the village, and he has begun to carry them out already.
He has put up his shanty somewhere in the vicinity of this pond, and
will make it his business to do some damage to every hunting and fishing
party that comes here.”

“Well, what are we standing here for?” exclaimed Tom, who had expected
before this time to hear somebody propose an immediate pursuit of the
robber.

“We might as well stay here and take it easy, as to get wild and rush
around through the woods for nothing,” replied Joe; and Tom was
surprised to see how ready he was to give his boat up for lost. “In the
first place, we couldn’t overtake the robber, and in the second, we
couldn’t recover our property if we did. The day of reckoning will
surely come, but we can’t do any thing to hasten it.”

The idea that the squatter would disturb any of the things in the other
canoes had never entered into Tom’s mind. Matt seemed to remember, with
as much gratitude as such a man was capable of, that Tom was one of the
few who sympathized with him when he was ordered out of Mount Airy, and
yet he had made little distinction between his property and that
belonging to the sons of the trustees who ordered him away. There was no
sham about his rage. He was angry because his elegant rod and German
silver bass reel had disappeared, and because he knew that he would
never dare have Matt Coyle arrested for the theft. If the latter should
go before a magistrate and repeat the words that had passed between Tom
and himself not more than half an hour ago, wouldn’t he be in a pretty
scrape? He was in one already, for the squatter had a hold upon him, and
subsequent events proved that Matt knew how to use it to his own
advantage.



                               CHAPTER X.

                            FOREST COOKERY.


“HOW in the world did you manage to get separated from us so quickly?”
asked Roy, addressing himself to Tom Bigden. “The last time I saw you,
you were bringing up the rear all right, but when we lost the trail and
stopped to hold a consultation, you were not to be seen.”

Tom had been expecting this, and he was ready with his answer. Pointing
to his boots, which he had purposely stuck into a mud-hole, shortly
after his companions left him, he said:

“I got mired in the swamp, and by the time I could crawl out and pour
the water from my boots, you had left me so far behind that I could
neither see nor hear any thing of you. If I had come directly back to
the pond instead of wasting time in looking for you, I might have been
able to stop Matt Coyle’s raid on our canoes.”

“I doubt it very much,” replied Joe Wayring. “No doubt Matt has been
watching us all the morning and waiting for us to come ashore so that he
could steal something, and I believe he would have made his ‘raid’ if we
had all been here to oppose him. As it was, he had full swing, and there
are none of us hurt.”

“That’s my idea,” said Arthur. “Judging by his countenance Matt is a bad
man and a desperate one. Well, we have lost our rods and reels, which
must be worth considerably more than a hundred dollars, but we have
learned one thing, that we ought to profit by, and another that we can
use to our advantage. To begin with, so long as Matt Coyle is allowed to
stay about in this neck of the woods—”

“And I guess he’ll stay here as long as he has a mind to,” observed Roy.

“Well, I guess he won’t,” retorted Arthur.

“I know what you mean,” said Roy. “You mean that the arm of the law is
strong enough to snatch him out of the swamp. I don’t dispute it. The
trouble is going to be to get hold of him. If he finds the low lands
getting too warm for him, he will take to the mountains; and you know
that there are a good many places among them where a white man has never
yet set his foot.”

“He’ll come out, all the same,” answered Arthur; “but as long as he
stays around, Sherwin’s Pond is no place for hunting and fishing
parties, unless they bring some one with them to watch the camp while
they are rambling about in the woods. We must warn the hotel people as
soon as we get back to town.”

“You said there was something we could use to our advantage,” suggested
Joe.

“Yes. We can see any amount of sport here this fall with the grouse. We
flushed a lot of them while we were gone,” he added, turning to Tom,
“but of course we didn’t shoot at them.”

“Why not?” inquired the latter.

“Why, because the close season isn’t over yet, and the birds are
protected by law.”

Tom and his cousins had nothing to say, but they wondered if Arthur
Hastings always obeyed the game laws when he was alone in the woods.
They had not much respect for him if he did. They could not lay claim to
any great skill themselves. An October grouse on the wing would have
been as safe from harm a dozen yards away from the muzzles of their
double-barrels, as though he had been on the other side of the globe.
They always killed their game sitting; and they would shoot at a robin
as soon as they would shoot at a wild turkey.

“We didn’t come down here to go home hungry,” said Joe, pointing to a
bunch of squirrels that lay at the foot of the nearest tree. “We’ll have
two courses to our dinner or breakfast, or whatever you call a meal
eaten at this time of day, and there’s plenty of water in the spring to
wash it down with.”

The boys were all hungry, and there was nothing appetizing in looking
forward to a breakfast of meat and fish. Joe Wayring and his friends did
not mind it, for they had eaten many such meals during their vacation
wanderings in the woods; but Tom Bigden was not much accustomed to
roughing it, and he condemned the squatter almost as bitterly for
walking off with the hard-boiled eggs, sardines, canned fruit and bottle
of cold coffee, which he had provided as his share of the common dinner,
as he did for stealing his fishing-rod.

“When Matt opens my bundle and finds all that buttered tissue paper in
it I guess he’ll wonder,” said Joe, as he stepped into Roy’s canoe and
picked up one of the joints of the double paddle. “He won’t know what I
intended to do with it; do you, Bigden?”

After a little reflection Tom concluded that he couldn’t tell what use
the buttered tissue paper could be put to, unless Joe intended to start
a fire with it, and the latter went on to explain.

“We always take a supply with us as a substitute for a frying-pan,” said
he. “After cleaning the fish in good shape, we wrap him up in this
tissue paper, and then add three or four thicknesses of wet brown paper.
In the meantime, the fellow whose business it is to see to the fire has
taken care to have a nice bed of coals ready. We rake these coals apart,
put in the fish, and cover him up so quickly that the paper around him
has no time to get afire, and there he stays until he is done. Then we
poke him out, and when the paper is taken off the skin and scales come
with it; and if you relish a well-cooked fish, there he is.”

“But how do you know when the fish is done?” asked Ralph.

“A potato is as good a clock as you want to go by,” answered Joe.

“A potato?” repeated Ralph.

“Yes. I brought several with me, intending to put them on the table
after they had done duty as clocks, but they have gone off with the
sugar, lemons and other good things I had in my bundle. As soon as your
fish is covered up in the coals,” continued Joe, “put your potatoes in
alongside of him and cover them up also. You can test them with a sharp
stick at any time, and when they are done, which will be at the end of
half an hour, if your fire is just right, poke them out, break them open
and place them on a flat stone which you have previously washed, to
cool. Then poke out your fish, take off the wrappings and fall to work.
But we shall have to use boards this trip—there are plenty of them lying
around loose on the point, unless Matt Coyle has carried them off to
patch up his shanty—and make our noses do duty as clocks.”

Tom did not understand this, either; but believing that he had made a
sufficient airing of his ignorance of woodcraft for one day, at least,
he asked no more questions.

Half an hour’s steady paddling brought the boys to the point, on which
they landed to prepare their meager breakfast. That it was a favorite
resort for parties like their own was evident. Beds of ashes surrounding
the mossy bowlder from beneath which the spring bubbled up, marked the
places where roaring camp-fires had once been built, and the empty fruit
and meat cans that had been tossed into the bushes told what good
dinners had been eaten there.

Joe Wayring at once set off to hunt up a couple of suitable boards,
another started a fire, two more fell to work upon the fish and
squirrels, and the rest found employment in gathering a supply of fuel,
and providing birch-bark plates and platters. Although Tom and his
cousins did their full share of the work, they did not neglect to keep
an eye on their more experienced companions; and they were astonished to
see how easily one can get on without a good many things which the
majority of people seem to think necessary to their very existence. When
the fish had been cleaned and washed in the pond, they were spread out
flat and fastened with wooden pins to the boards, which were propped up
in front of the fire; while the squirrels were impaled upon forked
sticks and held over the coals by Arthur Hastings and Roy, who turned
first one side and then the other to the heat, until they were done to a
delicious brown.

“If Matt Coyle had only been good enough to leave us the bacon, which I
was careful to have put up with my lunch, these squirrels would be much
better than they are going to be,” said Arthur, addressing himself to
Ralph, who manifested the greatest interest in this rude forest cookery.
“Their meat is rather dry, you know, and a strip of nice fat bacon
pinned to each side of them would furnish the necessary grease—that
isn’t a very elegant word, I know, but it expresses my meaning all the
same—and give them a flavor also. It would make the fish more palatable,
too. My advice to you is, always take a chunk of bacon with you if you
are going to cook your dinner in the woods.”

“What’s he doing?” inquired Ralph, nodding toward Joe Wayring, who stood
around with his hands in his pockets, now and then elevating his chin
and sniffing the air like a pointer that had struck a fresh scent.

Arthur laughed heartily.

“Joe’s timing the fish,” was his reply. “When they smell so good that he
can’t wait any longer, he will know they are done; and then dinner will
be ready. It’s rather a novel way, I confess, but Joe hits it every
pop.”

This was the first time that Tom and his cousins had ever sat down to a
meal that was composed of nothing but fish and meat, but it tasted much
better than they thought it would. Perhaps the reason was because they
were hungry. At any rate they disposed of all that was placed before
them, and would have asked for another piece of squirrel if there had
been any more on the big slice of bark that did duty as a platter.

“This meal will give you an idea of what we could have done if that
squatter had not stumbled on our canoes while we were after that bear,”
said Roy, who stood holding the empty platter in one hand and his light
bird gun in the other. As he spoke, he sent the platter flying over the
pond, and broke it into inch pieces by the two charges of shot he put
into it before it struck the water. “What’s the next thing on the
programme?” he continued. “I don’t much like the idea of undertaking
that long carry during the heat of the day, but I don’t see what else we
can do unless we are willing to stay here and be idle for hours to come.
We can’t fish any more, that’s certain. We haven’t brought our long bows
with us, and who wants to shoot squirrels with a shot gun? Not I, for
one.”

There was no debate upon the question Roy had raised. They had their
choice between going home, and staying where they were until the sun
sank out of sight behind the mountains; and they were not long in making
up their minds what they would do. When Joe Wayring picked up his gun
and stepped into Roy’s canoe (it was a Rice Laker, and not being decked
over, it could easily accommodate him and its owner), the others got
into theirs, and the fleet started toward the upper end of the pond.

We have said that Mirror Lake and Sherwin’s Pond were fifteen miles
apart, and that there were about twelve miles of rapids in the stream by
which they were connected. This, of course, would leave three miles of
still water; but the trouble was, it could not be made use of by any one
going from the pond to the lake. At every one of the points at which the
rapids ceased and the stretches of still water began, the banks were
high and steep, and so densely covered with briers and bushes that the
most active boy would have found it a difficult task to work his way to
the water’s edge, and an impossible one if he had a canoe on his back.
This being the case our six friends had a long portage (they generally
called it a “carry”) to look forward to; but three of them, at least,
went at it as they went at every thing else that was hard—with the
determination to do it at once and have it over with. Arthur Hastings
went first with his little Rob Roy on his back, Joe Wayring followed
close behind him with all the guns and paddles he could carry (the rest
of them were lashed fast in the cock-pits so that they would not fall
out when the canoes were turned bottom up), and they led their
companions nearly a third of the distance before they put down their
loads and leaned up against a tree to rest.

“This is my last visit to Sherwin’s pond this season,” panted Arthur, as
he drew his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the big drops of
perspiration from his forehead. “It’s too much sugar for a
cent—altogether too much.”

“Every time you come through here on a hot day you say the same thing,”
observed Joe.

“I know it; but I am in dead earnest now. The game isn’t worth the
candle.”

“What’s the matter? Are you sorry that you didn’t smash your canoe in
the rapids?” asked Roy.

“Or didn’t you catch fish enough to suit you?” chimed in Ralph.

“Perhaps he is disgusted because he didn’t shoot that bear,” said Joe.

“It’s hard work,” repeated Arthur. “The fun of running the rapids,
catching a nice string of bass and seeing a bear, does not repay one for
the horrors of this fifteen mile carry. It is worse for me to-day than
it ever was before, because we have been so very unlucky. We have used
our rods for the last time, and Joe will never see his canvas canoe
again.”

This was the way in which Arthur and his two friends referred to their
losses whenever they referred to them at all. There was no unreasonable
exhibition of rage, such as Tom Bigden would have been glad to indulge
in, if he could have found the least excuse for so doing.

If Tom had possessed even the semblance of a heart, it would have smote
him when he saw how patiently Joe and his chums bore up under their
misfortunes. If Matt Coyle had turned the matter over in his mind for a
whole month, he could not have hit upon anything that was so well
calculated to render these three boys miserable, as was the piece of
villainy which he had that day carried out at the suggestion of Tom
Bigden. Tom was glad of one thing: His companions did not ask him any
questions, and consequently he was not obliged to tell them any lies.

The boys rested a good many times while they were on the carry, and when
at last they launched their canoes on the broad bosom of the lake they
were so weary and devoid of ambition, that it was a task for them to
paddle down to the boat-houses; but, like their arduous journey across
the portage, it was accomplished at last by steady and persevering
effort, and when they separated near the middle of the lake and pulled
away toward their respective homes, they told one another that the next
time they went down to the pond they would see to it that Matt Coyle had
no chance to spoil their day’s sport.

“There’s something about that business that don’t look just right to
me,” said Ralph Farnsworth, as soon as Joe and his friends were out of
hearing. “I don’t mind my own loss, but I am really sorry for Joe
Wayring.”

“So am I,” said Loren. “He prized that canoe very highly. I believe he
would rather have lost his handsome breech-loader. I tell you we made a
mistake in having any thing to do with George Prime. Wayring and his
crowd are much the better lot of fellows.”

These remarks settled one thing to Tom Bigden’s satisfaction. Ever since
his interview with the squatter he had been asking himself whether or
not he ought to take his cousins into his confidence, and now he knew
that he had better not. He was afraid, as well as ashamed, to show them
how far his unreasonable enmity toward Joe Wayring had led him, and so
he said nothing.

Great was the indignation among some of the Mount Airy people when it
became known that Matt Coyle had turned up again when he was least
expected, and that he had walked off with a hundred and fifty dollars
worth of property that did not belong to him. But Mount Airy, as we have
seen, was like other places in that it numbered among its inhabitants
certain evil-minded and envious persons, who were never so happy as when
they were listening to the story of some one’s bad luck. George Prime
and the boys who made their head-quarters in his father’s store were
delighted to hear that the squatter had begun operations against Joe and
his chums, and hoped he would “keep it up” until he had stolen or
destroyed every thing they possessed. They declared that they were sorry
for Tom and his cousins, but when they came to say that much to them by
word of mouth, as they did the next afternoon when Tom, Ralph and Loren
dropped into the drug-store on their way to the post-office, they did it
in such a way that Tom became disgusted, and left without buying the
cigar he had intended to ask for.

“The more I see of those fellows, the less I like them,” said Tom; and
then he was about to open his battery of abuse upon Prime and his
friends, when he discovered several of the Toxophilites coming down the
side-walk. “I’ll tell you what’s a fact, boys,” Tom added in a lower
tone. “It’s a lucky thing for us that we didn’t buy those cigars. Here
comes Miss Arden with a whole crowd of girls, and there isn’t a street
or alley that we could slink into if we had a weed in our hands.”

The boys lifted their hats as the girls came up, and passed on rejoicing
over their escape. If they had been caught in the act of smoking they
might have said good-by to all their hopes of getting into the archery
club. A little further on they stopped in front of the window of a
jewelry store, where some of the prizes that were to be distributed at
the canoe meet had been placed for exhibition. Their three companions of
the previous day were there, and their attention was concentrated upon a
beautiful blue silk flag, trimmed with gold fringe and bearing in its
center the monogram of the Mount Airy canoe club, which occupied a
conspicuous position among the prizes.

“That’s some of Miss Arden’s handiwork,” said Joe Wayring, after he had
cordially greeted Tom and his cousins. “It is to go to the first one who
walks the greasy pole.”

“Great Moses!” ejaculated Tom. “To what base uses—”

“That’s just what I said,” interrupted Arthur Hastings. “I told her,
too, that it wouldn’t make half the fun the greasy pig did, and you
ought to have seen her stick up her nose. Another thing, now that I
think of it: Unless the wind is just right, the flag will wallop itself
over and around the pole until it is all covered with grease.”

“And the boy who is lucky enough to capture it will have to take it into
the water with him, and there is her elegant prize ruined at the start,”
chimed in Joe Wayring.

“Don’t you think Miss Arden had wit enough to provide for that?”
exclaimed Mr. Yale, the jeweler, who happened to overhear this remark.
“Do you see that little flag beside the blue one? Well, that is intended
to represent the prize. If you are fortunate enough to capture that, you
can fly the blue pennant at your masthead.”

Miss Arden was right when she told her friends that she was sure that
the gallant fellows who belonged to the canoe club would work harder for
her flag than they would for a greasy pig. Every one of the boys who
stopped in front of Mr. Yale’s window that afternoon to look at the
prizes, told himself that if he did not win that flag it would be
because some lucky member walked off with it before he had a chance to
try for it.

During the next two weeks little or nothing happened in or about Mount
Airy that is worthy of note. A deputy sheriff and constable went down to
Sherwin’s Pond to arrest Matt Coyle, and, after a three days’ search
returned empty-handed. They found the place where the squatter had built
his shanty, but it was gone when they got there, and so were Matt and
his family. The authorities at Indian Lake were requested to keep a
look-out for him, but Matt was too old a criminal to be easily caught.
He and his boys offered themselves as guides to the guests of the
hotels, but when they were told that they were not wanted, they set
themselves to work to carry out the programme of which Matt had spoken
to Tom Bigden on the day he stole Joe Wayring’s canoe—that is, to break
up the business of guiding in the region about Indian Lake, and to make
the people who came there for recreation so sick of the woods that they
would never come there again. Whether or not they succeeded in their
object shall be told further on.

Tom Bigden and his cousins never knew how near they came to being
black-balled when their names were brought before the canoe club at its
next meeting. Prime and his friends were suspicious of Tom. The latter
kept away from the drug-store altogether; he and his cousins were often
seen in Joe Wayring’s company, and Prime said that looked as though Tom
wasn’t in earnest when he promised to assist in carrying out the
arrangements that had been made for defeating Joe and Arthur at the
coming canoe meet.

“I’ll vote for him,” said Prime, after Noble, Scott, and one or two
others had labored with him for a long time, “but if he plays us false,
as I really think he means to do, he can just hang up his fiddle, so far
as the Toxophilites are concerned. I’ll take pains to let Miss Arden and
the rest of the girls know that he and his cousins smoke and play
billiards and cards on the sly, and they’ll make dough of his cake in
short order.”

“The agony is over at last,” said Tom, after Joe Wayring and his
inseparable companions Arthur and Roy, who came over in the _Young
Republic_ the next morning to announce the result of the ballot, had
gone home again. “Bear in mind, now, that we are to stick to our
original programme and win if we can. If we find that we have no show,
and that the prizes must go to Wayring and his friends, or to Prime and
his followers, we’ll stand by Wayring every time. We’ll teach that
drug-store crowd that the next time they make up a slate they had better
put our names on it if they expect us to help them.”

It never occurred to Tom and his cousins that possibly Joe Wayring, and
all the other boys who believed that friendly trials of strength and
skill, like those that were to come off during the canoe meet, should be
fairly conducted, would not thank them for their interference. Joe had
warned all his friends that there were boys in the club who had been
“booked” to win by fair means or foul (of course he did not tell them
where he got his information), and they made some pretty shrewd guesses
as to who those boys were. Being forewarned they were forearmed, and
they did not want any help. Tom found it out on the day the races came
off.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                            THE CANOE MEET.


THE first thing the members of the canoe club did when they sprang out
of bed on the morning of the second day of August, was to run to the
window, draw aside the curtain and take a look at the sky and the lake.
The one was cloudless, and the surface of the other was rippled by a
little breeze which promised, by the time the sun was an hour high, to
freshen into a capital sailing wind. For all the members of the club
were not so deeply interested in the paddle, portage and hurry-skurry
races as Joe Wayring and Tom Bigden were. A few of them were expert
sailors, and anxious to show the spectators (there would be more
strangers among them this year than ever before), how skillfully they
could manage their cranky little boats when they were under canvas.

The young athletes were all in excellent training, and there was not one
among them who did not expect to win a prize of more or less value
during the day. Some of the canoeists had discovered a couple of Yale
college students among the guests at the Mount Airy House, and after a
little urging they had consented to assume the management of affairs,
one as judge and the other as referee. They knew all about the rules of
boating, and Joe Wayring told himself, that Prime and his friends would
have to be smarter than he thought they were if they could play any
tricks under the watchful eyes of those two college men without being
caught in the act.

At an early hour Mr. Wayring’s spacious boat-house, which was to be used
as head-quarters and had been handsomely decorated for the occasion, was
thrown open, and shortly afterward the members of the club began to
arrive. They drew their canoes upon the beach at the side of the
boat-house and disappeared in the dressing-room, where they remained
until the warning blast of a bugle notified them that it was time to
begin operations. Now and then one of them would take a cautious peep
out at the back door and turn around to inform his companions that all
New London had come up to attend the meet; and although they knew that
there were a good many people assembled to witness the sports, they were
all surprised, and not a few of them were made nervous by the scene that
was presented to their gaze when they sprang off the wharf, and ran to
push their canoes into the water. Mr. Wayring’s grounds were crowded
with gayly dressed spectators, who where lounging on the grass or
sitting comfortably under the tents that had been provided for them, and
the lake was covered with sail and row boats, all of which were flying
as many flags as they could find places for.

A mile up the lake the stake-boat was anchored. In it was one of the
judges, who reclined at his ease on a couch of cushions with an awning
over him to keep off the sun. The other judge was Mr. Hastings, who
stood on the wharf to act as starter. The referee’s barge, propelled by
six of the best oarsmen that could be found among the guides, lay off
the wharf, and the police-boats had already cleared the course.

“All you young gentlemen who are to compete in this race draw a number
as you pass, and station yourselves accordingly,” said Mr. Hastings, who
held a small tin box above his head so that the contestants could not
look into it and pick a number instead of taking it at random. “Go down
as far as the leaning tree so as to get a good start, and fill away at
the sound of the bugle, No. 1 taking the outside.”

The first event was a sailing race—two miles with a turn. Those who had
entered for it drew a number from the box, lingered a moment to look at
the swinging silver pitcher and gold-lined goblets, which, with a tray
to hold them, were to go to the boy who sent his canoe first across the
line on the home stretch, and then ran out to launch their canoes and
hoist their sails. There were ten starters, and they made a pretty
picture as they came up the lake before the fresh breeze that was then
blowing, and dashed across the imaginary line that marked the beginning
of the course. Another blast from the bugle warned them that it was a
“go,” and the race was begun.

The sound of the bugle seemed to excite every body—the people on shore
as well as the boys in the boats, who crowded their cranky little crafts
until it looked as if some of them must certainly go over. There were
several of Prime’s friends among the contestants, and Joe and his two
chums wondered if any one of them had been “booked” to come out ahead in
this particular race. They saw nothing to indicate it. There was no
attempt to foul the boy who seemed likely to win, and indeed there was
no chance for any such proceeding. The referee’s barge easily kept
abreast of the racers, and the man in the stake-boat kept his glass
directed toward them from the start. There was some crowding and
confusion at the turn, and some of the little vessels came dangerously
near to one another; but their crews made desperate efforts to clear
themselves, some because they knew they were closely watched, and others
because they were determined to win fairly or not at all, and the race
was not interrupted. It was a close and exciting struggle, and the boy
who brought his Rice Laker first across the line was fairly entitled to
the silver pitcher.

“That was a splendid race,” exclaimed Joe Wayring, as the contestants,
after beaching their canoes, came into the boat-house to listen to the
congratulations, or to receive the sympathy of their friends. “The
paddle race comes off now, and I hope that those of us who take part in
it will make as good a showing as you did.”

While Joe was talking in this way, Ned Stewart, one of the boys who had
just been defeated, drew a few of his friends around him in a remote
corner of the boat-house by intimating to them in a mysterious way that
he had something of importance to say to them.

“Look here, Bigden,” said Ned, in an excited whisper. “I believe it is
understood that some of us are to foul Wayring or any fellow in his
crowd who stands a chance of winning, and give Noble a chance to carry
off the honors of the paddle race?”

“I believe you did make some such arrangement as that,” replied Tom,
indifferently. “But if my memory serves me, you did not consult me in
regard to it.”

These words produced the utmost consternation among the boys in the
corner.

“Are you going back from your word?” cried Noble, as soon as he could
speak.

“What do you mean by that?” demanded Tom.

“You know very well what he means,” exclaimed Bob Lord, who, it will be
remembered, had been “booked” to win the upset race. “Now, look here,
Bigden: You have been running with Wayring a good deal, of late, and we
might have expected this of you. You want Wayring to win because you
think he can do more to get you into the archery club than we can; but I
assure you that you are mistaken there. You can’t get in without our
votes, and if you go back on us we shan’t give them to you.”

“I don’t want Wayring to win,” said Tom, emphatically. “My Cousin Loren
is going to come out at the top of the heap in this race.”

“Well, I’ll bet you a dollar he isn’t,” exclaimed Noble, whose flashing
eyes showed how angry he was. “If I don’t win this race nobody shall.”

“Well, I’ll bet you two dollars that I shall keep pretty close to Loren,
and that the boy who interferes with him purposely will go out of his
canoe in less time than he can say ‘General Jackson’ with his mouth
open. Not only that, but I’ll thrash him the very first time I can catch
him ashore,” replied Tom, returning Noble’s angry scowl with interest,
and doubling up his fists as if he were ready and willing to put his
threat into execution then and there.

“Look here! Look here, boys,” whispered Prime, who was really afraid the
two would come to blows. “Such work as this will never do. If we quarrel
among ourselves, Wayring and his crowd will walk off with all the prizes
as they have always done.”

“I have no intention of quarreling,” said Noble, who did not like the
way Tom glared at him. “I only want Bigden to keep his promise.”

“What promise?” demanded Tom.

“Why, didn’t you say that you were down on Wayring and Hastings, and
that you did not want to see them win any of the races?” inquired Scott.

“I did.”

“And didn’t you promise that you would help _us_ win?” chimed in Frank
Noble.

“No, I didn’t. When you told me what your programme was, I simply said:
‘All right.’ By that I meant that you could do as you pleased, and my
cousins and I would do as _we_ pleased. You were very good to yourselves
when you picked out all the best races for your own men, and left us out
in the cold, were you not? We do not consider that we are under
obligations to abide by any such arrangement, and we shan’t do it. We’ve
got a programme of our own that we mean to carry out if we can, and the
fellow who interferes with us in any way may make up his mind to take
the consequences.”

So saying Tom walked off followed by his cousins, leaving Prime and his
companions lost in wonder.

“Serves us just right for having any thing to do with such upstarts,”
said Noble, who was the first to speak. “They have gone back on us fair
and square; that’s easy enough to be seen.”

“Who ever heard of such impudence?” exclaimed Prime. “They came to Mount
Airy with the idea that they could run the town to suit themselves, and
because they can’t do it, they are mad about it. They must not be
allowed to win a race. I would much rather see Wayring or Hastings come
in first.”

“That brings me to what I wanted to say to you,” said Ned Stewart. “I
don’t know whether or not that college man in the stake-boat suspects
any thing, but he certainly acted like it. He kept his eyes on us from
the time we crossed the line until we got home. If you try to foul any
body you must be very sly about it, or else you will be caught and ruled
out.”

If Stewart had any thing else to say he did not have time to say it, for
just then the bugle sounded another warning, and that put a stop to the
conversation. It was a call to the boys who were to take part in the
paddle race. A few seconds later thirteen active young fellows in showy
uniforms sprang off the wharf one after the other, shoved their canoes
into the water, and paddled away to take the positions assigned them by
the numbers they had drawn from the tin box. As luck would have it, Tom
Bigden found himself near the center of the line, with his Cousin Loren
on one side of him and Frank Noble on the other. Joe Wayring was on the
right, nearest the shore, and Arthur Hastings on the extreme left, near
the middle of the lake.

“It’s a bad outlook for us,” whispered Loren, after he had run his eye
up and down the line. “Joe and Arthur are so far away that you can’t
touch them.”

“Never mind,” replied Tom, in the same cautious whisper. “They will have
to come closer together when we get to the stake-boat, and then,
perhaps, we can do something. Keep your weather eye peeled for Noble.
He’ll spoil your chances if he can. He’s bound to win or kick up a row.”

“Are you all ready?” shouted Mr. Hastings, from his place on the wharf.

There was no response in words, but each boy grasped his double paddle
with a firmer hold, dipped one blade of it into the water and leaned
forward so that he could put all his strength into the first stroke,
which was given before the notes of the bugle had fairly died away.

The thirteen contestants got off well together, and for a while it was
any body’s race; but by the time a quarter of a mile had been passed
over, Arthur Hastings and Roy Sheldon, who “made the pace”, began to
draw to the front, while others fell behind, and when they rounded the
stake-boat the line was very much broken. Tom Bigden did not try to win.
According to the agreement this was not his race. He simply kept close
beside his cousin—he had harder work to do it than he expected to have,
for Loren sent his canoe through the water at an astonishing rate of
speed—holding himself in readiness to frustrate any attempt at trickery
on Frank Noble’s part, or to foul Frank if he showed speed enough to
beat Loren fairly.

How the struggle would have ended, had each boy been as determined to
win or lose on his merits as the majority of them were, it is hard to
tell. Arthur and Roy paddled much faster now than they did on the day
they had those friendly trials with Tom and his cousin, and so did
Loren. Frank Noble, who was by no means an antagonist to be despised,
kept close company with them, while Joe Wayring seemed content to linger
behind and save his wind so that he could force the pace on the way
home; consequently he was an eye-witness to a piece of deliberate
rascality on the part of Tom Bigden, which was so neatly executed that
it might have passed for an accident, if Joe, when questioned by the
judge, had not told the truth concerning it. It came about in this way:

Arthur and Roy rounded the stake-boat together, keeping far enough away
from each other to avoid all danger of a collision. Frank Noble followed
in their wake, and close behind him came Loren Farnsworth, who having
got his “second wind”, was plying his paddle with so much strength and
skill that he was rapidly closing up the gap between himself and his
leaders. Noble saw defeat staring him in the face, and believing that he
could gain a few feet on Hastings and his companion, and throw Loren out
of the race at the same time, he resorted to an expedient which drew a
warning shout from Joe Wayring, who was contentedly following in Tom’s
rear.

“Look out there, Frank!” cried Joe. “You’ll be foul of somebody in a
minute more.”

“I told Tom that Loren Farnsworth should never come out at the top of
the heap in this race, and I meant every word of it,” said Frank, to
himself; and paying no attention to Joe’s warning, he shot his canoe
across Loren’s bow, passing so close to him that the latter was obliged
to stop paddling and back water in order to escape the collision which
for a second or two seemed inevitable.

This was Tom Bigden’s opportunity and he was prompt to improve it. With
a movement so quick and dextrous that it looked like an accident to the
people on shore who witnessed it, Tom unjointed his paddle, dropped one
blade of it overboard, and laying out all his strength on the other, he
swung the bow of his canoe around and sent it crashing into the side of
Noble’s boat, overturning it in an instant and throwing its occupant out
into the water. Then, quick as a flash, Tom backed his canoe out of
Loren’s way and sent it directly in the path of the other boys, who were
thus given their choice between two courses of action: One was to make a
wide detour in order to clear the three boats that lay in their way, and
the other was to give up the race, which was now virtually left to
Hastings, Sheldon and Loren Farnsworth. The most of them preferred to
draw out of a contest in which they had no show of winning, and with
many exclamations of anger and disgust turned about and paddled back to
the starting point; while the others crowded up around the stake-boat to
hear what the judge and referee would have to say about it.

“I claim foul on that!” shouted Tom; and the words and the speaker’s
easy assurance so astonished Joe Wayring, that he sat in his canoe with
his paddle suspended in the air as if he did not know what to do with
it.

“I claim foul!” sputtered Noble, as soon as his head appeared above the
surface of the water. “Bigden capsized me on purpose.”

“I say I didn’t!” cried Tom, looking very surprised and innocent indeed.
“What business had you to try to cross my bows, when any body with half
an eye could see that you had no chance to do it? You declared that if
you didn’t win this race no one else should, and that’s why you got in
my way.”

“And you said that your Cousin Loren was booked to win, if you could
make him do it,” retorted Noble, who had climbed into his canoe and was
rapidly throwing out the water it had shipped in righting. “That’s why
you capsized me. It is a lucky thing for you that you didn’t smash in
the side of my boat as you tried to do. I would have made you pay
roundly for it, if there is law enough in Mount Airy to—”

“That will do,” said the judge, in a tone of authority. “This is not the
place to settle quarrels, and neither am I the one to do it.”

“My paddle got unjointed, and I couldn’t shift from one side to the
other quick enough to keep clear of you,” said Tom.

Meanwhile Hastings, Sheldon and Loren Farnsworth were making fast time
down the home stretch toward the starting point. To the surprise of
every body, and to the no small annoyance of Arthur Hastings, who had
never before been so closely followed by any one except Sheldon and
Wayring, Loren was not only holding his own, but he was gaining at every
stroke. There is no telling which one of the three would have come out
ahead at the finish, had they been permitted to continue the struggle;
but the referee, seeing the commotion among the rest of the fleet,
called out: “No race!” and pulled up to the stake-boat to see what was
the matter. The judge gave him his version of the affair, Noble and Tom
Bigden gave theirs, and each of the two boys would have expressed his
opinion of the other in no very complimentary terms, had not the referee
interrupted them by saying—

“Hard words can’t settle disputes of this kind. The race will have to be
tried over again, and Noble, I don’t think you will be allowed to take
any part in it. You made a mistake in trying to cross Bigden’s bows when
you did, because you had no room to do it without interfering with him.
You threw him out of the contest, and came very near throwing Farnsworth
out, too; consequently it will be my duty to bar you. I am sorry—”

“You needn’t be, for I am sure I don’t care,” replied Noble, rudely. He
tried hard to control himself so that the boys around him should not see
how very angry he was, but his efforts met with little success. To be
ruled out of one contest was to be ruled out of all; and that was a
severe blow to a boy who had confidently expected to carry off some of
the best prizes. “What are you going to do with Bigden?” he asked, or
rather demanded of the referee.

“That depends,” answered the latter, somewhat sharply.

“He can’t do any thing with me because I have violated no rule,” said
Tom, defiantly. “You ran across my path when you had no business to do
it, and an accident to my paddle made me run into you. That’s all there
is of it.”

But the referee and judge seemed to hold a different opinion. They
conversed for a few minutes in tones so low that no one but the guides
could hear what they said, and presently the judge appealed to Joe
Wayring.

“You were close behind Bigden when this happened,” said he. “Do you
think it was an accident?”

“What does he know about it?” cried Tom, fiercely. “I don’t care what he
or anybody else says; I know—”

“One moment, please,” interrupted the referee. “You have had your say,
and you don’t help your side of the case any by showing so much
excitement over it.”

“Do you think Bigden unjointed his paddle purposely?” continued the
judge, addressing himself to Joe.

“Yes, sir,” answered the latter, promptly.

“Do you think he could have kept clear of Noble if he had made use of
ordinary skill and caution?”

“I am sure of it.”

“How could he have done it?”

“By working his paddle on the port side of his canoe. That would have
thrown him around the stake-boat very neatly and given him a winning
place in the race; but instead of that he used his paddle on the
starboard side, and of course that threw the bow of his canoe plump into
Noble’s side.”

Frank and the judge nodded as if to say that that was about the way the
thing stood, and after a few minutes’ reflection the referee said—

“I am perfectly satisfied and will announce my decision where all the
members of the club can hear it. As we are wasting time and delaying the
other sports by staying here, we will go back to head-quarters.”

It was not a very sociable company of boys who turned about at this
command and paddled slowly back to the starting point, and neither were
Noble and Tom Bigden the only ones among them who were mad enough to
fight. Two of their number were so jealous of each other and so anxious
to win prizes, that they had deliberately disgraced the club in the
presence of hundreds of strangers; and it is hard to see how any lover
of fair play could help being annoyed over it. Joe Wayring felt it very
keenly; and consequently when Tom Bigden paddled up alongside and told
him that he intended to get even with him some way for the stand he had
taken, Joe was in just the right humor to give him as good as he sent.

“Joe Wayring, you have made an enemy of me by this day’s work,” said
Tom, in a threatening tone.

“By telling the truth in regard to your fouling of Frank Noble?”
exclaimed Joe. “I don’t care if I have. I saw the whole proceeding, and
I know that you meant to do it. I warned you that any boy who could so
far forget himself as to deliberately interfere with another, would be
forever ruled out of the club’s races, and you will find that I knew
what I was talking about.”

“You might as well expel me and be done with it?” exclaimed Tom,
angrily. “What’s the use of my belonging to the club if I am not allowed
to take part in its contests? Joe Wayring, there’s no honor about you.
You have led me to believe that you were my friend, and then you went
back on me the very first chance you got.”

“Do you mean that I have been sailing under false colors?” cried Joe,
indignantly. “If you throw out any more insinuations of that sort before
we reach the boat-house I’ll dump you in the lake. When the judge
questioned me I told him the truth; and I wouldn’t have done otherwise
to please any body.”

Something must have warned Tom that Joe would be as good as his word,
for he had nothing more to say to him. He gradually fell behind and
allowed him to paddle down to the boat-house in peace.



                              CHAPTER XII.

                          OFF FOR INDIAN LAKE.


WHEN Joe Wayring beached his canoe below the boat-house, he was
immediately surrounded by his friends who were impatient to hear all
about it. They knew there had been a foul, for some of the laggards in
the race had seen it; but they could not tell how it had been brought
about, or who was to blame for it.

“It was Noble’s fault in the first place, and Tom Bigden’s in the
second,” said Joe, in response to their hurried inquiries. “It seems
that there are three ‘cliques’ in the club, one of which believes in
doing things fairly, while the other two do not. Loren Farnsworth was
‘booked’ by one of the cliques to win the paddle race, while Frank Noble
was the choice of the other. Each was determined that his opponent
should not win, and the result was most disgraceful—a deliberate
collision at the stake-boat in the presence of all these strangers. What
sort of a story will they carry back to the city about the Mount Airy
canoe club? Noble began the row by putting himself in Loren’s way and
Tom retaliated by capsizing Frank’s canoe and throwing him out into the
water.”

“Do you think he meant to do it?” inquired Hastings, who was far in the
lead at the time, and could not of course see what was going on behind
him.

“I know he did,” replied Joe, who then went on to give a circumstantial
account of the manner in which the fouling was done. The boys all
declared that it was a very neat trick, and one of them added—

“That Tom Bigden’s cheek is something wonderful. As soon as he had
backed out of Loren’s way and laid himself across the course so that we
couldn’t get by him without losing more ground than we could possibly
make up, he called out that he claimed foul on that. Did you ever hear
of such impudence?”

“Please give me your attention for one moment, gentlemen,” shouted the
president of the club; and Joe and his friends turned about to see the
referee perched upon a dry-goods box.

“Young gentlemen,” said he, as the boys gathered around him, “the
contestants in the paddle race will go over the course again this
afternoon, one hour after lunch. They will be the same as before, with
the exception of Frank Noble and Thomas Bigden, whom I am compelled to
bar out. It is exceedingly unpleasant to me to be obliged to render this
decision, but the rules under which your sports are conducted leave me
no alternative.”

“What do you think of that, fellows?” said Arthur Hastings. “If Bigden
isn’t satisfied now that he can’t run this club to suit his own ideas, I
shall always think he ought to be.”

“Well, Noble,” said Prime. “You’re done for at last. You are ruled out
of every thing. What are you going to do?”

“What are _you_ going to do?” asked Frank in reply.

“I? Nothing at all. What can I do?”

“You can go home with me, can’t you?”

“Eh? Well—yes; I suppose I could, but I don’t want to. The fun is only
just beginning.”

“And are you going to stay here and enjoy yourself and assist in making
the meet a success when one of your friends is barred out?” exclaimed
Noble, indignantly. “I didn’t think that of you, Prime. Why didn’t you
stay close to me so that you could put in a word to help me? You knew
what I was going to do.”

“I couldn’t stay close to you. Those fellows in the lead made the pace
so hot that I had to fall behind, and I didn’t see the foul when it
occurred.”

“No matter for that. You could have said something in my defense if you
had wanted to; but instead of standing by me, you left me to fight Joe
Wayring and the judge alone. Look there! Bigden’s cousins are not going
back on him as you are going back on me. Tom is preparing to go home,
and they are going with him.”

But Noble did not know what a stormy time Tom had with Loren and Ralph
before he could induce them to forego all the sports and pleasures of
the meet. Loren was particularly obstinate. He was satisfied now that he
was a pretty good hand with a double paddle, and confident that if any
of the three recognized champions beat him when the afternoon race came
off, they would have to make their canoes get through the water faster
than they ever did before. Then there was the upset race, which Ralph
was almost sure he could win, and the greasy pole walk, with Miss
Arden’s silk flag to go to the best man—must they give up all these
things just because Tom had been ruled out?

“What’s the reason I am ruled out?” exclaimed Tom, who was as mad as a
boy ever gets to be. “Isn’t it because I tried my best to help Loren win
the paddle race? I tell you that you don’t stand the least show of
winning any thing; but stay if you want to.”

Ralph and Loren were well enough acquainted with Tom to know that there
was a volume of meaning in his last words. If they braved his anger they
would be sure to suffer for it in the end, and if Tom turned against
them, where could they look for friends and associates? Prime and his
followers would not have any thing more to do with them; Joe Wayring,
unless he was as blind as a bat, had seen quite enough to make him
suspicious of them; and when they came to look at it, they found that
they were in a very unenviable situation.

“I’d give almost any thing if I could live the last half hour over
again,” declared Loren, after he had taken a few minutes in which to
consider the matter. “We’ve made Noble and his crowd so mad that they’ll
never look at us again, Tom is just as good as expelled from the club,
and we may as well give up all hope of being admitted to the
Toxophilites. We’re at outs with every body, and the only thing we can
do is to stand by one another.”

Ralph thought so, too. Without wasting any more time in argument they
put on their long coats to cover up the uniforms they would probably
never wear again, shoved off their canoes, and set out for home; and no
one except Frank Noble saw them go. The other members of the club were
too much interested in their own affairs to pay any attention to the
movements of a boy who had gone deliberately to work to mar their day’s
enjoyment.

“Tom’s got two fellows to stand by him, but I am left alone,” thought
Noble, with no little bitterness in his heart. “Prime and the rest of
them pretend to hate Wayring and his crowd, and yet they are willing to
stay and help on the sports after I have been kicked out of the lists.
For two cents I’d hunt up Wayring and tell him to look out for Scott and
Lord.”

But he didn’t do it. He knew that such a proceeding would turn every
body against him, and he had made enemies enough already. Without
attracting attention he got into his canoe and paddled down to his
boat-house.

The unfortunate ending of the paddle race had a most depressing effect
upon the members of the canoe club, some of whom declared that their
organization was on the eve of falling to pieces. After that every thing
“dragged”. The whole programme was duly carried out, but the contestants
did not enter into the sports with their usual spirit and energy. Scott
and Lord, who were “booked” for the sailing and upset races,
respectively, won nothing at all. They could not win fairly, and the
promptness with which Tom and Frank had been ruled out deterred them
from attempting any tricks. Arthur Hastings won the paddle race after a
hard struggle; Joe Wayring, being the first to walk the greasy pole,
carried off Miss Arden’s silk flag; and Roy for once went home as empty
handed as he came, the sailing and upset races being won by other boys.
But Roy wasn’t mad about it, as some of the unsuccessful ones were. He
had come there for a “good time”, and he had it; and his failure to win
a prize did not spoil his day’s sport.

After the spectators had gone back to their hotels and all the members
of the club had set out for home, the three chums sat down in the
boat-house to compare notes.

“I am glad it’s over,” said Roy, giving expression to the thoughts that
were passing through the minds of his companions. “It was the meanest
meet I ever heard of. I wouldn’t have had that affair at the stake-boat
happen for any thing. Those visitors from New London will say that we
are as bad as the professional oarsmen who saw their boats, and capsize
themselves on purpose.”

“Well, you expected something of the kind, didn’t you?” said Joe. “I
did. When Bigden told me that there were certain boys in the club who
had been ‘booked’ to win certain races, I was sure that Prime had a
finger in the pie, and that the reason Tom told me about it was because
he had got mad at him or some member of his party. The events of the day
have proved that I was right. In making up the slate, Prime and his
friends either forgot or refused to give any of the races to Tom and his
cousins, and that was what caused the trouble.”

“Well, it’s some satisfaction to know that they will never have a chance
to cause us any more trouble,” said Arthur. “They will withdraw from the
club, of course.”

“I think there’s no doubt about that,” said Joe. “I know that that is
what I should do if I were in their place. As Tom Bigden said: ‘What’s
the use of belonging to a club if you are not allowed to take part in
the contests?’ I am of the opinion that they will band together and get
up a club of their own. Now let’s talk about something else. To-morrow
we start for Indian Lake.”

This was a much more agreeable topic of conversation than the canoe
meet, and they talked about it until the lengthening shadows admonished
Arthur and Roy that it was time for them to set out for their homes.

Indian Lake was a favorite place of resort for the Mount Airy sportsmen,
and for these three boys in particular. They went there regularly every
summer. The country about the village was not wild enough to suit them,
and besides the trout streams were so constantly fished by the New
London anglers, that they were beginning to show signs of giving out.
Joe and his friends were so well acquainted with the lake that they
never thought of taking a guide when they went there for recreation.
They went everywhere that a guide could take them, and with no fear of
being lost. They were joint partners in a skiff, which they had fitted
up with special reference to these annual trips—a strong, easy running
craft, so light that it could be carried over the portages without any
great outlay of strength, and so roomy that the boys could sleep in it
without being crowded. It was provided with lockers fore and aft, in
which the owners carried their extra clothing, provisions and camp
equipage, an awning to keep off the sun and a water-proof tent which
would keep them dry, no matter how hard the rain came down. With this
boat a journey of a hundred miles—that was the distance between Mount
Airy and Indian Lake, and there was a navigable water-course almost all
the way—was looked upon as a pleasure trip. The boys would have been
astonished if they had known what was to be the result of this
particular visit to the lake.

That night there were three busy young fellows in Mount Airy, who were
packing up and getting ready for an early start on the following
morning. If you could have seen their things after they got them
together, you might have been surprised to see that there was not a
single fowling-piece among them. What was the use of taking guns into
the woods during the “close” season—that is, while the game was
protected by law? But each boy took with him a weapon which, in his
hands, was almost as deadly as a shot gun is in the hands of an ordinary
marksman—a long bow with its accompanying quiver full of arrows. The law
permitted them to shoot loons—if they could. At any rate it was sport to
try, and to see the lightning-like movements of the bird as it went
under water at the twang of the bow-string.

“There’s one thing about your outfit that doesn’t look just right,” said
Uncle Joe, pointing to the heavy bait-rod which his nephew placed in the
corner beside his long bow. “The idea of catching trout with a thing
like that, and worms for bait! Before you go into the woods again I will
see that you have a nice light fly-rod.”

“But I can’t throw a fly,” said Joe.

“Well, you can learn, can’t you?”

Joe said he thought he could, and there the matter rested for a whole
year.

The next morning at four o’clock Joe Wayring was sitting on the wharf in
front of the boat-house, watching Arthur Hastings, who was coming up the
lake in the skiff. When he arrived Joe passed down to him two cases, one
containing his long bow and quiver, the other his bait-rod and dip-net,
a bundle of blankets, a soldier’s knapsack with a change of clothing in
it, and the contents of a big market basket. The basket itself was left
on the wharf, because it would have taken up too much valuable space in
the lockers. Mars, the Newfoundlander, begged to go, too, and growled
spitefully at Arthur’s little cocker spaniel, which growled defiantly
back at him from his safe perch on the stern locker. Jim (that was the
spaniel’s name), always went on these expeditions as body-guard and
sentinel. He seemed to have a deep sense of the responsibility that
rested upon him, and the arrogant and overbearing manner in which he
conducted himself toward strangers, proved that he considered himself to
be of some consequence in the world. He was a featherweight and took up
but little room; while the Newfoundlander’s huge bulk would have been
sadly in their way. They might as well have added another boy to the
party.

Having stowed his supplies and equipments away in the lockers, Joe
picked up an oar and assisted Arthur to pull the skiff up to Mr.
Sheldon’s boat-house, where they found Roy waiting for them. He soon
transferred himself and his belongings from the wharf to the cock-pit,
and then the skiff went at a rapid rate across the lake toward the
river, the boys chanting a boat song as they steadily plied the oars.
They paused a moment at the head of the rapids, and as they gazed at
them, Arthur said—

“How do you suppose Matt Coyle ever succeeded in getting that big heavy
punt of his down there? I wouldn’t make the passage in her for all the
money there is in Mount Airy.”

“It’s a wonder to me that he didn’t smash her all to pieces,” said Joe.
“She’s in Sherwin’s Pond now, I suppose, and there she will have to
stay, for there is no way to get her out. I wonder what Matt has done
with my canoe?”

“Oh, he has snagged and sunk her before this time,” replied Roy,
consolingly. “I wonder what he has done with the rod he stole from me?”

“Some black bass has smashed it for him most likely,” said Arthur. “At
any rate you will never handle it again.”

The boys had from the first given up all hope of ever recovering their
lost property. The deputy sheriff and constable, stimulated to extra
exertion by the offer of a large reward by the Mount Airy authorities,
had scoured the woods in every direction in search of the thief, but
their efforts had met with no success. They found the site of Matt’s
shanty, as we have said, but the shanty itself had disappeared. So had
Matt and his family, and the officers could not get upon their trail.
Perhaps if we go back to the day on which Matt stole Joe Wayring’s canoe
and follow his fortunes for a short time, we shall see what the reason
was.

When the squatter picked up Joe’s double paddle and shoved away from the
shore, after taking possession of all the fishing rods and bundles that
he could lay his hand on, he told himself that he had done something
toward paying off the Mount Airy people for the shameful manner in which
they had treated him and his family.

“They wouldn’t let us stay up there to the village an’ earn an honest
livin’, like we wanted to do,” said Matt, with a chuckle, “an’ now I’ll
show ’em how much they made by it. Them things must be wuth a power of
money,” he went on, looking down at the elegant rods which he had
unjointed and laid on the bottom of the canoe, “an’ I reckon mebbe we’ve
got grub enough to last us fur a day or two—good grub, too, sich as
don’t often come into our house less’n we hooks it. This is a powerful
nice little boat, this canoe is, an’ now we’ll go up to Injun Lake, an’
me an’ the boys will set up fur independent guides. If they won’t have
us there, we’ll bust up the business.”

While communing thus with himself the squatter did not neglect to ply
his paddle vigorously, nor to look over his shoulder now and then to
satisfy himself that his rascality had not yet been discovered. But Joe
and his companions spent fully half an hour in roaming about through the
woods, looking for the bear and shooting squirrels for their dinner, and
when they came out, Matt was nowhere in sight. He had crossed the pond,
and was urging the canoe up a narrow winding creek toward his
habitation. With a caution which had become a part of his nature, he had
concealed his place of abode so effectually that a fleet of canoeists
might have passed up the creek without knowing that there was a shanty
within less than a stone’s throw of them. The only visible sign that any
body had ever been in the creek was a disreputable looking punt, with a
stove and battered bow, which was drawn out upon the bank. She had had a
hard time of it in getting through the rapids, and it was a mystery how
Matt had saved himself from a capsize, and kept his miserable old craft
afloat until he could get her up the creek. She had carried the squatter
and all his worldly possessions for many a long mile on Indian Lake and
its tributary streams, but her days of usefulness were over now. Her
trip down the rapids was the last she ever made. She was in Sherwin’s
Pond and there she must stay.

“Hi, there!” yelled Matt, as he ran the bow of the canvas canoe upon the
bank.

An answering yelp came from the bushes, and presently Matt’s wife and
boys came hurrying out. They would not have expressed the least surprise
if the squatter had come back with as many turkeys or chickens as he
could conveniently carry, because they were accustomed to such things;
but to see him in possession of a nice little canoe, five silver mounted
fishing rods and as many big bundles, excited their astonishment.

“Where did you get ’em, old man, an’ what’s into them there bundles?”
was the woman’s whispered inquiry.

“I got ’em up there in the pond clost to the foot of the rapids,”
answered Matt, gleefully. “I’ll learn them rich fellers up to Mount Airy
to treat a gentleman right the next time they see one. We’re jest as
good as they be if we are poor.”

“Course we be,” said Jake, Matt’s oldest boy. “What’s them there
things—fish poles? I want one of ’em.”

“All right. You an’ Sam take your pick, an’ we’ll sell the rest. If you
see a feller that is needin’ a pole, you can tell him that you know
where he can get one worth the money.”

“About how much?” queried Jake.

“Wal,” said Matt, reflectively, “them poles must have cost nigh onto
five dollars; but seein’ that they’re second hand we will have to take a
leetle less fur ’em—say two an’ a half.”

“An’ how much be them there things with the cranks onto ’em wuth?” asked
Sam.

“’Bout the same. You tell the feller, when you find him, that he can
have a pole an’ a windlass fur five dollars.”

This showed how much the squatter knew about some things. There wasn’t a
rod in the lot that cost less than twenty dollars, or a reel that was
worth less than thirteen. Matt would have thought himself rich if he had
known the real value of the property he had in his possession.

“What’s into them there bundles?” demanded the old woman.

“Grub,” answered Matt. “Good grub, too.”

In less time than it takes to tell it, the bundles had been jerked out
of the canoe and torn open. Matt’s family was always hungry, and his
wife and boys fairly gloated over the hard boiled eggs, bacon, sardines,
sandwiches and other nice things which the boys’ thoughtful mothers had
put up for their dinner.

“Rich folks has nice grub to eat, don’t they?” said Jake, speaking as
plainly as a mouthful of bread and meat would permit.

“Yes; an’ we’ll soon be in a fix to have nice things, too,” said Matt,
confidently. “I’ve got a boat of my own now, an’ I’m goin’ to Injun Lake
an’ set myself up fur a guide.”

“But, pap, they drove us away from there once,” exclaimed Jake. “They
was jest like the Mount Airy folks—they didn’t want us around.”

“Don’t I know it?” cried Matt, laying down his sandwich long enough to
shake both his fists in the air. “But they won’t drive us away again, I
bet you, ’cause it’ll be wuss for ’em if they try it. I’ll kick up sich
a rumpus in them woods that every body will steer cl’ar of ’em; then
what’ll become of them big hotels when they ain’t got no custom to
support ’em? I reckon we’d best be gettin’ away from here this very
night. I’m in a hurry to get to guidin’ so’t I can make some money
before the season’s over, an’ besides I kinder want to get outen the way
of that there constable. He’ll be along directly, lookin’ fur these
things, an’ I don’t care to see him.”

“What’ll we do with the house?” asked the old woman. “We can’t tote it
cl’ar to the lake on our backs.”

“Course not. We’ll burn it an’ the punt, too. They won’t never be of no
more use, ’cause ’taint no ways likely that we shall ever come here
agin’, an’ we ain’t goin’ to leave ’em fur them Mount Airy fellers to
use when they come to the pond huntin’ an’ fishin’.”

The squatter need not have borrowed trouble on this score. There was not
a hunter or a fisherman in the village who could have been induced to
occupy his shanty or use his punt, for, like their owners, they were
things to be avoided. But Matt and his family seemed to think that they
would be accommodating somebody if they left them there, and the order
to destroy them by fire was carried out as soon as they had eaten the
last of the stolen provisions.

While his wife was engaged in removing the bedding and cooking utensils,
and tying them in small bundles so that they could be easily carried,
and the boys were at work hauling the punt out of the water and turning
it up against the house so that the two would burn together, Matt busied
himself in putting the rods into their cases; after which he walked
around the canvas canoe and gave it a good looking over. Tom Bigden had
told him that if he didn’t want to carry the canoe on his back, he could
take it to pieces and carry it in his hand as he would a gripsack; but
the trouble was, Matt did not know how to go to work to take it apart.
Every thing fitted snugly, and he could not find any place to begin. The
only parts of it that he could move were the bottom boards; and when he
had taken them out, the frame-work of the canoe was as solid as ever. He
spent a quarter of a hour in unavailing efforts to start something, and
then giving it up as a task beyond his powers, he decided that the only
thing he could do was to carry it as he would carry any other canoe. A
less experienced man would have shrunk from the undertaking. It was
fully twenty miles to the river which connected the two lakes, and the
course lay through a dense forest where there was not even the semblance
of a path. But there was no other way to get the canoe to Indian Lake.

Meanwhile, Matt’s wife and boys had worked to such good purpose that
every thing was ready for the start. Each one had a bundle to carry, and
the boys had set fire to a quantity of light wood which they had piled
in the middle of the shanty. They lingered long enough to see the fire
fairly started, and then turned their faces hopefully toward Indian
Lake, the old woman leading the way, and Matt bringing up the rear with
the canvas canoe on his back.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                           SNAGGED AND SUNK.


HAVING plenty of time at their disposal, Joe Wayring and his friends
were in no particular hurry to reach Indian Lake. After they entered the
river they kept the skiff moving rapidly, but at the same time they did
not neglect to keep their eyes open for “rovers”—that is, any objects,
animate or inanimate, that would give them an opportunity to try their
skill with their long bows. If a thieving crow, a murderous blue jay, or
a piratical kingfisher showed himself within range, the sharp hiss of an
arrow admonished him that there were enemies close at hand. Kingfishers
were objects of especial dislike. The boys were fish culturists in a
small way, and had stocked a pond on Mr. Sheldon’s grounds. On the very
day that the “fry” were put into it, the kingfishers and minks made
their appearance, and then began a contest which had been kept up ever
since. By the aid of traps and breech-loaders the boys waged an
incessant warfare upon the interlopers, and finally succeeded in
thinning them out so that the trout were allowed to rest in comparative
peace.

The boys did not stop at noon, but ate their lunch as they floated along
with the current. The monotony of the afternoon’s run was broken by an
hour’s chase after an eagle, which they did not succeed in shooting,
although one of Roy’s arrows ruffled the feathers on his back, and by a
long search for an otter which swam across the river in advance of them.
About four o’clock in the afternoon they reached a favorite camping, or
rather, anchoring ground, a deep pool noted for its fine yellow perch,
and there they decided to stop for the night. The anchor was dropped
overboard just above the pool, and when the skiff swung to the current,
the bait-rods they had purchased to replace those that Matt Coyle had
stolen from them, were taken out of the lockers, floats were rigged, a
box of worms which they had been thoughtful enough to bring with them
was opened, and the sport commenced.

The fish in that pool were always hungry, and the floats disappeared as
fast as they were dropped into the water. A few “fingerlings” were put
back to be caught again after they had had time to grow larger, but the
most of those they captured were fine fellows, and heavy enough to make
a stubborn resistance. In less than half an hour they had taken all they
wanted for supper, and then the anchor was pulled up and the skiff drawn
alongside the bank. Roy and Joe went ashore to clean the fish, and
Arthur staid in the boat to put up the tent. This done, he brought out a
pocket cooking stove which he placed on the forward locker, and by the
time the fish were ready, he had an omelet browning in the frying pan.
That, together with an ample supply of fried perch, bread and butter and
a cup of weak tea, made up a supper to which they did full justice.

There were still a few hours of daylight left, and as soon as the dishes
had been washed and packed away in the locker, the boys took their bows
and went ashore to stretch their legs and shoot at “rovers”. Arthur
succeeded in bringing down a kingfisher after half an hour’s hard
stalking, and his companions shot a squirrel apiece for breakfast. Just
at dusk they met at the boat, which was hauled out into the stream and
anchored. The jack-lamp was lighted and hung upon one of the poles that
supported the tent, the rubber mattress was inflated, and the three
friends lounged around and talked until they began to grow sleepy. Then
the blankets and pillows were brought to light, one side of the tent was
buttoned down to the gunwale, the other being left up to admit the air,
and the boys laid down to sleep, trusting to Jim to give them notice of
the approach of danger. He gave them notice before three hours had
passed away.

About midnight the spaniel, which for half an hour or more had been very
restless, suddenly jumped to his feet and set up a frightful yelping. If
some one had been pounding him he could not have been in greater
distress. The boys started up in alarm to find the sky overcast with
black clouds, the wind coming down the river in strong and fitful gusts
and the anchor dragging. There was a storm coming up, it promised to be
a severe one, too, but it did not find the young voyagers unprepared to
meet it. The forward end of the tent was promptly rolled up, a spare
anchor dropped into the water, and the skiff was again brought to a
stand-still. By that time the rain was falling in sheets, but the boys
paid no sort of attention to it. They buttoned the tent down all around
and went to sleep again, fully satisfied with the precautions they had
taken. Jim was satisfied too, although he thought it necessary to
slumber lightly. Whenever a strong gust of wind came roaring down the
river, he would turn his head on one side and look critically at the
anchor ropes, which led through ring-bolts in the bow, and were made
fast to cleats on the forward locker; and having made sure that the
ground tackle was doing its full duty, he would go to sleep again.

The night passed without further incident, the morning dawned clear and
bright, and after a breakfast of fried perch and broiled squirrel, the
boys resumed their journey toward Indian Lake. On the evening of the
fifth day after leaving Mount Airy, they found themselves within a short
distance of their destination; but instead of going on to the lake they
turned into a creek which connected the river with a lonely pond that
lay deep in the forest. They did not intend to go to Indian Lake until
they stood in need of supplies. There were big hotels and a crowd of
guests there, and they saw enough of them at home. To quote from Joe
Wayring, their object was to get away from every body and be lazy.

The sun went down long before they turned into the creek, and night was
coming on; but they pushed ahead in order to reach a favorite anchorage
in the mouth of a little brook, whose waters could be relied on to
furnish them with a breakfast of trout. They laid out all their strength
on the oars and the skiff flew swiftly and noiselessly up the stream,
its movements being governed by Arthur Hastings, who looked over his
shoulder now and then to take his bearings. After they had been speeding
along for half an hour, he began keeping a sharp lookout for the brook;
and once when he turned around he thought he saw a moving object in the
creek a short distance away. He looked again, and a thrill of exultation
and excitement ran all through him.

“Joe,” said he, in a scarcely audible whisper, “there’s your canvas
canoe, as sure as I’m a foot high.”

“Where?” exclaimed Joe and Roy, turning quickly about on their seats.

In reply Arthur pointed silently up the creek. His companions looked,
and then they too became excited. There was a canoe in advance of them
sure enough, and dark as it was, they instantly recognized it as the one
Matt Coyle had stolen from Joe Wayring.

There was somebody in it, and he was plying his double paddle as if he
were in a great hurry. He did not appear to know that there was any one
besides himself in the creek, for he never once looked behind him.

“It isn’t big enough for Matt, and so it must be one of his boys,”
whispered Roy.

“Boy or man, he shall not go much further with that canoe.” said Joe in
a resolute tone. “That’s my boat and I’m going to have it, if you
fellows will stand by me.”

“Now Joe!” exclaimed Roy, reproachfully.

“I didn’t mean that. Of course I know that you can be depended on,” said
Joe, hastily. “Let’s take after him. If we find that we can’t take the
canoe away from him, we’ll sink her. Matt Coyle shan’t have her any
longer.”

The three oars fell into the water simultaneously, and the skiff shot
silently up the creek in pursuit of the canoe, whose occupant was making
his double paddle whirl through the air like the shafts of a windmill.
An oar rattled behind him and aroused him from his reverie. He faced
about to see the skiff close upon him. The night had grown so dark that
he could not tell who the crew were, but he knew that they would not
come at him in that fashion unless they had some object in view. Matt
and his boys always had the fear of the law before their eyes, and Jake,
believing that a constable or deputy sheriff was in pursuit of him,
turned about and churned the water into foam in his desperate attempt to
outrun the skiff. He succeeded in getting a good deal of speed out of
his clumsy craft, but fast as he went the pursuers gained at every
stroke.

“Hold on with that boat!” shouted Arthur. “We’ve got you and you might
as well give in.”

But Jake wasn’t that sort. He redoubled his exertions with the paddle,
but all of a sudden his progress was stopped so quickly that Jake left
his seat and pitched headlong into the bow of the canoe. Speaking in
western parlance he had “picked up a snag” whose sharp, gnarled end
penetrated the canvas covering of the canoe, tearing a hole in it that
was as big as Jake’s head. It did not hang there but floated off with
the current, and began filling rapidly. In a few seconds she was out of
sight, and Jake was making all haste to reach the shore. A moment later
the skiff dashed up, and Roy Sheldon struck a vicious blow at the
swimmer with his oar; but he was just out of reach. A few long strokes
brought him to shallow water, two jumps took him to dry land, and in an
instant more he was out of sight in the bushes.

“What tumbled him out so suddenly?” exclaimed Joe.

“Look out, boys! There’s a snag right under us,” said Roy.

“Where in the world is the boat?” inquired Arthur.

“There she is,” answered Joe, pointing to a swirl in the water which
marked the spot where the canvas canoe was quietly settling down on the
bottom of the creek.

“Sunk!” cried Roy. “So she is. She must have a cargo of some sort
aboard, or she would not have gone down like that. Now, what’s to be
done?”

“We can’t do any thing to-night,” replied Joe. “I propose that we anchor
here and wait until morning comes to show us how she lies. If the water
isn’t over thirty feet deep we can raise her.”

The others agreeing to this proposition, the ground tackle was got
overboard, and Roy, who handled the rope, encouraged Joe by assuring him
that the water was not an inch over twelve feet deep.

“If that is the case,” said the latter, hopefully, “I shall soon have my
boat back again. It will be no trouble at all to take a line down twelve
feet. I’d give something to know what she is loaded with.”

“Contraband goods, I’ll be bound,” said Arthur. “The fruits of a raid on
somebody’s smoke-house or hen-roost. I am sorry to know that Matt Coyle
is in the neighborhood, for we don’t know at what moment he may jump
down on us and steal something.”

“We mustn’t let him catch us off our guard,” said Roy. “It won’t be safe
to leave the skiff alone for a minute.”

The boys’ hands were as busy as their tongues, and in a short time the
tent was up, a light from the jack-lamp was streaming out over the
water, and the appetizing odor of fried bacon filled the air. The
knowledge that the thieving squatter was no great distance away, and
that he might make his appearance at any moment, did not cause them to
eat lighter suppers than usual, nor did it interfere with their
customary sound and refreshing sleep. They felt safe from attack. They
did not believe that Matt Coyle had a boat (they knew very well that he
could not have brought the punt with him), and consequently there was no
way for him to reach them unless he resorted to swimming; and they did
not think he would be foolish enough to try that.

The boys slept soundly that night, but the next morning’s sun found them
astir. Arthur made a cup of coffee over the pocket cooking stove, after
which the tent was taken down, and Joe Wayring made ready for business
by divesting himself of his clothing.

The first thing was to find out just where the canoe lay, and that did
not take them as long as they thought it would. The water was as clear
as crystal, and every thing on the bottom could be plainly seen by Joe
and Roy, who leaned as far as they could over opposite sides of the
skiff, while Arthur rowed them back and forth in the vicinity of the
snag.

“There she is!” cried Roy, suddenly; and as he spoke he caught up the
anchor and dropped it overboard. “We’re right over her, and there isn’t
a snag or any other obstruction in the way.”

Joe Wayring stepped upon the forward locker, holding in his hand one end
of a rope which he had coiled down on the bottom of the skiff so that it
would run out easily, and as soon as the boat stopped swinging he dived
out of sight. When the commotion in the water occasioned by his descent
had ceased, his companions could observe every move he made as he
scrambled about over the sunken canoe, and presently they saw him coming
up.

“Haul away,” said Joe, as he shook the water from his face and climbed
back into the skiff.

“What’s it fast to?” asked Roy.

“A bag of potatoes.”

“What did I tell you?” exclaimed Arthur Hastings. “I knew that fellow
had been on a plundering expedition.”

“But you thought he had been robbing somebody’s hen-roost or
smoke-house,” Roy reminded him.

“And so he has,” said Joe. “There’s a whole side of bacon down there.”

The boys pulled gently on the line, and presently the bag of potatoes
came to the surface. It was seized and hauled into the skiff, the line
was unfastened and passed over to Joe, who was about to go down again,
when his movements were arrested by the snapping of twigs and the sound
of voices which came from the depths of the woods. They were angry
voices, too, and rendered somewhat indistinct by distance and
intervening bushes, but the boys recognized them at once.

“There comes Matt Coyle, his wife and both their boys,” said Joe. “Now
we shall hear something.”

“I wonder what they think they are going to do,” said Roy. “Just listen
to the noise they make in crashing through the brush. One would think
there were a lot of wild cattle in there.”

Joe Wayring did not await their appearance, but went down to reeve the
line through a ring-bolt in the stern-post of the sunken canoe, and to
bring up her painter and the side of bacon. When he arose to the surface
Matt Coyle and his family were striding up and down the bank, shaking
their fists and swearing lustily.

“That there is my hog-meat, too,” roared the squatter, as Joe tossed the
bacon into the skiff. “I want it an’ I’m goin’ to have it, I tell you.”

“We don’t know that these provisions rightfully belong to you,” said
Roy. “We have an idea that you stole them last night or, rather,—”

“No, I didn’t steel ’em nuther,” shouted Matt.

“Or, rather, that one of your boys did,” continued Roy, while Joe hung
on to the side of the skiff and looked over it at the angry party on the
shore. “I am sure we don’t want them.”

“Then bring ’em ashore like we told you,” screamed the old woman.
“You’re thieves yourselves if you keep ’em.”

“Do you see any thing green about us?” demanded Arthur. “I’ll tell you
what we will do: If you will stay there on the bank in plain sight until
we get our boat raised, we will go up the creek and leave the potatoes
and bacon opposite the mouth of the trout brook, so that you can get
them after we have gone away. What are you going to do with those
sticks?” he added, addressing himself to the two boys who just then came
out of the bushes with a heavy club in each hand.

“We’re goin’ to knock you out o’ that boat if you don’t fetch that there
grub of our’n ashore without no more foolin’,” answered Jake, in
threatening tones. “It’s our’n an’ we’re goin’ to have it back.”

“That’s the idee, Jakey,” exclaimed the old woman, approvingly. “Knock
the young ’ristocrats out o’ their boat. I reckon that’ll bring ’em to
time.”

“If you try that, I’ll lay some of you out flatter than so many
pancakes,” returned Roy, defiantly; and as he spoke he tore open the bag
containing the potatoes. Catching up one in each hand, his example being
promptly followed by Arthur Hastings, he arose to his feet just in time
to dodge one of Jake’s clubs, which came whirling through the air
straight for his head. Before the missile had struck the water on the
other side of the skiff, Roy launched one of his potatoes at the
aggressor. Like most left-handed fellows Roy could throw like lightning;
and the potato, flying true to its aim and with terrific force, struck
Jake fairly in the pit of the stomach, and doubled him up like a
jack-knife.

“That’s the idee, Jakey,” yelled Joe Wayring, who was delighted with the
accuracy of his chum’s shot. “Knock them young ’ristocrats out o’ their
boat. I reckon that’ll bring ’em to time. Throw another, Jakey.”

But Jake was in no condition to throw another. It was a long time before
he could get his breath; and when he did get it, the howls with which he
awoke the echoes of the surrounding woods were wonderful to hear. The
squatter’s family, believing that Jake had been mortally wounded,
gathered about him with expressions of sympathy, and Joe Wayring took
advantage of the confusion to climb into the skiff and put on his
clothes. If there was going to be a fight he wanted to take a hand in
it.

“Whoop!” shrieked the old woman, rolling up her sleeves and shaking a
pair of huge, tan-colored fists at the object of her wrath. “If I was a
man I’d swim off to that there boat an’ maul the last one of you. Matt,
why don’t you do it? Seems like you was afeard of them fellers.”

“Yes, Matt, why don’t you do it?” said Arthur, encouragingly.

“Yes, Matt, show a little pluck,” chimed in Roy. “Come on. Swim off to
us; and if I don’t sink you before you have got ten feet from the shore,
I’m a Dutchman.”

“I don’t think we have any thing more to fear from them,” said Joe, in a
low tone. “It’s a lucky thing for us that Roy thought of using those
potatoes. If we had nothing to defend ourselves with they could drive us
away from here very easily. Now let’s raise the canoe, and go up to the
brook and catch our breakfast. I’m getting hungry.”

It was scarcely two minutes’ work to bring the wreck to the surface. It
readily yielded to the strain that Joe and Arthur brought to bear upon
the lines, and as soon as they could get hold of it, they drew it into
the skiff stern foremost, thus compelling the water with which it was
filled to run out at the hole in the bow. After that it was turned
bottom upward over the stern locker and lashed fast. Of course Matt
Coyle and his family had not been silent all this while. They had kept
up a constant storm of threats and abuse, and the squatter fairly danced
with rage when he saw the boat, with which he had expected to accomplish
so much in the way of “independent guidin’” was lost to him forever. But
they did not attempt any more violence, for Roy stood guard over his
companions with a potato in each hand, and ready to open fire on them at
any moment.

“Now, then!” exclaimed Joe, as he pulled up the anchor while the other
boys shipped their oars, “do you want these provisions, or don’t you?”

“Course I want ’em,” growled Matt, in reply. “They’re mine, an’ we ain’t
got no grub to eat.”

“All right. I don’t suppose that you have the shadow of a right to them,
but we will give them up to you if you will do as we say.”

“Wal, I won’t do as you say, nuther,” declared Matt. “I ain’t goin’ to
let myself be bossed around by no ’ristocrats, I bet you.”

“Then you shan’t have the potatoes,” said Joe, decidedly. “Give way,
boys.”

“Say! Hold on, there,” exclaimed Matt, whose larder was empty and had
been for some time. “What do you want me to do?”

“We want you to stay right there on the bank until we can go up and land
your provisions on the point opposite the mouth of the brook,” replied
Joe. “You must keep out in plain sight, mind you, for if you go back
into the woods we shall think you are up to something, and then you can
whistle for your grub.”

As Joe said this he shipped an oar, and the skiff moved up the creek
toward the point. The boys kept a close watch over Matt Coyle, but he
never left the bank. He was biding his time, so he told his wife and
boys. Joe and his friends had the advantage of him now, but there might
come a day when he could catch them off their guard, and then they had
better look out. If he couldn’t take vengeance on them this summer, he
would do it next summer. He would follow them wherever they went; and if
he couldn’t get a chance to steal every thing they had, he would make
the country about Indian Lake so warm for them that they would be glad
to go somewhere else to spend their vacations.

As Matt remained on the bank in plain sight and did not attempt to
approach them under cover of the bushes, the boys landed the provisions,
according to promise—that is, they put some of them on the point; but
Roy was sharp enough to keep out about half a peck of the potatoes to be
used in case of emergency. This being done, they pulled across the creek
into the mouth of the brook to catch a mess of trout, which they decided
to cook over a fire on the bank. The breeze was so strong that the lamp
in their little stove would not burn in the open air, and they knew that
if they put up their tent, Matt and his boys would have the advantage if
they opened a fire of clubs upon them when they came after their
potatoes and bacon.

It was well that they took these precautions, for when the squatter
appeared on the opposite bank he was fierce for a fight. He and his
backers were all armed with clubs, one of which was sent sailing through
the air toward the skiff. Jim was sitting on one of the lockers,
impatiently waiting to be called to breakfast, and the club, after
glancing from the side of the boat, struck him in the ribs and tumbled
him off into the creek.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

                 THE HISTORIAN CONCLUDES HIS NARRATIVE.


“WHOOP-EE!” yelled Matt Coyle, dancing about on the bank in high glee.
“That was a good shot. Lookout! Here comes another that’s goin’ to send
some of you to keep company with the purp. I reckon we’ve got you whar
we want you this time, cause the taters is all on our side the creek.”

As the squatter spoke a second club left his hand, being thrown with so
much force and accuracy that if the boys had not been on the alert, some
and perhaps all of them would have been knocked overboard, for the
missile was almost as long as the cock-pit, and as it came through the
air with a rotary motion, it covered space enough to hit all their heads
at once. This was the signal for a perfect shower of clubs. Every one of
the family had two or more, which were thrown as rapidly as they could
be changed from one hand to the other, and Joe and his chums were kept
so busy dodging them, that they could not find opportunity to return the
fire. But when the squatter and his allies had thrown all their clubs
without effect, and thus disarmed themselves, the boys sprang to their
feet and opened their battery. The first potato Roy threw took Jake
square in the mouth, bringing forth another series of doleful yells from
that unlucky young ruffian, and the second put the old woman’s right arm
in a sling for a week. At the same moment Arthur wiped out the insult
that had been put upon Jim by taking Matt a whack under the eye that
raised a lump as large as a hen’s egg.

“Whoop-ee!” shouted Joe Wayring, as a potato from his own hand struck
Sam’s tattered cap from his head. “That was a bully shot. Look out! Here
comes another. We ain’t got no taters on this side of the creek, I
reckon.”

The fusillade that followed was a hot one, and the squatter and his
family, finding that they could not stand against it, beat a hasty
retreat into the bushes. Then Arthur turned to assist Jim, who had been
making desperate but unavailing efforts to climb into the skiff. He
wasn’t hurt at all, but he was very mad.

The plucky boys were not called upon to defend themselves. Matt Coyle
made an attempt to secure the provisions, but went back with an aching
head and a bloody nose, and the three chums saw no more of him that
summer. But they heard him. From his place of concealment in the bushes
the squatter and his wife abused them roundly, and shouted at them
threats that were enough to frighten almost any body.

The boys caught a fine string of trout, cooked and ate breakfast in
peace, and then kept on up the creek toward the pond. As soon as they
were out of range, Matt and his family came from their hiding-places
after the potatoes and bacon; but they made no demonstration beyond
showing the boys their fists and swearing at them.

After that things went smoothly with Joe and his companions. They
thoroughly enjoyed their outing, and when it was ended they went home
with a new lease of life, and with brains invigorated to such degrees
that they were ready to grapple with any thing that might come before
them during the school term, which was to begin on the following Monday.

During the year affairs in Mount Airy moved along in much the same way
that they do in every little village which can boast of a popular high
school and rival organizations of almost every kind. After the canoe
meet, the line was sharply drawn between the two opposing factions. They
did not come to open warfare, but they were intensely hostile, and a
very little thing would have precipitated a fight between Joe Wayring
and his friends on one side, and Noble, Scott, Prime and Tom Bigden and
his cousins on the other; for the latter did not long remain at swords’
points with the boys who made their head-quarters at the drug-store.
They had a stormy time when they first came together, and Tom announced
his readiness to thrash all the boys who had interfered with Loren
during the paddle race, provided they would come one at a time; but
Prime and a few others exerted themselves to bring order out of the
confusion, and through their efforts Tom was elected president of the
new canoe club which was organized at once. But that did not satisfy
him. If he could have had his own way in the matter, he would have
preferred to be a respected member of the other club without any office
at all. Besides, Prime and his friends could not forget that Tom, a
new-comer, had deliberately “booked” himself and his cousins for all the
best races, in utter disregard of the rights of those who ought to have
been allowed to win. They never quite forgave him for that, and there
was not that harmony in the new club that there ought to have been in
order to insure its prosperity. Tom was also elected short-stop in
Prime’s ball-club, and in the first match game that was played, had the
gratification of putting out Joe Wayring and Arthur Hastings every time
they went to the bat. That did Tom more good than any thing he had
accomplished since he came to Mount Airy, although he did feel rather
mean when Joe and Arthur complimented him on his swift and accurate
throwing.

At the next meeting of the Toxophilites many vacancies were made by the
resignation of boys who knew that they stood a fine chance of being
expelled for what they had done at the canoe meet, and by the voluntary
withdrawal of a number of others, who preferred Prime’s company and
Noble’s to the companionship of fellows who were willing to be ruled by
a lot of girls.

In the new club, of which Loren Farnsworth was chosen secretary, there
were no restrictions laid upon cribbage, cigars and billiards, and so
very good-natured was the master bowman, that he did not even object to
pipes when his men were drilling in the ranks. But he insisted on prompt
and regular attendance at all the meetings, because he wanted his
company to march in the procession on the next 4th of July.

“Say, captain,” exclaimed Tom Bigden one night after the long, fatiguing
drill was over. “We had forty men in line to-night, and I think we went
through the school of the company in a very creditable way, if some of
us are green. Couldn’t we get up a street parade just to show the
Toxophilites that some folks can do things as well as others?”

The captain was Frank Noble, and a very good drill-master he had proved
himself to be; although he was hardly strict enough to suit a veteran,
seeing that he permitted his men to smoke in the ranks.

“I have been thinking about that,” replied the captain, as the young
archers gathered about him after putting their long bows away in the
lockers. “But I think it would be better to wait awhile. It will not be
long before the lake will be frozen over, and then we will give an
exhibition drill on the ice. What’s the matter with that?”

“Nothing,” shouted all the boys. “It’s the very thing.”

“Well, then, in order to accustom ourselves to the movements and
evolutions, let every fellow bring his rollers next Thursday night, and
we will see what we can do with them.”

The boys thought it the best thing they had ever heard of, but Scott had
a suggestion to make.

“Why can’t we rent the rink for a few nights?” said he. “This armory is
hardly large enough, and besides, the floor isn’t as smooth as it might
be.”

“We could engage the rink, of course,” replied the captain. “But if we
do, the Toxophilites will find out what is going on, and we don’t want
them to know any thing about it.”

“Why, as to that, they are bound to know about it,” said Tom. “We can’t
keep it from them. You know what a fearful noise rollers make, don’t
you?”

“Well, we can’t help that,” answered Frank. “If we do our drilling here,
they can’t look through the windows and see what we are about, as they
could if we drilled at the rink. Now, if you want to go into this, you
must be on hand every night. I will promise to get you in fine trim by
the time the ice is in condition, if you will only attend to business.”

“I wonder if we couldn’t get up a competitive drill with the
Toxophilites?” said Loren.

“Not much,” replied Prime, with a laugh. “There are too many raw
recruits among us.”

“We’ll wait and give them a pull for something at the next canoe meet,”
said Tom.

“You don’t expect to enter for any of the prizes next summer, do you?”

“Of course I do,” replied Tom, “and so do my cousins. We have sent to
New London for a rowing machine, and intend to keep up our practice all
winter.”

“You might as well make kindling wood of that rowing machine when it
comes to hand, for it will not do you any good as far as winning a prize
from Joe Wayring is concerned,” said Scott. “You can’t race with him.”

“I’ll see how that is,” answered Tom, who was thinking about one thing
while Scott was thinking about another. “I was under the impression that
when our new club was organized, it was the sentiment of the members
that we were to challenge their best men for every thing. Before we can
do that, it will be necessary to have a series of trial races among
ourselves in order to determine who stand the best chance of winning,
and I calculate to be one of the select few.”

“I believe some of the fellows did speak about that, but it was all
talk,” said Captain Noble. “You see, Tom, you and I have been ruled out
of every thing by the referee’s decision on the day of the meet, and you
don’t suppose that our friends here are going to take part in sports
that we can’t have a hand in, do you? Haven’t we promised to stand by
one another?”

“Oh,” said Tom, “I didn’t know what Scott meant, but I understand the
matter now. The others won’t compete because you and I can’t. I am glad
to hear it.”

“Of course we are not barred out of any thing except the sports that
take place during the canoe meet,” added Prime. “We can play ball or
lawn tennis or polo with them. We can send a team to beat them at target
shooting, and we can enter our sail-boats for prizes in the regatta; but
I, for one, don’t care to. I’ve had quite enough of that crowd, and
think we can see all the fun we want among ourselves.”

“I think so, too,” said Tom. “I don’t care for their old canoe club, but
I should really like to see the Toxophilites go to pieces. I’d see Joe
Wayring happy before he should come into this club with my vote.”

If Tom Bigden could have stepped across the street and up the stairs
that led to the neatly furnished armory and drill-room in which the
Toxophilites were at that moment sitting down to an oyster supper that
some of the new members had provided for them, he would, perhaps, have
been very much disappointed to discover that the organization he hated
so cordially because he could not get into it, was not only in no danger
of falling to pieces, but that it was stronger than it had ever been
before. The vacancies occasioned by the resignation of Frank Noble and
his friends, had been promptly filled by good fellows, who had waited
long and patiently for an opportunity to send in their names. More than
that (and this was something that made Tom and his cousins very angry
when they found it out), the constitution had been amended so that the
membership could be increased to a hundred. The Toxophilites were
determined that the Mount Airy Scouts (that was the name of the new
club), should not beat them if they could help it; but still they did
not take in every one who applied for admission, as the Scouts did.

During the winter Tom Bigden and his cousins, who grew more vindictive
and unreasonable in their hatred as time progressed, waged a secret but
incessant warfare upon Joe Wayring and his two chums. They coaxed Mars
from the post-office to the drug-store, and sent him home with a tin can
tied to his tail. They practiced with their long bows at Roy Sheldon’s
fan-tail and tumbler pigeons as often as the birds ventured over to
their side of the lake. They went across on their skates one night, and
overturned the _Young Republic_, which Joe had hauled out on the beach
and housed for the winter; and they even thought seriously of setting
fire to his boat-house, believing that the blame would be laid upon Matt
Coyle, who was known to be trapping somewhere in the mountains. Joe knew
who it was that insulted Mars and shot at the pigeons and disturbed his
sail-boat; but when he saw by the marks on the door of the boat-house
that somebody had been trying to pull out the staple that held the hasp,
he told his chums that he had wronged Tom and his cousins by his
suspicions, and that the squatter was the culprit after all. Beyond a
doubt Matt wanted to regain possession of the canvas canoe; and in order
to save his property, Joe shouldered it one morning and took it up to
his room.

The attentive reader, if I am so fortunate as to have one, will bear in
mind that all I have thus far written is but a repetition of the story
the canvas canoe told me on that bright afternoon when I was first
introduced to him and to the other merry fellows—the long bows, the
snow-shoes and the toboggan—who found a home in Joe Wayring’s room. In
concluding his interesting narrative the canoe said:

“Now, Fly-rod, you know every thing of importance that has happened
since Tom Bigden and his cousins first stuck their quarrelsome noses
inside Mount Airy. As I said at the start, it was necessary that you
should hear the story, or else you would be at a loss to account for a
good many things that may happen to you sooner or later. I have an idea
that you are a good sort, and hope we shall pass many pleasant hours in
each other’s company.”

I thanked the canoe for his kind wishes and for the story he had taken
so much pains to tell me, and inquired how he had managed to live
through the long winter that had just passed.

“Oh, I did well enough,” was his reply. “In the first place, the long
bows and I had much to talk about, and in the next, Joe often brings Roy
and Arthur up here to spend an evening; and as they have traveled a good
deal, they are never at a loss for some interesting topic of
conversation. More than that, Joe and his uncle went off hunting last
December, and when they returned, they brought with them those conceited
things over there—the snow-shoes and toboggan—who being from another
country, think they are a trifle better than any body else. But, after
all, I have found them to be very companionable fellows, and if you can
only get them started (like all Englishmen, they are inclined to be
surly at first), they can tell you some things about shooting and
trapping that are well worth listening to.”

“Do you know what the programme is for the summer?” I asked, being
somewhat anxious to learn what I had to look forward to. “Where are we
going and what are we going to do?”

“Well, seeing that this is April, it will not be summer for three months
to come,” replied the canoe. “But you need not expect to remain idle any
longer than next Saturday. You and I will probably be employed in making
short trips about the village until school closes for the long vacation.
Immediately after the canoe meet, which in future will be held on the
3rd of July, so that the members of the club can have the whole of the
vacation to themselves, you and Joe will go up to Indian Lake—”

“But Matt Coyle is up there,” I interrupted.

“Suppose he is!” retorted the canvas canoe. “Do you think that Joe
Wayring is going to be kept away from his favorite fishing grounds just
because that outlaw has chosen to take up his abode there! You don’t
know Joe. He’ll go, you may be sure, and after he gets there, he’ll give
you a chance to show what you can do with a five pound trout.”

“Why can’t you go?” I inquired. I had already learned to like my new
friend, who had shown himself to be so good-natured and so ready to tell
me any thing I wanted to know, and I thought I would rather have him for
company than any body else.

“It is possible that I may go, but I haven’t heard any thing said about
it. I should think I might be of some use to Joe and I would not be at
all in his way.”

“But what if that squatter should steal you again? I suppose you didn’t
fare very well while you were in his hands.”

“Oh, I fared well enough,” replied the canoe, who seemed to have a happy
faculty of accommodating himself to circumstances. “But I didn’t like
the company I was obliged to keep, I tell you. Whenever Matt Coyle or
his boys took me out on the water, I would have been only too glad to
spill them out if I could have done it. I felt particularly savage on
the night Jake used me in making his raid on that old guide’s
potato-patch and smoke-house. When I saw the skiff coming after me,
wouldn’t I have laughed if I had possessed the power? I knew that Jake
was going to run me on to that snag, and when I was settling to the
bottom, I told myself that Joe would never leave me there. I wasn’t hurt
at all. I was easily mended with rosin and tallow and a piece of canvas,
and am just as good as I ever was; although I confess that I look like a
boy who has been in a fight and has to wear a patch over his eye.”

“How did the squatter make the journey from his shanty to the creek in
which Joe found you?”

“Well, he carried me on his back from the pond to the river. It took him
two days to do it, for I hindered him all I could by catching hold of
every limb and bush that came within my reach. When we got to the river,
Matt loaded me to the water’s edge with his household goods (you will
know how I shrank from contact with them when I tell you that the
blankets and quilts were so begrimed with smoke and dirt that Mars could
not be hired to sleep on them), and then one of the boys got in and
paddled me down the stream while the squatter and the rest of his family
stumbled along the bank. Matt was afraid to make his camp anywhere near
Indian Lake, because he knew that the guides would be very likely to
burn or otherwise destroy every thing he had, as they did once before;
so he turned up the creek, and hunted around until he found a place that
suited him. It was in a secluded glen, about a quarter of a mile from
the creek. He set his boys to work to build a lean-to, which would
afford them some sort of shelter until they could provide a better
covering for their heads, and started out with his rifle to get
something to eat. During his rambles he found a smoke-house and
potato-patch which he thought could be easily robbed, and as soon as he
came home, he sent Jake out on that thieving expedition which resulted
disastrously to him, for he lost his plunder and me into the bargain. I
assure you I was glad to find myself among friends once more. Why, have
you any idea what that villain meant to do? He was going to make a
pirate of me. He intended, first, to offer himself as guide for the
hotels, and if they wouldn’t take him, he intended to follow the guests
and their guides along the water courses, and rob every camp that he
found unprotected. That’s the kind of fellow Matt Coyle is. He ought to
be abolished.”

“What became of the fishing-rods he stole at the time he ran off with
you?”

“Well, they had worse treatment than I did, because they were not as
useful as I was. They have been left out in the rain and abused in
various ways, until they don’t look much as they did when the squatter
first got his ugly hands upon them. I doubt very much if their owners
would have recognized them if they could have seen them the last time I
did.”

“Will our trip to Indian Lake last all summer?” I asked.

“Oh, no; only about two weeks. After that, we shall be packed off on a
long journey, either East or West, I don’t know which, and neither did
Joe the last time I heard him say any thing about it. You see, Uncle Joe
Wayring owns large tracks of timber land in Maine and Michigan. He wants
to see them both, for he has learned that thieves are at work in both
places; but he hasn’t yet made up his mind which he wants to see the
more. When he does he will tell Joe, and then we shall find out where we
are going.”

There were a good many other questions that I wanted to ask my
communicative friend, but before I could speak again a merry whistle
sounded in the hall below, and somebody ascended the stairs three at a
time. Then I knew that my master had finished his sail on the lake, and
was coming up to his room to get ready for supper. He threw the door
open with a bang, school-boy fashion, and walking straight up to me took
me from my case and gave me a good looking over. He seemed as delighted
as a youngster with his first pair of red top boots; but I was somewhat
chagrined to learn that he did not have a very exalted opinion of my
capabilities.

“That’s a very fine rod, no doubt; but I expect to break him into a
dozen pieces before I have had him a month. A two pound trout will give
him more than he wants to do.”

What else Joe was going to say about me I never knew; for just then the
supper bell rang, and he made all haste to put me back in my case. After
a hasty toilet he bolted out of the room with the same noise and racket
he made when he came in, and I was at liberty to continue my
conversation with the canvas canoe. As usual, that useful and talkative
individual spoke first.

“What is your opinion of a boy who can deliberately persecute a fellow
like that?” said he.

“He ought to receive the same punishment you want meted out to Matt
Coyle; he ought to be abolished,” I replied. “But Joe doesn’t appear to
think much of me.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” said the canoe, encouragingly. “You will
not wonder at it when you have made the acquaintance of his bait-rod—if
you ever do; I mean the one that was stolen from him. He’s a big heavy
fellow, and strong enough to jerk a four pound black bass from the water
without any nonsense. You can’t do that, and Joe isn’t certain that he
can handle you. He doesn’t distrust you any more than he distrusts
himself. There’s one thing I forgot to tell you,” added the canoe, “and
that is, if any misfortune befalls you, you can lay it to Tom Bigden. I
heard enough during my short captivity to satisfy me that he was the
chap who put it into Matt’s head to steal Joe’s property. Matt is bad
enough, goodness knows; but the advice Tom Bigden gave him made him
worse. That is one of the secrets of which I spoke at the beginning of
my story, and it troubles me all the time. I am sure that if I could
talk to Joe about five minutes, I should feel easier; but that’s
something I can’t do.”

At my request the historian then went on to tell of other interesting
and exciting incidents in Joe Wayring’s life, but as they have no
bearing with my own exploits and adventures I omit them now, although
they may appear at some future period. By the time he grew weary of
talking it was ten o’clock, and darkness had settled down over the room;
but just as I was composing myself for the night, the door opened and
Joe Wayring came in. Making good his boast, that if folks would let his
property alone, he could find any thing he wanted on the darkest of
nights and without the aid of a lamp, Joe caught up the creel with one
hand, seized me with the other, and carrying us both down-stairs,
deposited us on the kitchen table beside something that was covered with
a snow-white cloth. Then he busied himself for a few minutes about the
stove, getting kindling and light wood together so that a fire could be
readily started; and after I had watched his movements for a while, I
made up my mind that a campaign of some sort was in prospect. When he
took the light and went out I said to the creel:

“Do you happen to know what day this is?”

“It’s Friday,” he replied. “To-morrow will be Saturday, and I should
judge by the looks of things, that we are going to make our first trip
after trout.”

Do you know by experience how a youngster feels when he is about to be
called up before a hundred or more critical school mates to recite his
little piece beginning—

                 “You’d scarce expect a boy like me
                 To get up here where all can see,
                 And make a speech as well as those
                 Who wear the largest kind of clothes.”

Do you know how he feels? Well, that’s way I felt.



                              CHAPTER XV.

                     MY FIRST TRIP TO INDIAN LAKE.


THE next morning, just as the clock was striking the hour of four, I was
aroused from a reverie into which I had fallen by a hasty step, followed
by a blinding glare of light, and Joe Wayring came hurrying into the
kitchen. He didn’t look much as he did the last time I saw him, and if
it hadn’t been for his curly head and blue eyes, I don’t think I should
have recognized him. But he was a nobby looking fellow, all the same,
dressed as he was in a neat suit of duck, dyed to a dead grass shade, a
light helmet with a peak before and behind, and leggings and gaiters
instead of boots. Joe was not the boy to make himself uncomfortable, or
to go about in a ragged coat and with his hair sticking out of the top
of his cap, just because he intended to spend the day in the woods out
of sight of every body. He knew of anglers and hunters who affected that
style, and they could follow it, if they wanted to, but he wouldn’t.
Leggings and gaiters were easier to walk in than heavy boots, and whole
clothes looked better than shabby ones.

Placing the lamp on the table Joe began bustling about the kitchen, and
in a very few minutes the fire was started and the tea-kettle filled.
Then he threw back the cloth before spoken of, revealing a substantial
lunch, a liberal portion of which he proceeded to pack away in the
creel.

About the time the coffee was ready, the door opened again, and Uncle
Joe came in. He, too, was dressed for the woods, and carried a rod of
some sort in one hand and a creel in the other. The latter must have
been a fine looking article in his day, but now he was as weather-beaten
as any old sailor. And that was not to be wondered at, for he had
traveled much, and had seen many hardships. He had accompanied his
master from one end of the country to the other. He had held captive for
him many a nice breakfast of grayling captured in Michigan waters, and
carried his dinner while he was fighting with the big trout in Rangeley
Lakes. He went with him on one of his Western tours, and would certainly
have fallen into the hands of the Utes when they arose in rebellion and
massacred all the whites they could find, had it not been for the fact
that he was slung over his master’s shoulder, and the latter was in too
great a hurry to stop and throw him off. He had many thrilling
recollections of the Indian Lake country, for he had been capsized on
the rapids more times than he could remember. He was a good talker, and
as full of stories as the canvas canoe.

“Well, sir,” said Uncle Joe, as he deposited his rod and creel on the
table, “what are the prospects?”

“Couldn’t be better,” replied the boy. “It’s cloudy, and there is every
sign of rain before noon.”

“I hope it will stay cloudy, but I can’t say that I want to see it
rain,” said Uncle Joe, as he drew a chair up to the table and took the
cup of coffee his nephew poured out for him. “The bushes around the old
spring hole are pretty thick, and I long ago ceased to see any fun in
getting drenched for the sake of catching a mess of half-pound trout. If
they were salmon, now, the case would be different.”

Nevertheless Uncle Joe seemed to be in just as great a hurry to eat his
breakfast and be off as his nephew was. Ten minutes sufficed to satisfy
their appetites, and in ten minutes more we were on the outskirts of the
village, and moving up an old log road toward the spring hole, where I
was to make my first attempt to take a fish. I dreaded the ordeal, for I
did not have as much confidence in myself as I would have had if my
master had not spoken so slightingly of me.

How far it was from the village to the spring hole, I am sure I don’t
know. It seemed like a long journey to me, although it was enlivened by
stories of travel and adventure from Uncle Joe, in which I became deeply
interested. Presently Joe, who was leading the way, pushed aside the
bushes in front of him, disclosing to view a small body of water fringed
with lily-pads and surrounded on all sides by high and thickly wooded
hills; and I knew instinctively that we had reached the end of our
tramp, and that the time had come for me to show what I could do. There
seemed to be abundant opportunity for me to do good work if I was
capable of it. While I was being taken out of my case, I noticed that
now and then there was a slight commotion in the water, just outside the
lilies, and I knew it was occasioned by trout jumping from the water,
even before Joe Wayring said so.

“Just look at them!” he exclaimed, in great excitement. “They are having
a high old time among themselves. I wouldn’t take a dollar for my chance
of going home with a full creel. There! Did you see that whopper?”

“Put on a white miller and a brown hackle, and give me your rod as quick
as you can,” answered his uncle. “I saw him, and if he comes up again
within seventy or eighty feet of us, I will make an effort to take him.”

“Do you mean to say that you can throw a fly as far as that?” inquired
Joe.

“That depends upon the rod. I’d like to have the first try with it, if
you have no objection, for I want to see whether or not you’ve got a
good bargain.”

Of course Joe had no objection. As soon as I was ready for business he
passed me over to his uncle, and when I felt his strong fingers close
around me, I knew that I was in the hands of one who would make me show
off to the best possible advantage.

“There he is again! Give him the flies, quick!” cried Joe, suddenly.

Uncle Joe’s movements were characterized by what sportsmen are wont to
call “deliberate quickness”. He was so very deliberate, in fact, that
his nephew began to show unmistakable signs of impatience; but still he
did not waste a single second of valuable time. Reeling off as much line
as the close proximity of the bushes behind would permit him to use,
Uncle Joe gave me a smart upward and backward fling and then struck down
toward the water. This movement caused the line to fly through the air
like a whip lash, only it grew in length all the while; and when the
flies were directly over the swirl the trout had made when he went down,
the motion of the reel was stopped by a slight pressure of the angler’s
thumb, and the tempting lures settled upon the water as lightly as a
couple of feathers.

“I never can learn to do that,” said Joe, despondingly. “It requires
altogether too much skill for my clumsy—Well, sir, you’ve got him as
sure as the world.”

The hook was fast to something, that was plain; but I thought at first
that Uncle Joe had caught a snag or a lily-pad. There was a jerk that
made me wonder, and in an instant more I was bent almost half double;
but with all the strain that was brought to bear upon me, the thing at
the other end of the line, whatever it was, did not give an inch. On the
contrary, it started and ran off toward the middle of the spring hole;
and then I began to realize that I was doing battle with a trout of the
largest size. Now was the time to show my master that he had been much
mistaken in me.

I need not stop to go into the particulars of the fight, for every boy
who has caught a heavy trout on a light rod will know just what
happened; and besides, to be frank with you, I don’t remember much about
it. Neither does Joe Wayring, who was so highly excited that he could
not stand still. I recollect he afterward told his chums that the fish
jumped clear out of the water two or three times, and then started from
the middle of the spring hole and ran toward the angler at the top of
his speed, trying to loosen the line so that the hook would drop out of
his mouth; but the automatic reel took up the slack as fast as he made
it, and his mad rushes about the spring hole had no other result than to
tire him out, so that he could offer but feeble resistance when he was
reeled in to the bank. The moment he was brought within reach Joe
slipped a landing net under him and lifted him out.

“Two pounds and three ounces,” he almost shouted, after he had weighed
him on his pocket scales. “Now, Uncle Joe, what’s your opinion of that
rod?”

“A fair sized fish for these waters,” said Uncle Joe, as he stepped to
the edge of the spring hole for another cast. “As for the rod—it’s as
good a one as you need wish for. If you will take care of him, he will
last as long as you will, barring accident.”

I will not dwell upon the incidents of the day, for I must hasten on to
tell you what happened to me during my first visit to Indian Lake. It
will be enough to say that Joe and his uncle enjoyed themselves, as they
always did whenever they went anywhere together, and that my master
after an hour or two of assiduous practice, learned to make short casts
with tolerable accuracy, and to show considerable skill in handling the
fish he hooked. When the two went home a little before dark Joe’s creel
was not as full as his uncle’s, but the few trout he captured with his
light tackle, afforded him more genuine sport than twice the number of
bass taken on a heavy bait-rod.

That day was the beginning of a busy season for me. Every Saturday, rain
or shine, found me at the spring hole or wandering along the banks of
some of the numerous streams that ran into Mirror Lake. I caught a good
many fish, soon got over my nervousness, and looked forward to the long
summer vacation with as much impatience as Joe himself. It came at last,
being ushered in by a canoe meet on the 3rd of July, and a grand parade
on the 4th, in which the Toxophilites and Scouts both took part. There
was a good deal of rivalry between these two organizations—so much,
indeed, that the usual exhibition drill at the park was given by the
military company, thus putting it out of the power of either club to
crow over the other. But still there was considerable crowing done,
especially by Tom Bigden and a few envious fellows like him.

“Don’t you remember what vociferous applause the Toxophilites received
last 4th?” said he, to his cousins.

“Yes; and I remember how mad you were about it, too,” replied Loren.

“I know it. I couldn’t bear to see them throw on so many airs, but I
little thought that I should aid in making them take back seats at their
next parade. I have yet to see any one who will say that the Scouts
didn’t do just as fine marching in the procession as the Toxophilites
did.”

Of course I did not see the parade, and neither did I witness the sports
that were held during the canoe meet, for I was shut up in Joe’s room so
far from a window that I could not tell what was going on out-doors. But
I heard the music of the band, and the cheers that arose whenever some
lucky fellow carried off a prize, and the exciting and amusing incidents
that happened during those two days of festivity, were so often talked
of in my hearing, that I was pretty well posted after all. I was glad to
learn that my master won the paddle race very easily, and that he pushed
Roy and Arthur so closely in the hurry-skurry race that the referee had
half a mind to order another contest. But Joe and Arthur said that Roy
was ahead, and as the other boys backed them up, Roy was awarded the
prize. There was no attempt at fouling this time. Every thing was
conducted fairly, as it always had been previous to Tom Bigden’s arrival
in the village, and every member of the club won or lost on his merits.

The parade being over, there was nothing to keep Joe and his two chums
at home, and on the evening of the 4th they began making preparations
for their annual trip to Indian Lake. Shortly after supper Joe Wayring
came into the room, and having exchanged his uniform for a suit of
working clothes, he shouldered my friend, the canvas canoe, and carried
him down stairs. Half an hour later he came back after the creel and me.
He took us down to the boat-house and there we found the canoe, snugly
tucked away in his chest like a tired boy in his little bed.

“Hurrah for me!” exclaimed the canoe, after Joe had gone out locking the
door behind him. “I am going to Indian Lake, too. Now, if Joe can only
keep clear of Matt Coyle, we’ll see some fun before we get back. You
think you know something about fishing; but wait until you get hold of
one of those big lake trout, and then tell me what you think about it.”

That was just what I wanted to do, but I didn’t say so, for fear that
when the time came I might discover that I was not quite so good a rod
as I thought I was.

We were so very impatient to be off that the night was a very long one
to us; but at the first peep of day we heard Joe’s step as he came down
the walk toward the boat-house. He placed a basket of provisions on the
wharf, mildly scolded Mars for making such a fuss over the coming
separation, and then came in after us. Arthur Hastings, Jim and the
skiff were on time, as they always were, and in half an hour more we had
taken Roy Sheldon on board and were moving gayly down the river. We
camped for the night at the old perch hole, where the skiff had ridden
out that furious storm a year before, and the boys had fish for supper.
Joe had been told that perch would rise to a red ibis, but he and I
could not prove the truth of the assertion. Although Arthur and Roy
pulled out the fish as fast as they could bait their hooks, Joe never
got a bite. The reason was, the water was too deep. His uncle afterward
told him that six feet is about as far as any fish can be relied upon to
rise to a fly; and sometimes they are too lazy to come from that depth.

On the afternoon on the fourth day we left the river and turned into a
little creek, whose current was so swift that the boys were obliged to
use extra exertion in order to make headway against it. About an hour
after the sun went down we came to anchor in the mouth of a brook, and
there I made amends for my failure at the perch hole. I captured more
trout than both the other rods, and if I had felt so inclined, could
have returned some of the left-handed compliments they paid me when it
was found that I could not catch a perch in twenty feet of water; but
being peaceably disposed I said nothing. While the tent was being put
up, a muffled voice came from the chest in which the canvas canoe was
packed away. The cover being shut down, I had to listen intently in
order to catch what he said to me.

“Didn’t I hear some one say something about trout?” asked the canoe.

“I think it very likely,” was my reply. “There are lots of them in the
brook; almost as many as there in the spring hole at Mount Airy.”

“Then I know where we are,” said my imprisoned friend. “Did you see an
ugly looking snag about a mile below? Well, there’s one there, and it’s
the one Jake Coyle ran into the night I was sunk in the creek. The fight
I told you about took place right here. Have you seen or heard any thing
of the squatter?”

“No, I haven’t; but I know that Joe and his friends are keeping a bright
lookout for him.”

“I am glad to hear it, and I hope they will not relax their vigilance
just because Matt keeps himself out of sight. His shanty is over there
in the woods on the right hand side of the creek. I’ll bet he is there
now, and that he has had his eye on the skiff ever since she came into
this part of the country. Mark my words: Joe will hear from him before
he sees Mount Airy again.”

“Oh, I hope not,” said I.

“So do I,” answered the canoe. “But I became well enough acquainted with
Matt and his family during the short time I lived with them, to know
that they do not intend to leave here unless they are driven away, as
they were last year when they came to our village. Why, this is the best
place in the world for a man who is too lazy to work, and who is not
above taking things without leave. Game and fish are abundant. All the
guides cultivate little patches of ground, and keep a few pigs and
chickens, and as they are away from home a good part of the time, their
property is left to the care of their wives and children. They can’t
stand guard day and night, and consequently it is no trouble at all for
Matt to steal all he wants. He has a fine hiding-place now, and as he
and his family make it a point to travel different routes every time
they go away from the shanty or return to it, they don’t leave much of a
trail for the guides to follow, if they should make up their minds to
hunt them up. Another thing,” added the canoe, in a tone of anxiety,
“Matt hates Joe and his chums for two reasons: First, because their
fathers turned him out of Mount Airy, and second, because they gave him
such a pelting with potatoes the last time they were up here. If he is
here, he will try to have revenge for that; now you see if he doesn’t.”

The canvas canoe spoke confidently, and his words occasioned me no
little uneasiness; but I was greatly relieved to learn from the
conversation, to which I listened while the boys were eating supper,
that they were fully alive to the dangers of the situation, and that
they did not mean to let the squatter take them off their guard. They
were happy in the belief that Matt could not attack them, except at long
range, because he had no boat to bring him alongside the skiff. It never
occurred to them that he had had plenty of time to steal or build one,
and that was where they made their mistake.

Up to this time we had had pleasant weather; but this particular night
was a rainy one. The big drops began coming down just after the tent was
put up. Then I realized for the first time what a comfortable home it
was that the boys had provided for themselves. The canvas canoe and I
lay on the forward locker, with the two bait-rods, the dip-net and the
cocker spaniel to keep us company. On the bottom of the boat in the
cock-pit sat the three chums, on either side of a table which they had
made by pushing the movable thwarts close together. On the table, which
was covered with a white napkin, was an array of dishes, plates and
cups, all of tin, which were filled to over-flowing with ham sandwiches,
bread and butter, cake, ripe fruit of various kinds and trout, done to a
turn. On the stern locker stood the little stove over which Arthur had
cooked the fish and made the tea, and above it hung the jack-lamp that
was kept burning all night. If any thing happened—if the wind arose and
the anchor dragged, or prowlers of any sort came about—the boys wanted a
light to work by. Over all was the tent, with the rain coming gently
down on the top of it. One side curtain was rolled up to admit the air,
but the other was buttoned securely to the gunwale. Joe wasn’t going to
have the squatter slip up and send a club into the cock-pit before he
knew it. Taken altogether it was a cozy, home-like scene, and I no
longer wondered why it was that Joe and his friends looked forward to
the summer vacation with such lively anticipations of pleasure.

The boys slept soundly that night, lulled by the pattering of the rain
on the roof over their heads, but the sun did not find them in bed. I
caught more than my share of the trout they ate for breakfast, and that
afternoon was given an opportunity to try my skill on larger game, to
wit, a four pound black bass. I may add, too, that I got my first
ducking, and witnessed the liveliest kind of a foot race. But I can’t
say that I enjoyed it; there was too much depending on it.

“Do you remember the last time we ate breakfast here?” said Joe, as he
drew up the anchor while his companions shipped the oars and pulled up
the creek toward the pond. “If my memory serves me, Matt Coyle made the
mouth of this brook uncomfortably warm for us for a few minutes. What
would we have done if Roy hadn’t been smart enough to keep some of the
potatoes out of that bag? I wonder where the old chap is now?”

“Probably he is a hundred miles away,” answered Arthur. “You don’t
suppose that the people who live around the lake are going to let him
stay here and steal them out of house and home, do you?”

“I am of the opinion that he and his worthless family were driven away
from here long ago,” said Roy. “But still I don’t believe in trusting
any thing to luck. We needn’t go ashore unless we want to, and Matt
can’t bother us while we are lying at anchor. He’s got no boat, and he
isn’t foolish enough to swim off to us, for we gave him a lesson the
last time we were here that he will remember as long as he lives.”

We left the mouth of the brook at an early hour, and about four in the
afternoon entered the pond, where I heard Joe say we would remain until
the bread and bacon gave out, when we would go over to Indian Lake and
lay in a fresh supply. Now Joe was sorry that he had left his bait-rod
behind. The pond was noted for the number and fighting qualities of its
bass, and Joe had nothing to catch them with; at least that was what he
told his friends, adding that he was afraid to trust so heavy work to
me.

“You’d better be afraid,” assented Roy. “If you don’t want that fine rod
of yours smashed into a thousand pieces, you had better not try to catch
a bass with it. But I’ll tell you what you might do, if you don’t care
to sit idly here while Art and I catch all the fish and see all the fun.
You might go up to the little perch hole and throw a fly there. Perhaps
you will find the perch in the pond more accommodating than they were
back there in the river.”

“How about our esteemed friend, the squatter?” said Arthur.

“Oh, he can’t trouble me,” answered Joe, who was already preparing to
act upon Roy’s suggestion. “His shanty is away off there somewhere,
while the perch hole lies a mile or more in the opposite direction.
There is a wide and deep river between the two, and how is Matt going to
cross it without a boat? I am of Roy’s opinion that he was driven away
from here long ago.”

While Joe was talking in this way he had taken the canvas canoe from his
chest, and now under his skillful hands my old friend was fast assuming
his usual symmetrical proportions. In less than ten minutes he was
floating gracefully alongside the skiff.

“Come on, Fly-rod,” said he, “and I will show you what a canvas canoe
can do when he is managed by some one who understands his business. You
never took a ride with me, did you?”

No, I never had, and if the truth must be told, I never wanted to take a
second ride with him. He may have been “the boss boat” on the rapids, as
he often boasted, but he was a very unfortunate craft all the same, and
before the day was over I had reason to believe that Joe would have seen
more sport during his two weeks’ outing if he had left the canoe safe in
his room at Mount Airy. I came back to the skiff, but he didn’t.



                              CHAPTER XVI.

                       AN EXPLOIT AND A SURPRISE.


AS I could not comply with my friend’s invitation to “come on”, I was
obliged to wait until Joe had exchanged his heavy boots for the buckskin
moccasins he always wore whenever he went anywhere with the canoe. This
being done, we pushed away from the skiff, and moved leisurely up the
pond toward the perch hole, Joe whistling merrily as he plied the
paddle. I do not think he was quite so light-hearted when he came back.

Half an hour’s paddling sufficed to bring us to our destination. If I
hadn’t heard Joe say that the perch hole was located in the mouth of a
creek, I should not have known it, for it looked to me more like an arm
of the pond which set back into the land. When I was taken from my case,
after the anchor had been dropped overboard, I took note of the fact
that one could not see more than twenty or thirty feet up the creek, a
high wooded point limiting the range of vision in that direction. I
didn’t know at the time why I observed this, but I thought of it
afterward.

Joe made his first cast with a scarlet ibis, and the result was
surprising to both of us. The fish that took the lure did not give much
of a bite—I have known a half-pound trout to seize the bait with more
vim than he did—but when Joe fastened the hook with a scientific twist
of his wrist, I couldn’t have doubled up quicker if he had caught a log.

“Scotland’s a burning! what’s that?” exclaimed Joe, speaking so rapidly
that the words seemed to come out all at once. “I declare, it’s a bass,”
he added a moment later, as the green and bronze side of the beautiful
captive could be seen for an instant just under the surface of the
water. “I wish he was at the bottom of the pond, for he’ll break my rod
and I’ll have no more fishing this trip.”

But Joe did not give up because he thought he was going to be worsted in
the fight. He brought into play all the skill of which he was master,
and after an exciting struggle of fully half an hour’s duration, caught
up the landing net and hauled into the canoe the largest thing in the
shape of a fish I had seen up to that time. He was killed at once, the
pocket scales were brought into use, and the weight of the “catch” was
written down in Joe’s note-book.

“Whew?” panted the boy, pulling out his handkerchief and wiping the big
drops of perspiration from his forehead. “If that wasn’t a tough battle
I wouldn’t say so. I never supposed that little rod could catch a fish
like this. Hello, here! It’s getting dark already. I know the fellows
will laugh at me for coming back with a single fish, but I don’t believe
they will be able to show one that will weigh more.”

Joe jumped to his feet as he spoke, and made all haste to put me away in
my case. He stood with his face to the pond while he worked, and
consequently he did not see what I did. My attention was first called to
it by an exclamation from the canvas canoe who said in a suppressed and
excited whisper:

“Upon my word, there’s that everlasting Matt Coyle again. He’ll gobble
the whole of us this time.”

I looked over Joe’s shoulder, and there in the bight of the bend, with
its ugly nose just sticking around the high wooded point of which I have
spoken, was a clumsy scow built of rough boards that had doubtless been
stolen from some saw-mill. In the scow sat Matt Coyle and his two boys.
I had heard them described so often that I should have recognized them
at once, even if the canoe had not told me who they were. They held
their paddles poised in the air, and Matt who sat in the bow, having
raised his hand to attract the attention of his boys, was now pointing
silently toward my master, and going through a series of contortions
with his head and eyes that must have had a volume of meaning in them.
At any rate Jake and Sam understood them, for they dipped their paddles
into the water, and the scow moved around the point and turned directly
toward us, while the squatter prepared himself for business by taking
off his hat and pushing back his sleeves. I trembled all over with
excitement and alarm, and so did the canoe.

“Oh, why don’t Joe turn around?” cried the latter. “Matt intends to take
him by surprise, and he’ll be alongside in half a minute more.”

Just then one of the boys allowed his paddle to rub against the side of
the scow. The noise he made was very slight, but it was loud enough to
attract the attention of Joe Wayring, who faced about to find his
enemies within less than twenty feet of him. He was so astonished to see
them there, that for a few seconds he could neither move nor speak. He
stood as motionless and silent as a wooden boy; while Matt, seeing that
he was discovered, snatched up his paddle and raised a yell of triumph.

“Now I reckon I’ll have my boat back an’ you into the bargain,” he
shouted, swinging his paddle around his head and then shaking it
savagely at Joe. “When I get my hands onto you, the way I’ll wear the
hickories out on your back will extonish you wuss nor any thing you ever
see.”

“An’ won’t I punch your head though, to pay you fur hittin’ me with that
there tater up there in the creek last summer?” chimed in Jake. “I guess
yes.”

These threatening words called Joe to his senses. He knew that he would
not have time to pull up the anchor and escape in his canoe, for he had
paid out a good deal of rope in order to place himself in the best
possible position for casting, and before he could haul it in, his
enemies would be upon him. There was but one way to elude them, and that
was to take to the water and to trust to his powers as a swimmer. It
looked like a slim chance, but the odds of three against one were too
heavy to be successfully resisted, and what else could he do? As quick
as a flash he turned again, and without releasing his hold upon me, took
a header from the stern of the canoe.

“So that there’s your game, is it?” yelled the squatter. “Wal, it suits
us, I reckon. Never mind the boat, Jakey. She’s fast anchored, and will
stay there till we want her. Take after the ’ristocrat whose dad won’t
let honest folks live onto his land less’n they’ve got a pocketful of
money to pay him fur it. Jest let me get a good whack at him with my
paddle an’ he’ll stop, I bet you. Hold on, there, ’cause it’ll be wuss
fur you if you don’t.”

In obedience to Matt’s instructions the scow was turned toward the
swimmer; but although Jake and Sam exerted themselves to the utmost,
they could not cut him off from the shore. Joe made astonishing headway.
There were but few boys, or men either, in Mount Airy who could swim as
fast as he could, and he afterward said that he never made better time
than he did when he was trying to get away from Matt and his boys. He
was afraid of the lily-pads which lined the banks of the creek on both
sides, so he swam down the stream until he was clear of them before he
attempted to make a landing; but Matt, believing that he could do better
on shore, dropped his own paddle into the water, turned into the lilies
and tried to force the scow through them. That was a lucky thing for Joe
Wayring. The strong stems of the lilies were entwined about one another
in all sorts of ways, and the squatter stuck fast in them before he had
made half a dozen strokes.

“Back out! Back out!” shouted Matt, who was quickly made aware that he
had committed a blunder. “Be in a hurry, or he’ll get sich a start on us
that we can’t never ketch him. Hold up, there!” he went on, jumping to
his feet and swinging his paddle around his head as if he were on the
point of launching it at the object of his wrath. “Come back, or it’ll
be wuss fur you. You hear me, I reckon.”

In the meantime Joe made good his landing, and looked over his shoulder
to see the heavy paddle coming toward him, end over end. It struck the
ground near him, and was immediately sent back where it came from with
all the force that the boy’s sinewy arm could give it. Flying wide of
the mark for which it was intended, the broad blade hit Jake fairly in
the face, giving him such a splitting headache that he could not take
part in the pursuit that followed. This was another lucky thing for Joe.
Jake was the best runner in the squatter’s family, and although there is
not the slightest doubt that he would have been soundly thrashed if he
had succeeded in overtaking Joe, he might have been able to detain him
until his father and brother could come to his assistance, and then Joe
would have had more on his hands than he could attend to.

[Illustration: JOE IN AN AWKWARD FIX.]

“That’s another thing we’ve got to pay you fur when we get our hands on
you,” yelled Matt, who was almost beside himself. “Work lively in
backin’ out, or he’ll have a mile the start of us before we tech the
shore.”

Jake, who had dropped his paddle and sat holding his chin in his hands,
paid no attention to the order; but Matt and Sam worked to such good
purpose that they finally succeeded in backing the scow out of the
lilies into clear water. When they reached the bank, Joe Wayring was out
of sight; but they knew which way he had gone, and at once set out in
pursuit; while Jake stayed in the scow and howled dismally.

Joe ran like a deer, and made surprising progress in spite of the logs
and bushes that obstructed his way. He was very quiet in his movements,
but Matt and his boy made so much noise that it was an easy matter to
keep track of them and tell just how far they were behind. At last the
squatter, seeing that he was not going to capture my master by following
him on foot, thought it best to change his tactics.

“Sam,” he shouted, in stentorian tones, “go back to the creek, and you
an’ Jakey take the canoe an’ paddle down the pond so’s to cut him off
when he tries to swim off to the skiff. You understand what I say to
you, I reckon.”

Joe understood it, whether Sam did or not and it put new speed into him.
He ran so swiftly that he very soon left his single pursuer out of
hearing, but he exhausted himself in the effort, and when he dashed out
of the bushes and stopped on the bank in plain sight of the skiff, he
was so nearly out of breath that he could not raise a shout to draw the
attention of his chums, who were hard at work putting up the tent. But
Jim saw him, and announced the fact by a joyful bark, followed by a
vigorous wagging of his tail. Arthur and Roy looked toward the bank, and
there stood Joe, swinging his arms wildly about his head. When he saw
that he had attracted their notice, he pointed to the woods, and then up
the pond toward the canvas canoe which was coming down with all the
speed that Jake and Sam could give it. The boys in the skiff saw and
understood. The anchor came up quicker than it ever did before, the oars
were shipped, and the skiff came toward the bank with a heavy bone in
her teeth. By this time Matt Coyle arrived within hearing again, and
Joe, fearing that he might make his appearance before his friends could
rescue him, stepped into the water and struck out to meet the skiff.
Jake and Sam yelled savagely at him, and redoubled their efforts to
place themselves between him and his friends; but they might as well
have saved their breath and strength. The skiff came up rapidly, and Joe
knew that he was saved. Suddenly a bright idea suggested itself to
him—one that would have enabled him to turn the tables upon the squatter
very neatly, if his friends had only been prompt to act upon it. Raising
himself as far out of the water as he could, he called out:

“Boys, never mind me. I’ve got my second wind now, and can swim for an
hour. Go up there and capture my canoe, or else run over her and send
her to the bottom. Don’t let those villains take her away from me
again.”

“All right,” replied Roy, still giving away strong on his oar. “We’ll
get your canoe back for you, but we will take care of you first.”

“No, no!” insisted Joe. “Capture or sink the canoe first, and attend to
me afterward. I am all right, I tell you. I can easily keep afloat until
you come back.”

“Why, boy, you haven’t got a breath to spare,” said Arthur. “I know it
by the way you talk. Come in out of the wet.”

“You held fast to your fly-rod through it all, didn’t you?” said Roy, as
he took me from Joe’s hand.

“Yes. I didn’t know whether or not I could outrun them, and I wanted
something to defend myself with in case they came up with me.”

When Joe tried to climb into the skiff, he found that he was by no means
in as good condition as he thought he was. He could scarcely help
himself at all, and his chums were obliged to pull him in by main
strength. The moment they let go of him he sank down against the stern
locker and panted loudly; but he was as full of determination as ever.

“Now go up and sink the canoe,” he almost gasped.

But a single glance was enough to show Arthur and Roy that it was too
late to do any thing with the canoe. Jake and his brother heard the
order that Joe shouted at his friends while he was in the water, and
made all haste to put themselves out of harm’s way. When Joe was hauled
into the skiff they were so close to the shore that all attempts to
intercept them would have been unavailing.

“It’s no use, Joe,” said Arthur. “They’re too far off, and there’s Matt
Coyle standing on the bank.”

“But for Joe’s sake we will see what we can do,” exclaimed Roy.

As he spoke, he opened the forward locker and took from it a stout paper
bag. When he first put it there, Arthur and Joe supposed that it
contained lemons; but when Roy opened it, they saw that it was filled
with potatoes.

“They helped us out of a scrape once, and why shouldn’t they do so
again?” said Roy. “My plan is to pull into shore, drive Matt and his
boys into the bushes, clap onto the canoe with the boat-hook and tow her
out into the pond.”

Arthur declared that that was the way to do it, but subsequent events
proved that it wasn’t. They laid hold of their oars again, but before
the skiff had gone far toward the shore, Joe Wayring, who had by this
time recovered his power of speech and motion, announced that Roy’s plan
wouldn’t work at all, and that it was useless to make any effort to sink
or capture the canoe. And the rowers found it so when they faced about
and looked toward the shore.

The squatter and his boys had dragged the canoe from the water, and were
now carrying her back into the bushes where they knew the boys would not
dare go after it.

Matt had not yet forgotten the tactics they used when he and his boys
tried to club them out of their boat the year before. He was very much
afraid of Roy, and when the latter ceased rowing and got upon his feet
to see what had been done with the canoe, Matt and his allies ran into
the woods like so many frightened turkeys.

“I’m onto your little game,” said the squatter in a triumphant tone, as
he looked out from behind the tree that sheltered him. “You don’t fire
no more taters at me if I know it. Your boat is here, an’ if you want it
wusser’n we do, come an’ get it. ’Tain’t much account nohow.”

“I’m going to bust it into a million pieces to pay you fur that there
whack you gin me with pap’s paddle a while ago,” shouted the invisible
Jake, who would not show so much as the top of his cap to the boys in
the skiff. “I’ve stood jest about all the poundin’ I’m goin’ to.”

“What did you do to him, Joe?” inquired Arthur, as he and Roy turned the
skiff around and pulled back toward their anchorage.

“Matt threw his paddle at me when he saw that I was about to slip
through his fingers, and I threw it back,” answered Joe. “It didn’t hit
Matt, as I meant it should, but it came pretty near knocking Jake out of
the scow.”

“The scow?” repeated Roy. “Have they got a boat of their own, I’d like
to know.”

Joe replied that they had a boat in their possession (of course he
didn’t know where they got it, or whether or not they had any right to
call it their own), and then went on to tell of the exploit I had
performed at the perch hole, and of the surprise that followed close
upon the heels of it. He wound up his story by saying—

“I didn’t have time to draw up my anchor, so I had to go overboard. I
swam the best I knew how in order to reach the bank before Matt did;
then I raced a mile or more through the woods in my wet clothes, and
that was what tired me out.”

“I wonder if we are to find that fellow hanging around every time we
come into the woods?” said Roy, angrily. “Hallo, here!”

A slight splashing in the water drew their attention at the moment, and
Joe and Arthur started up in alarm, expecting to find that the squatter
and his boys had stolen a march upon them. There was a canoe close
alongside of them, but the broad-shouldered, brown-whiskered man who
handled the paddle was not Matt Coyle or any body like him. He was one
of the hotel guides who had assisted in driving the squatter out of the
Indian Lake country, and he was looking for him now.

“Hallo yourself,” he replied, good-naturedly. “Well, I swan to man, if
there ain’t Roy Sheldon and—Why, you’re all here, ain’t you? Say! seen
any thing of Matt Coyle since you have been hanging around?”

“Mr. Swan, how are you?” exclaimed all the boys, in a breath. They knew
the guide, and liked him, too.

“You have come to the right place to learn a good deal concerning Matt
and his doings,” continued Roy. “What has he been up to now?”

“Well, you see,” answered the guide, speaking with so much deliberation
that the impatient boys wanted to hurry him, “he came here last year
from somewhere, and wanted to set in for a guide; but the hotels down to
the lake wouldn’t have him, ’cause they didn’t think he was a safe man
to trust with a boat, and Matt, he allowed that he’d fix things so’t
there wouldn’t be no guidin’ for none of us to do. So he’s took to the
woods, and he robs every camp he can find, if there don’t happen to be
any body around to watch it. Leastwise we lay it to him, ’cause we know
he’s around here, and some of us thought that we’d like to take a peep
at his shanty, if he’s got one.”

“We can’t tell you where his shanty is,” said Joe, “but we can show you
where Matt and his boys were not ten minutes ago. He stole my canvas
canoe and gave me a long chase through the woods. He promised that if he
could get hold of me, he would wear a hickory out over my back.”

“Sho!” exclaimed the guide. “What for?”

Joe’s story was a long one, for in order to make the guide understand
how he and his companions had incurred the enmity of the vindictive
squatter, it was necessary that he should go back to the time when Matt
and his family first made their appearance in Mount Airy. He described
the fight between them and the constable and his posse, the particulars
of which he received from eye-witnesses; told how Matt had stolen the
canoe and six fine fishing-rods and reels, while he and his companions
were looking for the bear they saw on the shore of Sherwin’s Pond; and
gave a glowing account of the fight in the creek, at which the guide
laughed heartily.

“I’ll jest bet that them was my taters that you pelted him with,” said
he; “’cause while I was out in the woods with a guest from Boston, my
wife said that my garden and smoke-house were both robbed in one night.
As for them fish poles—I think I can tell you where to find them.”

“Good for you, Mr. Swan,” cried Arthur. “Where are they?”

“Of course, I don’t know that they belong to you; I only suspect it,”
continued the guide. “You see, one day last summer, Jake Coyle brung six
as purty poles as you would want to look at up to the Sportsman’s Home,
and told Mr. Hanson, the new landlord, that he got ’em in a boat trade.
He couldn’t use ’em, fur they wasn’t the kind that he’d been in the
habit of handlin’, and so he wanted to sell ’em. I told Hanson that I
was as sure as any thing could be that they had been stole, and that
mebbe the owner would come along some day looking for them; so Hanson,
he buys ’em, reels and all, for four dollars apiece—all except one that
Jake said had been broke by a bass, and for that he give two dollars.
They were covered with mud and rust, but I cleaned ’em up, and now they
look as good as new.”

“They are our rods, and I know it,” exclaimed Roy. “If mine is the one
that’s broken, I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that I paid Jake
for it in advance by hitting him in the mouth with that potato.”

“And if it’s mine, I settled with him this afternoon by slapping him in
the face with his father’s paddle,” chimed in Joe Wayring.

The guide laughed again. “You’re as plucky a lot of youngsters as I ever
see,” said he, “and you may rest assured that them folks won’t bother
you or any body else much longer. We are going to put ’em in jail for
thieves when we catch ’em.”

“Ah! Yes,” said Arthur; “but that’s right where you are going to see
trouble. Our deputy sheriff and constable searched every inch of the
ground around Sherwin’s Pond, and all they found was the place where
Matt’s shanty once stood. He set fire to it before he left for Indian
Lake.”

“I know that the woods about here are tolerable thick, and that Matt is
a boss hand at hiding,” replied the guide; “but he will find that
there’s a heap of difference between dodging a couple of townies, and in
getting away from a lot of men who have lived in the woods ever since
they were knee high to so many ducks. Go on, Joe. What else do you know
about Matt Coyle?”

The rest of Joe’s story related solely to the events of the evening, and
it did not take him long to describe them. When he concluded the guide
was almost as angry as he and his chums were. The idea that that
worthless vagabond should threaten to beat such a boy as Joe Wayring,
simply because he had showed the courage to defend himself when he was
assaulted! The guide made no remark, but there was a look in his eye
that would have made the squatter uneasy if he had been there to see it.

“It’s too late to do any thing to-night,” said he, at length. “I reckon
you boys have got something good to eat in them lockers? I thought so.
Well, suppose we go ashore and camp.”

Joe and his friends readily agreed to this proposition. They had spent
five days and nights in their boat, and they longed for a good, sound
sleep on a bed of balsam-boughs, with the spreading branches of some
friendly pine for shelter instead of their water-proof tent. They were
not afraid to go into camp on shore now that they had the stalwart guide
for company. Matt and his boys would not be likely to show themselves as
long as they knew that he was with them; but the trouble was, they
didn’t know it, although they were in plain sight when the boys built
their fire on the bank, and laid their plans to pay them a visit before
morning.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                         A BATTLE IN THE DARK.


AS OUR three friends and their backwoods companion were old campaigners,
they did not spend much time in getting ready for the night. A roaring
fire was started, the jack-lamp hung upon a neighboring tree, and by the
aid of the light thus afforded them, Joe Wayring, who had by this time
got into a suit of dry clothes, cleaned the fish which Arthur and Roy
had captured during his absence; Arthur Hastings fried them and made the
tea; Mr. Swan prepared the bacon and pancakes; and Roy cut the balsam
boughs and arranged the beds. In less than three quarters of an hour
after they drew their boats upon the beach, they sat down to a supper
that would have tempted any healthy boy to eat, no matter whether he was
hungry or not.

“Now, Mr. Swan,” said Joe, when the dishes had been washed in the clear
waters of the pond, and the tin bucket, which contained the supply of
fish for breakfast, had been hung up by a string so that the minks that
were sure to come around during the night could not steal them, “tell us
a story, please.”

“About what?” inquired the guide, as he filled his pipe.

“Oh, about the first panther you ever shot.”

“Or about the bear you killed with a club while he was running off with
one of your pigs,” suggested Roy.

Mr. Swan was always ready. After he had taken a few pulls at his
brier-root to make sure that it was well-started he began and told not
one story, but a dozen or more. He kept his little audience interested
until ten o’clock, then the lamp was turned out, the fire replenished,
and the campers sought their beds of balsam-boughs. Lulled by the
rippling of the waves upon the beach at their feet, and by the low music
of the breeze as it toyed with the branches over their heads, their
slumber was deep and dreamless. Even the usually watchful Jim seemed to
think that there was no responsibility resting upon him for this
particular night, and that the mere presence of the guide was all the
protection the camp needed, for he too slept soundly, and snored while
he slept. Consequently he did not see the uncouth object which drew out
of the darkness that covered the surface of the pond, and slowly and
cautiously approached the camp. The object was Matt Coyle’s scow, and in
it were the squatter and both his boys. The latter were plying their
paddles with noiseless motion, and Matt was kneeling in the bow, waving
first one hand and then the other to show them what course to take.

It must have been long after midnight, for there was nothing left of the
fire but a glowing bed of coals; but still there was light enough to
enable the robber to see the outlines of the skiff, but not sufficient
to show him the trim little canoe that had been hauled out on the bank
and turned bottom side up. If he had seen that, he would have lost no
time in getting away from so dangerous a neighborhood; but believing
that the boys were alone, and that they had forgotten their usual
caution in spite of the warning events of the afternoon, he kept on
until he was close enough to the skiff to take hold of it. I saw the
whole proceeding, but of course could do nothing to arouse the
slumbering campers.

“Now, turn about on your seats and give way the best you know how,” I
heard Matt whisper to his boys. “We must pull her off into deep water
before them fellers can wake up an’ get a holt on her.”

“Say, pap,” whispered Jake, in reply. “Ain’t we goin’ ashore to give
them a good larrupin’ before they make up?”

If the guide had not been there, these words would have horrified me;
but as it was, I did not feel at all uneasy. I knew very well that Matt
and his boys were no match for our party, and that they would all be
captured as surely as they put their feet on shore; but I did not want
to see them steal that skiff. Oh, why didn’t Jim wake up and alarm his
master!

“We’ll ’tend to them after we get the skiff an’ all the nice grub an’
things that’s into it,” said the squatter, as he tightened his grasp.
“Now be you all ready? Then give way.”

Jake and Sam laid out all their strength upon their paddles, and the bow
of the skiff grated harshly as it moved over the sand. The noise, slight
as it was, awoke Jim, who was on his feet in a twinkling. He took just
one glance at the marauders, and then danced about the camp in a perfect
ecstasy of rage, barking and yelping with all his might.

His first note of angry remonstrance alarmed the boys, who were off
their fragrant couches in less time than it takes to tell it. The moment
they arose to a perpendicular, they were wide awake and ready to act.
They made a simultaneous rush for the beach, and while Arthur and Joe
seized the skiff and pulled her back where she belonged, in spite of all
that Jake and his brother could do to prevent it, Roy caught up the
painter and deftly took a turn with it around a convenient sapling.

“Now, haul away and see how much you will make by it,” he exclaimed.
“That’s once you got fooled.”

“Wal, I’ll bet a hoss that I ain’t fooled yet,” said the squatter, in
savage tones. “Pull ashore, Jakey, an’ we’ll get out an’ lambast them
fellers till their own mammies won’t know ’em when they go hum. Human
natur!” he ejaculated a moment later, as the tall form of the guide came
between him and the smoldering fire. “Who’s that? If it ain’t Swan, I’m
a Dutchman.”

“Come on, you miserable scoundrel,” cried the guide, shaking his huge
fist at the astonished and thoroughly frightened robber. “I have been
looking for you, and now that I have found you, I am going to take you
back to Indian Lake with me.”

But Matt and his boys were not as anxious to go ashore now as they had
been. Without saying a word in reply they bent to their paddles, and
made all haste to get out of sight in the darkness.

“Now, Joe,” said Mr. Swan, who never got excited even under the most
trying circumstances, “shove off and take after them. You can go faster
than they can, so if you will get ahead of them and keep them from
reaching the opposite shore, I will come up on this side, and we will
have them between two fires.”

Joe and his companions were prompt to act upon this suggestion. He and
Roy pushed the skiff into the water, and when she was fairly afloat
Arthur sprang aboard with the jack-lamp in his hand. A moment later its
strong light flashed out over the pond, telling the fleeing squatter in
language as plain as words that the darkness could not conceal his
movements.

“There they are, not more than forty yards,” said Arthur, who stood
erect on the stern locker, steadying himself with the boathook. “Roy,
let me have that oar, and you stand here with the lamp and open fire on
them with your potatoes.”

“I can’t,” was the answer. “I took the potatoes ashore to-night and
washed some for breakfast; and the bag is in camp at this moment.”

“Then we shall have to come to close quarters with them,” said Arthur,
“for I have no idea that they will give up when they find themselves cut
off from shore.”

“If we can only manage to detain them for two minutes, we shall have all
the help we want,” Joe remarked. “Look behind you.”

Arthur glanced over his shoulder, and was surprised to see the guide in
less than a stone’s throw of the skiff. How he had managed to put his
canoe into the water and get her under way with so little loss of time,
was a mystery.

“A fellow would have to look out for Mr. Swan in a hurry-skurry race,
wouldn’t he?” said Arthur. “Just see how he makes that little craft of
his get through the water! If you two don’t let out a section or so of
your muscle, he will overtake the scow before we do.”

Just then Matt Coyle’s hoarse voice was heard calling warningly to them.
“Don’t come no nigher,” it said. “If you think that we are sich fules as
to go down to Injun Lake when we want to stay here, you are the biggest
kind of fules yourselves. I’ll break the head of the fust one of you
that comes within reach.”

“Matt has crawled back to the stern of his scow, and is standing there
with his paddle in his hand,” said Arthur, who could see every move the
robber made. “I wonder if he thinks that we are ‘fules’ enough to give
him battle before Mr. Swan comes up to help us.”

That was just what Matt was looking for, and he did not know what to
make of it when the skiff dashed by his scow, keeping so far beyond
reach that he could not have touched any of her crew with his paddle if
he had tried, and deliberately placed herself across his path. Then his
eyes were opened to the details of the plan that had been laid to entrap
him, and the promptness with which he went to work to extricate himself
was surprising. He said a few words in a low tone to his boys, then put
his own paddle into the water, and the scow shot ahead with greatly
increased speed, never swerving from her original course by so much as a
hair’s breadth.

“Does the old villain mean to run us down, or does he intend to come
alongside and capture us and the skiff?” said Roy, who was alarmed as
well as amazed by the squatter’s offensive tactics. “Back water, Joe,
while I give way. It looks as though _we_ had got to run now.”

The scow was so close to them that they had no time to get out of her
way. They saw at a glance that all they could reasonably hope to
accomplish was to turn their boat slightly, so that if the scow struck
her at all, it would be a glancing blow. But they had miscalculated the
speed of Matt’s clumsy looking craft. She seemed to glide over the top
of the water instead of passing through it, as other boats do. On she
came with terrific force, and although Joe and Roy worked hard to slip
out of her way, she struck the skiff fairly in the side, ripping off two
of her planks, smashing in as many more, and making a hole that Mars
could have crawled through with all ease. At the same instant darkness
settled down over the scene as if by magic. Arthur Hastings had been
knocked off his perch on the stern locker, and he and the jack-lamp went
into the pond together.

“Whoop-ee!” yelled Matt, triumphantly. “Will you git outen our road the
next time you see us comin’? Take that fur your imperdence in gittin’
before your betters,” he added, making a vicious blow with his paddle at
the place where he had last seen Joe Wayring’s head.

Joe’s head was not there now, however, for he had been sharp enough to
put it somewhere else; but Matt was speedily made aware that the boy was
not far away, for as the blade of his paddle whistled harmlessly through
the air, he received a punch in the ribs with an oar that brought from
him a yell of pain, and came very near sending him into the water. At
the same moment, a howl of agony from the unlucky Jake announced that
Roy was taking a hand in the rumpus.

The fight that followed was a very short one, but it was warm while it
lasted, and gave Matt and his boys some idea of what a couple of brave
young fellows could do when they were cornered. Joe, while defending
himself against the muscular squatter, managed to get in several good
blows; Roy pounded Sam to his heart’s content, Jake having dropped out
of the contest at the very beginning of it; and Arthur clung to the side
of the skiff and called lustily for Mr. Swan.

“I’m coming,” replied the guide, who was doing all he could to bring
himself alongside the scow. “Keep them there just a minute longer.”

Roy and Joe would have obeyed if they could; but when Matt heard Mr.
Swan’s voice sounding so close to him, he pushed his piratical craft
away from the skiff, and the darkness shut him out from view. When the
guide arrived a few minutes later, he found the boys supporting
themselves by holding fast to the sides of their boat, which was full of
water. They had relieved her of their weight just in time to keep her
from going to the bottom of the pond. She would not sink now, for she
had no cargo aboard to speak of, and besides, the air that was
imprisoned in the lockers assisted in keeping her afloat.

“Well, if this don’t beat the world!” exclaimed Mr. Swan, as soon as he
had taken in the situation. “Somehow or other those villains always
manage to come out at the top of the heap, don’t they? Did you have a
fight with them? I heard sticks a clashing and somebody yelling. I hope
none of you ain’t hurt.”

“Don’t be uneasy on that score,” replied Roy. “Joe and I had a scrimmage
with them, but you didn’t hear either one of us yell. It was Matt and
Jake. Sam was good grit. He never said a word, although I punched him
with the blade of my oar the best I knew how. Arthur was standing on one
of the lockers when the scow struck us, and he and the lamp made a
plunge of ten feet in the clear before they touched the water.”

“Do you mean to say that they ran into you a purpose?” exclaimed the
guide.

“Of course they did. We cut them off from the shore, as you directed,
and that old scow of theirs came at us like a battering-ram. Matt heard
Joe tell us to-night to sink the canoe, and that was what put it into
his head to run into us.”

Meanwhile Arthur Hastings had worked his way around to the bow of the
skiff and secured the painter, one end of which he made fast to a ring
in the stern of the canoe. The chase was over, of course. They could not
continue the pursuit in the dark, for the squatter could easily elude
them in a hundred different ways, and neither would it be prudent to
follow him in the canoe. The little craft was intended to carry only one
person, with a very limited allowance of camp equipage, and the added
weight of one of the boys would have sunk her so deep in the water that
no speed could be got out of her. The only thing they could do was to go
back to camp and finish their sleep.

“But what shall we do to-morrow?” was the question that Joe and his
comrades asked themselves and one another. “Our boat is badly stove, and
if we can’t patch her up, how are we going to get back to Mount Airy?”

Mr. Swan towed the disabled skiff to the shore, her crew swimming
alongside or trying to assist him by pushing behind, and the fire was
started up again to aid them in making an examination of the injuries
she had received. They were fully as severe as the boys expected to find
them, and it was a wonder to them that she was so long in filling.

“There’s plenty of guides down to the lake that can fix her up for you
in good shape,” said Mr. Swan.

“Of course,” replied Roy. “But the lake is twenty-five miles from here,
and there’s no way to get her down there.”

“Mebbe there is,” answered the guide. “For a shilling I’ll agree that
she shall go down there, and carry you into the bargain. But we can’t do
nothing with her to-night. You boys get on some dry clothes and go to
bed again.”

Joe and his companions were quite willing to act upon this suggestion,
but they were in no hurry to go to sleep. Neither was Mr. Swan. They sat
around the fire for a long time, talking over the incidents of their
battle in the dark, and as I listened closely, I have been able to give
you the story in the same way that it was told to Mr. Swan. The
squatter’s extraordinary luck and the skill he exhibited in eluding
arrest seemed to astonish them all. How I longed for the power of speech
so that I could tell them that robbing camps and smoke-houses was not
the only business to which Matt Coyle intended to devote himself, now
that the offer of his service as guide and boatman had been declined by
the managers of the Indian Lake hotels. But they found it out for
themselves, and before long, too.

It was three o’clock before the campers again sought their blankets. The
boys slept much later than usual, but the guide was stirring at the
first peep of day. He piled fresh fuel on the fire, put Roy’s potatoes
into the ashes to roast, made the coffee and pancakes, and took time
while the fish were frying to give the skiff another good looking over.
Then he picked up Joe’s camp ax, and disappeared among the trees,
returning a few minutes later with several large slabs of birch bark. By
this time the fish were done, and the guide announced the fact by
calling out—

“Tumble up, you sleepy heads. You’ve just two seconds in which to take a
dip in the pond and get ready for breakfast.”

Having had as many “dips” as they wanted already, the boys contented
themselves with washing their hands and faces; after which they sat down
to their homely breakfast with appetites to which the dwellers in towns
and cities are, for the most part, strangers. Of course the squatter was
still uppermost in their minds, and he and his exploits formed the
principal topic of their conversation.

“By the way, Mr. Swan, you forgot to tell us what Matt stole at those
camps,” said Arthur, suddenly.

“Did I? Well, in my camp he took a Lefever hammerless that cost the
owner three hundred dollars; and from a gentleman who had Bob Martin for
a guide, he stole a Winchester worth fifty dollars. Not satisfied with
that, he took every thing in the shape of grub that he could lay his
hands on, and me and my employer had to live on trout while we were
making a journey of more than a hundred and fifty miles. Trout’s good
enough once in a while; but I swan to man, if I want it for a steady
diet. Bob Martin said he eat so much of that kind of food that he wanted
to snap at every fly that came near him.”

“Matt and his family are always on the look-out for grub, and I should
think that the sharp edge would be taken off their appetites after a
while,” Arthur remarked. “Did you try to follow his trail?”

“Bless you, no. There ain’t a country in Ameriky that is so well
provided with water courses as this Indian Lake country is, and what’s
the use of trying to follow the trail of a boat? You might as well think
of tracking a bird through the air.”

“What do you suppose Matt intends to do with those guns?” inquired Roy.
“Of course he wouldn’t be so foolish as to offer them for sale around
here, and they certainly will be of no use to him unless he took a big
supply of cartridges at the same time he took the weapons.”

“I’ve got my own idea about that,” replied the guide. “It’s only an
idea, mind you, but I have good reason for holding to it. A year ago
last spring, Matt got to acting just as he’s acting now, because the
hotels wouldn’t send him out with their guests, and me and the rest of
the guides tracked him down, and told him that he’d got to clear
himself. He allowed he wouldn’t do it, and that he’d make it hot for the
fellers that tried to make him go, so we went to work and burned up
everything he had, except his clothes and we’pons. Then he had to dig
out; but before he went, he sent us word that if he couldn’t do guiding
for the hotels none of us should, for the reason that there wouldn’t be
nobody to hire us.”

“What did he mean by that?” exclaimed Joe.

“You’re pretty sharp fellows,” said the guide, in reply. “What’s your
opinion of his meaning?”

“He doesn’t intend to kill off the guests as fast as they arrive, does
he?” said Arthur.

“Probably not,” said Joe. “But he means to steal them poor, and bother
them in every way he can, so that they won’t come here to spend their
summer vacations.”

“That’s the very idea,” said the guide, approvingly. “That’s what he was
up to, and that’s what he is trying to do now; but we ain’t going to let
him stay. Now, then,” he added, as he arose to his feet and produced his
ancient brier-root, “if one of you will help me while the others tend to
things about the camp, we’ll be on our way to the lake in less’n half an
hour by Joe’s Waterbury.”

“Are you going with us?” asked Arthur, who was delighted at the prospect
of spending the day, and perhaps another night in the company of so
famous a story teller.

“I reckon I might as well,” replied the guide. “I know where to find
Matt’s trail now, but I can’t do nothing with him and his family all by
myself, so I will go back and get some of the boys to help me.”

“Well, see here, Mr. Swan,” said Joe. “If you have to burn him out
again, don’t forget to save my canoe from the general destruction. I
know it isn’t a very valuable thing, having seen its best days long ago,
but still I shouldn’t like to think that I had lost it for good.”

“I’ll bear it in mind,” said the guide. “Now, don’t let the fire go out.
We shall need it to toast the bark.”

“What do you want to toast the bark for?”

“Why, to make it straighten out and stay somewhere. Don’t you see how it
curls up in all sorts of ways? Summer bark isn’t as good as winter bark
for this sort of work, but I reckon we can make it keep the water out of
the skiff till we get to the lake.”

Arthur and Joe made all haste to wash the breakfast dishes and collect
their “duffle”, so that there would be no delay in loading the skiff
when the repairs were completed, and then sat down to keep the fire
going, and to watch the guide, in whose proceedings they were much
interested. They wanted to learn how it was done, so that they might
know what to do in case a similar misfortune befell them when there was
no accommodating backwoodsman near to help them. Fortunately they never
went into the woods without taking with them some strips of canvas, a
supply of tallow and rosin, and a paper of copper tacks. By the aid of
the tacks, the birch bark, after it had been toasted over the fire so
that it would “stay somewhere”, was fastened upon the gaping wound which
the sharp corner of Matt’s scow had made in her side, the seams were
thickly coated with melted rosin and tallow, then the canvas was tacked
on, and Mr. Swan declared that his task was finished.

“She’ll leak a little water, of course,” said he, as he filled up for
another smoke, “but not much after the bark has a chance to swell a
trifle. Now I reckon we are ready to be off.”

It was the work of but a few minutes to pack the provisions and cooking
utensils away in the lockers, and as soon as that had been done, the
boys shoved the skiff into the water and followed Mr. Swan, whose canoe
was moving toward the creek which connected the pond with Indian Lake.
The boat didn’t leak as much as they thought it would. Five minutes’
bailing every half hour kept her comparatively dry.

The boys camped that night within less than five miles of the lake, and
of course had the pleasure of listening to more of the guide’s stories.
They made an early start the next morning, Mr. Swan being impatient to
obtain assistance and resume the pursuit of the man who had despoiled
the camp of his employer, and at seven o’clock the two boats were run up
on the beach in front of the Sportsman’s Home.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                          AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.


MR. SWAN and his young friends at once went ashore and set out for the
hotel, the former to tell “the boys” that he had struck the trail of the
man they most wanted to see, and Joe and his companions to examine the
rods the landlord had in his possession, and to engage some one who was
handy with tools to repair the skiff. They left me lying in my usual
place on the stern locker, with Jim and the two bait-rods for company.

I had heard so much about Indian Lake and its hotels that I had pictured
them out to myself, and thought I could tell pretty near how they
looked; but nevertheless I was greatly surprised by what I saw around
me. I told myself that the boy who could not find there what he wanted
in the way of recreation, must be hard to suit. If he was fond of gay
company and liked such places as Saratoga and Long Branch, he would
probably stop at the “American” on the further side of the lake; but if
he were an angler and a lover of nature, or if he desired to get away
somewhere and rest, he would choose the “Sportsman’s Home” every time.

The house itself looked like a hunter’s camp on a grand scale, or like
the cabins of the loggers I afterward saw in the wilds of Maine, only it
had two stories instead of one. It was built entirely of logs, which had
been painted with some substance that I don’t know the name of, but it
sparkled in the bright sunlight like a covering of ice. In the groves
that surrounded the hotel on all sides, were log houses, tents and
shanties without number. Noisy children were running in and out among
the trees, the clashing of croquet balls was almost incessant, sportsmen
in dogskin jackets, leather helmets and leggings, and guides in blue
shirts and cowhide boots were constantly going and coming, and every one
that I saw seemed to be enjoying himself. This was one of the happy
parties that Matt Coyle was determined to break up because the landlords
refused to trust their guests to his care! It was no wonder Mr. Swan and
his brother guides were anxious to rid the country of the presence of
such a villain. While I was thinking about it I heard myself addressed
in a faint voice; and upon looking in the direction from which it came,
I discovered a seedy breech-loader resting against the thwart of the
neighboring canoe.

“You don’t seem to remember me,” said he, reproachfully.

“I can’t say that I do,” was my reply. “I think you have made a mistake
in the fly-rod.”

“No, I haven’t,” said he, confidently. “I knew you before you left Mr.
Brown’s store. Don’t you remember the English fowling-piece that had the
dispute with that conceited bamboo?”

So this was my old acquaintance, the “Brummagem shooting-iron,” was it?
It was right on the point of my tongue to remind him that the bamboo had
not showed himself to be any more conceited than he was; but I didn’t
say it. I judged by his appearance that he had seen pretty hard times
since he left Mr. Brown’s protecting care. He had sneeringly told me
that I was not worth the modest price that had been set upon me, but,
here I was, as bright as ever, while he looked as though he had been
through half a dozen wars.

“I remember you now,” said I, “but you have changed so much that I did
not recognize you at first. Where have you been, and what have you done
since that countryman of yours ordered you to be sent up to the Lambert
House?”

“He was no countryman of mine,” replied the double barrel, sadly. “He
was a full-fledged Yankee who tried to pass himself off for something
better than he really was. But he’s got all over that; the guides
laughed him out of it.”

“Did they laugh you into your present condition?” I asked, remembering
that the double barrel had also tried to pass himself off for something
better than he really was.

“Eh? No,” he replied, indignantly. “It’s the result of abuse and
hardship. Last year I was stolen out of camp—”

“By whom?” I interrupted, excitedly.

“By a vagabond who calls himself Matt Coyle,” was the reply. “His old
shanty leaked like a sieve, and I got wet and rusty. That’s what makes
me look so bad.”

“How did your master get you back?”

“I heard the story about in this way: In less than an hour after I was
stolen, a dirty, unkempt boy made his appearance in my master’s camp,
and told him that he had been fishing on the pond all the afternoon,
that he knew the man who took me, and for a reward of ten dollars he
would follow me up and steal me back again.”

“Of course your master wasn’t deceived by any such shallow trick as
that!” I exclaimed.

“Well, he was. You see, he and the two young fellows who come up here
with him every summer, never hire a guide. As they seldom venture more
than twenty or thirty miles away from the lake, and never leave the
water courses, there’s really no need of a guide; but if they had had
one when that boy came into camp, he would have saved my master from
imposition. As it was, he promised to give him the ten dollars, and
before sunset I was brought back. But it had rained buckets during my
absence, I was wet inside and out, my master did not know enough to take
care of me, and that’s how I came to be in this fix. They’re coming now,
and we are off again, I suppose.”

I looked toward the hotel, and there was the young man with the gold
eye-glasses, peaked shoes and downy upper lip—the same knowing fellow,
who had been foolish enough to take a cheap gun that wasn’t warranted,
with the expectation that it would do as good work as a Greener.

“We’re going up to the pond, and I shall be called upon to fire heavier
charges than I can stand at every thing in the shape of a partridge or
squirrel that comes in my way,” added the double barrel.

“You ought not to be required to shoot those birds at this time of
year,” said I. “It’s against the law.”

“Oh, I don’t hurt them any. I only shoot at them. I never killed any
thing.”

“That’s just what Mr. Brown said when he sold you,” thought I. “Have you
a dog to guard your camp? Well, you ought to have. Matt Coyle lives up
there, and night before last he made a daring attempt to steal this
skiff, and then he tried to sink her. Don’t you see the hole in her
side?”

I was going on to tell the double barrel that if his master did not keep
his eyes open he might expect another visit from the squatter, but just
then I saw Joe Wayring and his friends coming down the bank; and as I
was more interested in them and the rods they carried on their
shoulders, than I was in the fortunes of the seedy-looking fowling
piece, I had nothing more to say to him. I saw him once afterward, and
then he was a perfect wreck of a gun. There wasn’t enough of him left to
sell for old iron.

“Haw! haw!” said Roy, as he jumped into the skiff. “We’ve got them back
again, and only one of them is the worse for being stolen by that
squatter.”

I wondered which one that was, and found out when Arthur Hastings began
taking his rod from its case. It was a beautiful rod, and looked strong
enough to handle any fish that was likely to be encountered in that
country; but the second joint was broken close to the ferrule. I looked
pityingly at him, little dreaming that I was destined to go home in the
same crippled condition.

“I don’t believe that any bass that ever wiggled a fin could break that
rod,” said Arthur, dolefully. “Matt or some of his vagabond band must
have caught the hook into a log or the stem of a lily-pad. Well, it
isn’t as bad as it might be, but I hate to think that that squatter has
made some money out of me.”

While the boys were waiting for the guide who had promised to come down
and look at the skiff, they talked of their interview with the landlord
of the Sportsman’s Home, and in that way I came to know just what
happened when they went up to see the rods he had purchased of Jake
Coyle. Of course they recognized them at once, and promptly handed over
the money that Mr. Hanson had paid for their property, but said nothing
about paying for the rods that belonged to Tom Bigden and his cousins.

“Hadn’t you better take them all?” asked the landlord. “You say that the
boys from whom these rods were stolen live in Mount Airy, and perhaps
they would be grateful to you for returning them.”

“I think we’d better not have any thing to do with them,” said Arthur.
“But we’ll forward them a dispatch and let them send or come after the
rods. They’ve nothing else to do.”

There was telegraphic communication between Indian Lake and Mount Airy,
by the way of New London, and Arthur wrote and sent off the dispatch
before he left the hotel. If he and his chums had been able to look far
enough into the future to see every thing that was to result from this
simple act, they would have been greatly astonished. I know I was when I
heard the full particulars.

In a few minutes the expected guide came down to the beach and gave the
skiff a careful examination. After he had stripped off the canvas and
bark, so that he could see the full extent of her injuries, he remarked
that Matt’s scow must have hit her a middling heavy crack.

“I should say she did,” replied Joe, with a laugh. “When three strong
fellows do their level best with paddles, they can make a small boat get
through the water with considerable speed. They hit us hard enough to
knock Arthur overboard. Who are those men, and where are they going in
such haste?” he continued, directing the guide’s attention to a company
of guests and boatmen who were walking rapidly toward the beach.

“Two of them are the gentlemen whose camps were robbed the other day,”
replied the guide, after he had taken a glance at the party. “They’ve
got some friends to help them, and are going out to see if they can
track down them varmints who have been kicking up so much fuss about
here of late. There comes Swan. He’s going with them, but they might as
well stay at home, the whole of them. That Matt Coyle can cover up his
trail like an Injun. It took every guide in the country to hunt him down
the last time we drove him away from here.”

“You missed it by not putting him in jail,” said Roy.

“That’s just what we wanted to do,” answered the guide. “But when we
come to talk to some of the guests about it—there was lawyers among
them, you know—we found that we didn’t have any evidence that would
convict him. We suspected him, but we could not prove any thing.”

“You’ll not be troubled in that way this time,” Arthur remarked. “You’ll
have the guns for evidence.”

“Don’t fool yourself,” said the guide. “Do you suppose that they will
find that three hundred dollar scatter-gun and that fifty dollar rifle
when they find Matt Coyle—that is, if they do find him? Not by a great
sight. Them things is safe hid in the woods. Matt’ll sw’ar that he
didn’t hook ’em, and there ain’t a living man that can sw’ar that he
did. The only thing they can do is to burn him out of house and home,
like we did last time, and force him to go off somewhere and steal a new
outfit.”

“What’s the reason we can’t go with them?” said Joe, suddenly.

“I reckon you can. You know more about the woods than some of that party
do, and you might be of some use to them.”

“Well, look here, Mr. Morris: Will you fix up our boat in good shape,
give her a coat or two of paint and take care of the things that we
shall be obliged to leave behind us?”

“I will, sartain,” answered the guide, readily.

In an instant both the lockers were opened, and Joe Wayring, snatching
up a camp basket, started post-haste for the hotel to hire a skiff and
purchase a small supply of provisions for the trip, leaving Roy and
Arthur to select the outfit. The tent and the most of their heavy
cooking-utensils were to be left behind. They were very useful articles,
of course, but they were not absolutely necessary to their existence, or
even to their comfort. Besides, the skiff that would be provided for
them would not carry as much “duffle” as the roomy boat they were going
to leave in the guide’s keeping. Their bows and arrows, blankets, the
knapsacks that contained their extra clothing, and the frying pan must
go, of course; but every thing else was left behind.

While they were awaiting Joe’s return, Mr. Swan and his party came up,
got into their boats and pushed away from the beach. Mr. Morris pointed
out two stalwart gentlemen in shooting costume, who, he said, were the
owners of the stolen guns. They seemed to be in very bad humor, and the
boys did not wonder at it.

“I shouldn’t like to be in Matt’s place if those men get their hands on
him,” said Roy, in a low tone.

“Nor I,” answered the guide. “They sw’ar they’ll pound him before he
goes to jail, and they look to me like fellers that will keep their
word.”

“Say, boys,” exclaimed Mr. Swan, as he backed water with his oars and
brought his boat to a stand-still at the stern of the skiff, “can’t you
stay here till we come back? We want your evidence.”

“We’ll be around, you may depend upon that,” returned Roy. “But we’re
not going to stay here, if you will let us take part in the hunt. Joe
has gone up to the hotel after a boat.”

“Oh! All right,” said Mr. Swan. “Them’s two of the lads that had the
battle in the dark that I was telling you about,” he added, addressing
himself to the owner of the lost “scatter-gun”, who was his employer.

“Well, I must say that they are plucky fellows, and that they deserve
better luck,” said the gentleman, returning the military salute which
the boys gave him from sheer force of habit. “I hope their skiff can be
easily repaired, Mr. Morris?”

“No trouble about that, sir,” answered the guide. “She’ll be right and
tight before sundown—all except the paint.”

After telling Roy and his companion that if they did not overtake him
before, they would find him encamped somewhere on the bank of the creek
near the pond, Mr. Swan applied himself to his oars, and a fleet of
seven boats, manned by fourteen angry and determined guides and guests,
set out in pursuit of Matt Coyle and his thieving crew. Ten minutes
later Joe Wayring returned, accompanied by a guide and a small party of
ladies and gentlemen. The former was to show him what boat he could
take, and the latter were listening with much interest to Joe’s graphic
account of his adventures with the squatter. Joe was surprised to learn
that Matt’s way of creeping up through the bushes and robbing unguarded
camps, had frightened the women and children so badly that they refused
to go into the woods until the thief had been captured and safely lodged
in jail. That depended upon the evidence Joe could give to put him
there.

“That’s all mighty fine,” said Mr. Morris, after listening to what Joe
had to say of his conversation with the stranger, “but they don’t give a
thought to the hardest part of the business. Matt ain’t caught yet, and
there’ll have to be a heap of hard work done before he is shut up so’t
he can’t steal no more scatter-guns; you see if there ain’t. I’d like to
take a hand in the hunt myself, but I’ve got to go out with the same man
I guided for last year, and he’s liable to come along any day.”

Their boat having been pointed out to them, Joe and his companions lost
no time in putting their effects aboard of it. Then they bade Mr. Morris
good-by, lifted their caps to the party on shore, and rowed down the
lake and up the creek in pursuit of the fleet. They overtook Mr. Swan
and his party just before they landed to eat their lunch, traveled in
company with them during the rest of the day, and went into camp with
them at night. I had abundant opportunity to compare notes with the
three recovered bait-rods, who corroborated the story that was told me
by the canvas canoe, and which I have already given to the reader in my
own words. The squatter was fully resolved, they said, that if he
couldn’t act as guide in those woods, nobody should; and the worst of it
was, he seemed to be in a fair way to accomplish his object. The
sportsmen who patronized the hotels came there for fun and recreation;
and it wasn’t likely that they could see much of it if their wives and
children were to be prevented from accompanying them on their fishing
excursions through fear of this man, Matt Coyle. The owners of the
Lefever hammerless and Winchester rifle didn’t see much fun in having
their fine weapons stolen, and if these depredations were not stopped,
and that speedily, it would not be long before the guests would be
looking for some place of resort where thieves were not quite so plenty.

“But even that isn’t the worst of it,” continued Joe’s bait-rod, who did
the most of the talking. “Every thing seems to indicate that the
squatter is going to have a bigger following now than he has been able
to boast of in the past. He isn’t the only worthless scamp there is in
the woods, by any means. You know, I suppose, that the State fish
commissioners have established a hatchery at the outlet of Deer Lake, a
few miles from here?”

I replied that I had not heard of it.

“Well, they have, and the superintendent wants to prohibit fishing
there, so that he can get a supply of eggs large enough to stock all
these waters, which will soon be stripped of trout unless there are some
put in to take the place of the multitudes that are caught every year.
The superintendent sets traps in the outlet to catch the fish so that he
can get their eggs, and three or four fellows who live right there, and
who look enough like Matt Coyle to be his brothers, go to the outlet
every night and cut the nets. The superintendent threatened to have them
arrested if they didn’t quit it, and they told him that they had always
fished in that outlet, and if he wanted the hatchery buildings to stay
there, he hadn’t better try to stop them. I heard the whole
conversation. I was down there when old Dead Shot was broken.”

“Who’s Dead Shot?” I inquired.

“I am,” faintly replied Arthur Hastings’s crippled rod.

“Why, that’s a queer name for you to bear,” said I. “I think it would be
more appropriate for a shot-gun or rifle.”

“Perhaps it would; but Arthur has always called me that since I caught
his first string of yellow pike for him, and it is the name I go by. I
never let a fish get away when I get a good grip on him—that is, when I
have some one to handle me who knows what he is about. But Jake don’t
know any thing about a rod, for he has always fished with a pole he cut
in the bushes. On the day the superintendent talked so plainly to the
vagabonds who cut his nets, Jake was fishing in the outlet, and Matt was
hiding in one of the cabins. A little fish—I should not think he weighed
more than a pound, judging by the bite he gave—took the hook, which was
baited with worms, and Jake tried to yank him out by main strength, as
he had always been in the habit of doing; but the line caught between
two rocks, and as Jake threw back his head and surged on me with all the
muscle he had, I broke. That’s all there was of it.”

“And do you think that Matt Coyle will strike hands with those fellows
at the outlet?” I asked, when Dead Shot had ended his story.

“He has done it already, and our friends here have undertaken a bigger
job than they bargained for,” answered the bait-rod. “Those vagabonds
are all tarred with the same stick. They sympathize with Matt, and will
hide him in their houses and help him in every way they can.”

“Haven’t we got force enough to go into the houses and take him out?”

“We’ve got the force, but not the authority. There’s not an officer or a
search-warrant in our party.”

Not being posted in law, I did not quite understand the situation, but I
didn’t like to ask any more questions. It was enough for me to know that
Matt Coyle seemed to have the best of the game. Indeed, he always seemed
to have it.



                              CHAPTER XIX.

                              CONCLUSION.


THE boats made an early start the next morning, and reached the pond at
nine o’clock. Half an hour later they had crossed it, and were moving up
the creek where I performed my first exploit, and Joe Wayring so
narrowly escaped capture by Matt Coyle and his boys. It annoyed me to
think that the squatter and his family had enjoyed so good a supper, and
that I had unwittingly provided it for them. It would not have soothed
my feelings much if some one had told me that, although that was the
first meal I had caught for them, it would not be the last.

“Now, then,” said Mr. Swan, after he and his party had listened to Joe’s
description of the exciting incidents that happened in the creek on the
evening of the previous day, “we will divide ourselves into two fleets
and take opposite sides of the stream. As we go up, let every one of us
keep a bright lookout for a sign. Those robbers could not have got into
their scow or landed from it without leaving a trail, and that is what
we want to find.”

In obedience to these instructions four of the boats kept to one side of
the creek, the remaining four pulled over to the other bank, and the
hunt began in earnest. Every inch of the shore on both sides was closely
scrutinized, but up to three o’clock in the afternoon nothing suspicious
had been discovered. Mr. Swan began to believe that they had passed the
trail long ago without seeing it, and said as much to his employer,
adding—

“That villain is sharper than two or three men have any business to be.
He and his family, the old woman included, can go through the woods
without leaving trail enough for a hound to follow. They never forget to
be as careful as they know how, for they have so long lived in constant
fear of arrest that—”

The guide suddenly paused, and looked earnestly at Joe and his
companions, whose actions seemed to indicate that they had found
something that would bear looking into. Their boat was loitering along
two or three rods behind the others, Roy and Arthur doing the rowing,
while Joe was stretched out flat on the knapsacks, his chin resting on
his arms which were supported by the gunwale, and his eyes fastened upon
the bank. All at once he started up and said, in a low tone:

“Cease rowing. Look at that.”

“Look at what?” demanded Roy, after he and Arthur had run their eyes up
and down the bank without seeing any thing that was calculated to excite
astonishment. “At those bushes growing in the water? That’s nothing, for
we’ve seen bushes growing in the water ever since we came into the
creek.”

“I am aware of it; but if you will look closely at these particular
bushes, you will see that the bark is scraped off some of them, and that
they all lean away from the creek as if some heavy body had been dragged
over them,” answered Joe. “Back port and give way starboard. Let’s turn
in here; and if we don’t find something or other on the opposite side, I
shall wonder.”

The rowers obeyed, without much confidence as to the result, it must be
confessed, and when Mr. Swan and his party arrived, having all turned
back to see what it was that had attracted the attention of the boys,
neither they nor their boat were in sight. There was something on the
bank, however, that instantly caught the sharp eye of one of the guides,
who at once proceeded to take himself to task in a way that would have
excited his ire if any one else had done it.

“Hit me over the head with a paddle, somebody,” said he. “I’m going to
throw up my position when I get back to the lake, and quit guiding. I
ain’t no good any more. I come along here not ten minutes ago, and
didn’t see what them boys saw at once. Look at them bushes, and then
look at that,” he added, pulling his boat closer to the bank, and
placing the blade of his oar in a little depression in the edge of the
water. “Matt Coyle shoved that scow of his’n over them bushes, and
that’s what barked them and made them bend over that way. He suspicioned
that some of us would see it, so he come back and stood right there
where my oar is, and tried to straighten the bushes up with a pole or
something.”

“That’s so,” said Mr. Swan, to his employer, “Didn’t I tell you that he
was a sharp one? The tricks that that fellow don’t know ain’t worth
knowing.”

Just then a twig snapped on the bank and Joe Wayring came into view.
“Don’t talk so loud,” he whispered, as he held up his finger warningly.
“Matt’s scow isn’t twenty feet from here, and that’s all the proof I
want that his camp is close at land.”

Instantly seven pairs of oars were dropped into the water, and as many
boats were forced through the bushes and into the little bay on the
other side. There lay the piratical craft which had done her best to
send the skiff to the bottom of the pond, but nothing was to be seen or
heard of her crew.

“Keep still, every body,” cautioned Mr. Swan, in the lowest possible
whisper. “They’re out there in the woods, but remember that they ain’t
caught yet, and that they won’t be if their ears tell them that we’re
coming.”

Joe afterward said that the trail that led from the scow into the bushes
was so plain that a blind man could have followed it; so it seemed that,
for once, Matt had forgotten to be careful. No doubt he thought that the
bay in which his scow found a resting-place, was so effectually hidden
by the bushes in front of it, that it would never be discovered by a
pursuing party. We have seen that he had good reason for this belief. If
Joe and his chums had decided to remain at the lake and enjoy themselves
there while their skiff was being repaired, instead of joining their
forces with Mr. Swan’s hunting party, it is probable that the squatter’s
retreat never would have been discovered; and neither would the
pursuers—well, I’ll wait until I get to that before I tell about it.

Mr. Swan, who was the acknowledged leader of the party, at once
shouldered his rifle and began following up the trail, the others
falling in in single file behind him. They moved so silently that I
could not hear a leaf rustle; and I told myself that the surprise and
capture of the squatter and his whole shiftless tribe was a foregone
conclusion. I afterward learned that Mr. Swan and the guides who were
with him thought so too. Before they had gone fifty yards, the former
suddenly stopped and whispered to the man next behind him—

“We are close upon them. I smell smoke.”

“And I smell coffee,” replied the man to whom the words were addressed,
and who sniffed the air as if he were trying to locate the camp by the
aid of his nose instead of his eyes, “and bacon.”

Shaking his hand warningly at the men behind him, the guide moved
forward again with long, noiseless strides. Presently he discovered a
thin blue cloud of smoke rising above the bushes close in front of him.
He looked at it a moment, and then dashed ahead at the top of his speed,
his eager companions following at his heels.

A few hasty steps brought them to the little cleared spot in a thicket
of evergreens in which Matt Coyle had made his camp. On one side of it
was a lean-to with a roof of boughs, and on the other was the fire, with
a battered coffee pot simmering and sputtering beside it. Scattered
about over the ground were several slices of half-fried bacon, which had
been hurriedly dumped from the pan. A few broken plates and dishes that
stood on a log close at hand, bore silent testimony to the fact that the
squatter’s wife was just getting ready to lay the table, when news was
brought to the camp that Mr. Swan and his party were coming. Under the
lean-to were some worthless articles in the way of wearing apparel and
bed-clothes, but every thing of value had disappeared. There was nothing
like a hammerless shot gun or a Winchester rifle to be found.

“The nest is warm, but where are the birds?” exclaimed Mr. Swan’s
employer, who had jumped into the clearing with his coat off and his
fists doubled up, all ready to carry out his threat of pounding Matt
Coyle before he was sent to jail.

“Didn’t I say that they were sharp?” replied the guide. “The birds have
took wing.”

“Then take to your heels and catch them,” exclaimed his employer. “Can’t
you follow a trail? They can’t have been gone more than five minutes. A
hundred dollars to the man that will capture that villain for me.”

“And I will add a hundred to it,” cried the owner of the stolen
Winchester.

The guides did not need these extra inducements, for they had more at
stake than these two strangers who spent two months out of every twelve
in the woods, and the rest of the year in the city, following some
lucrative business or profession. The guides’ bread and butter depended
upon their exertions, and they were no whit more anxious to effect
Matt’s capture now, than they were before the two hundred dollars reward
had been offered them. At a word from Mr. Swan they separated and began
circling around the lean-to to find the trail; but this did not take up
two minutes of their time. They found five trails; and a short
examination of them showed that they all led away in different
directions.

“That trick is borrowed from the plains Indians,” said Joe, when Mr.
Swan announced this fact to his employer. “Whenever the hostiles find
themselves hard pressed by the troops, they break up into little bands,
and start off toward different points of the compass; but before they
separate, they take care to have it understood where they shall come
together again.”

“That’s a fact,” assented the owner of the Winchester. “I have been
among those copper-colored gentlemen, when I had nothing to depend on
except the speed of my pony; but how does it come that you are so well
posted? Have you ever hunted on the plains?”

“No, sir; but I have the promise that I shall some day enjoy that
pleasure,” answered Joe. “My uncle told me about it. He’s been there
often. Now the question in my mind is: Did Matt, before his family
scattered like so many quails, appoint a place of meeting? If he did,
that’s where we ought to go.”

“Young man, you are a sharp one,” said the gentleman, admiringly. “What
do you say, Swan?”

The guide appealed to could not say any thing, and neither could the
others. Unfortunately they did not know that the squatter had made
friends with the vagabonds living in the vicinity of the State hatchery.
If they had known it, that was the place they would have started for
without loss of time, but they wouldn’t have caught him if they had gone
there.

“There’s a good deal of hard sense in Joe’s head,” said Mr. Swan, after
a short pause. “Of course, Matt and his family will come together again
somewhere, but you see the trouble is, we don’t know what point they are
striking for.”

“Can’t you follow the trails and find out?”

“Take the plainest one of them trails, and I’ll bet every thing I’ve got
that you can’t follow it a hundred yards,” said Mr. Swan. “It is going
to take us a good long month to hunt them down, and we’ll be lucky if we
do it in that time.”

“But we can’t wait so long,” protested one of the guests. “We must
return to the city to-morrow. Our business demands our attention.”

The guides consulted in low tones, and so did their employers. Finally
one of the latter wrote something on a card and handed it to Mr. Swan,
saying:

“If we have done all we can, we might as well go back to the hotel; but
before we start, we make you this offer: We will give a hundred dollars
apiece to the man who will find our weapons, capture the thief and hold
him so that we can come and testify against him. Or, we will give fifty
dollars apiece for the guns without the thief, and the same amounts for
the thief without the guns. Boys, you are included in that offer.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Arthur. “It would afford us great satisfaction if
we could be the means of restoring your property to you.”

“Before we leave here we’ll fix things so that Matt won’t find much to
comfort him if he should accidentally circle around this way after we
are gone,” said Mr. Swan. “Pile on every thing, boys.”

The “boys” understood him and went to work with a will. In less time
than it takes to tell it, the lean-to was pulled down and thrown upon
the fire, the bed-clothes and dishes were piled on top, the bacon was
driven so deeply into the ground by the heels of heavy boots that a
hungry hound could hardly have scented it—in short, every thing that
Matt and his family had left behind in their hurried flight, was utterly
destroyed. His scow was not forgotten. They would knock it out of all
semblance to a boat when they went back to the creek.

Having started a roaring fire, they were obliged to stay and see it burn
itself out, for they dared not leave it for fear that it might set the
woods aflame. So they stood around and saw it blaze, grumbling the while
over the ill luck that had attended their efforts to capture the cunning
squatter, and it was fully three-quarters of an hour before Mr. Swan
thought it safe to return to the boats. This delay gave Matt Coyle
plenty of time in which to carry out a very neat piece of villainy, some
of which I saw, and all of which I heard.

While the scenes I have just described were being enacted in the
clearing, there were lively times in the little bay of which I have
spoken. You know we were left in company with Matt’s scow, the boat in
which I rode being drawn up on the bank on one side of him and Mr.
Swan’s on the other; and no sooner had the hunting party disappeared in
the bushes, than we began reviling him the best we knew how. The only
reason we didn’t break him into kindling wood at once, was because we
couldn’t. Our will was good enough.

“Get away from here,” said _Wanderer_. (That was the name of Mr. Swan’s
boat. He had always lived and worked in the company of gentlemen, and he
did not like to occupy close quarters with so disreputable a fellow as
the scow.)

“Get away from here yourself,” was the report. “I was here first, an’
I’m going to stay.”

“I’ll bet you will,” said _Bushboy_. (That was the name of the boat Joe
and his chums hired at Indian Lake.) “But you may be sure of one thing:
You will stay a wreck.”

“That’s so,” said I. “Joe Wayring will never go away leaving him above
the water. He’ll break him up so completely that his thief of a master
won’t know him if he should happen along this way again.”

“He will never come this way again until he is on his road to jail,”
said _Wanderer_. “Mr. Swan is after him, and he’s going to catch him,
too.”

“Wal, Matt’ll go to jail knowin’ that he’s done a right smart of damage
sence he’s been layin’ around loose in the woods, an’ if I am busted up,
I shall have the same comfortin’ knowledge. Fly-rod has seed me afore. I
captured his friend, the canvas canoe—”

“Where is he now?” I interrupted.

“Out there in the bresh, hid away so snug that nobody won’t ever find
him,” was the taunting reply. “Them guns is hid out there too, but not
in the same place. Matt come purty near gettin’ you as well as the
canoe. I heard him say that he almost overtook Joe while he was a
runnin’ through the woods with you in his hand.”

“Yes; and Matt would have got me over the head if he had been able to
run a little faster.”

“An’ Joe would have got a hickory over the back, I tell you,” said the
old scow. “How do you reckon that that skiff I sent to the bottom of the
pond feels by this time?”

“You didn’t send him to the bottom of the pond,” said I, angrily. “You
tried hard enough, but you didn’t make it.”

The bait-rods and the boats took up the quarrel, and while I listened, I
waited impatiently for the return of the hunting party. Presently I
heard a slight rustling in the thicket at the head of the bay, but it
was not made by the persons I wanted to see. It was Matt Coyle that
stuck his ugly face out of the bushes, and his bleared and blood-shot
eyes that traveled from one to another of the boats that lay before him.
Then he turned and whispered to some one behind him and the whole family
came and stood upon the bank. Their sudden appearance made it plain to
all of us that the squatter and his backers, after “scattering like so
many quails,” had run just far enough in different directions to
bewilder their pursuers, after which they “circled around” and came back
to the bay, intending to continue their flight in the scow, which would
leave no trail that could be followed. It was evident, too, that there
had been an understanding among them before they separated; otherwise
they would not all have been there. When Matt’s gaze rested upon the
trim little boats before him, he said in a low but distinct voice—

“Whoop-ee! Jest look at all them nice skiffs, will you? Ain’t we in luck
though? Never mind the scow. She’s done good work fur us, but we’ll
leave her behind now an’ travel like other white folks do. Old woman,
you go round to all them boats an’ pick up the grub what’s into ’em;
Jakey, you an’ Sam ketch up the poles an’ cookin’ things an’ every other
article you can get your two hands onto. Dump them that’ll sink into the
water an’ chuck them that won’t sink as fur into the bresh as you can,
so’t they won’t never find’ em no more. While you are doin’ that, I’ll
pick out two of the best boats fur our own.”

“Say, pap, what’s the reason we don’t carry off the things in place of
throwin’ on ’em away or sinkin’ ’em?” asked Jake.

“’Cause we can’t sell ’em, an’ we don’t want to be bothered with totin’
’em. You will save time if you do jest as I told you. We want to get
away from here as sudden as we can.”

“An’ what’ll we do with the boats that we don’t take with us?” continued
Jake. “Will we bust ’em up?”

“Now, jest listen at the fule!” exclaimed Matt, angrily. “The noise we
would make in bustin’ on ’em up would bring ole Swan back here a
runnin’; an’ I don’t care to see him with all them other fellers at his
back.”

The vagabonds worked with surprising celerity, and in a very short space
of time two of the finest boats in the lot had been pushed into the
water, and the old woman was piling provisions into them by the armful,
while Jake and Sam busied themselves in disposing of the other things as
their sire had directed. I was sent whirling through the air toward the
opposite side of the bay, and sad to relate, was stopped in my headlong
flight by a tree, against which I struck with a sounding whack. There
was a loud snap, and I fell to the ground helpless. My second joint was
broken close to the ferrule.

I lay for a long time where I had fallen—so long that I began to wonder
if I was to remain there until my ferrules were all rusted to pieces and
I became like the mold beneath me. I heard Matt and his family leave the
bay in the stolen boats. I knew when they forced their way through the
bushes into the creek, and was greatly astonished to know that they
turned down stream toward the pond, the direction in which their
pursuers would have to go when they returned to the hotel. But Matt, the
sly old fox, had reasoned with himself on this point before he adopted
these extraordinary tactics. It lacked only about half an hour of
night-fall, and Mr. Swan and his party would soon be obliged to go into
camp; while Matt knowing every crook and turn in the creek, could travel
as well in the dark as he could by daylight. Before the sun arose, he
would be miles away and among friends. If Mr. Swan took it for granted
that he had gone up instead of down stream, and went that way himself in
hope of being able to overtake him, it would give the squatter just so
much more time in which to make good his escape. It was a very neat
trick on Matt’s part.

At last, after a long interval of waiting, I heard voices and footsteps
on the other side of the bay. The birds having flown there was no need
of caution, and some of the returning party were talking in their
ordinary tones, while others were shouting back at their friends in the
rear. My acute sense of hearing told me when they came out of the
bushes, and I also caught the exclamations of rage and astonishment that
fell from their lips when they saw what had been done in the bay during
their brief absence. The guides were almost beside themselves with fury,
but the two city sportsmen laughed uproariously.

“We’re a pretty set, I must say,” I heard one of them exclaim. “If I
hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never should have believed that any
man living could play a trick like this upon us. Two of the best boats,
all the rods, provisions and dishes, as well as the frying-pans are
gone. I think we had better camp right where we are, start for home at
the first peep of day and never show our faces in the woods again.”

“Hallo! What’s this here?” cried one of the guides, who, for want of
something better to do, had stepped into the skiff and shoved out into
the bay. He looked down into the clear waters as he spoke, then seized
the boathook, and after a little maneuvering with it, brought one of the
frying-pans to light.

“And what’s that over there on the other side?” exclaimed the familiar
voice of Mr. Swan.

“Why, it’s my unlucky bait-rod, as sure as the world,” said Arthur
Hastings. “But he was lucky this time, wasn’t he? If he hadn’t lodged in
the friendly branches of that evergreen, I should have thought that Matt
Coyle had carried him off again.”

These unexpected discoveries led to a thorough examination of the bay
and of the bushes surrounding it, and the result was most satisfactory.
Before dark every single article that Jake and Sam had thrown away, had
been recovered. There was nothing missing now except the boats and the
provisions; but the loss of these things did not put the party to any
great inconvenience. There was an abundance of game in the woods, plenty
of fish to be had for the catching, and Matt’s scow could easily carry
the four men who had lost their skiffs.

But little more remains to be told. Mr. Swan and his party camped “right
where they were” that night, made an early start the next morning, and
reached Indian Lake on the afternoon of the following day. The chums
found their skiff in the best possible condition, and looking very nobby
in her new dress, by which I mean a fresh coat of paint. They gave it
another day in which to dry, then laid in a supply of provisions and
fearlessly turned their faces toward the wilderness; while the two city
sportsmen, thoroughly disgusted with their failure, and by the trick
that Matt had so neatly played upon them, set out for home declaring
that they would never visit Indian Lake again until their guns had been
restored to them, and the man who stole them was safely lodged in jail.

During the next few days I had nothing to do but make myself miserable
while the other rods caught the fish that were served up three times a
day until the boys grew tired of them. I was glad when Joe said that it
was time to start for home, but sorry for the disappointment he met when
he got there. Uncle Joe, who was to have taken them upon an extended
tour, “either East or West, they didn’t know which,” had suddenly been
called away on important business, and the probabilities were that if
they took their contemplated trip at all it would not be until near the
end of the vacation; and then it would have to be a very short one. But
Joe didn’t get sulky, as some boys would have done under like
circumstances. He wrote to his uncle, found out when he was coming home,
and suggested an immediate return to Indian Lake. Arthur and Roy were
delighted with the proposal, and I was at once given into the hands of a
skilled mechanic, who in two days’ time mended my broken joint so neatly
that no one could tell, even with the closest scrutiny, that there had
ever been any thing the matter with it. Joe came after me on the
afternoon of the second day, and when he carried me to his room and
stood me in the corner where I was to stay until something that he
called “ferrule cement” had had time to harden, whom should I see but my
old friend, the canvas canoe, occupying his usual place in the recess,
and looking none the worse for his forced sojourn among the Indian Lake
vagabonds.

“Well, I swan to man!” I exclaimed, unconsciously making use of an
expression which I had heard so often that I had become quite familiar
with it. “How in the name of all that’s wonderful did you get back?”

“Glad to see you, old fellow,” replied the canoe, in his jolly, hearty
fashion, “but sorry to hear that you got crippled. Where have you been?”

“Just got back from the doctor’s shop. I am all right again, or shall be
in a few days. When and how did you return?”

“Came yesterday. Mr. Swan brought me. Found me hidden under a pile of
brush, not more than twenty feet from the place where he and his party
stood when they burned the squatter’s shanty. I saw and heard every
thing that happened there.”

“Well, tell us all about it. I know you must have had some adventures
during your absence.”

“Indeed I have; and I have brought a heavy load of anxiety back with me.
How I wish I could warn Joe and his chums! The threats I heard made
against them were enough to make even a canvas canoe shudder.”

With these preliminary remarks the canoe settled himself for an
all-night’s task. I have not space enough in this book to repeat what he
said, and besides, the narrative of my exploits, which so far are
neither many nor brilliant I confess, is ended for the time being; so I
will gladly step aside and give place to my accommodating friend, who is
a more experienced story-teller than myself, and who, in the second
volume of this series, will describe many interesting and some exciting
incidents which happened during his captivity. His story will be
entitled: THE ADVENTURES OF A CANVAS CANOE.


                                THE END.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           J. T. TROWBRIDGE.


Neither as a writer does he stand apart from the great currents of life
and select some exceptional phase or odd combination of circumstances.
He stands on the common level and appeals to the universal heart, and
all that he suggests or achieves is on the plane and in the line of
march of the great body of humanity.

The Jack Hazard series of stories, published in the late _Our Young
Folks_, and continued in the first volume of _St. Nicholas_, under the
title of “Fast Friends,” is no doubt destined to hold a high place in
this class of literature. The delight of the boys in them (and of their
seniors, too) is well founded. They go to the right spot every time.
Trowbridge knows the heart of a boy like a book, and the heart of a man,
too, and he has laid them both open in these books in a most successful
manner. Apart from the qualities that render the series so attractive to
all young readers, they have great value on account of their
portraitures of American country life and character. The drawing is
wonderfully accurate, and as spirited as it is true. The constable,
Sellick, is an original character, and as minor figures where will we
find anything better than Miss Wansey, and Mr. P. Pipkin, Esq. The
picture of Mr. Dink’s school, too, is capital, and where else in fiction
is there a better nick-name than that the boys gave to poor little
Stephen Treadwell, “Step Hen,” as he himself pronounced his name in an
unfortunate moment when he saw it in print for the first time in his
lesson in school.

On the whole, these books are very satisfactory, and afford the critical
reader the rare pleasure of the works that are just adequate, that
easily fulfill themselves and accomplish all they set out to
do.—_Scribner’s Monthly._


                           JACK HAZARD SERIES

              6 vols.      BY J. T. TROWBRIDGE.      $7.25

          Jack Hazard and His Fortunes.
          The Young Surveyor.
          Fast Friends.
          Doing His Best.
          A Chance for Himself.
          Lawrence’s Adventures.

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                          Transcriber’s Notes

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Printer, punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

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