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Title: Teddy and the Mystery Deer
Author: Howard Roger Garis (1873-1962)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: A lithe, tawny body sprang over Teddy.

“_Teddy and the Mystery Deer_” (See Page 21)]



_THE TEDDY SERIES_

    TEDDY AND
    THE MYSTERY
    DEER

    by
    HOWARD R. GARIS

    Author of “Teddy and the Mystery Parrot,” “Teddy
    and the Mystery Pony,” The “Buddy” Books, “The
    Curlytops,” “Uncle Wiggily” Books, etc.

    ILLUSTRATED

    CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
    PUBLISHERS · · · NEW YORK



THE TEDDY BOOKS

_By_ Howard R. Garis

_Mystery Stories of Boys and Animals_

    TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY DOG
    TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY MONKEY
    TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY CAT
    TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY PARROT
    TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY PONY
    TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY DEER

_Other Titles in Preparation_

    CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY
    PUBLISHERS  · · ·  NEW YORK



    Copyright, 1940, by
    Cupples & Leon Co.

    TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY DEER

    PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

        I.  LOST                       1
       II.  FOUND                     13
      III.  MYSTERY DEER              21
       IV.  MORE MYSTERY              29
        V.  THE MYSTERY CLUB          38
       VI.  FATTY NOLAN               48
      VII.  MRS. TRADDLE’S GARDEN     58
     VIII.  THE LASSO MAN             68
       IX.  TEDDY IS LASSOED          78
        X.  THE PICNIC LUNCH          86
       XI.  HEEL PLATE CLUE           96
      XII.  THE TRAP                 106
     XIII.  SETTING THE TRAP         116
      XIV.  A CAPTIVE                127
       XV.  ESCAPE                   136
      XVI.  TEDDY IS UPSET           146
     XVII.  ON THE DEER’S TRAIL      156
    XVIII.  WRONG NUMBER             163
      XIX.  NIGHT CAMP               173
       XX.  NIGHT ALARM              187
      XXI.  CAUGHT                   195



PUBLISHER’S NOTE


The type in which this book and others of the same series is set is
especially designed to conform to the type in the school books which
are used by boys and girls of the age to which these stories appeal.
The size of the letters, the arrangement of the words on the pages and
the general construction is intended, as nearly as possible, to be an
aid to the reading work of public and private schools.



TEDDY AND THE MYSTERY DEER

CHAPTER I

LOST


Teddy Benson gave a final twist to the propeller of his toy, model
airplane.

“Better not make it too tight,” suggested his chum, Dick Kelly.

“Why not?” Teddy asked, looking up as he slipped on the catch so the
propeller might not start revolving before he was ready.

“You might break the rubber bands,” Dick explained.

“Oh, I guess they’ll take it,” answered the little lad who straightened
up and wet a finger in his mouth.

“How is it?” asked Dick.

You might have thought he was inquiring how Teddy liked the taste of
his finger. But anyone who has flown model airplanes could tell that
Teddy was just testing the wind.

“It’s blowing almost directly east,” Teddy answered.

“Then Mason’s meadow will be the place to have the test,” suggested
Dick. “There’s plenty of room there.”

“Yes,” Teddy agreed, “if we start on the far side--away from the woods.
Can’t start in the middle of the meadow.”

“Why not?” asked Dick.

He did not glance up at his chum. Dick, who was short and rather stout,
was twisting the propeller blades of his own toy plane. He was winding
the rubber bands which, when they untwisted, would serve as the motor
of the little craft. “Why can’t we begin the race in the middle of the
meadow, Teddy? That’s the clearest place.”

“Well, if you want your plane to shoot over in the woods, and maybe get
lost, let it go from the middle of Mason’s meadow,” said Teddy. He
tested the rudders of his craft.

Dick, who had put the clamp on his rubber engine, looked up to laugh as
he said:

“Say, Teddy, you don’t think, that these planes of ours will fly from
the middle of Mason’s meadow away over to the woods on the far side, do
you?”

“I don’t know about your plane, but mine will,” stated Teddy
confidently. “I’m not so sure,” he went on, as he carefully tested the
tautness of the stretched rubber bands, “I’m not so sure but what we
had better go down to the lake beach. There’s a longer stretch to fly
from down there. But of course the wind is wrong. The planes would have
to go over the water.”

“And since mine doesn’t happen to be a hydroplane, I’m not for that,”
declared Dick. “But you make me laugh when you say your plane will go
all the way across Mason’s meadow and into the woods.”

“I don’t want my plane to go into the woods,” spoke Teddy calmly. “But
I’m pretty sure it will if I let it have all the power I can give it. I
didn’t wind it up as tight as I could.”

“Well, if your plane is as good as you think it is, why don’t you enter
it in the races for the Johnson cup?” asked Dick.

“Maybe I will,” Teddy answered as he made another adjustment to his
craft’s rudders.

“Say, don’t you know that only the very best planes go in that contest
this September?” asked Dick. “Your little one wouldn’t have a chance!”

“Maybe it would,” spoke Teddy. “We’ll know more after we have our own
little race today down in Mason’s meadow. Did you see anything of Joe?”

“I passed his house on my way here,” Dick answered. “He was doing
something to his plane and said he’d be right over. We can wait. I’ve
got to fix my rudder a little.”

“And I think I’ll take off one of my rubber bands and put on another,”
Teddy remarked. “One of ’em looks a little bit frayed. I don’t want my
plane to slow up.”

“You want it to go all the way to the woods, I suppose,” laughed Dick.

“Oh, it’ll go there. Maybe yours will, too,” said Teddy. “The wind is
getting stronger,” he added. Again he wet his finger and held it up as
a test. “It’s going to be a strong tail wind,” he went on. “I wouldn’t
be surprised if all three of our planes got to the edge of the woods,
anyhow.”

“You have a pretty good opinion of our planes,” chuckled Dick.

“Why not?” Teddy asked as he let his propeller slowly unwind. He wanted
to take the tension off the rubber bands in order to insert a new one.

Dick did not answer his chum. But he looked up long enough to say:
“Here comes Joe!”

“Good!” exclaimed Teddy. “Now we can have the race. Hurry, Joe!” he
shouted. “The wind’s just right and it’s getting stronger. Hurry!”

“Coming!” answered Joe Denton.

The three chums were soon busy making final adjustments to their toy
planes in the yard of Teddy Benson’s home. Most of the activities
of the three centered around Teddy’s home. He was the leader of his
crowd, always the first to propose something new. He had done it when
he suggested they have a race of their model planes. The boys had been
making model planes for some time.

At first they made only small ones, which were launched by being tossed
into the air. These planes went only a short distance.

The next planes the boys made had rubber bands for motors. At first,
they attached only a few, small rubbers to the propeller of their
craft. These bands, when twisted, would unravel, whirl the propeller
and send the planes flying.

Step by step the three chums had advanced until they now had planes
with quite powerful rubber “motors,” if such they could be called. The
“motors” of course, were just rubber bands or cords.

“Some day,” Teddy had declared, “we’ll get real miniature gasoline
motors for our planes. Then they’ll fly miles and miles before they
come down.”

“And we’ll have to walk after ’em to bring ’em back,” sighed Dick. He
was too stout to care for much walking.

“Golly, it would be fun to have a gas motor model plane,” remarked Joe
Denton as he put the final touches on his rubber-motored one. “They
have some dandy ones in the Johnson cup races,” he added.

“Yes, and they have good prizes for rubber-motored planes,” announced
Teddy. “Well, if you fellows are ready, let’s go to Mason’s meadow and
see whose plane can fly farthest.”

“I guess you think yours can,” laughed Dick.

“Well, I’m not saying anything,” Teddy modestly remarked.

“No, but you’re doing a lot of thinking,” said Joe. “I know my plane
won’t win,” he sighed. “There’s something wrong with it, I guess.”

“Maybe we can find out what it is in this race,” Teddy suggested, “and
fix it.”

“Maybe,” agreed Joe, ruffling his red hair.

As the three chums started from Teddy’s yard, carefully carrying their
model planes, Lucy Benson came to the kitchen door.

“Where are you going?” she asked. “May I come?”

“No, you can’t,” Teddy answered. “Sorry,” he added as he saw the look
of disappointment on his sister’s face. “But we’re going to fly our
planes and we don’t want any girls.”

“One of our planes might get tangled in your hair,” said Dick.

“Oh, is that so?” snapped Lucy. “And one of ’em might get lost, too!
Then maybe you’ll be glad to have me help hunt it like I did the time
Teddy’s plane was lost before. I found it then.”

“Did she?” asked Joe, looking at Lucy. Her cheeks were flushed because
of a little excitement.

“Yes, she did--sort of,” Teddy rather grudgingly admitted.

“Oh, Teddy Benson!” exclaimed his sister, stamping her foot on the back
porch. “How can you talk that way? You know I found your lost plane all
by myself--in the woods.”

“Well, there aren’t going to be any lost planes today,” said Teddy. “So
you can’t come. Sorry. Come on, fellows!” he added. “The wind may die
out.”

The three boys hurried to Mason’s meadow. Lucy, left behind, looked
after them a moment. Then she said:

“I’ll go get Margie Kelly. We can go to Mason’s meadow if we want to.
There’s no fence around it.”

Lucy hurried to the home of her chum, Dick’s sister. The three boys
were soon at the meadow. On the far side was a patch of woods. Pointing
to this Dick said to Joe:

“Teddy expects his plane to fly there.”

“I don’t expect it,” Teddy said. “But it might. Come on now. Get ready.
The plane that goes the farthest wins the race.”

“And what’s the prize?” asked Joe.

“The loser has to treat him and the other fellow to ice cream,” Teddy
decided.

“That means I’ve got to treat,” sighed Joe. “Well, let’s go!”

The rubber motors were wound up. The boys held their planes poised for
a start. They stood with their backs to the wind, on the edge of the
meadow farthest from the woods.

“All ready?” Teddy called.

“All ready!” his chums answered.

“Let go!”

The three little planes were launched into the air.

For a short distance all three were about even. Then Teddy’s began
pulling ahead. Close behind it was Dick’s. Joe’s plane was lagging and
soon began to descend.

“I might have known it!” sighed the red-haired lad. “I’ll buy the ice
cream.”

Teddy and Dick did not answer. They were running after their planes.
Then, Dick’s began to falter. Teddy’s was sailing on full and fast. It
rose on a long slant.

“Say! I believe Teddy’s plane will reach the woods!” cried Joe. He had
picked up his craft from the grass.

“Well, it’s going better than I thought it would,” Dick had to admit.

Then came a puff of wind. That and the power in Teddy’s plane sent it
more swiftly toward the woods. Dick’s plane, having reached the limit
of its flight, began coming down.

“Teddy wins!” cried Joe.

“Yes! But look! His plane is sailing right into the woods!” cried Dick.
“You’ve done it, Teddy! I didn’t think you could, but you did. There
goes your plane into the woods!”

“I wish it hadn’t!” cried Teddy, running after it.

“Why?” asked Joe.

“Because I think it will be lost. It went in the woods right near that
deep gully. I guess my plane is lost, fellows!”



CHAPTER II

FOUND


Reaching an open glade in the meadow, where the grass was shorter
than in other places, Dick and Joe put down the planes they had been
carrying.

“I guess they’ll be all right,” said Dick.

“Why are you leaving your planes there?” asked Teddy, looking back over
his shoulder as he headed toward the gully in the woods.

“So they won’t get all banged up on trees and bushes when we help you
hunt for yours,” Joe answered.

“If we carried them through the woods there wouldn’t be much left of
’em,” added Dick.

“That’s so,” Teddy agreed. “We may have to dodge into some tough
places, looking for my lost plane. It’s swell of you fellows to come
and help me,” he added.

“As if we wouldn’t!” exclaimed Dick.

“Fine chums we’d be if we didn’t,” added Joe. “Well, Teddy, you won the
race.”

“But I didn’t expect my plane to go so far,” said the tall lad. “It’s
got a dandy motor. I hope I can find it.”

“Oh, we’ll find it!” declared Dick. Yet as he and the two other boys
looked at the thick woods they began to have feelings of doubt.
The place where Teddy’s plane had disappeared amid the trees was a
particularly dense part of the forest.

While the three are starting their search for the lost plane, a moment
may be taken to let our new readers know something about Teddy Benson
who has had many mysterious adventures. Now he was about to have
another.

The first book of this series, “Teddy and The Mystery Dog” introduces
our young hero. He and his sister and chums had many strange
experiences with a certain dog. Later they were involved in a mystery
about a monkey, a cat, a parrot and a pony.

Teddy and his chums lived in the small city of Oakdale, near Hemlock
River. There was a small lake nearby. The boys had many good times on
the river and lake, or in the country near these bits of water.

Summer had come, the long vacation from school was at hand and one
of the first bits of fun Teddy and his chums started was the model
airplane race. They planned to have others if the first was successful.

“But if I don’t find my plane I guess I won’t go in any more races,”
Teddy said somewhat gloomily. He was leading his chums into the woods.

“Can’t you build another?” asked Dick.

“Oh, I guess so,” Teddy replied. “I plan to, of course, if I get into
the gas motor class. But first I want to find this dandy little plane
that’s lost. I wish I hadn’t wound those rubber bands so tight.”

“Still, you know what your plane can do when it has to,” comforted Dick.

“I never saw a better flight,” added Joe. “I thought for a while it was
going to soar right over the woods.”

“I wish it had,” murmured Teddy. “Then it wouldn’t be down in the
gully.”

“Are you sure it’s there?” asked Joe.

“Can’t tell,” Teddy replied. “We’ll have to scout around and look.
Say,” he went on as the three boys were fairly within the woods,
“this is going to be pretty tough going. I shouldn’t make you fellows
scramble through this underbrush with me to search for my lost plane.”

“Forget it!” advised Joe.

“That’s what we’re here for,” declared Dick.

The woods adjoining Mason’s meadow, owned by the same man, were dense
and dark. Tall pines and other evergreen trees made the forest dark on
even a bright, sunny day. The woods were not on level ground, as was
the grassy plain. Part of the patch where the trees and brush grew was
level enough. But beyond that area the woods sloped down quite a hill
and a section of the woodlot lay in a deep ravine or gully.

“It’s a good distance down there and a good distance back,” remarked
Teddy as he and his chums reached the edge of the ravine and looked
into it as far as their sight could penetrate through the gloom.

“We can make it,” declared Joe. “I’ve often gone down steeper places
than this when I was out scouting.”

“It isn’t going down that counts,” said Dick with a sigh. “It’s the
climb up that’s hard work.”

“It’ll work off some of your fat!” chuckled Joe, taking care to be
beyond the range of Dick’s fists.

“Oh, is that so?” snapped the stout lad. “Well, I’ll show you two I’m
as good a gully climber as either of you. But are you sure your plane
came in here, Teddy?”

“Quite sure, yes. I marked it by that lightning-struck oak tree on the
edge of the wood. The plane went in right there.”

“Do you think it could go far, with all these trees to dodge?” Dick
asked. “I mean wouldn’t it crack-up against one of ’em?”

“It might,” Teddy agreed. “But if my good luck holds, it might just
buzz in and out among the trees. Then it would come down in the gully.
I think the motor would be about run down if the plane got this far,”
he said. He came to a stop in a little glade on the edge of the ravine.
The ground was covered with a soft carpet of pine needles.

“Makes a good landing field,” commented Joe as he brushed a pile of
needles together with a motion of his foot.

“Just like coming down on a spring bed,” declared Dick. He threw
himself on the ground with a soft thud.

“Well, let’s have a look around,” suggested Joe. “If your plane is
here, Teddy, it ought to be easy to spot it with the white wings and
fusilage.”

“Yes, it’ll show up well against all this darkness,” agreed Dick. “Now
let’s spread out a bit and look.”

“Take it easy going down into the gully,” advised Teddy. “If any of us
slip we might get a bad fall.”

Foot by foot the boys advanced deeper into the woods. Darkness slowly
hemmed them in. The trees were thicker now. The boys looked down into
the ravine at the foot of which raced a murmuring stream.

Suddenly Dick clutched Teddy’s arm and exclaimed:

“There! Isn’t that your plane? That white thing?”

“Where?” asked Teddy.

“Right near that big rock. Look! Sure! That’s your plane!”

“By golly! So it is!” cried Teddy in delight, “I’ve found it and not
far down in the gully, either. Hurray!”

He started toward the toy plane. But before he and the boys who were
following him could reach it, they were startled by a loud snorting
noise.

Then some animal, with large ears and an upraised tail, sprang from
behind the rock and made straight for Teddy Benson.

“Look out!” yelled Dick. “Look out!”



CHAPTER III

MYSTERY DEER


Teddy Benson ducked just in time. Warned by Dick’s cry, the young lad
stooped down so quickly that he sprawled on the pine needles that
covered the hard earth.

A moment later a lithe, tawny body sprang over Teddy, rushed between
Joe and Dick and was lost to sight in the darkness of the small forest.

For a moment after this strange happening, neither of the chums did or
said anything. Then Teddy, who scrambled to his feet, asked his friends:

“Did you see what I saw?”

“I saw something--some animal,” replied Joe. “But it went past me so
fast--like your airplane, Teddy--that I don’t know whether it was a dog
or a calf.”

“It wasn’t a dog,” declared Dick.

“How do you know?” asked Joe.

“Because if it was a dog it would have barked. And it wasn’t a calf.”

“How do you know that?” Teddy asked.

“If it was a calf,” reasoned Dick, “it would have bleated. Besides,
what would a farmer’s calf be doing in these woods?”

“I guess you’re right there,” Teddy agreed. “Of course, a farmer’s calf
could have strayed into these woods. But it ran too fast for a calf.”

“And it jumped better than any calf I ever saw,” reported Dick. “Why,
it jumped right over you, Teddy.”

“Yes, I saw that. I also saw something else.”

“What?” his two chums wanted to know.

Teddy Benson arose and brushed the dry, brown pine-needles off
his clothes. Then he looked back into the gully and made sure his
white-winged airplane was still in sight. It was so Teddy went on:

“I saw some horns and they weren’t the kind of horns a calf wears. They
were quite different--branching horns, you know.”

“Like what?” asked Joe.

“Like the horns of a deer,” Teddy answered. “Fellows, I think what
scared us was a deer.”

“Scared? Who’s scared?” asked Dick.

“Weren’t you?” asked Teddy. “I was. And from the way you and Joe
ducked, I’ll say you were scared, too.”

“Well, I was for a second, I guess,” admitted Dick. “At first, I
thought it was a bobcat.”

“What would a lynx be doing in Mason’s woods?” asked Joe. “No one ever
saw a wild animal in here.”

“Then what does Teddy mean by talking about a deer?” asked Dick. “Now I
come to think of it, that animal did look something like a deer. It ran
and jumped fast enough to be a deer, anyhow. But what would a deer be
doing in Mason’s woods?”

“That’s what we have to find out,” Teddy said.

“You mean it might be another of those--those _mysteries_?” asked Joe.

“It might,” admitted Teddy. “Anyhow, isn’t it queer that we should meet
a deer here.”

“I guess that deer--if it was a deer,” said Dick, “was as scared as we
were. It ran like a streak of light. Must have been lying down back of
that big rock where Teddy’s airplane is. And when we started down it
caught our scent, got scared and leaped up to run away.”

“The question is, where did it run?” asked Joe, looking off through the
dark woods. “It isn’t in sight.”

“Maybe we can trail it,” suggested Teddy. “But first I’m going to get
my plane. Then we can look for the deer. If we don’t find it, so much
the more mystery.”

“And if we find it the mystery will be solved,” said Joe.

“Maybe not,” spoke Teddy. “I don’t see how a deer got in these woods.
It might have escaped from a circus. But, as a rule, they don’t carry
deer in a circus. They aren’t strange enough animals. And nobody around
here keeps deer that I know of.”

The other boys admitted they knew of no deer paddock in Oakdale whence
the deer might have escaped. The appearance of the deer was a complete
mystery.

“But it comes at just the right time,” Teddy remarked. “We haven’t any
school. We can spend the whole summer solving the deer mystery.”

“Unless your folks go away,” said Joe.

“I don’t believe we’re going away this year,” Teddy said. “My father
has to make a business trip and my mother doesn’t feel like going to
the country or seashore. So we may stay home. Or maybe we might go away
in August.”

“That’s what our folks are planning to do,” said Joe.

“And my mother says she can’t afford to go away,” spoke Dick. “So we’re
going to stay home.” Dick’s mother was a widow.

“Well, this is just fine and dandy then,” declared Teddy. “We are all
going to be around Oakdale most of the summer. So we can have plenty of
time to solve the mystery.”

“If there is one,” commented Joe.

“Don’t you call meeting a leaping deer, with horns, in a wood where no
deer has been seen since Indian days--don’t you call that a mystery?”
asked Dick.

“Yes, I guess I do,” admitted Joe.

“It sure is,” agreed Teddy. “And as soon as I get my plane we’ll have a
start at solving the mystery.”

He left his chums to walk a short distance down the first slope of the
gully to where the toy model lay at the foot of a great rock.

“Good thing it didn’t smash into the rock,” commented Joe.

“Sure is,” assented Dick.

The two watched Teddy reach his toy and stoop to pick it up. The tall
lad examined his model carefully and Joe called:

“Is it damaged any?”

“One propeller blade is chipped a bit,” Teddy answered. “Otherwise it’s
all right. I’m lucky.”

“As usual,” chuckled Joe. “Just like now, when the mystery deer jumped
over you instead of through you. Well, come on. Let’s get back and pick
up our planes. We can have another race tomorrow. I’m going to put a
bigger propeller on my model.”

“I’m going to use more rubber bands,” declared Dick. “See any more deer
or other wild animals back of that rock, Teddy?”

“No, there are no more here. But that deer was resting here. He had a
bed in the leaves. I’d like to know more about him.”

As Teddy walked up the little incline from the edge of the gully,
carrying his plane, there came to his ears and those of his chums the
shrill screams of girls.

“Help! Help!” cried the voices which Teddy and his chums knew to be
those of Lucy Benson and Margie Kelly.



CHAPTER IV

MORE MYSTERY


When Lucy Benson’s brother told her she couldn’t watch him and his
chums race their toy, model airplanes, the little girl felt sad for a
few moments. Then her spirits rose as she said to herself determinedly:

“I don’t care! I’ve got just as good a right in Mason’s meadow as Teddy
Benson, Dick Kelly or Joe Denton. And I’m going there! I’ll take Margie
with me.”

A little later, while Teddy and his chums were on their way to the deer
mystery, Lucy hurried into the yard of the Kelly home. Mrs. Kelly saw
her from a side window.

“Is Margie home, Mrs. Kelly?” asked Lucy.

“I think she is, my dear. She was just going over to your house but I
think she is still up in her room. You may go right upstairs.”

The Benson and Kelly families visited back and forth as if they were
relatives more than friends. So Lucy hurried into the house, calling:

“Margie! Where are you?”

“Just getting ready to come over to your house, Lucy. Come on up. I’ll
be ready as soon as I tie a new ribbon on my hair.”

Lucy hurried into Margie’s room. There was something in the haste and
manner of Lucy that caused Margie to stop and ask:

“What’s the matter? Has anything happened?”

“Teddy wouldn’t let me come to watch him, Joe and Dick fly their
planes,” Lucy reported. “But I’m going anyhow. And if the planes won’t
fly--and I don’t believe they will--we can have the laugh on them.”

“We, Lucy?”

“Sure. You’ll come with me, won’t you?”

“I guess so. Where is it?”

“Down in Mason’s meadow. We haven’t anything to do so we might as well
go there as any place else, don’t you think?”

“Of course. Won’t the boys be surprised?”

“Well--maybe,” said Lucy slowly. “I think Teddy sort of suspects I’ll
follow him. But I don’t care. I’ve got a right to.”

“Of course we have,” agreed Margie. “They can’t keep us out of Mason’s
meadow.”

So the two girls hurried toward the same field where, a little while
before, Teddy and his chums had started to fly their planes. On the way
the girls decided to stop in the candy store kept by old Mrs. Traddle.

“I’ve got part of my allowance left,” said Lucy. “I’ll treat you,
Margie.”

“Oh, that’s lovely. Next time I’ll treat you. But let’s save some of
the candy for the boys.”

“What! Give them candy after they wouldn’t let us come to see them fly
their planes? I should say not!”

“Oh, I don’t mean give them any candy,” explained Margie with a laugh.
“But we’ll save some to eat in the meadow after we get there. And when
the boys see us eating candy--”

“Oh, I see what you mean!” laughed Lucy. “Sure, we’ll do that. It will
make them wish they’d invited us. What do you like best, jelly beans or
gum drops?”

“I like both. But you get more jelly beans for a nickel than you do gum
drops. Gum drops are expensive.”

“We’ll get some of each,” decided Lucy.

Now it wasn’t as easy to buy candy at the store of old Mrs. Traddle as
it might seem. For one thing Mrs. Traddle was very deaf but she never
would admit it. She thought her hearing was fine. So the boys and
girls, after finding out that if they asked for chocolate drops often
were handed lollypops, had gotten into the habit of pointing out in the
show case what candy they wanted.

But this time Lucy, being in somewhat of a hurry, forgot, for the
moment, that Mrs. Traddle was deaf. So, going into the store, Lucy said:

“I want five cents worth of jelly beans and gum drops, mixed, please.”

“Oh, yes, there is quite a breeze today,” said Mrs. Traddle, as she
pulled her spectacles down off the top of her head to where they could
sit on her nose and be in front of her eyes. “A very good breeze
indeed. How many sticks did you say, my dear?”

“I didn’t say STICKS,” spoke Lucy. “I said I wanted my candy MIXED,
Mrs. Traddle. Gum drops and jelly beans.”

“Why, of course I have screens in here, Lucy,” said Mrs. Traddle. “How
else could I keep out the flies? Screens? I should say so. Flies are
dreadful around a candy shop. Now tell me what kind you want and I’ll
wait on you. But please hurry. I have a cake in the oven.”

Mrs. Traddle glanced back toward the living rooms in the rear of her
little candy shop. Now Margie thought she would try. So, raising her
voice, she said:

“We want jelly beans and gum drops!”

“Yes, it is pretty good weather for crops,” agreed Mrs. Traddle. “We
could do with a mite more of rain, though. But, in general, as you say,
crops are good. Now did you want some candy?”

The two girls looked at each other helplessly. Then Lucy did what she
should have done at first. She pointed to the glass dish of jelly beans
and to the one containing gum drops. Then she put her five-cent piece
on the top of the show case and made a mixing motion with her hands.

“Oh, of course! Why didn’t you say so at first?” asked Mrs. Traddle,
somewhat peevishly. “Children come in here talking about fly screens
and crops and don’t seem to know what they want. Jelly beans and gum
drops, of course. Mix them up. Certainly. Your motion, Lucy, reminds
me I mixed up a cake and it’s in the oven now. I’ll have to hurry and
take it out. Here’s your candy.”

Whether it was because she liked the two little girls or because she
was in a hurry, Mrs. Traddle gave Lucy a very generous five cents’
worth of candy and the two girls went out of the store rejoicing.

The girls ate part of the candy on their way to Mason’s meadow. They
saved some with which to make the boys envious. In a short time they
were at the field. But they saw no signs of Teddy, Dick or Joe.

“Maybe they’ve been here and gone,” said Margie.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Lucy. “It takes quite a while to wind up
those rubber band motors. Maybe they’re over by the woods. Come on!”

The girls hurried across the field and, in a short time, came to the
place where Joe and Dick had left their airplanes to follow Teddy into
the gully.

“Oh, look!” exclaimed Margie. “Here’s my brother’s plane!”

“Then the other must be Joe’s,” said Lucy. “For it isn’t Teddy’s.”

“How do you suppose the planes got here?” asked Margie.

“Why,” said Lucy, considering, “I guess the boys flew them and the
planes came down and the boys couldn’t find them. But we have. And we
can take the planes home and won’t the boys be surprised?”

“I should say so!” exclaimed Margie. “But where is Teddy and his plane?”

“Maybe his flew another way, and he and Joe and Dick are hunting for
it,” suggested Lucy. “Anyhow, we have found two of the planes and we’ll
take them home with us. When the boys are feeling sorry that they have
lost them, we’ll give them back.”

“Oh, what fun!” laughed Margie.

The two girls each picked up one of the toy planes and were starting to
walk back across the meadow when Margie exclaimed:

“Hark! Did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Lucy asked.

“That noise.”

“What sort of a noise?” asked Lucy.

“A--a sort of a--a whoofing noise!” whispered Margie. “It seemed to
come from those bushes near the edge of the wood. Listen! There it is
again!”

Lucy heard a noise and said:

“It was more like a cow snorting than a whoofing noise.”

“Well, maybe it was a cow,” admitted Margie. “Anyhow it was a noise
and--oh, look, Lucy! It’s coming for us--that noise. Oh, it’s a wild
cow--or something. Run! Run!”

Lucy gave one look and then, holding tightly to Joe’s plane as Margie
was carrying Dick’s, the two girls turned and ran as fast as they could
crying:

“Help! Help!”



CHAPTER V

THE MYSTERY CLUB


Though Margie and Lucy ran fast, carrying the toy planes, they had a
chance to look back to see what had frightened them. They both looked
at the same time and Margie said:

“It isn’t a cow that’s chasing us.”

“No, it isn’t a cow,” Lucy agreed. “It hasn’t the horns of a cow. It
looks more like a reindeer.”

“Reindeers only come around Christmas time--if you believe in them,”
said Margie. “Besides, there wouldn’t be reindeers down here--only up
at the North Pole.”

“Well, anyhow, it’s coming after us, whatever it is,” added Margie.
“Come on! Run fast!”

“Oh, why doesn’t somebody help us?” cried Lucy. “Go on back, you old
scarecrow you!” she shouted.

“It isn’t a scarecrow, whatever else it is,” said Margie.

“I know it isn’t,” Lucy admitted. “But I couldn’t think of anything
else to call it. Oh, goodie! Here’s the fence. Now we can crawl under
and be safe.”

The girls reached a fence at one corner of Mason’s meadow and lost no
time in crawling below the first rail. They pushed their brothers’
airplanes through the fence ahead of them.

The grass was long and green at the place where Margie and Lucy had
crawled under the fence. And, noting as they were on their hands and
knees, that the grass was above their heads, Margie said:

“Why not stay here?”

“Stay here?” exclaimed Lucy.

“Yes. We can hide here in the long grass until that animal has gone
away. It can’t see us if we hide in the grass.”

Lucy thought that was a fine idea. So the girls stretched out in the
fragrant clover and timothy grass that would soon be hay. It was quiet
and restful there and they felt sure the animal that had frightened
them could not see them.

“But I wish the boys would come,” said Margie.

“Maybe they will,” added Lucy.

Teddy Benson and his two chums lost no time hurrying out of the woods
after they had found Teddy’s lost plane. The frightened cries of the
girls hastened their steps.

“That was Margie’s voice,” decided Dick. “My sister always yells that
way when she’s frightened.”

“So does Lucy,” said Teddy.

“But what could have frightened them?” asked Joe Denton. “The voices
sounded as if they came from the meadow. And we crossed the meadow a
little while ago and there was nothing there.”

“Unless it was that mysterious deer,” spoke Teddy.

“But the deer didn’t run out toward the meadow,” objected Joe. “We saw
it go back down in the gully.”

“You can’t tell which way a deer will go,” Teddy declared. “They can
swing around and double on their trail and do all sorts of queer
things. Especially if they think somebody is after them.”

“Well, we weren’t after this deer,” laughed Dick. “It was more like he
was after us.”

“Anyhow we have to go see what scared the girls,” decided Teddy. He
held fast to his model plane, which, he was glad to note, did not
appear to be much damaged. He and his chums hurried out of the woods
into the open meadow.

“Nobody here,” announced Dick who was the first to reach it.

“Not a sign of the girls,” added Joe.

“Nor the deer, either,” said Teddy. “Maybe it was a false alarm.”

“But we heard the girls scream,” said Joe. “And we saw a deer. There’s
something funny about it all. We’d better have a look around. But first
I’m going to get my plane.”

“So am I,” said Dick.

The boys had noted the place where they had left the two toy model
planes. But when they reached the spot of course the planes were gone.
At first, Teddy and his chums thought perhaps they had mistaken the
place. They cast about, searching in the grass, but no planes were to
be found.

“But this is the place where we left them,” insisted Joe.

“How can you tell?” Teddy wanted to know.

“Here’s a piece of paper with my name on it,” Joe answered. He picked
it up out of the tall grass. “I put the paper, with my name and address
on it, on my plane,” he added. “That was in case it flew a long way
and I couldn’t trace it. The paper says that whoever sends me word of
finding my plane will get a dollar.”

“Say, that’s a good idea!” exclaimed Teddy. “I’m going to do that to my
plane.”

“So will I,” decided Dick. “But how did the paper get here when the two
planes are gone?”

“I took the paper off after I found my plane,” explained Joe. “There
wasn’t any need of it on the plane just now. I thought I put the paper
in my pocket but it must have fallen on the ground. But, anyhow, it
shows this is the place where we left our planes, Dick, doesn’t it?”

“Sure does. But where are the planes?”

“Somebody’s been here and has taken them,” Teddy said. “You would have
done better to have left the paper on, Joe.”

“Maybe,” Joe admitted. “This sure is queer. I say, fellows, look at
this!” he cried as he pointed to a place where there was a bare spot
in the meadow. Scarcely any grass grew there and in the brown earth
Dick and Teddy saw some peculiar marks.

“What are they?” asked Dick.

“Hoof marks of that deer!” exclaimed Teddy as he got down on one knee
to take a better look. “That deer has been here and not long ago. The
marks are fresh.”

“And the girls have been here, too!” declared Joe.

“How can you tell?” Dick wanted to know.

Joe pointed to some footprints. There were two sets of them. He bent
down to examine them more closely.

“They’re small footprints,” went on Joe, “about the size of the feet of
Margie and Lucy. Of course, other girls could have made these marks,”
he admitted. “But when we know we heard Margie and Lucy yelling for
help and find footprints of girls’ shoes here why, it’s pretty certain
Margie and Lucy were here.”

“I think so, too,” admitted Teddy. “The question is where are the girls
now?”

“And where are our planes?” asked Joe.

“And where is the deer?” added Dick. “Gosh, we’ve got three mysteries
here instead of one, I guess.”

“Look over here,” and Teddy directed the attention of his chums to
another bare patch. “The deer was here and he was sort of jumping
around heavy. The hoof marks are deeper.”

Teddy’s chums agreed that this was so and Joe exclaimed:

“Gosh, fellows, it looks as if that deer bashed up our planes and then
made off with Margie and Lucy.”

“How could he do that?” Teddy inquired.

“Well, by jumping up and down on the planes, he could easily bash them
to bits.”

“There’d be some pieces left,” Dick argued.

“Yes, I guess there would be unless the deer ate them,” Joe had to
admit.

“And how do you figure the deer took the girls away?” asked Teddy.

“On his back, maybe,” declared Joe. “He was a pretty big deer, and he
acted sort of savage. I’m sure that’s what happened. The deer broke
our toy planes. Then the girls came along and the deer rushed at them,
tossed them over his head with his horns and--”

“And, I suppose,” laughed Teddy, “Margie and Lucy landed on the deer’s
back and went hitch-hiking.”

“Well, I guess that couldn’t exactly happen,” replied Joe with a funny
little smile. “But something has happened, all right. Model airplanes
don’t disappear and deer don’t suddenly appear and sisters don’t vanish
after they cry for help--not unless something has happened.”

“This sure is a mystery, fellows!” Teddy exclaimed. “Isn’t it queer how
I always seem to get mixed up in a mystery? First it was a dog and then
a monkey and now--”

“The way it looks to me,” interrupted Joe, “is that you have all the
mystery fun, Teddy.”

“That’s right!” chimed in Joe. “We hardly ever get a chance.”

“Say, look here!” cried Teddy. “That’s right. But you fellows are going
to be in on this mystery. How about forming a Mystery Club? Just us
three?”

“Swell!” exclaimed Joe.

“All right,” went on Teddy. “Then the Deer Mystery Club is hereby
formed. What’s the first order of business?”

“I think,” said Joe, “we ought to notify the police that our toy planes
are missing.”

“And so are Margie and Lucy,” said Teddy. “The girls ought to come
first. If they have really disappeared, I think we should--”

He was interrupted by a loud voice shouting:

“Get out of there! Get out of my meadow! Get out!”



CHAPTER VI

FATTY NOLAN


Teddy Benson and his two chums were so surprised, for a moment, at
hearing the ordering voice that they made no move to obey. They
assumed, of course, the order was for them. Though it was the first
time they had ever been told to get out of Mr. Mason’s meadow. But the
voice cried again:

“Get out, I tell you! I don’t want you in my meadow spoiling the
fodder. Next I know you’ll be eating all my corn and beans! Get out
before I get my gun!”

“Say, he can’t mean us!” exclaimed Teddy. “Mr. Mason wouldn’t talk that
way to us.”

“Besides,” added Joe. “We aren’t hurting his meadow fodder.”

“And we surely aren’t going to eat his corn and beans,” said Dick.
“What’s he mean--talking about getting his gun?”

“I have it!” suddenly exclaimed Teddy. “Mr. Mason must mean the
mysterious deer. He’s trying to drive the deer away. They eat garden
crops, you know.”

“But is this Mr. Mason?” asked Joe.

The boys learned, a few seconds later, that it was Mr. Mason, owner
of the meadow, who had been so angrily shouting. They saw him as they
walked up out of a little hollow to the top of a small hill. They also
saw the farmer throwing stones at some object they could not see.

“It must be the deer,” said Teddy.

Just then Mr. Mason turned and caught sight of the three boys. He
walked toward them, asking:

“Is that your deer that’s been running around my meadow?”

“No, sir,” answered Teddy, “it isn’t ours.”

“Did you see a deer?” asked Joe.

“I certainly did. Quite a big one, too.”

“Did it have any girls on its back?” asked Dick.

“Girls? Land sakes, what do you mean? What girls?” asked Mr. Mason,
much surprised.

“My sister, and Teddy’s,” explained Dick. “Did you see them on the
deer’s back?”

“I should say not! What do you think it was? A circus deer?”

“It’s a mystery deer,” said Teddy.

“Oh, then it is your deer!” cried Mr. Mason. “Why didn’t you say so at
first? I don’t like deer, mystery or any other kind, making free with
my farm. Where did you get this deer, anyhow?”

“We didn’t get him. He isn’t ours. We just saw him,” said Teddy. “Which
way did he go?”

“I stoned him back into the woods,” said Mr. Mason. “Oh, I didn’t hit
him with any stones,” he was quick to add. “I wouldn’t hit any animal
with stones. I just pegged a few rocks up close to him, so he’d know
he wasn’t wanted. He went for the woods in high gear. But what do you
fellows know about this deer? And what do you mean,” he continued,
looking at Dick, “by girls on the deer’s back?”

“Well, my sister has disappeared,” said Dick. “So has Teddy’s. And two
of our toy airplanes are missing. We found a place where the deer had
been jumping around in your meadow.”

“And we found a place, near there, where the girls had been,” put in
Teddy. “We thought maybe the deer went for the girls and got them on
his back and--”

“Say,” laughed Mr. Mason, “you’re Teddy Benson, aren’t you? The boy who
was mixed up with a mystery dog?”

“Yes,” Teddy admitted, “I was. And so was my sister.”

“And now you’ve got a mystery deer on your trail. Well, my boy, there
were no girls on the back of the deer I saw. So you needn’t worry
about that. But how did you come to see this deer, anyhow? And where is
he from?” asked Mr. Mason.

The boys told of first seeing the deer when they went in the woods to
look for Teddy’s plane. As to where the deer had come from, they could
give no information.

“Most likely from a circus,” decided Mr. Mason as he listened to the
boys’ story.

“But there hasn’t been any circus around here,” Teddy objected.

“That’s so,” agreed the farmer. “Well, anyhow, there’s a deer around
here and I’ll have to notify the game warden to get rid of him. There
may be more than one of the animals. I can’t afford to have my crops
ruined.”

“We thought you said something about getting your gun,” said Teddy.

“Oh,” laughed Mr. Mason, “that was just to scare the pesky deer. I
wouldn’t have shot him. In the first place, it’s against the law to
shoot deer now. Out of season, you know.”

“Yes,” murmured Teddy.

“And in the second place,” went on the farmer, “I wouldn’t shoot a
deer, anyhow. All I wanted was to scare him off my place, and I think
I did; either with the stones which didn’t hit him, or by my talk of
the gun. Of course, it was only talk,” he resumed with a laugh. “But
sometimes strong talk does a lot of good.”

“Do you want us to let you know if we see that deer again?” asked Joe.

“If it’s on my land, yes. But I don’t believe it will come back.”

“You haven’t any idea whose deer it might be, have you?” asked Dick.

“Not the least in the world, my boy. Either it got away from a circus
or a traveling show, or else it must have made its way here from a long
distance. There is no deer country around here.”

“So it’s a sort of mystery, isn’t it?” asked Teddy.

“You’re right there, my boy. It sure is a mystery.”

“Well, we’re going to solve it!” Teddy declared as he and his chums
started toward their homes.

“I wish you luck,” called Mr. Mason. “I say!” he called as he turned
back. “I just happened to think maybe that deer got loose out of a
railroad car. He might be one of a large shipment of deer from one
place to another and he got out. Ask the railroad freight or express
agent.”

“We will,” promised Joe.

The three boys walked slowly across the big meadow back toward the road
that led to Oakdale. They were talking of what had happened and Joe and
Dick were wondering what had become of their planes. Dick and Teddy
were also rather anxious about their sisters.

But since Mr. Mason had laughed at the idea that the deer might have
carried the girls off on his back, the boys no longer gave it any
serious thought.

“I guess the girls just got scared at seeing the deer and ran away,”
suggested Joe.

“What about our planes?” asked Dick.

Joe didn’t answer. But there was no need. For a little later the three
boys heard their names called from beyond a fence. Lucy and Margie
bobbed into sight, each one with a plane in her hands.

“Oh, so that’s what happened?” asked Dick.

“Yes, we found your planes,” Margie said.

“And did you get chased by a deer?” asked Lucy.

“No, the deer didn’t chase us. We chased the deer,” said Teddy. This
was not strictly true, for there was a time when the deer seemed very
much to be chasing the boys. But at least the chums had seen Mr. Mason
make the deer run away.

“Whose deer is it?” asked Lucy.

“That’s what our club is going to find out,” said Teddy.

“Your club?” chorused the two girls.

“The Mystery Club,” explained Joe.

Then, of course, the girls had to be told more about it. They teased to
be made members but, for a time, the boys refused. Then Joe, who had no
sister and was rather neutral, said:

“Couldn’t they be sort of extra members? You know lots of clubs have
women and girls as extra members.”

“Oh, yes! Could we be that?” begged Margie.

After further discussion the boys agreed to this. The five walked along
together, out of the meadow, talking about the mystery deer when, just
as they were about to go from a lane into the main road, a fat boy,
whom none of them knew, came out on the run, very much excited.

“Hello! Hello!” he greeted Teddy and the others. He talked very fast,
as if he were having a race with words. “Did you see him?” he asked.
“The man--the man with a rope--a long rope like a lasso? He was running
over to the woods--I thought he was a cowboy and he asked me if I had
seen him and I said who and he said a steer and I thought he was trying
to make fun of me so I said no I hadn’t and say--Oh, gosh! Did you see
him? He came this way and--oh, but you don’t know who I am, do you?
Well, I’m Charlie Nolan. Everybody calls me Fatty Nolan and you can if
you like. Oh, say, there he is now! The man with the rope. Look! I’m
going to run after him!”



CHAPTER VII

MRS. TRADDLE’S GARDEN


Fatty Nolan, whose rapid-fire talk had taken Teddy and the others by
surprise, raced toward a man who was crossing one end of the meadow
into the woods. The man had a rope, as the boys and girls could notice.
But he did not appear to be a cowboy.

“I’m going to help him catch that steer!” cried Fatty.

A little later he and the man, whom Teddy and his friends did not know,
disappeared in the woods where the deer had first been seen.

“Well, what do you make of this?” asked Teddy of his chums.

“You’ve got me,” replied Dick. “Fatty Nolan? Who is he, anyhow?”

“I never saw him before,” said Joe. “He must have just come to
Oakdale.”

“He seems friendly enough,” said Lucy.

“Didn’t he talk fast!” laughed Margie. “And isn’t he fat?”

“His name sure fits him!” agreed Teddy. “But I’d like to know how many
wild animals there are running loose around here? First we see a deer
and now Fatty Nolan tells us about a steer.”

“I think it’s the same thing,” suggested Joe. “The man must have said
_deer_ and Fatty took it to be _steer_.”

“Having seen the man with a lasso,” spoke Dick, “Fatty would naturally
think of a runaway steer. But I believe the man must have said deer.
You’re right, Joe.”

“Then he’s after the deer,” Teddy remarked. “And I guess that’s about
the end of the mystery.”

“If the man catches him,” said Joe. “He might not, you know. That deer
is a fast runner.”

“That’s right,” Teddy agreed. “Maybe he can’t catch the deer, and our
club will still have a chance to do it and solve the mystery.”

“Do you think it is much of a mystery?” asked Margie.

“You can’t tell,” said Lucy. “We didn’t think the dog was going to be a
mystery, did we, Teddy?”

“No. Nor the pony and parrot, either. But they both turned out to be
swell mysteries,” said Teddy.

“And I think the deer will,” declared Joe.

“Besides, the deer, there’s this mystery about Fatty Nolan,” said Dick.
“Who is he, anyhow?”

This small mystery was soon solved. For though Fatty and the man with
the rope did not appear again for some time, as the boys and girls were
coming from the lane into the main highway they met Mr. Mason once
more. The farmer was in a small auto and stopped to ask if the Mystery
Club wanted a ride home.

“Thanks. If you will drop us off in town, near Mrs. Traddle’s store,
we’ll be much obliged,” said Teddy.

“Why do you want to get out at Mrs. Traddle’s store?” asked Dick.

“Because I’m going to treat this club to sodas,” Teddy answered. “We’ve
had a hard day. A soda will be good for us.”

“Fine!” chorused his chums.

“Do you mean us, too?” asked Margie.

“Of course,” laughed Lucy’s brother.

“What club is this?” asked Mr. Mason when they were all in his car.

“Oh, the deer mystery club,” Teddy explained. “You know. The deer that
was in your meadow.”

“Oh, yes. Well, he’d better keep out of my garden! Did you see the deer
again?”

“No but we saw a man with a rope who was running after him, I guess,”
Joe said.

“Hum! Just as I thought! A stray deer got out of a railroad car,” said
the farmer. “Well, I hope they catch him.”

“Who is this new boy, Fatty Nolan?” asked Teddy.

“Nolan? A fat lad? Why, he’s the son of Samuel Nolan who is a farmer I
hired to work part of my place on shares. The Nolan family just moved
here yesterday. Came from over Portchester way. They’re occupying that
little old house where Mr. Huntley used to live. So you’ve met the fat
boy, eh?”

Teddy told of the meeting and something of the stout lad.

“Yes, he is quite a talker, I noticed that,” said Mr. Mason. “Well,
here you are at Mrs. Traddle’s.”

“Thanks for the ride,” Teddy said. “Won’t you come in and have a soda?”

“Thanks, no. I’ve got to get along. But if you see that deer, I hope
you capture him, or help that man to do it. I don’t want a deer messing
up my garden and cornfields.”

The boys and girls crowded into Mrs. Traddle’s small store.

“I’m glad Mr. Mason didn’t accept my invitation,” said Teddy in a low
voice to Joe. “I only have enough money to treat this crowd. I’d have
had to charge Mr. Mason’s soda.”

“Lucky he didn’t come in,” laughed Joe.

Mrs. Traddle came bustling out from her rooms in the rear of the store.

“Give your orders, girls and boys,” invited Teddy. “What flavors have
you got, Mrs. Traddle?”

“Oh, yes, I know you’re all neighbors,” smiled the little old lady, her
deafness causing her to mistake the words of Teddy.

“You can see the list up over the mirror,” said Lucy to her brother.
“And I think,” she went on, “it will be easier to point to the flavors
of soda we want instead of trying to tell her.”

“That’s right,” said Joe. “Then she won’t mix lemon and vanilla as she
did for me once.”

Mrs. Traddle quickly understood when the soda flavors were pointed out
by Teddy on the list as his friends named them. And soon the five chums
were sitting on stools and enjoying the drinks.

“Where have you been? To a party?” asked Mrs. Traddle when she had rung
up the sales on the cash register.

“We’ve been chasing a deer,” Teddy said.

“Oh, my goodness, a _bear_! I wouldn’t chase bears if I were you,” said
the old lady. “I don’t think your folks would like that. Besides, it’s
dangerous. _Bear!_ My gracious!”

“Not a BEAR. A DEER,” said Teddy in a loud voice.

“Oh, a _deer_? That’s different. A deer is harmless, I guess, though I
never chased one.”

“This one chased us,” said Margie. “And we ran.”

“Whose deer was it?” asked Mrs. Traddle.

“It’s ours,” Teddy said.

“Oh, I didn’t know you had a deer,” Mrs. Traddle was much surprised.
“But then I suppose I’m old fashioned. Dogs and cats were all we had
for pets when I was a child.”

“It isn’t _exactly_ our deer, but we sort of saw it and we are going to
get it and solve the mystery of it,” Teddy said. But it is doubtful if
Mrs. Traddle heard this last explanation. Some other customers came in.

And as Teddy and his chums went out, they heard the store keeper
telling her new customers something about the deer the Benson children
had for a pet.

“No use bothering to explain,” Teddy said. “It’s too hot to have to
talk loud enough for Mrs. Traddle to hear.”

Margie and Lucy had decided to go on a little picnic next day. Teddy
asked Joe and Dick what they planned to do.

“Why not have another try for that deer?” asked Teddy as his chums had
no particular place to go.

“Sure,” agreed Joe and Dick.

“If we’re going to solve the mystery,” Teddy went on, “we might as
well start. Come over to my house right after breakfast.”

“We’ll do that,” Joe promised and Dick agreed, adding:

“We can have a talk with Fatty Nolan and see if he found out anything
about the man with the rope.”

“That’s a good idea,” Teddy assented.

The boys and girls soon separated to go to their several homes, all
being in the vicinity of Teddy Benson’s house.

After spending an hour or two that evening making some repairs to his
toy plane, Teddy went to bed. He thought with pleasure of what might
happen next day, when he and his chums would start on the trail of the
mysterious deer.

Once during the night Teddy was awakened by hearing a noise at the back
door. He sat up in bed, thinking for a moment it might be the deer,
coming to knock as, once, a mysterious pony rang the door bell. But
then Teddy heard a clatter of milk bottles and knew what had caused the
noise.

Teddy was at breakfast next morning when he saw Mrs. Traddle coming
around the side of the house. She saw Mr. Benson, who was cutting the
grass before he went to the office.

“Good morning, Mrs. Traddle!” greeted Teddy’s father. “What brings you
out so early?”

“It’s your children’s pet deer!” said Mrs. Traddle in a loud voice.

“A pet deer!” exclaimed Mr. Benson. “My children have no pet deer.
There must be some mistake.”

“No. Excuse me, but there is no mistake,” said Mrs. Traddle. “They told
me about their pet deer yesterday. Last night the deer got in my garden
and ate it all up. I’ll have to be paid damages, Mr. Benson. You should
see the ruin that deer made in my garden!”



CHAPTER VIII

THE LASSO MAN


Teddy’s father was puzzled. He leaned on the handle of the lawn mower.
He looked at Mrs. Traddle. Then he looked toward the house where Teddy
and Lucy were at breakfast.

“I am very sorry, Mrs. Traddle,” began Mr. Benson. But the old lady
store keeper, who had, seemingly, been hearing quite well a moment
before, suddenly became deaf.

“I didn’t come to borrow anything,” she said rather crossly. “Not even
your lawn mower.”

“I didn’t say you had come to borrow anything,” went on Mr. Benson. “I
said I was _sorry_ about your garden. I am sure it wasn’t any deer of
Teddy’s that got into your garden.”

“No, I didn’t say the deer came there steady,” said Mrs. Traddle,
mixing Teddy’s name up in that way. “But the deer came last night and
he ate up most of my garden. It was a big loss. Somebody has to pay for
it.”

“I’ll see about it,” said Mr. Benson, pushing the lawn mower to one
side. He walked toward the house, followed by Mrs. Traddle.

“Teddy!” called his father. “Come out here, please.”

Teddy was already on his way to the side porch. Lucy followed him,
whispering:

“Oh, what do you suppose is going to happen?”

Both children had heard the last of Mrs. Traddle’s remarks as they
crossed the porch.

“I don’t know,” Teddy answered. “Anyhow Mrs. Traddle can’t blame us for
what a stray, mysterious deer did to her garden.”

“Teddy,” began Mr. Benson as he saw his son. “What is this about your
deer getting into the garden of Mrs. Traddle?”

“It isn’t our deer at all,” Teddy explained.

“Is there a deer?” his father wanted to know.

“Oh, yes!” exclaimed Lucy. “I saw it. I was chased by it and so was
Margie, yesterday.”

“This is the first I have heard of any deer,” said Mr. Benson. “Where
is it, Teddy?”

“That’s what we don’t know. But we are going to find out. It is a
mystery deer,” Teddy answered.

Mr. Benson smiled at this. He had often heard his children speak of
“mysterious” animals. But sometimes the animals were just that.

“The reason we didn’t tell you about the deer last night,” went on
Teddy, “is that you and mother were over to the church supper, and it
was so late when you got home I forgot it.”

“So did I,” added Lucy.

“Well, tell me about it now,” suggested Mr. Benson.

He was told the story of the deer--as much as Teddy and Lucy knew--and
Teddy explained that he and his chums were going to try to get on the
trail of the mysterious animal that day.

“First we have to find Fatty Nolan,” said Teddy.

“Is that the deer’s name?” asked Mr. Benson.

“No. It’s the name of a new fat boy,” Teddy went on, laughing. “His
father works part of Mr. Mason’s farm. Fatty saw a man with a lasso
running across the fields. After the deer, maybe. We’re going to see if
he caught the deer.”

“Well, if he has,” said Mr. Benson, “you might tell the owner of the
deer that Mrs. Traddle wants damages for her garden. All her corn and
beans are gone.”

“No, no!” hastily exclaimed Mrs. Traddle. “I didn’t say the deer sang
a _song_. He just trampled and ate my garden. I didn’t even _see_ the
deer. He came during the night.”

“Well, it wasn’t our deer,” Teddy stated, taking pains to speak in a
loud voice so Mrs. Traddle could understand.

“But in my store I’m sure you said it was your deer,” insisted the
confused old lady.

“Well,” explained Teddy, “I meant we sort of called it our deer. We
sort of feel we have to solve the mystery about it.”

“Oh, well, then I guess I can’t blame you,” said Mrs. Traddle. “I’m
sorry I made any trouble,” she went on. “But my poor garden is ruined.”

“If we find the man who owns the deer we’ll make him pay for the
damage,” promised Teddy.

“Thanks,” murmured Mrs. Traddle as she turned and went back to her
store.

Teddy and Lucy started toward the house to finish their breakfasts. Mr.
Benson returned to cutting the grass, saying:

“So you have a new mystery, have you?”

“Maybe it will be a mystery and maybe it won’t,” admitted Teddy. “I’m
going over to see Fatty Nolan as soon as the fellows come.”

A little later, when Dick and Joe arrived at Teddy’s house, they were
told of what had happened to Mrs. Traddle’s garden.

“Let’s go have a look,” suggested Dick.

“What for?” Teddy wanted to know. “The deer isn’t there now.”

“No. But maybe he left a trail,” said Joe. “If we’re going to find this
animal we’ve got to follow his trail. Come on.”

Mrs. Traddle’s garden was at the rear and to one side of her house and
store. The boys found several men of Oakdale looking at the ruin caused
by the deer.

“Looks like a herd of elephants was in there,” commented Sam Kean, the
grocer.

“Guess that deer spoiled more than he ate,” said Luke Lanter, the
butcher. “Looks like he lay down and rolled in the corn.”

“Maybe he was sort of celebrating,” said Mr. Kean. “He probably never
had such a free feast before.”

When most of the curious ones had departed, Teddy and his chums asked
permission of Mrs. Traddle to look in the garden.

“Look as much as you like,” she said with a sniff. “There isn’t much
left to see. Dear me.”

“We want to see if he left a trail,” explained Teddy.

“Left a _tail_? Land sakes, why would a deer want to go and leave his
_tail_ behind?” asked the old lady.

“I mean any marks so we could go after him and find him,” Teddy
explained.

“Oh, I understand. Like the Indians I used to hear my grandfather tell
about. Well, look if you like. All you’ll see are a lot of paw marks.
Or maybe I should say hoof marks, bein’ as how it’s a deer,” said Mrs.
Traddle.

The boys did find plenty of hoof marks but they were so jumbled up, it
was impossible to determine which way the deer had come into the garden
or gone out.

“I know what we ought to do,” said Joe.

“What?” asked Teddy.

“Find that man with the lasso. If he wasn’t the owner of the deer he
must have been after it. And maybe he would know how to trail it. Let’s
go find him.”

“Where’ll we look?” asked Dick.

“Start with Fatty Nolan,” suggested Teddy.

It did not take them long to reach the small farm house where the fat
boy lived. Fatty, who had just driven the cows to pasture after they
had been milked, hurried toward the three boys.

“Hello!” he called with a good-natured grin. “Did you find that deer
yet? I guess you didn’t. I didn’t either. I guess deers are hard to
catch. I never chased one, but maybe that man with the lasso got him.
Did you see him--whose deer was it--come on in, will you? I can go
with you if you like and help look for the deer. He was a big one,
wasn’t he?”

Fatty Nolan had to stop and take a breath after all this talk. He had a
habit of running his words and sentences together in his conversation,
but the boys understood.

“The deer hasn’t been caught yet, as far as we know,” Teddy said. “We
came to see if you know that man with the lasso.”

“Never saw him before,” Fatty answered. “But let’s go look for him.
Maybe he caught the deer last night.”

“No, he didn’t,” said Joe. “If he had, Mrs. Traddle’s garden wouldn’t
have been spoiled.”

“Did the deer do that?” exclaimed Fatty. “Oh, gosh!” he said, when told
this had happened. “Now we’ve got to get that deer. It might spoil
dad’s garden. Come on--this way. I can take you right where I last saw
that lasso man. Come on! Hurry!”

Fatty Nolan, in spite of his unusual size, could walk almost as fast
as he could talk. He kept ahead of Teddy and his chums as they made
their way to the meadow where they had first seen the man with the
lasso.

Teddy, Dick and Joe hardly expected to see the strange man again but
luck was with them. They had just reached the place where they had
noticed him the day before when, suddenly, Fatty Nolan shouted:

“There he is! There he is! The lasso man!”



CHAPTER IX

TEDDY IS LASSOED


Hurrying at his usual fast pace, as if to keep up with his fast
thoughts and talk, the fat lad ran after a man of whom Teddy and his
chums had only obtained a glimpse.

“Are you sure it was the same man, Fatty?” asked Joe.

“Oh, sure. Didn’t you see he had a rope?”

“Yes,” spoke Teddy, “but anybody could have a rope.”

“Maybe he’s after a stray cow,” suggested Dick.

“No, I’m sure he’s after the mysterious deer,” declared Fatty Nolan.
“Nobody around here goes after cows with a rope. Cows are easy to
drive. I drive ours. This is the lasso man. Come on, before he gets
away. He’ll take us to the deer!”

Teddy and his chums were not so sure of this. But they followed the
stout lad, smiling at his rapid manner of speaking. On the whole, they
rather liked him.

The man with the lasso had appeared so suddenly, seemingly from no
particular place, that the boys had scarcely a good chance to see him.
They obtained one look and then the man hurried down into one of the
many grassy hollows, that dotted the fields and meadows around there.

The boys were not in Mason’s meadow now, but in one belonging to
another of the many farmers who lived in and around Oakdale. Trotting
after Fatty Nolan, who was still in the lead, Teddy and his chums
finally caught up to him.

“Do you know who this man is?” asked Teddy.

“Sure,” the fat boy replied. “He’s the man with the lasso.”

“But do you know his name?” Teddy wanted to know.

Fatty Nolan shook his head and answered:

“No. I never saw him before yesterday. But I never forget anybody I
once see--even from the back. Besides, this must be the same man--he
had the same rope--I wonder where he went--come on--let’s hurry!”

“If we hurry any faster,” objected Joe, “we’re going to be all tired
out before we get anywhere.”

“That’s what I say,” agreed Dick. “Let’s take it easy.”

“You can go pretty fast for a fat boy,” complimented Joe as he ruffled
his red hair. It was beginning to get damp and curly now, for Joe was
perspiring.

“Yes, I always was pretty fast,” admitted Fatty Nolan. “First I tried
to get thin by running and hurrying. But it didn’t do any good. I kept
on getting fatter. So I hurry anyhow.”

“Well, there’s no special need for it,” decided Teddy. “We aren’t
going any particular place. We just want to catch up to this man and
find out if he is after the deer.”

“He’s after something or he wouldn’t have that rope,” was Joe’s opinion.

“And he hasn’t caught whatever he was after yesterday, or he wouldn’t
be out with his lasso again today,” decided Dick.

“I wonder who he is?” Teddy said.

“I think maybe he works on one of the farms around here,” answered
Fatty. “There are many hired men on the farms now. This is summer, and
there’s lots of work for hired men. My father is going to get one. I
help him but that isn’t enough, he says. What are you going to do?” he
asked as Dick Kelly threw himself on the grass behind some bushes.

“Take a little rest in this shade,” Dick answered. Dick, too, was
stout; not as fat as the Nolan boy, but stouter than either Teddy or
Joe.

“I guess we can all take a rest,” agreed Teddy. “I wish I had a
drink of water,” he went on as he wiped his sweaty forehead with his
handkerchief.

“There’s a spring not far from here,” said Fatty. “It’s over that
way--near those trees. I sometimes let our cows stop there and get
drinks.”

“I wouldn’t want to drink from a spring if cows drank from it,” Teddy
objected.

“There are two springs,” said the fat boy. “The big one is where the
cows drink. I wouldn’t want to drink there, either. But there’s a
smaller spring, above the one where I let the cows drink. That small
spring is nice and clean.”

“We’ll go there after we rest,” decided Teddy.

Joe was fumbling in his pocket and soon brought out a little paper bag.
He opened it, held it out to Teddy and said:

“Have some!”

“What are they?” asked Teddy.

“Gum drops. I bought them in Mrs. Traddle’s store while you and Dick
were out looking at the deer’s hoof marks in the garden.”

“Thanks!” murmured Teddy as he began chewing some of the gum drops.
“They’ll make me more thirsty. Candy always does. But it won’t matter
as long as we’re near a spring.”

“Have some, Fatty!” Joe invited.

“Well--er--yes--thanks--I will. Maybe I oughtn’t to eat any. Candy
makes you fatter they say, but I guess a couple of gum drops won’t,
will they?”

“Try ’em and see!” suggested Joe.

They finished the bag of gum drops, Fatty eating his share, and then
Teddy, taking a string from his pocket, began passing it around the
Nolan boy’s waist.

“What are you trying to do, lasso me?” laughed the stout lad.

“No,” said Teddy, “I was just trying to measure to see if those gum
drops had made you any fatter. I don’t believe they have. Not yet,
anyway,” he ended with a laugh in which the others joined.

“Oh, I guess candy doesn’t work that fast on me,” said Fatty.

Besides making Teddy more thirsty, the gum drops also increased the
thirst of the other boys. So, after waiting a little while to rest,
they went to the spring. Fatty Nolan acted as guide.

“I guess maybe that man with the lasso has gotten away from us,” Teddy
said as they neared the spring.

“Well, if we don’t find him today we may tomorrow,” said Dick. “It’s
getting too hot to hurry much.”

As Fatty had said, there were two springs in a little glade not far
from where Teddy and his chums had sat down to rest. The larger water
hole was rather muddy, and all about it were the hoof-marks of cattle.
But farther up, amid a little group of trees and bushes, was a small
spring. It bubbled out of the rocks into a natural rock basin.

Stretching out on the ground, the boys took turns drinking the clear,
cold water. Teddy took two drinks.

“Oh, that’s good!” he exclaimed as he rose to wipe off his lips. “Water
always tastes twice as good after you’ve been eating candy,” he added.

The boys stood silent for a moment near the spring. They were wondering
what to do next. Suddenly, from over the tops of some bushes behind
them, a rope came circling through the air. The loop of a lasso fell
over Teddy and, a moment later, he was pulled backward off his feet,
falling on a bunch of leaves.



CHAPTER X

THE PICNIC LUNCH


Surprise, for a few seconds, kept the boys from saying a word. Teddy,
himself, was not only astonished, but the breath was somewhat jolted
out of him so he could not have said anything even if he had wished to.

Joe, Dick and Fatty Nolan were the first to speak and they all shouted,
together:

“Who did that?”

By this time Teddy had managed to scramble to his feet. He loosened the
loop of the lasso and slipped it over his head, letting the coils fall
to the ground. Then he, too, demanded:

“Who did that?”

There was no answer. Teddy picked up the rope and pulled on it. The far
end came snaking over the ground out of the bushes.

“Why, there’s no one there!” exclaimed Dick. “No one has hold of the
rope!”

“But somebody must have thrown this lasso!” declared Joe.

“And they gave it a good yank, too, after they lassoed me,” said Teddy.
“I was pulled right off my feet! I’m going to find out who’s playing
tricks!”

Teddy was about to pull all the rope toward him, in coils at his feet,
when Fatty Nolan called:

“Don’t do that!”

“Why not?” Teddy asked.

“Because,” answered the fat boy, “if you pull in all the rope you won’t
be able to see where it ends. Leave it lying there and we can trail it
to the far end and see who lassoed you.”

“I don’t believe you can,” said Dick. “I think whoever threw that lasso
ran away right after they tossed it at you, Teddy. We won’t find anyone
at the other end of this rope. But Fatty’s idea is a good one. We’ll
follow the rope and see.”

“I used to belong to the Boy Scouts where I lived before we came here,”
Fatty said a bit proudly. “I’m going to join again if there’s a troop
here.”

“Sure there is,” Teddy said. “We all belong.”

Just as Dick had predicted, there was no one at the end of the lasso
when the boys had trailed it to the bushes. There it lay, stretched out
like a hempen snake.

“Take it easy now, fellows,” cautioned Teddy as his chums crowded
around the end of the rope.

“Why?” asked Joe. “Do you think the lasso man is hiding around here?”

“No, I think he’s far enough away by this time,” Teddy replied. “But I
was going to see if I could find his footprints. Maybe we could trace
him that way.”

“That’s right!” Fatty agreed. “Let Teddy look alone. If we all walk
around here there’ll be so many footprints he won’t be able to tell
one from another.”

“I don’t know that I’ll be able to detect any marks as it is,” Teddy
said. “This ground is sort of hard. But maybe there will be traces of
some shoe prints.”

Teddy knelt down and began to use some of his Boy Scout knowledge in
trailing. At first, he saw nothing unusual. As he had said, the ground
was too hard. But, after scouting about a bit, Teddy uttered a cry of
surprise.

“I think I’ve found it!” he exclaimed. “Come over here! Careful,
fellows! Look!” and he pointed to a little patch of soft earth in which
was imbedded several impressions of a small star.

“What does that mean?” asked Dick. “That an astronomer has been here?”

“No,” Teddy answered. “But it means somebody that wears metal heel
plates in the shape of a star has been here. And I think they were on
the shoes of the man who lassoed me.”

“What do you mean by heel plates?” asked Fatty.

“Why, some men, who wear down the heels of their shoes faster than
the soles, put metal plates on the heels to stop the wear,” Teddy
explained. “Mr. Crispen, the cobbler on Main street, has lots of heel
plates. They come in different shapes. Maybe he has some like these
stars and can tell us who bought them.”

“That’s a dandy clue,” said Joe.

“But it doesn’t help us find the mysterious deer,” Dick stated. “Unless
the deer wore heel plates.”

“Well, if the deer did wear heel plates, he certainly didn’t lasso me,”
declared Teddy. “Though the lasso man who ran away and the mysterious
deer must be mixed up in some way.”

“Why do you think he lassoed you?” asked Fatty Nolan.

“Haven’t the least idea,” Teddy answered. “Unless maybe he wanted to
scare us away from following him.”

“But if he wanted to do that, he wouldn’t run away and leave a good
lasso, would he?” asked Joe.

“You can’t tell,” was Teddy’s answer. “Anyhow,” he went on, “it’s a
good lasso. It’s just like some of those the cowboys had in the Wild
West Show that was here last year. The man who left this lasso must be
sorry to lose it.”

“Do you think he stood here and threw at you?” asked Joe.

“That’s what it looks like, from the star heel plates,” Teddy answered.
“Look, you can see a lot of them now.”

There were several impressions of the star heel plates in the soft
ground, near where the end of the lasso led. But when the boys tried to
follow the trail they soon lost it. They could not trace the peculiar
marks where the ground was hard.

Perhaps, a more experienced trailer might have been able to do so. But
the boys were only amateurs and had no luck.

“Anyhow,” Teddy declared, “I got a good lasso out of it. And we know
who to look for now--a man with star heel plates.”

“What are you going to do now?” asked Joe as Teddy began coiling the
rope.

“Let’s go back to town and ask Mr. Crispen if he can tell us who bought
any star heel plates lately,” Teddy suggested.

The others agreed this was a good idea and it was at once acted on.
They started back to the village.

“Though this isn’t finding the mysterious deer,” remarked Joe.

“We’ll have another try at that after we find out about the heel
plates,” Teddy said.

On the way back across the meadows and fields the boys kept a lookout
for a sight of the deer or the lasso man who had so mysteriously
disappeared after making a cast at Teddy. But they saw neither. They
took their time, stopping to get another drink at the spring before
taking the homeward trail.

It was this same day that Margie, Lucy and several other girls went on
a little picnic to Buttermilk Falls. This was a favorite picnic spot
for the young people of Oakdale. The falls were not very high. But they
were churned to whiteness by tumbling down a rocky glen and so had been
named because of their resemblance to thick buttermilk.

Around the falls were patches of woodland and meadows and in these
Margie, Lucy and several of their girl friends were soon having fun;
playing games, running about and finding shady places in which to rest.

Noon came and there was a general gathering of the picnic party to
where their lunches had been left under a rustic shelter. The woods
and fields around Buttermilk Falls were maintained by the Oakdale
authorities as a public park. Tables and benches were provided for
picnic parties and there were several stone fire places where potatoes
could be roasted and sausages broiled.

“But it’s too hot to cook anything today,” Margie had decided. Lucy had
agreed with her so they had brought only a cold lunch with them. This
lunch they now picked up at the rustic shelter and took it to a shady
spot along the little stream that flowed away from the foot of the
falls.

“Oh, isn’t it lovely here!” exclaimed Lucy as she put her lunch down on
the grass.

“It’s the nicest place!” agreed Margie. She, too, laid down her package
of lunch for a moment to open a thermos bottle of lemonade she had
brought.

The girls were about to eat their lunches when a sudden scream from a
group of their chums near the falls made them look up.

“Oh, Nellie has fallen in!” some one cried.

Margie and Lucy rushed to the scene of the accident. But it was a very
slight one. A little girl, leaning over the edge of the stream to wash
her hands, had toppled in. The water was shallow and Mrs. Watson, one
of the ladies who had accompanied the girls, soon pulled Nellie out.
She was wet but not harmed.

“You must be more careful, my dear,” said Mrs. Watson.

“But I couldn’t help it,” Nellie said. “Something scared me.”

“Something scared you! What?”

“A big animal right across the brook. He looked at me with such big
eyes and then I fell in!”

Some of the girls laughed. But Margie and Lucy glanced at one another
in a knowing way and Lucy said:

“It must have been that deer!”

“I believe it was!” agreed Margie. “How queer!”



CHAPTER XI

HEEL PLATE CLUE


Somehow, Margie and Lucy did not speak of the mysterious deer to
Nellie, the other girls or to Mrs. Watson. Lucy and Margie hurried away
from the scene of the little accident as soon as it was certain Nellie
was only wet and frightened but not hurt.

“I thought we had better not say anything about it being a deer that
might have frightened Nellie,” said Lucy when the two were off by
themselves.

“I thought the same,” agreed Margie. “Besides, we aren’t positive it
was the deer.”

“No, but I believe it was,” said Lucy. “Only I didn’t see why we should
tell everyone the secret.”

“Of course not,” agreed her chum. “The deer sort of belongs to our
club. If we can find out about it by ourselves, instead of bringing in
a lot of others, it will be more fun.”

“That’s what I think,” agreed Lucy. “But I wish I had been there when
the deer looked out of the bushes across the brook.”

“And scared Nellie so she fell in,” added Margie. “It’s a wonder she
didn’t know it was a deer.”

“That’s right. She just called it some big animal. But I’m sure the
deer was around here. It must be here yet.”

“Sure,” agreed Margie. “Do you think, after we eat our lunch, we should
try to find the deer? It would be a good joke on the boys if we found
it first, wouldn’t it?”

“Just scrumptious!” laughed Lucy. “But I think maybe we had better not
go off deer hunting by ourselves. That deer has horns and it might be
dangerous.”

“Besides, we might get lost looking for it,” went on Margie. “The woods
are thick and dark once you go a little way from Buttermilk Falls. But
we can tell the boys about the deer and they can come here and hunt it.”

“Yes. And now let’s eat our lunches. I’m starved!”

“So am I!” assented Margie. “I have some lovely chicken sandwiches that
mother put up for me.”

“I have only ham sandwiches,” said Lucy. “But I have a big piece of
chocolate cake.”

“I’ll trade you a chicken sandwich for a piece of chocolate cake,”
Margie offered.

“That will make it just right!” laughed Lucy. She ran ahead of Margie
but suddenly came to a stop.

“What’s the matter?” asked Margie.

“Isn’t this the place where we left our lunch?” asked Lucy.

“Yes, right there by that big rock,” said Margie.

“Well, it isn’t here now!” went on Lucy.

“What! Has somebody taken our lunch?” cried Margie.

“I don’t know whether or not anybody has taken it,” spoke Lucy as she
looked around. “But our lunch is gone. There is nothing left of it but
some crumbs and paper!”

“Then somebody ate our lunch when we ran to see about Nellie falling in
the brook!” cried Margie.

“Somebody--or some animal,” spoke Lucy as she continued to look about.
“And from the way the paper is torn and scattered and from the marks
here, I would say it was an animal, Margie.”

“What marks? What animal, Lucy?”

“Hoof marks of a deer,” replied Teddy’s sister. “That deer must have
jumped the brook, after it scared Nellie, and it came here and ate our
food.”

“Oh! Oh!” sighed Margie. “I didn’t know a deer would eat chicken
sandwiches and lovely chocolate cake!”

“I didn’t either,” spoke Lucy. “But I guess they do. It’s too bad!” Her
eyes were wide with excitement.

“I should say it is!” agreed Dick’s sister. “But what are we going to
do?”

For a time it seemed as if the two girls would have to go without their
picnic lunch. But Mrs. Watson, making the rounds to see that all the
children were safe, suddenly noticed how upset Margie and Lucy were.

“What’s the matter?” Mrs. Watson asked.

“Someone took our lunch,” explained Margie.

“Oh, I hardly think anyone of our party would be so unkind as to
do that,” said Mrs. Watson. “And there aren’t any boys along. Boys
sometimes play those tricks, I know, but girls don’t.”

“I think it was an animal,” explained Lucy. But she did not speak of
the deer.

Mrs. Watson heard the story of how Margie and Lucy had left their lunch
on the ground, near the rock, while they ran to see what had happened
to Nellie.

“Very likely some animal, a fox, perhaps, or a raccoon, came along and
thought your picnic lunch was for him,” said Mrs. Watson. “Never mind,
my dears. Nearly every girl brings more lunch than she can eat to these
little picnics of ours. I am sure some of them will be glad to share
with you.”

When the plight of Margie and Lucy became known, they had so many
offers of sandwiches, cake and other things that they could not have
eaten it all if they had tried.

“My! We never had so many adventures before on any of our picnics,”
said Mrs. Watson when lunch time was over. “What with Nellie falling in
the brook and food mysteriously disappearing it was all quite exciting.
What sort of an animal was it you think scared you, Nellie?”

“Well, I can’t be sure of that, but I think it was an elephant,” Nellie
answered. And while the others laughed she said: “Well, it COULD be an
elephant, couldn’t it?”

“Of course it could,” said Mrs. Watson. “For elephants have been known
to escape from circuses. But I hardly think it was, Nellie. It might
have been a cow or a dog.”

“Do dogs have horns?” asked Nellie, who was about seven years old.

“Not that I ever heard of,” laughed Mrs. Watson.

“Then it was a cow,” said Nellie. “’Cause I saw horns.”

“More likely it was a cow,” agreed Mrs. Watson. “But a cow wouldn’t
hurt you.”

“It didn’t hurt me but it scared me,” stated the little girl. She was
quite dry by this time, for Mrs. Watson had made her take off her outer
garments which had dried in the sun and wind.

When Nellie spoke of a “cow,” Margie and Lucy looked quickly at each
other. They felt sure the animal with horns, which had so frightened
Nellie as to cause her to fall into the brook, was not a cow but the
mysterious deer.

When the picnic was over, Margie and Lucy hurried to their homes,
which were close together.

“We want to tell the boys about the deer being near Buttermilk Falls,”
said Margie.

“Then they can go look for it,” said Lucy.

But neither Teddy, Dick nor Joe was at home when the girls reached town.

“They started off early this morning, before you went to the picnic,”
said Mrs. Benson. “They haven’t come back yet.”

“Didn’t they come home to lunch?” asked Lucy.

“No,” said her mother. “But that is nothing to worry about. Teddy said
he might not be back. And he has money so he can buy a glass of milk
and a sandwich if he needs it. Why are you so anxious about the boys?”

“We want to tell them about the mysterious deer,” said Lucy, as she and
Margie related the story of the afternoon’s adventures.

Meanwhile Teddy and his chums were starting to have some adventures of
their own. They had come back to town after the strange lassoing of
Teddy near the spring. They went to the cobbler shop of Mr. Crispen.

“Heel plates, eh?” questioned the old shoe-maker as he looked up from
his bench at the boys. “Yes, I have some.”

“Have you any with a star on?” asked Teddy.

“I had just one pair like that,” Mr. Crispen answered. “But I sold ’em,
day afore yistiday. Sort of funny, it was, too. I had ’em in stock a
long time. But nobody seemed to want that pattern.

“Then, day afore yistiday, all of a sudden, a young fellow came in here
and bought ’em. Said he sort of fancied ’em. So I sold ’em to him.”

“Do you know who he was?” asked Joe, eagerly.

“Well, I don’t know him, exactly. But I got his name down somewhere. He
said he wanted another pair of star heel plates and I said I’d send
and get some. So I took his name to send a postal to him when they
come. I got it somewhere--I mean his name.”

“What sort of a man was he?” asked Teddy.

“Oh, sort of tall and thin. Funny part of it was he had a long rope
with him, sort of a lasso I took it to be. He might be one of them Wild
Westerners for all I know. I got his name some place around here.”

While Mr. Crispen was getting up from his bench to look for the name
and address of the buyer of the star heel plates, Teddy whispered to
his chums:

“We’re on his trail! We have the heel plate clue! Maybe now we can
trace the mysterious deer!”



CHAPTER XII

THE TRAP


Old Mr. Crispen was never in very much of a hurry. He had been the
cobbler, or shoemaker as most Oakdale folk called him, for many years.
But Mr. Crispen no longer made shoes. He only repaired them. And he
took his own time about doing that.

If Teddy or any of his chums brought their own shoes, or those of any
member of their families, to Mr. Crispen’s shop, they were often told
the shoes would be ready in a day or two.

“Next Tuesday or Wednesday,” Mr. Crispen would say as he marked some
mysterious characters in chalk on the sole.

But when Tuesday or Wednesday came, nearly always the shoes would not
be ready.

“Had more work than I expected,” Mr. Crispen would report. “I’ll have
your shoes tomorrow,” he would say, or it might be the next day.

So Teddy and his chums, as well as nearly everyone else in Oakdale,
never went for their shoes on the day they were promised. They waited
one or two days after that and usually then the shoes would be ready.

So it was no surprise to the deer hunters to hear Mr. Crispen say,
after he had fumbled about his bench, counter and shelves:

“Sorry, boys, but those shoes won’t be ready afore tomorrow.”

“But,” said Teddy with a wink at his chums, “we didn’t come here for
shoes.”

“What did you come for, then?”

“Heel-plates,” prompted Joe.

“With a star on,” added Dick.

“Oh, yes. I remember now. I sold them to a man, sort of a cowboy with a
lasso. I was going to give you his name, wasn’t I?”

“Yes,” Teddy answered, “you were, Mr. Crispen.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but that name won’t be finished afore day arter
tomorrow. I’ve been sort of rushed with work lately, and--”

“But this wasn’t _work_,” explained Teddy. “You were just going to look
for the name of the man you sold one pair of star heel plates to, and
who wanted another pair. Just his _name_, you know.”

“Oh, yes, that’s so, the name. You only want his name. I thought you
wanted shoes. Well, let me see now, what did I do with his name? I
wrote it on a piece of paper and then I put the paper away some place.
I can’t just remember where. But it’ll come to me in a day or two, I
dare say. Come back then.”

“Don’t you think you could find it now?” asked Dick.

“No, I don’t,” said Mr. Crispen as he took up a hammer and began
pounding a leather sole. “I can’t remember.”

“Maybe you could if we helped you,” suggested Joe.

“What’s that?” exclaimed the old man, looking up through his thick,
bushy eyebrows at the chums. “Let you lads go all over my place looking
for a paper with a name on? No, sir-ee! You’d mix everything all up. I
wouldn’t be able to find a waxed end in a month. It can’t be done! Give
me, say a week, and I’ll find that paper.”

“That might be too late,” said Teddy.

“Look here!” exclaimed the shoemaker, getting up from his bench. “Why
are you so anxious to have that man’s name? What’s all this about my
star heel plates?”

Teddy Benson took a sudden resolve. It might be a good idea to have Mr.
Crispen in their confidence. If they told him part of the mystery he
might help them solve it. Anyhow they were getting nowhere by waiting a
week to get on the trail of the man with the star heel plates.

“What’s it all about?” asked Mr. Crispen again. He seemed suspicious,
as though he feared some trick might be played on him.

“I’m going to tell him,” Teddy whispered to his chums. Then he added:
“We think those star heel plates may be a clue.”

“A clue to what?” asked the cobbler.

“To a mysterious deer,” Teddy said.

“Say, what are you, fellows? Boy detectives?” asked Mr. Crispen with a
laugh.

“Not exactly,” Teddy replied. “But we are on the trail of a mysterious
deer and we want to find the man who lassoed me with star heel plates.”

“Lassoed you with star heel plates?” cried Mr. Crispen. “Land sakes, I
never heard of such a thing!”

“I mean,” went on Teddy with a laugh, “a man lassoed me with a rope. We
think he did it by mistake. Then he ran away but we saw where he had
been standing. And he had star heel plates. So we thought maybe you
could give us the clue to the man.”

“And you could,” put in Joe, “if you could find his name.”

“Oh, I can find his name, once I put my mind to it,” said the old
cobbler. “But what has this got to do with a mysterious deer?”

“I’ll tell you about that,” Teddy said. He and his chums related the
story, including the last episode of the lassoing of Teddy.

“So what you really want to do,” said Mr. Crispen, “is to catch that
deer, isn’t it? The deer that ate up Mrs. Traddle’s garden. You want
the deer.”

“Yes!” exclaimed Teddy and his chums.

“Well,” said the cobbler as he again sat at his bench, “I can tell you
a better way to catch the deer than by looking for a man with star heel
plates.”

“How?” asked the three boys together.

“Get him in a trap,” said Mr. Crispen. He snapped the gnarled thumb and
finger of his right hand sharply, as if the mysterious deer had already
been caught. “A trap’s the thing for deer!”

“A trap?” questioned Teddy. And his chums also murmured:

“A trap?”

“Certainly,” went on the cobbler. “Easiest thing in the world. You set
the trap, catch the deer and that’s the end of the mystery. What do you
want to bother about heel plates for?”

“But the man with the star heel plates lassoed Teddy,” said Joe.

“That’s all right,” said the cobbler. He stopped to peel a little
rubber cement from his left thumb nail. “You can trail that cowboy
later. I don’t believe he had anything to do with the deer. But if you
want to catch the critter that ate up Mrs. Traddle’s garden, a trap’s
the thing.”

“But we don’t want to hurt the deer,” objected Teddy. “It might be a
valuable animal and we could get a reward if we took it to the owner.”

“True enough,” murmured Mr. Crispen. “True enough and fair enough. I
hope you get the reward. But I didn’t say anything about harming a deer
you caught in a trap.”

“I thought traps always hurt the wild animals caught in them,” said Joe.

“So did I,” added Dick.

“We mustn’t hurt the deer,” declared Teddy. “I wouldn’t want the sharp
teeth of a steel trap to snap on one of his legs.”

“I’m not talking about that kind of a trap,” said Mr. Crispen. “What I
mean is a box trap. The deer will go in, a door will close behind him
and he’ll be nicely caught in a box trap. You can use the box trap to
ship that deer wherever you want to send him to get the reward.”

“It sounds easy,” Joe said. “But we don’t know how to make a box trap.
Do you, Mr. Crispen?”

“Of course I do. When I was a boy I used to catch all sorts of wild
animals in traps--box traps, too. I’ve caught foxes, bobcats, weasels,
muskrats.”

“Did you ever catch a deer?” asked Teddy.

“Don’t know’s I did,” admitted the cobbler. “Never had no reason to.
But catching the deer in a box trap would be just the same as catching
a bear, I guess. Only easier.”

“Did you ever catch a bear?” asked Teddy, his eyes shining. The other
boys were equally excited. “A real bear?”

“Of course I did!” chuckled Mr. Crispen. “Wouldn’t be any fun catching
a make-believe bear. I caught real bears out in the West when I was
younger. And if I can catch a bear I can catch a deer.”

“Will you help us?” asked Teddy, somewhat shyly.

“Of course I will!” exclaimed the cobbler. “It will be like old times
for me. I haven’t done any trapping in a long time. It will be fun.”

“When can you do it?” asked Joe.

“Tonight after I close my shop here.”

“And how will we get the trap by that time?” asked Dick.

“I’ll attend to that. All I need is a strong, heavy box, and I have
that. Yes, boys, we’ll set a trap for that deer tonight. And, what’s
more we’ll catch him!”

Again Mr. Crispen snapped his gnarled finger and thumb as if he had
shot off a small gun.

The boys were delighted. It seemed as if the mystery of the deer would
soon be solved.



CHAPTER XIII

SETTING THE TRAP


Forgotten for a time was the mysterious man with the lasso. The man who
wore star heel plates could wait. What Teddy and his chums wanted to do
now was to catch the mysterious deer.

But after the first joyous excitement over Mr. Crispen’s promise about
the trap, Teddy began to think a little. It might not be so easy as it
sounded. With this in mind he asked the old cobbler:

“Where will you set the trap, Mr. Crispen?”

“Why the best place would be where the deer comes. You’ve got to set a
trap for deer near what is called a deer-run. Set a trap in some other
place and you won’t catch a deer in a month of Sundays.”

“But where is a deer-run?” asked Dick.

“We don’t know of any,” added Joe.

“And,” added Teddy Benson, “we don’t know where to look next for the
deer. If we did, we might be able to catch him without a trap.”

“No, sir, boys! You’ve got to have a trap!” said Mr. Crispen. “Let me
set the trap for you and you’ll catch the deer just like that!” Again
he snapped his finger and thumb.

“But where are you going to set the trap?” asked Teddy.

“Ha!” chuckled the old cobbler. “That’s my secret. But I’ll let you in
on it. Come into my back room and I’ll tell you!”

Teddy and his chums were beginning to enjoy the entrance of Cobbler
Crispen into their search for the mysterious deer. They felt he would
be of much more help to them than the girls or even Fatty Nolan.

“Though maybe that lasso man with the star heel plates could tell
something if he wanted to,” Teddy whispered to his chums as they went
into the cobbler’s rear room.

“If we could catch him,” added Joe.

“Yes,” said Dick. “That lasso man is almost as mysterious as the deer.”

“Come on in, boys,” invited Mr. Crispen. “This is where I do my
thinking and planning,” he added. It was a small, rear room where he
kept an extra bench, some tools and his supplies. There were several
rolls of leather in the place and they gave it a strong odor, mixed
with that of shoemaker’s wax.

“Have you the deer trap here?” asked Joe.

“Oh, my goodness, no!” exclaimed the old cobbler. “I have to make the
trap. I brought you here to tell you where I plan to set it after I
have the trap made. I didn’t want any chance customer to hear about my
plan.”

“Why?” asked Teddy.

“Because,” answered Mr. Crispen with a quick look around as he shut the
door, “somebody else might try our plan of trapping the deer. They
might catch him ahead of us and then where would you boys be when the
reward money is paid?”

“Oh,” said Joe, “we aren’t sure any reward money is going to be paid.”

“Of course there will be!” insisted Mr. Crispen. “It’s a valuable deer,
from what you tell me. Whoever owns it will be glad to pay a reward to
get it back.”

“Maybe it might be a wild deer,” said Dick.

“Not from the way you tell me it acted,” said the cobbler, again
snapping his finger and thumb and nodding his head. “Most likely it
belongs to that lasso man. He’ll pay you for bringing it back.”

“Suppose he finds it first?” asked Teddy.

“We’ll get ahead of him. I’ll have my trap ready to set tomorrow
night,” said the cobbler. “I’ll work on it tonight and tomorrow. Folks
that are in a hurry for their shoes will have to wait. It isn’t every
day I get a chance to trap a deer. It’s like old times to me!” he
laughed.

“But won’t you want part of the reward money?” asked Dick.

“No, not a penny. You boys may divide it all,” was the answer.

“I tell you maybe there won’t be any!” insisted Joe.

“There was a reward when we found the mystery pony,” said Teddy. “Not
that I expect it. But maybe there might be one for the deer.”

“Of course there will be!” declared Mr. Crispen. “Now about setting
this trap. Where do you think I’m going to put it?”

“In the woods,” guessed Joe.

“In the fields,” said Dick.

“Near the glen in Mason’s meadow, where we first saw the deer,”
ventured Teddy.

“All good places,” agreed Mr. Crispen. “But I know a better one. I’m
going to put the trap in Mrs. Traddle’s garden,” exclaimed the old
cobbler. “That’s the place where the deer came to feed and he’ll
likely go back there. And we’ll trap him there!”

“But maybe Mrs. Traddle won’t let you put the trap in her garden,”
suggested Joe.

“Oh, yes, I think she will,” said Mr. Crispen. “If she makes a fuss
we’ll promise her some of the reward money for the damage the deer did.
At least you boys can promise her some of the money. The reward is
going to be all yours. I don’t want it. How’s that?”

“Sounds all right to me,” Teddy admitted.

“Swell!” said Joe.

“Fine and dandy,” was Dick’s opinion.

“All right then,” said the cobbler. “I’ll start making the trap. You
boys get permission from Mrs. Traddle to set it in or near her garden,
and tomorrow night we’ll catch that deer!”

Mr. Crispen seemed very sure about it. Teddy and his chums hoped the
plan would succeed. Anyhow, it promised to be exciting fun to set the
trap.

“But we’ll wait until tomorrow to ask Mrs. Traddle if we can put the
trap in her garden,” Teddy suggested as he and his chums started for
their homes.

The next day they went to the cobbler’s shop again. The front door was
closed and locked and a sign on it said:

    NO SHOES DELIVERED TODAY

“I wonder where he’s gone?” said Dick.

“Around in his back room, I’d say,” ventured Teddy.

“Yes, here he is!” called Joe who had gone around the side path. “And
he’s working on the trap,” he added as he looked in a window. “Come on,
fellows!”

Mr. Crispen was glad to see the boys. He let them in when they tapped
at the rear door. In the middle of the back room was a box about twice
the size of a dog kennel.

“The trap is nearly finished,” said the cobbler. “It works this way,”
and he demonstrated and explained. “The deer goes in this end,” he
said. “It has an up-and-down sliding door. The other end is closed.
As soon as the deer goes in, the sliding door drops and the deer is
caught. It’s a regular box trap. Doesn’t hurt the deer at all.”

“But what makes the sliding door fall?” asked Teddy.

“The deer shuts it himself,” said Mr. Crispen.

“How?” inquired Joe.

“Like this,” and the cobbler showed the boys. “The door is held up and
open by a catch. On the end of the catch, inside the box trap, is the
bait. The deer starts to nibble the bait. This pulls out the catch and
the door falls and the deer is caught.”

“Are you sure he will go inside to nibble the bait?” asked Joe.

“I’m positive,” declared Mr. Crispen.

“What bait are you going to use?” asked Teddy.

“A combination of carrots, cabbage, turnips and salt, all made into
a sort of package,” was the answer. “No deer can keep from nibbling
that. Now you boys go and get permission from Mrs. Traddle to put the
trap in her garden.”

A little doubtful of what Mrs. Traddle might say, the three boys went
to the candy store. As a sort of opening wedge, Teddy bought some
chocolate creams, ordering them in such a loud voice that the deaf old
lady did not confuse them with popcorn balls. Then Teddy, thinking she
was in good humor, said:

“We want to set a deer trap in your garden, may we?”

“What’s that? You lost a hat in my garden? Why of course you may go in
and get it, boys. But I don’t see how you could lose a hat. The wind
isn’t blowing much.”

“Not a HAT--a TRAP!” said Teddy loudly.

“A mouse trap?” asked Mrs. Traddle doubtfully.

“No, a DEER TRAP!” Joe said, trying his luck. He finally managed
to make Mrs. Traddle understand. And when she was promised some of
the possible reward money to pay for the damage the deer had done to
her garden, she gave permission. Not only that, but she supplied the
vegetables for the bait.

The boys went back to the cobbler’s shop. The trap was almost finished.

“Good work!” complimented Mr. Crispen when Teddy and his chums told
of their success and gave him the vegetables. “I have some salt of my
own,” the cobbler said. “Deer are very fond of salt.”

The boys, having obtained permission from their parents to go with the
cobbler to set the trap after dark, found Mr. Crispen waiting for them
at his shop. He had the trap on a small cart he used to haul his rolls
of leather from the railroad express office.

“It won’t be long now before we have that deer,” said Mr. Crispen.
“Come along, boys!”

Teddy and his chums helped push the cart through the streets to the
rear of Mrs. Traddle’s garden. It was dusk. But if the strange little
procession was observed, doubtless it was thought to be some boys
moving a dog house. That’s what the trap looked like.

“Now show me,” said Mr. Crispen when the garden was reached, “just
where the deer got in that time and ate the corn.”

The boys indicated the place. It could still be seen in the light of
the moon, for that part of Mrs. Traddle’s garden still bore the marks
made by the trampling deer.

“Now we’ll place and set the trap,” said the cobbler. “Then we’ll get
out of here. The deer won’t come if we stay around very long.”

“Do you think the deer will come?” asked Teddy.

“Oh, sure he will!” replied Mr. Crispen.



CHAPTER XIV

A CAPTIVE


Teddy and his chums helped Mr. Crispen set the deer trap in Mrs.
Traddle’s garden. The candy-store keeper watched them for a while, but
whenever the bell on her store door jingled, she hurried inside to wait
on a customer. Each time the door was opened a bell rang. Sometimes
Mrs. Traddle heard it and sometimes she didn’t.

But at last, growing tired of running in and out, Mrs. Traddle remained
in the store and left the boys and the cobbler to their work. It was
getting dark now.

“There!” exclaimed Mr. Crispen as he set the bait and adjusted the
catch of the sliding door. “The trap is all ready. What we need now is
for the deer to come along and be caught.”

“Are you sure the trap will work?” asked Teddy.

“Oh, sure!” said the cobbler. “Just you try it.”

“Go on, Teddy, get in!” advised Dick with a laugh.

“And get caught!” cried Teddy. “I should say not!”

“But we’re here to let you out,” said Joe.

Under that promise Teddy consented to enter the box trap to see if it
would work.

“But no fooling!” he told his chums. “If I get caught in there you’ve
got to let me out.”

“I’ll see to that,” promised Mr. Crispen. “It will be a good way to
test the trap. Now, Teddy, here is what you do. The trap is big enough
for you to go in if you stoop a little. From what you told me, the deer
isn’t quite as tall as you boys, even counting his horns.”

“No, he’s about our size,” Dick said.

“A deer can bend his head backward and sort of lay his horns along
his back,” explained the cobbler. “That’s what they do when they run
through the woods so their horns won’t get caught. So I think I have
made the trap plenty high enough for the deer.

“When you go in, Teddy, just pretend you are a deer and take hold of
the bait with your hand. The bait is tied to the trigger that will slip
the catch and let the door fall back of you. You will be a captive for
a little while. But we’ll soon let you out.

“Then, if we find the trap works all right, and I’m sure it will, I’ll
set it again and we’ll go away. In the morning we shall have another
captive, I’m sure.”

“You mean the deer?” asked Joe.

“I mean the deer,” said the cobbler.

When all was ready, and the bundle of carrots, cabbage, lettuce and
salt tied to the trigger, Teddy stooped and walked into the trap. It
was just about large enough for him.

“All ready fellows!” he called in a muffled voice. “Here she goes!”

A moment later, with a thud, the door dropped down back of the boy and
he was caught in the trap.

“It worked!” cried Joe.

“Swell!” exclaimed Dick.

“I knew it would,” chuckled the cobbler. He walked all around the trap
to make sure it was tight. The moon was beginning to rise now and the
party of deer-trappers could see quite well.

“I say!” called Teddy. “When are you going to let me out of here?”

“Oh, that’s so,” said Joe, pretending to have forgotten his chum.
“Teddy is in the trap, isn’t he?”

“I was wondering what had become of him,” Dick remarked with pretended
innocence.

“Open that door!” cried Teddy.

A man passing in the road, which was not far from where the trap was
being set in Mrs. Traddle’s garden, suddenly stopped and called:

“What’s going on there?”

At the same time Teddy called again in loud tones:

“Let me out! Let me out of this trap!”

“Oh, so you’re putting boys in traps, are you!” cried the man in angry
tones. “I’ll stop that!” He leaped over the fence. Joe, Dick and Mr.
Crispen saw it was Policeman Robbin.

“What’s going on here?” demanded the officer, his ruddy face darkened
by anger.

“We’re just setting a deer trap, and Teddy went in to test it,”
explained Joe as Dick and Mr. Crispen raised the door.

“Oh,” said the policeman, with a little laugh. “Excuse me. But I
thought somebody was trying to catch a boy in a trap.”

“Well,” laughed Teddy, “I was caught all right. But the trap sure
works. That door fell shut as soon as I touched the bait.”

“I hope it happens that way when the deer goes in,” said Joe.

“It will,” declared Mr. Crispen.

It did not take long to re-set the trap. Policeman Robbin watched for a
while and then, jumping back over the fence, went on duty again.

“Well, we can leave now,” said the cobbler as he gave a last look all
around the trap. “In the morning when you boys come here, you will find
another sort of captive than Teddy in the trap.”

“Hadn’t you better come here with us?” suggested Teddy. “If we catch
the deer, you will know better how to handle him than we will.”

“Yes, I’m an old hand with deer,” said Mr. Crispen. “I used to trap
them out West. I had two or three for pets until they grew so big they
were troublesome. Yes, I’ll come here with you. Stop at my house when
you come to look in the trap. I’ll join you.”

Mr. Crispen’s house was next door to his shop.

“We’ll be here early,” warned Dick.

“Yes, I expect you’ll want to see the deer in the trap. Well, you can’t
come any too early for me. I never sleep late. Just ring my bell and
I’ll be with you.”

Leaving the trap in Mrs. Traddle’s garden, the boys and the cobbler
started for their homes. In front of the candy store Teddy said:

“I feel sort of thirsty, fellows, after being caught in the trap. I’ll
treat to soda if you want some.”

“Why not?” asked Dick.

“You can’t scare me off!” laughed Joe.

Mr. Crispen had hurried off down the street, not staying for the soda
treat. But the three boys went inside and Mrs. Traddle came out to wait
on them.

“Lemon soda,” ordered Joe.

“Sarsaparilla,” was Dick’s choice.

“I think I’ll have a root beer,” said Teddy.

“What’s that?” cried the deaf old lady. “You are going to give a
cheer? Mercy me! Oh, I know. It’s because you have caught the deer.
Well, go on and cheer, if you like. I guess I can stand it if you don’t
cheer too loud.”

“No, no,” said Teddy laughing. “I said I wanted a ROOT BEER soda.”

“Oh, root beer. Why didn’t you say so at first?” grumbled Mrs. Traddle.

After drinking their sodas the boys went home. They were up early next
morning, meeting at Teddy’s house. They hurried to the home of the
shoemaker where Mr. Crispen soon joined them.

“I wonder if we’ve caught the deer,” mused Teddy as they went on to the
trap in Mrs. Traddle’s garden.

“You will find the deer in my trap,” said the cobbler confidently.

They soon were in sight of it. And one look was enough to tell them
some captive was inside the trap. For there was a sound of banging
horns, trampling feet and dull thuds. The trap was swaying from side to
side.

“We’ve caught the deer!” cried Teddy leaping over the fence.



CHAPTER XV

ESCAPE


Just as Teddy Benson leaped over the fence and landed in Mrs. Traddle’s
garden, to run toward the deer trap, the candy-store lady darted out of
her back door and headed for the same place.

Teddy was followed by his chums and Mr. Crispen.

Mrs. Traddle was all alone. She was the first to reach the box trap out
of which came many strange sounds.

There were sounds of tramping, beating feet and banging horns. Also
sounds of grunts and heavy breathing.

“You’ve caught some sort of animal in your trap!” called Mrs. Traddle
to Teddy and the others.

“It’s a deer, Mrs. Traddle,” said the old cobbler. “I knew when I made
that trap it would catch the mystery deer.”

“I can’t make out if it’s a deer or not,” said Mrs. Traddle.

“Have you been out here before, looking?” asked Joe as they all hurried
nearer the trap.

“Oh, land sakes, yes,” Mrs. Traddle replied. “I was out here as soon as
it was daylight.”

“What time was the deer caught?” asked Teddy.

“I’m not sure it is a deer,” Mrs. Traddle said. “I can’t get a good
look at it through the cracks. You made that trap of yours good and
tight, Mr. Crispen.”

“I sure did, Mrs. Traddle,” said the cobbler. “When you make a deer
trap, make it good and tight, I say. Deer are pesky critters for
getting out of a place once they get in.”

“But as I said,” went on Mrs. Traddle, “I can’t be sure it is a deer.”

“Oh, it’s a deer, all right,” said Mr. Crispen.

“What time was it caught?” asked Teddy.

“Oh, along about midnight, I should say,” replied the candy-store lady.
“I heard a noise in my garden then and I looked out. But I couldn’t see
anything. I expect what I heard was the sliding door falling shut after
the critter in the trap had pulled on the bait. I didn’t come down to
look, but I expect that’s what it was.”

“That was it,” said the cobbler a bit proudly. “The deer nibbled the
bait and the door fell, catching him.”

“As I said,” went on Mrs. Traddle who seemed to be hearing very well
now, “as I said, I’m not sure it is a deer you’ve caught. I came out
here as soon as it was daylight and peeked through the cracks as best I
could.”

“What did you see?” asked Joe.

“I saw a critter with sort of brown and white fur and horns,” replied
Mrs. Traddle. “Might be a cow for all I know.”

“A cow would be too big to get in my trap,” said the cobbler.

“Well, yes, maybe so,” admitted Mrs. Traddle. “Anyhow it’s a raging and
plunging sort of a critter, whatever it is. Two or three times, when I
came out to look before you arrived, I thought it would break out of
the trap.”

“It can’t get out of the trap!” declared the cobbler. “I made it too
strong.”

“Well, it’s cutting up something terrible,” went on the old lady. “I’m
sure it will get free.”

As Teddy, his chums and Mr. Crispen stood near the trap, the animal
inside appeared to be making strong efforts to escape. It plunged about
and struck the sides and ends of the trap with its horns and feet.

“That’s the way it’s been going on since daylight,” explained Mrs.
Traddle. “If you hadn’t come when you did I was going to telephone
you. I was getting sort of scared.”

“There is no danger,” said Mr. Crispen. He peered through a crack in
the trap at the animal inside. So did the boys. They could not get a
very good view. Though there were many cracks in the box trap, none of
them was large enough to give a good view. But the boys and the cobbler
had glimpses of an animal with brown and white hair and also with horns.

“That’s a deer, all right,” asserted the cobbler. “We’ve caught him
just as I said we would.”

“The next thing,” said Teddy, “is to get him out of this trap and tie
him up some place. He seems wild.”

“He is wild!” declared Mrs. Traddle. “He’s been wild ever since he was
in that trap. I tried to quiet him but I couldn’t.”

“What did you do to quiet him?” asked Teddy.

“Well, I tried to whistle and make noises as I would to a dog. I don’t
expect,” said Mrs. Traddle slowly, “they were the right sort of noises
to make to a deer in a trap.”

“No,” said Mr. Crispen with a short laugh, “they weren’t. Not to a deer
in a trap or out of a trap.”

“What kind of noises should you make to quiet a deer?” asked Mrs.
Traddle.

“I don’t know,” the cobbler had to admit.

“Why, I thought you said you had caught lots of deer.”

“So I have. But I never made any soothing noises to ’em,” chuckled Mr.
Crispen. “They didn’t seem to need such attention. But now this is a
wild and tearing sort of critter and it isn’t going to be easy to get
him quiet and out of this trap.”

“If that man with the lasso was here, he could help,” said Joe.

“Yes, but he isn’t here,” spoke Mr. Crispen.

“I’ve got that lasso home,” Teddy said. “Shall I go get it and lasso
the deer after you open the trap and let him out?”

“Can you lasso?” asked Mr. Crispen.

“Not very good,” Teddy had to admit.

“Then I guess we’d better not try that,” said the cobbler. “If I open
that door and let the deer back out, he’s going to run loose and cut up
something fierce! He’s scared like. Then he’ll do a lot more damage to
Mrs. Traddle’s garden--maybe more than the reward money would cover.”

“If there is any reward money,” Teddy pointed out.

“Oh, there’ll surely be some!” declared the cobbler. “But I don’t want
to open this trap out here in Mrs. Traddle’s garden. What we ought to
do is let the deer stay in the trap. Then if we could load him, trap
and all, on a sort of truck and take it to a barn, we could let the
deer loose in the barn and catch him. Of course, we’d have to be sure
the barn doors were shut. If we could do that--”

“There’s no reason why we can’t,” Teddy exclaimed. “Mr. Lanter, the
butcher, has a truck. He often loads heavy boxes and barrels on it and
he has a sort of windlass up under the front seat. We could fasten a
rope to the trap and haul it up on Mr. Lanter’s truck with the rope
and windlass. Then we could take the deer in the trap to our garage. A
garage would be just as good as a barn, wouldn’t it, Mr. Crispen?”

“Sure, just as good. That’s a fine idea, Teddy. If I can use your
telephone, Mrs. Traddle, I’ll ask Mr. Lanter to come here with his
truck.”

“What’s that?” asked the old lady, who seemed to have gone deaf again.
“You say you haven’t any luck? Why, I think you were very lucky to
catch the deer on your first try.”

“No, I didn’t say LUCK!” shouted Mr. Crispen. “I said I want to
telephone for Mr. Lanter’s TRUCK. I suppose I can?”

“Of course you can. But why didn’t you say so at first, instead of
talking about your luck. The telephone is in the store.”

The cobbler went there with Mrs. Traddle. He got the butcher on the
wire but was having a little hard work making Mr. Lanter understand
what was wanted. The butcher could not be made to believe that a deer
had been caught in Mrs. Traddle’s garden.

But finally Mr. Lanter said:

“All right, I’ll be right over with the truck.”

Mr. Crispen went out to the garden to tell the boys about the coming of
the truck. Teddy, Joe and Dick were standing near the trap. The animal
inside was plunging about more vigorously than before.

Suddenly there was an extra loud bang, a rending crash of wood and the
front end of the trap splintered outward.

“He’s breaking loose!” yelled Joe.

“He’s out!” shouted Teddy as the whole end of the trap gave way and the
captive leaped out.

“Catch him! Catch that deer!” yelled Mr. Crispen.

There was a flash of heels, a shaking of horns in the sunlight and the
animal leaped over the garden fence and galloped down the road. At the
same time Teddy yelled:

“That wasn’t a deer at all!”



CHAPTER XVI

TEDDY IS UPSET


The escape of the animal from the cobbler’s cage so surprised Joe and
Dick that at first they did not understand what Teddy had shouted. Even
Mr. Crispen was startled.

As for Mrs. Traddle, who had followed the shoemaker out to the garden
after the telephone talk, she gave a loud cry when the trap was broken
by the escaping captive.

Then Mrs. Traddle rushed into the house, slammed shut and locked the
door and cried:

“Send for the police! Send for the police!”

But when another shout of Teddy had echoed in the ears of his chums,
and they had time to calm down, Joe asked:

“What did you say, Teddy?”

“I said that was no deer.”

“What was it?” asked Dick.

“A goat!” Teddy exclaimed. “And it looked like that big goat Tony
Pasqualla keeps in a shack near his garden.”

“A goat?” repeated Dick.

“Yes, a goat,” declared Teddy again. “I had a better look at it than
you fellows. It was a goat as sure as anything.”

“Well, then,” said Mr. Crispen, who was getting over his disappointment
at the animal’s escape, “no wonder it broke my trap, strong as it was.
That goat just butted through the boards.”

“I’ll say he butted through!” laughed Teddy. “I’m glad I wasn’t in
front of him when it happened. Boy, he sure sailed over the fence as if
he had wings!”

“Where is he now?” asked the cobbler.

“About ten miles from here, I should say, at the rate he was going,”
laughed Teddy.

“He sure was scared,” remarked Joe.

“And mad!” added Dick.

“No wonder,” said Teddy. “If that was Tony Pasqualla’s big goat, and I
think it was from the color, he’s always been kindly treated. To Tony
and his family that goat, which they milk, is like a cow. They even
bring it in the house, so I heard. No wonder, after having been treated
kindly all its life, the goat got mad when it was trapped and shut up.”

“Dear me! A goat!” murmured Mr. Crispen. “I was sure it was a deer.”

“Well, it did look a little like the mystery deer,” Joe said. “It was
brown and white.”

“And had horns,” added Dick.

“But we couldn’t see it very well. The cracks in the trap were too
small,” Teddy remarked.

“That’s so,” admitted the cobbler. “I’ll make a new trap and put in
bigger cracks. Then we can see what we’ve caught.”

Mrs. Traddle, after looking from a window and seeing no signs of any
raging animal, came out into the garden again.

“Are you fixing,” she asked Mr. Crispen, her mouth drawing to a thin
line, “to make another trap and set it in my garden?”

“I was,” spoke the cobbler.

“No,” said Mrs. Traddle firmly. “No more deer traps in my garden! I’ve
been bothered enough. Set your deer trap some other place.”

“But this is the best place,” protested the cobbler. “The deer has
been here once. He likes your garden, Mrs. Traddle. He is sure to come
again.”

“Well, if he comes again he can go again. He isn’t going to be trapped
and turn into a goat to scare a body into a conniption fit. No more
deer traps in my garden!”

“Well, all right,” said the cobbler, somewhat sadly. “I guess you boys
will have to look around for other places where the deer comes and I’ll
set my trap there.”

“All right,” assented Teddy. “We’ll have to take the trail again,
fellows.”

“The trail of the mystery deer!” said Joe.

“What’ll we do about this broken trap?” asked Dick.

“I’ll take it back to the shop on my cart,” said Mr. Crispen. “I’ll
make a better trap next time. I’m sorry about this, boys.”

“Oh, well, you couldn’t help it,” said Teddy. “No one could tell that
Pasqualla’s goat was going to get loose and roam into the trap at
night.”

Mr. Lanter, the butcher, came along just then in his truck, ready to
load on it the trap and the deer he supposed had been caught.

“But there’s nothing now for you to do, thank you just the same,” said
Mr. Crispen. “It got away.”

“You mean the deer did?” asked the butcher.

“No, the goat.”

“I thought you said it was a deer.”

“So I did, Mr. Lanter, but it turned out to be a goat.”

“There’s something funny about this,” said the butcher as he prepared
to drive away in his truck after hearing the story. “First it’s a deer,
then it’s a goat, then it isn’t anything. Talk about mysteries--this
sure is one!”

And as several days passed and there was no further sign or news of the
deer, Teddy and his chums began to feel they had seen the last of the
mystery animal.

For a time they had hopes they might be called on to look for the big
brown and white goat of Tony Pasqualla. But that family pet, after
breaking out of the trap and leaping from Mrs. Traddle’s garden,
finally made his way back to the stable where he was penned up.

Teddy and his chums learned this when they called to inquire about the
goat. They saw the animal tied in a stall eating peacefully.

“One nighta she go away,” Tony explained to the boys. “No can finda my
goat all night. Nexta da morn she coma home alla crazy like--you know,
excite! Someting musta happen my goat.”

“Something did,” Teddy said. And he and the boys explained. For they
knew Tony would hear about the trap and they wanted him to know the
catching of his goat had not been intended.

“Oh, sure, dat’s alla de right,” smiled the Italian. “My goat Angelina
no hurt any. But you say you want to get a deer?”

“Yes,” Teddy replied. “A mystery deer.”

“Oh, is dat a danger kind--dat mysdery deer?”

“No. It only means there’s something strange about it,” said Joe.
“Mysterious.”

“It comes and goes,” added Dick.

“Oh, I understan’,” laughed Tony. “Justa laik de sun! Ha! Ha!”

Though Teddy and his chums made several trips to the woods, fields and
the glen, they saw no further signs of the deer. Sometimes the girls
went with them on hunts. Once in a while Fatty Nolan would go out with
the boys. But he was so excited no one could depend on him. Once he
caused great excitement by shouting:

“There he is! The mystery deer! I see his horns!”

But it was only the whitened, gnarled roots of an old stump in a field.

Once Margie and Lucy came hurrying home from a berry-picking trip
saying they had seen the deer in a field. Teddy and his chums hurried
to the place only to see a cow, partly screened by the bushes.

Meanwhile Mr. Crispen made his trap over and set it in Mason’s meadow
near the place where the deer had first been seen. But though he put
fresh bait in the trap every night, no deer went in to spring the trap
and be caught.

“I guess we’ve seen the last of the mystery deer,” said Teddy to his
chums one day. They were returning from a trip to look for the animal.

“Seems so,” admitted Joe.

“We haven’t even seen that cowboy, or whoever he was, that lassoed you,
Teddy,” remarked Dick.

“No, we haven’t. And I’d like to meet him. Maybe he didn’t mean to rope
me. He might want his lasso back,” Teddy said.

It was two days after this that Teddy was down in the far end of the
house garden, doing a little weeding. The garden was one in which Teddy
had an interest. It was a tomato patch and his father had said Teddy
could have half of the tomatoes to sell if he would keep the patch
weeded and the vines up off the ground on little wooden supports.

It was in the afternoon and Teddy was stooping down, pulling out some
weeds when he suddenly felt himself touched on the back.

“Hey, quit that!” he called, thinking it was either Dick or Joe who had
sneaked up on him.

There was no answer. But a moment later Teddy suddenly was upset and
thrust forward so that he fell flat on the ground among the tomato
vines.



CHAPTER XVII

ON THE DEER’S TRAIL


Scrambling to his feet, Teddy whirled around thinking to confront one
of his chums who had upset him. Teddy was angry. He started to say:

“What’s the big idea? What right have you to--”

That was as far as Teddy got. For as he stood up and turned to look, he
saw neither Joe nor Dick.

But rapidly disappearing from view across a field adjoining the Benson
garden, and heading for Mason’s woods, was the mystery deer.

“There he goes!” cried Teddy, very much excited. “There he goes! He
upset me! Gosh! What do you know about that! I’ve got to catch that
deer now!”

Teddy darted toward the edge of the garden. There was no fence around
it. He started to race after the deer. But the animal was so swift it
had vanished in the woods before Teddy was half way across the field
that adjoined Mason’s meadow.

“That deer sure can travel!” exclaimed Teddy admiringly as he slowed
up. “But why did he upset me--and how?”

Teddy squirmed around far enough to look at the back of his slacks. He
saw a small hole that had not been there before and he understood what
had happened.

The deer had sneaked up so quietly behind Teddy that the boy had never
heard a sound. He was intent on his weeding and so had been taken off
guard.

“And I was sort of figuring,” Teddy said afterward, when he met his
chums and told them the story, “how much I might make by selling my
tomatoes. Then, all of a sudden, I was upset. I thought sure one of you
fellows had done it.”

“Are you sure it was the deer?” asked Joe.

“Sure! Who else could it be? There was no one else in sight. And I saw
the deer running away. He just sneaked up behind me, hooked a prong of
his horns into my slacks and turned me over.”

“Did he hurt you?” asked Dick.

“No. Didn’t even scratch me. But he put a hole in my slacks.”

“He was just playing with you,” said Joe.

“Well, maybe it was play, or maybe he meant to tell me that we should
stop trying to catch him,” Teddy said. “But it proves one thing,
fellows.”

“What?” Dick wanted to know.

“That the mystery deer is still around here. And we are going to catch
him!”

“How?” asked Joe.

“We’ll take the trail again!” said Teddy firmly. “We’ll chase that deer
until we catch him. Are you with me?”

“Sure!” echoed his chums. Their faces brightened eagerly.

“Then help me finish the tomato weeding,” Teddy suggested, “and we can
start right away.”

Joe and Dick looked blank. They hadn’t counted on weeding.

“Oh, I’ll cut you in on whatever I make when I sell my tomatoes,
fellows,” Teddy promised.

So the two chums agreed to help. They accompanied Teddy to the lower
end of the garden, and Joe suddenly said:

“Say, I’ve got an idea!”

“Better set a trap for it. Maybe it will escape!” chuckled Dick.

“No, I mean it,” went on Joe. “Maybe it was the cowboy who sent that
deer to upset you, Teddy.”

“How do you figure that out?” Teddy asked.

“Well, something like this,” Joe continued. “That cowboy with the star
heel plates has something to do with this mystery deer. I’m sure of
that.”

“So am I,” said Dick.

“Well,” resumed Joe, “you have his lasso, Teddy, haven’t you?”

“Yes, but he sort of gave it to me. Anyhow he threw it around me and
yanked me over and the lasso stayed there. He can have it back if he
wants it.”

“Maybe he thinks you won’t give it to him,” went on Joe. “So he trailed
you and as soon as he saw his chance he set his deer on you to topple
you over into the tomatoes.”

“You mean he set his deer on me as he might set a dog?” asked Teddy.

“Sure, that’s it.”

“I don’t believe this cowboy had anything to do with the deer upsetting
me,” Teddy said quietly.

“I don’t, either,” said Dick, siding with Teddy.

“Well, maybe I’m wrong,” Joe admitted. “But it’s mighty strange that
the deer stays around here. He wouldn’t do that unless his owner was
somewhere near, and I think the cowboy owns him.”

“Why doesn’t he capture the deer, then, and keep him from bothering
us?” asked Teddy.

“Maybe he can’t catch the deer, any more than we can,” Joe said. “I’d
like to meet that cowboy.”

“So would I,” Teddy agreed. “But while he may have something to do with
the deer, I don’t believe he set the deer on me.”

“Then why did the deer upset you?” Joe asked.

“Oh, he’s young--just sort of playful,” Teddy answered.

“Oh, yeah?” laughed Dick, somewhat tauntingly. “Well, I don’t like that
sort of play.”

“You want to help get that deer, don’t you?” Teddy asked.

“Sure.”

“Well, then you may have to take some chances of hard play. If you
fellows want to drop out--”

“Oh, we don’t want to do that,” said Joe.

“Well, then let’s step on it a little and scout around more,” Teddy
suggested. “Our vacation is getting shorter. We want to find that deer
before it’s over.”

“That’s right!” agreed his chums.

“We’ve got to be ready, night or day, to take the trail after the
deer!” Teddy declared.

“Sure!” echoed Joe and Dick.

More determined than ever before to capture the mystery deer, the three
boys worked hard at weeding the tomato patch. It was tame work compared
to the exciting adventure just ahead.



CHAPTER XVIII

WRONG NUMBER


When the tomato patch had been weeded and the dirt hoed into small
hills around the roots of each plant, Teddy and his chums were free to
go deer hunting.

“First,” decided Teddy as he led his friends from the garden, “we ought
to wash up and then get something to eat.”

“I’m in favor of that last, anyhow,” Dick said. “Lead the way to the
pantry, Teddy.”

Removing some of the grime and the stains of weeds from their hands,
the boys sat on Teddy’s back stoop, disposing of several glasses of
milk and some cookies which Teddy got from the kitchen.

“Now I feel strong enough to play with any deer!” declared Dick.

“Even one with big horns?” asked Joe.

“Bring on the deer--horns and all!” Dick challenged.

But though the boys spent the remainder of the afternoon scouting
around for traces of the deer, they saw none and when night came they
decided to give up the chase for the time being.

Tired from the day’s work in the garden and from following a deer trail
that led nowhere, Teddy was reading in his room that evening when he
heard a rattle of gravel against the window. At the same time he heard
what seemed to be a tree-toad trilling.

Casting aside his book, Teddy jumped to the window, the lower sash
of which was open since it was a warm night. The gravel had rattled
against the upper panes.

Teddy whistled back the tree-toad signal and called down:

“Is that you, Joe?”

“It’s Dick,” was the answer.

“What’s the matter?” Teddy wanted to know. “This isn’t secret club
night, is it?”

“No,” answered Dick. “But I thought maybe you couldn’t get out to go
with me and Joe, so I gave the secret signal.”

“Go where?” demanded Teddy.

“After the deer. Joe saw him. He’s keeping him in sight and I came for
you. Hurry!”

“I’ll be right down,” Teddy answered.

Besides the Mystery Club, the boys had a Secret Society. Instead of
leaving by the front or back doors to attend sessions, it was one of
the rules they should slide down a rope from their bedroom windows. And
the boys took turns going quietly after dark, signalling to one another
by tossing gravel against a window and giving the tree-toad whistle.

There was no reason why Teddy and his chums could not have gone out the
front or back doors to the meetings of the Secret Club.

Their parents would probably have made no objections, since the
existence of the club was known to them.

But, somehow, it seemed much more fun to go to a meeting of the Secret
Club after a summons by thrown gravel, a strange whistle and after
sliding down a rope.

So Teddy got his rope out of a closet where he kept it hidden, fastened
one end firmly to his bed and tossed the other end out of the window.
It was no trick at all to go down it hand-over-hand to the ground where
Dick was waiting in the shadow of some bushes.

“So you sighted the deer, did you?” asked Teddy as he and Dick made
their way down through the back yard and across lots.

“Joe did,” Dick answered. “We had been downtown and were on our way
home by the back way, through the little patch of woods near Fountain
Park when Joe saw the deer. I had left him but he came running after me
to tell me. Then he said he’d keep the deer in sight and I was to come
for you.”

“So you did,” agreed Teddy. “But do you think that deer is going to
stay in one place while Joe watches him, and until you and I get
there?”

“Joe thought maybe he would,” said Dick. “Joe said the deer was feeding
right in that little patch of woods, and acted as if he were going to
stay there a while.”

“Well, maybe he will,” Teddy said. “Golly! This is swell! We have a
good chance to get that deer now!”

“Come on! Hurry!” advised Dick.

The two boys hurried on through the darkness. Now and then they
stumbled. Once Dick, who was in the lead, tripped and fell. Teddy
tumbled over him.

“Gosh! What happened, Dick?” asked Teddy.

“There was a ditch here. I didn’t see it.”

“I should say you didn’t! Well, anyhow, we know it’s here now,” Teddy
said rather ruefully as he got to his feet. “We should have brought
flashlights.”

“I guess you’re right,” Dick replied. “But Joe and I didn’t know we
were going deer hunting. We didn’t have time to go back and get our
flashlights.”

“That’s right. But I should have brought mine,” Teddy said. “Never
mind. We’ll go a bit slower from now on.”

This plan of advance worked well and in a short time Teddy and Dick
emerged into a little clearing near a small recreation spot on the edge
of town. The place was called Fountain Park.

“There’s Joe!” called Dick excitedly.

Teddy saw a figure dimly waving its arms in a signal to hurry.

“We’d better run!” Teddy advised.

In another few seconds he and Dick had joined their chum.

“Where is he?” demanded Teddy excitedly.

“He’s gone,” Joe replied.

“Gone? You mean the deer got away?”

“Yes. But he hasn’t gone far I guess. He walked off into the patch
of woods just before you fellows got here. I thought you weren’t ever
coming!”

“We came as fast as we could,” Dick said. “I fell down.”

“And I fell over him,” added Teddy. “But we’re here now. Do you know
which way the deer went?”

“Sure I do! Straight ahead. Follow me!”

Joe darted off in the darkness. Teddy and Dick followed. They were
out of the clearing now and into the small patch of woods which was
separated from Fountain Park by a highway. It was a seldom-used
thoroughfare and there was no traffic on it now.

“Did you see anybody near the deer?” asked Teddy as he and Dick trotted
along beside Joe.

“No. He was all alone. He was feeding quietly. Then, just before you
fellows got here, he seemed to take fright. He raised his head. I was
about fifty feet away and I could see him very well. Then, all of a
sudden, he turned around and walked off through the woods.”

“Maybe you scared him,” suggested Teddy.

“No. I didn’t move or make a sound. I was still and quiet. I could see
the deer as plain as anything. But I thought you fellows would never--”

“Hark!” suddenly interrupted Teddy.

They stopped and listened. Ahead of them they could hear the clatter
and cracking of the branches of trees and bushes.

“That’s the deer!” cried Joe. “He’s just ahead of us!”

“We’ll get him now!” exclaimed Teddy.

“Hurry!” advised Dick.

In the excitement of the chase, neither of the boys gave thought to how
they might capture the mystery deer even if they got within sight. They
had nothing with which to make the animal fast. They broke into a run.
It wasn’t quite so dark now. A half moon was beginning to lift in the
dark sky and it gave a little light.

The noise of the boys increased. Plainly some animal was making its way
through the little patch of woods ahead of them.

Then, suddenly, Teddy who was now in the lead, came to such an abrupt
stop that Joe bumped into him.

“What’s the matter?” Joe demanded.

“Wrong number!” cried Teddy, starting to retreat.

“Wrong number?” questioned his two chums.

“Yes. Can’t you smell it?”

A dank, strong and most oppressive odor was wafted to the three boys.

“Skunk!” they cried together. “Skunk!” And Teddy added: “Come on! Beat
it before we get any closer! We might have bumped right into him if
we’d kept on!”

It was all too evident they were in the neighborhood of a skunk. And
they well knew the consequences of coming to close quarters with one
of these animals. Harmless if left alone, a skunk can loose a barrage
of what is practically a poison gas--not deadly but terribly offensive.

“So that was your deer--just a skunk, Joe!” taunted Teddy as the three
boys started back to their homes.

“I tell you I saw the deer as plain as anything!” Joe declared. “I know
a deer when I see one, even in the dark.”

“And I know a skunk when I smell one--even in the dark!” laughed Teddy.
“But maybe you were right, Joe. Probably you saw the deer but he got
away. Maybe the deer scared the skunk or maybe he even might have
stepped too close. Anyhow the skunk is on the trail ahead and that
means we lay off.”

“I guess you’re right,” Joe said. “But we had a swell chance!”

“I don’t want to take any chances with a skunk,” Teddy said.



CHAPTER XIX

NIGHT CAMP


Disappointed at the result of the chase, but thankful they had not come
in any closer contact with the skunk, the boys returned to their homes.

Teddy tried to climb up the rope to get back into his room, but he made
so much noise his father came out to see what was going on.

“I thought you were in bed,” remarked Mr. Benson.

“Oh, I was out With Joe and Dick after that deer.”

“Did you get him?”

“No, he got away.”

“Hum,” remarked Mr. Benson. “Seems to me you boys are going to a lot of
trouble about a deer.”

“We don’t like to be stumped,” Teddy said.

“Hum. Well, I can understand that. But you’d better come in the front
door instead of trying to climb that rope, Teddy.”

“Yes, I guess maybe I had,” Teddy agreed. “I’m going to make a rope
ladder after we catch that deer. A rope ladder is much easier to climb.”

For the next two days the three boys, aided occasionally by the girls,
made a search for the mystery deer. But though Teddy and his chums
several times were sure they saw the trail of the animal in the woods
and field owned by Mr. Mason, they could get no real glimpse of the
deer itself.

Then one afternoon, when the three chums were scouting around, they saw
the deer as it came out of the woods and began feeding in the meadow.

“There he is!” cried Teddy.

“Sure enough!” yelled Dick.

“Let’s cut him off!” shouted Joe. “Get between him and the woods and
keep him out in the open. Then we can chase him down. Come on!”

Eagerly the three boys rushed forward, spreading out so as to place
themselves between the deer and the forest. They were in a good
position to do this as the animal was well out in the field.

For a short time, neither hearing, seeing nor scenting the boys, the
deer continued to feed. Then his alert ears, eyes or nose told him
something was wrong and, raising his head, shaking his horns and giving
a defiant snort, he turned toward the woods.

But the boys were between him and this hiding place. With shouts they
turned the deer back and he fled across the fields, out into the open.

“Now we’ll get him!” cried Teddy. “We’ll run him down if we have to
keep up the chase all night.”

“We can’t stay out all night,” said Joe.

“Why not?” asked Teddy.

“We haven’t any blankets, not even a flashlight, and we have nothing to
eat.”

“That last is important,” said Dick. “We have to eat.”

“I’ll tell you what we can do,” Teddy said. “Two of us will take the
trail after the deer, Joe and I. Dick, you get to the nearest telephone
and ask my mother to put up some food, some blankets and flashlights,
and meet us with the car at Bailey’s Corners. That’s the little town
about three miles from here. The deer is headed that way. We can keep
on after him all night if we get some supplies. My mother will fix that
for us. Hurry now, Dick!”

Teddy issued his orders like a soldier and they were soon being carried
out.

Perhaps Dick Kelly might have wished he could keep on the trail of the
mystery deer instead of having to go to a telephone to order supplies
for the expedition. But if Dick wished this he gave no sign of it.

“All right, Teddy,” he answered. “I’ll go telephone your mother to
bring our stuff to Bailey’s Corners. Do you think she will?”

“Of course she will,” Teddy declared. “She knows how much we want to
capture this deer and solve the mystery.”

“All right,” said Dick. He set off on the run for the nearest
telephone. Teddy and Joe raced after the deer. The animal was now
evidently heading for open places instead of toward the woods.

“We have a good chance to catch him,” panted Teddy as he trotted along
beside Joe.

“Do you think so?”

“Sure!” Teddy declared. “This is the best chance we’ve had yet. Come
on! Step on it!”

Teddy and his chum were good runners. They often had taken part in
cross-country races and this practice helped them to make good speed
now. They had lost sight of the deer for the moment. But in a short
time after taking the trail Teddy shouted:

“There he goes! Straight toward Bailey’s Corners!”

“And he isn’t going very fast,” said Joe.

The deer might not have been going as fast as he could run. But still
he managed to keep well ahead of the two boys. Perhaps, the animal
knew, also, he could “step on it,” when the need came.

But the sight of the animal gave Teddy and Joe new hope and they
somewhat increased their speed hoping to catch up to the deer before it
reached Bailey’s Corners.

This was a small settlement, about three miles from Mason’s woods and
meadow, and about half way between another large patch of woodland
which had been taken over by the state as a forest park.

“If the deer gets into Oak Forest,” said Teddy, “we’ll never be able to
trail him. It’s too big a stretch of woods.”

“That’s right,” agreed Joe. “We must capture him before he gets there.”

So they continued the chase.

Meanwhile Dick had reached a farmhouse where there was a telephone. His
arrival, somewhat out of breath and excited, caused a little stir in
the house. Mrs. Nixon, the farmer’s wife, who was the only one at home,
gave Dick permission to use the telephone. She could not help hearing
what he said to Teddy’s mother.

At first Dick was so excited he could hardly talk straight. It was not
surprising, therefore, that Mrs. Benson did not quite understand all
Dick said nor what he wanted.

“Is this a joke?” she asked. “Teddy, you and Joe wanting me to bring
you things for a night camp?”

“No, it isn’t a joke,” Dick said. “We are really on the deer’s trail.
We’ll catch him this time.”

“Well, all right,” said Mrs. Benson after a short pause, “I will put
some camping things for you boys in the car and bring them to you. But
please tell Teddy to be careful.”

“I will,” promised Dick. “But you can tell him yourself, Mrs. Benson.
Teddy and Joe are going to wait for you and me at Bailey’s Corners.
You can pick me up here, can’t you?”

“Why, yes, Dick. I can do that,” said Teddy’s mother. “That will be
best. Well, I’ll get ready right away.”

“Oh, Mrs. Benson!” called Dick into the telephone.

“Yes, what is it, Dick?”

“You won’t forget to put in some flashlights, will you?”

“I’ll put them in with the blankets and other things for a temporary
camp.”

“And one other thing, Mrs. Benson.”

“What is it, Dick?”

“You won’t forget to put in something to eat, will you, please?”

“Oh, no,” laughed Teddy’s mother. “I won’t forget that. I’ll put that
in the car first of all. Now you stay at the Nixon farm until I get
there.”

“Yes’m,” said Dick.

“Land sakes!” exclaimed Mrs. Nixon as Dick turned from the telephone.
“What’s all this? You must excuse me,” she went on, “but I couldn’t
help hearing what you were saying to Mrs. Benson. So it’s been a deer
that’s been rampaging around in my garden, eh?”

“Has that deer been around here?” asked Dick eagerly.

“Some sort of a critter has,” stated the farmer’s wife. “Two or three
nights ago it got into our melon patch and did a lot of damage. We
didn’t exactly know what sort of an animal it was. But it must be the
deer you’re talking about.”

“It got in Mrs. Traddle’s garden, too,” Dick said. He gave a short
account of the animal, and Mrs. Nixon said:

“This must be the critter that cowboy fellow is after.”

“Was there a cowboy here after the deer?” asked Dick, now more excited
than before.

“Yes, there was, a couple of days ago,” replied Mrs. Nixon. “At least,
he said he was a cowboy and he was looking for a lost deer. That was
before our melon patch was raided. And I didn’t think any more about it
until now when I heard you talk to Mrs. Benson.”

“What sort of a cowboy was he?” asked Dick. “Did he have stars on his
heels?”

“Stars on his heels? Why, how you talk!” exclaimed the farmer’s wife.
“I never heard of such a thing! Stars on his heels!”

“I mean did he have heel plates with stars on them?”

“I don’t know,” said Mrs. Nixon. “But when I told him I hadn’t seen a
deer he went away. He took a short cut across my flower beds, too. But
I must say he didn’t step on any.”

“Has it rained since then?” asked Dick.

“Rained? What’s that got to do with it? No, it hasn’t.”

Dick ran to where he could see several beds of flowers at the side of
the house. Anxiously he bent over to look at the soft ground.

“Yes, it’s the same cowboy!” he exclaimed. “I can see the marks of his
star heel plates. That’s why I asked if it had rained. Rain would have
washed them away. But they are plain yet.”

“Land sakes!” exclaimed Mrs. Nixon. “What you boys don’t do!”

“Did this cowboy have a lasso?” asked Dick.

“I didn’t notice it if he had,” said Mrs. Nixon.

“And did he say why he was looking for a deer?” asked Dick.

“No, he didn’t say that. I probably would have asked him more about the
critter only I was busy. And up to then our melon patch hadn’t been
raided.

“Now you’d better sit down and rest until Mrs. Benson gets here. And
wouldn’t you like a nice glass of cool milk and some molasses cookies?”

“Yes’m, I would,” said Dick. “Thanks a lot.”

He had finished his little lunch, and was telling Mrs. Nixon more about
the hunt for the mystery deer, when Mrs. Benson drove into the yard.
The auto contained blankets, food and other items needed for the night
camp Teddy had planned on.

After a brief talk with Mrs. Nixon and Dick, Mrs. Benson, with Dick on
the seat beside her, started for Bailey’s Corners. There they found
Teddy and Joe had just arrived.

“Thanks a lot, mother, for helping this way,” Teddy panted.

“I think you boys are rather silly to make this fuss and take all this
trouble about a deer,” said Mrs. Benson, smiling.

“Oh, we just can’t let this deer beat us at the mystery game!” Teddy
exclaimed. “We can’t have our Mystery Club beaten!”

In a short time each boy had made up his bundle of blanket, food and
other things in readiness to again take the trail after the deer. It
was not the first time they had gone on hikes and spent the night in
the open without a tent.

“Are you sure there is plenty to eat,” Teddy asked his mother as the
three chums were about to start off.

“I put in all I thought you could carry,” she answered. “After all, you
won’t be out more than one night, will you?”

“I guess not,” Teddy replied. “If we can’t capture the deer between now
and tomorrow noon, we’ll come back home.”

“And try over again,” said Joe.

“Yes!” Teddy agreed.

Dick was lifting his pack. A satisfied look came over his face as he
noted the packages of food inside the blanket roll.

Bidding Mrs. Benson good-bye, the boys started off again. They had to
go a bit slower now because of the camping packs they carried.

They made their way through the little village. On inquiring of several
farmers they learned the deer was still out in the open. It had been
seen crossing several fields.

On and on the boys continued. The afternoon passed. They had stopped
for a little lunch. They had one distant glimpse of the deer and then
the animal had disappeared.

“But he is still going straight away from us,” Teddy said. “If we can
come up to him before he gets to Oak Forest we have a chance.”

The boys hurried on, but their pace was slower now. Teddy was tiring
and so were his chums. It was getting dusk.

“Fellows,” said Teddy suddenly, “we can’t go on any farther. Let’s make
a night camp here!”



CHAPTER XX

NIGHT ALARM


Teddy and his chums set up their little night camp in a field near a
small patch of woods and beside a small stream. The woods were just
the beginning of the state park, Oak Forest and were not very dense.
Farther on in the state park the trees were much thicker and larger.

“This is a good place,” Teddy remarked as he threw his blanket roll on
the ground. “We can stay here tonight and start after the deer first
thing in the morning.”

“That is if he waits for us and doesn’t go on into Oak Forest during
the night,” said Joe.

“It would be just like him to do that,” said Dick.

“No, I think not,” Teddy said. “We’ve kept after that deer pretty
steady. He must be tired and will be glad to rest and sleep during the
night.”

“Well,” remarked Dick with a sigh, “if that deer is as tired as I am he
won’t get up until noon tomorrow.”

“And if he’s as hungry as I am,” chuckled Joe, “he will spend most of
the night eating.”

“Well, fellows,” Teddy said, “we’ll soon be resting and eating. But we
can’t loaf until noon tomorrow. We’ve got to get up early and chase
after that deer. That is, if we want to catch him and find out why he’s
roaming around here, where deer don’t belong.

“Of course if you fellows want to give up,” said Teddy after a pause,
“I can’t make you stick at it. But--”

“There are no ‘buts’ about it,” Joe interrupted quickly. “Of course
we’ll stick with you. What about it, Dick?”

“Oh, sure. Only I was wondering what Teddy expects to find out after
we catch the deer--if we do. Think he’ll talk after we capture him,
Teddy?”

“No,” Teddy laughed. “But he may have some mark on him that will help
us trace where he came from and what he’s doing around here. Anyhow
let’s catch him first and find out about him later.”

“What we should do first is eat,” said Dick firmly.

“Second the motion!” laughed Joe.

“Motion carried!” announced Teddy.

Mrs. Benson had put up rather a complete camping outfit for the boys.
At least, it would serve for one night. There were blankets and some
light cellophane coverings which could be used in case of rain. These
cellophane coverings folded up into small, light packages. This left
more room for food and a small cooking outfit.

“If you fellows will get the water and wood, I’ll start to cook
supper,” offered Teddy.

“Fair enough!” cried Dick as he began to gather some dried driftwood
from the banks of the stream.

“Where’s the water pail?” asked Joe. “I saw a small spring back by that
pile of rocks. I don’t fancy drinking water from this stream. It might
not be clean.”

In a short time Teddy had put up a small iron frame to hold a coffee
pot and frying pan. The frame set over a bed of glowing coals from
the burning driftwood, and in a short time the little camp smelled of
frying bacon and eggs and boiling coffee.

“Boy, am I hungry!” Dick announced, sniffing the air.

“Teddy’s the best cook we ever had!” laughed Joe.

“Somebody else has to get breakfast!” Teddy warned the others.

“I’ll let Dick do it,” spoke Joe. “I always was a big-hearted chap,” he
added with a laugh.

After supper the boys made ready to spend the night in the open. There
was no sign of rain and it was not cold. The cellophane coverings,
between which the boys could crawl into their blankets, would keep away
the dampness from the ground.

“Are we going to keep watch?” asked Dick, when it was about time to
turn in.

“What for?” asked Teddy. “There’s no danger. We don’t need even to keep
a fire going. We have our flashlights.”

“There’ll be a moon later,” said Joe.

“Then if the deer comes nosing around we can spot him,” suggested Dick.
“But the way I feel now I’m going to do nothing but sleep.”

“Same here,” echoed Joe.

“I don’t believe the deer will bother us,” was Teddy’s opinion. “He’s
likely as tired and sleepy as we are.”

So it was decided not to take turns watching during the night. The
three boys would go to sleep together and trust to luck to get on the
trail of the deer again in the morning.

“If we had a dog it would be easier,” said Joe somewhat sleepily as
they were all dozing off.

“Easier for what?” asked Teddy.

“Easier to trail the deer. But we haven’t any dog, have we?”

“No,” Teddy admitted, “we haven’t. Unless Dick brought one,” he added
with a chuckle and a nudge of his chum.

“Brought what?” mumbled Dick, half asleep.

“A dog,” said Teddy. “Did you bring one?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Dick less clearly than
before. “I--I--” But he was asleep before he could finish the sentence.

A little later the deep and even breathing of Teddy and Joe showed that
they, also, were asleep.

Who awakened first was always a disputed point with the three boys when
ever they talked about what happened that night. But Teddy suddenly
found himself roused by feeling something cold and wet on his face. For
a moment he thought it was raining. But as he opened his eyes he saw
that the moon was shining brightly.

But he still felt that cool dampness on his face and suddenly, with a
shout of alarm, he sat up, scattering his blanket and reaching for his
flashlight.

“Golly! It’s a dog!” he shouted.

“What’s that?” cried Joe.

“A dog--licking my face with his tongue! It woke me up!” said Teddy in
a loud voice.

“Did Dick bring a dog after all?” asked Joe.

“I don’t know, but here’s a dog!” went on Teddy excitedly. “Dick!” he
shouted.

But Dick was awake. Instinctively he had reached for his flashlight
and switched it on, though the moon was bright. And in the glow of
the combined lights the boys saw a large dog regarding them from the
ash-strewn spot where the campfire had been made. It was a huge beast
and its eyes glowed in the shafts of the flashlights.

There it stood, looking intently at the boys as if ready to spring on
them.



CHAPTER XXI

CAUGHT


For a few seconds Teddy and his chums did not know whether the big dog
was a friend or enemy. Teddy had the thought that they might be camping
on the ground of some farmer who kept a fierce dog to drive away tramps.

“But,” thought Teddy, “the dog couldn’t be very fierce or it wouldn’t
have awakened me by licking my face with his tongue. He’d have started
in biting me.”

However, in a little while the dog, which had been so closely looking
at the boys, whom he could plainly see by the moonlight, wagged his
tail in a friendly way.

“I guess he’s all right,” Teddy announced.

“Yes,” agreed Dick. “That tail-wagging business shows he doesn’t want
to bite.”

“But whose dog is it?” asked Joe. “Gosh! It’s almost as big as the deer
we’re chasing.”

Hardly had Joe stopped talking than from the shadows of some little
hillocks beyond the cold campfire came a voice saying:

“It’s all right, Hopper--those are the boys I’m looking for--you found
’em--this is fine--now you can lie down--hello over there--I’m here!”

In a moment the boys knew who was speaking--Fatty Nolan. But how he had
managed to reach their camp and what he was doing with the big dog was
more than Teddy and his chums could guess. They must find out, however,
so Teddy called:

“Is that you, Fatty?”

“Sure!”

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for you. I heard you were on the trail of the deer so I
followed. You don’t mind, do you? I’ve brought my father’s deer
hound--Clodhopper my mother calls him on account of he’s so big and
clumsy--but he’s got another name--Rex. He’s a good dog for hunting
deer--maybe he can help us--I came anyhow--had hard work finding
you--guess I couldn’t have only for Hopper--that’s the dog--I call him
Hopper for short. Can I come over there?” All this Fatty spoke in his
usual fast style.

“Sure! Come on over and bring your dog,” Teddy invited. “Maybe he will
help us in the morning. Come on and join us.”

“Thanks,” spoke Fatty advancing, while Hopper, sensing that the three
boys were friends, wagged his tail harder than ever and curled up in
a bunch of grass. “This is swell,” went on the stout lad. “I hoped
I’d find you before morning so I could camp with you. I have my own
blanket,” he added, showing a roll.

“Did you have anything to eat?” asked Dick whose thoughts always seemed
to be on food.

“Oh, yes. I brought some along when I started out last evening. But
it’s all gone now. If you fellows are going to eat again--of course
maybe I should have brought more--but if you are going to eat again--”

“Not until morning,” Teddy announced. “And that won’t be for another
six hours,” he added, looking at his wrist watch and noting it was
shortly past midnight.

“Oh, that’s all right,” said Fatty good-naturedly. “I can wait. I
have some chocolate candy I can eat.” He began chewing on this as he
arranged his blanket on the ground.

“But how did you know we were here?” asked Joe as he and his two chums
stretched out again to go to sleep.

“I went over to your house, Teddy,” said the fat boy. “Your mother said
you were over this way and intended to camp out all night. So I packed
up my outfit, got Hopper and came along. Hope you don’t mind.”

“Glad to have you,” welcomed Teddy. “Maybe you will bring us good luck.”

Nothing further disturbed the boys that night. They were up early and
breakfast was soon being cooked. Fatty Nolan insisted on helping to
gather wood and carry water. The boys noticed he had a rope looped to
his belt.

“That’s my lasso in case we see the deer,” Fatty explained.

Breakfast over, the boys once more took the trail. They were heading
for Oak Forest and about half an hour after leaving camp they were
crossing a large field in one corner of which several cows were grazing.

Suddenly Hopper began to bark and act excited.

“What’s the matter with him?” asked Teddy.

“I don’t know,” answered Fatty. “Never knew him to get excited about
cows before. Here, Hopper, where are you going?” he yelled as the dog,
with loud barks, rushed for the herd of cows. “Come back!”

But the hound did not obey. And then Teddy and his chums saw the
reason. In with the herd of cows, cropping grass as they were, stood
an animal with branching horns.

“Look!” yelled Teddy. “The mystery deer! There he is!”

“Golly! Sure enough, it is the deer,” echoed Joe.

“But the dog! The dog!” cried Dick. “He’ll kill the deer! Call him
back, Fatty!”

“Here, Hopper! Hopper! Come back!” ordered the fat boy. But the hound,
with loud barks, was leaping toward the herd of cows in the midst of
which was the strange deer.

The cows separated as the dog rushed toward them, leaving a cleared
space in the middle of which stood the deer who threw up his head and
looked at the oncoming dog.

“Your dog will pull the deer down and kill him, Fatty!” cried Teddy.
“Can’t you bring him back?”

“I’ll try,” said the fat boy, running after his dog. “Back, Hopper!”

Just when it seemed that the dog was about to jump on the deer, which
seemed too frightened to run, a man suddenly leaped over the fence and
took his place in front of the deer. There was something familiar about
the man. And when he began swinging a rope in circles around his head
Teddy cried:

“It’s the lasso cowboy!”

It was, and in another instant the loop of the lasso had settled over
the head of the big hound. With a quick jerk on the rope the cowboy
pulled the dog off its feet.

“Good work!” yelled Teddy.

“Now the deer is safe,” said Dick.

“He lassoed your dog just in time, Fatty,” said Joe.

“Yes, but I hope he doesn’t hurt him,” spoke the stout lad. “Hopper is
a good dog but he gets excited when he sees a deer.”

The lassoing of Hopper seemed to have taken all the fight out of the
dog. Perhaps he would not, after all, have attacked the deer. But the
cowboy was taking no chances.

As if sure the dog was no longer a danger, the cowboy took the lasso
from the neck of the dog, who had been choked a little. And a moment
later the cowboy had secured the deer with the same rope. He did it
gently, however. Then, having made the end of his deer lasso fast to
the fence, the cowboy walked toward the boys and smiled.

“Well,” he said, “I guess the chase is over.”

“Is that your deer?” asked Teddy.

“No, but I’m responsible for it and I’m glad I have it back. I want to
thank you boys for what you did, trying to help capture this deer and I
want to tell you I’m sorry I lassoed one of you. Which one was it?”

“You lassoed me,” Teddy said with a laugh. “But it’s all right. You
didn’t hurt me any.”

“But why did you do it?” asked Joe.

“It was all a mistake. I thought I saw the horns of my missing deer and
I let go with my lasso. Then I was ashamed of what I had done, the
silly mistake I’d made, and I thought maybe you boys would blame me and
make trouble. So I just got out of the way. I secured another lasso and
I’ve been hunting this deer ever since.”

“If he isn’t your deer, whose is he?” demanded Teddy in a puzzled voice.

“He belongs in Oak Forest,” was the answer. “That’s where I’m going to
take him now.”

“Won’t he get away again?” asked Joe.

“No,” the cowboy said. “He will be put in a big, new paddock in the
state park. There’ll be a lot of other deer there. It will soon be open
to the public. This is one of the valuable deer to be used in stocking
the paddock. It was my fault he got away and I had to catch him or lose
my job.”

“How did it happen?” asked Teddy.

“It was this way,” explained the cowboy, who said his name was Jed
Blackton. “A lot of deer for the state forest were rounded up near the
Western ranch where I work. I was hired to go with the big trucks used
to bring the deer here.

“Just outside Oakdale we stopped to water and feed the deer. This one
got away. It was partly my fault for I had become fond of this critter
and I was sort of petting him and not watching the gate on the truck.

“So this deer slipped out and ran away. The boss of the outfit was
angry at me and told me I’d have to find the deer and take him to the
state park or I would be out of a job. So I’ve been hunting the deer
ever since.”

“Did you know we were here hunting him?” asked Dick.

“I didn’t know a thing about you boys,” said the cowboy. “I just
happened to run across your trail several times. Mostly I kept to my
own trail, now and then getting a line on where the deer was. I heard
last night he had been seen in this direction so I came over. Sure
enough, here’s the deer. It’s just chance that brought us together,” he
added, nodding at the boys.

“Well,” remarked Teddy, “we’re glad you have your deer back again.”

“Oh, it isn’t my deer. It belongs to the state park forest,” said the
cowboy. “But I’m glad I won’t lose my job. Now I guess I’ll get along
and deliver the deer.”

“There isn’t any reward for the deer, is there?” asked Joe.

“Not that I know of. But if you boys have had to spend any money in
your trailing of the deer, I reckon I can pay you. I won’t be out of a
job as I was afraid I would.”

“Oh, we don’t want any pay,” said Teddy.

“It was fun,” said Joe.

“One of the best mysteries we ever solved,” added Dick.

“Mystery?” spoke the cowboy wonderingly.

“Yes. We called it the mystery deer,” said Teddy. “And it was, for a
while. But it isn’t any more. Mrs. Traddle is going to be mad, though,”
he added.

“Oh, on account of her garden,” said the cowboy. “Well, I aim to settle
with her. It was my fault the deer got in, I guess. And now I’ll bid
you boys good-bye. It isn’t far from here to the state forest. The deer
will soon be in the paddock with the others. That’s a good dog you have
there,” said the cowboy to Fatty Nolan. “Sorry I had to upset him to
keep him from hurting the deer.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” responded the stout lad. “Hopper won’t mind.”

The deer hunt was over. The cowboy led the animal away, holding fast to
the lasso rope around the animal’s neck. Teddy and his chums returned
home.

“Well, it was a good mystery while it lasted,” said Joe.

“Yes,” agreed Dick. “The girls are going to be disappointed, though.
They didn’t have much to do with the deer mystery.”

“They had a little,” Teddy remarked. “And maybe they may do more in the
next one.”

“Is there going to be another mystery?” asked Dick.

“You never can tell,” said Teddy Benson.


THE END



Transcriber’s Note:

The statement in the Publisher’s Note referring to the type in which
the original book was set is not applicable to this ebook.

Spelling and hyphenation have been preserved as they appear in the
original publication. The following changes have been made:

    Page 6
    the race. “Hurry, Joe! _changed to_
    the race. Hurry, Joe!

    Page 86
    even if he hadn’t wished _changed to_
    even if he had wished

    Page 179
    Teddy and Joe and going to wait _changed to_
    Teddy and Joe are going to wait

    Page 193
    he still felt that cool, dampness _changed to_
    he still felt that cool dampness





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translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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