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Title: Frank Allen at Old Moose Lake;

or, The trail in the snow

Author: Graham B. Forbes

Illustrator: Walter S. Rogers

Release date: February 26, 2023 [eBook #70143]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Garden City Publishing, 1926

Credits: David Edwards, PrimeNumber and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)


The cover was adapted from the original by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain. Spellings have been standardised only when a dominant version was found in the original. Typographical errors have been corrected.




Frontispiece (Page 213)

Frank Allen at Old Moose Lake



The Trail in the Snow



Author of “Frank Allen—Pitcher,”
“Frank Allen and His Motor Boat,” etc.








See back of book for list of titles


Frank Allen at Old Moose Lake

[Page 1]



“And I’ll be happy!” came the loudly sung final line of a popular song, the words of which had been changed to inform the hearer that a camping party was most in the mind of the singer.

Lanky Wallace, the slim, athletic, quick-thinking pal of Frank Allen, was sauntering along the street towards Frank’s home, a rifle carried jauntily on his right shoulder, the singing being done by that young man for the sole purpose of attracting the attention of his friend.

Frank’s head popped out of an upper front window of the house.

“Don’t! Don’t! You’ll get arrested for disturbing the peace!” he cried, as Lanky looked up at him.

“What’s that? Get arrested for singing?” and Lanky struck a hurt attitude.

[Page 2]

“Oh, that’s different! I didn’t know that was what you were doing. I thought you were calling hogs or selling peanuts!” called Frank, while Lanky swung the gun quickly from his shoulder as if he might bring it up to kill such an insulting speaker.

“Be down in a minute!” called Frank again, as he slammed the window to the bottom and disappeared into his room.

In a few minutes the two boys were together on the street, each with his rifle, headed for the homes of other boys.

Paul Bird, Ralph West and Buster Billings were sought and found, and when each had his rifle on his shoulder, the five young fellows started back toward the main road north.

“We ought to have some good target practice this morning,” said Frank, while the boys, all bunched together, made along the road. “Camping up at Old Moose Lake is going to call for some regular shooting, and too much practice isn’t enough.”

“Guess we’re the lucky boys,” remarked Lanky, after they had gotten to the edge of town and were approaching the woods in the rolling land beyond Columbia.

One of the boys asked him the “why” for the remark.

“Well, if Frank hadn’t been out West just when he was and if he hadn’t been where he was when we[Page 3] found dad’s treasure in the hills, and if dad hadn’t given Frank the Rocket, the best little old motor boat ever born, and if we hadn’t been coming down the Harrapin River just at the time we heard the cries of Mrs. Parsons and——”

“Say, listen!” Paul Bird interrupted the long-drawn out sentence of Lanky Wallace. “Are you making a speech or something?”

“—and,” continued Lanky, paying no heed to the interruption, “if we hadn’t seen that auto leave there, if we hadn’t luckily stumbled on to the rowboat taking the stolen stuff to Jed Marmette’s, if we hadn’t followed up the lead and seen old Jed stealing some of the stuff and if we hadn’t broken down that night, run out of gas, when we raced to Coville, all might have been different about this camping party.”

Lanky was quite right in this. The boys had planned a camping party at this autumn season, and Mrs. Parsons, the wealthy widow just above the city of Columbia who had been robbed of her jewels and silver, was so grateful to Frank and his friends for what they had done that she had offered them the use of the late Mr. Parsons’ camp at Old Moose Lake for their camping expedition when she learned they had made plans for one.

In the preceding volume, called “Frank Aden and His Motor Boat,” is told the story of the manner in which Frank and his boy friends had come into the[Page 4] activities of the robbery in time to catch the thieves redhanded and also to find for Mrs. Parsons her jewels and the silverware, most of which had come to her from her ancestors and those of her husband, who had died only two years before.

It so happened that Mrs. Parsons had accepted some questionable rumors for fact and had accused the boys of knowing more than they did. Her chagrin after the disclosure and her gratitude over the good work done by Frank Allen, Lanky Wallace, Paul Bird and Ralph West, caused her to reward them first with a very, very delightful picnic at her country home, a palatial spot facing the Harrapin River. It was following this picnic that, hearing the boys had been planning a camping expedition for the autumn season, she graciously tendered to Frank and his friends the use of a beautiful camp which had been the pride of Mr. Parsons in his lifetime, an offer the boys had cheerfully accepted.

“It was mighty good of Mrs. Parsons to offer us the camp up at Old Moose Lake,” said Frank, in reply to Lanky’s humorous recital. “She says it is stocked with food and she said she was going to order some more sent there, so we’ll have plenty of chance to keep alive, if eating is the only thing we have to do to keep alive.”

“No,” said Lanky, very sagely shaking his head in[Page 5] the negative, “we can’t keep alive unless we bring down fourteen deer, a couple of hundred pickerel, and——”

“And kill yourself getting it all home,” laughed Paul Bird.

By this time the chums had come to the grove where they proposed to hold their target practice, and Frank, with his usual sense of safety, led the way from the road almost a quarter of a mile, coming at last to a ravine which broadened out at one point to a great bowl, its sides of rock and sand.

“We can set up the target over that bed of sand,” and Frank pointed to one stratum of fine sand which broke out in the side of the ravine. “That will allow the bullets to imbed in something soft and we won’t take any chances on their glancing off.”

“That’s provided any one hits the target—except me, of course, I know my shots will all hit it all right——”

Once again Lanky Wallace was telling the other boys what he was going to do, joking with them.

“Listen to Mr. Lanky Wallace, who hates himself!” cried Ralph West. “How close do you expect to stand to hit that sand bed?”

“Come on, fellows,” broke in Frank. “Get that old piece of board and lean it against the sand bed, then pin the targets on. I’m anxious to shoot with my rifle——”

[Page 6]

“That’s more than Lanky’s shooting with!” laughed Buster Billings. At this Lanky reached for Buster, but not quickly enough. That live lad was expecting the necessity for moving out of the way, and was successful.

The boys soon had the target placed properly, and then tossed up for the firing order, with Frank getting third shot, Paul and Lanky coming first and second, respectively.

Crack! Paul’s first shot broke the stillness, for the other boys paid the courtesy of keeping quiet while the contestant was sighting.

“Hit the atmosphere!” cried Lanky. “Watch me move that sand bed for you!” he added as he stepped up to the line to take Paul’s place.

Crack! Lanky’s rifle rang out—and there was a hole in the bullseye to show where he had struck.

“Just requires a man who knows how to handle it,” he calmly said as he raised his rifle for the next shot.


“Wow! Where did that one go? Trying to hit the top of that hemlock?” yelled Ralph West, for there was not a mark on the board to show where Lanky’s second shot had gone.

“Just take a look in the bullseye and you’ll find both of them. I just pile them one on top of another!”[Page 7] Lanky calmly let his rifle drop to the ground.

Ralph and Buster raced to the target and looked carefully. It was Ralph who spoke:

“Both in the same spot!”

Frank Allen did not attempt to restrain his smile, for he knew that Lanky was a good shot, one of the best in Columbia, and he was amused by the bombastic attitude that Lanky had taken, realizing that Lanky, unassuming ordinarily, was just putting this on to-day for the fun of it. Frank knew that Lanky himself had not been certain whether or not he had put his second shot on top of the first.

Lanky took his third shot, permitted him by their unwritten rules that when a boy hit the bullseye he was entitled to another shot at once.

This time Frank watched the level of Lanky’s rifle, and smiled broadly again as he realized that Lanky was deliberately shooting over the top of the ravine. When his shot rang out there was no additional mark on the target.

“Just look in the bullseye where the others went,” he calmly said, and the same two boys, Paul and Buster, hurried to the target to see if this could possibly be true.

Lanky turned to Frank, saw the broad smile on Frank’s face, and whispered to him:

[Page 8]

“Shot over the top of the ravine. Bet they’ll say I hit in the center again.”

Just then Paul, spokesman for the two, called out:

“Right in the center again! That’s some shooting, Lanky! Three of them right in the middle!”

Frank did not restrain himself any longer.

“You fellows certainly are easy. Don’t you know that Lanky deliberately shot away over the top of the target, just to see if you could find his mark in the center?”

“Hay!” yelled Lanky Wallace. “Wait a minute. Who are the judges? I appeal to the judges. They said I hit in the middle again. How about it, Paul?”

If any one else had said anything about it, perhaps Paul Bird would have stood by his guns and may have reiterated his decision. But Paul knew that Frank’s eye was good, and he knew that Frank Allen had caught on to some kind of joke.

Frank stepped to the line and pushed Lanky aside. And Lanky gave way for his friend, laughing heartily at the way in which he had put over a practical joke on the boys.

Frank Allen’s rifle was a repeater, and when he took his stand in front of the target he determined he would fire three times very quickly to see what were the results.

[Page 9]

Crack! Crack! Crack!

As he sighted and made his first shot he drew back the ejector and made the second, following which he as quickly made the third.

“Wow!” yelled two of the boys whose sight was best. “Made the ring of the bullseye on all three of them and didn’t pile them up, either!”

Even from the distance at which they stood, all of the boys could see that Frank had put three straight shots, made as closely together as was possible, at the edge of the bullseye, each one scoring.

“That was great——”


A girl’s voice just over the top of the ravine to their right reached the boys. It was a sincere cry for help.

All bantering stopped. The boys turned their eyes toward the spot from which the cries had come.

“Help! Help!”

Two different voices sounded this time.

“Helen and Minnie!” cried Frank, as he took a firmer grip on his rifle and leaped for the opening up the right side of the ravine, from which direction the cries, mingled now with another voice, had come.

“And in trouble!” came from Lanky. “Come on, fellows, make it snappy! They may need us the worst way!”

[Page 10]


As the boys scrambled out of the ravine they again heard the screams of the girls, one of them a decidedly louder scream than was made by the others.

Over a small ridge the five lithe, active young fellows went, and, in full view there now unfolded to them the panorama of a frightful scene!

On a ledge forming a step in a steep incline of a hill stood Minnie Cuthbert, Frank’s best girl friend. She was frantically trying to grasp the limb extending downward from a tree in an effort to swing out on it. Further along the ledge stood two other girls, one of them Helen Allen, Frank’s sister, the other Dora Baxter.

Rushing toward Minnie, and now only a few yards from where she stood on the lower part of the ledge, its mouth issuing foam and its head covered with it, flecks of foam flying over its back, came a beautiful dog—evidently mad!

There could be no question as to the intent of the animal.

[Page 11]

Crack! A rifle shot rang through the woods.

Without more than a passing aim, relying on that sense of direction which had brought Frank several target practice triumphs, he had raised his repeating rifle to his shoulder and brought the dog to the ground in the midst of a leap which would have carried it to the feet of the screaming, struggling girl.

As the dog, shot full in its final leap, struck at her feet, Minnie made a final jump high in the air, and landed back of the rolling animal which passed the spot where she had been standing, rolled over several times on the ledge, ending against the perpendicular wall of the hillside.

“Minnie! Minnie! Wait a minute!” Frank yelled to the frantic girl as, not being in the grip of the dog, she rushed headlong down the incline to the glen below.

Minnie stopped, turned, and saw the dog lying on the ledge above her, saw the other girls walking, though excitedly, toward her.

By this time Frank had dashed across the intervening space and had reached her side.

“You’re safe now! Where did that dog come from?” he asked her. “What were you doing here?”

But Minnie’s tongue was not ready to function just yet. She was breathing hard. Her breast was heaving sharply, her face was of a grayish pallor,[Page 12] her wide eyes glassy, her lips trembling, her body aquiver.

Frank took her hand and held it for a moment, thinking she might faint, but as the other boys approached and the girls, too, the color came back to her cheeks, her eyes became normal, and she was able to stammer:

“We were nutting, and all of a sudden this dog came rushing toward us. It ran around in a big ring, and I saw the foam flying. I realized that it was mad!”

“It was mad!” exclaimed Helen Allen. “It ran around in a big ring and we thought it was going to go back to the road, but we started running away from it, anyhow. Then it ran again at us, and we screamed and ran back.”

Frank turned the dog over, after a quick glance had told him it was breathing no more, and all of them saw the red spot where the bullet had reached its mark—squarely in the side of the head.

“This hunting dog was dead when it struck at Minnie’s feet,” observed Ralph West.

“I’ll claim to the world that’s some shooting,” said Lanky. “Good thing you had some target practice—especially following my good lessons.” And there was a merry smile on the lean fellow’s face as he permitted a laughing remark to fit into the situation.

[Page 13]

The boys and girls marveled at the shot that Frank Allen had made at a time when only a good shot would answer the requirements.

“I wonder who it belongs to,” murmured Frank, taking a very careful look at the dog again. “I don’t remember seeing one like him around here lately.”

None of the party remembered a dog of its kind.

“Did it come from the road?” asked Frank, turning to Helen.

The girls replied in chorus that it did.

“It has every resemblance of a mad dog,” said Frank, “but I thought dogs went mad in the middle of the summer. This is nutting time, autumn, and no time for a dog to go mad.”

“Frank,” spoke up Lanky slowly, deliberately, “do you know something—this is a good dog—it belongs to some one who values it—and I believe we ought to have a veterinarian come out here and see it.”

The idea struck Frank at once as being an important one, whereupon, after a moment’s thought, he said:

“I believe you’re right, Lanky. We’ll get Doc Whittaker to look at it and hear what he has to say. And we’ll have his support in case our guess is right. We have killed this dog—that is, I have—and[Page 14] I’ll have to pay for it, and pay well, too, unless I’m able to prove that it was mad.”

“But it was rushing at me to bite me!” cried Minnie. “You could tell the man who owns it just that. That’s certainly good enough reason!”

“He—ah, Bill! He—ah, Bill!” came a voice followed by several shrill whistles. Some one from the road was calling a dog.

“The owner—now!” said Paul Bird excitedly.

The entire crowd was quiet for several seconds, until the same call and the same whistled signal came again, this time much closer.

“Here you are, mister! Come down this way!” Frank made a trumpet of his hands and called back to the man.

A moment later a burly man, dressed in a heavy brown suit, a rather lengthy, drooping mustache partially covering an ugly looking mouth, broke through a small bunch of brush and came out at the top of the hillock next to them.

“I think that is your dog over here,” said Frank, speaking directly to the man.

“He—ah, Bill! Come here!” called the man, but no dog answered.

“It can’t come, mister, it’s dead.”

Frank spoke to the man very plainly, and in a tone of voice that was quiet, each word enunciated distinctly.

[Page 15]

“Dead!” Whereupon the man rushed down the little dale or glen that separated them, and came up to the hillock where the boys and girls were huddled together. Two other men came over the farther hillock behind him, attracted by the conversation.

The large man gave one look at the dog lying on the ledge, a bloody spot showing very conclusively what had happened, each of the boys carrying rifles as further mute evidence.

“Who killed that dog? Who killed it?” he demanded threateningly, drawing himself to his full height and glaring at the boys menacingly.

For a tense moment all were silent.

“I killed the dog,” said Frank, then.

“What’s that? You killed my dog?” and the man made as if to leap on Frank to throttle him.

“Hold off, there,” Frank’s voice was piercing in its deadly quiet. “Don’t come too close to me. Listen to what I’ve got to say.”

“Well, what’ve you got to say, you——”

“And don’t say that, either,” said Frank. “Just keep cool a minute. Some one else in the world can be just as right as you are. That dog was shot just as it was making a wild leap at one of these girls. See the foam all over its head? The dog was mad, and I killed it before it could hurt one of these girls.”

By this time the other two men had come up to[Page 16] where the crowd was standing, one of them being close to Frank.

Frank saw this and stepped farther away, thus putting the distance, several yards, between himself and anyone else.

“That dog was not mad—that dog was worth two hundred dollars, and you’ve got to pay for it!” yelled the man, anger breaking out in every tone, every movement.

“I beg your pardon, mister——”

“Jeek, that’s my name. Fordham Jeek, from Bellport, young fellow, and you’re going to pay me for that dog.”

The name of this man was familiar to all the boys. They had heard of him on several occasions when down at Bellport, and had also heard of him from a certain element around Columbia.

He was a race-track follower, not of the higher type, but one of those about whom there is usually some question, some whispered rumor that will not quite stand the scrutiny of daylight or repeating aloud—a reputation which cannot be called savory.

Those who have followed Frank Allen from the time of the story, “Frank Allen’s Schooldays,” the first volume of the series, down to the volume just previous to this story, which was “Frank Allen and His Motor Boat,” know that Frank Allen was an upstanding boy who could think straight and always[Page 17] fairly, one who did his utmost in anything at which he went, a boy who was popular among his schoolmates and also among the older people, primarily because he was not given to conceit nor bombast, but was always just a wholesome, healthy, American boy who loved the out-of-doors, who was honest and square in all his dealings, and who, though a leader in athletics, was also a leader in his studies at school.

For a long minute Frank thought over the attitude of this man Jeek, of the situation with his two cronies present, and he noticed they were a rough looking pair.

“Mr. Jeek,—” Frank spoke in a low tone of voice, though not a tone of quaver nor of weakening in it—“I haven’t the slightest idea of paying for that dog. I am sorry, yes. I am, truly, because I love dogs as much as you do.”

“Love dogs, me eye!” yelped Jeek. “What did you kill a two hundred dollar dog for—you—you——”

“I killed that dog, as I told you, because it was mad and because it was making a wild leap to bite one of these girls. It had run around them in a wide circle, foaming at the mouth, and would have done serious injury. It was actually leaping straight for one of the girls when I shot.” Frank calmly recited the general incident.

[Page 18]

“Your name is Allen, isn’t it? I’ll make your father pay for this dog, young fellow.”

“No, you won’t do that,” quietly replied the boy. “And you’ll not make me pay, either. That dog was mad.”

“It was not mad! You’re lying, just lying to get out of it. I’ll make you pay or I’ll make your father pay, or I’ll make you pay in a way you’ll never forget!” wildly yelled Jeek, as he turned to leave. “Just put this in your pipe, young smart aleck—you’ll pay in a way you’ll never forget!”

With that the three men departed. As they reached the next hillock on their way to the road, Jeek turned:

“Two hundred dollars by to-morrow or you’ll regret the day you ever saw me!” he yelled, shaking his fist.

A minute later the boys and girls heard the poorly timed explosions of a cheap automobile on the road.

[Page 19]


“Well—that’s that!” said Lanky Wallace as the sounds of the car died away.

“I don’t know whether that’s that or something else,” Frank replied. “That fellow Jeek doesn’t look good to me, and the two fellows he had with him looked as if they’d rather knock a fellow in the head than eat a square meal.”

The girls were still trembling over the excitement of the mad dog and its subsequent shooting, and the arrival of the men with their threats of harm.

Frank wished to dispel the gloom which had fallen on the little party, and now proposed that they continue with the nutting. On the other hand Minnie Cuthbert proposed that the boys go on with their target practice, the girls to sit and watch the contest. But now the boys seemed more inclined to gathering nuts than to gathering target scores.

“I believe that grove over further toward the river ought to have some fine nuts, and I don’t think any others have been after them, because it’s rather[Page 20] rough getting there,” suggested Frank, nodding toward the Harrapin River.

The entire party decided at once on going, for, like merry, happy young folks, it did not matter so very much that they found many nuts—not so much as the good time and the adventure of hunting for them.

Up and down, over little hillocks and through brush-covered glens, sometimes moving in a bunch and often moving single file through narrow places, they made their way through the woods until they came to the bank of the Harrapin and then turned upstream.

“There is the grove!” Frank pointed up the river a short distance, and, from where they stood, the little party saw that it was a fine grove for nutting.

Five minutes later they realized that Frank’s guess was good—that no one else had come through this rough woods to get the nuts.

In the meanwhile heavy clouds had drawn across the skies, finally permitting the broad expanse of gray, snow-filled clouds to predominate over the blue.

Several times Lanky and Frank looked up through the clearings and had noted the coming of a fall storm.

It was getting very much cooler, with the gray clouds hanging lower and lower, but the merry[Page 21] laughing and talking, jesting and snatches of song drowned out any thought or fear of getting caught in a storm.

The boys had filled their pockets and their hats with nuts, the hats having been set aside, all in a row beside a tree. And now the first little flakes of snow began falling.

“The first of winter,” said Ralph West. “It won’t be long before skating and sleighing will be fine.”

Very shortly they prepared to go home, but stopped at the spot where target practice had been started long enough to try a few more shots.

“Let me shoot once!” cried Minnie when it was Frank’s turn at the target. “I want to shoot a bear.”

She took Frank’s repeating rifle, and, after being shown by Frank how to keep it pointed away from the others and towards the target, she lifted it to her shoulder, closed the wrong eye, and tried to sight.

“I can’t see anything!”

While the laughing and joking continued, Frank taught Minnie how to sight along the rifle, how to hold it properly, and after many rather grotesque attempts, she took careful aim and fired.

At the crack of the rifle she thrilled with the pleasure of it, though startled to think she had started a bullet on its way to the target.

[Page 22]

“Where did it go? Where did it hit?” she cried.

“Last I saw of it it was on its way up the river!” called Lanky Wallace. “You know, Minnie, it went right over the top of that tree,” he added, pointing high in the air.

But, undaunted, she tried again, and this time the target showed a hole, though at the outer ring.

A few more shots were fired, with Minnie gradually learning, for she was hitting the target or close around it each time.

All things must have an end, and finally they started toward home, burdened with nuts, though the distance to town was not great.

As they trooped in a group down the broad walk of the avenue toward Frank’s house, whither it had been determined they would go for a short while, the girls to make fudge while the boys cracked the nuts, they spied Mr. Allen, Frank’s father, coming slowly along the street from town.

Helen left the others and ran ahead to meet her father.

Mr. Allen, who had almost lost his life in the fire at his department store on the night of the robbery of Mrs. Parsons, and to save whose life Frank had raced his Rocket down the Harrapin River to the town of Coville to obtain a heart stimulant which could not be found in Columbia or near-by towns, still carried a heavy stick. He[Page 23] leaned on this and he and Helen waited at the front walk for the others.

“How do you feel, dad,” said Frank, coming up with the crowd.

“Fine. Getting stronger every day. What have you been doing—target practice, nutting, and all that? Fine! It’s worth while to be young.”

Frank asked how repairs were going on at the store, and learned that the work was almost finished. The place had been quite seriously damaged by fire and water in the conflagration, and the cellar timbers had been weakened to a very considerable extent. It was the weakening of these timbers during the fire that had caused the accident to Mr. Allen.

Into the house trooped the crowd, led by Frank. The noise of the young folks called Mrs. Allen to the front of the house, with her long apron as evidence that she had been in the kitchen getting something good to eat ready for her brood.

“Out of the kitchen, mother!” called Helen, as she ushered every one in. “We’re making fudge while the boys crack the nuts, and you and dad are to wait in the living room until we’re done.”

So it went, and in a short while the girls came into the spacious front room with the plates of chocolate fudge, while the boys brought in a few extra nuts beyond those which had been used in the fudge, with salt generously sprinkled over them.

[Page 24]

It was Helen who told the story of the mad dog, and of Frank’s having killed it, and it was Minnie Cuthbert who continued the story by telling about Fordham Jeek, of Bellport, and his threats.

“What about it, Frank?” asked Mr. Allen. “Shall we pay him for the dog? It’s too bad to have a fine dog killed.”

“Dad,” replied Frank, “paying that fellow Jeek two hundred dollars or any other sum for the dog won’t bring the dog back to life, will it? If a dog is a menace to human life, then we must get rid of the dog. That dog was a menace at the time it was shot. My decision is that there is nothing to be paid.”

“Is that the man who is a race-track follower?” asked Mr. Allen. And on getting an affirmative reply he went on: “He’s a slippery eel, if what I have heard is true. And, besides being slippery, I suppose he is a little to be feared, too.”

“I’ve no fear of him, dad” said Frank. “I have found that when a man does a whole lot of threatening he isn’t dangerous in the open.”

“That’s just it, my boy,” quietly replied the elder Allen. “If he were dangerous in the open he would have made you promise to pay for the dog right then—or fought.”

“There’s Mr. Van Kirk!” came a sudden cry from Helen, as she saw the rich old man, thin and[Page 25] straight as an arrow, more like a young soldier in stature than anything else, though he invariably carried a crooked hickory stick in his right hand. “Let’s call him in. I love to hear him talk!”

“Sure,” said Mr. Allen, craning his neck to look out the window. “Tell Jacob to come in here.”

With that Frank’s sister ran to the door and hailed the lonely old man of Columbia, a man who had seen the latter part of the Indian wars in the West country, who had been a huntsman all his life, and who knew the ways of the wild.

All the young folks gave him a hearty welcome when he came in and shook hands with Mr. and Mrs. Allen, and then with all the others.

“Mr. Van Kirk,” said Frank, as he saw the gray-haired old gentleman properly seated on one of the most comfortable of the large easy chairs, “we boys are going to a camp pretty soon and we are just wondering if you can’t give us some advice.”

“Well, Frank, I guess that is about as easy for me to do as for most folks. Advice is the finest and worse thing in the world. Fact is, anything that’s free is about worthless. Where are you going to camp?”

They told him of the offer made by Mrs. Parsons up at Old Moose Lake, just on the edge of the mountains.

The lined face of the gray old hunter was very[Page 26] expressive of emotions, the eyes twinkled and around them came the slowly formed wrinkles of a smile as he lifted his hand to the long beak of a thin nose and stroked it carefully.

“Tell you, Frank. If you’re going up to Old Moose Lake you’ve got a prize to look for. I wish I could go up there myself! There’s a big bull moose, a tremendous fellow and a fighter, too. Parsons and I saw him last just before Parsons died. I have been told he is still there. He’s a monster. Tell you what I’ll do——”

He paused while the boys listened with their mouths open, their eyes glistening in rapt attention.

“I’ve got a little extra money that I’d like to spend. I’ve got it in for that old bull moose—he almost got me the last time I was there. I’ll offer a hundred dollars to the boy among you who brings down that old fellow!”

A hundred dollar prize put up by this champion old hunter to the boy who would get that big bull moose!

[Page 27]


It was the day of the last football game of the season. Not much of a day to speak of, either. It was cold, drear, the skies were leaden colored and heavy, and, with a north wind blowing down the field while flakes of snow whirled and twisted on their way to the earth, it was not an altogether pleasant game.

It was a game that had not been intended, but on account of the attitude which the town of Coville, located down the river and on the opposite bank, had taken during the season, there was little else for the boys of Columbia to do but to grant an after-season game.

“We can play it through and end the season,” said Frank Allen. “But I am fearful that the minds of several of the fellows won’t be as much on the game as on the camping expedition in a few days.”

The morning had opened with an attempt at a drizzle, which turned quickly to sleet, and the field was holding out the promise of being heavy and slippery.

[Page 28]

By the middle of the morning, though, when the boys had become accustomed to the thought of playing their last game on a field that would not allow much individual fast work, the wind from the north came suddenly in.

At noon the mud of the morning had frozen hard, the skies had gathered lower and turned colder in their appearance, while the snow flakes drifted and whirled and twisted, first up, then down, sideways, hither and yon, touching the ground and being blown into little drifts against buildings, fences, sidewalks, trees and even foot and hoof-prints in the streets.

It was an enthusiastic crowd, but not a large one, that watched the final game. Coville tried hard to break through the impregnable line of Columbia, but it was a useless attempt.

However, there was compensation evident, for Columbia did not find it at first an easy task to get down the field against these warriors of Coville. It was in the third quarter that the first touchdown was made, after battering the Coville line so often that a soft spot was worn in it—and then the game went swiftly over to Columbia. The morale of Coville broke with the initial touchdown, and the fierce defensiveness of Coville broke against the onslaughts of the boys of Columbia who, led by a thinker,[Page 29] smashed, battered and wore down one place in the line.

“Glad we played you,” said Frank as he shook hands with the Coville captain. “You’ve got a good team, captain, and next year all these schools along the river are going to have a hard time even to hold you.”

“It’s good of you to say so, Allen,” replied the husky young Covillian. “We didn’t make much impression on you to-day, though.”

“Yes, you did! You made us use up two quarters trying to make a place where we could go through. And you held us so that we couldn’t go around. And you stopped most of our attempts to pass the ball. I’ll say you did mighty well. It’s just that we have played so long together we know what the other fellow is thinking and doing every second.”

Frank felt this way, else he would not have spoken to his adversary. It would be different in another year, when the Columbia team would be broken up and scattered, and the same team work would no longer exist.

“I hear you fellows are going in camp up on Old Moose lake,” said the Coville captain as they walked away from the field arm in arm. “I’ve heard some great stories of camping up there. They say the fishing is simply great. And, say, have you[Page 30] heard the story of the old bull moose that so many men have tried to get? My father told me yesterday that he had been there twice with parties who wanted to get him, but they say he is as wise as a fox.”

Frank listened to this with eager ears, for the story which Mr. Van Kirk had told them was the first he had ever heard of this monster of the woods. He asked several questions, but the boy from Coville very quickly exhausted his store of knowledge.

That evening, in the front room of the Allen home, with no one to interrupt, Frank and his three chums went carefully over all the preparations for the trip.

“If it keeps up the way it is and doesn’t turn any colder,” said Frank, “we’ll go by water up to Todds, using the Rocket. But if it turns much colder in the next two days and if the river freezes over, it looks to me as if skates would take us most of the way.”

“Do you know the exact way?” Buster Billings asked.

“Sure!” Frank replied. “I’ve got it right here on this sketch. It’s a sketch that Mr. Parsons used to have, and Mrs. Parsons gave it to me only yesterday. See here?” He pulled from his pocket a piece of paper which had been used until the folds had worn, and then had been pasted on a sheet of cloth. “We[Page 31] go up the Harrapin to Todds, and there we leave the boat—unless we skate, in which case we get off the river and take to land. From there it is a straight trip eastward through the mountains by trail to the lake. I don’t know what all these marks are, but I presume they are other camps along the trail at different places in the mountains where there are other lakes.”

The matter of food was discussed, but there was little to be carried, since Mrs. Parsons had promised to send up food to add to the store already at the camp.

“So, you see, fellows,” went on Frank, “our rifles, fishing outfits, heavy clothes, a couple of good ropes, plenty of ammunition, plenty of matches, a couple of flashlights, one or two compasses, and skates are about all we’ll need.”

The boys all agreed that it was the better plan to travel light.

“To-morrow morning I have to make a trip up-river a short distance with the Rocket, and you fellows can be gathering together all the things that we need and checking over the list. Lanky, suppose you act as secretary to this expedition, and make out the list and see that every fellow has his part.” Frank Allen was strictly the leader, the one who thought things out, and so it held in this case.

It was just after breakfast the next morning that[Page 32] Frank went to Minnie Cuthbert’s home and asked her to go on the trip up the river with him.

“Just a little trip on an errand for dad. He says he would rather I would go than any one else, and I want to try out the Rocket before we start to the camp,” he said as he invited her to join him.

Minnie accepted at once, and donned a heavy coat and close-fitting hat, looking bright, lithe and active, as she skipped down the steps to come alongside Frank for a brisk walk to the wharf.

“I have a package I want you to take with you to your camp,” Minnie said to Frank when the Rocket was well under way.

Curious, naturally so, Frank asked what the package contained, but Minnie refused to divulge the proposed contents.

They fell to chatting gaily over the various little happenings of “the crowd,” as the motor boat, under medium speed, facing into a brisk, chilly wind, glided easily through the water.

“Have you heard anything more from that big brute whose dog you killed?” she suddenly asked, changing the trend of the conversation.

Frank told her he had heard nothing.

“But you’re going to hear from him, Frank,” she went on. “He had a mean look in his eye that day. I heard father say something last night that didn’t sound good. He said that Jeek was a dangerous[Page 33] character and that the only reason he was not in jail was that others were afraid to tell the truth about him.”

“Oh, well,” Frank turned the subject off lightly, “I hardly expect any trouble. You know, we sent the doctor up there to look at the dog.”

“You hadn’t told me. What did he say?”

“He told me,” replied Frank, “that the dog was mad without doubt. He said, when I asked him about the season, that frequently a high-spirited dog went mad at other seasons than mid-summer, though the cases were rare. But, the point that I was most interested in was that he signed a statement and gave it to me to the effect that the dog was mad when killed.”

“What good will that do if that brute causes you trouble?” she asked.

“Well,” returned Frank good-naturedly, “it shows that I didn’t do anything so very wrong when I shot the dog.”

Frank saw the landing to which he was headed only a short distance away and sent the Rocket in toward shore.

A farmhouse stood back on the right bank of the Harrapin, a well-kept place. A long motor boat, loaded with packs which resembled the supplies of a camping party, was lying alongside the landing place, taking up every available foot of space.

[Page 34]

Carefully, slowly, Frank eased the Rocket up to the spot, trying to see a place where he might touch. There was none.

Whereupon, he brought the Rocket alongside the other boat, sliding as easily as he could against it, but bumping it, nevertheless.

Then he took one end of the rope and stepped on to the other boat, from there to the landing, and carefully tied. Minnie very gingerly stepped into the other boat, too, and came ashore.

“Hi, there! What’s the matter? Got no sense? Get that skiff of yours away so I can get out. What do you mean locking me in that way? Trying to hog the river?”

Frank turned to see whose was this heavy, coarse, fierce voice, and faced Fordham Jeek!

“Oho, it’s you, eh? What’re you trying to do? Get stuff out of my boat?” and the big fellow showed his yellow teeth and pushed his head forward from the broad shoulders.

Frank was looking him straight in the eye, while two shifty men stood behind the man from Bellport.

“Best thing we can do for you, young fellow, is to throw you into the river. What’s on my boat that you want?” the big man kept on.

“Listen, you!” returned Frank, calm of voice and cool. “You’ve said just about enough. I’m here[Page 35] to attend to some business and not to have you throwing insults.”

“Don’t talk to your betters that way, you low-down dog killer!” yelped Jeek.

“Move along, big boy,” quietly answered Frank. “I’m not hunting for trouble. Want to get out? I’ll move off while you get away,” with which he motioned Minnie aboard, followed her, and backed the Rocket.

“Thought you’d change your tune!” sneered Jeek. “You ain’t paid for the dog yet. Going to pay for it? What? Better pay in money or I’ll take it out of your hide.”

Frank kept silent. He circled around and came back to the landing as the other boat pulled away.

“Oh, Frank, he’s a dreadful man! Better keep your eyes open or he’ll do you harm,” remarked Minnie, when they were again alone.

“Don’t worry, Minnie,” was Frank’s answer. “He won’t dare do anything very bad.”

But in this Frank Allen was mistaken.

[Page 36]


“Twelve o’clock and all’s well!” cheerily sang out Lanky Wallace as the clock struck in the City Hall tower.

Four energetic lads, Frank Allen, Lanky Wallace, Paul Bird and Buster Billings, had packed everything they needed on board the Rocket, swaying gently to and fro in the Allen boathouse on the Harrapin River, at the foot of Main street in Columbia.

It had been planned to get away at noon, and they were now ready.

“Everything’s ready!” said Frank. “Ease her out.”

The Rocket slid gently, easily, gracefully out of the “well” and was promptly caught by the current of the river.

Lanky threw the flywheel over, the chug of the motor was the immediate response, for they had spent a half-hour tuning the cold motor up.

The practiced hand of Frank Allen, commander-in-chief of the Old Moose Lake expedition, turned the wheel, and the nose of the lithe little craft stood up-river.

[Page 37]

“Right on time. I hope that’s a good omen,” observed Frank. “We’re off for an exciting time if our hopes hold up.”

During the middle of the morning Mr. Van Kirk, who had hunted in practically every wild in the United States, whose rifle had always been ready and accurate, whose knives were on exhibit in his room, each with a special history of moments of peril and of success, came down to the wharf and there chatted with the boys on the eve of their putting out to camp on Old Moose Lake, where they hoped they might come in contact with the big moose bull for the capture or killing of which the old hunter had offered a goodly reward.

“We’ll bring you the antlers,” said Frank, during the talk.

“I don’t want the antlers, but I do want to see them. The boy who gets the prize is the one who should have the antlers. And they’ve got a spread of almost five feet,” said Mr. Van Kirk.

“Five feet! That’s a whole lot of spread for the antlers to have!” exclaimed Frank, who had heard a great deal in the last few days about moose and a little about this particular bull.

“Yes. And this old fellow is a giant, too!” the old fellow replied. “I don’t need to describe him to you. You’ll know him when you see him. He’s[Page 38] the king of that territory, actually the monarch of all he surveys.”

Thus it was that the boys, as they chugged up the Harrapin, had their minds full of the old moose bull that had been the cause of many hunts and that had outfought and outwitted many attempts at capture.

The air was cutting cold on the deck of the Rocket, with the breeze blowing downstream while they were making their way against it. A sky banked with lead-gray clouds presaged snow before they got very far. Along the bank of the river most of the bushes and trees had lost their leaves, the skeleton branches thrust out from the shoreline like long, bony fingers of crooked shape, quivering and shaking as the chill winds struck them.

“The only thing warm around here is the motor,” said Lanky. “I wouldn’t mind being a motor to-day myself.”

“What time do you think we’ll reach Todds?” asked Paul Bird.

Frank suggested that they should reach the little settlement on the upper reaches of the Harrapin late in the afternoon—it should not be more than a four-hour ride.

Finally they passed the last of the spots along the river to which they had become accustomed, and now Frank was more watchful of his helmsmanship.

“There’s the snow starting!” cried Buster Billings,[Page 39] reaching out for a tiny flake which drifted around in the wind.

In ten minutes more the cohorts of which that small flake had been the forerunner came upon them, and the wind’s velocity increased slightly.

“Wow! Looks at if we’re going to plow the snow to the lake!” remarked Lanky, dancing from one foot to the other on the deck.

“It has every appearance of it right now,” replied the boy at the wheel. “But it ought to begin snowing. Goodness knows it’s about time for winter to start. We’ve been having little flecks of snow for several days.”

“Well, it’s started now,” and Lanky pointed up-river where, as rain often does, the snow was falling heavily. It appeared, from this distance, as if a wall of impenetrable thickness was built up against them.

The gray clouds came lower and lower, seemingly hanging almost to the water, darkening the river so that it looked as if evening were upon them, but, as a compensation, the wind died down somewhat. Another hour passed. The deck of the Rocket was well covered with snow, but the motor had not missed a single stroke.

As evening drew on, as the clouds continued hanging low, the boys saw, through the snow, the place which had been described as Todds—little more[Page 40] than a landing place at the upper stretches of the river, the outpost ahead of the trails across the mountains to the east.

As the Rocket drew in close to shore and came alongside the heavy logs of the landing place, they heard a hail from a long, low, rambling building and saw a bewhiskered man, old in looks behind the beard, but youthful in his agile bound as he came leaping down the hewn log steps and took charge.

“Mighty glad to see you, boys. Where are you going?” he called out heartily as he shook hands in a big, frank way.

“Camping over on Old Moose Lake,” said Frank. “Came up from Columbia this afternoon and going to tie up here until we are ready to go back.”

“Fine! Fine! Come along in and get warmed up. I’ll take care of the boat and the packs. Just get in there by the fire,” and he waved a hand toward the door from which he had come.

Within the place a great log fire was burning in an open fireplace, and two men, dressed in heavy woollen shirts and wool-topped boots, turned to nod a hearty welcome as the lads trooped in.

“Going to Old Moose Lake, eh?” one of the men asked, when told by the boys that was where they were headed. “Well, it’s a great place right now. What camp, did you say—old man Parsons’s?”

[Page 41]

Both men were interested in the boys’ tale of their big camping expedition, and Frank led up to a question about the old bull moose they had heard so much about.

“Old King, eh?” laughed one of the men, filling his pipe after having knocked out the ashes on the heel of his heavy boot. “By the great horn spoon, you’ll never get old King. That’s a foxy critter. Say, old man Van Kirk—know him? Old man Van Kirk came up here a couple of seasons ago, before he had that accident, and old King almost got him for true. Yes, sir, I was up there with him, just north of Old Moose Lake, and that bull moose nigh got him.”

This whetted the appetite of the boys for more news, and they got plenty of it—a great deal of it being legend, pieces of tales that had been handed about from one guide to another, for it seemed that the big moose bull had been roaming the woods in that section for a long time.

When they sat down to a meal spread for all on one large table, with a roaring log fire warming up the dining room, oil lamps hanging from the rafters overhead to light the place, the run of conversation about the moose kept on, with these two guides, not so old, as the boys soon discovered, adding more and more to the stories. Frank caught the wink of one[Page 42] of them during a particularly exciting recital of an episode, and he then took all they said with a large pinch of salt.

However, there was little doubt that there was a moose bull at Old Moose Lake that was a leader and a fighter, and that he had been sought by many huntsmen before themselves.

“I don’t want you to think,” said Frank, “that we came up to get this moose. We came up for a camp—to fish and hunt and do anything else that happens to suit the occasion. We’re just out for some fun. It was Mr. Van Kirk who told us about the moose,” and here Frank told of the prize which had been offered.

“There’s plenty of fishing up there, but the lake will be frozen over by to-morrow or the next day. It’s getting mighty cold, you know,” said one of the guides. “Which trail are you going to follow?”

The boys said they had been told of two trails.

“That’s right. Two trails. One of them’s around the mountains and the other is right through the hills. The short one is through the hills, saves about ten miles. But with all the snow that’s falling outside I doubt if you can go through.”

Frank smiled pleasantly at this and suggested that not much snow could fall between now and the next morning—certainly not enough to stop them from going through the mountain trail.

[Page 43]

“Don’t know about that. I’ve seen some mighty heaps of snow fall overnight,” said the guide who appeared to be the more talkative of the two. “Liable to be enough fall to-night to fill the trails, and the only way is to be guided over.”

Frank could not see that. He was not up here to hire guides for a little camping expedition. However, he did not voice his opinions.

An hour’s talk followed supper, and then Frank and his chums turned in, asking that they be called early the next morning.

There was a rough boathouse at Todds and Frank had made arrangements to have the Rocket taken to this shelter and hoisted up out of the water. He had brought along a big tarpaulin, and this was to be roped over the craft.

The first cold break of day saw the boys up and around, the snow still falling, though not so heavily. Breakfast was given to them at once, but the two guides were not present.

After this the boys unlimbered all of their packs, made two of them over again, and strapped everything up, shouldering their burdens carefully. Then, warming their boots inside, they started away.

The keeper of the place gave them minute instructions as to the trail through the mountains, making no effort to keep them from going that way.

“Just bear straight for the east. It’s a little distance[Page 44] out before the trail divides and you take the one to the right. You can’t miss it then, the trail’s plain until you get ten miles through. Then there are two different forks, and you take the one that leads to the left, starting higher through the hills. So long, boys, and good luck to you!” he called, as the boys stepped out of the door and started in the direction pointed out.

As Frank and his chums started away from Todds they did not see three men who had come up some time before and who had spied upon them. These men were Fordham Jeek and his two unworthy cronies. The men stood at the opposite end of the hotel, peeping out from the side of the building. Jeek spat into the snow rather angrily.

“Going up to Old Moose Lake, eh?” he muttered. “Up to old man Parsons’ place, eh? And he ain’t paid me for my dog, the dirty dog-killer. He’ll pay for it, though! I’ll fix him yet!”

[Page 45]


The four boys hit a fairly good pace as they left Todds and made along the single trail toward the mountains, but three miles back from the Harrapin River.

From somewhere in a little clump of trees through which they were passing a rabbit jumped out.

“Get him!” cried Lanky Wallace, slinging his rifle around to catch it in his free hands.

The little fellow, scared out of a warm spot in the grove, or perhaps out foraging for something green to eat, was getting across the surface of the snow in a hurry.

Crack! Bang! Crack! Bang!

Each of these boys had pulled his firearm around at sight of the streak of motion, almost the color of the snow. And each of them had pulled down a quick bead on the animal; letting fly two bullets and two doses of shot.

“Came close!” called Frank, for the snow spat upward in several spots just ahead of or to one side of the rabbit, but the little fellow kept on and disappeared in the next grove.

[Page 46]

“First shot of the expedition,” Buster Billings said. “I came nearest because I shot first.”

This brought a laugh from the other boys. For it was difficult to tell who had fired first.

“That was good work, fellows,” said Frank. “All four of us, from an unexpected start, got our rifles and shotguns into action at about the same time.”

The rabbit was safe somewhere else, they had shown to themselves that they knew how to get into action, and the boys trooped on through the snow even happier than they had been.

The sun was not shining, yet the morning was brighter than the day before, and the snow was falling less hard.

“Wonder what these footprints are,” remarked Lanky, who was slightly in the lead, with Frank close behind him.

“I’ve been noticing them all the way. They are headed opposite to the way we are going, and from the fact they are not yet filled with snow, it seems three people came in this morning,” replied Frank Allen.

Lanky continued looking toward the prints in the trail, finally remarking about a peculiar heel-print.

“Look, Frank,” he pointed. “One of the fellows must have an iron plate on his heels. Every now[Page 47] and then you can see a print in which a crescent shape shows, like those things they use to stop a heel from wearing down.”

But the boys were little interested in this. They looked casually at the prints for a while, trudging onward, but did not stop for a closer examination. A full hour passed, and they came to a dividing of the trail.

“Here’s the one to take. Here’s where we start saving those ten miles,” came from Frank. “They said it was thirty miles by the road around the mountains and only twenty if we took the trail straight through.”

“What that makes me think is this,” said Lanky, swinging along behind Frank, giving up his leading position. “How can the trail around the hills reach Old Moose lake?”

“I presume there is another divide in the trail lower down,” suggested Frank. “Maybe the lake is reached on one side by one trail and on the opposite side by another.”

Another hour passed away, finding the boys well up in the mountain trail, climbing higher.

The evergreen trees, hemlocks and pines were covered with the finer particles of snow. The trail itself was completely covered. Now and then the boys found it necessary to catch the overhanging[Page 48] branches of a tree to swing themselves along more easily, especially where the trail, in places, grew narrow.

A third hour passed away, indicated by Buster Billings’ watch, finding the young fellows well in the midst of the mountains, having dropped far down into a valley during the last half hour.

In the meanwhile the skies had become leaden-colored again, cast over with the winter shade, and snow was flying thicker than at any other time of the morning.

“We can’t be far from the second divide, the one where we have to make the careful choice,” Frank said as they stopped in the valley before following the trail up between two hills to their right, where it made a sharp turn.

“And it won’t be so easy to find, either,” said Paul, “unless the trails are plainer than this one is.”

Just as Buster Billings called out that the fourth hour had passed, Frank pointed to a sign nailed on a tree just ahead of them.

“Maybe that sign has something to do with the trails.”

But they were doomed to disappointment.

Put out all camp fires—protect our forests,” read the sign.

It had been placed there during one of the campaigns for forest protection.

[Page 49]

“But,” remarked Frank as he stood in front of the sign and thought it over, “this sign must have been placed at this spot for some reason. I believe we are at the divide in the trails. See? There are three different openings leading away—look there! Footprints on the one right there!”

Four boys stood and looked carefully, each thinking out the situation. Though Frank was the leader, one boy cannot do all the thinking for such a group of quick-minded young fellows as these.

“If there are three, those footprints are on the trail we were supposed to take,” said Paul Bird.

Frank agreed that this seemed the right conclusion.

“And the sign was posted at this spot because of its being a place where all men going through this trail must stop,” he went on, after agreeing with Paul.

They followed the trail on which the footprints were being rapidly obliterated by the falling flakes.

Heavier and heavier fell the snow as the boys proceeded, making their way around a hill and then dropping again into a small valley, catching here and there on bushes to hold themselves back on the stiff incline.

Reaching the bottom of the trail, which turned off to the left again, the snow was falling so hard they were able to see but a short distance ahead.

[Page 50]

“Fellows,” Frank stopped at the bottom and looked in all directions, “we’re not on any trail. This is a blind one. It takes us nowhere.”

The other three boys looked about them, in one direction, in another, and back up the way they had come.

“It’s sure this doesn’t go any farther,” agreed Lanky Wallace.

“Let’s get back to the top and look things over again,” Frank suggested, leading the way.

Reaching the top, where the trails had seemed to divide, they studied the situation.

“I believe that one to the right is the plain one,” Frank nodded toward the one he meant. “It isn’t the way they told us to go, if these three are trails. On the other hand, if that over there is a trail, then the one right there is the correct one.”

The boys studied the problem over carefully, each one making sure that he would leave nothing out of consideration. Then they determined on the one which Frank had mentioned.

Another twenty minutes led them to an old tumble-down hut near a clump of hemlocks which had been out of sight from the top—and this trail proceeded no further.

“This thing is dangerous to enter. A little wind will knock it down,” Lanky leaned against the hut gingerly as if to push it gently over.

[Page 51]

“Why enter it at all?” asked Paul Bird.

“Because it looks as if we might not get very much farther,” said Frank. “I don’t know how it looks to you fellows, but it is afternoon now, and we are not on the right track. Best thing we can do is to keep our bearings pretty well so we can come back to this place in case we have to.”

“Oh, it won’t come to that,” spoke up Buster Billings. “We can find our way all right. Let’s go back to the top, Frank, and go over the directions we were given.”

This was also Frank’s idea, and they trudged back through the almost blinding snow, not soft in its texture, but hard and packing as it fell. At the crest they very carefully talked over the instructions which they had been given. Then they decided on another apparent trail, and set off.

One hour passed, with the four boys fairly butting their way through the heavy snowstorm, hearing a bitter wind sweeping through the trees far above their heads.

“Look! To our left!” called Lanky Wallace, stopping, and pointing off through a small clump of brush.

“It’s the same hut!” said Frank. “Only we’re looking at it from the other side!”’

A council again was called. Here were four boys out in the mountains, fully ten or twelve miles[Page 52] from Todd’s, and, if their estimates were good, about eight or ten miles from Old Moose Lake, unable to figure out which way they should go.

“Shall we go back to Todds and get a fresh start?” asked Paul Bird.

“Sure not!” Lanky Wallace gave the answer. “If we went back there we’d get the same directions we got before, wouldn’t we? And then we’d come to the same place. I believe we lost ourselves somewhere else.”

“That is exactly what I think,” Frank agreed with Lanky. “I’ll tell you, fellows, what I think we should do—let’s pitch camp right here by this hut. Just as Lanky says, it would not be best to get under it because of this wind, but let’s get near, protected by the brush and trees, and stay all night. It is getting late in the day, and we ought to rest. Then to-morrow we’ll start again.”

So the packs were unlimbered, blankets drawn out, a fire was soon started, and, without taking any food, for they had brought only enough for one meal from Todds, they camped in the clump of hemlocks near the hut.

Until dark they stood around the fire and talked, for a time forgetting their plight and joking about things which had happened during the weeks past. At dark they prepared to turn in, rolled in their blankets, the snow continuing to fall heavily.

[Page 53]

It was some time in the middle of the night, with no moon up, that Frank was suddenly startled from his sleep by a mysterious sound. He sat bolt upright. Ahead of him a pair of glaring balls of green fire danced!

He realized that some one else was at his side, and saw, from the corner of his eye, Lanky Wallace staring at the same thing.

The pairs of fire-balls moved slightly, then one went out as the other moved, and then they both showed up again.

Stealthily, very slowly, Frank reached for his rifle, his eyes on the balls of fire.

He got the rifle steadily to his shoulder, took careful aim, and pulled the trigger.


Instantly the balls of fire disappeared—and the other two boys awoke!

[Page 54]


“What was it?” asked Buster Billings, involuntarily reaching for his rifle.

“Grab the flashlight, Lanky! You fellows get your guns,” commanded Frank instantly, as he leaped from his folds of blanket. “We’ll see what that was!”

In a trice all four of the boys were making their way toward the spot where Lanky and Frank had seen the pair of fiery balls.

“There are the tracks,” ejaculated Lanky Wallace, as he pointed to the snow, where they could see the tracks of an animal very plainly.

They followed the tracks for a short distance, seeing red spots here and there, but nothing of the beast itself.

Back to the camping place they walked when they saw it would be useless to follow further, and here they discussed the matter, deciding that a guard had to be placed for the night.

“How did you know it wasn’t a man?” asked Paul Bird of Frank.

“I didn’t, except that the eyes were so bright.[Page 55] But I believe I would have fired anyhow, because if it were a man he had no business at this hour of the night lurking around a camp when the fire is dying out and we could be plainly seen.”

They drew lots, and Buster Billings lost, but Frank, looking at his watch and seeing that the hour was only eleven, decided that the watches should be short, this decision causing a second drawing, the lot falling to Lanky Wallace.

Paul started the watch by building up the fire with branches from one of the near-by bushes, and Lanky did the same when it came his turn to take the watch, Paul calling him at three o’clock in the morning. The two boys stood whispering awhile before Paul wrapped up for his sleep.

During the early morning the snowstorm abated, and when the first streaks of dawn came Lanky awakened the other boys, after having built the fire into a roaring one. No snow was falling, and there was promise of a bright sun.

Frank’s first thought when he awoke was about the animal. He asked both Paul and Lanky whether there had been any more prowling around.

“Neither of us saw anything,” said Lanky Wallace, speaking for both.

The boys gathered about the roaring fire, and then got out their food packs, making ready for breakfast.

[Page 56]

As the sun’s rays fell across the peaks of the mountains, the boys sat and ate their meal, chatting and laughing as carefree as boys could be.

“For a bunch of fellows who are lost in these mountains, we’re taking things mighty easy,” laughed Lanky.

“Yes,” rejoined Frank, “when we know we’re not really lost. We know we can go back the way we came. But we don’t know that we can go where we wish to go.”

Around the old hut they went, peeping in to see what was inside, then made their way the short distance up to the peak where the trail divided.

“There’s smoke!” called Buster, as he reached the top first and looked out over the hills.

“Well, let’s start for the smoke,” said Lanky.

“According to my guess we ought to follow that trail on the left side, then,” said Frank. “The trouble is we don’t know whether it’s a trail, but it surely does look as if one led down that way,” he continued, pointing in the direction he intended.

Away they started, optimistic because of the bright, sunny day, and also because they had plenty of rest and were much refreshed.

“Look at that!” called Paul Bird before they had gone more than half the distance down the declivity to the valley below, pointing off to their right.

There, in plain view, with a little red spot marking[Page 57] its last resting place, lay a medium-sized timber wolf.

All thought of the trail was forgotten as the boys left it and went to where the body lay on top of the Snow.

“You surely hit it fair enough,” remarked Lanky, turning the dead animal over so that the head could be plainly seen.

A dull blotch below the eyes showed where the bullet had plowed its way through.

“Took it a long time to die,” said Frank.

“Well, maybe the bullet hit a bone and glanced in so that the brain wasn’t hurt immediately,” suggested Lanky. “In the papers you read sometimes of a man who is struck by a bullet in what seems a vital spot and yet who lives three or four hours.”

“How far are we right now from that hut?”

“Not more than half a mile,” sad Frank, trying to measure by the difference in angles which they had pursued.

“Well, we did better than we did with the cotton-tail, anyhow,” said Frank as he turned from the wolf and led the party back to the trail.

“I’m going to get a picture of it,” Paul Bird commented, going back to where the animal lay, getting out his small camera. “Just proves what we did, doesn’t it?”

Back on the trail they turned their attention to[Page 58] finding their way out, and, having gone to the valley they saw where they had made the mistake the day previous. They had been balked by the appearance of the valley, it seeming to show no way out, whereas, in reality, a turn past a small bunch of evergreens showed them that a narrow way led between the next two hills in front of them, and when they followed this, they saw it turn sharply to the right and incline upward.

Suddenly there came the whir of bird wings, and all the boys turned quickly to see what they were.

“Partridges! And the hunting season is on yet!” cried Frank.

“Let’s leave the packs here so we can find our way again, and go after them!” suggested Lanky Wallace.

Whereupon packs were thrown to the ground, guns were slung across their arms, and they stole forward in the direction taken by the birds.

The partridges had come to earth in a small thicket of leafless brush about an eighth of a mile off to the left.

But Frank and Lanky were not very well armed for bird hunting. Rifles intend no scattering of shot, but demand that a close bead shall be drawn, for only a single shot will reach the prey.

The boys realized this, but they were intent on the fun of taking the chance. Besides, they wanted to see what Paul and Buster could do.

[Page 59]

Creeping more slowly and more stealthily, they were close to the brush when there came a whir, and the covey arose from the ground.

Three quick shots sounded one after the other. Then——

Bang! A single shot followed the other three, and one of the partridges fluttered in the air, seemed to stumble on wing, and then dropped quickly to the ground.

“Fine shot!” called Frank, turning to see who it was. Paul’s lucky shot had brought down the only bird.

Paul ran forward and picked up the only partridge that had been dropped from the covey.

“Shall we follow them around?” asked Frank, noting that the covey had come to ground again in another thicket. The boys were for it at once, and they started to steal forward.

This kept up for an hour, until they had circled the little valley and were almost back to the starting point, three birds having been dropped from a total of about thirty shots.

They decided the birds would make a partial lunch for them when the noon hour came, provided they had not yet reached the Parsons’ camp.

Back again to the arduous task of making the trail, though with enough food for conversation for two long hours.

[Page 60]

“There’s a lake!” yelled Paul as they reached the top of a hill in the trail and saw a level, frozen, snow-covered plain. “That can’t be anything else, can it?”

“Must be Old Moose Lake,” decided Frank at once. “We have gone about the right distance. And look! Over there is smoke beyond that hill—there’s a camp there!”

The boys stood looking across the hills to this spot, and seeing the lake stretch away into the distance and lost to view without the opposite bank being seen.

A half-hour more along the trail and they were at the edge of the lake, where they could see two islands—for they stood out of the level plain with trees growing thereon, while no trees or growth were on the plain itself.

Along the edge of the lake they trudged, heading toward the spot where the smoke rose from among some trees.

Ten minutes brought them to a cabin near the lake shore and they hallooed from the outside to attract attention.

The heavy log door opened and a man’s head poked out.

“Is this Old Moose Lake?” Frank asked.

The man answered in the affirmative.

[Page 61]

“Will you please tell us where the Parsons’ camp is?” Frank continued.

“Sure, boys! Just follow the trail along the lake until you come to a big camp, a bungalow. Then turn sharp to the right, go up between two hills, and follow that trail for about a mile. It’s plain going one way, but it ain’t so plain coming back, ’cause there’s a fork beyond those hills.”

The man came out of the cabin meanwhile, and was pointing in the direction the boys should take.

“You boys ain’t old man Parsons’ boys, are you?” he asked.

Whereupon Frank vouchsafed the information that they were given permission to camp at the place by Mrs. Parsons, and after thanking the man they continued on their way.

“I guess we followed directions all right,” remarked Lanky Wallace. “Only we didn’t know we were doing quite so well.”

“You’re right, Lanky,” laughed Frank.

The bungalow was a strong, staunch-looking place out here in the wilds, and the boys were attracted to it, wondering whose it was.

Following directions implicitly, they turned and climbed the trail between the hills, then over a small divide, down through a glen, or small valley, and out again to a smooth place along the lake shore.

[Page 62]

Once again the lake stretched away before them, and they stood admiring it.

“And we are seeing just what we were told we would see. That bungalow is in the spot where we were told it would be, so the next is our place,” remarked Frank.

Up a slight incline they went, through a clump of hemlocks and firs, with brush abounding, and then they looked again.

In a clear place ahead of them stood a modern house of rather large size, though a single story, one large chimney at the center of it, smoke issuing in volume from that chimney!

“Some one is in the place right now!” exclaimed Frank.

“That’s mighty funny! It seems to me Mrs. Parsons told us no one was up here,” said Paul Bird.

“But some one is there!” exclaimed Frank. “The next thing is this: Does he, or they, belong there? And does this mean trouble?”

[Page 63]


The four boys drew together and held a conference in order to decide two things: first, whether there were interlopers in the camp house and, second, how to handle the situation in the event these people did not belong there.

“If they belong there—if Mrs. Parsons sent them up here without our knowing it,” said Frank, “we must be careful to do nothing which is wrong. And——”

“And,” interrupted Lanky Wallace, “if they do not belong here, then we must get rid of them in some way. It looks this way, Frank—if some one is in there that don’t belong, and it surely seems so right now, we’ve got to get them out and they’re not going to want to go out.”

This was putting the matter fairly.

“I’ll tell you what we can do,” suggested Frank when the boys had canvassed all the facts as they existed. “We can walk up to the place and look through the windows to see what is going on within. If there to a chance to hear anything we might get[Page 64] some idea from the conversation whether they belong there or not.”

With this the boys started forward, quite naturally keeping their guns to their arms, ready for action.

But there was no need to use stealth or secretiveness. No one made any attempt to call out to them as they approached, and, getting near the lodge, they scattered out, Frank and Lanky choosing places at the front, while the other boys went to the rear of the house.

Stooping beneath one of the windows at the front, Frank brought his head up to the level of the sill very slowly, peeping to see what was within.

There, stretched at their full length in two of the large lounging chairs in the spacious living room at the front of the house, toasting their toes before the roaring fire, were two tramps!

The position of the two boys, Frank and Lanky, was a poor one, because the tramps were facing them. Therefore, the boys slipped around to another window, in order that they might not be so easily seen.

“I guess this is pretty soft,” one of the tramps was saying to the other.

“Yes, you’re right, Blinky, pretty soft. And there’s enough stuff in the kitchen to run us some time, too.”

[Page 65]

Frank and Lanky looked at each other, smiling.

“Wonder who is the guy that owns this shack, Snadder,” said the first tramp. “Let’s get another drink.”

With this the two tramps got out of their chairs, showing a bit more alacrity than their comfort would seem to have justified.

One of them, the one addressed as Snadder, was a tall, very thin man, so tall that he stooped at the waist and a little more at the shoulders, as if constantly bending down to hear some one smaller than himself. The side view of his face showed him to have a long, beak nose and a growth of beard which might have been a week old.

The other was almost his opposite. As he staggered rather than walked toward the dining room, the two boys saw a low-sized man, very fat, with a pudgy round face and a nose that fitted perfectly with the general rotundity, and, as he turned to look back at Snadder, for he was leading the way, they saw that his eyelids squinted down very closely and that a moustache adorned his upper lip, looking like the stub end of a broom.

Lanky and Frank slipped along the side of the house toward the dining room to watch the next act in the performance.

The two tramps wobbled over to the heavy oak[Page 66] sideboard in the dining room, opened the door at the bottom, and lifted from there a bottle. Instead of pouring the liquor into glasses they lifted the bottle to their lips and drank long and heartily.

As one finished and handed the bottle to the other he smacked his lips and wiped them with his shirt sleeve, the other drinking and doing likewise. To all appearances they drained the bottle to the last drop.

“Well,” said Snadder, the tall one, “if they left that bottle here for medicinal purposes, it sure has done the trick! I feel just as well as can be. How about it?”

“I feel better’n you do,” said Blinky.

“What you mean you feel better’n I do?”

“Jesh whosh I shay,” Blinky stammered back at the other. “That’s right kind liquor. Makes me feel like the time I trained with Fighting Bob.”

Frank and Lanky exchanged glances. It was plain these two fellows had imbibed enough of the liquor to make them drunk.

Smash! As the two boys turned their eyes again to the room, they saw Snadder reach for the bottle and hurl it at Blinky—missing him by a small margin, but striking the opposite wall of the room where the bottle fell in bits.

Blinky made a rush for the huge mantel over the fireplace of the front room, and grabbed down a[Page 67] knife that hung there. Then he turned on the slim one.

For a moment they stood glaring at each other, neither making any further move toward combat.

Just at this moment Paul and Buster came from their vantage points and reported what they had seen—a kitchen messed up as if hogs had been turned loose, empty cans strewn about the floor, dishes lying on the table, all drawers of the pantry being pulled out and dumped on the floor.

Inside there were no sounds to indicate either the continuance of the fight or a peace contract. Frank lifted his head and looked through the window. Blinky was yet standing at the mantel with the knife in his hand, defensively glaring at Snadder, while the long, thin one had reached in the meanwhile for a carving knife that lay on the dining table. As they watched, Snadder started stealthily forward, intent on getting to Blinky on his tiptoes.

“Better stay ’way from me,” whimpered Blinky. “You come near me and I’ll stick this knife in you.”

But Snadder was undaunted by this, and four youthful pairs of eyes watched the coming of the fray with boyish interest.

Snadder’s hand was upraised, and Frank saw that he held the knife by its point, with the handle downward.

Having gone around the dining table, where the[Page 68] full swing of his arm would not be hindered, they saw a quick movement on the part of the tall man, and the knife swished through the air toward Blinky!

It seemed to be going true to its aim, but Blinky slouched forward a trifle, it seemed an accident, and the point of the carving knife struck squarely in the top plank of the mantel, swaying to and fro!

With that Snadder started to rush forward.

But Blinky had sobered somewhat in that moment, and his right hand moving upward, he hurled the knife at the head of his advancing antagonist.

With a quick dodging motion Snadder got out of the way and the hunting knife came hurtling straight at the head of Frank Allen outside the window!

Crash! There was the sound of splintering glass as the knife shot over the head of the stooping boy, who had ducked lower, and fine particles of glass flew on top of the heads of all four of them.

Frank’s head came up instantly and he looked to see what would happen next. He realized that if they got into a fight the command of the situation would be in their hands.

Frank saw that Blinky, the undersized one, having hurled the knife without success, had grasped a chair in his hands and was just swinging it about his head, ready to brain Snadder if he approached.

“Quick, Lanky!” whispered Frank, getting his head down from the window. “You and Paul go[Page 69] to the front door, and Buster, you go to the rear door and see if you can get inside. When I think you’re there, or when I see the front door open, I’ll stick a rifle through this window. Get around there right away and we’ll get these fellows.”

The three boys ran quickly to do their part of the work.

In the meanwhile Frank looked again and saw Snadder hesitate before attempting to close in on his muscular adversary.

“Come on, Blinky, I ain’t mad any more. What’s the use of us fighting?” he said.

“Well, they ain’t no use of fighting,” answered the fat one. “But I’m mad yet, and you ain’t telling the truth. If you come near me I’ll brain you with this chair.”

Much of the drunkenness had disappeared in this sharp interchange, and Blinky’s words were not spoken as thickly as several minutes before.

“Come on, Blinky, can’t you believe me? We’ve been pals a long time and they ain’t no use fighting,” argued Snadder.

But Blinky was not ready just yet to relinquish the defensive situation of which he had command.

Just then Frank saw the front door open very slightly and knew that he had two boys there, with their guns, ready to close in. He rose immediately from the stooped position, poked his rifle through[Page 70] the broken pane of the window, and called out:

“Throw up your hands, both of you!”

Snadder and Blinky turned to the window from which the words came and saw a young man standing behind a rifle that was leveled at both of them.

Snadder, lithe and quick, turned in a flash toward the front door.

It opened wide, and Lanky and Paul stood in the opening, each with a firearm pointing directly at the tall fellow.

“Throw up your hands, fellows!” again came the command from Frank Allen. “Lanky, if he makes a move, shoot him!”

Both of the tramps lifted their hands very slowly above their heads, Blinky putting the chair down carefully before he obeyed the command.

Buster Billings walked into the dining room at this juncture, his shotgun ready for use.

“Buster, go over there and search them, while we keep them covered,” said Frank.

[Page 71]


The two tramps were not armed, and Frank Allen went around to the front door to enter the great living room.

“You ain’t got nothing on us,” grumbled Snadder, the taller one of the pair, as the boys permitted them to drop their hands.

“No, but you fellows have got something on you that belongs to this place,” replied Frank. “I want you to disgorge right now.”

“What do you mean, disgorge?” asked Snadder.

“Unload all the stuff out of your pockets that belongs to this house,” replied Frank.

At first the men denied they had anything. But the evidence was too plain, for a silver spoon showed in the shirt pocket of Snadder.

A few spoons were dumped out, and then a cigar case, all the pieces bearing the initial “P” on them, indicating to Frank’s mind, that they belonged to Mrs. Parsons.

“You’re not going to have us arrested for that, are you?” Blinky whined.

[Page 72]

“No,” replied Frank decidedly. “We’re not going to have you arrested, but we’re going to tell you to get out of this camp and stay out. This camp belongs to us right now, and we’re going to have it alone.”

Snadder’s mind, always seeking that which was crooked, now thought the boys had no more right here than he and Blinky. And he mentioned the fact, suggesting that all of them bunk here together.

“We can bring in your wood for you and do any other heavy jobs,” he ended the suggestion.

“Nothing doing!” Frank declared. “We have a right here. The owner of this place gave us permission to camp here, and we’re surely going to do it. And more—she’s a friend of ours and we’re going to protect all of her property, too.”

“Aw, come on, partner,” argued Snadder. “You boys will need somebody to watch the place while you’re fishing or hunting. And there is other work we can do.”

“Not to-day, thank you!” Frank was firm. “I am sorry that you have to get out where it’s cooler, but you’ve got to go. If you had acted decently in here it might have been different.”

“If you drive us out of here we’ll get even with you,” threatened the tall man, Snadder.

This remark was too much for Lanky Wallace, who had allowed all the conversation to go along[Page 73] without saying anything. But he broke in at this juncture:

“Listen, Snadder! You’re just fixing things so as to get yourself into a peck of trouble. If we see either of you fellows around doing any mischief, or if we see you sneaking around this place, I’ll promise you it won’t go easy with either one of you.”

With this he bristled over close to the tramps, and they started moving for the door.

There was a short hickory handle lying on a chair near the door, and as they approached it Snadder snatched up the handle in a flash and hurled it squarely at the group of boys.

Paul’s arm caught it when he lifted the arm to protect his head from the flying missile.

Instantly Lanky Wallace made a lunge for the tramp, but that fellow had gotten through the door, pulling it quickly enough to stop the progress of the young Columbian.

Outside the two tramps walked half backwards, keeping an eye on the door and shaking their fists as they went. The mackinaws they wore were of good material and were warm despite their ragged appearance.

The four boys, standing at the side windows, watched the two tramps trudge through the snow-covered trail along the bank of Old Moose Lake, moving off to the eastward.

[Page 74]

“I wonder if there is a camp in that direction,” said Frank, nodding toward the tramps.

“Sure. I’ll bet there are a dozen camps around the lake. Just look, Frank. It’s clear and you can see how far it stretches,” replied Lanky, indicating with his finger the broad distances across the lake.

True enough, it must have been a wide expanse of water, for they could see no trees to indicate the opposite shore, though little hillocks here and there, with trees growing on them, suggested the existence of islands in the lake.

“Do you know,” said Frank, after a long silence, the tramps moving farther and farther away, finally disappearing around a clump of trees more than a quarter of a mile distant, “I believe the lake is freezing over, or has frozen over, and that the snow isn’t deep. You see, the snow probably fell into the water and melted until the water froze, and it hasn’t snowed much since then. I’m going to see.”

All four of the boys went out of the house and to the shore of the lake. Frank reached out the butt of his rifle and tapped the surface. There was not more than two inches of snow on top, and a coating of ice over the waters beneath.

“Hit it harder,” suggested Paul Bird.

“Not with my rifle butt,” answered Frank. “Get a stick and we’ll see.”

[Page 75]

Lanky bethought himself of the hickory handle and brought it from the living room of the house in a minute, then tried the ice to see what its strength was.

It seemed to be reasonably solid. Then the boys ventured their feet on it, and the lake stood under them all right.

“Skating! This is going to be great!” cried Buster Billings, himself a good skater and a lover of the sport.

Back to the house they trudged, a happy band of boys, looking forward to some great times in the northern woods.

Having built up the fire by the addition of a log pitched by two of them on the dying embers, Frank spied a picture lying face upward on the mantel above the fireplace.

It was a snapshot photograph of a moose!

It had been taken at a range of a hundred yards, in all probability, and the big fellow was looking to one side.

On the back of the picture was written the words, “The King.”

“Look, fellows,” cried Frank. “Here is his picture—the big fellow that Mr. Van Kirk offered the reward for.”

In the meanwhile Snadder and Blinky, proceeding along the shores of the lake, angry at having been[Page 76] put out of such an easy home, wondered where they could find another of like kind, if at all.

“I’ll get even with them kids,” muttered Snadder, leading the way along the trail.

“Maybe we will and maybe we won’t. There are four of them boys and they’ve got guns, and they don’t look like they would run from any one,” remarked Blinky.

Turning past a clump of trees, the men reached a small hill, around which the trail led, and then climbed between two more eminences which seemed to butt right to the lake. Reaching the top of these two, they saw ahead of them a log cabin—perhaps half a mile distant.

“Ain’t no smoke coming out—guess it’s empty,” said Snadder, pointing to it.

“And the door locked and the key thrown away,” whined Blinky.

“Yeh, that’s the way with you. Honestly, Blinky, a man oughtn’t to travel around with you. You’re always finding the dark clouds to look at.”

As they neared the log cabin they were surprised to notice that two sticks of wood, not covered with snow, were lying in front of the place. This indicated to Snadder’s mind, and it cannot be said that tramping had not improved his training in deduction, that some one was either in the cabin[Page 77] or had been there this very morning, inasmuch as the snow had stopped during the night.

All of this he remarked to Blinky, his teammate.

They arrived at the cabin, walking up to it as if they belonged there, knocked on the door, received no response, and pushed their way in.

The ashes in the fireplace were warm, though no live coals were there. There were two rooms to the place, the rear one having a bunk fastened to the side of the wall and an oil stove standing on a box opposite the bunk.

“Here’s food, anyhow,” said the taller of the two, picking up a can of goods to look at it and to determine whether it was empty. “And there’s some more under the bunk! Look!”

The tramps pulled all of it out without further ceremony, and then poked around into all the corners of the place, learning what else might be waiting for their very ready hands.

“’Tain’t so good as the place we had, but I don’t guess the landlord will come around so soon, either,” Snadder smiled pleasantly at his humor.

“Warm ashes in the fireplace says the landlord has been here,” whispered Blinky. “Wouldn’t be surprised but he’s out hunting a little game, or maybe there’s more than one landlord.”

“Well, we’ll just pretend we’re invited to this[Page 78] place and we’ll make a fire and have some coffee.”

Snadder lighted the oil stove, placed the coffee pot thereon, and the two tramps started a blaze in the fireplace of the front room, determined that whatever comfort could be gotten they would enjoy at once.

“Gosh, look!” said Snadder, as he looked out of the window and pointed toward a clump of trees only a half a hundred yards away, in the center of which another cabin, much larger than this, nestled comfortably.

No indication of life, no smoke issuing from the chimney, and a much larger and more commodious place than the one in which they were.

“Looks like we’re sons of Old Lady Luck,” he laughed, rubbing his hands in front of the fire.

“Yes,” again came the whining tones of the little fat, squint-eyed tramp, “and the first thing we know, Old Lady Luck will be spanking her sons, too.”

[Page 79]


Led by Frank Allen, the boys turned to the job of cleaning up the house, in reality a bungalow of the mountains.

On counting the opened cans of food they learned that Snadder and Blinky had not purloined very much of it, and taking an inventory of the remainder, they reckoned there was sufficient to carry them over a period of a month or more, even though the other boys, down in Columbia, who had promised to come up, should arrive.

Mrs. Parsons had spared no thought. She showed very clearly that she had kept in close touch with the things which Mr. Parsons, her late husband, had formerly brought to the camp for his own use.

The broken glass was gathered up carefully and thrown into a large metal receptacle outside the rear door into which they also threw all the empty cans.

“How about the window pane?” asked Lanky. “We ought to fix it, or we’ll have trouble keeping this place warm.”

[Page 80]

“I saw a piece of glass in that pantry,” said Buster. “It looked to be about the same size.”

They obtained the sheet of glass, found it was unbroken, and the next problem appeared—how to get the new pane to stay in without putty.

However, they succeeded in getting the new pane in the sash quite securely, using the triangular shaped tacks which held the old one, and, using no putty whatever, relying on the smooth scraping of the woodwork behind the glass and the tightness of the tacks to keep out most of the cold air.

“Buster,” called Lanky, while he was on the outside, pressing the tacks in with the blade of a knife, “I’ll have to drive these in further, and I can’t reach them with my right hand. Will you get that left-handed hammer on the table in the kitchen?”

Buster Billings hurried to the rear of the house at once, and sought in all parts of the kitchen for the hammer. In the meanwhile the other three boys were enjoying the joke. Presently Buster returned.

“I can’t find it, Lanky. There isn’t any kind of hammer there.”

“Oh, well,” Lanky was thoroughly disgusted, “I’ll have to get it for myself. It’s a shame that a fellow can’t get any help from you guys.” With the words he strode, with seeming anger toward the rear, while Frank and Paul guffawed loudly.

“There’s no reason why he ought to get so sore at[Page 81] me.” Buster felt very hurt over Lanky’s actions.

Whereupon more loud laughing came from the two boys.

This job finished, they all turned to the general cleaning of the dining room and the living room, another large stick of wood having been thrown on the fire.

Night came on, and with it the wind rose high, whistling through the trees around the house and fairly howling as it hurried through the branches of the giant white pine at the side.

The boys discussed the temperature, wondering if it were dropping, for they looked forward to a tighter freezing of the lake.

“If this wind keeps up it might blow a lot of the snow off the lake.” Frank was planning for the next day. “That would make skating mighty fine, provided the temperature is low enough to freeze it harder.”

“Yes, and if we had some bread we’d have a sandwich if we had some ham,” laughed Lanky.

“Don’t start on me, champion kidder,” Frank rejoined. “Pick on some one your size.”

After a while the boys made down the bunks and all crawled in, first putting a log on the fire to keep the place heated overnight. Lanky wanted to know where the sleeping porch was, because he could not sleep without plenty of fresh air. Had[Page 82] it not been that they feared Lanky might get the better of all three of them, they would have put him outdoors so that he could have all the air he wanted.

Early in the morning they were up, and the big question of how to get water came to mind, inasmuch as they had used all the water in the two buckets in the kitchen.

An axe was brought into play, and all four of the boys proceeded to the lake, and out a distance of twenty-five feet.

There they cut a square hole, about three feet long and wide, finding that the ice was already more than four inches thick. Here they dipped the buckets and brought in fresh, cold water to wash for the day.

“Now is the time we ought to take a morning plunge. I just dote on cold water plunges,” laughed Lanky, peering into the hole.

Nothing daunted, and to even the score, Buster Billings gave Lanky a shove toward the hole in the ice.

But Lanky’s long legs took him over the hole, where his heels struck the ice at an angle, and he slid on his back several yards. Getting quickly to his feet, he saw Buster disappearing into the house. But Lanky had not taken his cold plunge.

Their breakfast was a matter of but a few minutes after their morning’s ablutions had been made.[Page 83] They sat up to it and partook of it with a zest. The wind had died down somewhat, though still blowing hard.

“What shall we do to-day?” Buster Billings asked, when the dishes had been washed and all put away as in a town house. The boys were determined to be as methodical and as cleanly as this very handsome camp demanded of its occupants.

“Seems to me that we ought to lay out all of our stuff to-day, clean our guns, get out the fishing tackle, and generally prepare for the real purpose of our camp,” Frank suggested. “There’s almost a day’s work just getting our staff untangled and cleaned up.”

It did require most of the day. The boys laughed and joked as they worked, and Buster twice found his tackle badly twisted and snarled when he had gone out for buckets of water.

“Wonder where the tramps went,” Lanky said, happening to think of the intruders of the previous day. “Think they found a camp farther along the lake?”

There was nothing else to guess, inasmuch as the men had not come back this way, or, at least, the boys had not seen them come back.

“One of the things we should do, and we ought to do it each day, too,” remarked Frank. “That is, we ought to cut down a tree and put logs on the pile[Page 84] behind the house. When we came here we found logs ready cut and we ought to leave with the pile the same size.”

“Do that on the last day,” suggested Lanky lazily.

“And it won’t be done,” Frank laughed. “To-morrow, before we do anything else, we’re going to take those two axes and cut enough wood to replenish the pile. That’s only fair.”

“I think that’s fair, too,” agreed Lanky. “There are only two axes. Of course there is none for me, and I don’t know who else.”

“One of those axe handles is an exact fit for your hand,” remarked Paul Bird. “You see, you square the length and breadth of your hand and subtract it——”

“That proves it!” cried Buster.

This evening the boys tried a different menu, opening cans of food which they had not yet tried, and each of the four took turns at preparing something for the others. But while Lanky was doing his part of the cooking, all the other boys kept their eyes on him. They were not sure in whose plate Lanky would put sawdust, sand, or anything else he could lay his hands on. He was perfectly trustworthy—maybe, they thought.

It was not a late hour at night when the boys fastened the outer doors securely and went to bed,[Page 85] deciding on getting out early the next day to try some fishing at the hole which they had cut in the ice, even though it was close to the shore.

The wind had risen during the afternoon, and as they retired it was whistling, humming and moaning through the trees and screaming as it passed over the top of the chimney. Nevertheless, they all at once fell into a sound sleep.

It was just before daybreak, just at the darkest part of the night, that the wind broke all bounds.

Crash! Cr—rro—ash! Plunk! Clink! Clink! The entire earth seemed to heave upward, hurling everything in its path!

All the boys woke at the same time, thoroughly startled. The house was rocking to and fro. The wind was whistling and howling, curtains were flying, and they felt the chill bite as cold air rushed into the house.

Where were they? Was the house turned over?

[Page 86]


Four boys were out of their bunks in a trice. Four pairs of eyes peered through the darkness. Four pairs of ears listened to the howling of the wind and the crunching noise of something pressing hard on timbers. Four active minds tried to determine what was wrong.

It was Frank Allen, who, by his method of preparedness, saved the moment.

The beam of a flashlight shot forward from where he stood beside his bunk, lighting up a small circle, which circle darted here and there, hunting, ferreting out the cause of this noise.

The house still stood to all appearances. A heavy wind howled into the room.

Frank moved quickly to the living room, followed by the other boys, and there they saw that the entire sash of the window on the east had been smashed in, the branches of a tree protruded through the opening into the room, and, driven by the wind, it swung to and fro, the crunching being the weight of the tree against the side of the house.

[Page 87]

“Get into your boots, fellows, and get your heavy coats on,” commanded Frank quickly, even as he advanced to light the hanging oil lamp.

The first two matches, flaring up for a moment, bravely trying to hold their own, went out before the onslaught of the stiff breeze that came in past the intruding branches.

The third trial was successful, Frank having learned from the first two experiences what needed to be done to save the match.

The hanging lamp was lighted, and even though the wind raced through, it burned steadily.

“Get the two axes, fellows,” Frank called to his three companions, while he hurried back to the bunk to get his boots and his mackinaw.

Outside, standing at the east side of the house in the front, they saw that a giant white pine tree, a great fellow that had stood waving its branches in many a storm over a period of scores of years, had given way at last to the onslaught of this steady wind.

It had fallen across the house in such a manner that, unless they found a way at once of relieving the weight, the giant might continue its fall and cave in the roof of the house, for a very large part of the tree extended well past the eaves.

The trunk still swayed at a distance of about ten feet above the roof, and therein lay the danger.

[Page 88]

“Lanky, you find a log, or a couple of them, and try to wedge ’em in between the ground and the trunk so as to brace it against the wind!” came the sharp command of Frank, who, at the first sight, decided what had to be done.

“Buster, you and Paul get that rope behind the house and we’ll tie the trunk back and see if we can fix it so that it will swing!” he gave the next command.

In a very few minutes Frank saw two logs wedged tightly under the trunk, relieving the pressure somewhat. But he realized that if the tree should suddenly give way above the logs, there would be nothing less than a large torn hole in the roof.

The rope was cast about the trunk, about fifteen feet from the spot near the ground where it had snapped, and this line was taken back to a tree to the eastward, a low-built hemlock which had a strong butt.

The rope had been hooked at a point where the branch grew out from the great white pine, so there was no danger of the rope’s slipping downward.

This being done, and the wind not having abated its steady blow for a single second, the next move came:

“All three of you fellows grab the end of that[Page 89] rope and commence pulling steadily, as hard as you can, while I cut her away at the bottom.”

Frank took one of the axes, and, taking a position on the opposite side to that on which the rope was tied, he commenced cutting away the remaining hold of the torn trunk.

Crunching, creaking, slapping up and down, moving first to one side and then to the other, the great pine tried to settle down on the roof.

Frank’s reliance was the wedge, for he hoped that this would act as a sort of swinging joint, and once the trunk was severed, and with the pull on the rope applied in the opposite direction, the upper part of the trunk would slide away from the house.

Crack! Crack! Crack!

The strokes of the axe fell steadily, each one fairly on top of the one before. The tree creaked and groaned.

Then, of a sudden, with one single blow, well directed, Frank sent the axe through the wood that still acted as an anchor, gave a loud yell to the boys to pull hard, and, with a swing downward, then back up, then down, the tree rocked.

It was a moment of anxiety—but the boys won!

The steady pull on the rope, with the wedges acting away from the house, caused the trunk to[Page 90] settle downward and to slide backward, toward the east—and the lads saw the butt end strike the ground twenty feet away, only the topmost branches of the big pine striking the roof of the house.

The sky in the east cracked open slightly, and the light of the sun came through. Daylight was upon them.

“Fellows, we sure saved the roof of the house!” Frank heaved a sigh of relief when the tree finally settled into place.

“Yes, and there’s the firewood that we have to get out to-day,” laughed Lanky Wallace. “I’ll carry in the two logs over there under the tree, and that’s my part of the work.”

Inside the house things did not look so pleasant. The east window was completely out, the panes were all broken, and there was nothing in sight with which to make repairs.

The boys stirred up the fire, but the wind blew ashes all over the room as it darted through the fireplace and escaped up the chimney, whiffing in one direction and then sucking in.

“Let’s find boards and nail them across that window. That’s all there is left to do,” said Frank.

“But where are the boards?” asked Paul.

Frank waited not a moment. He knew as well as the other boys there were no boards at the house,[Page 91] but he also realized that he did not know what was in that shack down by the lake.

As full daylight came upon them, he strode out of the house and down to the shack to learn what was there. And on opening the door he saw several things—three canoes standing on end and about a dozen thin boards, ten inches wide, stacked up in the corner, among other things.

Grabbing three of the boards, he came out of the shade, forgetting that he must hold them flat side down, and the wind caught the full ten inch width and whirled him around like a top, spinning him twice around and landing him in a heap in the snow.

It was Lanky Wallace who saw the occurrence. He came dashing from the house to help.

Frank was not injured, but he had been knocked around so suddenly and without any chance to protect himself or to regain his balance, so that in falling he went across the boards stomach first, the breath being knocked out of him.

Between the two boys the boards were lugged up to the broken window, and they yelled for a saw and a hammer.

It was Buster who got the tools, while Paul grabbed up nails which he saw lying on the mantel over the stove in the kitchen. Fifteen minutes later the wind was partially shut off from the room—at least enough to permit the boys to have a fire inside.

[Page 92]

“Now, fellows, let’s get some newspapers—there ought to be some around here somewhere. We’ll make some flour paste and line the inside of these boards so that the air can’t get in so easily,” Frank ordered next.

When this was done, the boys prepared their breakfast and started the fire in the living room, chatting the while over the excitement of the falling tree.

“I thought the end of the world had come,” said Paul.

“I knew it!” laughed Lanky.

During the morning the boys took turns cutting the great white pine into firewood. First the branches had to be trimmed away, laying bare the trunk. Then came the arduous labor of cutting it into four long pieces so that it could be more easily handled and turned over.

It was in the afternoon, their young bodies tired, yet refreshed by a good dinner, they started out on the lake to fish.

All idea of using the spot which they had used as a water hole was cast aside, none of the boys thinking they could get fish so near to the shore line. So, trudging out on the lake, not having brought their skates, they reached a point fully an eighth of a mile distant from the shore and here cut a square of about two feet.

[Page 93]

They dropped lines in and waited for a while without results. Then, of a sudden, one bob went under and Lanky Wallace brought a medium sized pickerel out—one that had been too anxious to find something to eat.

“First hit!” gleefully yelled Lanky. “That’s the way to play this game! You fellows want me to show you how? It’s just this way,” and Lanky got the fish off the hook, baited it again, and stood around the hole for fully a half hour, getting nothing more—while the other boys each got a bite and each landed his fish.

With four fish, they went back to the camp, where two of the boys, Frank and Buster Billings, dressed them for the evening meal.

In the meantime Lanky and Paul went out for a stroll along the lake to look things over preparatory for the morrow, when they intended getting down to the business of camping—that is, getting some game and fish. They considered the little expedition of the afternoon as a try-out, just to see whether the fish were biting.

In a few minutes the two boys came back to the camp hurriedly, breaking into the kitchen where Frank and Buster were at work.

“We’ve got some news, but it isn’t very good!” exclaimed Paul. “Up the road by the lake we saw three men coming with packs on their backs,[Page 94] and they look like Jeek and his two cronies.”

Frank was not disturbed by this news.

“I suppose they are camping up here somewhere,” he very slowly remarked. “Lots of people come up here, you know.”

“Yes, that’s true. But that fellow Jeek isn’t a happy sort of neighbor to have, is he?”

“Can’t be any worse than the tramps,” replied Frank.

“I’m not sure of that. Jeek has a bad reputation while the tramps looked like just ordinary hoboes.”

Paul thought that more importance was vested in the arrival of Jeek and his pals than Frank was willing to concede. What Frank was thinking no one knew. He held his counsel and continued to receive the news with a smile.

“There they go—right past the place!” exclaimed Paul, pointing to three men who were keeping in the trail, passing to the east.

“Maybe they’ll meet those tramps and make a happy family reunion,” laughed Lanky, and with that the subject was changed.

[Page 95]


Jeek, Fallon, and Carey, pals of several years standing, and birds of a feather, made their way along the lake trail steadily, their packs not so large as those carried by the boys, for the reason that they had already been to their camp once and had gone back to Todds to get more food.

“Those kids are not in sight,” muttered Fallon as they passed the Parsons’ camp, the fellow looking out of the side of his eye at the place.

“They’re there, though,” answered Jeek. “See the smoke pouring from that chimney? Chances are they are out hunting or fishing on the lake.”

Nothing more was said about the boys, while the trio proceeded along the trail, knowing it well.

“Hay!” suddenly called Jeek, as he lifted his head upon reaching the crest of the trail and looked down to see smoke issuing from one of the two cabins by the lake.

“What’s all this? Somebody in there? Fallon, I thought you locked that place,” cried Jeek, turning accusingly on his friend.

[Page 96]

Fallon admitted that he had not locked the place, not thinking it necessary in view of their being away but a few days at Todds.

Having no idea of what was happening, not knowing whether they would be met in a friendly way or not, Jeek drew a revolver from beneath his mackinaw and led the way straight across the intervening space to the log cabin.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Thrice he rapped at the heavy door with the butt of the revolver.

“Who’s there?” came a call from within the cabin.

Jeek tried the door, but it did not yield.

“Open this door and find out!” he cried.

Inside the cabin Snadder looked at Blinky and Blinky looked back, neither able to calculate on the best defense to make, both feeling guilty.

Again came the knocking on the door with the gun.

Snadder strode to the door and threw the latch to one side, just as Jeek placed his shoulder against the strong door, and, as it swung inward, the heavy race-track follower staggered into the living room, trying to catch his balance, his arms going into the air, while the gun seemed to Snadder as large as a cannon.

Instantly the two tramps had their hands in the air, before commanded to do so, for they were[Page 97] plainly outnumbered and did not know what arms the other men might have nor whether such arms might be used.

“What are you guys doing here?” blurted out Jeek angrily.

“Just came in here out of the cold, mister,” Snadder tried to conciliate the three newcomers.

“Eating up the stores, too, eh?” went on Jeek, striding into the small rear room to see empty cans scattered on the floor beneath the bunk.

“Sure, we ate a little, mister. But we’re willing to pay you,” whined Blinky, hoping he could get affairs on a more friendly basis by such an offer.

It was evident, however, that Jeek and his two companions were not going to let the tramps get by so easily.

“Best thing you can do is to get out of here!” said Fallon, making room by stepping further into the place. This left an unobstructed passage through the doorway.

A great deal more light was thus let into the room, and both the tramps instantly recognized, as Jeek pulled off his mackinaw, this burly man of the race-tracks.

Blinky started to recall the acquaintance, but Snadder was too quick and interrupted long enough to hinder Blinky, at the same time putting a hand on Blinky’s shoulder and squeezing it slightly.

[Page 98]

“Mister,” he said to Fallon, “can’t we make some kind of a deal? We’re broke, flat broke! We ain’t got a cent, and nothing to eat. Can’t we stay here and work for you fellows?”

“Not a chance!” Fallon’s voice came with a roar as he realized these two strangers were afraid. His courage was aroused by the lack of any aggressiveness. “Get out of here and get out quick. Suppose we want you two dirty hounds around here with gentlemen?”

Though Snadder was a common tramp, though he was without means of living and down in the world, as the saying goes, yet he had a sense of humor and his mind was not sluggish.

“Where do you get that stuff about gentlemen? You think you’re the only gentlemen around here?” he bristled up.

Fallon’s courage fell slightly, but he had to stand his ground. His hand started for a spot beneath his coat.

“Wait a minute,” Snadder fairly yelped, losing temper now, for his own recollection of things of the past was not bad. “You pull a gun on me and I’ll twist your head off!”

Jeek reached for the gun which he had in his hand when he entered, but which he had tossed to the mantel shelf when he removed his mackinaw.

“You, too, Jeek!” called Snadder. “Maybe you[Page 99] don’t remember me so good, but don’t you point that gun at me!”

Jeek started as he heard his name called in such familiar fashion by this tramp. His hand did not grasp the weapon.

Snadder took advantage of the situation on the second, knowing that he had the upper hand for a little while, at least. He now proceeded to make the best of it.

“You remember Blinky, don’t you, Jeek?” he said. “Well, I’m Snadder, who used to cook in hashhouses and Blinky was a stableman on some of the same race-tracks where you used to be. Guess you remember us, eh?”

A frown came scowling across the face of the burly race-track follower, and his upper lip curled away from his teeth of yellow tinge.

“I don’t know either of you!” he spat out the words in contempt of the two men and of Snadder’s words.

“You don’t, eh?” Snadder wondered why this man didn’t wish to continue the acquaintance of several years ago. “Maybe you will remember Blinky better if I remind you of the time that the two of you doped that horse Maybe So and you put too much dope and the horse took sick. And maybe if I remind you——”

“Shut up!” roared Jeek. “I don’t know nothing[Page 100] about any of that crooked stuff. I was never on a race-track——”

Blinky, usually whining in his attitude, now was bristling with anger over the failure of Jeek to recognize him after he had helped the tout and paddock bettor in many a race-track game.

He shook a pudgy, fat fist at the burly red-faced man, anger almost hindering him from uttering words; but he managed to say:

“Maybe you don’t remember the time you swiped a hypodermic needle and used it on two horses in the same stable where I was working, and maybe you don’t remember that you paid me ten bucks to keep still when they started investigating!”

This appeared to hit Jeek a little harder than Snadder’s remarks. As a result he yelped at Fallon to close the door, which, during all this conversation, had been standing wide open, cooling the rooms down to an uncomfortable temperature.

“Tell you what you fellows do,” he snapped, when the door had been closed. “Get in a pile of logs and cut us a fresh supply right away. Meanwhile we’ll talk this over among ourselves and see what can be done about you.”

Snadder knew he and Blinky had won in their skirmish, and yielded to the suggestion of Jeek, for there was at least this much in prospect; that, after the three men talked over the matter, Snadder[Page 101] and Blinky might have a place to sleep and something to eat for a few days more.

In an hour’s time they had brought in enough logs to keep the fire going for two days, and they had also enough additional wood cut on the outside for two days after that.

“Tell you what we’ll do,” said Jeek, when the announcement was made that the tramps had done their part of the bargain. “You two fellows go over to that other cabin, start a good fire there, get the place warmed up good, and then we’ll take that place and you can have this for a few days—don’t know how long, because we’re going to hunt for that big bull moose and maybe we’ll be going to town pretty soon.”

The truce was made, the two tramps soon had the larger cabin toasty warm and the transfer was made, the two tramps having to haul over the canned food to the larger cabin. Jeek was determined that he should govern the amount which they had.

By this time the afternoon was spent and darkness was coming on them. As Snadder and Blinky were hauling in an armful of the canned goods, they heard Jeek in the living room of the larger place saying:

“Them boys have got to pay for that dog—one way for another. They’re up here at the Parsons’ camp, and they’ve come after the old king moose,[Page 102] same as we have. Now, they ain’t going to get it, because I’m going to see they get chased back to Columbia.”

Snadder nudged the fat Blinky, and both listened.

“Did you try to make his father pay for the dog?” asked Carey.

“Didn’t have time. We were in a hurry to get up here, and they tell me old man Allen has just had a fire and an accident, so I figured he wouldn’t be in a humor to pay. But we can make that boy pay, all right,” Jeek rambled on.

Whatever Carey said was in a low tone of voice, and the tramps did not get the import of it.

But they decided that the same boys that had put them out of the Parsons’ camp were the ones that Jeek meant. The fact that the letter “P” was on some of the silver led to this conclusion.

Snadder stuck his head into the doorway, speaking:

“Jeek, are you talking about them boys about a mile back in that good-looking camp? They put us out of their camp a couple of days ago, and I’ve got it in for one of them, the young fellow that’s the leader. He acted too smart to suit me.”

Jeek scrutinized the face of the tramp rather closely before he made any reply, for this might get him into too tight a fix.

“What did they look like?” he asked guardedly.

[Page 103]

Snadder described each of the boys very minutely.

“Yes, they’re the young upstarts. They belong at a town down the Harrapin River—Columbia. All swell-headed,” he added. “They killed my dog the other day and I was going to use him at this camp. Dog was worth a couple of hundred dollars.” Jeek went on to explain what he thought of the group of boys.

“Can’t you make them pay for killing a dog in this state? Mighty funny laws if you can’t,” suggested Snadder.

“I don’t know nothing about the laws of the state, but I know they’re going to pay for that dog—somehow. Fact is, I don’t know as they belong in this region right now, anyhow. I think their health would be better back home.” Jeek threw out these remarks as bait to the tramps.

But, from the conversational point of view, there was no reaction. Snadder knew that Jeek would do some thinking.

[Page 104]


Having had a meal of the fish and having spent a jolly time around the big log fire in the living room of the palatial camping house of the Parsons’s and the camp clock showing the time to be nine o’clock at night, the boys determined to go to bed.

All plans were set for an early morning expedition on skates out over Old Moose Lake, ending in the catching of some more fish.

It was not yet break of day when the boys got out of their bunks, all eager, fresh from the night of solid rest. Their breakfasting was done in a hurry, since it was their intention to be far out on the lake at sunrise or a few minutes thereafter.

Paul Bird grabbed up the camera as they started away from the camp, remarking that he might need some pictures of himself catching the longest string of the biggest fish.

“I surely hope the lake is well frozen over,” said Lanky, as he stooped with the others at the shore line and adjusted his skates.

“It is.” Frank got to his feet and glided around[Page 105] easily. “The lake has been chilled a long time and it hasn’t required very much of this freezing temperature to put a thick surface on it.”

The boys had found four inches of ice at a point an eighth of a mile from shore, and they had little reason to expect that thinner ice would occur anywhere else.

Before they left, they built a good fire in the living room, there being two reasons in the mind of Frank for doing this. First, it would be comfortable when they came in, probably considerably chilled, and second, the smoke would guide them when they were ready to return to the camp.

Out over the lake they started, all four of them swinging along rhythmically, all four having guns strapped on their backs, their fishing lines carried in small packs in one hand, while Paul carried his camera in the free hand, and Lanky carried an axe.

They were fully a mile from shore, going across what appeared to be the narrow end of the lake, when the first of the sun’s rays came up to light a waiting world.

“Fellows,” muttered Frank, as he looked and saw the colors change and merge one into the other and then become bolder in shade as the sun’s rays shot over the horizon, “if a painter were to put that on a canvas, if it were possible for him to do it, people[Page 106] would criticise him and say it wasn’t true to nature.”

“I believe you’re right,” Lanky agreed. “I would never have believed it myself—yet there it is. It isn’t well to criticise a person too quickly about a thing of this kind. You never know what he saw. Paul,” he added as he turned toward his chum, “you can’t get that, can you?” nodding his head toward the sunrise.

“Not a chance with this machine,” Paul replied dolefully. “I only wish I could. It would be a wonderful picture.”

The boys looked forward again, skating around a part of the lake before attempting to fish.

“What’s that?” Lanky pointed quickly off to their left, bringing himself to an immediate stop.

The boys looked after the excited Lanky’s pointing finger.

Just at the shore of the lake, perhaps a quarter of a mile distant, stood three moose cows, huddled together, and to one side from them stood, pawing the ground, a bull moose.

Further along, across a little clearing between two clumps of hemlocks and pines which fringed the lake, the boys saw a monster animal, with a spread of horns which seemed several times larger than the body itself. It was a giant moose bull, its head held back, and they heard a roar of battle issue from it!

“P-s-st!” Frank hissed through his teeth. “The[Page 107] wind’s blowing our way. Let’s keep close together and move that way very, very slowly. Don’t talk, don’t move fast, don’t even breathe. Let’s see if we can get one!”

Like Indians of an older day, sneaking upon their prey, they formed in single file, presenting only one body to the animals, and started forward very quietly. But four pairs of eyes were watching the shore like hawks making ready to swoop down.

Suddenly they saw the larger bull put his head toward the ground and charge directly at the smaller one. Not lifting the head, he came forward at an increasing pace, evidently intent on running the other animal down by the sheer weight of his great body.

The smaller bull moose stood at bay, his forepaws scraping at the ground, waiting the oncoming antagonist.

The boys stopped to watch the result of the charge.

Just as the giant reached the smaller one, the latter leaped aside agilely, his right paw lifted up and came down, outstretched with tremendous force, tearing a piece off the shoulder of the large fellow!

“Fine!” breathed Frank, enjoying the stroke which the smaller animal had made.

Quick as a flash of light, however, the giant wheeled on his hind legs, hurling himself into the air, and darted against the other. A roar of defiance[Page 108] was heard by the boys from the smaller animal that now leaped again to one side, his forepaw striking sharply at the giant.

But the big fellow was not to be easily beaten. He could use pawing tactics, too! So he raised himself on his hind legs and fairly sprang at the smaller moose, his great forepaws striking downward in sharp cutting movements, though neither struck its target.

The boys moved forward again, trying to get as close as possible to the fray before it was ended.

They were fortunate, all because of the agility of the animal being attacked, and they had cut down half the distance, being within easy ear-shot of the grunts and angry roarings of the two animals, the one defending his position as head of his little herd, the other determined to maintain his right to absolute kingdom over the domain.

Three times the little fellow had struck and inflicted wounds on the giant moose, when the big fellow got in a telling piece of work. Making a rush as if to attack the smaller one with his hoofs, with his head held high and his forepaws reaching out to strike, he suddenly threw his head forward and down, put tremendous energy behind the great body, and, just as the smaller moose threw out both his paws to strike and tear the aggressor, the big[Page 109] fellow’s antlers went under the body of the smaller one, the great body stopped, his head came tossing backward, and the smaller fellow was thrown into the air. The large one shook his head with a snap, and the boys saw the defender go down to the snow-covered ground for the count.

“I got it!” almost screamed Paul when he realized that he had leveled and snapped his camera just at the critical moment of the fight.

Instantly the great moose bull turned, sniffed the air, saw the group of boys, and bellowed to the huddled cows that were fifty yards away.

All three of the cows wheeled and ran toward the trees, while the big fellow darted that way, joining them as they reached the grove.

Crack! Crack! Frank had unlimbered his rifle as soon as he realized what the enthusiasm of Paul had done, and fired twice at the big bull—without avail. The other boys, also brought their firearms around. But they were too late. The moose had gotten to safety and were rushing off through the woods as hard as they could go. At the same time, the smaller moose bull pulled himself to his legs, and injured though he was by the tearing of the great antlers of the giant, he limped rapidly away along an opposite path.

“Too bad,” said Paul. “It was my fault. But,[Page 110] gee, fellows, you don’t realize what a picture I got! I snapped it just as the big one threw the little fellow over!”

“You’re forgiven if you got that picture.” Frank tried to be forgiving and pleasant, a difficult task. “But, oh, Paul, if you didn’t get it, you’re going to hang by your thumbs for sixteen long hours.”

The excitement held the boys for a little while. They discussed the practicability of following the trail of the moose through the woods, hoping they might come on them and have a better shot.

“Do you know,” Frank said during the discussion, “I believe that must be the old king moose that we’ve heard so much about.”

The boys heartily agreed, for it would seem that none other but the monarch of these woods, so much talked of by huntsmen, would have charged down on the herd and tried to take the cows away from their protector.

“Well, fellows,” remarked Buster Billings, when the discussion had seemed to go as far as it could, “the sun is getting up. Let’s do some fishing. I want to see Lanky be a champion again, just as he was yesterday.”

“You go to thunder,” laughingly cried Lanky.

The boys turned back to the lake, skating, under the leadership of Frank, toward one of the islands which reared its head half a mile away.

[Page 111]

“Here’s a good place, boys,” called the leader. “Lanky, unhook the axe and do some champion ice-cutting.”

“This axe doesn’t fit my hand,” muttered Lanky.

After the laugh was over he started cutting, laying out a two-foot square, and in a very few minutes the boys had the block of ice out on the surface, the waters of the lake exposed to view. Then one of their lines baited quickly went in.

The sun was well up in the east by this time, and it was the observant Frank who noticed that a shadow was cast across the opening by the boys who were standing on the eastward side of the hole. Their attention was called to this, whereupon they moved around to the opposite side.

Their experience the day previous had been that an immediate bite came, but this morning it did not happen. No fish seemed in a mood to try for its breakfast just yet.

“Maybe they’re not out of bed, yet,” said Lanky.

After a few minutes the boys decided to move farther back from the hole. This they did, dropping back a full twenty-five feet.

In doing so, Buster’s line became tangled with one of the others, and he ran forward to take out the tangle. The other boys were laughing and joking at the time, and did not notice what was happening.

[Page 112]

Without any warning, and, so far as they could afterward see, without any reason, the ice at the hole suddenly cracked, parted from the main body, and Buster went feet first into the lake, the four lines tangling about his body and feet as he fell.

A cry went up from Buster as he struck the freezing cold water, and all three of his companions darted forward in a flash, but stopped quickly again as they saw how large was the piece which had severed from the main body of ice.

Buster’s head did not come to the surface. Instead, he came bobbing up against the ice at a point several feet from the hole. His comrades saw that something must be done without waiting.

“Quick, fellows!” cried Frank. “Get down flat on the ice! We’ve got to crawl there and get him out!”

[Page 113]


It required scarcely a moment of time for these boys, facing danger, seeing one of their number in deadly peril, to carry out their maneuver to save him from a watery grave.

Forgetting everything else, even forgetting much of the “safety first” preachment, they sent Lanky out ahead, flat on his stomach, while Paul came next and Frank Allen anchored on the feet of Paul. Frank stood while the other two tandemmed to the edge of the ice.

In the meanwhile Buster, a good swimmer, dived when he realized that his head was striking the covering of ice on top of the lake, and came up again, this time at the very edge of the break.

In that moment Lanky reached out a long arm and grabbed the boy by the shoulder.

Buster realized at the touch that help was grasping for him, and he made a desperate effort to stroke himself to the hole.

“Hold steady, Frank!” called Paul, but Frank could see easily enough what was being done.

[Page 114]

Lanky’s fingers gripped again for the shoulder of Buster just as the boy’s head popped above the surface of the water.

This brought Buster over clear of the break. The next thing was to get him out.

“Put me closer!” gasped Lanky as he stretched his arms again to get Buster—just as poor Buster started to go down again.

A hurried grab, a quick twining of an arm under one of Buster’s shoulders, and Lanky was holding him, head clear of the water. Buster seemed unable to help himself.

Lanky’s other arm went under the other shoulder of the boy, he gasped back to Frank to pull, and Frank, putting his entire strength behind the effort, started backward, digging his skates into the ice to hold himself steady. Step by step, inch by inch, digging at each step, Frank felt the weight coming out of the water, until, when it seemed the effort had to stop, he felt a sudden release and knew that Buster was free.

Quickly he pulled the two sliding boys, with their dead weight, for several yards, then dropped Paul’s feet. Then all three of the boys went to work on Buster.

He gasped several times, spit water out, but he could not move either arms or legs! In going into the water and in making stroking efforts to get to[Page 115] the hole, he had twisted the four lines around himself in such manner that his arms and legs were almost completely pinioned.

Five minutes later they had Buster to his feet, shivering from the thorough wetting with freezing water, but free of all entangling alliances, as Lanky afterward called the lines.

Twenty minutes later they went into the commodious camp house and hailed with glee the freely burning log fire which welcomed them back.

“Did you get a picture of the fish you caught?” Buster laughingly inquired of Paul when he had gotten into a blanket and had hung his wet clothes before the great fire to be dried. In the meantime Frank was making a pot of hot coffee for all.

“Don’t want pictures of catching suckers,” dryly replied the young snapshot enthusiast.

The day was broken up by the occurrence, but while the clothes dried the boys enjoyed themselves drinking coffee and talking about the experience, throwing in a joke now and then, since the serious side of it had passed.

“Now that we’ve had a tenderfoot spoil our day’s fishing,” said Frank, “what do you say if we go out on some different kind of exploring to-morrow?”

The other boys acquiesced at once. They would have agreed to any suggestion for activity which might have been offered. They were up here to[Page 116] have some fun and not to decorate the inside of the camp. So, going over the various things which might be done, they finally decided on leaving fishing aside for a day or two and, taking their firearms, go into the mountains to the south of the lake, mountains which looked down upon them in all their bleak whiteness from the front door of the cabin.

Two wrist watches and the alarm clock were all brought into accord, the boys setting their watches by the clock, laughingly remarking that the chances were that the alarm clock was most nearly right.

Instead of putting on pieces of the dry wood, they tried a large log of the green wood which they had chopped previously, and enjoyed, all during the late evening, the crackling of the log as the water boiled out, sometimes making steam within the wood-cells, snapping with minute explosions.

It was before daybreak again when they rose from their bunks, their clothing all perfectly dry, and rushed through the washing of their faces and hands and the preparations for breakfast. Taking turns at cooking breakfast had been the agreement, though the boy who was cook got many criticisms on the results of his culinary efforts. No mercy was shown in this regard. However, it was remarked by Lanky Wallace that none of the boys failed to eat every scrap of food that was placed before him, it mattered not what he had previously said about the[Page 117] cook nor what he said about the food while he was eating it.

“Well,” called out Lanky as he devoured his part of a rather sumptuous meal for the morning’s start, “do we leave a fire here to-day so that Buster can have a place to dry his clothes when we get back?”

This brought a storm of protest from that young man.

“I guess, since we have enough wood cut to last us a while, we might as well leave a fire,” remarked Frank when the miniature tempest had subsided. “I don’t know that I like the idea of leaving the place with a fire in it, but if we use dry wood that won’t crackle out of the fireplace too much, we might take a chance.”

Thus it was that dry logs were placed on the great fire in the living room just prior to the boys grabbing up their guns and starting on the day’s voyage of adventure.

Straight toward the hills the young hunters strode, looking in neither direction as they went, for the first streaks of dawn had not yet shown themselves, and they figured they would see the sun rise from among the mountains if they hurried.

Just as they were half way up one of the larger hills, which stood about half a mile from the camp, they saw the majestic lights thrown ahead to herald the coming of the king of day.

[Page 118]

Then they agreed that they had not seen a beautiful thing the previous morning, but merely a poor sample of what could be viewed in this great region of mountains and lakes. The colors were more pronounced, more varied, and the four boys stood entranced at the side of the hill as they looked out over the tops of hemlocks, white pines, cedars and tamaracks.

Turning from this, when the sun had fought off the last vestiges of darkness and had taken full command of the skies for the next few hours, they trudged their way up the side of the hill, grabbing here and there to hold on some tree or spreading bush as the trail grew narrow in places and steep declivities yawned below.

Over the sheering top of the hill they went, dropped off into the valley, and there they caught sight of what they hoped for—a chance to shoot!

A covey of partridges flushed and flew down further into the glen between the hills, while the boys made an effort to get their weapons around from their backs where they were slung. It was too late to take a pot shot. The best thing was to follow down into the glen and learn what could be done.

This was not a broken trail, only a path which they, themselves, were making, for they were off the beaten track, into hills through which no trails ran.

“We must watch which way we come through[Page 119] here,” said Frank. “It would be very easy to get lost because it is not a regular path. Let’s put a marker here and there.”

“What’s the use?” said Lanky. “Our footprints are enough to guide us out of here when we wish to start.”

“How about just a little bit of a snowstorm blowing up?” asked Frank. “You know, we’ve seen snow come quickly, and snow is falling ahead of you even if the footprints might be fine just where you are at the moment. It doesn’t take much snow to cover what little tracks we have made.”

Whether this answer satisfied Lanky or not mattered little. Frank’s common-sense was so often evident that the boys decided on putting up rags to show their way, whereupon they used cleaning cloths and handkerchiefs from that time, tying them to trees as they went along, not too close together.

In the glen they followed the coveys of partridges around, taking shots when they could, but getting absolutely nothing, though Paul tried his former trick of taking last and careful shot when the birds were flushed.

Up out of the glen they finally came, wearied of running the covey “around a mile track,” putting it as Lanky did.

As they were climbing the opposite side of this hill, getting farther into the mountains, the lads[Page 120] stopped for a while to look at a mountain brook which was completely frozen over.

“What’s this?” Buster spied tracks in the snow at the foot of the cascade which the brook made before darting down into the glen below.

“Bear tracks?” cried Frank as he looked carefully at them.

The four boys studied them carefully, decided they might be bear tracks, though they had not heard of bear in this part of the country.

“However,” remarked Frank as they discussed the idea, “there might be a few spare ones. You can never tell. Anyhow, let’s follow the tracks and see what we find at the other end of the trail.”

The boys started after the tracks, seeing that they led forward and back along the same route, seeming to indicate that the animal had come for water and, finding none, had retraced its steps to its lair.

Frank led the way up the steep incline, watching ahead to see that the animal did not turn out without their noticing it.

Presently the tracks turned sharply to the left and led into a cave. The opening was not a large one and was between two trees which grew as guardians to the mouth of this castle.

At the opening the boys peered, saw only darkness, and then stood discussing what was the best procedure in such a case.

[Page 121]

Smoking the animal out was not to be considered because they had no paper with them and no way to get a fire started if the paper was at hand. Shooting blindly within was just as quickly overruled, for there was no object at which to aim. Again and again they peered, but saw no eyes, nothing to indicate the presence of the animal save the tracks which led in and out.

“Let’s crawl in,” suggested Lanky, offering a solution.

This seeming to be the only way to learn what they wished to know, Lanky put his lean body through the hole first, followed quickly by Paul, and then by Frank.

Buster was left outside to act as a guard, for fear something untoward might happen.

The boys had brought no flashlight with them. Frank had some matches in his case which he always carried for such emergencies.

He struck one of these, but it sucked out instantly, indicating that this cave had an outlet somewhere at the other end.

“Let’s crawl further back,” said Frank, leading the way.

Stooping to see where they were going, even in the darkness, and to save their heads from the rock roof, they slowly, little by little, foot by foot, got back a few more yards into the cave.

[Page 122]

Once again Frank struck a match, but it flickered and went out. He tried a second time, but without success.

Looking back, seeing that the cave was straight, they moved on farther, not knowing why, for if they met anything they would not be able to carry combat against it.

Once more Frank struck a match—this time it flared up and lighted the way ahead of them a few yards.

“Look!” yelled Lanky. A dozen snakes of all sizes were coiled or lying in the path, guarding the entire width of the passage way! The boys gasped as they saw the creatures ready to strike. They turned involuntarily to go back to the opening.

With a grunt a great form heaved up ahead of them—and they saw they were cut off from going out by the way they had come!

[Page 123]


The boys gasped, not any more in fright than in surprise. It was a bear that blocked their path.

Frank made a megaphone of his hands, calling to Buster at the opening of the cavern:

“Oh, Buster! Buster! Call back that you can hear!”

Immediately they saw, past the bear, the head of their guard as he poked it into the mouth of the cave and called.

“Buster,” Frank spoke clearly, enunciating plainly so that he would be perfectly understood, “there’s a bear between us and yourself. Make a noise and attract his attention. But don’t shoot. Just make a loud noise so that he will look away.”

Buster let out a howl as if a wild ghost had gotten loose from some age-old graveyard. It had the required effect. The animal turned to see what was the cause for the noise, whereupon all three of the boys within the cave, led by Frank, charged at it with a set of wild howls and cries, all calculated to scare the animal before it could get ready to fight.

[Page 124]

The effect was ludicrous. Like a child in the dark which is suffering from fear, the animal jumped—and then scurried to one side of the cave with a howling grunt.

Crack! Frank raised his rifle and fired point-blank, inducing another wild howl from the animal which they heard stumbling and grunting as it ran heavily through the darkness of the cave.

The three boys got to the mouth of the cave and one by one went through the hole, Frank remaining until last, facing back into the cave to watch for another charge by the animal. But the scare had been sufficient.

“We followed his tracks and we found him—I’ll say we found him!” exclaimed Lanky, laughing heartily over the tight place in which they had been.

“The uncomfortable part was that he almost found us, eh?” added Paul.

Around the hill or small mountain the boys trudged through the packed snow, finally deciding there was little more to be gained. The adventure through which they had been was, they concluded, just exactly enough for the day. Back by the way they had come they hiked, watching their signal rags, picking them up as they went, knotting them together for further use.

At the cabin everything was as they had left it, with the fire just dying down, the rooms all comfortably[Page 125] warm, though the temperature had dropped to a small extent, the skies turning to a leaden-color as the day waned.

Having gotten together a meal, all of them taking part in the necessary labor of preparation, they started plans for the next day. It was left to Frank to decide on the procedure.

“Here’s what I suggest,” he said, evidencing the fact that his mind had already been at work on the plan. “Up in the rafters there is something that has every resemblance to a small tent. After we get through eating let’s take a look at it, and if my guess is right, let’s plan on going over to the other side of Old Moose Lake for a camp overnight, and——”

“Let’s get that moose!” suggested Paul.

“Or some more fish!” spoke up Buster. “I forgot to get those I went in after yesterday. I was in such a hurry!”

The laugh subsided to pay attention again to Frank.

“We’ll hunt for deer over there, or anything else that gets in our way. We’ll stay over there over night and perhaps we’ll have a chance at daybreak to get one.”

No suggestion could have brought more unanimous consent than did this one, as a result of which the meal was hardly finished, the dishes cleaned and put away before two of the boys got[Page 126] down the khaki-colored bundle from the rafters—which turned out to be a tent.

“Let’s right now set down a list of all the things we should have with us.” Frank’s adherence to method came to the fore. “First, there is the tent. Then some matches—several of us should carry them in cases that are waterproof. Enough food for the evening meal to-morrow and the next morning’s breakfast. We can go without lunch in the middle of the day.”

Suggestions flowed thick and fast from the enthusiastic boys, Frank’s pencil working hard to keep up with the list of things which should be carried. He kept calling attention to the necessity of not trying to carry the entire cabin along. Just enough of the necessary things to last them two days and one night.

Following the plan of the previous days, they arose before the break of dawn, being a goodly part of the way across the lake when day broke. There was no beautiful sunrise this morning. Instead, the skies were heavy, angry, gray in color, forbidding.

“Good thing we brought compasses,” remarked Frank as the four pairs of skates clicked along the ice. “We’ve nothing to guide us back, since we left no fire.”

They were heading as nearly northeast as possible,[Page 127] having figured this was the long way over and would place them at the greatest distance from the camps.

One hour of steady skating brought them to a bluff-like shore of the lake, where hills on that side came abruptly down to the water, where woods were thick, almost dense, in their growth, and where two small streams trickled down from the hills to find their outlet to the lake.

“Here’s a place that looks good for a temporary camp,” Frank suggested. “And it would seem that deer or any other game should come to the lake through that grove of trees.”

“Let’s pitch camp right here, then,” answered Paul, as he and Lanky put down their respective ends of the bundle which represented the tent.

Fifteen minutes later the tent was up and a campfire was started. Blankets were placed within the tent, as well as their food supplies, and everything looking to a home here for a day and a night was attended to with dispatch.

Long before the noon hour had come Lanky and Buster came in with four pickerel, conclusively proving to the others, so they argued, that they were the chief food providers of the expedition. It was a difficult job to prepare and cook the fish under such trying circumstances, but the task was finally completed and the work was enjoyed by all four since[Page 128] all had a part in the job. There was no one to “kid,” since all were guilty of whatever might be wrong—all four were to be praised for whatever was done well.

Frank laid plans for the afternoon, which was to consist of hiking through the woods to learn what kind of tracks were to be found, killing whatever game might get in front of their guns, but calling the attention of the boys to the particular point that dusk should find them ready to make a stand for deer above the watering holes.

With their axe they made holes in several places along the two crystal streams flowing from the hills into the lake, hoping any deer might give thanks enough to come close to the stand.

The boys took their properly appointed places before dusk, having gotten no game during the afternoon. Hours passed without any sight of noise of deer or other game, until finally the stand was abandoned. The campfire once more built up, the boys turned in for the night.

As the day waned and night came on they noted that the skies seemed heavier, coming closer to earth, the light gray color changing to a darker shade. All predicted snow.

During the night a heavy snow fell, so very heavy that morning found two feet on the ground, their firewood covered deeply, and the necessity facing[Page 129] them of having to scrape away a great deal of it to make a place for another fire. The need for breakfast was pressing upon them.

It was Buster who went back toward the grove to find more dry wood, breaking it off from dead limbs of bushes and low trees. It was Buster who came running back toward the boys:

“Listen!” he called in a stage whisper. “There are deer up there at the water holes we made! But I believe the holes are frozen over again!”

The boys quickly grabbed their firearms, strapped on their belts of ammunition, and crept hurriedly over the rise to the spot where Buster had seen the animals seeing water.

Near one of the places where they had cut holes in the ice-covered creek they saw three deer licking at the snow.

“Let’s get closer,” breathed Frank, leading the way carefully, stooping low, hoping the wind would not carry to the deer any odor or noise.

They edged up inch by inch along the rise, then dropped over into the brush, through a small end of the grove, seeing the deer standing not more than fifty yards away from them! Two of them lifted their heads and sniffed the air. The third continued sniffing the ground to find water.

Frank slowly raised his rifle to take bead. The other boys also took aim. Just as it seemed everything[Page 130] was ready for the triggers to be pulled, the two deer which had raised their heads wheeled suddenly, as if in fright, snorted, and slid away at a rapid pace into the woods.

Crack! Bang! Crack! Bang!

Two rifles and two shotguns sang out their leaden song of death. The deer that had remained at the waterhole reared itself on its hind legs, tried to turn away, staggered in the air, its forepaws came back to earth with a thud, and the animal fell to the ground!

“I got it!” yelled Buster Billings, jumping up from his shooting position and starting to rush forward. The other three boys uttered exactly the same exclamation and also darted toward the deer which had been dropped.

The race was short, all four of them reached the dead animal at the same time, all four saw exactly the same sight—two bullets and many small shot had struck it!

Dragging the deer back to their camp, they hung it on a pole placed between two forks which they built, its feet trussed up carefully. It was ready for them to carry home. Paul got out his camera to get photographic evidence. After breakfast they decided to start at once for the cabin, instead of spending the remainder of the day at hunting. The heavy snow had rather put a damper on any further[Page 131] plans, while their success at getting a deer was sufficient recompense for the trip across Old Moose Lake.

Taking their time, changing carriers now and then, with Frank watching the compass and judging their direction, they made their way toward the Parsons’ camp.

It was shortly after the noon hour when they arrived at the camp, having to walk the entire distance instead of skate. Weary, they trudged up to the rear door, hung the deer outside, and entered the house.

As the door closed behind the fourth of the boys, the first three caught sight of the rooms of the bungalow. Everything was topsy-turvy! The food shelves were empty, the box of tablewear was gone, chairs were overturned, the two hanging lamps were gone!

The place had been ransacked in their absence!

[Page 132]


Wonder, amazement, then anger. After the first exclamation of surprise the boys stepped quickly into the great living room, looked in all directions. Not a word passing from one to the other for several minutes.

“Ransacked! Robbed!” at last Frank managed to think aloud for himself and the rest of the boys.

Knives, forks and spoons gone, hanging lamps gone, several of their most useful cooking utensils gone, their fishing tackle gone, the stock of ammunition gone, every can and package of food gone! Completely ransacked!

Frank yanked open the heavy front door and peered outside. There, plainly visible, though covered a little by the snow, were tracks in the white blanket that carpeted the earth to show that several men had come in by this way and had left by this way!

The boys stood looking at the trail of footprints out to the main trail along the lake.

“They came in here just at the end of that snowstorm—which[Page 133] means some time early this morning,” said Frank, decisively.

“Leaving not a thing to eat nor eat it with!” Lanky Wallace roamed back to look at the scene of devastation.

“It’s the work of that fellow Jeek!” explosively said Frank Allen, shutting the front door, walking back to the others.

The boys stood and discussed the situation in its every detail, trying first to ascertain what they should do.

“Well,” remarked Lanky after the talk had run on for a while, “we’ve got venison outside—better cut it up right away and take care of it. We can cook it over the fire in here, and if we are without knives and forks, we yet have our hands with good fingers on them.”

“Yes,” said Buster as he came around from another search over the shelves, “they left us some salt and pepper, I notice, and they also left us that big fork over there on the hook. They didn’t take the dishes, so we can eat venison before we have to start home.”

“We’re not going to start home!” Frank spoke up very sharply. “We’re going to find these fellows. They can’t come in and rob a place without having some trouble about it!”

Though the other boys had said nothing about[Page 134] that side of it, they agreed with their leader heartily in his attitude, starting to lay plans at once.

“It looks as if this fellow Jeek has finally decided to get even for killing his dog. He thinks he can chase us back to town by getting all our food—but that’s stealing!” exclaimed Frank. “He has left tracks in the snow, a perfect trail, and we’ll follow it up to the end.”

“When do we start?” asked Lanky, ready to go.

Frank walked again to the door, looked out at the weather, saw the clouds were low again, that it was getting dark, and wondered whether an immediate start were not the best.

“Not at once!” he decided, turning back to the waiting boys. “We have come a long distance on a small amount of food. We have the stuff that was left—that’s that much. And we have the venison. Let’s turn to right now, prepare that deer for the feast, cook it on the fire in here, get our bodies well fit to take care of the trip—and then go after these fellows.”

“But it looks as if a snow might come and cover up the trail,” suggested Paul.

Frank agreed this was right, but the chance had to be taken, since without sustenance they would stand a poor chance of putting up a battle against these men—not necessarily a battle of weapons or of[Page 135] fists, but a battle to outwit them and get their goods once more in their possession.

Though the camping expedition had seemed to be wiped out, though enthusiasm was for a time at a very low ebb, the youthful view of the silver lining behind the blackest of clouds came to their aid. Enthusiasm once more entered their systems, the deer was cut properly after having been skinned, and the quarters allowed to hang for a while in the open to freeze. All the animal heat had disappeared while they brought it across the lake, but they wished to make sure. And a few more hours would do no harm, provided it did not snow.

At mid-afternoon they started the roasting process, one hour later they were feasting around the great broad oaken table, using their fingers where knives and forks had heretofore been in use, but with appetites that had been whetted to a keen edge.

When they had finished their dinner of venison, the boys carefully cleaned up, hid away the remainder of the food which they had brought back from the over-lake expedition, pulled their guns down from the mantel, cleaned them, and made general preparations to follow the trail in the snow.

“We’ve got to find where that trail leads, then we have to decide, after we get on the ground, what to do,” said Frank. “We can’t make our plans too far ahead.”

[Page 136]

Even as they were talking over matters and were getting down their weapons, Lanky bethought himself of something which he had seen a few days before, and he wondered if, by any chance, he might see the same thing. Out of the room he went, through the great door at the front of the cabin, and looked into the snow to study the tracks.

Here and there the snow, just the last few flakes which had fallen, had almost obliterated the tracks of the feet; that is, the sharpness was dulled to some extent. But, not content with the sight of the first tracks nearest the door, Lanky bent far over and followed them for a distance of almost a hundred yards.

In the meanwhile, attracted by the sudden decision of the lean fellow, the other boys had gone to one of the windows, and from this vantage-point they watched the peculiar actions of their friend.

But Lanky, just about to give up, discovered what he had gone out to find, and came running back to the cabin, waving to the boys as he saw them looking out at him. They opened the door hurriedly, asking what he had found.

“Had an idea in the old bean!” he exclaimed, entering the door and pushing the boys back. “Listen, Frank! Remember what we noticed the other day down at Todds—the print with the metal crescent on it? Well, it’s here! Sure as shooting![Page 137] Come on out here and I’ll show it to you.”

He led the way out of the cabin, Frank alongside, as they took two sides of the tracks, so that they would not be obliterated, and Lanky led straight to the particular prints which he had found. Frank stooped over to look, the other two boys following inquisitively.

“There it is. Plain as day. The print with the crescent mark on the left heel. That bird that was at Todds is also along with the fellows who looted our cabin. See?” and he pointed to the marks which were so evident at a spot where the snow had failed to hide the prints from view.

“I also notice there are four men this trail,” said Frank, as he more carefully studied the tracks. “The next question is, who can the four be? Jeek had two others with him, which makes three. Of the tramps there were only two. Now, where do the four come in?”

This question was too hard for the boys just now. They thought over it for a few minutes, but decided to give it up.

There was no time to be wasted. The skies had not cleared and the chances were yet they would have more snow.

Frank suggested they go back to the cabin and get ready to leave at once. This they did. Coming[Page 138] out of the cabin, each one armed, everything in thorough readiness, they proceeded to follow the trail through the snow.

It did not lead to the trail along the lake, but crossed this at a point a quarter of a mile away from the cabin, and started for the mountains alongside those in which the boys had been two days before when they encountered the bear and the snakes.

It was difficult to follow, inasmuch as the snow had not yet packed down hard, and because they wished to be sure when the trail made any change.

Though they chatted a little, a word here and there, in general they kept their eyes glued to the trail in the snow.

Of a sudden they saw a division in the trail—two of the tracks led up toward the mountains while two others turned sharply to the left and took a direction back to the lake trail.

“There were four!” exclaimed Frank. “They divided here, two of them going one way and two the other. Now, the question is, which way do we follow? Which of these two sets of fellows has our stuff?”

“Why, the ones who are going up into the hills, of course,” Lanky answered promptly. “Let’s follow that way, and if we’re wrong we can come back and go the other.”

Still Frank stood at the dividing of the trail in the[Page 139] snow, not yet decided on which way he should lead. When he finally reached the conclusion that Lanky’s suggestion might be the best, he turned and started up the mountain side, keeping in the tracks.

“I notice the print with the crescent shaped piece on the heel has disappeared,” said Lanky after they had proceeded several yards. “You fellows go ahead—I’m going back to see if it goes the other way.”

Leaving them, he darted down the path again, reached the division of the trails, studying the prints closely which led away from this one. There, plain as day, step by step, he could see the print, plainer now than it had been when they started, showing that the snowfall had ended when the men got this far.

By the time he had rejoined the boys they had proceeded up the trail several hundred yards, finding the climb growing more difficult as they went, but undaunted by any such hardship.

At the crest of this high hill they looked down into another glen, but noticed that the tracks turned to the left to follow a small plateau which connected with another mountain in that direction.

Frank strained his eyes to discover any sign of habitation, but saw nothing that might indicate the presence of living beings. Not a sign of smoke, no[Page 140] hut nor cabin, just the snow everywhere, with these tracks leading across the plateau.

“Do you think we ought to make any effort to hide so as not to be seen as we go?” asked Buster.

“Hardly any use to try,” dryly remarked Frank. “We have to follow this trail, and our hope merely lies in the trees here and there which might protect us from being seen. I am wondering whether they might expect us to follow them.”

Lanky expressed the opinion that they expected the boys to break camp and start for home when they saw their cabin had been despoiled of all useful and necessary articles.

“Here’s where they drop into that valley,” Frank remarked when they had gone another quarter of a mile. “Wonder if this leads to a cabin or anything of the kind. Maybe it goes to a cave.”

“They’d fit well in a cave full of snakes!” snorted Paul Bird. “Just where they belong!”

[Page 141]


The trail continued to be a plain one, made by two pairs of feet. The boys had followed it for a considerable time before attention was called to the fact that the prints were going in but one direction!

“Well, of all boobs that’s us!” declared Lanky when this fact was finally noted.

“It’s peculiar!” Frank stood against a tree, looking carefully at the trail. “I wonder how long since the prints ceased going in two directions.”

Sheepishly the boys looked at the trail, each one now cognizant of this fact, and wondering, with Frank, when the prints had ceased showing travel in both directions.

“It would indicate,” went on Frank, “that these fellows did not come from this direction—they are merely going this way. Unless, of course—and we must not forget that point—they came through here before the snow fell.”

“I believe we can eliminate that possibility,” Lanky spoke up. “There would be a faint track, at least, to show that they had come to our place from[Page 142] these hills. It surely does look queer. Wonder if this trail could possibly lead to some settlement below the mountains?”

“If that is true,” Frank’s eyes followed out over the hills, “we’ll catch up with them somewhere, and they’ve got to give us back everything they have.”

Not getting anywhere in their guesses over this circumstance to which they had given no heed previously, they plodded on through the snow, trudging along the same path followed by the two men somewhere ahead of them.

“Whoa!” suddenly cried Paul Bird, who now was leading the single file followers of the trail. “What’s this? Are they leaving our stuff along the trail?” He stooped to pick up something lying in the snow—a silver-plated knife!

“We’re on the right track!” Lanky exploded. “Wow! This is fine! Must have dropped out of their pockets or the bundle they were carrying. Ahead of us are the fellows with our stuff!”

There was no other conclusion to be reached. This knife was mute evidence that they had not missed their guesses at the point where the trail divided. They were on the right track.

“But I still cannot understand why the trail divided and why two came this way and two went the other way,” Frank remarked.

“I believe I can,” Buster chimed in, not often given[Page 143] to offering solutions to such problems. The boys turned to listen to what he had to offer. “I believe Jeek and one of his pals were with those two tramps. I believe the two tramps are on this trail and that Jeek and his companion went back to Jeek’s camp on the lake.”

For a moment there was no answer to this. Finally Lanky spoke up to give his opinion:

“That sounds all right, because at Todds we saw the print of that crescent piece on the heel—must have belonged on the shoe of one of the men with Jeek.”

Frank shook his head. That was not entirely sound.

“The tramps may have come that way, too. Notice this: the tramps were here when we got here. Jeek and his pals did not come until afterward.”

This puzzled the boys for a while. Frank was right in his statements, and there was no other way out. So, quiet, thinking over it, the boys turned once more to follow the trail.

It was getting toward evening, and with the closing of the day the clouds hung lower, gray, while a wind sprang up from the northwest, a cold, piercing wind that promised to force the boys back to their camp over night.

“Let’s follow this trail to the next hill and take a good look. Of course,” said Frank, “they are[Page 144] maybe twelve hours ahead of us and they can go a long distance in twelve hours. But if we cannot see anything we’ll turn back to the cabin and come back here the first thing in the morning.”

Keeping straight ahead, more enthusiastic than they had been for the past half-hour, they made for the crest of the next rise, hoping they would see the end of their trail, see something to indicate that success was theirs.

At last, coming to the crest, making the last few yards of the steep incline with something of an effort, blowing hard, they stopped to rest and to peer ahead—hoping.

“Look!” Frank gasped slightly, as his right hand went up to indicate a spot where he had seen something. “There’s a cabin over there behind that clump of trees. Can you see it? Just barely visible—right there!”

There was no doubt of it! A hut was behind that clump, and the trail which they had followed to the crest of this hill seemed to lead in that direction!

“It surely looks as if that might be the place. I wish we had a glass with us to take a better sight at it,” muttered Lanky, while he shaded his eyes against the burning white of the snow.

“It’s a shack, all right,” Frank verified by looking more keenly at it. “Whether it is the one we want[Page 145] is another question. But it is the first one we have seen—and because this seems to be a lone trail, I shouldn’t be surprised that these fellows are in that shack.”

“How do we get there? Go straight to it and take a chance on being picked off? Or, do we sneak up to it?” Paul asked.

“There isn’t any chance of sneaking up to it all the way,” Lanky expressed his opinion. “We’ll just have to follow this trail, because if it leads to the shack we are on the right one, and if the trail does not lead to the shack, then the shack doesn’t interest us one particle.”

With a goal of some sort in view, maybe the right goal, the boys went across the crest of the hill and followed the trail down toward the shack, situated on the farther hill behind the clump of hemlocks and pines.

“When we get closer to that place we’ll have to use some care,” said Frank. “If they are the thieves who got our stuff they are going to welcome us rather roughly.”

The trail took a long curve as it sloped downward, and, as the boys saw, it was a fortunate curve for them, inasmuch as it kept them hidden for a period from sight of the shack.

No smoke issued from the place, they could see as they got closer to it, indicating that the men being[Page 146] trailed had not built a fire, probably fearful that it would attract attention.

Reaching a point where the trail might have turned back up the same hill, they noted that it turned off in the other direction, swinging toward the cabin behind the trees. At this point they came out into full view from the cabin.

But no sound came, no one was in sight, no indication that they had been seen or were feared. But the trail was now most decidedly trending toward that little old building.

The boys moved more slowly, at the leadership of Frank, who was wary because of the lack of anything human. His mind was so set upon the fact that the thieves would meet them with fire or some other show of fight or defense that he could not understand why everything was so very quiet and peaceful.

“Don’t you think we ought to get our guns ready?” asked Lanky, speaking in a guarded tone of voice.

“Yes, get them ready. But it doesn’t seem as if any one is going to say anything. Maybe they’re not expecting visitors,” replied Frank.

By this time the boys had reached a point not more than three hundred yards from the cabin, the trail was plain and was headed straight for the clump of trees. There seemed little doubt as to the[Page 147] goal reached by the two men whom they were trailing.

Now they reached the first of the clump of trees which surrounded the cabin. Still there came no outcry from the place.

Sneaking carefully through the trees, dodging from one to the other, the boys slowly crept upon the shack, stopping now and then to study the situation. The trail led straight toward the building, not deviating from a straight line any more than was necessary to dodge trees.

They were approaching it from one side, feeling that they could not be seen quite so readily, unless the inmates were peeping through any cracks which might be in the place.

It was a half-log, half-board place, leaning as if it had been pushed over by strong winds, with no window or other opening on their side, a door opening out toward the direction from which they had come. The door was closed, evidently, though they could not be certain at the angle from which they approached.

Foot by foot they got closer to the shack, finally getting to the last few trees that stood about twenty feet distant.

With a nod of his head Frank indicated the front, and the boys followed him around, keeping their eyes steadily fastened on the chinks, cracks, or crevices[Page 148] in the building, fearful each moment that some one would take a shot at them with a firearm.

“Two of you fellows, Paul and Buster, stay outside,” whispered Frank. “Keep your guns ready. Lanky and I will go in to see what’s there. See the tracks?”

He pointed to the footprints which led directly to the front door. There was no longer any doubt. They had followed their quarry to the place where they were hidden. No other tracks indicated that the men had left the place. There was only one direction to the prints. The men were still within that place!

“Be ready to move quickly,” whispered Frank. “All ready? We’ll run for that front door. Go!”

Frank darted across the twenty feet of space which separated them from the shack. Lanky was alongside. There came no sound from within.

Frank tried the door very gingerly. To the boys’ great surprise it opened when the latch was lifted.

Inside it was as dark as pitch. As the day was almost gone, but little light fell through the door to give any indication of what was within. Frank felt certain two men were inside, yet there came no sound. It was all very strange. His decision was made, though.

With a bound, his strong, athletic body thrown[Page 149] forward with all the agility of which he was capable, Frank Allen leaped to the center of the shack. His feet struck leaves and twigs, going through them.

One foot struck solid ground as it crushed the leaves downward, while the other struck nothing! He threw out his arms to catch his balance! Suddenly he felt a push, just as he fought to regain his balance, and his foot was thrown clear of the ground. Down, down he went, striking leaf-covered ground below!

Bang! A gun discharged just over his head, and another form came toppling into the hole, almost on top of him. Lanky had leaped into the cabin immediately behind Frank, striking on the covering of leaves, and he, too, had gotten a push. His finger being on the trigger of his weapon, it had discharged into the air.

Frank and Lanky both in a hole in the center of this shack—shoved in by unseen hands!

[Page 150]


Frank Allen staggered to his knees, then to his feet, reaching out to grasp at the branches which whisked past his face, scratching him severely. Under him were also branches and twigs, put there in all probability to stop the force of the fall as they dropped in.

Hearing the single shot, waiting a moment to see some sign of life in the shack, Buster and Paul came on a run to the door, peered in, saw nothing, and leaped inside to help Lanky and Frank.

As they rushed into the shack, going as far as the camouflage of leaves and twigs, they were seized from behind and pushed forward. Each of them, throwing out his arms to save himself felt a grip on his weapon, and as the two boys went into the hole, barely missing the other two who were already there, the guns were jerked from their grasps.

By this time Frank was on his feet, his own rifle up so that he could use it, but there was no one in[Page 151] sight. The two boys who came hurtling into the pit disturbed things for the moment, so that he could not shoot, for he was determined to fire on those who had pushed him in. Frank realized he had been caught in a trap.

“You boys all safe down there?” came a question from one of the men above, a voice which Frank recognized at once as that of the tramp, Snadder. “We’ve got your guns now, so there ain’t no use trying any funny tricks.”

Lanky helped Buster to his feet, and the four boys were now standing alongside each other, all looking up, the twigs and branches crackling beneath them as they tried to move from one spot to another.

“Guess you boys won’t throw any more folks out of their bunks, will you? How you feel? Comfortable?” called Snadder again.

Frank anxiously watched for the fellow to come within sight on the floor of the cabin above, but he was too wary. The tramp knew the two boys who had first gone down into the hole were in possession of their weapons.

Looking up to the floor level, it was easily seen that the hole was no less than ten feet deep, and, as their eyes became accustomed to the darkness the boys saw that it was just large enough for four of them comfortably.

[Page 152]

“You are the fellows, then who took all our stuff at our camp, are you?” asked Frank.

“You put us out of there, didn’t you?” parried Snadder. He was keeping himself out of sight. Frank had his rifle ready for quick use, having determined that if a leg or an arm showed up over their heads he would injure the owner and gain a little advantage.

There was, however, he thought to himself, the danger that if he shot at either of the tramps, they, in turn, would fire on the boys, perhaps to kill, for they had two guns with them now, and the boys were at the very great disadvantage of being huddled together in a close space.

On the other hand, thought Frank, would they not be afraid to shoot? Not because of the result of the shooting. But would they not be fearful of showing a part of their bodies, which they would have to do in order to shoot?

“You took all our knives, forks, spoons, lamps, fishing tackle and that stuff—what was the big idea, Snadder?” Frank went on with his questions.

There was a chuckle from overhead.

“Couldn’t stay long in that place without all that stuff, could you?” came back the reply from the leader of the two tramps.

“No, especially when you took our food, too. What are you going to do with all that stuff? Any[Page 153] chance of buying it back?” Frank asked, thinking he might start a trade with the fellows.

“I wouldn’t mind selling you the stuff,” said Snadder. “But orders is orders, you know.”

That remark was exactly what Frank was waiting to hear—an intimation that some one else had something to do with the looting of their cabin while they were away.

“What became of Jeek—did he go over to his own camp after you left ours?” Frank pursued his questions again.

“Yep. No use to come with us, you know,” Snadder was chuckling very happily. He felt no fear of carrying on the conversation further, so he continued: “Pretty nice plan we laid out, eh? Coming right along to this shack and letting you trail us through the snow. And we didn’t bother you one bit when you rushed in here to get us.”

All four of the boys huddled in a close space in the small hole, each looking upward, two of them with their weapons ready for action, and, while the talk went on, gaining additional information at every sentence.

“You two fellows ought to be willing to let us out of here for a little cash, and also let us have our stuff back,” Frank called up to them after a few moments of silence.

“How much you got?” Blinky blurted out before[Page 154] he was stopped by Snadder. This, too, gave them a lead—that Blinky would be willing to listen to a cash offer from the boys, and, maybe, break ranks with the others.

“Awful sorry, boys, that we can’t take any money right now,” Snadder broke in, to interrupt Blinky. “You see, we’ll get your money in the long run, anyhow. Jeek wants you to pay for his dog, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the price ain’t gone up now.”

The young leader of the camping expedition had guessed the situation perfectly. Jeek wanted money, and he had contrived this method of extorting it from them. It was nothing less than extortion, obtaining money from him under duress.

“What stuff did Jeek take with him?” Frank asked. “Of course, he must have taken some of the stuff and given you fellows the rest of it.”

“You’re an inquisitive young fellow,” came back Snadder. “Why don’t you think he’d trust that stuff with us?”

Nice parrying this was on the part of the tramp, who, as has been said, was not possessed of a poorly working mind at all. He was not quite the lowest form of hobo, but might have done better for himself if led into other channels in the years past.

“My guess is that he took the food and the lamps,” said Frank, essaying a little laugh in order to relieve[Page 155] any tension which might exist, “and you fellows took the tableware. But he really should have let you have the food, too, because you’ve got to have it over here to feed yourselves and your prisoners.”

“Haw! Haw! Haw!” It was a big gruff laugh, but one of mirth that Snadder let out, while Blinky also whined a little laugh as if he might be afraid to let out the force of his lungs.

“Say, boys,” said Snadder when he ceased laughing, “that’s real funny. Do you know, we ain’t going to feed any prisoners. That’s orders. We’ve got enough for a snack for ourselves, excepting coffee, but we can get along all right with snow to drink.”

Orders? Then, it had been planned that the boys might follow along the trail. Of course, it was! Was it not as plain as day that no fire was built in the cabin, that this particular one, specially prepared for just such a trick as this, had been used, and that Jeek, in all probability, knew where it was and its excellent fitness for trapping people? Certain it was that the hole had not been dug for this particular bit of work.

There was silence for a time, the boys standing in the hole, unable to carry on a conversation because of the fear of being overheard, while the two guards above probably sat on the floor by the door.

“Getting cold down there?” finally Snadder called[Page 156] out. “We’re going out in front and build a fire for ourselves. Sorry we can’t have you come along.”

The boys heard the two tramps go through the door, and felt the rush of cold air when the door was left open. Until this time they had not realized it was cold.

“Can’t we scale this wall and get out?” Frank whispered to his chums.

As quickly as the thought was expressed, two of the boys stooped and threw Frank on their shoulders, thinking they might toss him to the top of the hold before these men came back. The plan, instantly crystallizing into action, was to have a rifle on them before they could defend themselves.

It was too late. Just as Frank’s arm went up to reach for the ground, a gun butt came down with a sharp crack across his hand, and with a little cry of pain, Frank dropped again into the hole.

“Stay down there quietlike,” snapped Snadder. “Don’t try any funny tricks. Blinky,” he called to his partner, “you build that fire and I’ll watch these slippery kids.”

It had been a chance worth taking, and nothing was left but to figure on some other way of getting out.

Night had evidently fallen, for no light came through the opening from above, and after a short[Page 157] while the prisoners noticed the yellow light of fire above their heads, indicating that Blinky had made good as a builder of a campfire.

The two tramps changed watch all night, one warming while the other watched. Down in the hole, partially protected from the down rush of the wind, the boys huddled close together, keeping each other warm, snatching bits of sleep as well as they could in their uncomfortable positions.

Finally morning came, and a chill one it was. They saw the first faint rays of light as the sun came over the tops of the mountains to light up the valley in which this shack was located.

“Well, boys,” called Snadder, “wake yet? Have a good night’s rest? We’re going to get a little breakfast ready now. It won’t amount to much without coffee, but the boss will be along in a little while.”

“Is Jeek coming over to collect his money?” called Frank.

The tramp affirmed his previous statement. So, as they felt the pangs of hunger and as their tongues rolled around their mouths in their longing for water, the lads waited for the coming of the leader of this gang.

It was not a long time to wait. They heard the welcoming calls of the two tramps, one of them from the door and the other from somewhere outside.[Page 158] Jeek, big and burly, they could hear exchanging gruff morning greetings, and watched for him to come to the edge of the pit. But he did not. Too wary, he stood back a distance.

“How you boys feel this morning?” he called. “Thought you could get away with your rough stuff, eh? Can’t fool with Fordham Jeek, boys. But I can’t blame you for your ignorance. You just didn’t know any better.”

The boys held their tongues. Frank wondered how soon something would be said about the dog, but there was no more than a moment wanted by Jeek.

“You boys ready to pay for my dog?” he called. “Price is two hundred and fifty, cash, and you get your stuff back, maybe.”

“What makes the price of the dog go up?” called Frank.

“All the traffic will bear, young fellow. You’re in a hole right now, and when a fellow’s in a hole he usually has to pay. How about it? Is it a bargain?”

Lanky nudged Frank and shook his head in the negative. But there was no necessity for his doing that.

“No, I’m not going to pay for that dog. It doesn’t matter what you do with us, you don’t get paid for the dog.” Frank stood his ground firmly.

[Page 159]

Jeek made no reply to the boys. Instead, they heard him giving instructions to Snadder and Blinky. The instructions were for these two to go back to the Jeek camp, get plenty to eat, and hurry back to this place to hold guard a while longer. Then he gave his attention to the boys in the hole.

“You kids might think you’re mighty wise, but you ain’t. If you had been you wouldn’t have come here. So, that’s that. Now, I say you’re going to pay for that dog or you’re going to stay here longer than you want. And you needn’t get any fancy ideas in your head that you’re going to escape, because you ain’t.”

The boys kept silence after Jeek had spoken, the others waiting for their leader, Frank, to carry on any negotiations.

“And, what’s more,” Jeek went on after a moment of waiting, “you’re not going to get nothing to eat nor nothing to drink until you’ve changed your bull-headed minds. Just put that down in your little notebook!”

[Page 160]


All was quiet above them in the cabin for a few seconds, except for the shuffling of feet to evidence the movement of the two crooks, Jeek and Fallon, toward the door.

“They’ll stay there without a bit to eat until they rot, or they’ll pay for that dog,” Jeek’s angry words came to the boys as the door was reached. Then they heard the slamming of the door and even heard the latch fall into place.

“All of which means,” said Frank, “that we’ve got to find a way of getting out of here as soon as we can.”

The boys were huddled close together at the bottom of the hole, but all of them knew well enough that ten feet was as nothing, for they had practiced often enough at wall-scaling to lift one man out of this place in a minute.

Talking in very low tones of voice, fearing lest they might be heard outside the cabin by Jeek, they laid their plans for scaling, waiting for several minutes in the hope that Jeek and Fallon might get well out of hearing.

[Page 161]

But they had reckoned on a weakness that Jeek did not have. They figured he was leaving them alone. He was, but not for long. Just as the boys made their first move to scale the walls of the hole, Jeek and Fallon came into the place, dragging a log. From where the boys stood at the bottom of the pit they saw the men stand the log on end for a moment and then drop it with a dull thud across the top of the hole. Leaves and twigs showered down upon them when the heavy log fell into place.

It had happened so quickly and so unexpectedly that the boys had entirely forgotten the advantage they had in using their rifles. Jeek and Fallon had their bodies in sight long enough to have brought both of them down wounded—but the prisoners had let the opportunity get away from them.

“That won’t stop us,” whispered Frank. “If they drop another one, have your rifle ready and we’ll plug them both in the legs. Shoot carefully and don’t kill—just shoot at their legs so we can cripple them enough to keep them from covering this over.”

Once again they figured without an accurate knowledge of this wily Jeek. The two men staggered in under the load of another large log, but this one was set up at an angle, after the door had been carefully closed, shielding them in the darkness,[Page 162] and the plunking sound of the log told the boys that it had dropped in place across the hole.

Still another was brought, and a fourth was laid over. They were well and quite securely fastened down in their prison.

“Well, boys,” Jeek’s voice came to them in a mock politeness, “I am very sorry to be called away, but Mr. Fallon and I have to go back further into the mountains to another cabin where we have some private articles we need. We’ll be by this way this evening and we’ll drop in to see if you’re going to pay for the dog. So long, boys, and don’t get lonesome.”

The slam of the heavy door above told the prisoners that the men had really gone. Whereupon without a moment’s hesitation, Frank planned the scaling of the walls of their pit.

Lanky Wallace had the bottom position, Buster atop of him, and then came Frank at the very top, Paul helping to brace at the bottom.

Frank first felt the logs carefully to see whether they moved easily and which way to move one of them. He figured on rolling one of them to the side, thus leaving enough room to crawl between.

The effort was a failure. He tugged at the next one, but it failed to roll. He tried to force it upward, but to no avail. Jeek had laid the fourth log across the other three at right angles, thus placing[Page 163] a heavyweight on those which formed the ceiling to this hole.

“No use,” muttered Frank in a stage whisper. “I’ll get down for a little while and then we’ll try again.”

After ten minutes they re-formed the scaling position, with Frank again at the top. Success did not smile any more pleasantly on them the second time than the first.

“I can’t move either of those logs a single inch,” said Frank as he climbed down to the floor of twigs and leaves. “They’ve got them laid on tightly. In the first place, I don’t see how those two fellows got the logs in and dropped them over the hole so neatly. They must be awfully heavy.”

In the darkness of the hole the four boys stood close together, each breathing hard as a result of the exertions, each trying to think of a plan by which they might thwart the schemes of these crooks.

“When it comes right down to the last,” said Buster, “we can promise to pay for the dog when they come back this evening, and we can then get out.”

“We’ll be out of here somehow this very day, and we don’t pay that crook anything for anything! But if I get out of here in time to run him down, I’ll make him pay for the dirty trick he has played on us!” Frank was determined, and he was thoroughly angry over the affair.

[Page 164]

“We surely missed our——”

Just as Lanky started to say something there came a shrill whistle outside the cabin, and all the boys listened intently. Again came the whistled signal, this time one that all the boys recognized.

It was the peculiar whistle of their former high school chum, Jack Eastwick—it could be no other! No one else had ever whistled like that!

Instantly Lanky’s fingers went to his mouth and he sent out a blast from his lips calculated to awaken the dead.

For a second all was still. Then the boys in the hole heard the door open, and a voice called out:

“Frank! Are you in here?”

“Sure! Who is it? Is that Jack Eastwick?” cried Frank, his heart welling up with joy.

Jack answered that it was, and then there went up a series of wild yells from the four boys in the hole. This was followed by exclamations, questions, and a rush of feet through the door of the cabin.

“We’re down here in a hole! There are logs over the top. Be careful. Try to lift those logs off one at a time—how many fellows up there?” called Frank.

The reply told them there were four—Jack Eastwick, Tom Budd, Herman Hooker and Ralph West, all former students at Columbia High.

Frank gave instructions for the removal of the[Page 165] logs, but these young fellows needed no instructions. All they needed was about five minutes of Father Time, and they had all four of the logs rolled out of the way.

At the end of the next five minutes the four boys in the hole stood outside the door of the cabin with the four boys who had saved them.

“Here, fellows, let’s get inside this place. We’ll tell you all about it. One fellow look through this crack and watch the trail, while we tell you about it.”

With this remark Frank started the story, interrupted now and again by the other three as the story ran along, until the four newcomers knew what had happened.

“How did you fellows know we were here?” asked Frank when he had ended his recital.

“Well, we got to the cabin late last night, and found no one there and the place looking as if you had moved out, except that we saw several pieces of your clothes. We stayed there over night, and this morning, seeing the tracks in the snow, we followed your trail. We didn’t know where you were going, nor why; but we followed what seemed like an army walking in the snow,” was Jack’s explanation of their proceeding.

“Did you meet any one on the way?” Frank asked.

[Page 166]

“No, we never saw a human being from the time we started. We were about to stop, but decided that we’d keep on just to see where the end would be—and yet we were never sure it was you fellows,” went on Jack Eastwick.

Now that they were out of the hole and reinforcements were at hand, the boys commenced to make plans.

“Those two tramps, Snadder and Blinky, ought to be here shortly, and we ought to capture them,” said Frank. “Then, the next thing, is to get Jeek and his pals.”

Lanky suggested that they look around the cabin, so, each one bringing from his pockets the matches he had, they began carefully striking these, the while one of the boys stood guard at the crack.

The first match flared up, and they got their bearings in the cabin. When the second match was lighted they spied a bundle lying in one corner of the place. Buster Billings got it, opened the package, which was done up in a towel, and found all their knives, forks and spoons!

In a few minutes more they found more of the stuff which had been stolen—accounting for everything except the two hanging lamps and the dishes. These were missing. The boys searched the cabin thoroughly, striking one match after another, but to no avail.

[Page 167]

“Well,” remarked Frank when the fruitless search was ended, “let’s get things ready for these two tramps when they come in. Naturally, they won’t expect us to be out, and they’ll enter very bravely. We’ll just land them in the hole——”

“No, indeed,” interrupted Jack Eastwick. “There are enough of us fellows to grab both of them and truss them up nicely. Let’s tear that towel to pieces, tie the ends, make some nice ropes, and tie them securely.” Jack’s plan was accepted by Frank at once.

Every boy had a weapon, including Buster and Paul, whose firearms were standing in one corner of the cabin.

“When will they be here?” was asked by some one.

This none of them could answer. It became just a game of waiting. Jeek had sent the tramps back to the camp, and he had expected them to return to guard these boys for the day.

The boy at the crack, Herman Hooker, was relieved by Tom Budd. Everything was ready for a rousing welcome.

The four boys first on the scene, forgetting their troubles now that they were out of the hole, stood in a circle making plans for the days to follow and also telling of their experiences up to the present time.

[Page 168]

“Ps-st!” suddenly came from Tom Budd’s lips, as he turned and motioned the others to keep still. “Here they come! They are about a quarter of a mile off yet.”

With this the boys took their places, closed the door carefully, allowed the latch to drop into place, and kicked the pile of leaves over so that it would appear as if they had never been disturbed by the crowd.

They watched the signals and caught the whispered warning from Tom Budd as that young man looked through the crack at the oncoming Snadder and Blinky.

Up to the door the tramps came, and, just as the two opened the door and walked guilelessly in, two pairs of arms reached out from each side, each pair grabbing one tramp!

[Page 169]


The two tramps were thrown to the ground quickly, and just as quickly were the towel-made ropes wrapped about their arms and legs, trussing them tightly and safely against any further struggles.

Snadder fought hard, much harder than the pudgy, slow, phlegmatic Blinky. Twice the tall fellow tried to bite the boys on the wrists or hands as they worked, and was so savage that Frank gave him a sharp slap in the face with his hand in order to quiet him and to let him know this was not a mere boy’s prank.

The wide open door permitted plenty of light to enter the shack, and when the tramps were lying on the floor of the place they had an opportunity of seeing that reinforcements of considerable quantity had arrived during their absence.

“How do you fellows feel as captives now?” Frank asked them. “We are going to do a little better by you, though, than you did by us. We’ll be more lenient, and when you wish a drink you may have it.”

[Page 170]

This reminded the other three boys who had been captives that they were in need of water, and they obtained it very quickly by rushing through the door, grabbing up handfuls of the snow and permitting it to melt in their parched mouths. The excitement was over for a little while.

“Where did Jeek go?” asked Frank, after the tramps had been given some moments to think over the reversal of their situation.

Snadder replied sulkily that he did not know, and if he did know he wouldn’t tell, anyhow.

“That is left entirely to you, Snadder,” Frank took the matter quietly. “We’ll get them, though, and it won’t do you any harm to give us the facts. We just wanted to know how long we had to wait.”

Snadder held his counsel, his expression a decidedly sulky one, angry for a while, but after the boys had stood around on the outside chatting for half an hour Frank noticed that the anger appeared to have left the tall fellow. As for Blinky, his expression was simply that of one who takes things as easily as he can, tries to accept bad luck as bad luck, a thing he had spent most of his life having.

“Snadder,” Frank’s pleasant voice was once more addressed to him, “you have been badly treated. Jeek should never have left here until you came back. Don’t you realize that he knew we would get[Page 171] out in the meanwhile and that we’d capture you when you returned?”

This was well thought out on Frank’s part. His plan was to get Snadder to thinking Jeek had left things in such a way that the tramps would be captured and the boys take the tramps to jail for robbing the camp.

“He is satisfied, of course,” went on Frank, while the other boys listened intently, “to get the money he was asking and then to leave things so that we could capture you fellows who stole our stuff and take you back to jail with us.”

This had a decided effect on Snadder. Frank noted the change in the facial expression of the tramp. He waited quietly for the fellow’s reply. But the tramp fooled them:

“If things was so friendly between you and Jeek, why do you want to know when he is coming back?”

Frank’s expression did not undergo the slightest change.

“Well, Snadder, I am surprised at your lack of understanding,” he said. “You don’t think we are going to let him keep any money he got from us, do you? We know he didn’t go back to his own camp, because these other boys would have met him. So he must have gone somewhere else. And if he went somewhere else, we want to know where it is[Page 172] so we can get him. It wouldn’t be fair to take you two fellows to jail for robbing our camp and not take him.”

Snadder took this in quiet, and lay on the floor of the cabin thinking over things. For a while he made no attempt to continue the conversation, the boys again going outside the cabin to chat over matters.

Frank re-entered the shack after a while, and spoke:

“Snadder, you know we found lots of the things you stole from our place, and we’ve decided to put you two fellows in jail. So we’ll fix up your arms a bit stronger and we’ll start in now. It’s no use to try to get any more out of you. We’ll just have to wait for some other time to get Jeek.”

Then he turned to the band of young fellows:

“Tie their arms tighter, and we’ll make them walk ahead of us. We have the goods on them, so we’ll just put them in jail right now.”

This had the desired effect on the taller one of the two tramps. He had no wish to go to jail if there was any chance to evade it—and Snadder figured there was nothing now to be gained by trying to protect Jeek any longer.

“I’ll tell you about it,” he blurted out suddenly, wriggling around in his bonds. “Jeek went back[Page 173] to the camp by another path. There is one that is shorter and quicker.”

“Then he is not coming back here this afternoon? Not going to relieve you fellows again?” said Frank quickly.

“Yes, he told us he would come here so that we could get something to eat,” Snadder answered reluctantly.

Frank was satisfied by this statement that Jeek had gone back to the cabin—for a while. He was just enough satisfied that he asked for directions, and then, alone, leaving every one of the boys at the shack to watch the two tramps, he went out to follow trails through the snow to learn whether Snadder had told the truth.

When he came to the spot where the trail was to divide, as told by Snadder, he found there was a trail which led off in another direction, though it did not seem to bear back toward Old Moose Lake.

However, Frank followed it for a while, and discovered that it made a turn around the hills and bore back in the correct direction.

Learning this, he went back to the shack and informed the boys quietly what he had found. Whereupon, the bonds on the arms of the two tramps were made tighter and their legs were freed of the towel ropes.

[Page 174]

“Now, Snadder, we’re going over to that camp to get Jeek and his buddies,” said Frank, speaking sharply and with determination. “If you’ve told us the truth, it will go easier with you. If you have not told us the truth, then you go to the pen just as quick as we can land you there.”

This was accepted by the two tramps, and the hike was started, the boys dividing up all the wares that had been stolen, putting them away in various pockets, their guns thrown across their arms.

Snadder was put in the lead, with Blinky behind him, while the boys stretched out behind, Frank leading them, so that he could talk to the two tramps and keep them appraised of the necessity for leading correctly.

What the distance was they did not know, but they thought, at least Frank did, that it could not be so very great, else Jeek and his pal would not so readily have agreed to change shifts.

They were rounding the second of the series of hills when, coming to a narrow place in the trail with a steep declivity to their right, Snadder made a sudden rush forward, disappearing around a bend ahead of them. Blinky made no effort to move faster.

Frank’s involuntary thought was to pass Blinky and to go after Snadder, but as he closed up quickly to do this he realized that Blinky could very easily[Page 175] stagger against him and push him off the precipice, for Blinky was keeping close to the side of the hill.

So, instead of following out his first idea, Frank held his nerve, and, with the muzzle of his rifle against the back of Blinky, he urged that fellow to move more rapidly.

Around the bend of the cliff they saw Snadder moving on the path as if nothing had happened.

“Listen, Snadder,” Frank called ahead to the tramp, “don’t try any more tricks like that one or I’ll just drop you in your tracks and we’d carry you in to jail.”

Realizing that his trick had not availed anything, the tall fellow kept straight ahead until they reached a hill which looked down on the camp of Jeek and his two cronies.

“Snadder!” yelled Frank, spying the place at the edge of the lake, the cabins coming into view, “you fellows can stay right here for a little while and four of us will go down there.”

With this Frank detailed four of the boys to watch the two prisoners, while he took three others with him to go down to Jeek’s camp and learn what they could do.

“It depends on the way you two fellows act now, as to what we’ll do,” Frank said to the tall tramp. “If you make a move or do anything to spoil our plans, it is going to go hard with you.”

[Page 176]

The four boys moved away, dropping easily down the hill, watching the smoke issuing from the larger of the two cabins, taking the chance that Jeek and his cronies would never think of trouble coming from the boys whom they had left so well imprisoned.

It took but a few minutes to get down to the level of the lake and to get behind a small grove of trees to watch the cabin.

“They are just sitting in there doing nothing,” muttered Lanky, who with Paul, Buster and Frank, had come down on the final errand.

Gradually the boys closed in on the cabin, sneaking through the little grove of trees until they were within fifty yards of the place.

“It’s a dash now, fellows,” Frank said. “Lets all get to the front door as quickly as we can, and go in there suddenly. Ready?”

At the signal the four boys dashed across the open space, up to the door of the cabin, and, throwing it wide open, all four rushed into the place.

Not a soul in sight! The fire was booming, showing the men had recently been there. But there was now no sign of the presence of Jeek or any one of his companions.

“Gone out somewhere for some reason, and we’ll just wait here a while,” Frank gave his orders to the others.

At once, they took seats, with the exception of[Page 177] one, who was stationed at the window to watch for the coming of the campers. A full hour went by without any disturbance, without any sign. Then Buster called that the men were coming.

Walking straight toward the cabin, their arms filled with material of various kinds, the lads saw Jeek, Fallon and Carey.

“More of our stuff!” muttered Frank. “They’ve been down to our camp and ransacked it some more!”

In a few minutes the three crooks came trudging through the snow to the door of the camp, opened it, and strode in, throwing down their packages on the floor in a heap.

“Throw up your hands!” Frank gave the order of a sudden, stepping out from behind a chair.

Jeek whirled as if to make a rush at the young fellow, but three more heads came from behind various articles of furniture, each with a rifle or shot gun aimed at the three. And Jeek’s hands went into the air.

“Tie them up, Lanky,” Frank delivered the order, but Lanky needed no invitation. Two ropes that had been lying on the floor were brought into use, and the three men were very soon tied tightly.

“Now, Jeek,” said Frank, smiling in an engaging manner, “things have taken a little turn. We’ve got Snadder and Blinky, and now we’ve got you fellows. And we’ve caught you redhanded.”

[Page 178]

Jeek, the burly, foaming with anger over this coup which had been put over on him, merely rolled back his ugly upper lip from the yellowed teeth and snarled at the boys.

“We don’t know how long you fellows will have to go to the penitentiary for this, but it will be for long enough, no doubt,” Frank went slowly on. “And you haven’t collected for the dog yet.”

“You’ll get yours when I get loose,” muttered Jeek.

“But we’re not going to let you loose,” answered Frank. “You can have your choice, though, of things. You can go to jail at Columbia for robbery and a few more charges, or you can sign a written statement about all of it so that you won’t bother us any more.”

Jeek accepted this statement in silence. Evening was fast coming on. The boys placed another log on the fire. Lanky went back to the hill to signal the other boys to bring Snadder and Blinky in. All was quiet. Finally Jeek spoke.

“What do you want me to sign?”

[Page 179]


“We want you to sign a confession, Jeek, that you engineered this theft of our goods, and that you are the one who employed these two tramps to capture us in that shack and hold us captive,” replied Frank Allen, speaking very slowly, very distinctly, and with much determination.

“I won’t do it!” growled Jeek sullenly.

“That’s all right with me,” replied Frank coolly. “You can do that or go to the pen, for we’ll surely send you there.”

Having said this, he gave instructions to his comrades to gather up all the goods which belonged to them, and also those things that the rascals had brought to the cabin.

In a few minutes more the other four boys came in with Snadder and Blinky.

“Fellows,” said Frank, “we’ll divide up this stuff so that four can carry all of it, and the other four will carry their guns to guard our prisoners. We’ll close up this place and take these fellows to our camp. From there we start to-morrow morning for Columbia.”

[Page 180]

Jeek watched the preparations progress, the ugly, malevolent expression never leaving his face.

When all was ready Frank gave the order to proceed, the five prisoners were lined up ahead of them and told to take the lake trail toward the Parsons’ camp.

It was almost dusk, but Frank knew that the white of the snow would give them plenty of light to see the men in front of them as they trudged forward along the trail.

Just exactly thirty minutes brought them to their own camp where a fire was hastily started, the lamps hung back and lighted, the boys pulling out the pieces of venison they had carefully hidden, preparing for an evening meal.

“Sorry that we cannot let our prisoners have any of this,” Frank said to the five men. “But we have barely enough for ourselves. Besides, you took enough of our food to balance this.”

The five men had been tied at the feet after the arrival at the boys’ camp, and they were allowed to lie in whatever positions they could assume, while the eight boys went on merrily with their meal, cleaned away all the dishes, and sat about the roaring fire.

“This spoils our camp, fellows,” Lanky remarked as there came a lull in the conversation. “I wanted to try to get that big moose bull, but there isn’t a chance now. We’ve got to take these fellows to[Page 181] Columbia and we won’t feel like coming back.”

Paul said that he was satisfied because he had gotten a good picture of the giant bull moose making short shrift of another bull moose.

The other boys chimed in with varying expressions about their regrets at having to go back to town, more especially the four newcomers who had barely arrived on the scene.

In the meanwhile Frank calmly went to the wide oak table, and, taking a fountain pen from his kit, together with paper, sat working over some writing which seemed very important. The others paid no attention to him.

Finally, the conversation of the boys got on the nerves of Snadder, and he broke forth:

“Say, kid, I’ll give up. Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll sign any kind of paper you want me to sign, provided its the truth, if you’ll let me and Blinky go free!”

Frank turned to look at the man as he spoke, then bent over the table and continued his writing without remark. After a moment of quiet the conversation of the boys went on.

Fifteen minutes passed, then Frank slowly arose from the table, took a sheet of paper in his hands, and, walking over to where Snadder lay on the floor of the cabin, he calmly read what was on the sheet.

[Page 182]

It was to the effect that Snadder and Blinky had come into the hills uninvited, had broken into the Parsons’ house and, being chased out, had entered another, after which they had made a contract with Jeek whereby they were to be paid money for the work they would do in robbing the Parsons’ camp and then holding the boys, provided the boys were caught, as captives until all their money could be taken from them.

“Is that the truth?” Frank asked Snadder when he had finished reading.

Snadder said that it was and that he was willing to sign the statement.

“I’ll add another sentence,” said Frank, “in which we agree to turn you loose and bring no action against you, provided you leave this country at once, provided you have nothing more to do with Jeek, and provided also that you herein state that Jeek has already paid you some money.”

Frank was guessing at this last statement, but it was a shrewd guess, and Snadder agreed to sign all of it.

Thereupon, the tramp was helped to the table, only his hands being released when he got there, while two of the boys stood ready to pounce upon him if he made a suspicious movement.

When Snadder had signed the document, Blinky was brought to the table where he, too, signed.[Page 183] Then both tramps were taken to the door and told they might start for Todds at once.

At the same time Frank handed to each of them a large piece of the venison and some crackers in order that they might get through without further hunger.

“It’s not a great walk, and you know the way. Start for Todds, and don’t stop. If we find you to-morrow morning, there’s going to be the jail for you at once without further delay.”

The two tramps had high regard for the quiet, stern voice of Frank Allen, higher regard for the firearms which all eight of the lads possessed, and no particular regard for Jeek. Besides, Snadder had whatever money Jeek had handed to him.

Back in the great living room the boys looked at the sheet which the two tramps had signed, Frank putting it away very carefully among his things in a small kit after all of them had looked at it.

They paid no attention to the three men who lay on the floor. All of this, however, was boring into the nervous system of Jeek with a vengeance. Even Frank did not know how definitely, how forcefully, his plan was working out.

“Say, young fellow,” finally Jeek said in a tone not at all resembling the gruff one he had been using, “I guess you’re a pretty square-shooting guy. You sure treated those two guys square.”

[Page 184]

Frank turned from his seat before the fire to hear what Jeek might further have to say.

“I’ve been wrong about all this,” Jeek went on, humility in every tone as he spoke. “If you’ll let us go and won’t bother us I’ll sign that paper. What you got on it?”

“On what?” Frank asked the man.

“Oh, gee, I ain’t no fool. On that sheet you wrote for me to sign before you wrote the one for Snadder,” and there was a slight smile on his face as he spoke.

Frank carefully pulled the paper from his kit again, where he had put it with the second one, reading it carefully to Jeek.

Not quite the same as the one previously read, it said that Jeek agreed the boys had shot his dog under circumstances which were unavoidable and that the boys owed him nothing for the animal; that Jeek had stolen and had bribed Snadder and Blinky to steal the food and other goods from the Parsons’ house; that he and his two companions would leave this section of the country immediately and would not return during the present season under the penalty of this confession being used against them.

“You can use that against me all my life,” muttered Jeek when the reading was completed.

“Sure!” Frank agreed. “That’s just what I propose to do. I am going to give this to my father[Page 185] to keep, and if ever you cause any of us any trouble I am going to use it as a confession of having stolen goods from Mrs. Parsons.”

Jeek studied over the document for a while, the boys quietly waiting for him to reach a decision. It came at last.

“All right, I’ll sign. I guess these other fellows will, too. Do we get off right away?” he asked.

Frank agreed they could all leave at once, provided they started immediately for Todds and provided all three of them signed.

Not long afterward the three men were standing in the snow, without rifles or any other paraphernalia, all of which they were forced to leave at their own camp, while the boys waved a good-bye to them, wishing them well.

“We’ll bring your rifles in when we come, and I’ll send them to you at Bellport,” called Frank as they left.

The men paid no heed to the remark. Off through the trail they started, disappearing in a short while into the snow-backed scenery.

Eight husky young fellows of varying builds, but all athletic, all lovers of the out-of-doors, four of them just up to seek whatever adventure there might be, the other four being looked upon as practiced old woodsmen because they already had had several days at the camp, took seats around the roaring log fire,[Page 186] and the four newcomers listened intently to the tales which the others had to tell of their experiences.

The plans for the morrow had yet to be discussed—not a word had been said. The new boys wished to know what was to be the program, leaving it to the four old-timers, as they termed themselves, to say what adventures should be in store.

“I rather think we ought to organize a hunt for the big moose,” said Frank, when they turned to him for a suggestion.

“That’s the idea—and I’ll get another picture!” called out Paul. “I have one fine one and I want another. I’ll get it while you fellows do the shooting. That will be proof of the pudding!”

Once more the boys told the four newcomers about the battle they had witnessed, describing it minutely, inducing in the minds of the four recent arrivals a warm desire to see the animal.

The time for bed had approached, as told both by the weary yawns of the boys and also by the alarm clock. It was decided they should get out early in the morning, in order to get across the lake to see whether they could get a trace of the moose.

Already they had decided on saving some of the venison for their return to Columbia in order that they might have something to exhibit as evidence of their prowess in the woods.

No one was yet asleep, and the boys were calling[Page 187] from one to the other, while the wind howled outside as if a blizzard were upon them.

Suddenly there came loud rappings on the heavy front door!

Bang! Bang! Bang!

“Who is that?” cried Frank, jumping from his bunk and making for the front room.

“Quick! Quick! Open the door! It’s Snadder and Blinky! For heaven’s sake save us! Open the door quick!”

The boys were silent. They looked at each other askance. Was this some trick or not? Frank’s mind worked quickly, shrewdly, and he determined, from the sound of their voices that this was real, more real, perhaps, than the boys realized.

He strode to the door to throw it open.

[Page 188]


As the door was thrown wide open, Snadder and Blinky staggered in and fell to the floor, almost completely exhausted, breathing hard, excited, afraid!

Frank slammed the door shut immediately, dropping the latch into place while the other boys gathered in a circle about the two tramps.

“What is the matter?” he asked, looking down at Snadder.

“Wolves!” gasped the tall fellow, trembling in every part of his body. “Wolves! Almost got us!”

“Wolves!” The word passed around the circle of boys, bringing with it the fear and, too, the longing to get these beasts whose reputations had long been known from books.

But how did timber wolves happen to be in these Eastern woods? This question at once passed through Frank’s mind. He had been led to understand that the great, gray wild animals which prey on anything alive belonged to the northwestern woods. He knew of their wild habits and of the[Page 189] havoc these animals wrought on the sheep ranches of the West, but he had never heard of any of them in the eastern part of the country.

“Are you sure they were wolves?” asked Frank. “Where are they now?”

Snadder was sitting up, as was Blinky, and Snadder now staggered to his feet, making his way shiveringly to the fire.

“Up in the hills. We stopped up there in one of the valleys where the wind wouldn’t strike us, behind some trees, when we heard them all of a sudden. They came at us with a rush and we got into the trees out of their way. Then along came Jeek and the other two guys, and the beasts went after them. They ran for all they were worth along the trail, but they had to climb some trees, too.”

“How did you get here?” asked Frank, keeping up the questioning.

“When the beasts went after Jeek and the other fellows we got down and ran this way, because we thought we could get here ahead of them,” answered the tramp. “And we kept coming, too!”

By further questions the boys learned that Jeek and his two cronies were probably out there in the mountains, held in the trees by these snarling brutes which would keep them up until daylight, or maybe longer. The boys did not know enough of the habits of these animals to know what they would do.

[Page 190]

“With this freezing wind blowing, Jeek and his friends will get rather cold, won’t they?” asked Frank.

“They’ll freeze to death right where they are,” moaned Blinky in the same whining voice. “They had climbed part way up a hill and I’ll bet the wind is getting them.” He shivered at thought of the blizzard-like wind blowing outside, the wailing and moaning of which, and the whistling, all could hear as they stood around the cozy fire.

“Fellows,” decided Frank, “four of us will take our rifles and shotguns and go after them. Snadder and Blinky must come along to show us where they are. We mustn’t let men freeze to death!”

They decided on the four, and Frank, knowing that the newcomers wanted to be in on any excitement, choose Jack Eastwick and Tom Budd, the third being Lanky Wallace, Lanky, whom he knew he could always trust to act quickly and to think largely as he thought.

It was fully an hour before they came to the hill where Snadder said the wolves had the three men treed.

“Right over in this valley, on the other side.” He pointed along the trail.

A new moon was just rising over the hills, and a faint, pale, trembling light filtered through the few[Page 191] clouds. A high wind blew, but the sky was extraordinarily clear for this season.

Dropping down the trail into the valley, picking their steps as they went, listening against the whistling and humming of the wind through the trees, the four boys followed the lead of the two tramps, both of whom peered ahead fearfully.

“There they are!” Snadder suddenly stopped in his tracks, pointing to a place several hundred yards ahead of them. “I can hear them now!”

Sure enough, the snarling sounds of the wolves came to all of them, for they had dropped so far below the top of the hills that the wind was merely a moan above them.

Slowly the boys made their way along the trail, their eyes trained hard on the spot which Snadder had indicated. Blinky was shivering and shaking with fear, while Snadder kept close to the boys, not permitting himself to get too far in front.

A hundred yards away the wolves must have sensed the coming of some one else. There were at least eight in the pack.

Through the faint light, aided by the whiteness of the snow, the boys saw three animals wheel from beneath a tree, sniff the air, snarl several times, and then the three wolves charged straight toward the boys!

[Page 192]

“Scatter! Quick!” commanded Frank. “Get behind trees! Shoot to kill!”

Suiting his own action to his words, Frank Allen leaped behind a tree just as Blinky shinned up as far as he could from the ground. Snadder dashed for another tree near-by.

Crack! Frank’s rifle spoke as he hastily drew bead on the leader of the small pack. The shot missed!

Snarling and barking, the three gray wolves came on, all in a bunch, straight toward the spot where Frank stood.

Again he drew bead on the leader, this time trying for its breast instead of the head.

Crack! Crack! Two shots reverberated through the little valley as Frank pulled the trigger of his rifle and Lanky also fired.

In a heap went the leader, and instantly the other two animals stopped, reared high in air, and turned on the body of their mate.

Crack! Crack! Bang! Bang! Four shots rang out, as all the boys had positions and had their rifles and shotguns in line. The other two wolves dropped where they had turned. At this the rest of the wolf pack turned and went howling away through the timber.

Just then three human forms came from out of[Page 193] the shadow of the tree, Jeek, Fallon and Carey.

“Say, young fellow,” stammered Jeek as he joined the group standing around the three slain animals, “I’m much obliged to you boys for coming. I was freezing to death up in that tree and I didn’t know whether them animals was going to climb up and get us or not!”

He held out his hand to Frank, who took it in the most friendly way, realizing that Jeek was really thankful and grateful to the boys for what they had done.

“You owe your thanks to Snadder and Blinky,” he said to Jeek. “They came to the camp and got us out. My, but it is cold down in this valley!”

They moved each of the animals with their feet, to be certain they were dead. One of them was not quite gone, but it was gasping, and Lanky stood off to fire a fatal shot into its head to put it out of its suffering.

“What are timber wolves doing in these woods?” Frank could not refrain from asking the question, even though he felt the others knew no more about the answer than himself.

“I’ll tell you where they’re from!” Jeek exclaimed as they stood looking down at the animals, thinking over Frank’s question. “They’re from a circus! Remember that circus that had a fire about a year[Page 194] ago down at Bellport? Frey’s circus? Remember some of its animals got away and they never did get all of them back?”

Frank then recalled, as did the other boys, the furor which was caused at the time when announcement was made that wild animals had broken loose from their cages when a fire had destroyed one of the tents of the circus.

“As I recall it,” Frank said, “one of the keepers said he opened some of the cages rather than see the animals burn to death.”

“That’s it! That’s it!” Jeek replied enthusiastically. “These must be the animals that were in that fire.”

This appeared to be the only possible explanation, in view of the fact that no wolves of the kind were known to be in this particular section of the country.

“Well, which way are you fellows going? You can come back to our cabin and get warm, if you wish,” said Frank.

“Naw, we’re going right on to Todds. Might as well keep on. It ain’t much further than to go back to your cabin. Much obliged to you,” Jeek turned and started up the hill, leading his two cronies. The two tramps followed slowly behind them.

The four boys, again looking to see the animals, turned up the opposite hill, following the trail back to their own camp.

[Page 195]

“Peculiar,” remarked Lanky. “Mighty peculiar. Here, we went through all sorts of trouble to capture those fellows. Then we sent them back toward civilization hating us, and we didn’t like them any too well, and then we rushed out here and saved them.”

“That’s the way things go, I guess,” replied Frank. “But we couldn’t do anything else, could we?”

The boys heartily agreed they could not. Not to have succored these men when the call came for help would have been a most inhuman thing, despite what they had done to the boys in the several days past.

More than an hour later, with the alarm clock pointing to an hour well past midnight, these four boys trudged up to the Parsons’ house, all lighted, with smoke pouring from the chimney, to find the other four sitting around the fire in various attitudes, all waiting for their return.

It took another hour to tell the story, to recite all the details, and to hear the questions which, quite naturally, were asked by those who had stayed on guard and had missed the adventure.

To their bunks finally went all of them, a weary crowd but a decidedly happy one, and when the alarm rang out its summons in the morning, before the break of day, eight partly refreshed boys sat up to[Page 196] rub their eyes and wish that all alarm clocks were buried deep in Davy Jones’ locker.

“Why this unseemly hour, when graveyards yawn, and so forth?” sleepily said Lanky, as he stretched himself and drawled out a very poor quotation of Shakespeare.

“That’s not a careless alarm clock,” laughed Frank. “That fellow is on the job.”

“Buy one, says I, that isn’t so honest about its work,” muttered Jack Eastwick. “Alarm clocks aren’t any good, anyhow.”

But the boys tumbled out of their bunks, dressed, made up the dying fire in the living room, and then prepared their breakfast, eating heartily.

Their skates were strapped on when they reached the edge of the lake, their rifles thrown across their backs, Paul’s camera hung from the other shoulder, as eight young fellows left the camp for a roam around the lake to see what might be seen.

Straight across to the opposite side Frank led them, having decided they would try going through the woods on the north side of the lake, hoping thus to run into something that might satisfy the longing of all of them for more adventure.

The sun was well up when they touched the opposite side, removed their skates, threw them across their shoulders by straps, and started through the woods, led by Frank. For a while nothing was[Page 197] heard, there was no sign of life. Then in the far distance they heard the sound of an axe, steady, persistent, and a moment later came to them the booming sound of a great tree falling to the ground.

Somewhere in that direction was a logging camp. Frank led that way. A mile passed under their feet as they trudged ahead, the snow a little less than knee-deep, making the going hard.

Straight ahead of them they saw several men at work in the woods, using axes on the pines and hemlocks. The boys headed for the place where the nearest men were chopping. Two were wielding a saw, after one had used the axe on the opposite side.

The boys stood watching the work, unnoticed by the men. Yet they were within fifty feet.

Suddenly the two sawyers stopped, drove a wedge in the place where the saw had been, and the tree started over.

“Look out!” yelled Frank, seeing it was falling their way. He ran as quickly to one side as possible, stumbling over a log as he went, falling flat on his face, and the great pine was toppling down on him before he could rise to his feet!

[Page 198]


Frank’s position was one of imminent danger. He was stunned slightly by the fall as he tripped over the log, which was the reason he did not rise quickly enough to get away from the fall of the tree.

The other boys cried in dismay as they realized one of their number was caught. Lanky, who was nearest to Frank, turned quickly as he heard the cries, saw the predicament in which his chum was, and started to run back to lift him away.

The two sawyers, who, as they stepped away from the tree, noticed the boys and saw one of them go to the ground in the path of the falling giant of the forest, now leaped back toward the trunk, casting their saw aside, and both heaved their tremendous strength against the butt in an effort to change its path.

It all happened in a few seconds. The six boys stood breathless, frozen to their position, their faces covered with sickening horror as they saw the spreading branches of the pine settle and heard the[Page 199] tremendous crush and crash and thud of the trunk as the tree reached the ground.

But the work of the sawyers was excellently done, and had been executed in the nick of time. The great white pine toppled to one side of its original position, and, striking a sapling, its fall was broken.

His senses coming back to him as the branches reached out and scratched at him, Frank crawled from under, coming up on the side opposite Lanky, who, himself had been in danger because of his endeavor to help his chum.

Buster Billings saw Frank.

“Are you hurt, Frank?” he cried.

“No. But I surely had the breath knocked out of me when I fell. That was a close call!”

When the boys had assured themselves that their leader was safe, and when Lanky had told him what the sawyers had done, Frank walked over and thanked them heartily for the manner in which they had so quickly saved him from being crushed.

“That’s all right, buddie,” said one of them, a great, broad-shouldered, gruff man, with a week’s growth of beard on him. “But you boys ought to be careful when you come through where trees are falling. One of them strike you dead, sure!”

The boys were interested in watching the woodsmen at their work, whereupon they lingered for more than half an hour watching them drop marked[Page 200] trees, each piece of work being done deftly, surely.

They asked questions about the transportation of the trees, learning that they are pulled out through the snow and are piled up to be run down the rivers to the mill as soon as the freezes of the winter are ended.

“How about moose around here?” Frank asked one of the men when they had become somewhat acquainted. “Ever see any moose bulls?”

“Surest thing you know,” replied the big man of the woods. “Ever heard of the king of the lakes? Old King Moose? He is the biggest thing in these parts. He’s around up here somewhere, but I don’t know where.”

When the next tree had been felled the big fellow turned to the group of boys and regaled them with several stories about the great king of the forests who had fought and whipped every moose bull until he was the monarch of everything.

“Any chance to find him?” asked Frank.

“Oh, yes, there’s a good chance to find him! But you boys can’t get him! No, sir. Been some of the best hunters in these north woods after that fellow, and never any one of them got anything but a chasing. That old fellow knows how to run men the same as he runs other bulls. He’s a terror.”

A short while afterward the boys sauntered away, turning toward the far end of the lake, beyond the[Page 201] hills where they had seen the deer, hoping they might come across the big moose.

But success did not come to them. Several hours they spent trudging through the snow, finally wending their way back to the lake, where they attached their skates to their shoes and made ready for the long return trip.

The heavy wind of the night before had blown the snow from the level plain of the lake’s surface so that it was in great heaps and banks, more especially at the points where the islands stuck their heads out of the lake.

“Wonder why we can’t do some sledding down those hills beyond the camp?” asked Jack Eastwick while they stroked steadily, regularly, heading back across the great expanse of smooth ice.

The idea struck the band of boys favorably, and, as they kept up their regular pace, they made plans for building a long sled for the purpose.

Frank’s find of boards in the shack back of the camp-house was a foundation for their plans, but they had no idea where they could find steel pieces for the runners.

“Don’t need them,” muttered Buster. “We can use plain wood and it win get slick enough after you have used it once or twice.”

“How about bending a piece of hickory or something else for runners?” put by Tom Budd.

[Page 202]

“Can’t bend wood so easily unless it has some sap in it,” Lanky replied. “Have to wait until spring for that, and when spring comes you don’t want a sled.”

Reaching the camp in the middle of the afternoon, the boys warmed before the fire, got something to eat, and proceeded at once to execute their plans for a sled. The boards were very soon obtained, several heavier pieces for making runners, and by seeking all over the place they found enough nails to make the work complete.

At dusk, when the day was closing, the boys looked down on a piece of work that was done. They had a sled.

“Next thing is to see if the thing runs,” said Lanky.

“It’ll run if you get to the top of a hill and start it downhill with enough of a load on it,” replied Jack Eastwick.

This started Lanky to laughing, whereupon the boys knew he had some idea inside his brain which was hunting for a way out.

“Fellows,” he said, “there’s one thing I have been wondering about ever since we studied it in school. What did people do before Newton discovered gravitation?”

Frank looked at Lanky with an amused smile.

“You see,” Lanky went on soberly, as if the[Page 203] weight of the world were on his shoulders and all the peoples of the world were waiting for him to speak, “how did things fall to the earth before Newton discovered gravitation? Couldn’t do it, could they?”

Buster started to answer Lanky, to explain to Lanky that gravitation always existed, but the other boys drowned out the explanation with their hearty laughter.

“Let’s eat!” called one of them, starting for the cabin, and, though it had been but two hours since they had eaten a very good meal, the boys prepared another and did away with it.

“I surely hope this night will be more quiet than last night,” said Frank. “We’re all tired and we need some rest. Let us get to bed early, and to-morrow we’ll get out to hunt for that moose bull. I will never be satisfied until I have tried to bring him down.”

After this several days, including Sunday, passed quickly. All of the boys went hunting and fishing, and though they did not see the big bull moose—or in fact any moose or deer—they did manage to bring down half a dozen partridges and two wildcats. The fight with the wildcats was a thrilling one. The first of these beasts was laid low by Lanky, but it took Frank, Paul, and Herman Hooker to get the second.

[Page 204]

“Wildcats are not so bad,” said Frank. “But I want that moose.”

Late that day they caught sight of a lynx—a member of the wildcat family—but though Frank, Paul and two others shot at the beast, it got away in the snow.

At fishing the crowd was far more successful. They got two fine mess of pickerel and perch, and Frank managed to catch a muskellonge that weighed ten or eleven pounds. He had hard work landing this catch, but finally did it successfully.

“Gee, now we can eat fish for a week!” cried Paul. “But before you cut him up I want a picture,” he added, and the photo was speedily snapped.

Then came a day of more snow and high winds, and the boys remained indoors, playing games, telling stories, and trying their hand at making candy.

“Wish we could get out and look for that big bull moose again,” sighed Frank, one night when they were preparing for bed.

“Wow, Frank’s got the moose on the brain,” chuckled Buster.

“I guess we all have,” returned Herman Hooker, as the light was put out. “Let’s hunt for him to-morrow.”

To this the others agreed.

The night passed quietly, and the next morning found the boys up betimes, prepared to seek the[Page 205] moose. All morning passed away without a trace of the big fellow, which sent the boys back to camp intent on putting the new sled into use.

Thus it was that the afternoon saw a long sled being dragged up the trail which the boys had followed when seeking the tramps who had stolen their goods. Reaching a point well above the lake level, they set it around and started downhill. At first it was slow in getting away, the boys helping it along, but finally it gained momentum and carried them to the bottom, but not far out on the lake.

Three times they tried it, noticing that each time the sled carried them farther out. It was on the fourth trip, when the wood of the runners seemed to be perfectly smoothed by friction, that they found a real ride, the sled carrying them a long distance out on Old Moose Lake.

Frank proposed they go to the Jeek camp to get that man’s belongings. This they did, using the sled to carry the stuff back to their own, so that evening found them in their own cabin, the fire going, and only tales to tell and hopes to express, inasmuch as they had not seen the moose bull again after the fight.

“Maybe he doesn’t belong around here—maybe we can find him only by going deeper into the woods,” remarked Frank. “I believe he must have a lair, or whatever a moose has for a home, somewhere[Page 206] back in the woods on the other side of the lake.”

This caused the boys to decide, after a discussion of the question, that they leave the cabin on the morrow very early, skating across to the farther side, there set up a temporary camp, put food away safely, and then spend a day or two hunting through the country beyond the lake for the elusive king of the forest.

Plans were carried out exactly as they had been made.

The next morning’s sunrise found them almost at the opposite side of the lake, and an hour after sunrise saw a camp set up, tent in place, food safely hidden, firewood gathered, stakes made for the cooking.

Leaving their skates at the camp, carrying nothing but their firearms, with carefully loaded ammunition belts about their waists, they sallied forth to find the moose.

“If we don’t find him to-day,” said Frank, as they left the camp, “I believe we should stay here all night and go out early to-morrow morning for him again. It was in the early morning that we saw him before.”

Not taking the direction which would lead them again to the woodsmen’s camp, knowing the moose would not deliberately come up to a place where the[Page 207] work was going on, they bore off at an angle opposite that which they had pursued when they left the woodsmen some days previous.

Two small creeks were frozen over, either of which might have been a waterhole. The boys crossed these, going deeper and deeper into the evergreen woods.

“Not even a thing for Paul to take a picture of,” Lanky remarked when they stopped in an opening to look the country over.

Off to one side they saw the mountains stretching away, and, as Frank thought, they should find something by going back in that direction. Getting their bearings, in order not to be lost, they made for the mountains which strung out to the south.

Suddenly Frank came to a halt and stopped all the boys.

Toward the hills, in a grove of trees, he saw moving things. Eight pairs of eyes studied the distance carefully.

Scattering out in a long line so that each was no closer than ten yards from the other, the boys swept forward toward the trees like a wave of soldiers just over the trenches heading for the enemy.

Frank was at the center, where he could call to the boys quickly and yet not have to yell too loud.

Yard by yard, through snow less than knee-deep, they made for the trees, seeing the animals more[Page 208] plainly as they went. There was no doubting it—a moose bull and several cows were in that bunch of trees, browsing about.

Within a hundred yards the boys saw a great bull lift his head, hold it high, seeming to sniff, and then turn directly toward them. He saw the boys coming. Instantly he trotted off toward the right, the cows all following on a gallop. It was the Old King Moose himself!

The boys ran as hard as they could toward that end of the grove, and the bull turned back. He stopped to look at his enemies. The boys closed in. The big bull moose pawed the ground with his fore feet, and the lads knew he was angry.

His head went up, a loud bellow came from him, and he charged straight for them!

[Page 209]


“Scatter away out!” yelled Frank. “Get away from him and get to those trees! Keep your guns ready!”

The boys had stopped at the first evidence of the moose’s charge, but now they scattered still further, so that the big fellow could charge on but one of them at a time.

The one he chose for his first victim was Frank, who was at the center of this string of boys.

As he came straight for Frank, the boy started moving in a circle off to the right, the moose changing his own path so that he would meet Frank. His red eyes, flashing fire, his head tossed back, snorting, he made directly for the boy!

As the big bull came bearing down on Frank at full speed, the young fellow stopped like a dead weight, changed his path and darted past the moose to his left as the big animal threw out its forefeet to strike Frank down.

It was a close call, and Frank realized that he was facing an enemy that was not only angry, determined[Page 210] to put down this man-enemy, but was also wily and had a body which, though large, could be handled with agility.

“Don’t shoot yet!” Frank yelled. “Get to the trees!”

The boys went on a burst of speed, though their feet dragged heavily through snow that was almost up to the knees. Frank turned and saw the moose coming at them again with his eyes wider and more fiery, coming to protect his charges, the cows, from the hands of men. This time the animal was headed straight for Lanky.

Frank stopped, raised his rifle, took aim, and let go.

A loud snarl and a snort came from the big animal as the moose reared high in the air on his hind legs and lashed out furiously with its forelegs. In the meanwhile Lanky got away farther from it.

The animal now turned its attention to the direction from which the shot had come, and bore straight for Frank again, but Frank was close to a tree, so he ducked behind it before the moose could charge him.

As the animal passed the tree, Jack Eastwick raised his rifle and fired. Two of the other boys did the same with their shotguns. A wild snorting told them that something was hurting the big fellow or that the shooting was making him angrier.

[Page 211]

The cows were huddled together in the little grove.

The moose bull wheeled, stood on his hind legs, and brought down his forefeet to the ground with a terrific clicking sound.

He stood near the cows, sniffing, snorting, snarling, his right forepaw stamping the ground, his body quivering.

Of a sudden he made a lunge forward, his head down, his great spread of antlers looking as if they were many yards wide, dashing straight at Buster Billings!

Buster became frightened for the moment. He darted from behind the tree and made for another, yelling loudly as he went.

Frank’s rifle spoke, the bullet went true to the hind flank of the moose. It reared high in pain and turned back toward Frank. Buster for the moment was out of danger.

Angrier than ever, fighting mad, red eyes dancing, head swinging from side to side, nostrils fairly blowing fire out into the cold air, the King of the lake country made a lunge at Jack Eastwick, whose position was to the right of Frank.

Jack, behind a tree, calmly took bead on the great beast and pulled the trigger just as the moose threw his head downward. The shot missed the point at which it was aimed, and, instead, struck the moose in the shoulder.

[Page 212]

Into the air he reared, again that loud bellow of anger or of pain, perhaps both, and the big body came down against the tree with such mighty force that the trunk broke off, the tree falling sharply away.

Frank gasped, for it seemed that Jack Eastwick was caught behind it. But Jack, as he saw the animal throw its entire weight at the tree, had leaped away quickly enough to be out of reach.

As the tree went over, the animal went with it, falling to its knees.

In that instant three of the boys had their guns on it, and each one fired. But the shots must have missed in the hurry, for there came no cry of pain as there had been before. Instead, the snarl was strictly one of anger as the moose came quickly back to his feet, wheeling to attack.

Straight at Buster once more he went, full head on, his antlers close to the ground, his effort being to toss the boy as he had tossed that moose a few days before.

Buster lost his nerve again, but this time was not to get away so easily. Two big trees stood back of him. He turned to run, and dashed headlong into the trees which stood close together.

Back he bounced, stunned by the force of the impact, just as the great moose lifted his forefeet high in air to strike.

[Page 213]

Frank’s position was only twenty feet away.

Crack! His rifle spoke as he drew bead on the eye of this big animal, getting center just at the moment when the body was still, poised high in air.

Buster staggered to one side and fell to the ground.

The moose dropped his forefeet with a clack to the ground, not missing Buster’s body more than a foot, and staggered blindly against the trees.

The boys stood as if rooted.

For a moment the great animal wavered in his struggle to stand, then the front legs seemed to crumble beneath the weight, the body settled forward, the head dropped to one side, and then the entire body toppled against the trees!

Frank watched it all with wonderful interest.

“I believe we got it!” he called. “Don’t go too close! Let’s be sure!”

With that he walked in a wide circle around the trees to see what the animal looked like from the front.

At sight of Frank the bull moose tried to raise his body, but could not, and the eye closed. From the other eye a stream of blood was flowing. His aim had been true.

The cows, huddled together some distance away, looked at the scene as if they expected their great protector to rise and fight again. But his fighting days were over. A younger hunter than he had[Page 214] ever attacked had brought him down. The King had bowed his head at last in defeat.

“How are we going to get him back to camp?” asked Lanky. “We’ve got to take him, you know.”

“The sled! Sure!” yelled Jack Eastwick.

A cry of joy went up from all the boys at this suggestion. They had built just the means of transportation for getting this big fellow out of the woods.

Slowly the struggle for life was giving up. Frank’s bullet must have gone to the brain. The body showed convulsive movements for a while, and then slowly, very slowly, first one leg, then the other reached out, and the entire body sank to the ground.

The King was no more.

Frank suggested that four of the boys go back immediately for the sled, which was still over at the cabin, fully two hours away, while the others remained to take care of the body, fearing that some animal might get it.

Their protector did not rise. These man-enemies stayed around. Quietly the cows edged away from the scene, and when the boys turned, thinking of them, to see what had happened to them, they were far down the alley of trees, disappearing in a break in the hills behind the grove.

Several hours it took the four boys to get the sled back to this point, and several hours more were[Page 215] consumed in getting the big carcass loaded and moved across to the cabin, the boys having to stop at their temporary camp to pick up things there, loading these, too, on top of the sled.

Eight husky boys pulled the sled across the lake, coming up to the shoreline at dusk, weary yet enthusiastic. They had done what many other huntsmen had failed to do.

That evening saw them making plans to break camp early in the morning, using the sled to take their moose back to Todds, but not knowing how they could get it down to Columbia.

“Why, the Harrapin is frozen over, sure!” said Tom Budd. “We’ll just drag the sled all the way. No chance for you fellows to get your motor boat out until the thaw comes.”

Early the next morning, things having been packed the previous evening, these eight boys started trekking back the long trail to Todds, elated over their expedition, with tales aplenty to tell their friends, for the bringing down of this moose bull had filled them with excitement.

At Todds they found the keeper of the hotel waiting for them to come. He said he had been expecting them because he had heard of the trouble between them and Jeek, Jeek having told him the boys would leave his hunting paraphernalia there.

Frank was not certain what he should do, but[Page 216] finally decided that the hotel-keeper could be trusted, and left Jeek’s belongings, thus lightening their load very considerably.

When the hotel-keeper heard of the manner in which they had brought down the great moose bull, he heartily congratulated the boys, and refused to take pay for the meal he placed before them as a noon-day help.

“Can we make it by to-night to Columbia?” Frank asked him.

“Sure my boy,” came the big-throated reply. “You can skate down the Harrapin pulling your sled faster than you motored up, eh? What? Can’t you?”

“Sounds reasonable,” Frank replied, smiling pleasantly.

Immediately after the noon-day meal the boys rested for fifteen minutes, then pulled out along the frozen river for Columbia. Eight strong boys pulling on the rope, skating evenly, regularly, soon brought the sled and its precious load within sight of their home town.

Up to the boatlanding they came, unheralded, just at the close of the day, dragged their sled up the incline, and started through the streets of Columbia for the home of Frank Allen. This was to be their goal.

The attention they attracted was so great that[Page 217] they were halted before they turned off Main Street to the street on which Frank lived, and questions were fired at them and explanations demanded.

Friends gathered around to congratulate the boys, while one of the newspaper men got alongside and asked questions so that he could write the story of their prowess.

Arriving home at last, they stormed the Allen house, Helen and her mother hurrying to the door as the heavy tramp and loud talking and laughing of the boys were heard. Mr. Allen sat in the front room as the boys trooped in. Mr. Van Kirk was paying a visit to the Allen family, and was there to greet the boys on their return.

Helen hurried to the telephone to call Minnie Cuthbert, but some one else had telephoned to Minnie from downtown, and she came hurrying into the house even while Helen was calling.

“Congratulations!” She rushed across the room to shake hands with Frank and welcome him, and all his friends, back. She had stopped long enough outside the house to see the moose on the sled.

Mr. Van Kirk went out, followed by the troop of boys, to identify the big animal.

“That’s the King, Frank! That’s the fellow! Now, tell me all about it,” he said excitedly.

Time after time, for each new visitor who came to the house, the boys told the story. Lanky laid[Page 218] stress on the fact that Frank had brought down the big moose at a critical moment, but Frank treated it all modestly.

“I’m going up first thing in the morning to thank Mrs. Parsons, and I want all you fellows to go along,” said Frank, when the party began to break up.

At once all the boys agreed. They were happy enough to thank her in the heartiest fashion for the great camping expedition which she had given them a chance to enjoy.


The New Western Series

Exciting, Thrilling Stories of the Old West

RAW GOLD Clem Yore
THE LAST SHOT William MacLeod Raine
TREASURE TRAIL Robert Russell Strang
MOUNTAIN MEN Ernest Haycox

Garden City Publishing Company, Inc.

New York

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The Movie Boys Series


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The Dave Fearless Series


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The Larry Dexter Series


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