Allen Chapman.

Tom Fairfield in Camp: or, The Secret of the Old Mill





Oh, no, momsey! This is great! I wouldnt miss this for anything, and the fellows will think its the best ever, I know. Im going to tell Dick Jones first, and then write to Jack and Bert.

Well, do be careful, urged Mrs. Fairfield, who seemed filled with anxiety.

Dont worry, advised her husband. Tom can take care of himself I guess. Why, he even found us when we were shipwrecked, you know.

Yes, I know. But this is different, up there in the woods, with that crazy creature roaming about. And its so lonesome and so far from a town!

All the better, laughed Tom. Its no fun camping next door to a village. We want to rough it. Im going to find Dick. And he hurried off to tell his village chum the good news.

CHAPTER III
TOMS CHUMS ARRIVE

Well, Tom, how about it? greeted Dick, when our hero met him, soon after having heard the details about the old mill and the wild man from Mr. Fairfield. Is it all right for camp?

I should say yes, and then some more! Say, Dick, its going to be great! Think of it; a mystery to solve, and a wild hermit sort of a chap, roaming around through the woods, looking for your scalp.

Wheres that?

Where were going camping where else? Heres the yarn, and Tom told it as he had heard it. How about that? he asked when he had finished.

Couldnt be better, declared Dick enthusiastically.

Have you fixed things with your folks so you can go? asked Tom.

I sure have.

Then come on down to the river and well take another spin in the Tag. I want to get out on the water, where its nice and quiet, and talk about going camping.

So do I, agreed Dick, and a little later the two chums were once more chugging away, and talking of everything, from the best way to kill a bear to what to do when the motorboat would not mote, as Tom put it.

And we may get some game up there, said Tom. This Lake Woonset is away up in the northern part of New York state, and its wild there. Im going to take my gun along.

So am I, declared Dick. When are your other friends coming?

Ill get em here as soon as I can.

Say, Tom, maybe they wont want me to come along.

Dont you worry about that, declared our hero. Im in charge of this camping party, and Ill take whom I please. But theyll like you all right, Dick, and youll like them. Thats sure.

When do you think youll go camping?

Just as soon as we can. In about a week, I guess. Ill have to get a lot of things together. Ive got a tent that will do, but well need another small one to cook in, and a connecting piece of canvas for an awning so we can go from the kitchen to the dining room when it rains, without getting wet. The only thing Im sorry about is leaving the Tag behind.

Why dont you take her along?

By Jove! cried Tom. I never thought of that. I believe I will.

I wonder if I could ship her to Lake Woonset?

I dont see why not, declared Dick.

Ill find out from dad, declared Tom.

Then go right back and do it, suggested Dick. We might as well get this thing settled.

Tom turned the boat back, and in a short time was getting information from his father about the shipping facilities to Lake Woonset.

You can get the boat up there all right, declared Mr. Fairfield, but youll have to hire some sort of a truck to haul it to the lake, as it isnt near any railroad station.

Oh, well manage it, declared Tom. Now Im going to mail the letters to Jack and Bert.

The missives were posted, and then Tom and Dick began to make out lists of what they needed, and to get their camping outfits together.

This took them several days, and in the meanwhile word came back from Toms two school chums that they would come on at once. They were delighted with the prospect of going camping in such a location as Tom described, though he did not give them all the particulars by letter.

If were going to take the motorboat, said Dick, one afternoon, about a week later, we had better make a sort of crate for it, hadnt we.

Yes, and take off the rudder and propeller, added Tom. Its going to be quite a job, but I guess we can manage it.

They at once began this task, the tent and other camping supplies having been gotten in readiness to ship. At work on the crate for the boat the next afternoon, Tom was surprised to hear a shout behind him.

Hi there, old man! a voice called. What in the world are you up to?

Tom turned to behold his two school chums, Jack and Bert, coming toward him.

Well for cats sake! he cried, running forward. I didnt expect you until to-morrow? Howd you find me down here? for Tom was at work in his boathouse.

We managed to get off sooner than we expected, said Jack, as he and Bert shook hands with Tom.

And we hiked for your house as soon as we landed, added Bert.

Your folks said you were down here, and we managed to find the place without getting lost more than ten times, broke in Jack with a laugh. Now whats going on? Tell us all about it.

Im going to take the boat along, explained Tom. And say, talk about luck! Were going to camp near a mysterious old mill, and theres a wild man roaming through the woods up there, who may sneak in and scalp us any night.

Great! cried Jack.

All to the string beans! exclaimed Bert. How did you happen to stumble on such a combination as that?

Tom told, and the two newcomers expressed their satisfaction in unmeasured terms.

Lets start right away! exclaimed Jack.

Oh, theres lots to do yet, spoke Tom. If you fellows will get off your store-clothes, you can help crate this boat.

Sure we will! came from Bert. We left our grips at your house. Well go back and change into our old duds.

Good idea, declared Tom. Mothers got your rooms all ready for you.

We know. She took us up to em first shot, said Jack. Great little mother youve got, boy!

Glad you like her, laughed Tom.

A little later the three chums were back at the boathouse making the crate. There was hammering, pounding, splitting and sawing that is, when there was a cessation in the talk, which was not very often, as the lads had much to say to each other.

Then, too, each one had a different idea of how the work ought to be done, and they argued freely, though good-naturedly.

Say, well never get anything done if we keep this up, said Tom after a while.

Thats right. Talk less and work more, advised Bert.

Here comes Dick Jones. Hell help, said Tom, and he explained that his village chum was going to camp with them. Dick was introduced to the two Elmwood Hall boys, and they liked him at once, as he did them.

After that the work went on better, for it was no small task to crate the motorboat and an additional pair of hands were much needed.

And what did you say the name of the lake is, where were going camping? asked Jack, during a pause in the hammering and sawing.

Lake Woonset, explained Tom. Its an Indian name. Didnt I mention it before?

You did, but I guess I forgot it. Lake Woonset, near Wilden, in New York state. Say, Bert !

By Jove, thats so. It just occurred to me too, interrupted Bert.

What did? asked Tom. Whats up? Whats the matter with Lake Woonset?

Nothing, but isnt it near Crystal Lake? asked Jack, a curious look on his face.

Yes, answered Tom. But Crystal Lake is a small one. Why, what has that to do with our going camping?

Nothing much, only weve got some curious news for you. Who do you think is going to camp at Crystal Lake?

I cant imagine, unless its Sam Heller and that sneaking crony of his, Nick Johnson.

Worse than that, declared Bert. Its our old enemy, Professor Skeel!

CHAPTER IV
OFF TO CAMP

Whats that? cried Tom. Are you joking? Professor Skeel going to camp near us?

Im not joking a bit, declared Bert. You can ask Jack.

Its true enough, put in Toms roommate at college. We heard it the other day just before we came on here from your old friend, Bruce Bennington. I dont know why we didnt think to tell you before, except that I didnt recall that Crystal Lake, and the one where were going camping, were so near together.

Theyre about five miles apart, said Tom. But how is it that Mr. Skeel is going up there? The last I saw of him was when the ship picked us up from the derelict, the time we were wrecked, and he went on to Honolulu. What brought him back from there?

It seems the place didnt agree with him, explained Jack. He tried to get into some business there but he failed. I guess he didnt play fair. Anyhow his health failed, and the doctor said he had to get back to the United States. So he came.

Then he heard of a relative of his who was going up to camp in the New York woods, and he decided to go along. In some way Bruce Bennington got word of it. You know Mr. Skeel tried to play a mean trick on Bruce once.

Sure he knows it, put in Bert. Didnt Tom show up old Skeel?

Oh, yes, I forgot about that, admitted Jack. Well, anyhow, our old enemy Skeel is going to camp near us, it seems.

It wont bother me, spoke Tom. I dont believe hell come near our place, and, if he does, well just politely ask him to move on.

Sure, said Jack. But its rather odd that he should be so near us.

It is, agreed Tom. They discussed, for some time, the possibility of meeting the former Latin teacher, who had been so unpleasant to them, and then they resumed work on making the cradle, or crate, for the motorboat.

There were busy times ahead of the boys. Their camp equipment had to be gotten together, packed for shipment, and then came the details of arranging for a food supply, though not much of this could be done until they reached Wilden.

And maybe well come across the fortune thats hidden in the old mill, suggested Jack, laughing.

Or we may make friends with the wild man.

Dont build too much on that, advised Tom.

Anyhow, we wont want to be puttering around the old mill much, said Dick. Well be out in the boat, or fishing, or going in swimming, or something like that most of the time.

Or else hunting, suggested Tom. I hope you fellows brought guns.

We sure did, spoke Jack.

The boys packed their kits of clothing, taking only as much as was absolutely necessary, for they were going to rough it. A small quantity of the most needful medicines were put up, and some other supplies were included.

Their grips and guns they would carry with them, but the tent, a portable cooking stove, and a case of canned provisions, as well as some in pasteboard packages, were to be shipped by express. The motorboat, which had been well crated up, was to go by freight.

By letter Tom had arranged for a supply of gasolene which was to be left at a small settlement at one end of the lake. They could also get additional provisions there and some supplies, and they hoped to get fish enough to help out on the meals.

Finally everything had been packed up. The motorboat had been shipped, with the other things, and the boys were to leave the next morning. They would have to travel all day, reaching the town of Wilden at night. They would sleep there, and go on to camp the next day.

The evening mail came in, and there was a letter for Mrs. Fairfield. It was from her former school chum, Mrs. Henderson, and as soon as Toms mother read it she exclaimed:

Oh Tom! That old Jason Wallace is worse than ever.

How so? asked Tom.

It seems the other day that some campers who were staying near the old mill went in the ruins and began digging about. He saw them and had a quarrel with them. Now hes got an old army musket and he keeps going about the place like a sentinel, Mrs. Henderson says. He threatens to shoot anyone who comes near. Oh, I dont want you to go there! and Mrs. Fairfield was seriously alarmed.

Dont worry, mother, spoke Tom. I wont take any chances. I guess us fellows can make friends with old Wallace, and well have him so tame that hell eat out of our hands, and show us all the interesting places in the woods and about the old mill.

Oh, Tom, you will be careful; wont you? asked his mother.

Sure I will, he promised, and she had to be content with that.

Later, when Tom told Jack and Bert about the news from the place where they were going camping, Jack said:

I wonder if it could have been Mr. Skeel who bothered the old man?

It cant be, declared Bert. Why hes hardly up there yet.

He might be, spoke Jack. If he is, and he hears anything about treasure, Ill wager that he gets after it. And hell make trouble whereever he goes hes that way.

He sure is, agreed Tom, thinking of how the former professor had hidden away a secret supply of food and drink when the others were trying to save themselves from starvation in the lifeboat.

Well, anyhow, we dont need to worry, said Dick, who had come over to Toms house to have a last talk before the start in the morning.

Thats right, agreed Tom. Now lets go over everything, and see what weve forgotten.

This took them the best part of the evening, and having found that they had omitted a few things, they packed them into their grips and went to bed, Dick promising to come over early in the morning to go with the three chums to the train which they were all to take to reach Wilden.

Mr. and Mrs. Fairfield went to the station with the boys. The baggage was checked, and Tom had to spend some time saying good-bye to a number of his town chums.

Hey, wish youd take me along, said Dent Wilcox, as he shuffled along the depot platform. He seemed to have forgotten his little feeling against Tom for not taking him in the motorboat, the day our hero got the letter from his chum. Cant you take me, Tom?

I might if youd promise to chop all the wood, go for all the water, do the cooking, wash the dishes, make the beds, sweep up, and run for gasolene.

Huh! exclaimed Dent, looking for a place to sit down. I guess I dont want to go.

And we dont want you, spoke Tom in a low voice.

There was a toot of the whistle, a puffing of smoke, and the train that was to take our lads to camp, pulled in. The last good-byes were said, Mrs. Fairfield made Tom promise about a dozen things that he would be careful about, and gave him so many injunctions that he forgot half of them. Mr. Fairfield shook his sons hand, and those of his chums, and there was a trace of moisture in the eyes of father and son as they said farewell.

Be careful, Tom, said his father. Dont be tempted too much by the fortune in the old mill.

I wont dad, but er that is, I think Ill have a try for it wild man or not.

Well, I supposed you would, after you heard the story. But dont worry your mother.

I wont. Good-bye!

All aboard! called the conductor, and the boys hurried into the car. They waved their hands out of the windows and, a moment later, the train pulled out. Tom had a last glimpse of his mother with her handkerchief to her eyes, and he felt a lump coming into his throat.

Oh, here, this wont do! he exclaimed half aloud. I must send her a postal from the first post office, to cheer her up, and he carried out that intention.

As the cars clicked along the rails, Jack, who had been looking into the coach just ahead of the one in which he and his chums were riding, uttered an exclamation.

Whats the matter forget something? asked Tom.

No, but I just saw someone I know.

Oh, if thats the case, go ahead up and talk to her, laughed Bert. Hes the greatest chap for girls I ever saw, he confided to Tom. Hell spot a pretty girl anywhere. And he knows so many of em.

This isnt a girl, said Jack in a low voice.

No? Who is it then? asked Tom, curiously.

Its our old enemy, Sam Heller; and Nick Johnson is with him!

CHAPTER V
LAUNCHING THE BOAT

For a moment Tom did not answer, but stared at Jack as if he could not believe what his chum said. Then our hero asked:

Are you sure?

Of course I am. Take a look for yourself, and Jack moved over so that Tom could have a glimpse into the other car.

Its those chaps, sure enough, spoke Tom. This is a great go! Sam Heller and that nuisance Nick Johnson on the same train with us, and the prospect of meeting Professor Skeel when we get to camp. I dont like this!

Neither do I, agreed Bert. But we cant help it.

Do you think those two fellows are going to meet that mean professor you spoke of? asked Dick.

I hardly imagine so, answered Jack. Mr. Skeel wasnt any too friendly with even Sam Heller, though Sam was more in his class than the rest of us. No, I guess its just a coincidence, that Sam and his crony are on this train. But Id like to know where they got on, and where theyre going.

They must have boarded the train before we did, explained Bert, for Ive been looking out of the window at every station we came to since Briartown, and I didnt see them hop on.

Thats right, agreed Jack. Come to think of it now, Sam lives in Newtonville, and thats not far below your town, Tom. Nick was probably visiting Sam, and the two are off on a trip together.

Yes, but where are they going? persisted Tom. I hope, if theyre going camping, that they dont pick out any spot near us. Therell be sure to be trouble if they do. I wont stand for any more nonsense from either Sam or Nick.

And I dont blame you, declared Bert.

Theres one way to find out where theyre going, suggested Dick Jones.

How? asked Tom.

Ask em.

Thats right! laughed Tom. Only I dont like to do it. Thered be sure to be a quarrel if I did, for Sam and I never got along well together.

Ill ask em, offered Jack. While Im not any too friendly with them I think I can get into a conversation with em, and learn whats up. Shall I?

Go ahead, spoke Tom; and Jack sauntered into the next coach. Sam and Nick were surprised to see him, of course, and they probably suspected that Tom was somewhere about, but they did not admit it, or show much curiosity regarding Jacks presence, so unexpectedly manifested.

Going far? asked Jack.

Oh, not so very, replied Sam, coolly. And yet we may make quite a trip of it before we finish; eh, Nick?

Sure. Where are you bound for, Jack?

Oh, were just going camping Tom Fairfield, Bert Wilson and a friend of Toms.

No camp life for ours! exclaimed Sam. Its too much work. We stop at hotels.

Yes, and you miss half the fun, rejoined Jack.

There was some more conversation, and then Jack went back to join his chums.

Did you learn anything? asked Tom.

Not much. They were as close-mouthed as clams. I did my best to pump them without showing too much curiosity as to where they were going, but there was nothing doing, as our friend Shakespeare might say. I guess they thought I wanted to know, and so they took special pains to keep mum. But we wont let it make any difference to us.

Thats right, agreed Tom. Maybe there wont be any trouble after all.

The boys traveled all that day, the journey being a pleasant one for the four chums, who had much to talk about. They took an observation now and then of the forward car, and saw that Sam and his crony were still aboard.

Well, well soon be at Wilden, remarked Tom, as the day was drawing to a close.

Where are we going to stop? asked Jack.

At a hotel, of course, put in Bert.

Hotel nothing! exclaimed Tom. In the first place there isnt any, and in the second place mothers friend, Mrs. Henderson, would feel hurt if we didnt put up at her house. She wrote specially to invite us when she heard we were going camping near Lake Woonset. So well go there, and proceed to make ourselves at home.

The train pulled into a station a few miles below Wilden, and to the surprise of Tom and his chums, Sam Heller and his crony got off. Our friends watched them.

What do you know about that! exclaimed Jack, as he leaned out of a window to look. The expressman is pulling off some tents and other camping stuff, and Sam is telling him where to place it. Say, those fellows are going camping after all their high-flown talk about a hotel, and Ill wager we run across them again before the summers over!

I shouldnt wonder, spoke Tom. No matter, well have a good time anyhow. Wed better be getting ready to leave on our own hook.

As the train pulled out again our friends saw Sam and Nick arranging their tent and baggage, but the two did not look up at their former schoolmates.

Wilden was soon reached, and as Tom was making inquiries of the freight agent as to whether or not his boat had arrived a man stepped up and greeted our hero.

Isnt this Tom Fairfield, and his camping chums? he asked pleasantly.

It is, and you

Im Mr. Amos Henderson. My wife used to go to school with your mother, and when Sallie thats my wife heard you were coming up here she got all ready for you. She sent me down to the station to bring you up to the house. I said I didnt think Id know you, but land shucks! Sallie said that didnt matter. She told me to pick out four boys, and theyd be sure to be the right ones.





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