Edward Stratemeyer.

The Gun Club Boys of Lakeport





Going up to the door of the house they knocked, and a burly farmer answered their summons.

Good evening, said Harry, politely.

Good evening, lad, what can I do for you? questioned the farmer, gazing at both boys curiously. He saw that they had guns, but no game, and concluded they were hungry and wanted supper.

Will you tell us where we can find a constable, or some other officer?

Want a constable, eh? Did somebody steal your game? And the farmer smiled, quizzically.

No, we want the constable to arrest three tramps who are wanted for stealing.

Shoo! You dont say! Farmer Libby was all attention. Where are the tramps?

Over to Ike Slossons house. They have taken full possession.

Where is Slosson?

We dont know. The tramps must have done something to him.

I always said somethin would happen to Ike, put in the farmers wife. It haint human for him to be a-livin alone as he does. Samuel, you must help in this.

Guess I must, said Samuel Libby. But Ill have to tell Constable Peabody, and big Jim Bowman, too. Jims a powerful fellow when theres trouble to be met.

The farmer wanted the two boys to tell their tale, and they did so without delay. While they talked he put on his overcoat and got down his shotgun; and five minutes later all three were on their way to where Constable Peabody resided, in the center of the village.

CHAPTER XXVIII
THE LAST OF THE TRAMPS

The constable was found in the village store, comfortably fixed on a soap box, and narrating for probably the fiftieth time how he had once caught two lumber thieves on the lake single-handed. The crowd had heard the tale many times, but as the constable always added fresh particulars at each telling, they were willing to listen again.

So you want me, do you? he said to Samuel Libby and the two young hunters. All right, Im your man. What is it, fire away?

When he was told what was desired he looked grave.

This aint no ordinary case, he argued. Them tramps must be desprit characters. Ill have to take a posse along.

No posse needed, Peabody, said Farmer Libby. Take Jim Bowman and myself. Remember, old Joel Runnell is a-watchin em with four young fellows. Ten men and boys ought to be enough to capture three good-for-nothing tramps.

Are you going back with us? asked the constable of Bart and Harry.

Certainly we are, answered Harry. My brother and I want to learn what became of his watch, if we can.

It was not long after this that big Jim Bowman was found, a lumberman reputed to be the strongest fellow for miles around. He said he would go willingly, and took with him a stout club.

Dont much need it, he said to the young hunters. When I get in a mix-up I like to use my fists.

Well, its a good thing to know how to use your fists sometimes, answered Bart.

The late moon was now coming up, so the roadway was lighter than it had been.

Both Bart and Harry were tired because of all the tramping they had done, yet they did their best to keep up with the others. Jim Bowman led the way, taking strides that no one could have equaled.

He must know how to handle lumber, whispered Harry to Bart. Just notice how muscular he is.

It is the constant outdoor life that has made him so strong, Harry.

On they went until the bypath was gained. The constable had brought along a lantern, but this was not lit, for the rising moon was making it lighter every minute.

At last they halted and Harry gave a low whistle a signal which had been agreed upon. A low whistle came in return, and almost immediately Joel Runnell came into view. He knew the constable by sight and Samuel Libby personally and nodded to them.

Havent heard anything more out of em, he said. Ill guess they think I went away.

Any light in the place? asked the constable.

Yes, a candle light in the kitchen. I wanted to crawl up and take a peep inside, but thought I wouldnt risk it, for fear theyd spot me and try to dust out.

After this the others were called up and a regular council of war ensued. Constable Peabody took charge, and he asked all to march up with him and surround the house. Then, taking Jim Bowman with him, he knocked loudly on the back door.

Whos there? asked a rough voice, and then the voice was changed to an imitation of Ike Slossons and the speaker continued: Go away! I want no strangers here. Go away!

Look here, this Tom-foolery wont do! cried the constable. Open the door, or Ill have it broken down.

At this there was an added commotion in the house. Two men came to a window and peeped out.

Hullo! there are half a dozen men out there, muttered one.

And they have got guns, growled the other. Muley, I reckon de jigs up.

Who are you? asked Noxy, the man at the door.

An officer of the law, and I demand that you surrender, shouted Constable Peabody, pompously.

Boys, we must skip, whispered the tramp called Stump. If we dont were sure to do time.

Are you going to open up or not? demanded the constable.

To this there was no answer.

Jim, I reckon you had better try your strength, went on the officer.

The big lumberman was only too willing. He put his shoulder to the door and it went in with a crash.

Now come out of that, one at a time, sang out the constable. And remember, we are ten to three, so it wont do you any good to fight.

Are there ten o em? gasped Noxy.

Shouldnt wonder, growled Stump. That feller who was here before must have told the sheriff. Say, wot are we goin to do?

Hang me if I know.

The three tramps stared blankly at one another. They were caught like rats in a trap. They tiptoed their way to the next room, and looked forth from the windows.

I see four men and boys, said one.

An three on this side, came from another. There must be ten o em after all. Boys, our goose is cooked.

Are you coming out, or have we got to fire on you? continued Constable Peabody.

Ill give em a dose of buckshot, put in Joel Runnell, although he had no idea of firing for the present.

Thats it, sang out Joe, who was likewise fooling.

No! no! dont shoot! howled Stump, who was the most cowardly of the trio. Dont shoot!

Will you come out?

Yes.

Then come, and put your hands over your head.

Looking decidedly sheepish the tramp marched out of the house, holding both hands over his head. In a moment Constable Peabody was behind him and had the rascal handcuffed.

Now you other fellows come out, too, said the officer. One at a time, and with your hands up. If you try any funny work Ill order my men to fire.

There was a pause for a moment and then Noxy slouched out. He was quickly followed by Muley, who looked as if he wanted very much to run away. But the tramps were given no chance to escape, and soon all were tightly handcuffed.

Well, how do you like the situation? asked Joe, as he faced Muley. Cant you tell me what time it is?

The tramp looked at the young hunter and then fell back a step.

You! he gasped.

I say, cant you tell me what time it is? If youll remember, you have my watch and chain.

Say dis beats de nation, murmured Muley. Did youse fellers follow us up?

We did.

What have you done with my brothers watch? asked Harry.

I aint got de watch, growled the tramp. But later on, when he was searched, the watch and chain were found in his pocket, he having no chance to sell or pawn the articles.

While this talk was going on Constable Peabody was questioning Stump and Noxy about what had been done to Ike Slosson. At first neither of the tramps wanted to talk, but at last Stump confessed that they had gotten the old man away from home by delivering to him a bogus telegram, stating that a rich relative had died in Springfield and that there was much money awaiting him. The hermit had been just simple-minded enough to go away, and as soon as he was gone they had taken possession of his house, where they had expected to remain until it was time for Slosson to get back.

Well, youll not stay here any longer, said Constable Peabody, grimly. Youll spend a good part of the future in the lockup, if I know anything about it.

I reckon I missed it when I took dat young mans watch an chain, said Muley, with a hitch of his shoulders. But I never tought hed follow us like dis, never.

Another conference was held, and as a result it was decided that the constable, assisted by big Jim Bowman and Farmer Libby, should march the prisoners to a temporary lockup and later transfer them to the Lakeport jail, there to await the action of the court. It may be added here that this was done, and the three tramps received sentences which kept them from doing further harm for some time to come.

Well, we won out that time, said Joe, as the young hunters and Joel Runnell started, the next day, for the camp on Pine Island. I am glad we went after those tramps before they had a chance to leave Ike Slossons house.

Well have to give Teddy credit, said Harry. Hes the one who made this capture possible. And the Irish lad was warmly praised, much to his satisfaction.

CHAPTER XXIX
A GREAT MOOSE CHASE

All were anxious to learn if the shelter on the island had been disturbed during their absence. When they arrived at the spot they found everything as they had left it, much to their satisfaction.

Im going to take it easy for a day, said Joe. I think we all deserve a rest.

Second the commotion, said Fred, and so they rested.

Ive got to go home, said Teddy. Im sorry to leave you all, but it cant be helped. And he left them that noon, all hands giving him a rousing cheer as he departed. He carried with him four rabbits taken from the traps and also a very fat turkey which Joel Runnell managed to lay low for him.

The boys all felt that their hunting tour must soon come to an end, and having rested, they resolved to make the most of the time that still remained to them.

We may never get another chance to go out like this, said Harry. One thing Id like to bring down before we leave. That is a moose.

I guess a moose would suit all of us, cried Link. But I dont think we are going to get any. Moose are mighty scarce around here.

Link is right, put in Joel Runnell. But for all that we may spot one before we go.

Oh, have you seen any signs of a moose? ejaculated Harry.

Ive seen some signs that may have been made by a moose, although a big deer would leave the same marks.

The shelter was now a very cozy place, for all of the boys spent their leisure time in fixing it up. They had long ago named it Two-Tree Lodge, and Fred had cut out a sign with his jackknife and this was hung over the doorway.

If folks only knew what a fine camping-out spot this island is, I dare say there would be many more people here, declared Bart.

It must not be imagined that Joe and Harry had forgotten about Hiram Skeetles missing pocketbook, that which contained the papers of so much value.

We must hunt for those papers, Joe, said Harry, and they went out not once but several times. But, although they hunted high and low, among the bushes, rocks, and in the snow, the pocketbook and the valuable papers failed to come to light. The most they found was the real estate dealers business card, which Joe picked up late one afternoon.

Hullo! Ive found old Skeetles card, he sang out, and Harry rushed to his side to look it over.

Anything else, Joe?

No. But this card shows that we are on the right track.

That is true.

After the card was found they hunted around until long after dark, but nothing else was discovered, much to their disappointment.

Perhaps the pocketbook was washed into the lake after all, said Fred, who was very much interested, and who had hunted some on his own account. If youll remember, we had some pretty hard rains before winter set in.

One day all of the boys went gunning deep into the woods back of the shelter. They went on their snowshoes, and managed to scare up eight rabbits, four squirrels, and seven partridges. It was a beautiful day for such sport, and in addition to bringing down his share of the game, Harry procured several photographs, one showing Joe in the act of bringing down two partridges with one shot.

That will prove that you are an out-and-out hunter, Joe, said Harry, after the snap shot was taken. They cant go back on a picture.

Oh, you must remember, there are lots of trick photos, said Joe, with a laugh. Dont you remember that one we saw of a man shooting at himself?

Yes, put in Link, and I once saw a picture of a man riding himself in a wheelbarrow. But we can all testify that this is no trick photo.

Sunday the boys took it easy, and it was a rest well earned and well needed.

Now for the last of our outing, sighed Harry. This week will wind it up.

Let us look at the traps, came from Bart, and he and Link and Fred did so, and found in them two rabbits and a squirrel. There were also signs of a wolf around two of the traps, but they did not catch sight of the beast.

I fancy that wolf wanted to get one of our rabbits, said Link. Perhaps we scared him off just in time.

I want nothing to do with wolves, said Bart. If theyll let me alone, Ill let them alone.

A couple of days later old Runnell came in somewhat excited. Unless I am greatly mistaken, I have seen the track of a moose, he said. I am going to follow up the tracks. Who wants to go along?

Who? All of them, and they said so in chorus, while each reached for his gun. Old Runnell made them put on their snowshoes and fill their game bags with provisions.

We may be gone until to-morrow, he said. Running down a moose is no easy thing, even if the snow is deep.

The route lay along the shore and then across the lake to the mainland. They struck the shore at a point where the pines were heavy, and Joe Runnell showed the young hunters where the moose had stopped to feed.

Hes after some tender bark, said the old hunter. See how he nosed around in the snow for it.

After a brief rest they continued their journey, but night found the game still out of sight, and they had to go into camp in the best shelter they could find.

Never mind, said Harry. A moose isnt to be found here every day.

No, nor every week, either, added old Runnell. So far I havent heard of a single one being brought down this winter.

They were up again before sunrise and following the tracks as before. These now led up a rise of ground and Joel Runnell went in advance.

The tracks are getting fresher, he announced. I dont think hes a mile off at the most.

They went on for a short distance farther, and then Joe put up his hand.

Hark! he said, in a low voice. What sort of a noise is that?

They listened, and from a distance heard a scraping and sawing that was most unusual.

Weve got him! said old Runnell. Thats the moose rubbing himself on a tree.

He crept forward, with the others close behind. Soon they came to a little opening in the forest. Here were several rocks backed up by a clump of hemlocks. Against one of the hemlocks stood a tall, magnificent moose, with wide-spreading antlers. He had been scraping his back on the rough bark, and now he proceeded to repeat the operation.

You boys can all fire at the same time, whispered Joel Runnell. Ill wait and see what you can do. And giving them time to take aim, he gave the signal.

The guns rang out together almost as one piece, causing a tremendous report to echo throughout the forest, and filling the little opening with smoke.

Youve got him! shouted Joel Runnell, with as much joy in his voice as if he had brought the game down himself. And when the smoke lifted they saw the moose totter and pitch headlong. Once, twice the animal tried to rise up, then over he went with a thud on the rocks, gave a kick or two, and lay still.

With loud shouts of triumph the young hunters rushed in. But old Runnell held them back.

Beware, he cried. He may give a last kick that will split some ones head open. Wait! And they waited until they were certain that life was extinct.

What a beautiful haul! came from Bart. And see, every one of us hit him in the neck and breast.

Im glad we didnt hit him in the face, said Joe. We can mount that head and it will be something fine.

Yes, but who is to keep it? asked Harry.

We can take turns, was the answer, and this caused a laugh.

To get such large game back to the camp at Needle Rock was not easy, and it took them until long after nightfall to cover the distance, and then all were thoroughly exhausted. The moose was placed in a safe place, and they retired without taking the trouble to cook a regular supper.

CHAPTER XXX
THE FIND END OF THE OUTING

Noon of the next day found Joe walking along the lake shore some distance below the camp. On the outing the day before he had lost a glove and he was trying to locate it in the snow.

Im pretty sure I dropped it somewhere along here, he told himself. I know I had it on just before we came to those bushes yonder.

He was still some distance from the bushes when he espied a dark object hanging from one of the branches, among some dried leaves. Thinking it was either the lost glove or the remains of an old birds nest, he went over to investigate. The next instant he set up a shout of joy:

The pocketbook! The pocketbook at last!

He was right; the pocketbook was there, hanging down from the long string which had been wrapped around it a dingy, brown affair, well worn at all of the corners and containing two pockets.

With a heart that thumped wildly in his breast, Joe took hold of the pocketbook to examine it. Scarcely had he done so when he gave a groan and his hopes fell as rapidly as they had risen.

The pocketbook was empty. It contained absolutely nothing at all.

Sold! he muttered, laconically. Sold, and just when I thought I had it!

What have you found, Joe? came in Harrys voice, and a moment later his brother came up.

Here is Hiram Skeetles pocketbook but it is empty.

You dont say! Harry looked at the object a moment. Was it hanging like that when you first saw it?

Yes.

Then perhaps the contents dropped out, or was shaken out by the wind.

To be sure. Joe went down on his knees at the roots of the bush and began to scrape away the snow. I hope we do find something.

Harry began to assist, and soon the snow was gone and they began to dig in among the dead leaves and sticks. Then Joe hauled up several cards with Hiram Skeetles name on them and a memorandum of some property located near the lake.

Here is something belonging to old Skeetles, said he.

Here is another paper, said Harry. Its a bill of sale for a town lot, he added, looking it over hastily.

An instant later Joe came across a large envelope containing several legal-looking documents. He brushed the dirt from the covering and tried to make out some handwriting on it.

The papers! he shouted, joyfully. Grandfather Andersons papers as sure as you are born!

Let me see! ejaculated Harry, and bent over the find. They hauled the papers from the envelope and looked them over. Their grandfather was mentioned in a number of places, and also two plots of land they had heard their parents discuss. Clearly these were the papers that were so much needed.

Well take them to camp and read them over carefully, said Joe. And if they are what we want we had best go right home with them.

Wont mother and father be astonished when they get the news, added Harry.

They were soon back to camp, and here sat down to look over their find. They had just concluded to their satisfaction when Fred, who was outside cutting firewood, set up a shout:

Here comes old Skeetles and Dan Marcy!

Quick, Joe, put the papers out of sight, whispered Harry, and this was done.

In a few minutes Hiram Skeetles and Dan Marcy reached the shelter.

So ye burnt the lodge down! exclaimed the real estate dealer. Ill have the law on ye fer that!

The lodge was burnt down by accident, answered Joe. We are willing to pay a fair amount for the damage done.

Humph! And what made ye come over here to camp out? asked Skeetles, anxiously.

Because we felt like it, answered Fred.

I said ye could stay over to the lodge, not here.

Well, we came here, put in Joe. But we are not going to stay very long. I and Harry are going home, and I guess the rest will go with us.

The real estate dealer looked at the Westmore boys sharply.

Did ye find er anything belongin to me around here? he asked, suspiciously.

We did a pocketbook and these cards and papers, answered Joe, boldly, and handed over what belonged to the miserly man.

What! Hiram Skeetles turned first red and then white. Did ye er find anything else?

Nothing belonging to you, Mr. Skeetles.

Nothin belongin to me, eh? What else did ye find?

Youll learn about that later, said Harry.

Ha! youre keepin something back! I can see it in yer faces! Give it up, I say, give it up! And Hiram Skeetles took a savage step forward.





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