Edward Stratemeyer.

The Gun Club Boys of Lakeport





CHAPTER III
A FRUITLESS SEARCH

Bys! bys! Are ye after bein hurted?

It was Andy Dugan who asked the question, as he came rushing to Joe and Harrys assistance and helped to set them on their feet.

I I guess Im all right, Mr. Dugan, panted Harry. But I I thought my neck was broken at first!

So did I, put in Joe. His left hand was scratched but otherwise he was unharmed.

Oh, father, the mares run away! chimed in Teddy Dugan. We wont never git her back anymore!

Hould yer tongue! answered the parent. Shell come back as soon as its feedin time, dont worry.

Oh, father, are you sure?

To be course I am. Didnt she run away twice before, an come back that same way, Teddy? Come on after thim tramps an let the mare take care av hersilf.

Weve made noise enough to bring the tramps out if theyre still in the barn, was Joes comment. I believe theyve gone.

Exactly my opinion, answered Harry.

Advancing boldly to the doorway of the barn, Andy Dugan pointed his gun and cried:

Come out av there, ye rascals! Sure an it wont do ye any good to hide!

To this demand no answer was returned, and a moment of painful silence followed.

Are ye comin out or not? went on Dugan the elder. Answer me.

How can they answer, father, if they aint there? put in Teddy Dugan, with a broad smile on his freckled face.

To this query the father made no reply, but advancing cautiously, he gazed into the barn and then stepped inside.

Are they there, Mr. Dugan? queried Joe.

If they are, theyre mighty good at hidin.

Let us make a search, said Harry. Pat, you remain on guard outside.

That I will, answered Pat. Run em out here till I shoot em first, an have em arrested afterwards!

The barn was speedily searched, but the tramps had taken their departure, and soon they discovered the track of the rascals, leading across the fields to another road.

I believe they left almost as soon as we did, said Joe. They knew wed come back with help.

Shall we follow? asked Harry.

Av course, replied Andy Dugan.

Its getting rather dark, went on Joe. Im afraid they have given us the slip.

The matter was talked over, and it was decided that all of the Dugans should go forward, and Joe and Harry were to follow if they could find the mare. If not, they were to tramp back to the Dugan homestead and await news.

Half an hour was spent by the two boys in looking for the runaway steed, and by that time both could hardly walk.

I wish I was at the Dugan house this instant, said Harry.

Ditto myself, Harry. And I wish I had my watch and chain back. Did you notice, the tramps didnt touch the bags of nuts.

I guess they were too excited to remember them. Maybe they thought wed come back quicker than we did.

The boys rested for awhile at the barn, and then, with their bags of nuts on their shoulders, set out on the roadway once again.

Tired out, are ye, said Mrs.

Dugan, on seeing them. Where are the others?

They told their story, to which she listened with many a nod of her head.

The ould by take that mare! she cried. Sure an didnt she run away wid me wance an nearly scare me to death, so she did. Andy must trade her th furst chanct he gits.

She had prepared a hot supper and invited the boys to sit down, which they did willingly, for, as Harry expressed it, they were hollow clear down to their shoes.

The meal was just finished when one of the little children, who was at the window gazing into the oncoming darkness, set up a shout:

Theres Kitty now!

Whos Kitty? asked Joe.

Sure an its the mare. Shes walkin in the yard just as if nothin had happened at all!

The youngster was right, and by the time the boys were outside the mare was standing meekly by the barn door, waiting to be put in her stall.

Now aint she aggravatin? came from Mrs. Dugan. Ye cant bate her when she looks loike that, can ye? Poor Kitty! Its a fool thing that ye are entoirely! And she hurried out, opened the stable and let the mare find her proper place inside. Fer sech a thrick, yell git only half yer supper this night, she added, shaking her fist at the animal.

The boys knew that they would be expected home, and waited anxiously for news of the Dugans. Fully an hour and a half passed, before they came back, worn out and downcast.

They give us the shlip, said Andy Dugan. They came around be the lake road an thets the last we could find av thim.

And I guess thats the last of my watch, added Joe, soberly.

Andy Dugan had a faithful old horse in his stable and this animal he harnessed to his family carriage, an old affair that had seen far better days.

Ye can drive yerselves home, he said. An leave the turnout at Bennetts stable. Tell him Ill call for it to-morrow.

Thank you, Mr. Dugan, said Joe. Well settle for the keeping, and get father to pay you

Thats all right, Joe. I want no pay. Your father is a frind av mine. Im sorry we didnt catch the thramps, thats all, was Andy Dugans reply.

It was not until nine oclock at night that Joe and Harry drove into the town of Lakeport. All the stores were closed, but the livery stable was still open, and there they left the horse and carriage, as Andy Dugan had directed. It was but a short walk from the stable to the house.

I thought you would be back to supper, said Mrs. Westmore, when they entered. I kept everything hot for over an hour.

Weve had an adventure, mother, answered Joe, and as the family gathered around he told his story.

Oh, Joe, werent you awfully scared! cried Laura.

I dont like tramps at all! piped in little Bessie.

This is certainly an outrage, said Mr. Westmore. So the Dugans could find no trace of them after they got on the lake road?

No.

I must have one of the constables look into this, and Ill notify Sheriff Clowes, too.

You can be thankful that the tramps did not injure you, said Mrs. Westmore, with a shudder.

Yes, I am thankful for that, said Harry.

So am I, mother, added Joe. Just the same, Im downright sorry to lose that watch and chain.

Perhaps well get on the track of it. If not, well have to see what we can do about getting you another, added the fond mother.

The fact that Joe and Harry had been held up by tramps was speedily noised around the town, and for the next few days the authorities and several other people did what they could to locate the evildoers. But the tramps had made good their escape, and, for the time being nothing more was heard from them. But they were destined to turn up again, and in a most unexpected fashion, as the pages to follow will testify.

Joe and Harry had many friends in Lakeport, boys who went to school with them, and who played with them on the local baseball and football teams. All of these were interested in the hold-up, as they called it, and anxious to see the tramps captured.

Glad it wasnt me, said one of the lads.

Ive got a gold watch one my uncle left when he died.

Why didnt you punch their heads? questioned another, who had quite a reputation as an all-around athlete. That is what I should have done.

Yes, and maybe got killed for doing it, came from a third. Joe and Harry were sharp enough to escape with whole skins, and that is where they showed their levelheadedness.

The adventure had happened on Saturday, and Monday found the boys at school as usual. They were so anxious to get news concerning the tramps that they could scarcely learn their lessons, but as day after day went by without news, this feeling wore away; and presently the incident was almost forgotten.

It was customary at Lakeport to close the schools for about a month around the winter holidays and all of the pupils counted the days to when the vacation would begin. At last the time came, and with a whoop, Joe, Harry, and several dozen other lads rushed forth, not to return until near the end of January.

And now for Christmas! cried Joe. Deep down in his heart he was wondering if he would get another watch and chain.

Ice had already formed on Pine Lake, but just before Christmas it began to snow and blow heavily, so that skating was out of the question. This put something of a damper on the lads and they went around feeling somewhat blue.

Christmas morning dawned bright and fair. The ground was covered with over a foot of snow, and the merry jingle of sleighbells filled the air.

As may be surmised the Westmore boys were up early. There were many presents to be given and received, and it was a time of great surprises and not a little joy.

What pleased Joe most of all was the new watch he received. It was decidedly better than the first watch had been, and so was the chain better than the other.

Just what I wanted! he declared. It tops all the presents not but what I like them, too, he added, hastily.

Harry had slipped off without the others noticing. Now he came back, his face aglow with enthusiasm.

Oh, Joe, what do you think? he cried. The wind has swept Pine Lake as clean as a whistle.

If thats the case, Harry, we can go skating this morning instead of waiting until after dinner. But how do you know the ice on the lake is clear?

Didnt I just come from there? Harry held up a shining pair of nickel-plated skates. Couldnt resist trying em, you know. Say, it was just all right of Uncle Maurice to give each of us a pair, wasnt it?

It certainly was, returned Joe. But I rather think I love that double-barreled shotgun a little better. I am fairly aching to give it a trial on a bird or a rabbit, or something larger.

Well, as for that, I dont go back on the camera Aunt Laura sent up from New York. Fred Rush was telling me it was a very good one, and he ought to know, for he has had four.

What did Fred get for Christmas?

A shotgun something like yours, a big bobsled, some books, and a whole lot of other things. One book is on camping out, and he is just crazy to go. He says a fellow could camp out up at Pine Island, and have a bang-up time.

To be sure! ejaculated Joe, enthusiastically. Just the thing! If he goes Im going, too!

You dont know yet if father will let you go. He says no boy should go hunting without some old hunter with him.

Im seventeen, answered Joe, drawing himself up to his full height; he was rather tall for his age. And Fred is almost as old. I reckon we could take care of ourselves.

If I went Id like to take my camera, said Harry. I was reading an article in the paper the other day about how to hunt game with a snap-shot machine. That would just suit me. Think of what a famous collection of pictures I might get wild turkeys, deer and maybe a bear

If you met a bear I dont think youd stand to take his photograph. Ill wager youd leg it for all you were worth or else shoot at him. But come on. If skating is so good there is no use of our wasting time here talking, concluded Joe, as he moved off.

CHAPTER IV
SKATING

Lakeport was a thriving town with a large number of inhabitants. Early as it was many people were out, and nearly every passer-by was greeted with a liberal dose of snowballs, for the lads of this down-East town were as fun-loving as are boys anywhere, and to leave a good mark slip past unnoticed was considered nothing short of a crime.

When Joe and Harry reached the lake front they found a crowd of fully fifty men and boys, with a fair sprinkling of girls, engaged in skating and in ice-boating. The majority of the people were in the vicinity of the steamboat dock, for this was at the end of the main street, and a great hanging-out spot during the summer. But others were skating up the lake shore, and a few were following Dan Marcys new ice yacht, Silver Queen, as she tacked along on her way to the west shore, where an arm of the lake encircled the lower end of Pine Island.

Marcys going to try to beat the lake record, Joe heard one boy call to another. He says his new boat has got to knock the spots out of anything that ever sailed on the lake, or hell chop her up for firewood.

Well, shell have to hum along if she beats the time made by the old Whizzer last winter, came from the other boy. She sailed from the big pine to Halletts Point in exactly four minutes and ten seconds. My, but didnt she scoot along!

It took but a few minutes for Joe and Harry to don their skates. As they left the shore they ran into Fred Rush, who was swinging along as if his very life depended upon it.

Hello, so you fellows have come down at last! sang out Fred, who was short and stout, and as full of fun as a lad can be. Thought you had made up your mind to go to bed again, or stay home and look for more Christmas presents. Been having dead loads of fun had a race and come in second best, got knocked down twice, slipped on the ice over yonder, and got a wet foot in a hole some fellow cut, and Jerry Little hit me in the shin with his hockey stick. Say, but you fellows are positively missing the time of your lives.

I want to miss it, if Im going to have all those things happen to me, returned Joe, dryly. Then he added: Harry tells me you got a double-barreled shotgun almost like mine. How do you like it?

Like it? Say, that gun is the greatest thing that ever happened. I tried it just before I came down to skate fired both barrels at once, because I didnt have time to fire em separately. It knocked me flat, and a snowbank was all that saved my life. But shes a dandy. Im going to bring down a bear with that gun before the winter is over, you see if I dont.

How are you going to do it? put in Harry. Offer to let the animal shoot off the gun, and kill him that way?

Dont you make fun of me, Harry. Youll see the bear sooner or later, mark the remark.

The three boys skated off, hand in hand, with Fred in the center. The fun-loving youth was the only son of the town hardware dealer, and he and the Westmore lads had grown up together from childhood. At school Fred had proved himself far from being a dunce, but by some manner of means he was almost constantly in hot water; why, nobody could explain.

Let Fred Rush pick up a poker, and hell get the hot end in his hand, said one of the girls one day, and this remark came close to hitting the nail squarely on the head. Yet with all his trials and tribulations Fred rarely lost his temper, and he was always ready to promise better things for the future.

The boys skated a good half mile up the lake shore. At this point they met several girls, and one of them, Cora Runnell, asked Joe if he would fix her skate for her.

Certainly I will, replied the youth, and on the instant he was kneeling on the ice and adjusting a clamp that had become wedged fast to the shoe plate of the skate. Cora was the daughter of an old hunter and trapper of that vicinity, and as he worked Joe asked her what her father was doing.

He isnt doing anything just now, was the girls answer. He was out acting as a guide for a party of New York sportsmen, but they went back to the city last week.

Did you hear him say anything about game?

Yes, he said the season was a very good one. The party got six deer over at Rawson Hill and a moose at Benders, and any quantity of small game. I think pas going out alone in a day or two just to see what he can bring down for the market at Brookside.

I wish hed take me along. Ive got a new double-barreled shotgun that I want to try the worst way.

And Ive got one, too, broke in Fred. Im sure we could bring down lots of game between us.

Cora Runnell looked at the stout youth, and began to giggle. Oh, dear, if you went along I guess pad have to hide behind a tree when you took your turn at shooting.

Whoop, youre discovered, Fred! burst out Harry. Cora must have heard how you shot off both barrels at once, and

Oh, I can shoot straight enough, came doggedly from Fred. Just you give me the chance and see.

Well, youll have to see pa about going out with him, answered Cora, and then started to skate after her girl friends, who had moved off a minute before, and were getting farther and farther away.

Hi, there! came suddenly in a shout from the lake shore. Beware of the ice boat!

The ice boat? repeated Harry. Where Oh!

He glanced up the lake, and saw the Silver Queen coming along as swiftly as the stiff breeze could drive the craft over the glassy surface. The ice boat was headed directly for the three boys, but now the course was shifted slightly, and the craft pointed fairly and squarely for the spot where Cora Runnell was skating along, all unconscious of her danger.

By gracious, Dan Marcy will run Cora down! ejaculated Fred. He raised his voice to a yell. Stop! stop! you crazy fool! Do you want to kill somebody?

Save my girl! came from the shore. Cora! Cora! Look out for the ice boat! But the girl did not heed the warning, and now the ice boat, coming as swiftly as ever, was almost on top of her. Then the girl happened to glance back. She gave a scream, tried to turn, but slipped, and then sank in a heap directly in the track of the oncoming danger.

CHAPTER V
A QUARREL ON THE ICE

It was a moment of extreme peril, and the heart of more than one onlooker seemed to stop beating. The ice boat was a heavy affair, with runners of steel, and a blow from that bow, coming at such a speed, would be like a blow from a rushing locomotive. It looked as if Cora Runnell was doomed.

But as all of the others stood helpless with surprise and consternation, Joe Westmore dashed forward with a speed that astonished even himself. He fairly flew over the ice, directly for Cora, and, reaching the fallen girl, caught her by the left hand.

Quick! we must get out of the way! he cried, and without waiting to raise her to her feet he dragged her over the smooth ice a distance of four or five yards. Then the Silver Queen whizzed past, sending a little drift of snow whirling over them.

Git out of the way! came rather indistinctly from Dan Marcy. Cant you see Im trying to beat the record? And then he passed out of hearing.

Are you hurt? questioned Joe, as he assisted the bewildered girl to her feet.

I I guess not, Joe, she stammered. But, oh! what a narrow escape! And Cora shuddered.

Dan Marcy ought to be locked up for such reckless sailing.

I think so myself. Cora paused for a moment. It was awfully good of you to help me as you did, she went on, gratefully.

By this time the others were coming up, and the story of the peril and escape had to be told many times. Among the first to arrive was Joel Runnell, Coras father, who had shouted the warning from the shore. He had been out hunting, and carried an old-fashioned shotgun and a game bag full of birds.

Not hurt, eh? he said, anxiously. Thank fortune for that! Who was sailing that boat? And when told, he said he would settle with Marcy before the day was done. Cant none of em hurt my girl without hearing from me, he added.

The excitement soon died down, and the skaters scattered in various directions. In the meantime, to avoid being questioned about the affair, Dan Marcy, who was a burly fellow of twenty, and a good deal of a bully, turned his ice boat about, and went sailing up the lake once more.

Some of the lads on the lake were out for a game of snap the whip, and Joe, Harry and Fred readily joined in this sport. At the third snap, Fred was placed on the end of the line.

Oh, but we wont do a thing to Fred, whispered one of the boys, and word was sent along to make this snap an extra sharp one.

You cant rattle me! sang out Fred, as the skating became faster and faster. Im here every time, I am. Let her go, everybody, whoop! And then he had to stop talking, for he could no longer keep up. The line broke, and like a flash Fred spun around, lost his footing, and turned over and over, to bring up in a big snowbank on the shore.

Hello, Fred, where are you bound? sang out Harry.

Where where am I bound? spluttered the stout youth, as he emerged and cleaned the snow from out of his collar and sleeves. I dont know. He paused to catch his breath. Reckon Im in training for a trip to the North Pole.

Half an hour later found the Westmore boys at home for dinner. There was something of a family gathering this Christmas day, mostly elderly people, so neither Joe nor Harry had a chance to speak to their father about the hunting trip they had in mind. Everybody was in the best of humor, and the table fairly bent beneath the load of good things placed upon it turkey with cranberry sauce, potatoes, onions, squash, celery, and then followed pumpkin and mince pies, and nuts and raisins, until neither of the boys could eat a mouthful more. Both voted that Christmas dinner just boss, and the other folks agreed with them.

The middle of the afternoon found the lads at the lake again. It had clouded over once more, and they were afraid that another fall of snow might stop skating for several weeks, if not for the balance of the season.





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