The Gun Club Boys of Lakeportñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“We want to take the good of it while it lasts,” said Harry.
Dan Marcy was again out on his ice boat, and Joe and Harry, accompanied by Fred, followed the craft to a cove on the west shore. There seemed to be something the matter with the sail of the Silver Queen, and Marcy ran the craft into a snowbank for repairs.
“Say, what do you want around here?” demanded Dan Marcy, as soon as he caught sight of the Westmore boys. His face wore an ugly look, and his tone of voice was far from pleasant.
“I don’t know as that is any of your business, Dan Marcy,” returned Joe.
“Ain’t it? We’ll see. I understand you’ve been telling folks that I tried to run into you and that Runnell girl on purpose.”
“You didn’t take much care to keep your ice boat out of the way.”
“It was your business to keep out of the way. You knew I was trying to beat the record?”
“Do you own the lake?” came from Harry.
“Maybe you’ve got a mortgage on the ice?” put in Fred.
Now the year before, Dan Marcy had been in the ice business, and had made a failure of it, and this remark caused him to look more ugly than ever.
“See here, for two pins I’d pitch into the lot of you, and give you a sound thrashing!” he roared.
“Would you?” came sharply from Joe. “Sorry I haven’t the pins.”
“I’ll give you an order on our servant girl for two clothespins, if they’ll do,” put in Fred.
“Then you want that thrashing, do you?” growled Dan Marcy; but as he looked at the three sturdy lads he made no movement to begin the encounter.
“If anybody needs a thrashing it is you, for trying to run down Cora Runnell,” said Joe. “It was a mean piece of business, and you know it as well as we do.”
“You shut up, Joe Westmore!” Marcy picked up a hammer with which he had been driving one of the blocks of the sail. “Say another word, and I’ll crack you with this!” He advanced so threateningly that Joe fell back a few steps. As he did this, a form appeared on the lake shore, and an instant later Dan Marcy felt himself caught by the collar and hurled flat on his back.
“I reckon as how this is my quarrel,” came in the high-pitched voice of Joel Runnell. “I’ve been looking for you for the past hour, Dan Marcy. I’ll teach you to run down my girl. If it hadn’t a-been for Joe Westmore she might have been killed.”
“Let go!” roared Marcy, and scrambled to his feet, red with rage. He rushed at the old hunter with the hammer raised as if to strike, but before he could land a blow, Joe caught hold of the tool and wrenched it from his grasp.
“Give me that hammer! Do you hear? I want that hammer!” went on the bully. Then he found himself on his back a second time, with his nose bleeding profusely from a blow Joel Runnell had delivered.
“Have you had enough?” demanded the old hunter, wrathfully. “Have you? If not, I’ll give you some more in double-quick order.”
“Don’t – don’t hit me again,” gasped Dan Marcy.
All his courage seemed to desert him. “It ain’t fair to fight four to one, nohow!”
“I can take care of you alone,” retorted Joel Runnell, quickly. “I asked you if you had had enough. Come, what do you say?” And the old hunter held up his clinched fists.
“I – I don’t want to fight.”
“That means that you back down. All right. After this you let my girl alone – and let these lads alone, too. If you don’t, you’ll hear from me in a way you won’t like.”
There was an awkward pause, and Dan Marcy wiped the blood from his face, and shoved off on his ice boat.
“We’ll see about this some other time,” he called out when at a safe distance. “I shan’t forget it, mind that!”
“He’s a bully if there ever was one,” observed Harry.
“And a coward into the bargain,” put in Joel Runnell. “Watch out for him, or he may play you foul.”
“I certainly shall watch him after this,” said Joe.
“We’re glad you came along,” came from Fred. “We want to ask you something about hunting. I’ve got a new double-barreled shotgun and so has Joe, and we want to go out somewhere and try for big game.”
“And I’ve got a new camera, and I want to get some pictures of live game,” added Harry.
“You can’t get any big game around Lakeport. If you want anything worth while you’ll have to go out for several days or a week.”
“We’re willing to go out as long as our folks will let us,” explained Harry. “We haven’t said much about it yet, for we wanted to see you.”
“We thought you might like to take us out, or rather go with us,” came from Joe. “If you’d go with us we’d pay the expenses of the trip, and give you your full share of whatever game we managed to bring down.”
At this Joel Runnell’s gray eyes twinkled. He loved boys, and knew the lads before him very well. All the powder and shot he used came from Mr. Rush’s hardware establishment, and his flour from the Westmore mill, and he was always given his own time in which to pay for the articles. Moreover, he was not the one to forget the service Joe had rendered his daughter.
“I’ll go out with you willingly,” he said. “I’ll show you all the big game I can, and what you bring down shall be yours.”
“Hurrah! It’s settled!” cried Fred, throwing up his cap. “We’ll have just the best time that ever was!”
“Where do you want to go to?”
“I was thinking of camping out up on Pine Island,” answered Harry. “But of course we have got to see my father about it first.”
“Pine Island is a nice place. There is an old lodge up there – put up five years ago by some hunting men from Boston. It’s a little out of repair, but we could fix it up, and then use that as a base of supplies.”
“Just the thing!” said Joe, enthusiastically. “If we liked it would you stay out with us for two or three weeks?”
“To be sure. There is a little game on the island, and we could easily skate to shore when we wished. When do you want to go?”
“As soon as we get permission,” said Harry. “We’ll find out about it to-morrow.”
After that the boys could talk of nothing but the proposed outing and what they hoped to bring down in the way of game. Harry wanted pictures worse than he wanted to bring down game; nevertheless, he said he would take along a gun and a pistol. “Then I can snapshot my bear first, and shoot him afterward,” he said.
It was not until the day after Christmas that the Westmore lads got a chance to speak to their parents about what was uppermost in their minds. At first Mrs. Westmore was inclined to demur, but her husband said the outing might do their sons some good.
“And they couldn’t go out with a better fellow than Joel Runnell,” added Mr. Westmore. “They’ll be as safe with him as they would be with me.”
As soon as it was settled that they were really to go, Harry rushed over to Fred’s house. Fred had already received permission to go, and now all they had to settle on was the time for their departure and what was to be taken along. Christmas had fallen on Thursday, and it was decided to leave home on the following Monday morning, weather permitting. As to the stores to be taken along, that was to be left largely to the judgment of Joel Runnell and to Mr. Westmore, who also knew a good bit about hunting and life in camp.
ORGANIZING THE CLUB
“Boys, we’ve got to organize a club,” said Joe, as they were talking the matter over, and getting one thing and another ready for the trip.
“Just the thing!” shouted Fred. “Let us organize by all means.”
“What shall we call ourselves?” queried Harry. “The Outdoor Trio.”
“Or the Forest Wanderers,” came from Joe.
“Bosh!” interrupted Fred. “We’re going out with guns. You’ve got to put a gun in the name.”
“How will Young Gunners do?”
“Gun Boys of Lakeport.”
“Young Hunters of the Lake.”
“Yes, but if we can’t make any bull’s-eyes, what then?”
There was a general hubbub and then a momentary silence.
“I’ve got it,” said Joe. “Let us call ourselves The Gun Club. That’s a neat name.”
“Hurrah for the Lakeport Gun Club!” shouted Fred. “Three cheers and a tiger! Sis-boom-ah! Who stole the cheese?”
There was a general laugh, in the midst of which Laura Westmore came up.
“Gracious sake! what a noise you’re making! What is it all about?”
“We’ve just organized the Gun Club of Lakeport,” answered Harry.
“Indeed. And who is president, who is vice president, who is secretary, and who is treasurer?”
At this the three lads looked glum for a moment. Then Joe made a profound bow to his sister.
“Madam, we scarcely need so many officers,” he said, sweetly. “We’ll elect a leader and a treasurer, and that will be sufficient. You can be the secretary – to write up our minutes after we get home and tell you what happened.”
“I move we make Joe leader,” said Fred.
“Second the commotion,” responded Harry, gravely. “’Tis put and carried instanter. Mr. Joseph Westmore is elected to the high and dignified office of president, etc., of the Gun Club of Lakeport. The president will kindly deliver his speech of acceptance at the schoolhouse during next summer’s vacation. He can treat with doughnuts – ”
“Just as soon as his sister consents to bake them for him,” finished Fred.
At this Laura burst out laughing. “I’ll treat to doughnuts on one condition,” she said.
“Condition granted,” cried Fred. “What is it?”
“That you make me an honorary member of the club.”
“Put and carried, madam, put and carried before you mentioned it. That makes you the secretary sure.”
And Laura accepted the position, and the boys got their doughnuts ere the meeting broke up.
The news soon spread that the Gun Club of Lakeport had been organized. Many boys who possessed guns asked if they could join, and half a dozen were taken in. But of these none could go on the outing as planned, although they said they would try to join the others just as soon as they could get away.
“I’ll tell you one thing I am going to take along,” said Harry. “That is a pair of snowshoes.”
“Right you are,” returned Fred. “Never had so much fun in my life as when I first put on those things. I thought I knew it all, and went sailing down a slide about a mile a minute, until one shoe got caught in a bush, and then I flew through the air for about ’steen yards and landed on my head kerbang! Oh, they are heaps of fun – when somebody else wears ’em.”
It was decided that all should take snowshoes. In addition they were to take their firearms, plenty of powder and shot, a complete set of camp cooking utensils and dishes, some coffee, sugar, condensed milk, flour, bacon, salt pork, beans and potatoes, salt and pepper, and half a dozen other things for the table. Mr. Rush likewise provided a small case of medicines and a good lantern, and from the Westmore household came the necessary blankets. Each lad was warmly dressed, and carried a change of underwear.
“It is going to be no easy work transporting that load to Pine Island,” observed Harry, gazing at the stores as they lay in a heap on the barn floor at his parents’ place.
“We are to take two low sleds,” answered Fred. “We have one and Joel Runnell will furnish the other.”
The sleds were brought around Saturday morning, and by afternoon everything was properly loaded. Joel Runnell examined the new shotguns with care and pronounced each weapon a very good one.
“And I hope you have lots of sport with ’em,” he added.
Late Saturday evening Harry was sent from home to the mill to bring over a sack of buck-wheat flour his mother desired. On his way he passed Fred’s home, and the latter readily agreed to accompany his chum on the errand.
The promise of more snow had not yet been fulfilled, and the night was a clear one, with the sky filled with countless stars.
“I only hope it stays clear,” said Fred. “That is, until we reach the lodge on the island. After that I don’t care what happens.”
“It might not be so jolly to be snowed in – if we run short of provisions, Fred.”
“Oh, old Runnell will be sure to keep the larder full. He told me that the woods are full of wild turkeys and rabbits.”
Having procured the sack of flour and placed it on a hand sled, the lads started on the return. On the way they had to pass a small clump of trees, back of which was located the district schoolhouse. As they paused to rest in the shadow of the trees they noted two men standing in the entryway of the schoolhouse conversing earnestly.
“Wonder who those men are?” said Harry.
“It’s queer they should be there at this hour,” returned Fred. “Perhaps they are up to no good.”
“They wouldn’t get much if they robbed the place,” laughed Harry. “A lot of worn-out books and a stove that isn’t worth two dollars as old iron.”
“Let’s go a little closer, and see who they are anyway.”
This was agreed to, and both boys stole along through the trees, and up to the side of the entryway. From this point they could not see the men, but could hear them talking in earnest tones, now high and then very low.
“It ain’t fair to be askin’ me fer money all the time,” they heard one man say. “I reckoned as how I’d settled in full with ye long ago.”
“It ain’t so, Hiram Skeetles,” was the reply in Dan Marcy’s voice. “I did you a big service, and what you’ve paid ain’t half of what I ought to have.”
“It’s more’n you ought to have. Them papers wasn’t of no account, anyway.”
“Maybe – but you were mighty anxious to get ’em when – ” And the boys did not catch what followed.
“And that’s the reason,” came presently from Hiram Skeetles.
“Do you mean to say you lost ’em?” demanded Dan Marcy.
“One day when I was sailin’ down the lake in Jack Lasher’s sloop. We got ketched by a squall that drove us high and dry on Pine Island. I jumped to keep from getting hurt on the rocks, and when we got off after the storm my big pocketbook with everything in it was gone.”
“Humph!” came in a sniff from Dan Marcy. “Do you expect me to believe any such fish story? Not much! I want fifty dollars, and I am bound to have it.”
A long wrangle followed, in which the bully threatened to expose Hiram Skeetles. This angered the real estate dealer from Brookside exceedingly.
“If you’re a natural born idiot, expose me,” he cried. “But you’ll have to expose yourself fust.”
Dan Marcy persisted, and at last obtained ten dollars. Then the men prepared to separate, and in a few minutes more each was gone.
“Now what do you make of that?” questioned Fred.
“I hardly know what to make of it,” replied Harry. “But I am going to tell my father about this just as soon as I get home.”
Harry was as good as his word, and Horace Westmore listened attentively to what his son had to relate.
“It is certainly very mysterious,” said Mr. Westmore. “The papers that were mentioned may have been those which your grandfather once possessed – those which showed that he was the owner of the land at the upper end of the lake which Skeetles declares is his property. Then again the papers may be something entirely different.”
“I think we ought to watch Dan Marcy, father.”
“Yes, I’ll certainly watch him after this.”
“You haven’t been able to do much about the land, have you?”
“I can’t do a thing without the papers – the lawyers have told me so.”
“If old Skeetles lost them we couldn’t make him give them up, even on a search warrant.”
“That is true. But they may not have been lost even though he said so. He may have them hidden away where nobody can find them,” concluded Mr. Westmore.
Sunday passed quietly enough, the lads attending church with their families, and also going to Sunday school in the afternoon. In the evening Joel Runnell dropped in on the Westmores to see that everything was ready for an early start the next morning.
“Funny thing happened to me,” said the old hunter. “I was over to the tavern Saturday night, and met Hiram Skeetles there. He asked me how matters were going, and I mentioned that I was to take you fellows up to Pine Island for a hunt. He got terribly excited, and said you had no right to go up there.”
“Had no right?” questioned Joe. “Why not?”
“He claims that Pine Island belongs to his family, being a part of the old Crawley estate. But I told him that old Crawley didn’t leave the island to him, and he had better mind his own business,” went on Joel Runnell. “We had some hot words, and he flew out of the tavern madder nor a hornet.”
“Can he stop us, do you think?”
“He shan’t stop me, and I shall protect you boys. Crawley was only a fourth-handed relation of his, and the property is in the courts, and has been for three years. At the most, Skeetles ain’t got more’n a sixth interest in it. Sheriff Cowles is taking care of it.”
This news made the boys wonder if Hiram Skeetles would really try to prevent their going to the island, but when the time came to start on the trip the real estate dealer was nowhere to be seen.
“Gone back to Brookside,” said a neighbor. “He got word to come at once.”
Down at the lake there were a dozen or more friends to see them off, including Cora Runnell, who came to say good-by to her father. The start was made on skates, and it was an easy matter to drag the two heavily loaded sleds over the smooth ice.
“Good-by, boys; take good care of yourselves,” said Mr. Westmore.
“Don’t let a big buck or a bear kill you,” said Mr. Rush to Fred, and then with a laugh and a final handshake the hunting tour was begun.
As the party moved up the lake they noticed that the Silver Queen was nowhere in sight. Dan Marcy had failed to break the record with his new ice boat and had hauled her over to a carpenter shop for alterations.
“I don’t believe he is doing a stroke of regular work,” observed Joe. “If he keeps on he will become a regular town loafer. He has already gone through all the money, his folks left him.”
There was no sunshine, but otherwise the atmosphere was clear, and as the wind was at their backs they made rapid progress in the direction of Pine Island. The lodge which Joel Runnell had mentioned was situated near the upper shore, so that they would have to skirt the island for over a mile before reaching the spot.
Inside of an hour they had passed out of sight of Lakeport, and now came to a small island called the Triangle, for such was its general shape. Above the Triangle the lake narrowed for the distance of half a mile, and here the snow had drifted in numerous ridges from a foot to a yard high.
“This isn’t so nice,” observed Harry, as they tugged at the ropes of the sleds.
“I’ll go ahead and break the way,” said Joel Runnell, and then he continued, suddenly, “There is your chance!”
“Chance for what?” asked Harry.
“Chance for wild turkeys. They’ve just settled in the woods on the upper end of the Triangle.”
“Hurrah!” shouted Joe. “Where is my gun?”
He had it out in an instant, and Fred and Harry followed suit – the latter forgetting all about his precious camera in the excitement.
“You can go it alone this time,” said the old hunter. “Show me what you can do. I’ll watch the traps.”
In a moment they were off, and five minutes of hard skating brought them to the shore of the Triangle. Here they took off their skates, and then plunged into the snow-laden thickets.
“Make no noise!” whispered Joe, who was in advance. “Wild turkeys are hard to get close to.”
“Oh, I know that,” came from Fred. “I’ve tried it more than half a dozen times.”
As silently as ghosts the three young hunters flitted through the woods, each with his gun before him, ready for instant use.
Presently they saw a little clearing ahead, and Joe called a halt. They listened intently and heard the turkeys moving from one tree to another.
“Now then, watch out – and be careful how you shoot,” cautioned Joe, and moved out into the open.
A second later he caught sight of a turkey, and blazed away. The aim was true, and the game came down with a flutter. Then Harry’s gun rang out, followed by a shot from Fred. Two more turkeys had been hit, but neither was killed.
“They mustn’t get away!” cried Fred, excitedly, and blazed away once more. But his aim was wild, and the turkey was soon lost among the trees in the distance.
Harry was more fortunate, and his second shot landed the game dead at his feet. Joe tried for a second turkey, but without success.
“Never mind, two are not so bad,” said Harry, “It’s a pity you didn’t get yours,” he went on, to Fred.
“Oh, I’ll get something next time, you see if I don’t,” replied the stout youth. “I don’t care for small game, anyway. A deer or a bear is what I am after.”
“Well, I hope you get all you want of deer and bear,” put in Joe; and then they hastened to rejoin Joel Runnell, and resume the journey.
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