Edward Stratemeyer.

The Gun Club Boys of Lakeport





CHAPTER VII
THE FIRST DAY IN CAMP

Got two, did you? came from Joel Runnell, when the party came up. Thats a good deal better than I looked for.

I hit a third, but it got away from me, said Fred.

You mustnt mind that. Ive seen young gunners go out more than once and not bring a thing down, returned the old hunter.

Once more the journey up the lake was resumed, and an hour later they came in sight of Pine Island; a long narrow strip of land, located half a mile off the western shore. The island lay low at either end, with a hill about a hundred feet high in the middle. On the hill there was a patch of trees that gave to the place its name, and trees of other varieties lined the shores, interspersed here and there with brushwood. There were half a dozen little coves along the eastern shore, and two small creeks near the southern extremity.

As the party drew closer to the island they saw that all the trees were heavily laden with snow, and many of the bushes were covered.

Pretty well snowed up, isnt it? remarked Joe.

Im going to take a picture of the island, said Harry, and proceeded to get out his camera, which was a compact affair, taking film pictures four by five inches in size.

Is the light strong enough? questioned Joe. I thought you had to have sunlight for a snapshot.

Ill give it a time exposure, Joe.

Fred, how long do you think it ought to have?

About ten seconds with a medium stop, was the reply.

The camera was set on the top of one of the sleds and properly pointed, and Joe timed the exposure. Then Harry turned the film roll around for picture number two.

Thats a good bit easier than a plate camera, came from Joel Runnell. I once went out with a man who had that sort. His plates weighed an awful lot, and he was always in trouble trying to find some dark place where he could fill his holders.

This camera loads in daylight; so Ill not have any trouble that way, said Harry. And I can take six pictures before I have to put in a new roll of films.

It was high noon when the upper end of Pine Island was gained. All of the party were hungry, but it was decided to move on to the lodge before getting dinner.

The lodge set back about a hundred feet from the edge of a cove, and ten minutes more of walking over the ice and through the deep snow brought them in sight of the building. It was a rough affair of logs, twenty by thirty feet in size, with a rude chimney at one end. There was a door and two windows, and the ruins of a tiny porch. Over all the snow lay to a depth of a foot or more.

Ive got a name for this place, said Joe. I dont think anything could be more appropriate than that of Snow Lodge.

That fits it exactly! cried Fred. Snow Lodge it is, eh, Harry?

Yes, thats all right, was the answer; and Snow Lodge it was from that moment forth.

There had been a padlock on the door, but this was broken off, so they had no difficulty in getting inside.

They found the lodge divided into two apartments, one with bunks for sleeping purposes, and the other, where the fireplace was, for a living-room. Through an open window and through several holes in the roof the snow had sifted, and covered the flooring as with a carpet of white.

Well have to clean up first of all, said Joe. No use of bringing in our traps until then.

Our first job is to clean off the roof and mend that, came from Joe Runnell. Then well be ready for the next storm when it comes. After that we can clean up inside and cut some firewood.

But dinner began Fred.

Ill cook the turkeys and some potatoes while the others fix the room, said Harry.

This was agreed to, and soon they had a fire blazing away in front of the lodge. To dry-pick the turkeys was not so easy, and all the small feathers had to be singed off. But Harry knew his business, and soon there was an appetizing odor floating to the noses of those on the roof of the lodge.

The young hunters thought the outing great sport, and while on the roof Joe and Fred got to snowballing each other. As a consequence, Joe received one snowball in his ear, and Fred, losing his balance, rolled from the roof into a snowbank behind the lodge.

Hi! hi! let up there! roared old Runnell. This isnt the play hour, lads. Work first and play afterward.

Its no play to go headfirst in that snowbank, grumbled Fred. Im as cold as an icicle!

All hands to dinner! shouted Harry. Dont wait come while everything is hot!

Right you are! came from Joe, as he took a flying leap from the roof to the side of the fire. Phew! but that turkey smells good, and so do the potatoes and coffee!

They were soon eating with the appetite that comes only from hours spent in the open air in winter. Everything tasted extra good, as Fred put it, and they spent a good hour around the fire, picking the turkey bones clean. The turkeys had not been large, so that the meat was extra tender and sweet.

The roof of the lodge had been thoroughly cleaned, and now the boys were set to work to clean out the interior, and to start a fire in the open fireplace. In the meantime Joel Runnell procured some long strips of bark, and nailed these over the holes he had discovered. Over the broken-out window they fastened a flap of strong, but thin, white canvas in such a manner that it could be pushed aside when not wanted, and secured firmly during the night or when a storm was on.

The roaring fire soon dried out the interior of the building, and made it exceedingly comfortable. The boys found several more cracks in the sides, and nailed bark over these.

Now for some firewood and pine boughs for the bunks, and then we can consider ourselves at home, said Joel Runnell. I know cutting firewood isnt sport, but its all a part of the outing.

Oh, I shant mind that a bit, replied Joe, and the others said the same.

Several small pine trees were handy, and from these old Runnell cut the softest of the boughs, and the boys arranged them in the bunks, after first drying them slightly before the fire. Over the boughs were spread the blankets brought along, and this furnished each with a bed, which, if not as comfortable as that at home, was still very good.

It will beat sleeping on a hard board all hollow, said Harry.

Next came the firewood; and this was stacked up close to the door of the lodge, while a fair portion was piled up in the living-room, for use when a heavy storm was on. Each of the boys chopped until his back fairly ached, but no one complained. It was so different, chopping wood for an outing instead of in the back yard at home!

And now for something for supper and for breakfast, said Joel Runnell, as the last stick was flung on the woodpile. Supposing we divide our efforts. Joe can go with me into the woods on a hunt, while Fred and Harry can chop a hole in the ice on the lake, and try their luck at fishing.

Just the thing! cried Fred. Wait and see the pickerel I haul in.

And the fish I catch, added Harry.

Will we have to lock up the lodge? asked Joe.

Hardly, answered the old hunter. I dont believe there is anybody, but ourselves inside of five miles of this spot.

The guns were ready, and Joel Runnell and Joe soon set off, for the short winter day was drawing to a close, and there was no time to lose. But the fishing outfits had still to be unpacked, and the boys had to find bait, so it was half an hour later before Fred and Harry could get away.

Arriving at the lake shore, the two would-be fishermen selected a spot that they thought looked favorable, and began to cut their hole. As the ice was fully sixteen inches thick this was no easy task. But at last the sharp ax cut through, and then it was an easy matter to make the hole large enough for both to try their luck.

Ill wager a potato that I get the first bite, observed Harry, as he threw in.

What odds are you giving on that bet? came from Fred.

I didnt think you were such small potatoes as to ask odds, was the quick answer; and then both lads laughed.

Fishing proved to be slow work, and both boys became very cold before Fred felt something on his line.

Hurrah, Ive got a bite! he shouted. Here is where I win that potato! And he hauled in rapidly.

Be careful that you dont lose your fish, cautioned Harry. We cant afford to lose anything just now.

Huh! dont you think I know how to fish? grunted Fred, and hauled in as rapidly as before. But then the game appeared to hold back, and he hardly knew what to do.

Coming in hard, he said, slowly. I think . Ah, Ive got him now! Here he comes! And then the catch did come a bit of brushwood, with several dead weeds clinging to it.

Thats a real fine fish, said Harry, dryly. What do you suppose hed weigh, in his own scales?

Oh, give us a rest!

The potato is yours, Fred. You can eat it for supper, along with that fine catch.

If you say another word, Ill pitch you into the hole!

I never saw a fish exactly like that one. Is it a stickleback, or a hand-warmer?

Fred did not answer, and Harry said no more, seeing that his chum did not relish the joke. Both baited up afresh, and this time Fred got a real bite, and landed a pickerel weighing close to a pound.

Now youre doing something! cried Harry, heartily. Ill give in, you are the best fisherman, after all.

It was blind luck, Harry. You may Youve got a bite!

Harry did have a bite, and the strain on the line told that his catch was a heavy one. He had to play his catch a little. Then it came up a fine lake bass twice the size of the pickerel.

After this the sport continued steadily, until the young fishermen had fourteen fish to their credit. In the meantime it had grown quite dark, and the air was filled with softly falling snowflakes.

I wonder if the others have got back to the lodge yet? said Fred.

It is not likely, Fred. That last shot we heard came from almost on top of the hill.

I hope theyve had good luck. It looks now as if we wouldnt be able to do much to-morrow.

Oh, this storm may not last. The wind isnt in the right direction. We may Hark!

The boys stopped short in their talk, and both listened intently. From a distance they could hear a faint cry:

Help! help!

It is Joe! ejaculated Harry. He is in trouble. We must go and see what is wrong!

And throwing down his line and his fish he bounded in the direction of the cry for assistance, with Fred at his heels.

CHAPTER VIII
WHAT HAPPENED AT NIGHT

We must go back to the time when Joe and old Runnell started away from Snow Lodge to see what game they could bring down for the next meal or two.

We havent any time to waste, said the old hunter, as they moved along. In an hour it will be too dark to shoot at a distance.

Shall we take snowshoes along? asked the youth.

Not worth while, lad. Well try those in the big forest over on the mainland later on.

The lodge was soon left behind, and old Runnell led the way through some brushwood that skirted the base of the hill.

There ought to be some rabbits around here, he said, and had scarcely spoken, when two rabbits popped into view. Bang! went his gun, and both were brought low by the scattering shot.

Gracious! but you were quick about that! cried Joe, enthusiastically.

You dont want to wait in hunting, Joe. Be sure of what you are shooting at, and then let drive as quick as you can pull trigger.

On they went, and a few rods farther scared up two other rabbits. Joe now tried his luck, Joel Runnell not firing on purpose. One of the rabbits fell dead, while the other was so badly lamed that Joe caught and killed him with ease.

Good enough! Now we are even! exclaimed the old hunter.

Do you think we shall find any large game here?

Hardly. If a deer was near by hed slide away in jig time as soon as he heard those shots. The most we can hope for are rabbits and birds.

I see a squirrel! cried Joe, a little later.

Watch where he goes, returned the old hunter. Ah, theres his tree.

Joe took aim, and the squirrel was brought down just as he was entering his hole. The tree was not a tall one, and Joel Runnell prepared to climb it.

What are you going to do that for? asked the youth.

For the nuts, Joe. Theyll make fine eating during the evenings around the fire.

It was an easy matter to clean out the hole in the tree after they had made sure that no other animals were inside. From the place they obtained several quarts of hickory and other nuts, all of which Joel Runnell poured into the game bag he had brought along.

This is easier than picking em from the trees, he remarked. And that squirrel will never need them now.

By the time the top of the hill was gained, it was almost dark, and the snow had begun to fall. At this point they scared up half a dozen birds, and brought down four. Joel Runnell also caught sight of a fox, but the beast got away before he could fire on it.

We may as well be getting back, said the old hunter. It is too dark to look for more game.

Suppose we separate? suggested Joe. I can take to the right, and you can go to the left. Perhaps one or the other will spot something before we get back to the lodge.

This was agreed to, and soon Joe found himself alone. As he hurried on as fast as the deep snow permitted, he heard Joel Runnell fire his gun twice in succession.

He has seen something, thought the youth. Hope I have equal luck.

He was still on high ground when he came to something of a gully. Here the rocks had been swept bare by the wind. As he leaped the gully something sprang up directly in front of him.

What the animal was Joe could not make out. But the unexpected appearance of the beast startled the young hunter, and he leaped back in astonishment. In doing this he missed his footing, and the next instant found himself rolling over the edge of the gully to a snow-covered shelf ten feet below.

Help! help! he cried, not once, but half a dozen times.

He had dropped his gun, and was now trying his best to cling fast to the slippery shelf. But his hold was by no means a good one, and he found himself slipping, slipping, slipping, until with a yell he went down, and down, into the darkness and snow far below.

In the meantime, not only Harry and Fred, but also Joel Runnell were hurrying to his assistance. But the darkness and the falling snow made the advance of the three slow. They came together long before the edge of the gully was reached.

Hello! cried the old hunter. Was that Joe calling?

It must have been, answered Harry. But where is he?

He wasnt with me. When we started back to the lodge we separated. I just shot another brace of squirrels, when I heard him yell.

I think the cry came from that direction, said Fred, pointing with his finger.

And I think it came from over there, said Harry, pointing in another direction.

I think Harry is right, said old Runnell. Go slow, boys. There are many pitfalls among the rocks.

He led the way, and they came after him, spreading out a distance of several rods. Presently they reached the gully, but not at the point where Joe had taken the fall.

Hello, Joe? Where are you? called Harry.

No answer came back, and the call was repeated several times. Not a sound broke the stillness of the evening.

Hes in trouble, that is certain, said Harry, looking more anxious every minute.

Perhaps he fell over the rocks, and broke his neck, put in Fred.

Oh, Fred, do you think he did?

Let us hope for the best, lads, broke in Joel Runnell.

If he wasnt badly hurt hed answer us, went on Harry. I wish we had the lantern.

Ill go back for it, said Fred, and hurried for the lodge without further words.

Joel Runnell had started along the edge of a ravine, with his face close to the rocks and snow. Now he came to a halt.

Here are some footprints, he declared. Wait till I strike a light.

He lit a match, and with this set fire to a dry pine bough. The footprints were there plain enough.

Joe! he called, sharply. Joe, are you below?

Yes, came faintly to his ears.

Hes here! shouted the old hunter.

Where? and now Harry came up quickly.

Hes down below.

Harry bent over the dark opening.

Joe, are you badly hurt? he questioned.

I I guess not. But my my wind is g-g-gone!

Well soon have you up.

We cant do it without a rope, said old Runnell. Better go back to the lodge for one.

Harry caught Fred just coming away with the lighted lantern. The rope was quickly procured, and both sped back to the gully. Then Harry was lowered, taking the light with him.

He found Joe sitting on a ledge of rocks, his feet in the snow. One hand was scratched and bleeding, and there was blood on one of his cheeks.

It was a nasty fall, I can tell you that, said Joe, when he felt able to talk. When I came down I thought it was all up with me.

You can be thankful you didnt break any bones, Joe, returned his brother, tenderly.

A sling was made, and Joe was hoisted up by old Runnell and Fred, and then Harry came up, carrying the shotgun. By this time it was pitch-dark on all sides, and the snow was coming down thickly.

Its good we have the lantern, observed Harry. It is going to be no easy job getting back to the lodge.

Joel Runnell led the way, and the boys followed, with Joe in the middle leaning on the others shoulders. Progress was slow, and it took the best part of an hour to reach Snow Lodge.

Jumping bullfrogs! if I didnt leave the door wide open! cried Fred, in consternation.

Well, well forgive you this time, laughed Joe Runnell. But dont let it happen again.

The lodge was cold, but with the door shut tight and a good fire the temperature soon arose. Then Fred slipped down to the lake, and brought in the fish that had been caught.

Not so bad, said the old hunter, as he looked the catch over. Reckon well have enough to eat for a day or two.

Before retiring that night Joe washed his bruises and bathed them with some arnica that was in the medicine case. This eased the wounds a great deal, and in a few days he felt as well as ever.

It snowed steadily the whole of the night, and toward morning the wind arose and sent the snow flying against the lodge until it was piled almost to the top of the door. The thermometer went down ten degrees, and all hands were glad enough to hug the fire.

Phew! but this storm is a corker, exclaimed Fred. Im glad we havent got to travel in it.

We neednt stir until it clears off, said Joel Runnell. That will give Joe a chance to mend.

Breakfast was late, and they took their own time in eating the fish and potatoes that had been prepared. After this they gazed out of the window for a while, and then sat down to play at dominoes and checkers, both games having been brought along by Fred for just such an emergency.

Yet with it all the day passed slowly, and the boys were not sorry when, at nightfall, the snowing ceased, and the wind also fell.

Its going to be a clear day to-morrow, the old hunter predicted. We ought to have some fine sport.

It was not yet nine oclock when the boys and the old hunter retired for the night. The fire was fixed with care, so that no sparks might set fire to the lodge.

It did not take long for the boys to get to sleep. Each occupied a separate bunk in the sleeping apartment, while old Runnell stretched himself on the floor in the living-room.

Fred had been asleep about an hour, when he awoke with a start. What had aroused him he could not tell, until a peculiar sensation along one of his lower limbs attracted his attention.

What in the world can that be? he asked himself. Am I getting a chill, or is it rheumatism?

He caught his breath, and on the instant his heart almost stopped beating from fright. Something was in the bunk; something that was crawling over his lower limbs and up to his breast!

Its a snake! he thought. Its a snake! If I dare to move it will sting me! Can it be a rattler?

He was on the point of screaming, but could not bring himself to do it. The cold beads of perspiration stood out on his forehead. In those few seconds he lived an hour of anguish. Then he made a swift clutch at the object through the blanket, and leaped out upon the floor.

A snake! A snake! he yelled. Help me! Shoot him, somebody! A snake has me by the leg! Hes stinging me this minute! Im a dead boy!





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14