Edward Stratemeyer.

The Gun Club Boys of Lakeport





You aint?

No. The old hunter sat down by the fire, with his gun across his knees. Now, what are you going to do about it?

Did you see the notice I had Dan Marcy leave?

I did; but that counts for nothing with me.

Ill have the law on ye!

Perhaps you will, and perhaps you wont, Hiram.

Dont Hiram me, Joel Runnell. I dont put myself on a level with a vagabond o a game stealer like you. If

Hold on there, Skeetles. I am no game stealer, and if you say so The old hunter had leaped up, gun in hand.

Dont dont ye shoot me! howled the real estate dealer.

Then dont say such things again. Every bit of game I bring in I come by honestly.

Where are those Westmore chaps? questioned Hiram Skeetles, deeming it best to shift the subject.

They have gone out to bring in some game we shot yesterday.

Did they see the notice?

They did, and they care for it as little as I do.

Think they can ride over me, eh? Hiram Skeetles took a turn up and down the apartment. Must say the lot of ye are carryin matters with a high hand.

What did you do with Dan Marcy? asked Joel Runnell, suddenly.

Thats my business.

If you brought him along to worry us you did a very foolish thing, went on the old hunter. I havent forgotten how he tried to run down my girl with his ice boat.

Your gal had a right to git out o the way.

I wont argue the point. But if Marcy worries me any more hell get something he wont like.

Well see about this. Ill call on the sheriff, said Hiram Skeetles; and without another word he passed out of the lodge, and made his way toward the upper end of the lake.

Anxious to learn what would be the mans next move, Joel Runnell followed. But Skeetles broke into a run, and soon disappeared from view among a patch of woods.

In thoughtful mood the old hunter walked back to the lodge, and then toward where Fred was fishing. He found the youth safe, and surprised to learn that the real estate dealer had showed himself in that out-of-the-way place.

He doesnt like it that Joe and Harry are here, said Fred. I really think hes afraid theyll find that pocketbook he says he once lost.

I hope they do find it if its got those missing papers in it, was the answer.

Fred had already caught several fish, and said he intended to catch as many more before he quit, no matter how cold it grew.

Ill show them that I can catch fish even if Im no good at deer hunting, he explained.

Have you seen anything in the shape of game since you came down?

I saw something that looked like a black bear. But he didnt come near here.

A bear? Where?

Fred pointed out the direction, and Joel Runnell started off to see if the report was true. But he could find nothing, and in half an hour he returned.

You must have been mistaken, Fred.

Perhaps it was nothing but a shadow.

Well, I was busy fishing, and didnt notice particularly, returned the boy.

He said he wanted to catch just two fish more, and would then return to the lodge.

All right, but dont get frozen stiff doing it, answered Joel Runnell.

When do you think Joe and Harry will return?

They ought to be along inside of an hour. Theyll find that load a pretty heavy one.

I heard some shooting over there a while ago. But it has stopped now.

To warm himself, the old hunter walked briskly in the direction of Snow Lodge. He felt uneasy; why, he could not explain.

Those boys may have gotten into trouble, he thought. Perhaps I had better slip after them and find out.

As he came in sight of the lodge an exclamation of astonishment burst from his lips. All of their traps and stores had been tumbled in a heap on the edge of the clearing, and the door was tightly closed, and the broken-out window partly barred.

This is Skeetles work! he muttered.

Stop where you are! came in the real estate dealers voice, as Runnell walked to the door and tried it, to find it locked. If you attempt to come in youll get shot.

Thats the talk, was added by Dan Marcy. Possession is nine points of the law, and we want you to take your stuff and be gone!

But see here began Joel Runnell.

We wont argy with ye! snarled Hiram Skeetles, as he appeared at the window, gun in hand. Clear out, an be quick about it.

Joel Runnell was about to say something far from complimentary to the pair, when a yell from the lake shore reached his ears. Fred was running toward him with a face full of fear.

The bear! The bear! he yelled. Hes after me!

CHAPTER XII
DRIVEN FROM THE LODGE

As soon as he heard Freds cry, Joel Runnell forgot for the time being his trouble with Hiram Skeetles and Dan Marcy.

A bear? he repeated. Where is he?

Hes coming right after me! yelled the stout youth. Shoot him, or well both be chewed up!

The old hunter had his rifle in his hands, and now he ran to meet Fred, who was coming up with his fishing rod and a string of fish. The stout youth was tremendously excited, and, reaching the pile of traps on the ground, he went sprawling headlong, while his catch scattered in all directions.

I see him! exclaimed Joel Runnell, as the bear came into view, a shaggy black fellow, weighing several hundred pounds. The animal was among the trees, and to get a fair shot at the creature was next to impossible.

Boy and beast had come up to Snow Lodge on the side upon which the partly barred window was located, so it was easy for Hiram Skeetles and Dan Marcy to note what was taking place without exposing themselves to danger.

Is it really a bear? questioned the real estate dealer, in a nervous voice.

It is, announced Marcy. And a right big fellow, too. Like as not hell give em a stiff fight. He looks hungry enough to tackle most anything.

Do you er think he can get in here?

Not unless he comes in by this window, and we can shoot him if he tries that.

Let us try to close up the opening, came from Hiram Skeetles, and he hurried to the pile of wood to get a stick for that purpose.

In the meantime the bear had reached the edge of the clearing, and there he stood, upright, viewing the situation. The smell of fish was tantalizing to his empty stomach, but the sight of two human beings instead of one made him hold back.

Bringing up his rifle, Joel Runnell took the best aim possible and fired. When the smoke cleared away, it was seen that the bear had been hit in the front leg, but not seriously wounded. With a growl of pain and rage, the disappointed beast dropped on all fours, turned, and sped into the woods with all the speed at his command.

Whe where is he? Did you kill him? gasped Fred, as he scrambled to his feet.

No; I only wounded him, was the answer, as the old hunter reloaded the rifle with all speed. Wait here until I see if I cant lay him low.

But supposing he comes back here?

Ill be on his heels. You can take your shotgun and climb into a tree if you wish.

Without another word Joel Runnell ran off in the direction the bear had taken, and soon the trees, bushes and deep snow hid him completely from view.

Its funny he told me to climb a tree, mused Fred. Its a good deal safer in the lodge than anywhere else, and a heap sight warmer, too, and picking up his fish, he started to go forward, when he stopped short and gazed at the traps and stores in astonishment. What on earth made Runnell throw these things out? he mused.

Keep back there, Fred Rush! came in Dan Marcys voice from the lodge window. You cant come in here, nohow!

Hello! ejaculated Fred. So you are back. Did you throw out our things in this fashion?

We did, put in Hiram Skeetles. And what is more, they are going to stay out. Weve given you warning, and now I want the whole crowd of ye to clear out.

Well, I never! gasped the stout youth. Of all the cheeky things to do

It wasnt cheeky at all, interrupted the real estate dealer. As I told Runnell, this is my land, and I wont have none o ye on it.

Wont you let me in to warm myself?

No.

Then all Ive got to say, Hiram Skeetles, is that you are a brute.

I dont want none o your talk, Fred Rush.

You claim to own this island, but we dont think so, any more than we think you own the old Anderson claim.

This latter remark appeared to make Hiram Skeetles furious.

Bringin that up again, eh? he shouted. I reckon as how them Westmore boys set ye up to it. But I know whats mine, and I intend to keep it. Now you clear out, and be mighty quick about it.

What will you do if I dont go?

Ill make it warm, I can tell ye that!

Skeetles showed his gun, and Dan Marcy exhibited a pistol, and, alarmed at the unexpected show of firearms, Fred dropped back to the place where the stores had been placed.

As he could not get into the lodge, Fred decided to follow Joel Runnells advice and take to a tree. Armed with several blankets, he climbed into a pine and made himself as comfortable as possible. The storm that had threatened now started, the flakes of snow coming down softly, and growing thicker and thicker every minute.

This will make it bad for Joe and Harry, thought Fred. Theyll have their own troubles getting back to camp if it snows too hard.

From a distance he heard a rifle shot, proving that Joel Runnell was still following the bear. But after that all was quiet for a good hour.

By that time Fred was hungry, and climbing down to the ground, he procured such things from the stores as were ready to eat. He was just finishing a cracker when Joel Runnell came into view.

Did you shoot him? asked the youth, eagerly.

No, he got away among the rocks, was Joel Runnells reply. I might have tracked him farther, but I was afraid of falling into some pit, the snow is that thick. I reckon this is going to be the banner storm of the season. How did you make out with Skeetles and Marcy?

I made out and thats all, grinned Fred. They wont let me come near the cabin.

I thought as much, and as I came along I picked out a new spot for a shelter providing you and the others want to stay on the island.

We cant leave until Joe and Harry come back. If we do, they wont know where to look for us.

Just my idee, Fred. Well go down close to the shore. Then they cant miss us when they come over.

They ought to be here by this time.

Perhaps they got on the track of more game.

Without delay the stores and traps were packed on the two sleds, and the pair started away from Snow Lodge. From the window Hiram Skeetles and Dan Marcy watched them with interest.

Dont ye dare to stay on the island! shouted the real estate dealer after them. If ye do, Ill have the law on ye!

Oh, give us a rest! retorted Fred. Perhaps well have the law on you before this affair is finished.

Ive got my rights

And so have we, and the Westmores have got theirs, too. Some day theyll find those missing papers, and then you may hear a thing or two, and with this parting shot Fred moved off with one sled, while old Runnell moved off with the other.

Ha! did you hear that? gasped Hiram Skeetles, clutching Marcy by the arm. Do you think

Oh, dont get scared, came from the bully. They dont know any more about those papers than they know about the man in the moon.

But they might have heard of my loss

No, I think it was only a bluff, Hiram. Theyll leave to-day or to-morrow, and that will be the end of it.

I hope they do leave, sighed the real estate dealer. I wont feel safe so long as they are on the island.

Do you remember the place where you dropped your pocketbook?

Not the exact spot. I was all shook up by the storm, and had a splittin headache. I looked around for half a day, but it was no use.

Maybe the pocketbook and the papers went to the bottom of the lake.

Id rather have that happen than that they should run across those papers, answered Skeetles, with another sigh.

The spot Joel Runnell had chosen for a new camp was located not far from where Fred had been fishing. Here a clump of pines overhung a hollow several yards wide, and sloping off toward the lake shore. To the north of the hollow were a series of rocks, that, along with the pines, cut off a good portion of the wind and the snow.

Ill cut a few saplings, and throw them over the hollow, and over them we can place a double blanket and some pine boughs, said Joel Runnell. Then we can clean out the place and start a fire near the doorway, and well be almost as comfortable as at the lodge.

They kept one of the deer on us. I think that was cheeky.

Never mind, we have the other, and well have two more when Joe and Harry get back. I dont think they took anything else.

But in this the old hunter was mistaken. Skeetles and Marcy had helped themselves to a little of almost all the stores, but had not taken sufficient of any particular article to make it noticeable.

It took over an hour to get the shelter into shape. Then the fire was started between two large rocks, and here they proceeded to broil several of the fish, and also set a pot of beans to baking as soon as one of the rocks was hot enough.

Its queer that Joe and Harry dont show themselves, was Freds comment, while they were eating. In such a storm as this they ought to know enough to hurry back.

Ill wait a little longer and see if they dont turn up, Fred. They may have found the load heavier than they calculated on. Remember, too, its quite a distance to where we left those deer hanging.

What do you think those shots meant?

I cant say, except that they might have brought down some more small game, maybe a partridge or some rabbits.

Having finished the repast, both set to work to chop firewood, for it was easier to do this than to drag it from the pile at the lodge.

It galls me to think theyll use up what we cut, grumbled Fred. But Im going to get square sometime, you see if I dont!

I think, according to law, we could make em pay for that venison, returned Joel Runnell. But I reckon it aint worth going to law about. We can decide on whats best to do after Joe and Harry get back.

Slowly the afternoon wore away. In the meantime the sky grew darker, and the snow came down so thickly that but little could be seen in any direction.

I must say I dont like this, remarked the old hunter, with a grave shake of his head. Reckon I had best go across the lake and see what has become of those lads. You wont mind staying here alone, will you?

Fred did mind not having forgotten about the bear. But he hesitated to say so, and put on a bold front.

Go ahead, but dont stay away any longer than is necessary, he said, and a few minutes later Joel Runnell departed on his search for the missing ones.

CHAPTER XIII
LOST IN A BLIZZARD

To Joe and Harry the sight of so many half-starved wolves was certainly a dismaying one. They were vicious-looking creatures, and the fact that the first arrivals had quickly devoured the beast they had brought low proved that they would stop at nothing in order to satisfy their hunger.

Without wasting words, each of the youths fired into the pack, and by good luck two more of the creatures were killed. The others retreated for a minute, but then came forward once more, to rend the dead bodies and snarl and fight over the choicest pieces.

That was lucky, said Joe. But those dead ones wont last long.

What had we best do? questioned his brother. Run for it, or climb into the tree?

Before an answer could be given to this query three of the wolves advanced on the lads, snarling more savagely than ever. Not wishing to be attacked before he could re-load, Harry leaped up into the lower branches of the tree in which the two deer still hung. Joe followed, and both climbed still higher out of harms way. More wolves came up, until eight were stationed at the foot of the tree, all snarling and yelping and leaping, their polished teeth showing plainly, and their eyes reflecting the cruelty of their natures.

We are in a pickle now, and no error! groaned Harry. What in the world are we to do next?

Well, I reckon you can take another snap shot if you wish, answered Joe, dryly.

This is no joking matter, Joe. I feel like smashing my camera over their heads.

The best thing we can do is to stay here.

Im going to kill another wolf or two if I can.

Harry re-loaded and took careful aim at the largest wolf in the pack. But the beast was wary, and just as the young hunter pulled the trigger it leaped to one side, so that the shot flew wide of its mark, striking another wolf in the tail, causing an added howl of pain and rage, but no serious damage.

After that the wolves seemed inclined to keep their distance. Occasionally one would draw closer, with nose uplifted, sniffing the blood of the deer, but as soon as one or the other of the lads raised his gun the beast would slink back behind a tree, bush, or rock.

I guess they are going to play a waiting game, said Joe, after a dreary half hour had passed.

Do you think they expect us to come down?

They know we wont want to remain up here forever.

If we only had something with which to scare them.

Perhaps we can fix up something.

What do you mean?

I was thinking of those deer. What have you got in the way of powder and shot?

Harry showed his store, and Joe looked over what he possessed.

Well fix em, said Joe, getting out his knife.

With great care he cut a chunk of venison, and wrapped it in a piece of the deer skin. Inside of the skin he placed a quantity of powder and shot, and to this added a fuse, a rude affair, but one that looked as if it might burn. Then he cut several other pieces of venison.

Now feed these to the wolves, one at a time, he said to his brother.

Harry understood, and threw one of the bits far out from the tree. A wolf came and sniffed at it, and then began to eat. Another bit brought several other of the beasts up, and then the whole pack crowded up close.

Now then, take that, and see how you like it! cried Joe, and, lighting the fuse, he threw the big piece down in the very center of the pack. Now use your gun, Harry! he cried, and snatched up his own firearm.

There was a moment of suspense, and then bang! went the charge in the venison, causing several of the wolves to fall back badly wounded. An instant later crack! crack! went the two shotguns of the young hunters.

When the smoke cleared away it was found that three of the wolves were dead, and two others were seriously, if not mortally, wounded. The slaughter thoroughly scared those which remained, and in a twinkling they turned and disappeared into the forest, some howling and yelping as they ran.

That is the time we did it! cried Joe. Theyve learned a lesson they wont forget.

Will they come back?

I hardly think so. Runnell told me once that when a wolf is thoroughly scared hell run for miles before he stops.

The wounded beasts were drawing away as fast as their hurts would permit, and in a few minutes only the dead animals were in sight. With caution the young hunters descended to the ground and looked around among the trees.

They are gone, thats certain, announced Joe. I dont believe well see or hear of them again.

By this time it had begun to snow a little. Now that the enemy were gone each found himself hungry.

Well get a hasty meal, and then start for camp, said Harry. I shant feel perfectly safe until Im back with the others.

But as the meal progressed they grew calmer, and even examined the dead wolves with interest.

Well have a tale to tell when we get back, said Joe.

Let us take the tails to verify our tale, laughed Harry, and cut off the wolves tails without further words.

It was not until half an hour later that they had their drags fixed, ready to start back for Pine Island. By this time the snow was coming down heavily.

Were up against a regular storm now, thats certain, came from Joe, as he surveyed the darkening sky.

Well, I declare, if I havent lost my pocket-knife! ejaculated Harry, as he searched his pockets. Its the new one, too the one Laura and Bessie gave me on my last birthday.

Both, of the youths began a search that lasted another quarter of an hour, when the knife was found among the branches of one of the drags.

And now dont let us lose any more time, came from Joe. The wind is rising, and well have all we can do to get back to the lodge before night.

He was right about the wind. It was already moaning and sighing among the pines, and causing the snow to swirl in several directions. The increased cold also affected them, and caused Harry to shiver.

Id give as much as a dollar to be back to camp, he announced. Hauling this load is going to be no picnic.

Follow in my footsteps, Harry, came from his brother, and Joe led the way out of the wood and down to the lake shore. Here it seemed to snow and blow harder than ever, and the snow was piling up in drifts that looked far from inviting.

For a moment the boys thought of turning back and going into a temporary camp until the storm should subside. But they knew that Fred and Runnell would worry over their non-appearance, and so pushed on in as straight a course as they could lay down.





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