Bert Wilson at the Wheelñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
They voiced a unanimous assent to these arrangements, and both sides started discussing the various chances and possibilities of the contest, but with perfect good humor and friendly feeling.
It was now getting late, however, and the discipline of the camps could not be too much relaxed, even in the face of such an important event as this. Accordingly, hearty farewells were exchanged, and the visitors climbed into their big gray car.
All the boys gathered around expectantly to note the behavior of the car when it started, and it must be admitted that even Bert Wilson’s expert eye could find no defect in the handling or running of the rival machine. Ralph started it smoothly and without a jerk, and soon all they could see of it was the angry gleam of its red tail-light.
As they turned away to prepare for sleep, Jim remarked: “Aw, I bet we’ll have a walkover in that race.”
Bert knew better, however, and was convinced that he would have to use every ounce of power that the “Red Scout” possessed to beat the “Gray Ghost.” But one thing he was sure of, and that was that whoever won it was going to be a mighty close race. He did not make the mistake of underrating his rival, as so many boys in his position would have done, but made up his mind to do the very best he could, right from the start.
For a long time he stood staring at the “Red Scout,” and then raised its shining hood and patted the spotless cylinders.
“I guess we can do it, old boy, but you will have to stand by me and work as you have never worked before,” he said, and gently lowered the hood and walked off toward his tent.
The Hoboes and the Bees
Early in the morning the boys began to break camp and start for the new location. Groups of three or four were detailed by Mr. Hollis to accomplish certain tasks and they started to carry out his directions right merrily. Some were sent to store the provisions and cooking utensils; others to take down the tents and gather together their blankets and other bedding; still others got together the fishing tackle and all was done to the accompaniment of songs and jests and laughter, so that before they knew it everything was ready to dump into the old farm wagons they had hired for the purpose. When everything was packed in the wagon that would possibly go in, Mr. Hollis selected Tom to ride beside the driver and show him where to go.
After the wagon had started off, some of the boys’ own personal belongings that were left over were put in the “Red Scout” and seven of the fellows scrambled in someway – trust boys to find room if there is any to be found – and started away after the wagon. They soon passed it and went on until they came to the turn in the road where the lake could be dimly seen through the trees. There Bert stopped and the boys got out, taking the packages with them. Shorty had been detailed to lead them to the lake and then to come back and wait for the farm wagon.
Then Bert went back to pick up Mr.
Hollis and Dick Trent who had stayed behind to see that nothing had been forgotten.
On the way back he passed the wagon and hailed Tom with a “How are you getting along, old man?”
“Pretty badly, I thank you. I wish Mr. Hollis had picked out somebody else for this job – someone who didn’t care if he spent hours getting nowhere,” Tom replied sourly.
“Cheer up, the worst is yet to come,” laughed Bert. “Never mind, even the worst trials have to end some time,” he added consolingly and started off again while Tom looked enviously after the red car, now fast disappearing in the distance.
When Bert reached the old camp site, now looking very bare and forlorn, he found Mr. Hollis and the boys waiting impatiently for him. Mr. Hollis and Dick got in, followed by six of the boys. Bert promised to come back for the rest right away and the “Red Scout” started off with its second load. In a little while, for Bert had found a second and much shorter road to the lake, they came once more to “Campers’ Crossing” as the boys had named it. There they found that the wagon had just arrived with its load, but the boys had delayed unloading it until Mr. Hollis should reach the scene of action. In a minute the Camp Master had taken charge and the boys were busy unloading and carrying everything to the camp.
Once more Bert started back with the reliable “Red Scout” for his last load. When he got to the old camp the boys greeted him with the news that Jim Dawson had disappeared and couldn’t be found anywhere.
“He was here just a few minutes ago,” said Steve Thomas. “But when I went to ask him a question just now he was gone. We have hunted high and low but we can’t find a trace of him.”
Bert was troubled at first, but suddenly a thought struck him and his face lighted up as he exclaimed: “I think I can explain the mystery. Follow me, fellows.”
He led them through a dense thicket to the side of a hill, covered with underbrush. Pulling a bush aside, he disclosed to the boys’ astonished gaze, a great, black hole which was evidently the mouth of a cave.
“Come on out, Jim,” Bert called. “We don’t want to keep Mr. Hollis waiting too long, you know.”
Jim Dawson was one of those hungry boys who never can get enough to eat, so, having discovered the cave one day, while chasing a butterfly, he had secretly brought food there in a tin box, so that if he chanced to get hungry, he always had something to eat at hand.
Bert had discovered the cave and its secret long ago but he was not given to tale-bearing and so had kept his own counsel.
As Bert spoke, a sound was heard inside the cave, and, in a minute, out came the culprit with an accusing piece of cornbread in his hand, blinking like an owl brought suddenly into the glare of the sun.
At the look of complete surprise and dismay on his face the boys burst into a shout of laughter.
“Oh, you lemon,” gasped Steve. “You full-sized lemon! How did you ever manage to get away with it?”
“No wonder we have been short of grub, lately,” Dave said, holding his sides as if he were afraid he would burst.
“Aw, I don’t see why you can’t leave a fellow alone,” said Jim, sulkily. “I only brought grub here that belonged to me.”
“Don’t be sore, Jim,” Bert said, good-naturedly. “I wouldn’t have disturbed you if we hadn’t been in a hurry. That reminds me that we’ve wasted a good deal of valuable time, already. I guess we had better be getting along.”
At that they all started back on the run and soon had Jim in such a good humor that he even told them how he had escaped being found out by a narrow margin many a time, and that nobody but Bert had even suspected the cave’s existence.
They all piled into the “Red Scout” in a hurry because they feared that Mr. Hollis would worry on account of their prolonged absence.
They arrived at “Campers’ Crossing” just in time to carry the last barrel of provisions. When they reached the new camp the boys were surprised to see how much had been done in their absence. The tents had been set up and from the mess tent came the clattering of utensils and the savory odor of creamed salmon on toast.
Soon, the call to dinner was heard, and the boys all gathered around the table, chattering like magpies.
“It seems as if we’d always camped here,” said Shorty. “There’s something about the place that makes you feel at home right away.”
“It’s the classiest place I’ve ever been in,” Dave Ferris declared, enthusiastically. “It makes you imagine that Nature might have had a little time on her hands and devoted it to making this one spot a little paradise.”
“Hear! Hear!” Tom cried, clapping his hands in mock praise. “Dave will be a poet if he doesn’t look out. Give us some more, old man, the sample’s good.”
“You’d better be careful how you
“‘Beard the lion in his den
The Ferris in his hall,’”
said Dick Trent, warningly. “He won’t favor us with any more stories if you are not careful how you offend him.”
“I’d just as soon he’d spout all the poetry he wants to if it relieves him any, as long as he doesn’t forget how to tell stories,” Shorty remarked as he contentedly munched a piece of toast.
“How very kind of you,” said Dave, sarcastically. “I thank you with all my heart for your liberality.”
“My which? Say, Dave, if that ever belonged to me, I call you all to witness that I disown it from this time on. It’s no friend of mine from this time on.”
“You’d better hang on to it, Shorty. It’s the best kind of thing to have around at times,” said Mr. Hollis, as he rose to leave the table.
In the afternoon scouting parties were sent out in all directions to find out the nature of the surrounding country. Steve Thomas, Bert, Tom, Bob, Shorty, and Jim Dawson were sent off to scour the woods in an easterly direction from the lake.
For a considerable distance they tramped along, talking of the different plants and shrubs they came across and naming the birds they saw in the trees. They threw peanuts to the squirrels that peeped inquiringly at them from branches over their heads or ventured shyly from the shelter of their holes. They imitated the clear notes of the birds until the little songsters paused to look wonderingly at these strange creatures that could not fly and yet sang like themselves. Timid little rabbits watched the boys with soft, brown eyes, not knowing whether or not to sally forth from their security even for the tempting carrot that Bert held out so coaxingly. When he threw it at a distance, however, one little fellow, braver than the others, his appetite overcoming his fears, ran forth quickly, snatched the carrot and scurried back in a panic to his burrow, where, with his bright eyes fixed on these humans who had been so kind to him, he ate contentedly.
Suddenly the quiet woods rang with shouts and cries, the barking of a dog and the noise of people running to and fro furiously. Alarmed, the boys started on a run for the place from which the cries seemed to come. They fairly gasped when they came upon the cause of all the commotion. Three men, of the roughest order, were dancing distractedly around, trying to beat off a swarm of bees that surrounded them, and yelling like mad, while a big collie dog, wild with excitement, barked with all his might.
“Say, this is better than a circus,” Shorty shouted, “only I’m glad that those hoboes and not I are the whole show now.”
“Shut up, Shorty. The question now, is, what we can do to help the poor fellows out,” said Tom; then, turning to the tramps, he yelled, “You’d better make a dive for the brook and get under water. It’s right through the trees to your left,” he added, as the men, now nearly crazy with pain, started to follow his advice.
Rushing frantically to the brook, they plunged in head first, while the bees, deprived of their prey, flew off angrily into the woods to search for new victims upon whom they might vent their spite. When the tramps came up, dripping from the water, they were a sight to behold. Their faces were swollen so that their eyes seemed to be mere slits and their ears appeared to be twice their natural size.
The boys at once ran to get mud to put on the red, angry wounds. The tramps submitted with indifferent grace to the treatment, grumbling that they “didn’t see what good being all smeared up with mud was going to do.”
As soon as the boys had done what they could to ease the pain, the tramps declared that they would have to be moving on “because them pesky critters might come back to finish up their business.”
So the boys watched the strange company of sullen, muttering men disappear through the trees. As they were lost to view, the comical side of the adventure struck Shorty and he began to laugh and the longer he laughed, the harder he laughed. The others caught the infection and in a second the woods were ringing with the unrestrained roars of the boys. They laughed until they could laugh no more and then lay on the grass, gasping for breath.
“Oh, they did look so funny!” said Shorty between gasps. “I never shall forget that sight until my dying day.”
At that minute Bert sat up suddenly, exclaiming, “Fellows, look who’s here!”
With one accord they turned and saw the collie which they had entirely forgotten, sitting near and regarding them with inquiring, wistful eyes.
“Come here, Beauty,” Bert called, and the dog came unhesitatingly and stuck his cold, black muzzle in Bert’s hand.
“Did they desert you, old fellow?” Bert asked, putting his arm around the dog’s neck.
The collie waved his beautiful brush and, lifting his soft eyes to Bert’s face saw something there that made him his slave forevermore. For the collie, with true dog instinct, had recognized that in Bert he had a friend.
“I wonder where those tramps got him.” “Probably swiped him.” “Doesn’t look as if he’d had very good treatment.” “He doesn’t and it’s a shame, too. Isn’t he a beauty?” were some of the comments of the boys as they gathered around the dog, patting his head gently. The collie waved his tail and in his eyes was a great longing for sympathy and love. And you may be sure the boys gave him what he asked for.
Tired out, the boys finally went back to camp, followed by their new friend who soon became a favorite with everyone. That night Don, as they called the dog, sat with the rest around the camp fire and answered whenever they spoke to him with a wave of his silver brush. Bert made him a bed on the floor of his tent and Don gladly took possession of it. Just before he got into bed Bert put his hand on the dog’s head, saying, “I guess we’re going to be good friends aren’t we, old fellow?”
And Don, looking up in his master’s face, with eyes that held a world of gratitude and love, answered to Bert’s entire satisfaction.
Shorty Goes to the Ant
The next morning, when the boys drew aside the flaps of their tents, the sky was dark and lowering. A good many anxious glances were thrown at the clouds and open disapproval of the outlook was not slow in breaking out.
“Gee, what a fearful day,” said Jim.
“You bet it is,” chimed in Shorty.
“That’s our luck,” wailed Dave, “just when I wanted to go to town to get a new blade for the jack-knife I broke yesterday.”
“Oh, come off, you pessimists,” sang out Bert, who had just plunged his head in a bucket of cold water and now was rubbing his face until it shone, “somewhere the sun is shining.”
“Heap of good that does us,” grumbled Shorty, “but say,” as he turned to Bert suspiciously, “what sort of thing was that you called us?”
“I said you were pessimists.”
“Well, what does that jawbreaker mean?”
“Why,” said Bert, who could not resist his propensity to tease, “that means that you are not optimists.”
“Worse and worse and more of it,” complained Shorty.
“That’s just as clear as mud,” echoed Jim.
“Well,” said Bert, tantalizingly, “listen my children – ”
“‘Listen, my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,’”
chanted Frank, who had recited that identical poem in his elocution class at the last term of school.
A well-aimed pillow made him duck, and Bert resumed:
“You see, Shorty, it’s just like this: The optimist is the fellow that sees the doughnut. The pessimist sees only the hole in the doughnut. Now, for my part, there is no nourishment in the hole, but there’s lots of it in the doughnut.”
“Aw say, don’t make a fellow’s mouth water,” said Shorty, before whose practical vision rose up his mother’s kitchen, fragrant with the smell of the crisp, brown, sizzling beauties, as they were lifted from the pan, “and me so far from home.”
If there were no doughnuts at the breakfast to which all hands came running, their place was more than taken by the golden corn bread and the savory bacon that formed the meal to which they sat down with all the enthusiasm of hungry boys. The food disappeared as if by magic and the table had been replenished more than once before the boys cried enough. Many a sated millionaire would have willingly exchanged a substantial part of his hoarded wealth for one of those unjaded appetites. But in pure, undiluted satisfaction, the boys would have been the losers by the exchange.
That very thought struck Mr. Hollis as he watched the havoc made at table by these valiant young trenchermen, and, turning to Dick, who sat at his right, he spoke of the starving King Midas. Jim, who overheard the name, which, as he said “was a new one on him,” wanted to know who Midas was, and how, if he were a king, he couldn’t get grub enough to keep him from starving. The boys, who had by this time taken the first keen edge off their appetite, were equally eager to hear the story, and Mr. Hollis went on to tell about the avaricious king of the olden time who could never get enough, but was always asking the gods for more. After a while they became wearied and disgusted and granted his request that everything he touched should turn to gold. The king was delighted at this beyond all measure. Now, at last, he was to have his heart’s desire. He put the gift to the test at once. He touched his sword and it changed to gold. That was fine. He stroked his beard and every hair became a glistening yellow spike. That wasn’t so fine. He began to get a little worried. Wasn’t this too much of a good thing? Well, anyway there was no use in fretting. He would go to dinner and get his mind off. But when he touched the food, it too became gold. He lifted a goblet of wine, only to find that it held molten metal. In the midst of plenty, he was starving. Upon his knees, he begged the gods to take back their fatal gift, and, thinking he had learned his lesson well, they did so. His gold vanished, but, oh, how delicious was the first taste of food. “And to-day,” concluded Mr. Hollis, “there is many a millionaire whose gold doesn’t give him the pleasure that a square meal gives the ravenous appetite of a healthy boy.”
“Well,” said Tom, expressing the general sentiment, “I’d sure like the money, but, oh, you corn bread.”
After breakfast, the boys broke up into separate groups. One went off under the guidance of Mr. Hollis to gather some fossils that were to be found in great abundance in the limestone that jutted out from a quarry at a little distance from the camp. Another group of the fellows with Dick in charge, who were especially interested in bird and insect life – the “bug squad” as they were commonly and irreverently referred to in camp – went to a little clearing about half a mile away that was especially rich in specimens. The day before, Tom had secured an uncommonly beautiful species of butterfly that topped anything in his experience so far, and the other boys wanted to add one to their rapidly growing collection. Whether the lowering day had anything to do or not with the absence of these fluttering beauties who love the sunshine, their search was without result, and after two hours spent in this way they threw aside their butterfly nets and sat down in the shade of a spreading beech to rest and as Shorty called it “to have a gabfest.”
Almost directly beneath the eastern branches was a large mound nearly three feet above the surrounding level and perhaps twenty feet in circumference. As Shorty flung himself down on the centre of the mound, a curious expression came into the eyes of Dick. He glanced quickly at Frank, who returned his look and added a wink that might have aroused suspicion in Shorty’s mind, had not that guileless youth been lying stretched out at full length with his hat over his eyes. The warmth and general mugginess of the air saturated almost to the raining point, together with the constant activity of the last two hours, had tired him out, and after a little badinage growing less and less spirited, he began to doze. The other boys who had been given the tip by Frank and Dick, let the conversation drag on purpose, and with a wicked glint of mischief in their eyes watched the unsuspecting Shorty slip away into the land of sleep. Soon his arms relaxed, his chest rose and fell with his regular breathing and horrors! an undeniable snore told that Shorty was not “faking,” but was off for good.
From being a spot of perfect peace and quiet, the mound suddenly burst into life. From numberless gates a swarm of ants issued forth and rushed about here and there to find out the cause of this invasion. The weight of Shorty’s body and his movements as he composed himself for sleep had aroused them to a sense of danger and they poured out in thousands. Soon the ground was covered with little patches of black and red ants, and as though by common consent they began to surround the unconscious Shorty. Some crept up his legs, others his arms, while others climbed over his collar and slipped inside.
First, an arm twitched violently. Then a sleepy hand stole down and scratched his leg. The boys were bursting with laughter, and Tim grew black in the face as he crowded his handkerchief into his mouth. Shorty shook his head as a horse does when a fly lights on it. Again he twitched and this time seemed to realize that there was something wrong. Still half asleep, he snapped:
“Aw, why don’t you fellows quit your kidding? Stop tickling me with that – ”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
ñòðàíèöû: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13