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   Chapter 1 A LIVELY TIME

Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp; Or, Lost in the Backwoods By Alice B. Emerson Characters: 8271

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"I don't think we'd better go home that way, Helen."

"Why not? Mr. Bassett won't care-and it's the nearest way to the road."

"But he's got a sign up-and his cattle run in this pasture," said Ruth Fielding, who, with her chum, Helen Cameron, and Helen's twin brother, Tom, had been skating on the Lumano River, where the ice was smooth below the mouth of the creek which emptied into the larger stream near the Red Mill.

"Aw, come on, Ruthie!" cried Tom, stamping his feet to restore circulation.

The ground was hard and the ice was thick on the river; but the early snows that had fallen were gone. It was the day after Christmas, and Helen and Ruth had been at home from school at Briarwood Hall less than a week. Tom, too, who attended the Military Academy at Seven Oaks, was home for the winter holidays. It was snapping cold weather, but the sun had been bright this day and for three hours or more the friends had enjoyed themselves on the ice.

"Surely Hiram Bassett hasn't turned his cows out in this weather," laughed Helen.

"But maybe he has turned out his bull," said Ruth. "You know how ugly that creature is. And there's the sign."

"I declare! you do beat Peter!" ejaculated Tom, shrugging his shoulders. "We are only going to cut across Bassett's field-it won't take ten minutes. And it will save us half an hour in getting to the mill. We can't go along shore, for the ice is open there at the creek."

"All right," agreed Ruth Fielding, doubtfully. She was younger than the twins and did not mean to be a wet blanket on their fun at any time; but admiring Helen so much, she often gave up her own inclinations, or was won by the elder girl from a course which she thought wise. There had been times during their first term at Briarwood Hall, now just completed, when Ruth had been obliged to take a different course from her chum. This occasion, however, seemed of little moment. Hiram Bassett owned a huge red herd-leader that was the terror of the countryside; but it was a fact, as Helen said, that the cattle were not likely to be roaming the pasture at this time of year.

"Come on!" said Tom, again. "The car was to go down to the Cheslow station for father and stop at the mill for us on its return. We don't want to keep him waiting."

"And we've got so much to do to-night, Ruthie!" cried Helen. "Have you got your things packed?"

"Aunt Alvirah said she would look my clothes over," said Ruth, in reply. "I don't really see as I've much to take, Helen. We only want warm things up there in the woods."

"And plenty of 'em," advised Tom. "Bring your skates. We may get a chance to use them if the snow isn't too heavy. But up there in the backwoods the snow hasn't melted, you can bet, since the first fall in November."

"We'll have just the loveliest time!" went on Helen, with her usual enthusiasm. "Tom and I spent a week-end at Snow Camp when Mr. Parrish owned it, and when we knew he was going to sell, we just begged papa to buy it. You never saw such a lovely old log cabin-"

"I never saw a log cabin at all," responded Ruth, laughing.

They had climbed the steep bank now and started across the pasture in what Tom called "a catter-cornering" direction, meaning to come out upon the main road to Osago Lake within sight of the Red Mill, which was the property of Mr. Jabez Potter, Ruth's uncle.

Ruth Fielding, after her parents died, had come from Darrowtown to live with her mother's uncle at the Red Mill, as was told in the first volume of this series, entitled "Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill; Or, Jasper Parloe's Secret." The girl had found Uncle Jabez very hard to get along with at first, for he was a good deal of a miser, and his finer feelings seemed to have been neglected during a long life of hoarding and selfishness.

But through a happy turn of circumstances Ruth was enabled to get at the heart of her crotchety uncle, and when Ruth's very dear friend, Helen Cameron, planned to go away to school, Uncle Jabez was won over to the idea of sending Ruth with her. The girls were now home for the winter holidays after spending their first term at B

riarwood Hall, where they had made many friends as well as learning a good many practical and necessary things. The fun and work of this first term is all related in "Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall; Or, Solving the Campus Mystery," which is the second volume of the Ruth Fielding Series.

And now another frolic was in immediate prospect. Mr. Cameron, who was a very wealthy dry-goods merchant, had purchased a winter camp deep in the wilderness, up toward the Canadian line, and Christmas itself now being over, Helen and Tom had obtained his permission to take a party of their friends with them to the lodge in the backwoods -Snow Camp.

It was really Helen's party. Besides Ruth, she had invited Madge Steele, Jennie Stone, Belle Tingley, and Lluella Fairfax to be of the party. She had invited one other girl from Briarwood, too; but Mary Cox had refused the invitation. "The Fox," as her school-fellows called her, had been under a cloud at the end of the term, and perhaps she might have felt somewhat abashed had she joined the party of her school-fellows at Snow Camp.

Tom had invited his chum at school, who was Madge Steele's brother Bob, and another boy named Isadore Phelps. With Mr. Cameron himself and Mrs. Murchiston, the lady who had been the twins' governess when they were small, and several servants, the party were to take train at Cheslow the next day for the northern wilderness.

The trio of friends, as they hurried across Hiram Bassett's pasture, were full of happy anticipations regarding the proposed trip, and they chatted merrily as they went on. Halfway across the field they passed along the edge of a bush-bordered hollow. Their skating caps- Tom's white, Ruth's blue, and Helen's of a brilliant scarlet-bobbed up and down beside the hedge, and anybody upon the other side, in the hollow, might have been greatly puzzled to identify the bits of color.

"For mercy's sake! what's that?" ejaculated Helen, suddenly.

The others fell silent. A sudden stamping upon the frozen ground arose from beyond the bushes. Then came a reverberating bellow.

Tom leaped through the bushes and looked down the hill. There sounded the thundering of pounding hoofs, and the boy sprang back to the side of his sister and her chum with a cry.

"Run!" he gasped. "The bull is there-I declare it is! He's coming right up the hill and will head us off. We've got to go back. He must have seen us through the bushes."

"Oh, dear me! dear me!" cried his sister. "What will we do-"

"Run, I tell you!" repeated Tom, seizing her hand.

Ruth had already taken her other hand. With their skates rattling over their shoulders, the trio started back across the field. The bull parted the bushes and came thundering out upon the plain. He swerved to follow them instantly. There could be no doubt that he had seen them, and the bellow he repeated showed that he was very much enraged and considered the three friends his particular enemies.

Ruth glanced back over her shoulder and saw that the angry beast was gaining on them fast. It was indeed surprising how fast the bull could gallop-and he was very terrible indeed to look upon.

"He will catch us! he will catch us!" moaned Helen.

"You girls run ahead," gasped Tom, letting go of his sister's hand.

"Maybe I can turn him--"

"He'll kill you!" cried Helen.

"Come this way!" commanded Ruth, suddenly turning to the left, toward the bank of the open creek. The current of this stream was so swift that it had not yet frozen-saving along the edges. The bank was very steep. A few trees of good size grew along its edge.

"We can't cross the creek, Ruthie!" shrieked Helen. "He will get us, sure."

"But we can get below the bank-out of sight!" panted her chum.

"Come, Tom! that beast will kill you if you delay."

"It's our caps he sees," declared Master Tom. "That old red cap of

Nell's is what is exciting him so."

In a flash Ruth Fielding snatched the red cap from her chum's head and ran on with it toward the bank of the creek. The others followed her while the big bull, swerving in his course, came bellowing on behind.

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