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   Chapter 1 ON THE WAY TO CAMP

The Outdoor Chums at Cabin Point; Or, The Golden Cup Mystery By Quincy Allen Characters: 10883

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"We're going into the woods light this time, it seems, boys."

"Remember, Bluff, we sent along most of our stuff, such as blankets and grub, as also the cooking outfit, in charge of old Anthony, the stage driver."

"That's a fact, Will, and he was to leave it at the abandoned mine shaft, from which point we expect to make pack horses of ourselves."

"True for you, Jerry! And unless Frank here has made a mistake in his reckoning we're due to reach that hole in the ground before another hour."

"How about that, Frank?"

"We'll fetch up there in less time than that I reckon, fellows. To tell you the truth, it can't be more than a mile away from here."

"Bully for that! And after we get over the peak of this rocky ridge we ought to be on the down-grade most of the way."

When Jerry Wallington gave expression to his gratitude after this fashion, two of his companions waved their hats as though he voiced their sentiments. One of these boys was Will Milton, and while he did not seem to be quite as vigorous as his chums, still his active life during the last two years had done much to build up his strength. As for Bluff Masters, any one could see from his looks that he had a constitution of iron, while his face told of determination bordering on obstinacy. The fourth member of the little party tramping along this road leading over the ridge was Frank Langdon. He was a boy of many parts, able to take the lead in most matters, and looked up to by his comrades.

All of them lived in the town of Centerville, where, on account of their love for the open and for camp life, they had become known as the "Outdoor Chums." Fortune had indeed been kind to these four boys, and allowed them to enjoy opportunities for real sport that come the way of few lads.

They had first called themselves the "Rod, Gun and Camera Club," because their activities in the woods partook of the nature of these several branches of sport. Will was an ardent photographer, and his work had received high praise. Indeed, it was only recently that he had captured a cash prize offered by a prominent newspaper for the best collection of flashlight pictures of wild animals in their native haunts.

This had been accomplished only after the most persistent and laborious efforts. It was carried out during a delightful trip, taken by the boys to the Maine country, where they met with some exceedingly interesting adventures, all of which were set down in the seventh volume of this series, under the title of "The Outdoor Chums in the Big Woods; Or, The Rival Hunters of Lumber Run."

Those readers who have followed the fortunes of Frank and his three wide-awake comrades in previous stories have of course come to look on them as old friends, and need no further introduction. As there may be some, however, who are now making their acquaintance for the first time it may be well to mention a few things connected with their past, as well as to explain why they were now bound for a new camping ground in a region they had never before visited.

Naturally, they knew every foot of country for many miles around Centerville. They had roamed over Oak Ridge and the Sunset Mountains, camped on Wildcat Island, situated in Camelot Lake, and scoured the region roundabout.

More than this, wonderful opportunities had come to these boys to visit distant parts of the States. On one occasion they had taken a trip South, going to the Gulf of Mexico. Another time it had been a visit to the Rocky Mountains where they hunted big game. Then, on a houseboat belonging to an eccentric uncle of Will's, they voyaged down the great Mississippi River to New Orleans, meeting with numerous adventures on the way.

When they returned home after their first year at college, of course the regular question came up immediately: "Where shall we go for the next outing? because we must get into the woods somehow, and live close to Nature for a spell, to fish, and take pictures, and just forget all our troubles."

Many ideas were suggested, but it remained for Bluff Masters to bring up the most catching plan. By some means he had heard of a place a good many miles away from their home town where the big lake lay for many miles between the hills.

Here he had been told by one who knew that they would be apt to find the seclusion they sought, since few people lived in that section of country. Small game was plentiful enough to give Will all the fun he wanted in laying his traps, in order that raccoons and opossums and foxes might be coaxed to snap off their own pictures.

Fishing ought to be good in the waters of the inland sea, and all of them professed to be ardent disciples of the hook and line. In fact, Bluff laid out such an alluring programme that he actually carried the others by storm.

Accordingly, preparations were made to go to the distant lake. Frank, as was his habit, did everything in his power to pick up information concerning the lay of the land. He even made up a sort of map, based on what he was able to learn, although frankly admitting that it might prove faulty in many places. It was going to be one of his personal tasks to rectify these mistakes, and bring back an accurate chart of the whole district.

Besides being an ardent photographer, Will had taken up the study of medicine, as he anticipated some day being a physician. The boys were in the habit of calling him "Doctor Will" at tim

es; and whenever there arose an occasion that called for his aid he was only too willing to apply his knowledge of the healing art.

Bluff Masters had perhaps been well named by his boy friends for he was not only a frank sort of boy, but there were many times when just out of a desire to tease he would try to "bluff" those with whom he chanced to be arguing.

At the same time Bluff was a hearty boy, with plenty of good nature, and was a favorite with his companions. He and Jerry were both apt to be a little boisterous, and to express their dislikes rather forcibly, but the others knew their little failings and paid small attention to them as a rule.

As they mentioned in their chatter while they tramped along the rough up-hill road, they had found a chance to send most of their camp outfit ahead of them by the stage. It was to be left at the shaft of the old abandoned mine, which they had heard so much about, though of course had never seen.

After reaching that point they expected to leave the road and plunge directly into the woods, taking a short-cut for the big lake. Here they had planned to search for an old cabin situated on a point that stretched out into the beautiful bay, and which Frank believed might serve them in lieu of a tent; indeed, trusting to the information they had received, they had not bothered to carry any canvas along with them on the trip.

"What if that old cabin proves to be a myth after all, Frank?" Bluff was asking as they toiled along, with a wall of rock on one hand and a dizzy precipice close on the other side.

"Perhaps we'll be sorry about leaving out that fine waterproof tent of ours," suggested Will, who did not like to "rough it" quite so much as did the others.

"Shucks!" ejaculated Jerry, with fine scorn, "what's the matter with our building a shelter of logs, bark and driftwood on the shore of the lake, if the worst strikes us? It wouldn't be the first time we'd done such a thing either, eh, Frank?"

"I reckon we could do it without straining a point," the other observed quietly. "But don't borrow trouble, Bluff. Time enough to cross your bridges when you get to them. That old cabin stood there last summer, I was told, and likely to hold out for a good many more seasons unless some one should deliberately burn it down."

"Who would be apt to do such a silly thing as that, tell me?" demanded Bluff.

"I don't think any one would," Frank hastened to reply; "but I've been told there's a peculiar old hermit living on an estate not a great way distant from Cabin Point. He is said to be a rich man, but seems to want to keep away from his fellows, and has built a house up here on his property."

"You mean Aaron Dennison, of course, Frank," said Will. "I was interested in what we were told about him. He seems to be a regular bear, and refuses to make friends with anybody drifting up here."

"The loggers over at Edmundson Cove tell queer yarns of the things he has done," Frank continued, with a faint smile; "and to own up to the truth, I'm rather hoping we run across old Aaron. He must be quite a character from all we've heard, and somehow I've grown curious about him."

"And if I get half a chance," observed Will, whose mind usually ran in the one channel, which of course covered his hobby, "I mean to snap off a picture of him. I've got a lot of freaks in my collection, but nary a hermit nor a crank."

"All I hope for," said Jerry, "is that he doesn't try to make it unpleasant for us up here. For one, I expect to give him a wide berth. These hermits are not much to my fancy. You never know what to expect from the lot. But, Frank, after all, we're not the only fellows traveling along this mountain road. Look up ahead and you'll see a chap hurrying this way."

"He's not much older than any of us, it seems," remarked Bluff, as all of them immediately focussed their gaze on the figure that had turned a bend in the rough road, and was hurriedly advancing in a somewhat careless fashion.

"He's carrying a bag just like my new one," remarked Will, patting the article in question affectionately, as though it contained something which he valued very much.

"I shouldn't be surprised if he were heading for that railroad station we struck a mile back," suggested Frank. "It was only a flag station, but trains stop there on signal most likely."

"But where on earth could that natty young fellow come from, do you think?" Will asked. "I hope there isn't a camp of city boys up here anywhere, because if that turned out to be the case there'd be small chance for me to get the pictures of game I'm hoping to strike."

"He sees us now," remarked Jerry, "but is coming along faster than ever. Perhaps he's running away from something, for he looked back just then over his shoulder."

"Yes, and came near taking a nasty fall in the bargain," commented Will, who had started with sudden fear; "it strikes me he's a pretty careless sort of fellow. On a dangerous road like this it pays to watch your step, as a fall might mean a broken leg, or even worse. Oh! look there, boys, he's stumbled again, and gone over the edge of the precipice!"

All of them stared in awe, for what Will called out was only too true. The advancing figure was no longer in sight, for upon making that false step he had fallen to his knees, made a violent effort to keep from slipping over the edge, and then disappeared.

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