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   Chapter 1 PLANNING THE CAMPAIGN

The Outdoor Chums; Or, The First Tour of the Rod, Gun and Camera Club By Quincy Allen Characters: 11572

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Great news, Jerry! The storm last night damaged the roof of the academy so that it has been condemned as unsafe. And the Head has decided that there can be no school held for two weeks."

"So Watkins was just telling me. He says most of the outside students are to be sent home again until repairs can be made. And I was just thinking that while I'm sorry for the Head, it opens up a jolly good prospect for some of us."

"How's that, Jerry? For myself, I was just feeling glad to be back at my desk again, after vacation, and now it's knock around again."

"All right, just stop and consider. There are four boys I know of, constituting the Rod, Gun and Camera Club, who have been busy planning an outing for next summer, back of the lumber camps at the head of the lake. Talk to me about opportunities, what's to hinder us going into the woods right now, and making use of our rods, guns, and that elegant new camera your mother gave you on your birthday last week?" demanded the boy called Jerry.

"What's all this about, you two conspirators?" demanded one of two other boys, swinging alongside just then, as though sure of a hearty welcome, and a voice at the council fire.

"Glad you came, Frank and Bluff, for I want your opinion. Jerry has just sprung an astonishing idea on me, and I'm so dazed I hardly know what to say. Are you ready for the question? All in favor of spending the two weeks' additional vacation out in camp back of the lumbermen's diggings say ay!"

The two newcomers looked at each other as if trying to grasp the immensity of the proposition; then they pulled off their hats, and giving a shout threw them into the air while both roared the affirmative word:

"Ay!"

Jerry looked at Will, with a broad smile of delight on his face.

"Three against one-the motion is carried!" he declared, triumphantly.

"Oh! come, I wasn't opposed to it in the start, only you stunned me by such a sudden and glorious idea. We'll meet with some opposition at home, I expect; but where there's a will there's a way; and I move we make it unanimous!" Will Milton hastened to remark.

"Bravo! consider it carried; and just to think what a chance it will be for me to try out my new outfit!" exclaimed the fourth boy, he who had been called by the queer name of "Bluff" by one of his comrades; possibly because, being the only son of a prominent lawyer, Dick Masters may have been addicted to the habit of putting up a bold face even when his heart was weak.

Jerry looked at him rather superciliously at this remark, and threw up his hands in a manner to indicate discouragement.

"I'm genuinely sorry for the feathered and furry game of the woods when the Great Hunter breaks loose with that terrible pump-gun. Mighty little chance for anything to get away after that is leveled, and the Gatling opens fire," he remarked scornfully.

"Huh! it's all very well for you to talk that way, Jerry, because you happen to be a fine shot, and can bag your game the first clip; but what's a fellow going to do when he finds it difficult to hit a barn? I'd like to wager that with all your high-falutin' talk you do more execution among the poor game than comes to my share," answered Bluff, indignantly.

"Oh! well, have it your own way. I've tried my best to show you what a genuine sportsman should be like, always giving the game a fair chance. Didn't I induce you to quit fishing with that murderous gang-hook last summer; and when you did finally get a bass didn't you feel prouder than if you just 'yanked' him in, perhaps caught on the outside of his gills with some of that deadly jewelry?" demanded Jerry, whose one hobby was the "square deal" in all that he undertook.

"I acknowledge the corn about the gang-hook; but that has nothing to do with an up-to-date, repeating shotgun, and other things such as modern campers use. I've kept posted, and I know what's going on. Some people seem to be asleep, and are just contented to do as their forefathers did. I'm progressive, that's what."

"Well, boys," Frank Langdon here broke in with, "suppose you postpone that old chestnut of a dispute until we're snug in camp; and let's talk about how the thing can be done. The first thing is to get consent at home."

"I don't believe we need fear any trouble there. Frank, you call us up on the 'phone in about an hour, and if everything's lovely and the goose hangs high we'll meet at my house and make definite arrangements," said Will, whose mother was a well-to-do widow, and seldom refused her idolized son any reasonable request.

"We could go on our motor-cycles, and have a wagon bring the duffle along. If it started at a decent hour in the morning we'd be able to get in camp by the middle of the afternoon, and have things fixed fairly well for the first night," suggested Jerry, his eyes bright with anticipations of a delightful time ahead.

"You've got all the things needed, Frank; and now we'll see what your experience up in Maine amounted to. Say, ain't this just glorious? Think of it, two weeks' outing at this beautiful time of the year, and up there in the woods where we were just planning to go next summer. I wonder if old Jesse Wilcox has begun to set his traps yet; that's his stamping-ground, you know, during the winter, and he makes quite a haul of muskrats, 'coons, some mink and even an otter once in a long while," said Bluff, enthusiastically-he was always a leading spirit in new ventures, but lacked the pertinacity of Frank.

"Don't you worry, old fellow, I'll be Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to delivering the goods. But all further talking had better be put off until we find out whether we can go or not. So I move we adjourn, to meet again an hour from now at Will's shack," remarked young Lan

gdon, always logical.

They had stopped to talk the matter over alongside one of the stores in the town; and indeed Bluff was perched upon an empty box, that lay at the foot of a small pyramid of similar cases, piled up until such time as they could be sold or destroyed.

While the others were talking, Jerry had made a little discovery that aroused both his curiosity and his temper: he had seen a touseled head, surmounted by a cap he knew full well, push up a little above the rim of the most elevated empty box, as if some concealed listener might be endeavoring to hear better, and in his eagerness recklessly exposed himself in this way.

Jerry was always prompt about doing things, nor did he, as a rule, stop to figure what the immediate consequences might prove to be.

Indignation at the idea of their conference having been overheard possessed his soul, and, seeing a splendid chance to bring the plans of the listener to a sudden and disastrous end, he managed without warning to give one of the boxes a flirt with his hand that moved it out a foot or two.

As it happened to be the keystone of the arch, the consequence was the entire pile came tumbling down, much after the fashion of a crumbling church during an earthquake.

Bluff gave a wild shout, and sprang to a position of safety, to turn and stare in astonishment at the remarkable result of the catastrophe.

From under the ruins a figure came crawling slowly, rubbing sundry places about his legs and sides, where the sharp corners of the boxes had been in cruel contact with his flesh.

"Why, it's Andy Lasher!" exclaimed Jerry, pretending to be wonderfully surprised. "Where in the world did you come from-hiding in that drygoods box, eh? Up to some of your old tricks, Andy, I guess. Going to carry off the whole dry-goods emporium that time, perhaps?"

The boy managed to get upon his feet, though he continued to limp around and rub his legs vigorously, as he whistled to keep from groaning.

Andy Lasher was known as the town bully, and many a time had he taken delight in giving our four friends more or less trouble; Jerry and he had always been at loggerheads, and could look back to half a dozen occasions in the past where the contest for supremacy had brought them to the point of battle.

Each time Andy was supposed to have gotten the better of the conflict, though his friends thought he paid dearly for his victory; but Jerry seemed never to know when he was whipped, and was just as ready to try conclusions with the other as before.

"Some fine day I'll know how to outwit the big brute, and then I mean to cure him of his bullying ways," he was wont to say cheerfully, as he festooned his face with strips of adhesive plaster, and tried to grin through the pain.

"What d'ye mean upsetting me that way, Jerry Wallington? Think just because your dad's a big railroad man you can knock poor fellers around any old way? I guess I've got some rights. You might have killed me, tumbling that pile of boxes down, with me inside. You ought to be made to pay fur it, that's what," grumbled the fellow, scowling vindictively, and yet not daring to assume the offensive while the four chums were present; for he had never tried conclusions with Frank, and was suspicious of the new boy in Centerville-for the Langdons had lived there about a year, Frank's father having purchased the bank of which he was now president.

"How could I know anybody was hiding up there?" demanded Jerry, in pretended ignorance, though his eyes twinkled with humor as he watched the bully limping around and still rubbing his knee.

"Ain't I got a right to play hide-and-seek with my friends? Who told you to stop just underneath, and talk about campin' out up above the lumber docks? Think you're the whole team, do you? Well, perhaps you won't shout just so loud when you know me and some of my mates are going up in that region ourselves, to-morrow, to see old Bud Rabig, the trapper, and if we have any trouble with you sissies there's bound to be a high old mix-up, see?" and he glared first at one and then at each of the others in turn.

The boys looked at one another in dismay, for it seemed as though some would-be joker had tossed a bucket of ice-cold water over them; this vague threat of Andy Lasher's was not to be lightly dismissed as mere bluff, for whatever his reputation might be, the fellow had a way of keeping his word, especially when it concerned any sort of mischief.

Frank, however, laughed aloud.

"That sort of talk doesn't cut any figure with us, Lasher. If we go up to the head of the lake we'll try and mind our own business, and advise all others to do the same, if they know what's good for them. We're not out looking for trouble, but, if it comes along, you and your cronies will find that there are four fellows who know how to take care of themselves. Got that, Andy?" he said sternly.

The bully looked at him fixedly for a moment, and then drawing back his short upper lip after a way he had, and which made his face resemble that of a snarling wolf, with fangs exposed, he remarked:

"It makes me laugh to think of such a lot of tenderfeet in the woods. Be careful not to shoot yourselves, kids. Guns are mighty dangerous sometimes. And just make up your minds that we ain't agoing to be scared by big words. The fellows that train with me have been up against hard knocks too often to knuckle down before a lot of bluster and brag. Them two weeks'll be the liveliest you ever knew, take my word for it."

With his tongue in his cheek he scurried away, just in time to avoid the proprietor of the store, who now came bustling out to learn what all the racket might mean, and found our four boys busily replacing his pyramid of empty boxes.

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