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   Chapter 3 THE RACE FOR A CAMP-SITE

The Outdoor Chums; Or, The First Tour of the Rod, Gun and Camera Club By Quincy Allen Characters: 11838

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"All aboard for Kamp Kill Kare!"

Frank Langdon jumped off his motor-cycle as he shouted these words, and there was a scurrying among the other three boys, who had gathered at the house of Will, which had been mentioned as a place of meeting.

Each motor-cycle had numerous small packages secured about it after the individual fancy of the owner. Will carried his precious camera over his shoulder, but the tripod, a folding affair of the latest patent, was tied to his wheel; Jerry and Frank had their guns securely cased, and so arranged that they would not interfere with either the working of the machine or any jumping on and off; while Bluff carried his new repeating shotgun hung from his back with a strap.

He saw Jerry eyeing the same with a sneer, and was up in arms immediately.

"Just you wait, and don't cry before you're hurt. This bang-up modern machine shooter is no more murderous for me than yours is in your hands. 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof!' and I'm ready to compare notes at the end of our little expedition, to see who has slaughtered the most game," and Bluff wagged his round head with its thatch of yellow hair, defiantly.

"Well, a man is known by the company he keeps, and any true sportsman-" began Jerry, ready to open the discussion on the spot.

"Rats!" exclaimed Will, as he got in readiness to mount his machine; "stow all that hot air until the first chilly night. Perhaps you'll need it before long. I say, Frank?"

"Well, what?"

"Has the wagon started along?" asked the other, eagerly.

"Yes, I saw it off before coming over here. Everything's aboard, and unless old Uncle Toby has an accident on the road, he guarantees to get up there shortly after noon," replied the leader, quietly.

"So, you got your hired man to do the driving; and I've half a suspicion the team comes from your place, too. That's mighty nice of your father, Frank. Suppose we could keep Toby with us one night to see us started?"

"Father said we could have him all we wanted. He can take the horses over to the nearest farm, where we expect to get our supply of fresh eggs, and then do a part of the cooking for us, as well as chop wood and some other stunts that, say what you will, kind of pall on a fellow after a little while."

"Better and better," remarked Jerry, who had been known on occasion to flunk when it came to drudgery, and wanted to be fishing or roaming pretty much all the day, and every day.

"Well, the reason I asked was this: I wouldn't wonder but what Andy Lasher and his pals might plan to intercept our supplies, and do something mean to break up our fun," continued Will, earnestly.

"Whew! I hadn't thought of that," remarked Jerry, looking alarmed.

"I had, and I made an arrangement with old Uncle Toby to take Erastus along in the wagon up to the point where we are to meet him at noon. You know Erastus is the porter and watchman at the bank, and known to be a fighter. When they see him sitting there beside Toby those fellows will have business somewhere else, you mark me. He can come home on the late afternoon train, one of us taking him over to the little station on a motor-cycle. How does that suit you all around?"

"Talk about your Napoleon for laying out plans; it couldn't be better arranged. The supplies will be safe, then. Now, is there anything else to remember?" demanded Jerry.

"Not from me," replied Bluff, stealing a side glance at the open window where Nellie and Violet were standing, watching the starting of the wonderful expedition that was expected to startle the timid woods folks up beyond the lumber camps at the head of the lake.

"Count me out," declared Will, raising one foot to be ready to mount.

"That settles it, then. Who goes first?" asked Frank.

"You do, to start with. Later on, after we pass the wagon, Jerry will act as guide, as he's been up there before, and knows a lot about the country," called Will.

"Then, here goes, fellows."

Suiting the action to the word Frank ran with his machine, then gave a vault into the saddle, started the engine, and with a loud popping the motor-cycle began to hustle along the road at a moderately swift pace.

Jerry came second, then Will, and last but not least Bluff, who was very apt to have many things happen to his motor-cycle before the ten miles had been reeled off, for that seemed to be just his fortune.

"Good luck!" called the girls from the window; while the little mother waved a 'kerchief from the doorway, and then hurried in to shed a few tears, for, truth to tell, these partings always affected her in this way.

Through the town they went, with dogs racing alongside and barking wildly, and quite a few persons waving them good wishes as they passed; for it was pretty well known what the Outdoor Club had in view, and the hunting toggery with which Bluff had adorned himself was a constant sign as to the glut there would presently be in the game market of Centerville.

Then past Frank's home, where his father waved his hat as he stood in the doorway, warned of the coming of the squad by the rampant popping of the motor-cycles; and after that the open country, where the northbound road ran alongside the calm waters of Lake Camalot, now glistening in the frosty air of an October morning.

Frank slowed up to allow of Jerry overtaking him, so that they might talk as they covered the miles.

"There's the wagon ahead," he said.

"I had noticed it, and just beyond I thought I saw several fellows up on the bank, perhaps Andy and his chums. It might be well for us to close in and be ready to defend the wagon if necessary. And look out for any sort of sharp-pointed nails on the road, apt to slash our tires," remarked Jerry, who had experienced so much of the trickery of the Lasher crowd that he believed there was nothing too mean or small for them to attempt.

"Not a bad idea,

so slow up until the other boys arrive. They may hardly feel like doing anything, now that we happen along."

"I'd feel sure they wouldn't if we could only coax Bluff to exhibit that awful pump-gun of his. Talk about your scorchers, I think Andy would run a mile-I know I would if I thought the murderous thing was going to be turned on me," growled Jerry, who, as the reader must already have noticed, was a very persistent fellow, and hard to convince, especially when on his favorite subject of a fair deal for every living creature.

They moderated their speed, and passed the place where the hostile group stood, with two riders on either side of the supply wagon.

Then it was seen that Andy and his associates had impressed a hungry-looking, gaunt mule into their service, the said animal being fairly loaded down with an assortment of the most astonishing articles ever dreamed of in the mind of would-be campers.

Under the circumstances, with Erastus and Toby to help guard the camp outfit, Andy's crowd did not dare lift a hostile hand; but they took especial pains to hoot at the little company as it wheeled past, making more or less sarcastic remarks, and yet being careful not to go too far.

The truth was, they did not wholly like the looks of the big colored man who sat there with old Toby, and of whose abilities as a fighter they happened to know something about.

When the rival campers had been left far behind, the boys considered it safe to part company with the supply train, and dash off.

"We've got lots to do, locating on a good campsite, remember, fellows; those sort of things don't grow on every bush, I tell you; so, come along," and Frank, as he spoke, let out another kink, the popping grew more furious, and away he shot up the road in a little cloud of dust, with Jerry at his rear, ready to take the lead as soon as there was any necessity for choosing at the forks.

Ten miles is a mere "flea-bite," as Bluff Masters said, when a good, lively motor-cycle "takes the bit in its teeth," and it seemed as though they had hardly more than got well started before the junction was reached, where Jerry swung ahead, and the rest trailed after him.

The pace had to be more moderate after this, for the going was not so even; but, nevertheless, they made fair time, and finally swung around at the head of the lake, where the logging camp was situated.

It was early in the season, but there were some timber cutters at work in the woods near-by, and a greasy man-cook stood in the doorway of the long log cabin where the gang put up throughout the winter, while conducting their operations of leveling the forest, or, at least, robbing it of all the spruce for the pulp mill over at Bedington.

Jerry held up at the lumber camp, for he wished to ask a few questions of the cook, who was a man he happened to know in a small way, though never particularly fancying Jock Stovers.

The fellow stared at seeing a quartette of elegant motor-cycles come dashing up to the loggers' winter quarters.

"Hello! Jock. We're going into the woods to spend a week or two; wagon following after with all the stuff. Where do you suppose we could run across old Jesse Wilcox these days; and is he starting to do any trapping?" asked Jerry.

The lumber-camp cook grinned a little as he took in the new and striking hunting apparel which Bluff Masters sported so airily; doubtless he immediately concluded that the whole party must be a set of greenhorns, incapable of knowing enough to come in out of the wet when it rained.

"Oh! yes, he's to work, they tells me. Leastwise I heerd ole Bud Rabig complainin' thet he never did hev a show wen Jesse he was around, 'cause the annermiles they jest seem ter hanker arter Jesse's traps. Folks do say he hes a kinder scent he uses ter jest coax 'em like," replied the cook, not above hoping these sons of Centerville rich people might think it worth while to toss him a generous tip for any information he gave them.

"We are heading for that old camp by the twin hemlocks, where that spring bubbles up, winter and summer. One of us will be back here to convoy old Toby in with the chuck wagon, and get Erastus over the farmers' station, where he can catch a late train back. Just tell them to wait here, if they come before I arrive, and here's some tobacco money for your trouble, Jock."

The cook nimbly caught the flying coin, and grinned his thanks.

"Oh! I'll tell 'em all right, don't yer be 'fraid, Jerry. Say, they was a party o' three as started in ter camp jest whar ye say, about a hull hour ago. Boys from Centerville, too, but a tough-lookin' bunch. They tried to do me for a breakfast, but I come out with a gun, and they shooed. Reckon that Pet Peters was wun o' the gang."

"Whew!"

Jerry looked at the others in some dismay.

"What'll we do, fellows; that's Andy's right bower. He must have started the three of them up here last night, meaning to have them squat by the spring first, and keep us off. And I did want to camp just there above all places! It's been on my mind all night," exclaimed Jerry, disconsolately.

"An hour, you said, Jock?" asked Frank, always quick to decide knotty points.

"I reckons about that; but them fellers was dog-tired, an' I don't think they's agoin' ter git up to thet spring in a hurry," replied the cook, still squeezing the half dollar, as if to "make it squeal," as Bluff remarked later.

"Perhaps we can get there before they do. Suppose we make a try, Jerry?"

For answer Jerry started his machine on a run, jumped aboard, and was quickly dashing away at rather a reckless pace, considering the rough "tote" road he had to follow.

The others were close at his heels, and altogether the rattling reports of the four exhausts quite excited the lumber-camp cook, who stood there in the doorway gaping, as long as the motor-cycles remained in sight.

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