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   Chapter 4 UNDER THE TWIN HEMLOCKS

The Outdoor Chums; Or, The First Tour of the Rod, Gun and Camera Club By Quincy Allen Characters: 11469

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Say, ain't this going-some, for a rough road?" called Bluff, who was pounding along close behind Jerry, Will bringing up the rear.

"Beats everything I ever did on wheels-wow! that was a scorcher of a jolt! I hope none of the wheels break down!" answered the other, over his shoulder; but he dared not take his eyes off the uneven "tote" road which they were following, for more than a second at a time, lest some unfriendly root hurl him into the ditch, a wreck.

"See anything of 'em, Frank?" wheezed Jerry a bit later, as he kept his machine close behind the leader; for somehow in this race for the campsite Frank just naturally forged to the front from mere force of habit.

"Thought I had a peep of something moving ahead-soon know," came the answer.

Some more jumping followed, and it required considerable agility on the part of the four riders to keep their saddles.

Then they made a turn, and discovered three boys in full flight ahead.

"There they are!" cried Jerry, in excitement.

"How far ahead is the spring?" called Frank.

"About half a mile, I reckon."

"Good! Then the game is ours, barring accidents!"

The three fellows ahead kept turning around every dozen seconds, as if worried at the rapid approach of the others.

"Keep your eyes peeled; they're hatching up some sort of mischief!" called Frank, who knew the signs.

He saw that the others began to wobble in their movements, which was plain evidence that they had tired themselves out by their night tramp, and were in no condition to compete with the motorcycles, even on this rough stretch of road.

The tall, athletic-looking leader of the trio suddenly jumped aside, and stooped over as if snatching something from the ground.

"'Ware, hawks!" shouted Bluff, who had noted this maneuver.

It could now be easily seen that Pet Peters had fastened upon quite a cumbersome branch of a fallen tree, and his purpose was manifest when he stepped out as if to drop it across the road, meaning to wreck the machines as they swept on.

Frank changed his course just a trifle, but was now heading straight for the unprincipled schemer, who would have taken the chances of seriously injuring some of the party in order to further his own plans.

The sight of that heavy motor-cycle heading straight at him rather demoralized Pet, who did not know but that Frank meant to chase him until he got him; so that he dropped the branch before he had quite covered the entire space across the narrow road, and made a wild leap for safety.

Consequently, Frank was able to veer aside and skim past the dangerous obstruction without coming a "cropper" in the ditch.

Jerry also swept by, and the others were coming so fast on the heels of the two leaders that the bewildered roughs could not pull their wits together in time to make any successful swoop.

Perhaps they were not particularly anxious to arouse the party after all; for the sight of the weapons they carried, and, above all, the martial appearance of the khaki-clad Bluff, must have impressed them more than a little.

"Hurrah! the camp is ours!" yelled the tail-ender, as he clung to the rear of the remarkable procession; for never before had these solemn woods witnessed anything like such a progressive picture of modern magic as these four lads booming along on metal steeds capable of making fifty miles an hour and more, in case of necessity, and over a smooth road.

A few minutes later of more moderate traveling brought them to a point where a view could be had of the camp-site.

"Over to the right-notice those twin hemlocks yonder-well, the wonderful spring bubbles up close beside those trees. Hold up, Frank!" called Jerry.

So the quartette dismounted, jumping from their wheels while still in motion, after the habit of those who use motor-cycles.

In another minute all of them were bending low over the spring, testing the delightfully clear waters of the same.

Loud were the exclamations of satisfaction that arose, for their ride had made them thirsty, and the water was as cold as ice.

"A cracking good spot for a camp," was the verdict of the experienced Frank, as he allowed his eyes to rove about, and take in the surroundings.

Jerry beamed with pleasure.

"Knew you couldn't help liking it, for it seemed to cover all the necessities of the case, as far as I know them," declared Jerry, whose knowledge was founded pretty much on theory based on extensive reading rather than a practical experience such as Frank had passed through.

"This little knoll will serve to shed water when it rains, as it's sure to do some time or other; it always does when you camp; and the water is just far enough away to keep the spring from being polluted by any refuse from the fire. Yes, and the trees around here have not been touched by lumbermen, so that the whole aspect is restful to the eye. I like it, Jerry; it's a regular jim-dandy place."

"Hunk, I say!" declared Bluff, after his usual explosive fashion; but if his manner was crude, he generally hit the nail on the head, and no one could mistake his feelings in the matter.

He immediately squatted down and began to take his gun out of its case, an operation Jerry eyed with alarm.

"Say, look here, what are you going to do with that machine, eh? Are you so wild to get at the slaughter that you can't wait a decent length of time, and give the poor birds and beasts a chance to know we're here for a long stay? For goodness' sake, show some sportsman spirit, Bluff," he exploded.

The other looked up with an injured expression.

"Why," said he, "I'm only thinking of those three desperate characters rushing our camp, and I wanted to let them see we are a

ble to look out for ourselves, that's what."

"Oh! if that's the case, hold up that tool, and I bet they light out faster than they come-who wouldn't, I'd just like to know, when-"

"Hey, Jerry, can the wagon get in here?" asked Will, knowing what the dispute would lead to if allowed to go on any further.

"Why, yes, I think so, if Toby knows how to manage right; you see he can turn to the right, cross behind that thicket, and bring up here; certainly the wagon can haul up here-if it ever gets to this point safe," replied the other.

"You and I will look out for that, and when we ride back to convoy it here, depend on it, we'll have our guns ready to make a good showing," remarked Frank. "I don't think those three fellows will dare attack us, especially when they see Erastus. They know him all right, from sad experience. You see 'Rastus used to be something of a prizefighter in a small way among his kind, and nothing delights him half so much as a scrap once in a while; and the town rowdies have suffered at his hands."

"All right; say when, and I'll be ready to go."

"Plenty of time. I figure that the wagon won't get to the lumber camp until noon, so in the meantime we can be using that nice ax Will has strapped to his machine, and doing a number of things. Firewood is a mighty handy article to have around a camp, boys, and it's simply wonderful what a big lot of it is needed."

"A hint is as good as a command, Frank; just understand that we're ready to do anything you suggest, for we all want to learn the ropes as soon as we can. What are you going to do?" he asked, as Frank unsheathed a camp hatchet, and commenced to look around, as if in search of some particular kind of wood.

"Well, you see, I remember that I lost my tent pegs the last time I camped in Maine, and it's up to me to cut a new supply. No better time than now, while we're waiting for the wagon. Then I expect to lay out several poles on which to stretch the tents-one tall one for the center, and a couple of others outside for the fly that forms a shelter," remarked Frank, commencing operations on what seemed a suitable piece of hickory.

"What sort of tents are they?" asked Jerry, watching all that the other did, so as to catch the true spirit of the thing from practical observation, which somehow seemed vastly different from what he read in his books on sport.

"The kind which most canoeists like in these modern days. They're big enough to accommodate four in a pinch, although it's much better to have only two in each, and that's why I brought both along. Then, when the fly in front is raised it makes a splendid place for the table, being sheltered from sun and rain. Each tent has a waterproof floorcloth, to keep the dampness out. Wait and see, Jerry."

They worked like beavers for a time.

When one tired his muscles chopping firewood another was eager to take up the job, and it was wonderful how the pile of fuel increased.

Frank rubbed his hands with pleasure when, an hour or more later, he came over to take a look at it, having completed his own task, as the quantity of tent pegs announced.

"That's fine, fellows" he declared, laughing. "If you'd ever gone through what I did once, when lost in the Maine woods one bitter cold night, you'd never think you could have too big a pile of the stuff. Perhaps some time I'll tell you about that experience; for I'll never forget it, never. But, Jerry, suppose we get ready to run back to the lumber shack, and wait there for the wagon? I won't be easy until we see it here. A little snack first from the grub I've got here, and which Nellie put up for us, and then we'll meander over the back trail," he said.

"Grub!" exclaimed Bluff, starting up from the soft, mossy cushion he had fashioned, after doing his little stunt with the ax; "count me in, please, and especially if your sister put it up, Frank, for I reckon it must be the boss feed then."

At which the others smiled, for Bluff's weakness regarding Frank's pretty sister was something of a joke among them.

But when the package was undone there were broad grins, for dainty sandwiches flanked by a generous assortment of wings and drumsticks, connected at one time with a number of spring chickens, came into view, besides some pickles, and even a bunch of cookies, which Frank assured his chums had been actually made by the fair hands of Nellie herself.

They had hardly known just how hungry they were until the first bite was taken, and then little was said for some time, on account of the rapidity with which those four sets of sturdy jaws worked.

But, as might have been expected, Bluff was the first one to reach out his hand and secure one of the aforesaid cookies, which he munched with closed eyes, as if mentally picturing the sweet girl from whom the treat had come.

"All ready for the road, Jerry!" exclaimed Frank, jumping up.

"On deck, captain; I'm with you," came the reply, just as cheerily.

"You fellows keep a good watch, though I don't fancy you'll be bothered by the three advance scouts of the Lasher brigade," remarked Frank, as he pushed his machine into position, and prepared to run with it for a start.

"Huh!" grunted Jerry, casting a side glance toward Bluff, who was already shifting his repeating shotgun to a position where it could lie across his knees as he sat there on his mossy hassock; "I bet they won't, not as long as that thing is in sight. Talk about your scarecrows, I'd like to wager-"

"To be continued in our next; come along, Jerry," cried Frank, as he started on.

A minute later the merry popping of the two exhausts told that the convoy for the "chuck-wagon," as they called it, was on the way.

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