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The Outdoor Chums; Or, The First Tour of the Rod, Gun and Camera Club By Quincy Allen Characters: 8135

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The wildest excitement ensued.

Jerry met with a mishap right in the beginning of the hunt, falling over the long box in which much of their camp material had been carried.

It happened to lie just back of the tent, empty save for a few fag-ends of canvas brought along in case of need, and with the cover in place.

"Talk about your obstacle races!" he shouted, as he scrambled up, and went limping after the others; "this has 'em beaten to a frazzle."

The hunt for the offender was without result. He had evidently made haste to scuttle off, after heaving the stones at the camp.

Frank and Will, after searching for some little time, started to return to the camp, and on the way overtook Bluff.

"Where's Jerry?" asked Frank, as they joined forces.

"Don't know," came the answer, as Bluff pushed on eagerly ahead; "last I saw of him he was taking a header over that long coffin-box back of the tents."

"I hope he didn't hurt himself badly, that's all. What's your hurry, Bluff?" continued Frank, noticing that the other seemed particularly anxious to get along.

"Why, I left my gun standing against a tree," replied Bluff.

"Well, we all did about the same thing. I forgot I had a gun, in fact, being so anxious to get my hands on that chump who bombarded our camp. I guess you'll find the gun safe. Uncle Toby stayed in camp," said Frank, nudging Will.

"He did not. I saw him scooting off like a scared dog. Like as not that coon is hiding somewhere under the bushes at this very minute," declared Bluff.

At which both the others laughed.

Presently the cheery blaze was seen through the trees.

Some one was there, for they could see him bending over as though busily engaged.

"It's Jerry, all right," said Bluff, over his shoulder.

"But what in the wide world is he doing? I believe he's been hurt, boys," declared Frank, with a touch of anxiety in his voice, for Jerry and he had been very thick of late.

"Binding a bandage around his shin, as sure as you live! Hello! What happened to you, old fellow? Did one of those rocks hit home, or was it the box you tried to capture that jumped up and kicked you?" asked Will.

Bluff was in the meantime rushing wildly about the camp as though looking for something.

"I tumbled over that plagued box, that's all; and after limping around for a spell thought I'd better come back and put some witch-hazel on the bruise," explained the other, turning down his trousers' leg, and scrambling to his feet to ascertain how well he could walk.

"It will be some stiff in the morning, I reckon. Talk about your bears, I thought one had me nailed when I fell over that thing 'ker chunk,'" he continued, as he rubbed his shin and screwed his face up as if to conceal his pain.

"I told you so-it's gone!" shouted Bluff, at this juncture.

"What's gone?" echoed Will.

"My gun! Something seemed to tell me it was a silly thing for me to run off in that way and leave it. And now they've stolen it!" wailed Bluff.

"What! Do you really mean to say you can't find it?" questioned Frank.

"Help me look, fellows. Oh! my heart will be broken if it's true. I was just dreaming of what great things I meant to do with that splendid repeating shotgun. Please search around the camp!" pleaded Bluff.

Of course they immediately started a thorough hunt for the strangely missing weapon, even the limping Jerry seeming as deeply interested in the search as any one of his comrades.

High and low they looked, turning over all the blankets in the tents, but not a sign of the wonderful "pump-gun" could they discover.

The other guns were just where they had been left, and so far as they could see not another thing had been stolen.

"I declare, this is mighty queer," remarked Frank, when they were ready to give over the quest.

"Strangest thing I ever heard of," declared Will.

"Talk about your airships, I think the blooming old thing must have taken wings and sailed away," grunted Jerry, still rubbing his wounded shin sympathetically.

"But why should they

pick out Bluff's gun of the lot?" demanded Frank.

"That's easy enough to answer. They knew a good thing when they saw it, I bet that crowd noticed what a bully gun I carried, when we passed them on the road, and they've been hanging around ever since," avowed Bluff, positively.

"Then the rocks-" began Will

"Were fired at us only to tempt a rush. It was all a plot, fellows, to coax us away for a short time. And the worst of it is the game worked only too well. I'll never get over that loss, never! I feel sick!" went on Bluff.

He kept shaking his head as if working himself up into a desperate frame of mind. Evidently it would have gone hard with any one of Andy Lasher's crowd if the offended boy could have laid hands on him just then.

"I wonder if Uncle Toby could give us any information on this subject?" suggested Frank.

"Oh! call him in and see. Perhaps he even grabbed it up in his fright.

Shout to him, Frank, please," exclaimed Bluff, eagerly.

"Hello! Uncle Toby! Show up here; the coast is clear, and all danger past!"

Placing his hands about his mouth, after the fashion of a megaphone,

Frank shouted these words several times.

"There he comes!" cried Will, pointing to a moving object.

"Has he got anything in his hands?" gasped Bluff, anxiously.

"Not that I can see," replied the other.

Bluff groaned and wrung his hands disconsolately.

"It's gone, boys! I'll never set eyes on that beauty again. Might as well give up and go back to town," he said, gloomily, as if brokenhearted.

"Oh! shucks! Don't give up so easy, Bluff. Who knows but that we may find a chance to recover the gun again, sooner or later. Live in hopes."

"It's easy for you to say that, Frank, when your gun is all safe and sound. Why, what can I do now without anything to shoot game with?"

"Well, I wouldn't worry about that. This is Kamp Kill Kare, you know. Trust us to find plenty for you to do. There'll be fish and game to clean, and dishes to wash while Toby is busy at something else. Oh! you can be useful all right, I give you my word, Bluff," said Frank, gaily.

The aggrieved boy gave him one indignant look. He did not seem in a humor to trust himself to speech.

Meanwhile the aged darkey had entered the camp.

"Have you seen my repeating-gun, Toby?" demanded Bluff, striding up to him.

"'Deed an' I hasn't seen any gun since I jumped into de bush to find dem young raskils wot trowed dat stone at me. I war just a-wishin' I had a gun along. Wouldn't I jest a peppered dem scalawags as dey run past me?" replied the old fellow.

"Say, did you see them then?" demanded Frank.

"I shore did, Marse Frank."

"How many were there?" came the quick question.

"I war jest a-countin' ob dem jailbirds, an' had 'rived at 'leven w'en a 'streperous root she keeled me ober. W'en I gits up agin dey had gone. Den I heard Marse Frank a-callin' me to come back," went on Toby, glibly.

The boys looked at each other and smiled. They knew that without doubt he had been cowering close to the ground in mortal fear the whole time, for Uncle Toby had little reputation for bravery.

"Did you see any of them have a gun?" asked Bluff, faintly.

"I done t'ink de whole bunch hab guns; least-way dat was my 'pression at de time dat creeper done trip me up. It's lucky my haid is 'customed to hard knocks, or it split open for sure."

"That settles it; my new gun is gone. Oh! it makes me so mad just to think one of that crowd may be handling it," cried Bluff, shaking his fist.

"I just fancy I can hear the squirrels laughing, and the little chippies singing for joy," declared Jerry. "Now they'll have a chance to live. What's hard on you, Bluff, is just happiness to them."

"You always did envy me the possession of that gun, and I know it, in spite of your sneers. You just thought I'd beat you out in making a record. Wait! I'm going to get that cracker-jack gun back again, some fine day," remarked Bluff, grimly.

And Frank, seeing that look of determination on his face, knew he meant it.

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