"They are flying away!" yelled Shep, and
raised his shotgun. Bang 1 spoke the weapon, and
reports from the two other firearms follov/ed.
One of the ducks came down heavily, while a
second fluttered around badly wounded. The
third flew off, apparently untouched.
" We must get that second one ! " cried Snap,
and fired once more. But the wounded duck had
reached the cover of some bushes and was not hit
again. The rowboat was hastily turned In the
direction and Snap and Whopper leaped ashore.
Then the duck tried to fly but a shot from Whop-
per's firearm laid it low. Soon the boys had both
ducks on board and were examining the game.
" They are pretty plump," was Snap's comment,
and he uttered the words with satisfaction.
" Not so bad for the first day's record," said
Giant. " Fish and ducks."
" Now if we could only get some squirrels, a few
rabbits, a deer, and three or four bears â€” " began
" Do you want to bring down everything within
ten miles the first day?" demanded the doctor's
" I believe if Whopper was hunting lions he'd
want to bring down a dozen the first clip," was
70 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
Snap's comment. *' Let me tell you there will
be many days when we won't bring down a thing."
" Oh, I know that," answered Whopper. " I
was only fooling. Say, it will be fine to have roast
duck for dinner to-morrow, eh?" And he
smacked his lips.
"Duck, stuffed with sage and onions!'* mur-
mured Giant, patting himself in the region of the
" No stuffings in this," cried the doctor's son.
" I just want pure duck â€” a nice brown leg, yum
â€” yum ! "
" Say, you make me duck-hungry already I "
cried Whopper. " Let's go on, unless we are go-
ing to stay here for the rest of the day."
Once again the oars were taken up, and with
scarcely a sound they moved along the shore of the
lake. The sun was now well over to the hills in
the west, and the trees along the shore cast long
shadows over the rippling surface.
" No use of talking, such a spot as this is a regu-
lar Paradise," was Snap's comment. " I can tell
you, there isn't anything like a life in the open! "
" Especially when It rains," suggested Giant.
" Or when you're caught in a blizzard," added
Shep. " Do you remember that blizzard last
Christmas ? "
THE FIRST DAY OF THE OUTING 71
" Will we ever forget It," answered Giant.
" Just the same, what Snap says is true â€” give rae
such an outing as this every time. Some fellows
are always hankering after the city â€” but I never
An hour later the young hunters reached the end
of the lake, where a small, rocky watercourse joined
that body of water to Firefly Lake. Here they
went into camp, pitching their tent In a convenient
spot among the trees. Over a bright campfire
they cooked some of the fish to a turn, and took
their time eating the meal. Then they sat around
and chatted, and Giant told his chums something
which interested them not a little.
THE STORY OF A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE
The boys were talking about money matters in
general and inheritances in particular when Giant
mentioned the fact that his mother had some money
coming to her, but could not get possession of it.
'' You know my mother came from France," said
the small member of the club. " She arrived in
this country when she was about sixteen years of
age, coming with an uncle, who was her guardian.
My uncle's name was Pierre Dunrot, and he was by
profession a teacher of ancient history."
" No wonder you always get your history lessons
so easily," was Whopper's comment. ** It must
run in the blood."
" You keep quiet. Whopper, and let Giant tell
us about this money," interposed Snap.
" After my mother was In this country about six
years, she met my father and married him. My
uncle approved of the match, although he told my
mother he wished she had married a Frenchman in-
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE 73
stead of an American. They all went to live at a
place called Watchville on the seacoast. My uncle
was then writing a great work on ancient history to
be issued in ten big volumes."
" Phew ! I hope he didn't want any fellows to
study it/* murmured the doctor's son.
*' Mother has told me that my uncle was all right
in his mind while I was a little boy and when my
father was alive. But after my father died Uncle
Pierre grew kind of queer in his head. My mother
thought it was too much study and she advised him
to take a rest. But he said he must get his big
history written and he kept on writing and burn-
ing the midnight oil as college fellows call it, and
it made him queerer and queerer every day.
" One day he went to the post-office for his mail.
That was when I was about nine years old. When
he got back he began to dance around and he
caught me by the hands and rushed around the
house like a crazy man. * A hundred thousand
francs ! A hundred thousand francs ! ' he kept call-
ing out, over and over again. Then my mother
asked him what he meant. He said a distant rela-
tive had died and left him and her a hundred thou-
"How much Is that?" asked Whopper, who
knew little about French money.
74 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
*' A franc is worth about nineteen cents," said
** Yes, and a hundred thousand francs is about
nineteen thousand dollars," went on Giant. " My
mother tried to get the particulars from Uncle
Pierre, but he was so excited she could not, except-
ing that half the money was coming to himself and
half to her. He said he would see about it the
" That night there came a violent thunderstorm
and our house was struck by lightning. The only
damage done was to one corner in which was
located Uncle Pierre's writing desk. The desk
was ripped apart by the lightning bolt and some of
his precious manuscripts were burnt.
"When my uncle discovered that part of his
great historical work had been destroyed he acted
as if he was insane. He was almost on the point
of committing suicide, but my mother stopped him.
She told him to remember about his good fortune in
having all that money left to him, but he only
shook his head and said he would rather have his
manuscripts back. At last she got him to bed, but
in the morning he had disappeared."
" Disappeared?" came from the others.
" Yes. He had put on the oldest suit of clothes
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE 75
he had and gone away. Of course my mother sent
out an alarm, and men hunted all over for him.
But he was not to be found."
" But you found him later," ventured Snap.
" No, he was never found. When folks
learned how queerly he had acted all came to the
conclusion that he had gone to the river and
drowned himself, and after awhile my mother
thought so too."
" And what of the fortune? " questioned Shep.
" My mother tried to find the letter Uncle Pierre
â– ad received, but that was gone too. Then she
wrote to France. She learned that some money
was really coming to her and my uncle, but could
not get any particulars. She even employed a
lawyer, but after a year the lawyer gave up, too.
There was a mystery about the whole affair and the
solution, it seems, rested with my Uncle Pierre."
" And you never got the money? " asked Whop-
" Not a dollar of it."
** It's queer you never spoke about this before,''
*' Well, mother doesn't like to speak of it, be-
cause she doesn't want folks to know we had af
crazy man in our family. But Uncle Pierre wasn't
76 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
really crazy â€” he was only queer â€” and that
lightning bolt burning up his beloved manuscripts
unset him completely."
" I hope you'll get that money some day, Giant,'*
said Snap. " I wouldn't give up trying for it so
" When I am a man and can afford it, I am go-
ing to France and try to hunt it up," answered the
" Does your mother ever say anything about
it? " questioned Shep.
" Not much. She hates to think of my uncle.
She was very much attached to him, and to have
him disappear like that makes her shudder and
feel very bad."
" Were you living over on the coast when he
" Oh, no, we were living at a place called Bar-
tonville, about twenty miles to the north of here.
My father used to be cashier of the Bartonville
" I once heard of a man disappearing and com-
ing home fifteen years later," said Shep. " But
he simply ran away because he had some trouble
with his wife."
*' I heard of a case like that," put in Whop-
per, with a grin on his face. " That man wanted
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE 77
his wife to make him some gooseberry pie and she
wouldn't do it. When he came back he asked her,
* Maria, will you make the gooseberry pie now? '
and she answered, * No.' ' All right,' said he, ' I'll
go away again,' and he did."
"That's a whopper all right enough!" cried
Snap. " It's about time you turned up. You have
been very quiet lately."
" I never tell anything but the strict truth," said
When it came time to retire, Snap asked the
others if they should post a guard.
" Oh, I think we are safe enough without one,"
answered the doctor's son, who was fagged out.
" Let's chance it."
" Most of our outfit is on the boat," said Whop-
per. " I don't believe anybody will carry it off."
" Let us fix the fire so it will burn the most of
the night," said Giant. " That will scare off any
wild animals that may be prowling around."
Wood was to be had in plenty, and they cut sev-
eral sticks which were not very dry and would, con-
sequently, burn slowly. They sat up until about
nine o'clock and then turned in, resolved to be up
at daybreak and on their way once more, directly
It was cozy enough in the tent, which was just
78 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
large enough to accommodate the four boys. As
they were to remain there but one night they had
not fixed up any couches further than to throw
down some dry brushwood and a few cedar boughs.
Giant and Whopper rested at the rear of the tent
and Snap and Shep in front, close to the half-open
Snap had been asleep about two hours when he
awoke with a start. He listened and heard the
bark of a fox not very far from the camp.
" Wish I could bring him down, just for the fun
of the thing,'' he murmured to himself, and then,
reaching for his shotgun, he arose and tiptoed his
way out of the tent.
The fire had burned low and Snap was wise
enough to slink into the shadows, so that the fox
might not see him. Just back of the temporary
camp was a big rock and toward this he crawled,
keeping his firearm before him and ready for use.
Several minutes passed, and then he heard the
bark of the fox once more, this time much closer.
He strained his eyes to catch sight of the creature,
but the darkness under the trees was too great.
After that fully five minutes passed and Snap
had about made up his mind that the fox had
gotten scared and turned tail, when he heard a
cracking of brushwood directly in front of him.
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE 79
tWith eyes on the alert he watched In the direction
from whence the sound had proceeded, and at last
caught the gleam of two small eyes as they looked
suspiciously at the campfire.
*' Now is my chance," thought the young hunter,
and raising his shotgun he took hasty aim and
pulled the trigger.
Only a sharp click followed, and all in a flash
Snap remembered that in the evening he had
cleaned the firearm, but had not loaded it. The
fox heard the click, caught sight of Snap, and
whirling around made a leap for the woods and
was out of sight in a twinkling.
A SEARCH FOR A ROWBOAT
*' Well, of all the chumps in this world, Vm
the worst ! "
Thus it was that Snap upbraided himself fop
having forgotten to load the firearm. He knew it
would be useless to dash back to the tent for ammu-
nition â€” the fox was gone and would take good
care to keep its distance.
Much chagrined over his mistake, the youth
turned back and walked toward the fire. Then
he set his gun against a tree and built up the blaze
a bit, for the night was chilly. He was just about
to leave the fire and crawl back in the tent when a
voice reached him :
" Who is out there? " It was Shep who asked
" It is I, Snap," was the reply.
" What's wrong? " And now the doctor's son
poked his head from the shelter.
" I heard a fox and thought I'd shoot him â€”
but he ran away," said Snap. He was in no humor
A SEARCH FOR A ROWBOAT 8i
to tell about the empty shotgun, for he^dld not wish
his chum to have the laugh on him.
" Oh, is that all. Say, do you know It's cold? â– '
" Yes, and that Is why I am stirring up the fire,'*
" Do you know, I had an awful dream," con-
tinued the doctor's son. " It has left me wide-
" Better go to sleep, Shep, or you'll be fagged
out In the morning."
" I dreamed somebody ran away with our boat
and all our supplies," went on Shep. " We didn't
have a thing left, and we were In our night-
clothes 1 "
" You must have been thinking of Ham Spink
and Carl Dudder, and what they did last year."
" Maybe. Of course the boat and outfit are
safe," went on the doctor's son.
" I suppose so â€” I haven't looked."
" Just take a look before you turn in, will you? "
Shep's head disappeared, and Snap finished fix-
ing the fire. Then he turned to the lake, where
the boat with the most of the outfit had been left,
tied to an overhanging tree.
The craft with its contents was gone!
Snap could scarcely believe the evidence of his
82 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
senses. He pinched himself, to make certain that
he was awake. It was true â€” the craft was no-
,where In sight.
At first he thought to arouse the others but then
concluded to look for the boat first. Perhaps it
had only broken away and was drifting close by.
If so he would bring It back and fasten it securely
without giving the alarm.
But a five-minutes' hunt convinced Snap that the
rowboat with its valuable contents was nowhere in
that vicinity, and then he ran back to the tent much
" Get up, you fellows ! " he called. " Get up 1
The boat Is gone ! "
At first nobody paid attention, for even Shep
was asleep once more. But then Giant roused up,
quickly followed by his chums.
"What's the matter?"
" The boat and our outfit is gone I "
" Why â€” er â€” I dreamed it 1 '* stammered the
doctor's son. " Am I awake or asleep? "
" You're awake," answered Snap, and then he
continued hurriedly : " Shep, do you think you
heard somebody take the boat while you were in
a doze and so Imagined you dreamed it? "
"I â€” er â€” I don't know. No, I don't think
A SEARCH FOR A ROWBOAT 83
I did â€” my dream was so unnatural. Come to
think of it, the boat had wings and flew away.
Now, that couldn't happen."
" Not unless some wizard turned the craft into
an airship," answered Whopper.
All were soon at the water's edge and looking
in all directions for the missing rowboat. What
had been left of the outfit had been stored in the
stern and tied down with a rubber cloth, to keep
off the heavy dew. They stirred up the camp-
Ifire still more, and each provided himself with a
firebrand as a torch.
" This is the worst luck yet," observed the doc-
tor's son, with something like a groan. " Suppos-
ing we can't get our boat and outfit back â€” "
"Oh, we've got to get 'em back!" burst out
Whopper. " We'll do it if we have to scrape the
lake with a fine-tooth comb."
" I wish it was morningâ€” -we can't see much In
the dark, even with the torches," said Shep.
Giant was examining the shore, for the possible
discovery of strange footprints. But he could dis-
cover none that looked different from their own.
" If I was an Indian I might distinguish them,
but to me they all look alike," he said.
What to do next the young hunters did not
know. Had they had a second boat they might
84 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
have rowed up and down the lake, but even this
move was denied to them.
** Let us go up and down the shore on foot," sug-
gested Snap. " It is all out of the question to go
back to bed â€” I couldn't sleep a wink."
It was decided that Shep and Snap should go
north while Whopper and Giant went south. All
procured new torches, and each took along a gun.
"If you discover anything give the old whistle,"
said the leader of the club.
The way Snap and Shep had chosen was any-
thing but easy. To the northward the shore of
Lake Cameron was rocky and uneven, with many
gulhes and little streams flowing over the rocks.
More than once they thought they heard somebody
or some animal moving but the sound proved to be
nothing but the falling water. Once Shep stepped
into a hollow and was scared by the sudden appear-
ance of several big bullfrogs.
" Wish they were rabbits or squirrels, I might
shoot them," he said.
** Well, you can shoot the frogs if you wish,"
answered Snap. " The hind legs are as sweet as
" I know that â€” but Tm not out for frogs just
now. I want to find that boat."
The two young hunters covered a quarter of a
A SEARCH FOR A ROWBOAT 85
mile when they came out on a small point of land
overlooking the broad lake. As they did this Snap
uttered a cry:
" What is that out yonder, Shep ? "
" Why, I declare, it looks like the boat! "
" Just what I was thinking. How can we get
*' I don't know â€” unless we swim over."
" Is anybody on board? "
" I can't make out â€” in fact, I am not at all sure
it is the boat," was the slow answer.
The object they had discovered was quite a dis-
tance out on the lake and the light from their
torches reached it but faintly. The thing was
drifting down the lake slowly, and as they watched
it almost passed from view.
" Here, this won't do," cried Snap. " If it is
the boat we must catch her and bring her in."
'' It's kind of cold swimming â€” this time of
night," answered the doctor's son, who did not
relish such a bath.
" Here, you hold my things and I'll swim out,"
declared Snap, " I don't think the water is any
colder now than in the day time.'*
He was soon ready for the plunge, and noting
the direction in which the object had last been
seen, he waded into the water. The first touch
86 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
felt icy, but after he had ducked down and taken a
few strokes it did not seem so bad. He struck out
lustily, and Shep held up both torches, that he
might have some light by which to guide himself.
Snap was a good swimmer, but the object out
on the lake was further away than he had calcu-
lated, and it took him fully five minutes to get in
the vicinity of it. The sky had clouded over a
bit, hiding the stars, so he could see little or noth-
ing on the water. On the shore he could see the
two torches that the doctor's son was waving and
that was all.
At last Snap saw the dark object directly ahead
of him. By this time he was somewhat exhausted
by his swim and he was glad to think that he would
soon be able to rest. Then he made a discovery
iwhich did not please him at all.
The object was nothing more than a part of a
[fallen tree, the trunk resting half in and half out
of the water and several branches sticking out in
as many directions. At a distance it looked a lit-
tle like the rowboat but the resemblance faded comÂ«
pletely as he got closer.
" Too bad ! I thought it was the boat sure ! "
he murmured. " Well, I'll have to rest on the
log a bit, before I strike out for shore."
He swam up to one of the branches and caught
A SEARCH FOR A ROWBOAT 87
hold of It. He was on the point of reaching for
the tree trunk when an unusual sound came to his
Then Snap made a discovery that almost took
his breath from him. On the tree trunk rested a
big wildcat, it's eyes gleaming fiercely at the youth
in the water I
THE CAMP ON LAKE CAMERON
Snap did not stand upon the order of his going,
but went at once. Without a thing with which to
defend himself, he had no desire to come into con-
tact with such a savage creature as a wildcat, and,
consequently, he dropped back Into the water in a
hurry and started back for the shore. He almost
fancied he heard the wildcat splash in after him,
and a chill crept down his backbone which was not
caused by the night air.
" Hello ! hello ! '' he yelled to Shep.
" Got the boat? " came back the cry.
" Not much ! Get your shotgun ready and fire
a shot Into the air."
''What's the matter?'*
" A wildcat Is out here â€” on a floating log.
Fm afraid he's after me."
" A wildcat ! Want me to scare him away? ''
The doctor's son now understood, and raising
his shotgun with one arm he pulled the trigger.
THE CAMP ON LAKE CAMERON 89
The report sounded out loudly in the night air and
the echoes went ringing over the surrounding hills.
In the meantime Snap continued to swim for
the shore with all possible speed. Fortunately he
came in where there was a sandbar, so that he could
wade to solid ground. When Shep reached him
he was panting for breath.
"I wa â€” was â€” never so scar â€” scared in my
life! " he panted. " It was only an old tree, and
I was going to take a rest on it when I heard the
wildcat. He was a big fellow, and his eyes seemed
to bore me through and through. Maybe I didn't
strike out for shore in a hurry ! "
" I don't blame you," answered the doctor's son.
" Did he jump in the water after you? "
" I don't know."
" And it wasn't the boat? "
" No, I didn't see a thing of the boat."
Snap lost no time in dressing, and in the mean-
time Shep kept his eyes open for the possible ap-
pearance of the wildcat. But the savage creature
did not show itself, nor did the fallen tree come
again into view.
The report of the gun had reached Giant and
Whopper, and they came up on the run, fearing
something serious had occurred.
" We walked along the shore for almost quar-
90-^ YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
ter of a mile," said Whopper, "but we didn't sec
9, blessed thing that looked like the boat. I am
afraid it's gone for good."
" If it is we'll have to go home, and that will be
the end of this outing," answered Shep.
" Oh, w^e're going to find that boat! " declared
Giant. " But I don't think we'll be able to do
much until daybreak."
They followed the shore for a short distance
further, and then went back to the temporary camp.
It was now half-past three in the morning.
" It will be growing light in another hour," said
iWhopper. " I move we get breakfast and be
ready to start off as soon as we can see."
His suggestion was carried out. Snap's swim
had made him cold, and he was glad enough to
drink two cups of steaming hot coffee. The boys
had brought some doughnuts along, and these,
with the coffee and some fried fish, gave them a
very appetizing breakfast. They took their time
eating, waiting impatiently for the first signs of
light in the eastern sky.
At last it was light enough to see almost across
the lake, and then they looked in all directions for
some sign of the missing rowboat. The craft was
not in sight, and once again the party divided, this
time Whopper and Snap going to the south and
THE CAMP ON LAKE CAMERON 91
Shep and Giant to the north. Each took his gun
along, and it was Snap who told them to make sure
the firearms were loaded.
" You never want to go out with an empty gun,"
" Humph! " muttered Giant. " Did you ever
do such a thing?" But Snap pretended not to
hear and did not answer.
Whopper and Snap covered almost half a mile
before they came to a turn in the lake shore. Here
there was quite a good sized cove, and much to
their surprise they saw two large tents standing
among the trees. Nearby was the remains of a
campfire, with sticks, an iron chain, and a big iron
pot over it.
" I didn't notice this camp when we came up,"
" All the folks here must be asleep," said Snap.
But as he spoke a man came from one of the tents
and stared at them. It was Andrew Felps, the rich
lumber merchant who owned much of the land
around the lake and who had treated them so
meanly the summer and the winter previous.
"Hi, you!" roared Felps. "What are you
doing around here? "
" Looking for our boat," answered Snap.
92 YOUNG HUNTERS OF THE LAKE
" Humph ! This Is a pretty time to visit our
camp, I must say! "
'* We didn't know you had a camp here," said
** I'd Hke to know what you are doing here â€”
after my ordering you away last summer and last
winter," went on the lumber merchant, sourly.