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way through the woods."

The two boys took a couple of steps forward at a venture, without
knowing whether Antoine would oppose their leaving the cavern.

"Well," he said, as he stepped to one side, "if you boys see any
strangers loitering about, I wish you'd let me know."

The two lads amazed departed without making any promise, but they
did not at once turn in the direction of the cabin. Instead, they
plunged through the snow in a southerly direction, after seeing
that Antoine had gone the other way.

"Where are you headed for now?" asked Tommy.

"Just wandering about on general principles," replied Will, at the
same time turning into one of the eaves belonging to the system of
underground passages. "Thought I'd look in here first!"

The lads entered the cavern as noiselessly as possible and looked
guardedly about. A great heap of furs lay on the floor, and two
figures rested upon them apparently lost in slumber.

Tommy pointed to the modern shoes on the feet of one of the
sleepers. Then he silently called attention to the bloody bandage
wrapped about the man's head. He looked at Will inquiringly.

"Do you suppose," he whispered, "that these, fellows are here after
the Little Brass God, too?"

The men seemed willing to answer the question for themselves, for
they sprang to their feet and glared at the intruders angrily.

One of the men was dressed as a trapper, although he did not look
the part. He was tall and angular, with sharp features and keen
black eyes.

His companion was shorter, but equally slender. His eye orbits
were small and oval in shape, his face was a dusky brown, and there
was, somehow, about the man an atmosphere of the Orient.

While the four people glared at each other a step was heard in the
narrow entrance, and in a moment Antoine's face was clearly
outlined against the narrow slit of light.

The trapper took in the group at one quick glance, and, turning in
his tracks, fled precipitately down the slope. Without speaking a
word, the two men who had been found in the cavern, turned and
followed him.

"Now what do you think of that?" demanded Tommy.

CHAPTER XVII

"BOYS UP A TREE!"

When Thede returned to the cabin with numerous squirrels, rabbits
and ducks, Sandy greeted him with a shout of joy.

"This will seem like living in the north woods!" he cried. "We'll
have all kinds of game from this time on!"

"You bet we will!" replied Thede. "I'm some hungry myself, when it
comes to that! I guess I can get a few!"

"You never shot all these!" Sandy doubted, poking the squirrels and
rabbits about with a finger. "You never got them all by yourself!"

"How do you know I didn't?" asked Thede, with a provoking grin.

"Because you couldn't," Sandy answered.

"All right, then," admitted the boy. "We all had a share in the
shooting, and Will and Tommy sent me back with the game."

"Where have they gone?" asked Sandy, a look of indignation
over-spreading his face. "They're always running away and leaving
me to watch the camp! I wish they'd give me a chance sometime."

Thede sat down in one of the clumsy chairs which the cabin afforded
and laughed until his sides shook.

"I don't think any of you boys are famishing for fresh air and
adventure," he said in a moment. "You seem to me to be kept pretty
busy."

"Well," Sandy exclaimed, "they might let me go with them when they
start off on a tour like that. Where have they gone, anyway?"

"They said they were going out in search of the Little Brass God!"
laughed Thede.

"Honest?" demanded Sandy.

"That's what they said!"

"I hope they don't find it!" Sandy exclaimed.

The boys cooked a liberal supply of game for dinner and then began
restlessly walking to and fro over the cabin floor.

"What's the matter with you fellows?" asked George in a moment,
speaking from the bunk.

"Hello, you've woke up, have you?" demanded Sandy. "I thought
perhaps you'd sleep all day! How's your head feel?"

"Rotten, thank you!" answered George.

Sandy took a couple more turns about the room and then sat down by
the side of the bunk where George lay.

"I know what's the matter with you!" George said, directly.

"What's the answer!" asked Sandy, rather sourly.

"You need exercise!" replied George. "You've been ramming about
the cabin all the morning, and I've been wishing for the last three
hours that you'd take to the tall timber."

"Is that so?" shouted Sandy springing to his feet.

"Yes, that's so!" answered George. "I wish you and Thede would go
out for a ramble. If you don't know what else to do, walk over to
the river and catch a fish. That'll go all right for supper."

"You're on!" cried Sandy.

The boys were ready for the trip in a very few moments. It was not
necessary now to provide against mosquitoes and "bull-dogs," for
the sudden cold spell had effectually silenced them for the winter.

"Now don't you fellows come home unless you bring about twenty
pounds of trout," George directed as the two lads opened the door
and disappeared from sight.

The boys had proceeded but a short distance when Sandy called his
companion's attention to a peculiar foot-print in the snow.

"I guess we must be approaching the corner of State and Madison
again!" he laughed. "We come out into the woods to commune with
nature, and find some new party butting in every time we turn
around."

"That's an Indian's foot-print!" declared Thede.

"How do you know that?" demanded Sandy. "You haven't seen any
Indian, have you? How can you tell an Indian's foot-print from any
one else's? That may be a white man's step, for all we know!"

"Nay, nay, me son!" laughed Thede. "I know by the shape of the
moccasin and by the way the fellow walks."

"You know a whole lot of things!" laughed Sandy. "If you keep on
accumulating knowledge, you'll beat Tommy out of his job as the
Sherlock Holmes of the party!"

"Well, if you don't believe he's an Indian, you'd better go and ask
him!" Thede argued. "He's right over there in the thicket!"

Sandy gave a quick start of alarm and put his hand back to his
automatic. Thede motioned him to leave his gun where it was.

"This is a friendly Indian," the boy explained. "I've often heard
Pierre refer to him. He's called Oje, but I don't know whether
that's his name or not. He's said to be the champion fisherman of
this section, and if you really want to get fish for supper, we'd
better get him interested."

Oje was not a very romantic looking Indian, his general appearance
being that of a bear fitted out with about three hides. The boys
noticed, however, that none of the clothing he wore was fastened
closely about his waist or throat. In fact, as he joined them with
a grunt, they saw that the roughly-made garments were nearly all
open.

The Indian knows better than to bring his clothing where it will
come in contact with either his breath or with perspiration.
Should he do this in very severe weather, he would soon find
everything about him frozen stiff. He is sure, however, to carry
enough clothing with him to keep him warm in repose and during the
long nights.

"How do you know that's Oje?" whispered Sandy, as the Indian stood
looking questioningly at the two boys.

"Because he answers to the description."

"Howdy!" the Indian exclaimed in a moment.

The boys returned the greeting, and then followed a conversation
which was almost entirely expressed by signs.

Oje was invited to proceed with the boys on a fishing trip, and,
later, to accept of their hospitality at the cabin. The Indian
gave a grunt of assent, and at once turned toward the river.

As they passed the spot where the cache had been, Sandy glanced
curiously toward the Indian, as though wondering whether he had not
been the one to dig out the provisions. The Indian, however,
walked on without appearing to notice either the rifled cache or
the suspicious glances of the boy. Arrived at the river, the
Indian, after carefully testing the ice, walked to a small island
near the shore.

The boys looked on while he began his preparations for fishing. He
went about the work quietly, yet seemed to be remarkably exact in
all his motions. First he cut about twenty feet of fish-line in
two in the middle of the piece and tied one end of each part to one
end of a stick which he cut from the shore.

The knots he made in the fastening seemed primitive, but it was
discovered later that they held very firmly. After a time he tied
a bass hook to each fish-line, and on each hook he speared a little
cube of fat pork which he drew from his pocket, and which had
evidently done service through a long series of fishing expeditions.

Next he cut two holes in the ice, which was not very thick at that
point, and over these the boys were invited to stand, sticks in
hand, lines dangling from the poles.

Hardly had Sandy lowered his line which had a bullet flattened
around it for a sinker, when he felt it jerk to one side, and
almost immediately drew up a three-pound trout.

"Now, what do you think of that for catching fish?" demanded the
boy.

Oje gave a satisfied grunt at this evident appreciation of his
services, and motioned the lads to continue their sport.

Next Thede caught a gray trout somewhat smaller than the fish
landed by Sandy, and then another three-pound speckled trout was
landed.

"I guess if some of these fellows with hundred dollar fishing
outfits could see us hauling beauties out of the water like this,
they'd begin to understand what real fishing means!" Sandy
exclaimed.

It was a glorious day for fishing, although a trifle cold. The sun
shone down with a brilliance unequaled in more tropical climates,
and there was little wind to send the chill through the clothing.
After the boys had caught plenty of fish they started back toward
the cabin.

Oje walked through the wilderness with a different manner from that
with which he had accompanied the boys in the journey toward the
river. He glanced sharply about, and frequently stopped to examine
trifling marks in the snow. After a time he pointed to the track
of a rabbit which had apparently departed from the faint trail in
extreme terror, judging from the speed which had been made.

"Strange man!" he said significantly. "Find track soon!"

"Do you mean," asked Sandy, "that there's some one chasing us up?"

"Find track soon," was all the explanation the Indian would make.

"Of course!" Sandy declared. "We couldn't think of going back to
the cabin without butting into some new combination!"

In a short time the Indian discovered the footprints he was looking
for, and pointed them out to the boys. Two persons had passed that
way not long before. The tracks in the snow showed that one had
worn moccasins and the other ordinary shoes.

"I should think that fellow's feet would freeze!" Sandy observed.
"He don't seem to have any overshoes on!"

"How do you know?" asked Thede. "He may have a small foot and wear
overshoes shaped like a shoe itself."

"I wish we could follow the trail and find out where they're
going!" Sandy observed.

"I'm game for it!" declared Thede.

The two boys pointed to the foot-prints and started to follow them.

The Indian seemed pleased at the idea, and soon led the way toward
the range of hills whither the foot-prints pointed.

"The first thing we know," Thede suggested, "we'll be running into
a nest of black bears. They're thick as bees up in this country,
and they'll be hungry, too, with all this snow on the ground."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before a succession of low,
angry growls came to the ears of the boys, and the next moment they
saw Oje springing into the lower branches of a great fir tree.

"I guess he knows what's good for his health!" shouted Sandy. "Me
for a tree, too!"

The boys probably never made quicker motions in their lives.

"Have you got a searchlight with you?" asked Thede.

Sandy shook his head sadly.

"Then we can't see to shoot the beasts," wailed Thede, "and it
looks to me like one of those long, cold nights in a tree!"




CHAPTER XVIII

A PILLAR OF FIRE

"Can you build a fire with one match?" asked Thede, after a short
silence, during which the boys had been trying in vain to get a
shot at the bears.

"Of course I can!" answered Sandy. "What's the good of going
through all those Boy Scout examinations, if a fellow can't build a
fire with one match? Of course I can build a fire with one match!"

"Can you build a fire with one match up in a tree?" asked Thede,
with a suspicion of mirth in his voice.

"Of course I can!" answered Sandy.

"Up in a tree in the darkness, on a windy night?" asked Thede.

"If this thing is going to your head, you'd better drop down and
make a run for the camp!" advised Sandy.

"Honest, now," asked Thede, "can you make a fire with one match in
a green tree, in a high wind, on a dark night?"

"Cut it out!" roared Sandy.

"Because if you can," Thede explained, "I think I can show you a
way out of this mess!"

"Well, go on and show it, then!"

"All you've got to do," Thede went on, "is to build a fire and drop
the burning brands down on top of the bears. That will bring them
out into the light for a second or two, and perhaps we can drop
them with our automatics."

The boys heard the Indian moving softly about in the branches of
the tree he had selected as a refuge, but paid little attention to
what he was doing. Afterwards, they discovered that he had dropped
his rifle at the foot of the tree, and was trying to secure it.

"Why did you say build a fire with one match?" asked Sandy. "I
always carry a lot of matches," the boy added, feeling in his
pocket.

"Find any?" asked Thede.

"Not a match!"

"I knew you wouldn't!" Thede said.

"How'd you happen to know so much?" grunted Sandy.

"Because," Thede replied, "I saw you feeling in your pocket for a
match and bring your fingers out empty while at the cabin. Then
you went to a match box and laid a great heap of 'em on the table.
I thought of it while we stood there, but it never occurred to me
to tell you to stow them away."

"I remember now!" Sandy said regretfully.

"Well," Thede responded cheerfully, "I've got just one match. I
wonder if you can light a fire with that!"

"You just wait a minute and I'll tell you!" replied Sandy.

Thede heard him moving about over the limbs of the tree, his every
motion being punctuated by growls from below. Then came an
exclamation of satisfaction from the darkness, and Thede heard the
boy declaring that it was a dead tree they were in, and that there
was plenty of dry wood.

"All right, start your fire, then," suggested Thede, "and we'll see
if we can't burn the backs off some of those bears!"

"Perhaps we can break off enough dry limbs to make a rousing old
fire that will keep till morning," Sandy said in a moment. "If
this old tree is really dead to the heart, it'll make quite a
blaze."

Sandy gathered a great handful of twigs not more than a couple of
inches in length and placed them in a sheltered position in the lee
of the tree. Then he added dry boughs of larger size and made
ready to use the precious match.

"Now you know what'll happen if that match goes out!" said Thede.

"This match," said Sandy confidently, "is not the kind of a match
that goes out. I'd be a healthy old Boy Scout if I couldn't build
a fire in the top of a tree with one match!"

The boy waited until there came a brief lull in the wind, then with
the match protected as much as possible by his hat he struck it.

The flame spluttered for an instant, died down, crawled around to
the windward side of the stick, crawled back again, and then flared
up gloriously. At first the dry twigs refused to ignite, but
presently one caught the blaze, then another, and directly Sandy
was obliged to draw his face away from the growing heat.

"There!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "Didn't I tell you I could do
it?"

"You said you could," answered Thede, "but I didn't believe it!"

"Look here," Tommy said in a minute, sheltering his face from the
smoke. "First thing we know, we'll have this whole blooming tree
on fire."

"If it gets good and hot, we can fry fish after the bears go away,"
suggested Thede. "I'm hungry! By the way," he added with a grin,
"where are those fish?"

"Do you think I brought 'em up in the tree?" demanded Sandy.

"You never left 'em down there?" asked Thede.

"Didn't I?" exclaimed Sandy. "What did you do with the ones you
were carrying?"

"Why," replied Thede, "I guess I left 'em in the thicket where we
stood when we made a hop-skip-and-jump for the tree."

"We certainly are a bright mess!" cried Sandy.

"Say," Thede said in a moment, "I'll just bet that's what kept the
bears so still while we've been up here building the fire. They've
been eating our fish! That's why we couldn't get sight of them!"

"Can you see the bears now?" asked Sandy. "I'm sure I can't!"

"They're still back in there eating our trout!' wailed Thede.

"Unless you want a leg burned off," advised Sandy, "you'd better
work around on another limb!"

"Aw, this limb is all right!" argued Thede.

The light from the fire now illuminated quite a little circle
around the tree, and the boys saw 0je sliding cautiously down the
trunk of the tree where he had taken refuge.

"He's after his gun!" declared Sandy. "Just watch out and you'll
see him get one of those bears!"

Oje certainly was after his rifle, for he slid down cautiously,
keeping the bole of the tree between himself and the bears.

Much to the surprise of the lads, the Indian did not again climb
into the shelter of the branches. Instead, he stood peering around
the trunk of the tree as if waiting for the wild animals to make
their appearance. The flame blazed higher and higher and the boys
began to feel uncomfortable.

"I'll bet there ain't any bears here!" Sandy exclaimed after a
moment's silence. "I guess we run away from a rabbit!"

"I guess we didn't!" insisted Thede.

The boy's opinion was verified a moment later by the appearance of
three shambling figures in the lighted zone. The bear is noted for
his curiosity, and the boys realized, too, that the feast of fish
must have been devoured.

"We might have sneaked away while they were eating that fine
supper!" Sandy said, in a tone of disgust. "I think we ought to
have medals made out of a cow's ear! That would be a good medal,
wouldn't it, for boys who showed such courage in the face of the
enemy?"

"Never you mind!" Thede answered. "I guess the bears are next to
their job. We wouldn't have gone far before they'd been after us."

As the bears appeared in the light of the fire, now blazing
fiercely and fast climbing from one dry limb to another, the lads
saw the Indian raise his rifle to his shoulder and fire.

Instead of taking to their legs, the bears grouped themselves
around their fallen mate and snarled savagely up into the tree.

"Oje will get another one in a minute," Thede ventured, overjoyed
at the success of the first shot, "and then we can open fire with
our automatics."

"Holy Moses!" cried Sandy. "Here we've been sitting here watching
the panorama with our guns in our pockets! I guess we don't know
much about hunting bears, when it comes down to cases."

"Well, it isn't too late to shoot yet," Thede declared.

"It's getting pretty hot here, anyhow," said Sandy, "and we'll have
to drop in a minute, whether we shoot or not. This old tree seems
to be as dry as tinder!"

"Yes," Thede agreed, "I guess you started something when you made
such good use of that one match."

The boys moved about on the limb in order to get at their
automatics. They noted then, for the first time, that the perch
upon which they rested was burning close to the trunk. They called
out to each other, almost simultaneously, to shift to the trunk of
the tree.

But it was too late. They felt themselves swinging through, the
air, and the next moment there was such a mixture of boy and bear
at the bottom of the tree as has rarely been seen in the British
Territories.

Both boys landed squarely on the back of one of the animals. Of
course, they rolled to the ground instantly and grabbed for their
automatics, but their movements were no quicker than those of the
astonished bear.

"Woof!" he said. "Woof!"

Translated into boy-talk, this read "Good-night!" and a second
later they heard both bears tramping through the forest as if
pursued by a pack of hounds.

"What do you know about that?" demanded Tommy.

Without replying, Thede scrambled to his feet and dashed into the
thicket where he had left the fish. He returned in a moment with a
woeful face which set his chum into roars of laughter.

"They ate our fish!" he said,

"What'd you think they'd do with them?" demanded Sandy. "Did you
think they'd put 'em in cold storage and keep 'em for next summer?"

"What I'm sobbing about," Thede went on, "is that the bears
certainly made a monkey of me. They weren't after us. They were
after the fish!"

"Well, they got the fish, didn't they?" asked Sandy.

"And we might have been on our way while they were devouring them!"
wailed Thede.

The tree was now virtually a pillar of fire, and the boys moved out
from under it. They found the Indian standing, stolid and
indifferent, just out of the circle of light.

"Just think of all that funny thing happening and he never seeing
any humor in it!" exclaimed Sandy.

The Indian lifted his hand for silence, and pointed off toward the
hills. Then, motioning the boys to follow him, he led the way into
a thicket and crouched down.

Directly the panting and puffing of a man exhausted from a long
run, was heard, and the familiar figure of Antoine dashed into the
circle of light! He glared about for a moment and then dropped
down on the snow, evidently completely exhausted.




CHAPTER XIX

THE SIGNAL FROM THE HILLS

"That's a funny proposition, too!" whispered Sandy.

"That's the gink who tried to feed us poisoned tea," Thede
whispered back. "I wonder what he's running for."

The Indian drew at the boys' sleeves to enforce silence, and all
three sat perfectly still for some moments. Then Antoine lifted
himself to his feet and looked cautiously about.

They saw him examine the bear tracks and heard him muttering to
himself as he followed with trained eyes the trail leading into the
thicket where the boys and the Indian were hiding.

He drew quite close to the bushes where the three lay; so close,
indeed, that they could hear him muttering as he lost the trail
because of the darkness. Presently, he turned back.

"I think I understand," he said hoarsely. "Two of the boys were
treed by bears and Oje rescued them. I presume they are half way
to the cabin before this."

He started along the trail by which the boys had reached the tree
but presently turned back. He stood in the light of the fire for a
moment and then set off in the direction of the hills.

"Safer there than here!" they heard him growl as he passed them by.

Oje waited until the sound of the fellow's footsteps were heard no
more, and then arose to his feet, Without speaking a word, he, too,
faced toward the hills, passing through the snow at a swinging gait.

"What's he going to do now?" queried Sandy.

"I wish I knew!" replied Thede. "Say, look here!" the boy
continued, "hadn't we better make a break for the cabin? I don't
see any sustenance in wandering around in the snow all night!"

"Oje has something on his mind!" Sandy declared. "And I think we'd
better find out where he's going."

"All right!" answered Thede. "I'm game, only I'm wondering what
George is thinking about all this time."

It was cold and dark in the forest, and the snow was deep, but the
boys trudged bravely on in the direction of the hills. At least
they supposed that they were going in the direction of the hills.
They could scarcely see a yard in advance of their noses under the
thick foliage and so trusted entirely to the Indian, who led them
along at a pace which was exhausting to say the least.

There would be a moon shortly after eight, but soon after that time
they hoped to be snugly tucked in their blankets in the cottage.
For a time they could see the dry tree which they had fired blazing
in the distance, but at length it dropped out of sight.

"How long do you think that blooming savage will keep this up?"
asked Sandy of Thede, as the two boys struggled along through snow
nearly up to their knees. "I'm about all in!"


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