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"Bah! I wouldn't go with you!" retorted Ham Spink. "When I go
out I'll do it in first-class style and with an A1 guide. No
little two-cent trip for me."

Hamilton Spink was the son of a very aristocratic man who had
come to Fairview a year before. Ham, as all the boys called him,
was very much of a dude and always thought himself superior to
the regular town boys. He smoked cigarettes and played pool and
golf and rode horseback, and did as much "showing off" as he possibly
could. As a consequence the majority of the boys detested him.

"This isn't a two-cent trip!" cried Shep. "I don't thank you to
call it such."

"I'll call it what I please," muttered the dudish youth.

"Oh, dry off and keep cool!" came from Whopper, and he allowed
his oar to slip on purpose, sending a shower of water over the
youth on the dock.

"Hi! hi! stop!" came angrily, as Ham backed away. "How dare
you do such a thing!" and the dudish boy got out a silk handkerchief
and began to wipe the water from his face and high collar.

"Excuse me," answered Whopper, drily. "I beg two million pardons,
Ham. You see, I was holding the oar this way and I turned it
so, and I - -well, I declare, there she goes again!" And once
more poor Ham received a shower of water over his rather elegant
suit.

"I'll - -I'll have, the constable lock you up!" spluttered the dudish
boy, backing away rapidly. "This is - -er - -outrageous - -I'll - -
I'll tell your folks!"

"That's right, be a tattle-tale!" came from Giant, and then he
began to sing softly.

"Ham in the pan! Ham in the pan!
Ham's the best of meat!"

"Ham in the pan! Ham in the pan!
Ham is good and sweet!"

"You stop that!" roared Ham Spink, and then, as a dozen boys on
the dock took up the darky song, he turned and strode away, with
his rather short nose tilted high in the air.

"Do you think he'll call on our folks about this?" whispered Whopper,
somewhat anxiously. "I shouldn't like to leave under a cloud."

"Oh! he hasn't got backbone enough to make trouble," answered
Shep. But Shep was mistaken, as we shall learn later.

The rowboat was now some distance from the dock, and with a final
wave of the hand the boys began the journey to Lake Cameron.

In a straight line the lake was about ten miles from the town,
but the river was a winding one, so they had a row of over thirteen
miles before them.

"I hope we haven't forgotten anything," said Whopper. "It would
be a shame to have to go back, eh, fellows?"

"We are not going back," returned Giant. "If anything has been
left behind we will have to get along without it."

Having left the town behind, the boys reached a point on the stream
where the trees and bushes were thick on either side. They turned
in toward the left bank, where the sun was not quite so strong,
for in spite of the fact that it was fall it promised to be warm.

"Be careful along here," cautioned Shep. "There are some big
rocks just under the surface."

He had scarcely spoken when there came a terrific bump which almost
threw him overboard. Whopper was sent sprawling on his side,
and his oar sent a shower of water over Giant.

"Wow!" came from Whopper. "Say, did we strike a fortress or what?
I thought I was going to the bottom sure!"

"I said to be careful," answered Shep, as the craft sheered off.
"Either move out to the middle of the stream or else go slower."

"No use of moving to the middle of the stream now," said Giant.
"I want to land a short distance below here."

"What for?" asked the others.

"I'll show you when we get there."

Presently they came to a clearing where there was a cornfield.
Beyond this was a fine apple orchard, and looking among the trees
they espied some especially fine apples.

"We may as well take a few along," said Giant.

"Who owns the orchard?" questioned Whopper.

"Pop Lundy," answered Snap. "The meanest farmer in this district."

"Then he won't give us any apples," declared Whopper.

"We'll have to make an appropriation," said Giant, coolly. "He
owes me some, anyway. I once did an errand for him in town and
he hardly gave me a thank you for it."

"If he catches us he will make it warm."

"We'll keep our eyes peeled."

After a few words more the rowboat was run up under some bushes
and all leaped ashore. They made their way through the bushes
into the orchard proper and then hurried for the tree that seemed
to be bearing the best of the fruit.

"These apples are certainly all right," remarked Shep, biting
into one which was extra juicy. "We may as well take all we can
carry of them."

It was no easy task to get at the apples, which were rather high
up, and one after another the boys got up into the lower branches
and then mounted higher. Here they stuffed their pockets until
it was impossible to carry another one.

"Well, boys, how much longer be you a-goin' to stay up there, hey?"

The question came from the foot of the tree, and, much alarmed,
the four gazed below, to see Pop Lundy standing there, with a
stout whip in his hand.

"I say, how much longer be you a-goin' to stay there?" went on
the mean farmer, with a glare at them.

"Oh, how do you do, Mr. Lundy?" cried Snap, as cheerfully as he
could. "We were just rowing by and we thought we'd sample your
apples."

"Really neow, thet was kind, wasn't it?" said the farmer, sarcastically.
"Jest come deown and ye can sample this cowhide o' mine."

"Thanks, but I just as soon stay here," came softly from Giant.

"Fine work to be cotched at," went on Pop Lundy. "Stealin' a
poor man's fruit. Come deown an' I'll tan yer hide well fer ye!"

He was very angry and now he shook his cowhide whip at them.

At that instant, quite unintentionally, Shep let an apple core
drop from his hand. Pop Lundy was looking up when the core hit
him plumb in the left eye.

"Yeou villain!" he cried, dancing around. "Want fer to put my
eye eout, hey? Oh, wait till I git my hands on ye, I'll show
ye a thing or two!"

"Mr. Lundy, supposing we agree to pay you for the apples?" questioned
Snap, after an awkward pause.

"How much?" demanded the farmer, cautiously. He was a good deal
of a miser and money was very dear to him.

"Oh, a fair price."

"Don't pay him a cent," whispered Giant. "Let us all drop and
run for it."

"If we do that he may report the matter at home and make trouble
that way," went on Snap. "He can't charge us only a few cents
for what we have taken."

"Will ye give me a dollar fer the apples?" asked Pop Lundy.

"A dollar!" ejaculated Whopper. "Humph! I can get a barrel of
these apples for a dollar!"

"No, yeou can't! I'm a-goin' to git six dollars fer 'em - -they're
the best in these air parts. Make it a dollar an' I'll let ye go."

"This is a regular hold-up," muttered Shep. "Offer him twenty-five
cents."

At that moment came a loud cry from the direction of the farmhouse,
which was located at the upper end of the orchard.

"Help! help! Simon! Simon! Help me!" came in the voice of a woman.




CHAPTER IV

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE BOAT


"Something is wrong sure!" exclaimed Snap, as the cry from the
farmhouse was repeated.

He looked below and saw that Pop Lundy was running away, in the
direction of the cry for assistance.

"Now is our chance to get away!" cried Whopper, and dropped to
the ground, while the others did the same.

"Wait!" came from Snap. "That sounds as if somebody was in great
trouble. Hadn't we better go and see what it means?"

"And get caught by Pop Lundy?" queried Giant.

"I don't care," put in Shep. "If I can help a lady I am going
to do it."

He hurried off in the direction Simon Lundy had taken and one
after another his chums followed. To get to the back door of
the farmhouse they had to pass around a chicken house and a pig
sty, and as they were doing this they saw a burly negro leap a
rail fence not far away.

"What is it, Jane?" they heard the farmer cry, as he dashed into
the house.

There was no reply, and coming to the door, the four boys saw
that the farmer's wife lay back in a kitchen chair in a dead faint.

"Sumbuddy hez killed her, I guess!" moaned Simon Lundy. "Oh,
where is the villain?"

"She isn't dead, only fainted," answered Shep, who had assisted
his father on more than one occasion. "Got some smelling salts
in the house?"

"I dunno. Ye kin look in the closets."

Shep and the others did so, and soon the son of the physician
found something that was beneficial. Yet it was several minutes
before the lady of the farm came to her senses and opened her
eyes.

"Where is he?" she murmured. "Take him away! Take him away!"

"Who are ye a-talkin' about, Jane?" demanded the husband.

"Thet - -he - -oh, Simon, is it you? Why didn't you come before?"

"Couldn't - -cos I had these young whelps up an apple tree. But
wot is it all about anyhow?"

"The big negro - -he wanted something to eat, and then he got saucy
and he picked up your watch from the mantelpiece - - -"

"My watch!" The miserly farmer sprang to the mantelpiece. "It's
gone, sure enough!" he groaned.

"I saw the negro!" cried Snap. "He jumped that fence out there
as we came up."

"That's right," put in Whopper. "He was running like a house
afire, too."

"Where did he go?"

Nobody knew, but some thought he might have taken to the road.
Finding his wife had not been harmed, only badly scared, Simon
Lundy ran out to the road and gazed up and down, and the boys
did the same.

"I don't see nuthin'," said Pop Lundy.

"Let us run down the road a bit, fellows," suggested Shep.

"Will ye come back?" asked the farmer, anxiously. "I - -er - -I
won't say nuthin' about them apples."

"Yes, we'll be back," answered Snap.

The boys spent the best part of an hour on the road, hunting up
and down for some trace of the negro, but without success. They
knew he was short and stocky and wore a light, checked suit, but
that was all.

When they returned to the farmhouse they heard Mrs. Lundy's story
in detail. She had been on the point of sweeping the sitting-room
when the negro had appeared and asked for Mr. Lundy. She had
told him her husband was out, and then the colored man had wanted
something to eat. She had refused to give him anything, and then,
seeing the watch on the mantelpiece, he had snatched the timepiece
and run. She had screamed for assistance and then fainted from
excitement.

"Was the watch a valuable one?" asked Snap.

"Yes, it was," answered Simon Lundy. "It was gold and given to
me by my father years ago. I wouldn't take a hundred dollars
fer it nohow. I was mighty careless to leave it on the mantelpiece,
but I didn't want to carry it around in the orchard when I picked
apples."

"What will you do about it?" asked Shep.

"I dunno. Go tew teown an' tell the constable, I guess. Be yeou
goin' to town?"

"No; we are off on a hunting trip," answered Giant. "And, by the way,
we had better be getting back to the boat," he added to his chums.

"Mr. Lundy, we'll give you a quarter for those apples," said Shep.

"All right, as ye please," said the old farmer. He was so upset
over the loss of his watch he could think of nothing else.

The boys passed over the money - -that is, Shep did, for he had
been appointed treasurer of the expedition. Then, after a few
words more, the young hunters hurried back through the orchard
to where they had left their rowboat among the bushes.

"Gosh! what a mean man!" was Whopper's comment. "To take that
money after what we did to catch that negro."

"It isn't likely that he'll get his gold watch back," said Giant.
"That nigger will shake the dust of this locality from his feet
as fast as he can."

"More than likely he belongs in some big city," was Whopper's
comment. "That is the way those chaps do - -go to a lonely farmhouse
and make sure the men are away and then take what they can lay
hands on. If he hadn't heard Pop Lundy and us coming he would
most likely have ransacked the house from end to end."

They were soon at the river bank and forcing their way through
the bushes. Then Snap looked around in perplexity.

"Isn't this the spot where we left the boat?" he questioned, gravely.

"I think so," answered Shep.

"Well, I don't see it."

"Don't see it!" exclaimed Whopper, who was in the rear. "Why, it
must be here."

All came out on the edge of the river and gazed up and down the
shore in alarm. Not a sight of the boat was to be seen anywhere.

"Wonder if she floated off?" suggested Giant.

"She couldn't," answered Shep. "I tied her up, and did it good,
too. There is the exact spot," and he pointed out a stout bush.
In the dirt of the bank was the mark of the rowboat's sharp bow.

"Look there!" ejaculated Whopper. "See the size of those
footprints - -as big as canal-boats. Do you know what I think?" he
almost shouted.

"That nigger ran off with our boat!" came in a chorus from the others.

"That's it. See, there is where he came along the shore. He
meant to hide here, when he came across the boat. He saw it was
well filled with things and jumped in, and I suppose he rowed
off as fast as he could," added Whopper, bitterly. "Oh, wouldn't
I like to catch him! I'd make mince-meat of him, I would!"

Whopper stopped short, and all of the boys looked at each other
blankly. For some seconds nobody spoke, but each was busy with
his thoughts.

"If we can't find the boat - - -" began Snap.

"We'll have to return home and give up the trip," finished Giant.
"Oh, I don't want to do that!"

"Nor I!" came from the others.

"We must find our boat, that is all there is to it," said Snap.
"I don't believe he went up the river, consequently he must have
gone down."

"Then let us get another boat and follow him."

"That's the talk!"

But where to get another boat was a question.

Snap ran back to the farmhouse and met Pop Lundy at the door.

"Thought you boys was a-goin' down the river," said the farmer,
suspiciously.

"We have learned what became of that nigger."

"What?"

"He took our boat and ran off with it."

"Well, I vow! Ain't he the pesky rascal, though! Wot be yeou
boys a-goin' tew do neow?"

"We want to get another boat, if possible, and follow him. Do
you know where a boat can be had?"

"Yes; Ike Welby has a boat. His farm is the next one down from
mine. I'll go along. I want to catch him ez much as yeou do."

In a few minutes they were off in a body, all of the boys accompanying
the farmer to the next farm. Ike Welby was not at home, but his
wife said they could have the boat and welcome, and procured for
them two pairs of oars from the barn.

"I am glad that negro didn't come here," she declared. "I should
have fainted dead away, too, and he would have gotten everything
in the house. I trust you catch the rascal."

"We be a-goin' to try mighty hard," answered Simon Lundy.

There was a small boathouse at the end of the grounds and here
was a good round-bottomed boat built for speed as well as pleasure,
for in his younger days Ike Welby had been quite an oarsman and
had won more than one race. They ran the rowboat into the river,
and all jumped in. Then Snap shoved off, and all of the boys
got at the oars.

"Now, then, to make things hum!" said Shep. "We must try to spot
that nigger before he thinks of going ashore."




CHAPTER V

ANOTHER START


The four young hunters were used to rowing together, so they made
rapid progress when once they had caught the stroke. Simon Lundy
sat in the stern of the craft, gazing anxiously ahead.

"The wuss o' it is he's got sech a tarnal good start of us," remarked
the farmer. "He must be a mile away by this time."

"Never mind, we'll catch him before long, if he sticks to the
river," said Snap, confidently.

"Wisht I had brung a gun along."

"Yes, that would have been a good thing," was Shep's comment.
"And that reminds me," he added to his chums, "all of our weapons
were left in the rowboat."

"Yes; and the nigger is well supplied with guns and pistols,"
came from Whopper. "Maybe he will try to shoot us full of a million
holes when he spots us."

"Oh, deary me! Don't say thet!" groaned Simon Lundy. "I - -I don't
want to be shot at, not me!"

"He won't dare to shoot!" said Giant. "We can pretend that we
are all armed, you know."

On and on sped the rowboat, making excellent progress on the
smooth-flowing river. About a mile was covered, and they swept
around first one bend and then another.

"I see a boat ahead!" roared the farmer. "She's gone now," he
added, as the craft shot behind some bushes, at a point along
the river.

The four young oarsmen increased their stroke, and soon gained
the point. Then the boat again came into full view and they could
see that it was their own craft and that the colored man was rowing
along at a good rate of speed.

"There he is!" was the cry.

"Pull, boys, pull!" called out Snap.

They did pull, and soon came closer to the craft ahead. Then
the negro chanced to look back and saw them. He was evidently
chagrined, and with out delay turned in toward shore, close to
where the trees grew thick.

"Stop!" cried Shep. "Stop, you rascal!"

But the negro paid no attention, excepting to renew his efforts
to reach the river bank. He sent the rowboat in among the bushes
with a loud swish, and hopped ashore. Then the other boat came
up.

"Stop!" roared Simon Lundy. Give me back my watch!"

"Don't yo' dar to follow me!" yelled the negro, and showed a big
horse-pistol. "If yo' do, somebody is dun gwine to git shot."

"Don't!" yelled the farmer, and fell flat in the rowboat.

The boys were also alarmed, and for the moment knew not what to
do. In that space of time the negro darted back of some trees
and was lost to view.

"Look out, boys, he'll shoot ye sure!" said Simon Lundy, in a
voice full of fear.

"He has gone," announced Snap.

"Are all of our things safe?" asked Shep, anxiously.

"We'll soon find out," put in Whopper, and leaped from one boat
into the other. All made a hasty examination and found everything
intact. Even their weapons had not been touched, for which they
were exceedingly thankful.

"He wasn't expecting us," explained Giant. "He thought he'd get
time later to go through our belongings." And the others concluded
that Giant had spoken the truth.

What to do next was a question. Simon Lundy said he did not want
to follow the negro, since the rascal was armed and evidently full
of fight.

"I'll go after him if the others will," said Shep, and the upshot
of the matter was that the four boys went on a hunt, leaving the
cowardly farmer to watch the two boats. The boys went deep into
the woods and even to the road beyond, but saw nothing of the
rascal that had disappeared.

"He will be on his guard now and keep out of sight," said Whopper.
"I'll bet he don't show himself again in two years."

"Make it ten years while you are at it, Whopper," said Snap, drily.

"Well, do you think he will show up?"

"No. But we may see him some day."

When the four young hunters returned to the boats they found Simon
Lundy had hidden himself behind some bushes. He came out rather
shamefacedly and asked if they had met the negro.

"Yes; and he said he was coming to chew you up," answered Whopper,
with a wink at his chums.

"H-he did!" quaked Simon Lundy. "Sa-say, hadn't we better be
a-goin'?"

"We are not going to bother to look for him any more," said Snap,
who was disgusted with the cowardly and miserly farmer. "We are
going on our way."

"An' what be I a-goin' tew do?"

"Take Mr. Welby's boat back," answered Snap, shortly. "You can
row, can't you?"

"A leetle, yes."

"Then, good-by to you," said Shep, and leaped into the rowboat
containing the camp outfit.

"Hi! Don't leave me here alone!" ejaculated Pop Lundy, in fresh
alarm. "Shove the boat out into the stream."

This they did for him, and soon he was rowing away from the spot
as best he could, fearful, evidently, that the negro would come,
as Whopper had said, to "chew him up."

"He's about the limit!" was Snap's comment, when Simon Lundy was
out of hearing. "How I would love to play ghost on him!"

"He'd have a fit and die," added Shep.

The negro had not disarranged the boat in the least, so they were
soon on their way, Shep and Giant taking the oars. Snap leaned
back in the stern and stretched himself.

"Tell you what, fellows, our outing is starting with lots of excitement.
Wonder how it is going to end?"

"Perhaps it will end very tamely," said Whopper, who was in the
bow, munching an apple. "We'll strike several weeks of rain,
and not get a shot at anything larger than a rabbit. Then we'll
all take cold, and have to send for a doctor, and - - -"

"Say, please heave him overboard, somebody!" burst out Giant.
"He's just as cheerful as a funeral. We are going to have nothing
but sunshine, and I am going to shoot two bears, four deer, seventeen
wildcats, eighteen - - -"

"Hold on!" shouted Snap. "You have gotten into Whopper's story-bag,
Giant, and it won't do."

"Oh, I was fooling!" said Whopper. "We are going to have a peach
of a time. We are going to strike an old lodge in the wood - -some
an old hermit once lived in - -and find a big pot of gold under the - - -"

"Bay window, near the well, just across the corner from the
barber shop, next to the school," broke in Shep. "Say, cut out
the fairy tales and get to business. Does anybody know that it
is exactly ten minutes to twelve?"

"Codfish and crullers! You don't say so!" came from Whopper. "I knew
I was getting hollow somewhere. What shall we do - -go ashore and
cook dinner?"

"Might as well," came from Snap. "Our time's our own, remember.
We haven't got to hurry."

"I know just the spot, about quarter of a mile from here," said
Shep. "Our family once went there for a picnic. There's a good
spring of water there and a hollow for a fire, and everything."

"Pantry full of dishes and a tablecloth, I suppose," broke in
the irrepressible Whopper. "I do love a picnic ground where you
can pick napkins off the bushes and toothpicks, too."

The boys pushed the rowboat on its way and soon reached the spot
that Shep had mentioned, and there they tied up at a tree-root
sticking out of the river bank. Beyond was a cleared space and
a semi-circle of stones with a pole in two notched posts for a
fire and kettle. They soon had a blaze started and Whopper filled
the kettle at the spring and hung it to boil.

"This is just a taste of what is to come," said Snap. "At this
meal we'll have our sandwiches, cake and some hot coffee. It
will be different when we broil our deer meat, or something like
that, and make hot biscuits."

"And roast our bear steaks," put in Whopper. "Just wait till
you see the bear I shoot!"

"He means the bear he runs away from," said Shep, and this caused
a laugh.

As soon as the water was boiling they made coffee, and then all
sat around to enjoy their first meal in the open. The adventures
of the morning had given them all good appetites, and they did not
stop until the entire allowance had disappeared.

"No more just now," said Snap. "We must keep something for supper
and for breakfast, you know. After that we have got to live on
regular camp fare."

They lolled around for the best part of an hour, then arose, cleaned
up the camp, and started on their journey.

"And now for Lake Cameron!" cried Shep. "May we reach there without
further mishaps."




CHAPTER VI

A FIRST NIGHT IN CAMP


Lake Cameron was a beautiful sheet of water, connected with the
river by a narrow but deep creek lined on either side with thick
blackberry and elderberry bushes. Around the lake the scenery
was rather wild, and had it been closer to the railroad would
have been a great spot for sportsmen. Even as it was, many came
up there to hunt and to fish, and the boys were by no means certain
that they would have even a small portion of the locality to themselves.

"I am going to see if I can't get a shot at something on the way,"
said Snap, as they turned into the creek. "There used to be wild
turkeys up here, so Jed Sanborn told me."

"Is Sanborn out hunting?" asked the small youth of the crowd.

"Not just now, Giant. But he said he was coming to see us some
time," answered Snap.

Snap had his shotgun ready for use, and so had one of the other
young hunters. The rowboat glided along silently. The sun was
just preparing to go down beyond the hills to the westward.

"Wait!" called Snap, in a low tone, and stood up. Those at the


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