Read CHAPTER IX - JERRY TAKES CHANCES of The Outdoor Chums / The First Tour of the Rod‚ Gun and Camera Club, free online book, by Captain Quincy Allen, on ReadCentral.com.

The announcement of Frank stunned both the others for a moment.

“Do you really believe that?” asked Will, uneasily, at length.

“It would be just like Bluff to take chances.  He never counts the cost.  Yes, sir, I just wager he started for that camp before we had been gone half an hour.”

“But how would he know where to find those fellows?” asked Will.

“Oh! he knew, all right.  We talked it over last night when you were busy with your camera, after we chased around for the stone-thrower; and agreed that since Andy and his mates couldn’t get this camp-site, the next best place for them to go would be that little cabin up near the shore of the lake,” said Jerry.

“You mean the one the charcoal burners used to live in long ago?”

“Yes.  And as Bluff has been around this section more than once, he must have known how to get there.  Five to one he burst right into the camp and demanded his gun.”

“Do you think so?” said Jerry, uneasily.

“That is his way.  And you can just guess that he got into hot water before half a minute had gone,” returned Frank.

“Would they hurt Bluff?” asked Will, beginning to show unexpected feeling.

“Well, they might, especially if he accused them of stealing his gun.  Besides, if he happened to see it there I wouldn’t put it past Bluff to tackle the whole bunch in the effort to get his property,” Frank went on.

Jerry had thrown his gun down as if ready to drop over himself.  He now stooped and picked it up again.

“Come on, fellows; there’s only one thing for us to do,” he said.

“And that’s to hike over to that shanty and find out if they’ve got our chum there a prisoner,” finished Frank.

Will made no move to leave his beloved camera behind.

“Hide it somewhere,” suggested Frank; “for it will be too dark by the time we get across to their camp to take a picture decently.”

“I guess not,” observed the other, calmly; “you see I’m prepared to snap off a flashlight picture at any old time.  Here’s after you, Frank.”

Uncle Toby had witnessed this threatened exodus with signs of alarm.

“Whar ye gwine, Marse Frank?  Ain’t ‘spectin’ to leab dis chile erlone hyah be yuh?  I doan’t like dem owls a-whoopin’ dar in de big timber:  an’ I sure reckons dar might be bars an’ wildcats a-snoopin’ round dis yer camp ter-night.”

“We expect to be back before a great while, Uncle Toby.  Just be getting supper ready for us in an hour or so.  And have a good fire.  Wild beasts will never trouble any one when backed by a blaze, remember.  So-long!”

When they looked back, they could see the ancient darkey gazing with longing glances, as if he might be tempted to chase after them.

“Do you think Bluff can be in trouble?” asked Jerry, showing real solicitude in his voice and manner.

“I’m a little afraid of it.  And I want to say right here that both of you have shown the right spirit in agreeing to come with me so quickly.  It does you credit, boys,” remarked Frank.

Will seemed to puff up a bit under the compliment, but Jerry sneered.

“Oh!  I don’t consider that anything at all.  Bluff is a good fellow in spite of his butcher instincts, and I guess he’d go out of his way to help me,” he said.

Frank looked at him, and opened his mouth to speak, but on second thought changed his mind.

Jerry seemed to know more about the woods than either of his chums.  He had little trouble in guiding them across the territory that separated the rival camps, which was not more than a mile or so.

“I can see the glow of a fire ahead,” announced Will, presently.

“That’s the place we’re aiming for; the lake lies beyond.  I’ve fished from the point many a time,” pursued Jerry.

“And when are we going to try for fish; I brought my rod and lines along, thinking we’d have a fish dinner some fine day?” complained Will.

“Wait, there’s plenty of time.  The season is nearly over, but if a warm day comes along we ought to be able to get some bass, I think,” remarked Frank, who was something of an authority in that line.

“I can see figures moving about like black ghosts,” announced Jerry.  “Say, fellows, this is getting real exciting, creeping up on a rival camp with the intention of holding up the whole kit at the muzzle of our guns.”

“Oh!  I hope it won’t come to such a desperate point as that.  I’d rather not have any trouble with that Lasher if it can be avoided,” ventured Frank.

“But if they’ve got our chum tied to a tree a prisoner?” demanded Jerry.

“In that case we’ll make sure that he’s set free, no matter what the consequences,” was the immediate response from the leader.

As they drew nearer to the fire they could begin to make out the identity of those who were moving about.

Andy Lasher could be easily seen, as he always took it upon himself to be the high pin of any gathering of the clans in which he moved; then there was the fellow who had been caught stealing from the traps of Jesse Wilcox that morning, still limping painfully whenever he walked.

Besides these two there were five other boys present

“A tough-looking bunch,” muttered Jerry, as he trailed along after Frank.

“I don’t see anything of Bluff, though,” whispered the other, over his shoulder.

“Perhaps they’ve got him inside the cabin.  If you two would agree to stay here, I’ll volunteer to creep up back of it and find out,” said Jerry.

“You’re all right, old fellow.  Just the kind to tie to,” replied Frank.

“Oh!  I don’t know.  Any one of you would do the same for me.  Besides, I guess-but then, it doesn’t matter.  Will you wait here, boys?” asked Jerry.

“Draw a little closer.  Then let Will have your gun while you’re away.”

Jerry handed it over a little regretfully; indeed, he had calculated on carrying the weapon himself, though it must have been in the way.

They saw him creep off.

For quite some little time they watched, ready to rush forward if any sound announced that Jerry had been discovered, and was in trouble.

“They’re getting supper.  Don’t look like our outfit, does it?” whispered Will, as he and Frank crouched there in the brush, waiting and watching.

“I should say not; still, the appetite is the main thing in the woods.  A hungry man can forgive anything.  Look behind the shack-isn’t that something moving?”

What Frank had said was true, for just then Jerry crept across an open space, and for a few seconds they saw him plainly.

Then he daringly slipped in through the open door of the cabin, doubtless taking advantage of the attention of the campers being turned elsewhere.

“Come on, move up a little.  I’m too nervous now to stay quiet,” said Frank.

While they were thus advancing there suddenly arose a tremendous clamor.  It appeared to issue from the interior of the dilapidated cabin in which Andy’s crowd had taken up their quarters.

“Oh! what has happened now?” exclaimed Will, scrambling to his feet.

“Look!” cried Frank.

Something came flying out of the door of the shack, and landing in a heap rolled over and over, clawing at every object within reach.

Then it sat up and looked around in a frightened way.

“Why, it’s Ben Cooper!” said Will, partly relieved.

“And he’s met up with Jerry!” added Frank, grimly, as he watched eagerly to see what else took place in the little opening where the camp had been pitched.

The boys were all on their feet.  They seemed to be staring at their half-dazed comrade as though hardly able to grasp the real meaning of the conditions.

Then Andy gave a shout.

“Hey, you fellers, look at that door go shut!  The prisoner must have got loose!  How about it, Ben Cooper?  What happened to you?”

“They’s another feller in there ’sides the prisoner.  He knocked me clean silly, and threw me out o’ the door,” whined the other, rubbing his head dismally.

“Who was it-any of that crowd from over by the hemlocks?” demanded Andy, much excited, and apparently ready to tear up things generally.

“I reckon ’twar that Jerry Wallington-wait till I gets him some day, that’s all.”

“Hey, fellers, d’ye hear that?  Another of that lot bagged in the cabin.  Come on, an’ we’ll do him up!” yelled the brawny leader, rushing forward.

When he reached the door, he tried in vain to break it open.  It seemed to be braced in such a manner that he could make no impression on the planks.

“Bring me the ax, somebody!” he howled, after beating his fists vainly against the panel.

One of his followers made haste to obey.  When Andy was aroused in this way the bravest of them did not dare brook his anger.

He immediately swung the implement about his head.

Crash! went the ax into the door, which began to split under the vigorous assault, as though unable to stand long before such tactics.

“He’ll do it-he’s going to break his way in; and I’ve got Jerry’s gun!  Oh! dear what shall we do?” exclaimed Will.

“Stop that chopping, you!” shouted Frank, running forward with raised gun.