Read CHAPTER X - UNCLE TOBY FLIES HIGH of The Outdoor Chums / The First Tour of the Rod‚ Gun and Camera Club, free online book, by Captain Quincy Allen, on ReadCentral.com.

“Here, don’t shoot!” shouted Andy, dodging behind one of his companions.

“We surrender!” cried another, throwing up his hands.

Frank and Will looked very threatening as they advanced.  Both of them had their guns leveled, and besides, the latter was encumbered with his camera, so that he presented the appearance of being fairly loaded down with war material.

“Hey, Jerry, open up!” called Frank.

The door of the shack immediately began to move, and presently it was shoved aside, with the ax still sticking in its planking, just as Andy had left it.

“Talk about your rescue parties, say, don’t this take the cake?” exclaimed a familiar voice, and Jerry’s head was thrust out of the opening.

“Is Bluff there?” demanded Frank.

“Sure,” came in the voice of their missing chum.

A second head had by this time shown up.

“Hey, you, Franky boy, what d’ye mean bombarding our camp in this way?  What have we done to your crowd, I’d like to know, to be treated like dogs?  First there was that Bluff Masters a-walkin’ in here an’ accusing us of stealing his blamed old gun, when the only one we’ve got is a musket Pet owns.  Now you come tearing up things.”

Andy was evidently getting indignant; but all the same he kept on the watch, and whenever he thought he saw one of those weapons pointing in his direction he slipped quietly behind one of the others.

“That’s all right.  Bluff has lost his gun; somebody took it from our camp last night just after a shower of rocks came in on us and we rushed out to find the fellow who sent them.  He thought it was one of your crowd, and I guess he came over to ask.  What business had you tying him up like a convict, tell me that?”

Frank put this to him sternly.  At the same time he beckoned to Jerry to make a start out of the cabin, which the other easily understood, and set about obeying.

“Why, the silly fool was for trying to lick the whole lot of us; said as how he knew somebody from here had swiped his old gun, and that unless we handed it over he’d show us.  Say, we couldn’t stand for that, so we just sailed in and made him a prisoner.  We didn’t hurt him much, no more than he did us.  Suppose the lot of you clear out now, and let us alone,” growled Andy, growing bolder.

“Which we will be only too glad to do.  We only wanted to get Bluff back.”

There was a sudden brilliant flash, and a shout of alarm from the boys about the front of the charcoal burners’ cabin.

“Got it all right, and I bet it’s a dandy!” exclaimed Will.

He had set down Jerry’s double-barreled shotgun when he saw what he considered a good chance to get a picture of the group, and touched off the little cartridge that allowed him to snatch a flashlight picture.

Two or three of Andy’s fellows threw themselves flat on the ground, under the impression that some one had fired at them; still more of them were trying to hide behind each other in alarm.

“Hey, take that feller away, won’t you?  He’s sure enough to scare anybody out of a year’s growth,” shouted Andy, waving his arms excitedly.

But he knew better than to try and rush forward while Frank stood guard.  There seemed to be an air of determination about that individual that Andy did not fancy.

By this time Jerry and Bluff had joined their chums.

The latter did not seem any the worse for his long confinement; indeed, he was grinning as though the scare of his enemies over that flashlight had amused him.

“We’re only too willing to go.  I told you before that we didn’t mean to have any trouble with you, if we could help it; but if you start the ball rolling look out.”

“Yes,” said Will, on the heels of what Frank had said, “it’s a case of millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.”

“Good night, fellows, and thank you for the grub you gave me?” laughed Bluff, as he waved his hand mockingly toward the group.

Jerry had recovered his gun, and, in a bunch, the four chums walked away.  The others followed them menacingly for a short distance, but every time one of the two armed lads turned there was a sudden scattering.  When Will whirled around and elevated his camera they fell flat to the ground as though really alarmed.

“They’ve turned back,” announced Jerry, presently.

“Say, that was fine of you to come in there and rescue me,” declared Bluff, as he caught hold of Jerry’s unwilling hand, and squeezed it.

The other seemed to be unusually modest, for he pulled quickly away.

“Beat it, Bluff.  You know you’d have done the same for me.  I guess I owed you something for making fun of you so much.  Anyhow, it was just bully, that’s what.  Talk about your earthquakes and cyclones, I don’t think anything could beat that scare you gave them with your old flashlight stunt, Will.”

“And I reckon it’s going to turn out a dandy picture.  I just wanted to get that crowd in some outlandish attitude, and if it proves what I think, I’ve done it.”

“Did they hurt you, Bluff?” asked Frank.

“Oh! well, they acted better than perhaps I had any reason to expect.  We mixed up some in the start, but they were too many for me.”

“You mean the whole lot-well, I should guess yes.  You had a sweet nerve sauntering into that camp and taking them all on.  Accused them of stealing, too!  Say, you don’t know that they took your gun, do you?” demanded Frank.

“N-no, perhaps not,” admitted Bluff, hesitatingly.

“Just surmise like, isn’t it?”

“But why that shower of stones if not to get us to run out of camp, so that some one could sneak in and take a coveted article-and what more natural than that my new repeater should be the thing they wanted?” said Bluff, logically, as he believed.

“Well, until you have found some stronger evidence than that, I’d be a little slow about accusing any of that crowd, eh, Jerry?” went on Frank.

“That’s right,” admitted Jerry, looking back just then as if he fancied they might be followed, which, of course, was not the case.

“You didn’t see any signs of the gun while there, did you?” asked Frank.

“No, I can’t say I did; but then they wouldn’t be likely to stick my own property under my nose, would they?  I could have them arrested later on for robbery.”

“All right.  Suppose we let the subject rest for a while.  The gun may turn up again, sooner or later.  I have heard of just such queer freaks happening in camp.  Now, who gets the first sight of our campfire, and old Toby cooking a glorious supper?”

“Wow!  I can do justice to it all right.  They gave me something to eat, but gracious, it was burned, and tasted horrible.  Not one in that crowd knows the first thing about camp cookery, and they scorch everything they try,” said Bluff, sighing.

“Just keep up a little while longer.  There, isn’t that the fire through that bunch of trees ahead?”

“After all, you saw it yourself first, Frank.  That’s the fire all right.  Straight this way, boys, and we’ll be there in a jiffy,” said Will.

They hurried on.

“I’m looking to see good old Toby; but somehow don’t seem able to clap my eyes on his honest, black face,” declared Bluff.

“That’s a fact, where is he?  The fire is burning decently, and from that I judge he’s around somewhere,” remarked Frank.

“Well,” broke in Will, “you know he acted as though afraid when we were starting out.  Said something about the big owls in the timber getting on his nerves.”

“And the varmints prowling around, waiting for a chance to eat him up.  I believe the coon is hiding in one of the tents, afraid to show himself.  How about that, Frank, is he such a coward” demanded Jerry.

The other laughed.

“Don’t ask me,” he replied, shaking his head; “it isn’t quite fair to give poor old Uncle Toby away like that But we’re getting close to the camp now, and, if he is around, I’ll soon raise him like I did before.”

“If he’s let that supper burn, something is going to happen to a respectable colored gentleman I know,” threatened Bluff.

“Listen to him.  Talk about your fighters, this Bluff takes the cake.  Why, not satisfied with trying to whip the entire Lasher crowd in a bunch, now he wants to take on poor harmless old Uncle Toby Washington Low.  Perhaps after all, it’s just as well such a blood-thirsty character has been robbed of his little pump-gun.  Why, he’d have cleaned out the whole woods community, given half a chance,” jeered Jerry.

“Come now, let that drop.  I’m only joking, and you know it.  I wouldn’t lay a single finger on old Toby’s white wool for worlds.  But where is he, Frank?” said Bluff.

“Say, there’s something in our camp, boys!” ejaculated Will, at that moment.

“What’s that?” asked Frank, his interest suddenly aroused.

“Well, I saw something moving there-look now, there it is again, over just beside the nearer tent,” whispered Will, in an awe-struck voice.

They all saw it now.

“Keeps moving all the time.  Boys, it strikes me that it must be an animal of some sort!” came from the experienced Frank.

“Goodness gracious!  I hope it hasn’t devoured poor old Toby,” gasped Will.

Well, make your mind up on that score, for it hasnt-yet!  Just look aloft a bit-right above where the thing is jumping about as if worrying something.  What do you see astraddle that limb, eh?” asked Frank, triumphantly.

“Talk about your treed coons, why that’s old Toby sitting up there, and hanging on for dear life.”

“And that object in the camp is, I believe, a wildcat, worrying over our fine ham,” remarked Frank, quietly raising the hammers of his shotgun.