Read CHAPTER XIII - THE COMING OF THE STORM of The Outdoor Chums / The First Tour of the Rod‚ Gun and Camera Club, free online book, by Captain Quincy Allen, on ReadCentral.com.

Bluff came up spluttering.

“Help! help!” he shouted, involuntarily, as well as a mouth half full of water would permit.

But there was no one in sight.  Whoever had shoved him into the lake had mysteriously vanished, though a movement in the bushes told the direction of his flight.

Recovering from the shock, Bluff found that he could clamber out without much difficulty, and he hastened to do so.

His cries had been heard, however, for presently the sound of some one running wildly came to his ears, and Will burst into view.

At sight of the dripping fisherman he broke into a shout.

“Caught a Tartar, did you, and he pulled you in?  Oh! what wouldn’t I have just given to have been here?  A snapshot of you going over would have been the finest ever.”

“Shut up!  It wasn’t a fish at all that yanked me overboard.  Somebody gave me a shove!” snapped Bluff, beginning to shiver, in spite of the fact that the air seemed unusually warm, though the sun had disappeared behind dark clouds.

“What! you were pushed in?” stammered Will; and he gathered up his camera in his arms, casting a look of alarm around, as if afraid lest some hideous form dart into view, bent on snatching it away.

“That’s the truth.  I was just sitting here when I heard a step.  Thought it was you, and asked how you had got on.  Then the beggar laughed, gave me a shove, and over I went, ‘ker chunk.’  I let out a yell when I came up, for you see I didn’t exactly know what he might mean to do,” explained the dripping one.

“And I don’t blame you a bit.  But didn’t you see him at all?”

“Never had a peep.  He dodged back so that when I got the water out of my eyes he was gone.  I saw those bushes over there moving, and knew he ran off that way.”

Will walked over to the bushes, looking cautiously about, but seeing no one.

“Sure you didn’t-er-go to sleep out on that log, and dream somebody gave you a push?” he queried, cautiously.

“Rats!  I guess I ought to know.  But see here, perhaps you can prove it,” declared Bluff, indignantly.

“How?” demanded the other.

“Look down at your feet and see if he left any trail, that’s how.”

Will immediately did as he was told.

“Say, come here.  There are tracks all right.  Perhaps you’re better up in that sort of thing than I am.  It was a human being after all, and no dream,” he called.

Bluff hastened to join him.

“Why, of course, just as I said.  This is where he hurried away.  You can see the mark of his feet easy.  And looky there, one shoe, the right, has got a patch on it, a piece that runs to a point.  Oh!  I’d know that skunk any time from that.  It’s a sure clue, I tell you,” he exclaimed.

“But you’d better get dried off as soon as you can.  Why, you’re shivering now.”

“Got any matches; mine are all soaked?” said Bluff, his teeth rattling together.

“I always carry a few.  Yes, here they are.  Let me make a quick fire, while you jump around to warm up; and Bluff, please keep your eye on my camera, won’t you?”

“Sure,” replied the other, commencing to leap and frisk around, so as to get his chilled blood in circulation again.

The fire was speedily made, and, taking off his clothes, Bluff hugged close to the blaze while Will busied himself in hanging up the wet garments, though he had more or less difficulty in tearing his eyes away from the spot where his camera lay close by.

“Sometimes we get too much fire; then again we want more and more,” remarked Bluff, as he kept turning around like a roast on the spit; for as fast as one side felt warm the other grew chilled.

“And I guess that we’d better be beating it back to camp as soon as your duds are decently dry.  I don’t like the looks of that sky,” remarked Will.

“I think you are right.  There’s certainly a big storm coming.  Why, the air seems dead, just like it is in summer before a gale of wind.  And camp is nearly two miles away from this place.  Don’t you think I could put them on now, Will?”

“They feel pretty dry.  Do as you please,” said the other, not willing to commit himself, though anxious to be off, for the black looks of the heavens began to appall him not a little.

“Then here goes!”

Suiting the action to the words Bluff hurriedly dressed.  Then he secured his nice string of fish, and, with his pole over his shoulder, announced himself ready for the homeward tramp.

They made all reasonable haste, and managed to reach the camp in due time.

When Frank heard what had happened he was very angry.

“Some more of the mean work of that crowd.  I believe it must have been Andy himself who pushed you in.  A dirty trick.  How did he know whether you could swim or not?” he said, after the tale was told.

“Oh, well, it wasn’t a case of swimming, for the water wasn’t five feet deep, and all I had to do was to crawl out again.  But it was wet, you see, and a fellow feels mighty uncomfortable all soaked.  Just wait, I’ll get even with him some day for that trick.  I’ve got the rascal located all right.  One of his shoes had a patch on the sole I’d know again.”

“A clever idea,” admitted the other, in admiration; “and I hope you find him out, no matter who he may be.  First they stone our camp; after that they try to burn us out; and now some busybody throws you into the lake.  What next, I wonder?”

“You forget the worst thing of all-the stealing of my gun!” grumbled Bluff.

“Well, I wish Jerry was back.  I hate to think of him wandering around in the woods in the storm that’s coming, for it’s going to be a corker,” remarked Frank, eying the darkening sky with uneasiness.

“Perhaps the old trapper influenced him to stay over with him till to-morrow?” suggested Will, who was making his beloved camera secure against rain by wrapping it in folds of waterproof material brought along for the purpose.

“A bright idea; and I hope it’s so.  But you know, he said he meant to take in a new locality for a hunt after seeing Jesse.  Well, Jerry is up to many things connected with woods life, and at any rate he knows how to look out for himself,” and as he spoke Frank stooped down by the tent.

“What are you doing now?” asked the curious Bluff.

“Driving these tent pegs in deeper.  There’s no telling what sort of wind may be on us.  Listen to that, will you?” said Frank.

“Thunder, as sure as you live!  Pretty late in the year for that, ain’t it?”

“Oh, we sometimes hear it even in winter.  But, you see, the day has been unusually close and muggy.  I felt a storm in the air this morning, and I’m not surprised.  But I would be glad to see Jerry show up,” continued the other, as he tapped each pin a few times, to send them in more securely.

The muttering in the distance increased constantly in volume.

Frank, as an old campaigner, knew what was to be done.  Under his directions Toby and the two boys made everything as snug as could be expected.  They also concealed some dry wood in the hollow of a tree nearby, so that later on they might be prepared for making a fire.

The storm came at last, with a furious wind, and a heavy downpour of rain.

“Wow!” exclaimed Bluff, as he looked out from the tent, “ain’t I glad we got here before that came.  One ducking satisfies me; I’m not greedy.”

The afternoon waned, and night came on, still there were no signs of Jerry.  Frank worried some, but stopped speaking of the matter, for he saw that old Toby was beginning to shake with fear, as the wind increased in fury, and the tents wobbled about at a great rate.

“I hope they hold out,” said Frank to himself.

He even donned a waterproof he had brought along, and going outside, tapped the pegs all around again.  Everything seemed secure so far as he could see.  Still, he knew that if one peg gave, the balance could not resist the additional strain, and a catastrophe must result.

Old Toby was really too much alarmed to retire to his fly; so Frank told him he could remain with him when the other boys went to their tent.

None of them expected to obtain much sleep.  The wind came in fierce gusts, the trees groaned and writhed, and once or twice Frank really heard a crash in the forest that told of a rent in the timber.

“I only hope nothing of that kind happens around here; a falling tree might pin us all under, and be our death,” he said to himself.

At length they concluded that it was time to separate and try to get some sleep, though both Bluff and Will declared they knew they would not close their eyes so long as that howl kept up without, and the canvas fluttered with each wild gust.

Just as they were about to make a run for it, Frank caught them by the arms.

“Wait!” he shouted, for there was a terrible crash close by, and the earth seemed to tremble as a forest monarch was laid low.

At the same minute with a shriek the wind descended upon the tent under which they were crouching.

Frank heard a snap above the other sounds, and like a flash the entire tent was blown away, leaving the four campers exposed to the fury of the storm.