Read CHAPTER XVI - HEAPING COALS OF FIRE ON HIS HEAD of The Outdoor Chums / The First Tour of the Rod‚ Gun and Camera Club, free online book, by Captain Quincy Allen, on ReadCentral.com.

“What’s that?” exclaimed Jerry, startled by the cry.

It came again.

“Help!  Oh! help, somebody!”

The boy was now convinced that he had not heard the hoot of an owl, and that some one was certainly in need of succor.

He remembered the crash of the trees that had gone down in the tempest.  Could it be possible that the unfortunate one had been caught under one of these falling forest monarchs, and pinned to the ground?

If so, no wonder that he cried at the top of his voice for assistance.  Unable to escape he must starve to death, or become the prey of wild beasts unless help came.

Jerry immediately crawled out of his hole.  He no longer remembered the fact that a bear had recently been sniffing at the entrance to the hollow tree.  All he had in mind was that he might be of assistance to a fellow human being in distress.

It was pitch dark in the woods, though now and then a flash of distant lightning came to momentarily relieve the gloom.

Jerry started in the direction he believed the sounds came from.  Now and then he paused to listen, and in this way managed to keep going straight.

“Hello! where are you?” he cried, finally, as a dreadful silence fell upon the forest ahead, a silence that made him very anxious indeed.

Immediately a voice called out wildly: 

“Oh, here I am, under this fallen tree!  Please come and help me!  I can’t hardly move, and I think my arm is broken.  Don’t leave me to die!”

“It’s all right.  Don’t worry, for I’m not going to run away.  Speak again so I can get to you.  It’s awful dark under here.”

The other took him at his word, and commenced to rattle on, saying all manner of things, simply to direct his rescuer to the spot.

“It’s Andy Lasher, as sure as I live,” said Jerry to himself, as he recognized the other’s voice, despite the agony in it.

So making his way forward he finally came to the tree under which the other was pinioned by some of the branches.

“I can’t see you, it’s so dark here.  Wait!” he said aloud.

“Oh! please don’t leave me now; I’ll go out of my mind, sure!”

“I don’t mean to; but I must have some light.  Now, I happen to have the stub of a candle in my pocket, and the wind has died out, so I think it will burn if I stick it down low.  I’ll get you out somehow, Andy,” said Jerry, cheerily.

He struck a match.

“Why, is it you, Jerry?”

“Sure thing.  See there, that burns all right, I guess.  Now, I’ll put it here in the shelter of this stump, while I look into things.”

“You won’t leave me here, Jerry?  You ain’t that kind of a feller, I know?”

Andy was evidently alarmed.  He could not but remember that there had been bad blood between this lad and himself for a long time.  Indeed, some recent events that were not at all to his credit, must have cropped up to make him anxious.

“Not much.  Say, you just had the escape of your life, I tell you.  This heavy limb almost hit you in falling.  If it had, then it would have been one, two three for you.  You seem to be held down mostly by small branches,” observed Jerry, after he had made a critical examination.

“Do you think you can get me out, Jerry?” asked the other, very humbly.

“Easy.  Just you wait, and when I tell you what to do, go ahead.”

With that he started operations.  By breaking off the smaller branches one at a time, he gradually weakened the network that was binding the prisoner.  Every obstacle, however small, that was removed, made things easier.  And finally Jerry gave a pull at the imprisoned boy.

Andy let out a howl of pain, but all the same he came free.

“My arm!”

“I’m going to look at that now, right away.  If it is broken the sooner you get back to Centerville and see a doctor the better; but, somehow, I’ve got a notion it’s only badly bruised.  Here, bend it back, so I can slip it out of the sleeve.”

With much misgiving and many exclamations of agony, Andy did as he was told.  The other then examined it from one end to the other.

“Talk to me about luck, you’ve got cause to be mighty thankful, Andy.  There are a lot of bruises here, but no bones broken,” declared Jerry.

“Sure you ain’t mistaken, Jerry-’cause it’s awful sore?” groaned the other, and yet there was a trace of gratitude in his voice.

“Make up your mind it’s so.  Now, the question is what are we going to do the rest of the night?  I was in a hollow tree, but there isn’t room for two.  Might manage to make a fire somehow, and stand it out.  Think you can walk now, Andy?”

Jerry unconsciously thrust a supporting arm around the waist of the other, and steadied his steps as they moved slowly off.  In so doing he was heaping coals of fire upon the head of his adversary.  Andy grunted now and then as some jolt gave him new pain; but on the whole he was very quiet.  Perhaps his mind was busy and his conscience working overtime.

So they reached the hollow stump.

“Here’s where I was camped all through the storm, and mighty lucky for you that I lost my way when out hunting.  Now wait till I dig out some of that dry wood from the inside.  It will make a capital start for a fire.”

Jerry set to work with a vim.  In five minutes he had a cheery little blaze going, and more wood drying out close beside it.  From time to time other fuel was added to the fire until it reached such proportions that it eagerly devoured any sort of stuff they chose to feed it.

“This ain’t half bad, because it’s getting mighty cold after that storm, and if you happened to be lying drenched through under that tree I reckon you’d be shivering some by now, eh?” laughed Jerry.

Andy put out his right hand, for it was the left arm that had been injured.

“I want to tell you that I feel pretty punk now over the way I’ve treated your crowd, Jerry.  This is mighty white in you, and that’s what, to act as you have with me.  I’m right sorry now I ever laid out to hurt you fellers.  I ain’t goin’ to keep it up no longer, and that’s dead certain.  If Pet Peters wants to, he can go it alone.  I’m all in.  You’ve made me ashamed.”

Jerry understood.  There was really no need of further words.  Between two boys such things are instinctively grasped; and Jerry knew what a tremendous effort it must have been for this rough fellow to frankly admit that he had been led to see the error of his ways.

Perhaps the repentance was not wholly genuine, and time would swing Andy back to his old ways; but just then, sitting by that friendly fire, he seemed to feel very warmly disposed toward the lad whose coming may have saved his life.

“Oh! that’s all right; don’t mention it.  Glad to know you mean to let us alone.  It’s all we ask, anyway.  But what brought you away up here, Andy?” said Jerry.

Andy dropped his head and gazed into the fire.  The other even thought he could see what looked like a blush mantle his cheeks, though the chums of the town bully would have shouted at the very idea of such a thing.

“I reckon it was some more rotten business, Jerry.  To tell the truth I was up to see old Bud Rabig, trying to get him to join us in a raid on your camp.  You see,” the boy went on hurriedly, as though fearful lest his courage might fail him before he got the whole thing off his mind, “we’d tried to smoke you out and made a botch of the trick; and I even pushed Bluff over into the lake this afternoon, to get him a duckin’, ’cause the temptation was too great But it’s all up with me now.  After this I ain’t goin’ to lift a hand against any of your crowd.”

“Did you get lost, too, trying to make your way back to your camp?” asked Jerry.

“That’s just what I did.  Thought I could save time by taking a short-cut through the big woods.  Then the storm came down on me, and I reckon I got some rattled.  I lost my head, and while I thrashed around, that pesky old tree came down on me.  Thought I was a-goner, I give you my word,” and Andy shuddered.

“How long did you lie there?” questioned the other.

“Hours and hours, it seemed to me.  I’d shout when I could, but something seemed to tell me it wasn’t no good-that I just deserved to die right there, because I’d never been no good to my folks at home or anybody else.  But you just wait and see.  I got a light, I did.  Thought I was sure goin’ to die.”

Both boys were soon sleepy, for the heat of the fire affected their eyes.  So Jerry fixed things to keep the blaze going while they napped, rolling a log over so that it offered a good chance for the fire to feed.

In this way they passed the balance of the night, nor would either of them soon forget the experience, though from different reasons.

In the morning they managed to cook some of the fresh venison Jerry carried, and for which the other seemed very grateful.  Then they figured out their position, which was not hard to do, since the sky was clear and the sun well up.

Half an hour later Andy recognized certain landmarks that told him he could make a turn and reach his camp by the lake shore.

“Good-by, Jerry.  I’m going to skip out here.  And I ain’t forgettin’ this either,” he said, thrusting out a hand, while a queer grin crept over his face.

Jerry hurried on, anxious to relieve the suspense of his chums.

As he came in sight of the camp he paused and stared, as well he might, for it seemed to be occupied by a stranger, and he a man with the wild aspect of a madman.