Read CHAPTER XXIV - WHAT BLUFF DID of The Outdoor Chums / The First Tour of the Rod‚ Gun and Camera Club, free online book, by Captain Quincy Allen, on ReadCentral.com.

“Why, it’s a bear!” exclaimed Jerry, as the three boys came to a standstill on the border of the camp.

“It sure is, and nothing less,” admitted Frank, his face beginning to pucker up with the advance stages of a laugh.

“Oh! if I can only get my camera on him-what glorious luck!” breathed Will, as his trembling fingers worked to drag the little black box out of its cover.

The bear was busy just then, in fact, exceedingly engaged.  He had taken to turning things over around the fire just as though some one had given him a sheriff’s search warrant, and he meant to use it to the limit.

“He’s hungry, all right; look at him getting away with the corn Uncle Toby was just going to cook for supper.  Say, that must be the same old critter I interviewed while I was caged in that tree,” said Jerry, tickled at the thought.

“What makes you think so?” demanded Frank.

“He’s so curious and so persistent, you see.  Besides, I don’t believe there’s another bear within ten miles of here.  Oh! it’s my old friend, you just bet.  And that means I ought to have the privilege of slaying him.”

“Don’t be piggish, Jerry.  Let some of the rest of us do something or other,” remarked Frank, with a touch of satire in his voice.

He had his own gun handy, and meant to have a share in getting a supply of bear meat for the camp larder.

“Do you see Uncle Toby?  I’ll be blessed if he hasn’t gone and made a ladder, and has used it to climb up in that tree yonder,” declared Jerry, snickering.

“Sensible old Toby.  If I had to make shift to be a monkey as often as he has, I think I’d have a ladder, too.  Saves considerable trouble, you see, and the wear and tear on his clothes counts, too.  But didn’t we leave Bluff in camp-I don’t see anything of our pard, do you, boys?”

A sharp “click” close to Frank’s ear announced that Will was at his old tricks again.  He had snapped off a view of the shaggy visitor squatted there with the open kettle between his paws, scooping up its juicy contents with evident relish.  Canned corn was a treat that did not come his way every day, and Bruin meant to make the most of his opportunity.

“I thought I had a glimpse of something moving over there back of the tent, and it might be Bluff.  I hope he don’t try to shoo the old varmint off before we get a whack at him.  I’ve only got bird-shot in my gun but at close quarters that ought to do as well as a bullet, eh, Frank?” asked Jerry, excited at the prospect.

“Wait I’ve a notion that you may be surprised yet.  I’ve also a hunch, my boy, that there will be another claimant for the honors of this campaign.  Sometimes surprises spring out of the very earth.  Watch!” said Frank, laying a hand on the gun of his chum, as though impelling him to hold his fire.

Suddenly there was a loud bang!

The bear rolled over in a heap regardless of the congregated tinware that was consequently sent scurrying to the right and to the left.

“Who fired?” shouted the amazed Jerry.

“Look out, fellows, the old rascal’s up again, and I guess I’d better get behind a tree with my camera!” exclaimed Will, suiting the action to the words with commendable rapidity.

Bang! went a second discharge at this juncture, and the bear now turning bit savagely at its hindquarters as though its wounds smarted severely.

Immediately a third discharge followed the others.  Bruin had by this time apparently sighted the party from whom all these stinging cuts must have proceeded.  He gave a roar of rage and lumbering awkwardly across the space started to try and climb a little tree just alongside one of the tents.

“It’s Bluff, and he’s up in that tree!” shouted Will, as he peeped around his own shelter, and took in the picture with another “click.”

“But-he’s got a gun!” stammered Jerry.

“Of course he has.  Didn’t he bring one with him?  Perhaps a good fairy may have given him a tip as to where it could be found.  There! he has fired again, and that time he missed, for the range was too close.”

Frank, as he was speaking, commenced to advance into the open.

“Looky out, Marse Frank, he chaw yuh up, clean suah!” bawled Uncle Toby, from the crotch in the tree where his ladder had allowed him to reach.  “Git up heah, honey, whah he can’t reach yuh.  Dat b’ar am ma-ad clar t’rough!”

“Four times he’s shot-didn’t I say he couldn’t hit the side of a barn.  Think of him carrying a Gatling gun,” said Jerry.

“But he has hit him more than once.  Look how the brute is bleeding, and just to think, Jerry, he’s got two more chances.  Those pump-guns don’t seem so very bad in an emergency,” laughed Frank, who seemed to be enjoying the little affair very much indeed.

“There goes one more; and the bear still lives.  Talk to me about that, will you, if he didn’t shoot its stub of a tail off that time!  What next, I wonder?  Why not execute the poor beast scientifically, and not murder him by inches?”

He moved his gun forward again as though bent on shooting.  Frank, however, would not let him raise the weapon.

“Wait, I say; give Bluff one more chance.  Make allowance for his excitement and his position while the bear is shaking that tree so.  If he misses again we will both fire together and put an end to the comedy before it turns into a tragedy.”

“That’s what it will be if Bluff ever drops down into those claws.  Why don’t the duffer shoot?  I can’t stand it much longer, I tell you.”

“Hold hard.  I’ve no doubt he’s waiting to get a good show, when the bear stops rocking that tree for a second.  There now!”

A sixth roar drowned Frank’s last words.  This time Bluff must have steeled his nerves, and covered the side of the bear, for with the report the animal keeled over, made a vain attempt to get up again, gave a few kicks, and then lay still.

“Hurrah!  Bluff has killed his bear!” yelled Frank, rushing forward, and swinging his hat excitedly.

“Come down here and stand over the fallen beast while I immortalize you as the mightiest Nimrod of them all,” called Will, rushing up with his camera ready to do the business with neatness and dispatch.

Jerry said nothing.  He looked a bit dejected as he stood there and surveyed the dead bear.  It was not envy that gripped his soul either, for Jerry was generous by nature.  Something else had seized upon him, and Frank smiled as though satisfied with the way things had come out.

Bluff came scrambling down from his uncertain perch, looking wild.

“Is he really dead, fellows?  Just to think that after all I did it with my new repeating shotgun!  Ain’t it a dandy, though?  If Jerry hadn’t gone to work and hid it away, I might have downed all the game that’s come into this camp,” he said, looking upon the black, hairy beast with a shudder, for he had had quite a severe fright while swaying to and fro with an angry bear beneath waiting for him to drop, like a ripe persimmon, as Jerry afterwards described it.

“Jerry?” shouted Will, in blank amazement.

“Yes, he stuck the gun in that long box over there.  You remember his falling over it and bruising his shins.  That was what gave him the miserable idea, I suppose.  Anyway, he did it while the rest of us were out in the brush hunting for the fellow who threw those rocks into our camp,” declared Bluff, scowling at the author of his woes.

Jerry laughed, a little forcedly it is true.

“I suppose I might as well own up, Bluff.  I’m the guilty wretch, all right.  The temptation came to me, and I did the job without thinking what it would mean to you.  Honestly I’ve felt sore about it more than once since, and had just about made up my mind to confess, when by some accident, it seems, you found it.  But you don’t know it all.  I hid the gun and then, when I went to see if it was safe, it was gone.  I didn’t know what to make of that, but fancied somebody else in camp had taken it.  Then I commenced a search, and I found the gun down near that hole.  I rather think some of the Lasher crowd came and took the gun, but I am not sure.  After I found the gun I brought it to camp and put it in the box again.  I take back some of the hard things I’ve been saying about that weapon.  She can shoot, all right, and in the hands of an expert might, as I said, clean out all the game going.”

“Frank told me to take another look around, just before you fellows left camp.  I didn’t have the heart to until a little while back, and was delighted to find the gun under those pieces of canvas in the box.  It wasn’t wet a bit in that hot old storm we had, either,” continued Bluff again, as be contemplated his quarry, and then puffed out with honest pride.

“Say, was it you shooting a little while back?” asked Will, just then; “because we heard a lot of shots somewhere around.”

“Why, yes, I got Uncle Toby to stand behind a tree, and throw up the wash basin half a dozen times while I banged away.”

“Yes,” said Frank, picking up the article in question, “and to judge from the holes you put through it we’ll have to do without a basin during the remainder of our stay in camp.  But how do you suppose this bear wandered into camp?”

“Reckons dat he jest smells de cawn, Marse Frank, w’en I opens up de can, an’ by gorry, dat b’ar he can’t resist de temptations to hab some.  I seen him comin’ foh me, an’ I jest lets out a yell an’ runs up dis yer safety ladder,” remarked Toby, as he patted the article in question affectionately.

“We heard the yells, all right, and came running.  Look here, Bluff, old man, you got your bear in spite of my playing that mean trick on you; are you going to call it quits, and be friends?” asked Jerry, holding out his hand.

“I-er-I don’t know,” stammered Bluff.

“I am just as sorry as I can be, Bluff, really I am, and I’d give the world if I hadn’t played that trick.  At first I was going to own up, but when you went off after the Lasher crowd it-well, I didn’t see how I could do it.  But after I got it back I hoped every hour that you would look into the box and discover the gun.  Oh, say you’ll forgive me!” added Jerry, pleadingly.

“Well, I feel a bit raw about it yet, but this is no time to show resentment, with such a glorious trophy at my feet.  Yes, we’ll call it quits, Jerry, only after this you might forget to sneer at a gun that happens to be different from yours.”

“I agree, and that ends it,” said Jerry, as he squeezed the other’s hand.