“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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.
admitted Jerry, looking back just then as if he fancied
they might be followed, which, of course, was not the
“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
“That’s a fact, where
is he? The fire is burning decently, and from
that I judge he’s around somewhere,” remarked
“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
“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
“Say, there’s something
in our camp, boys!” ejaculated Will, at that
“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
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
“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