“He’s gone!” cried Will, aghast.
“What sort of a trap has he dropped into?”
He was a lad of action, and throwing
himself down flat he crawled to the very edge of the
“Hello, Jerry!” he shouted.
“I’m all right, fellows;
only bruised a little, and my feelings considerably
hurt. I deserve something for forgetting this
hole,” came a voice from out of the depths.
Frank looked down. His eyes being
accustomed to the sunlight he could not see anything
but darkness there. But even as he was trying
to pierce this, a match flamed up, and he discovered
his chum kneeling on a pile of dirt, holding up his
improvised torch as though curious to look around.
“What is this place, Jerry?” demanded
the one above.
“Why, Will must remember if
he once gets his mind off that miserable old camera
of his. It’s the shaft of what was intended
to be a mine,” replied Jerry, with disgust plainly
marked in his tones.
“A mine-and here? I never heard
of it!” echoed Frank.
“That’s because you are
a newcomer in Centerville. Years ago-oh!
I couldn’t say how many-a crank lived
in the little hut close by, now occupied by the family
of a lumberman. He believed there was gold in
this region. For nearly a year he dug down and
made this shaft. Then he died in his cabin, and
no one else ever had faith enough in the thing to
continue the work,” said Will, chiming in.
“What! do you mean to say this
hole in the ground has gone all these years as a trap,
ready to swallow any pilgrim who walked along this
trail?” demanded Frank.
“Why, of course not. The
boys from town often used to come up here. Will
has been down in this hole, and so have I before.
It was covered with heavy planks then. Somebody
has removed those boards and laid a fine trap.
Just like we were over in Africa, among the wild-beast
catchers. And I fell in, worse luck,” grumbled
the boy at the bottom of the shaft.
“I see. And you think those
fellows in the other camp had a hand in it?”
“Don’t doubt it at all.
You know yourself it would be just like that Pet Peters.
If I’d only thought of the blooming old thing
in time, I might have investigated. Talk to me
about your Alpine climbers, I thought I was going
into the crevasse, all right.”
“But how are you going to get
out?” asked Frank, always practical.
“A fellow can’t climb
out. I know that, for we used to try it.
Somebody always had to put down the long pole that
we made into a ladder,” declared Will.
“Is it around here now?” continued Frank.
“Wait and I’ll give a look.”
Will very carefully placed his camera
with its accompanying case of films. He made
sure that it was out of the way, so that no one might
incautiously step on the same, and ruin his heart’s
delight. Then he passed into the bushes to scour
the immediate neighborhood.
Meanwhile Frank bent over the edge again.
“I’ve examined this covering
up here, Jerry, and there’s not the least doubt
but that it was made with a distinct purpose,”
“I reckon it was, and it got
me, all right. It looked just like the rest of
the trail, and I never suspected a thing until I found
myself going down. Speak to me about that, will
you? To think that I was caught by such a shabby
trick. If it had been you, now, it wouldn’t
seem so bad, because you never saw this hole before.”
“But what object could those
rascals have had in constructing the trap?”
pursued Frank, seeking more light.
“That’s hard to say.
I imagine, though, they expected to just badger us
from time to time until finally we all set out in full
chase of the crowd. Then perhaps they meant to
lead us along this old trail, avoiding the pit themselves,
and having us tumble in pell-mell. It was a clever
dodge, but a mean trick all the same.”
“But if that had happened it
might have been serious. One of us could easily
break a leg or an arm in such a tumble,” expostulated
“Huh! little those fellows care
about that They’re a rough lot, you know.
That Pet Peters thinks everybody is made of iron, like
himself. Say, I hope Will finds that old ladder
we used to play with. I’d hate to lie in
here waiting for you to go all the way to camp and
get a rope,” grumbled the imprisoned one.
“I hear voices, and I reckon
Will must have met some one. Yes, there they
“With the ladder?” demanded Jerry, eagerly.
“They seem to be carrying something
between them. Why, I ought to know that fellow.
As sure as you live, it’s Andy Lasher,”
declared Frank, somewhat surprised.
“Then it’s all right;
I’m satisfied,” said Jerry, resignedly.
The others came forward, and as Frank
had said they bore between them a long, slender tree
upon which many slats had been nailed by the boys.
This formed a rude but effective ladder, upon which
one might ascend and descend when desirous of seeing
what the interior of the abandoned shaft was like.
“I came across Andy down the
trail. Only for him I guess I’d never have
lit on the ladder, for they’d carried it some
distance off, and hid it,” cried Will.
Andy looked Frank straight in the
face, and the latter explained:
“It’s mighty funny, but
you see I remembered about this here trap the boys
had set, hopin’ some of your crowd would take
a tumble. I told ’em I wouldn’t stand
for it after what had happened; so a bunch o’
us was on the way out here to put back the planks,
when we heard shouts, and guessed somebody had fallen
in. The rest dodged into the bushes, but I commenced
to run this way. Then I met Will, here.”
“And we got the ladder.
He was only too willing to help,” went on Will,
plainly fully believing in the change of heart on the
town bully’s part.
“Say, that’s all mighty
interesting, but talk to me about it after you get
a fellow out of this black hole. I thought I felt
a snake right then. We used to kill ’em
in here, too. Poke the ladder down, boys, please.”
“That’s a fact. As
the drowning boy said: ’Save me first and
scold me afterward.’ Let me give you a
hand, boys,” remarked Frank.
“Hey! be careful there about
getting too close to the edge. The whole bunch
of you will be in on top of me if you don’t look
out. I had a crack on the head from a rock right
then. And be careful how you poke that ladder
down, or you may stick it through me like a lady’s
hatpin. Now I’ve got hold of the end, lower
So under the directions of the boy
who was in the hole, and in a position to see how
things lay, the single-pole ladder was placed in position.
“I’m coming up now, fellows;
don’t let the dirt crumble in on me,”
“It does beat all how the adventures
crowd you, old man. Here the rest of us just
go along in an average way, and nothing happens to
anybody to stir the blood. Hang it, I say it’s
hardly fair,” remarked Frank, in pretended chagrin.
Jerry began to appear in view, clinging
to the ladder, for it was a rather rickety affair,
and threatening constantly to turn around, so that
he had to fasten both knees and hands to the pole as
“Keep her straight, Andy; you
understand how hard it is to hustle up this old beam.
I’m getting there all right, and don’t
you forget it,” he kept saying, with a broad
grin on his happy-go-lucky face as it came into plain
“Oh! Jerry, please hang
there for just twenty seconds! You don’t
know what a splendid picture you make. I’d
give almost anything to snatch it off. Oblige
me like a good fellow, won’t you, please?”
shouted Will, waving his hands entreatingly.
“Talk to me about nerve!
You beat all creation. I’m holding on by
the skin of my teeth, and you want me to wait till
you get your measly old camera adjusted, and snap
me off in this ignoble position. Well, I’m
waiting, but it’s to get my second wind, and
not to oblige a crank,” gasped Jerry.
“Oh! thank you, Jerry, thank
you. It will only take a few seconds, I’m
sure, and the result will be a constant source of delight
to every member of the club.”
“Yes, I’ve no doubt they’ll
go into spasms of laughter every time they look at
the human ape hanging to his limb. Hurry up, plague
take it; I’m getting weary of posing to suit
your convenience. Why don’t he, come back
and finish? I declare if I can stand this any
longer. I tell you I’m coming up, Will-picture
or no picture.”
“Here he comes; just hang on
a bit longer,” said Frank, soothingly.
Will came dashing up, showing the
most intense excitement. His eyes fairly bulged
from his head, and he was quivering all over.
“What ails you, man; are you
sick?” demanded Frank, in real alarm.
“Sick? No, but I’m
broken-hearted, that’s what. It’s
gone!” shouted the other, wringing his hands,
“some wretch has stolen my camera, and films!”