Chums of the Camp Fire
by Lawrence J. Leslie
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"It ought to," burst out Toby, convincingly; "because it was h-h-heavy enough to m-m-make a m-m-mark anywhere."

All of them could see what Max referred to. The basket had undoubtedly lain there on the bank. Max looked all around him, then up toward the tree overhead. In this case the lower branches were at least ten feet from the ground; and he mentally calculated that no animal, however long its reach, could have possibly stretched down and secured that basket.

That would mean there should be some chance for discovering telltale imprints near by. Max was unusually clever with regard to such things; and always thought of them first when there was a mystery of this kind afoot.

"Keep where you are, everybody, please, for just a minute or two," he went on to say; "that is, don't move around more than you can help; and use your eyes to help locate the tracks left by this thing, whatever it may be."

"Oh! a good idea, Max!" burst from Toby; "now, why didn't I think of that before I put for the c-c-camp?"

Nobody gave him an answer, but doubtless Steve deep down in his heart was saying, "Because you were badly rattled, I guess, my boy; and wanted to meet up with some of the rest of the crowd too much, that's what."

After all it was Max who discovered what he sought. They heard him give utterance to a low exclamation, as though of surprise; then he was seen to bend down and closely examine something.

The others crowded close to their leader, and three pairs of hungry eyes were fastened upon the ground. Toby gave a cry of mingled astonishment and disgust.

"W-w-why, would you believe it," he gasped, "after all it was a silly little b-b-baby, and barefooted at that, g-g-got away with the b-b-basket! Oh! rats!"

Both Steve and Bandy-legs were staring at the plain imprint of a foot, and such a queer foot too, long and slender.

"Max, what's the answer?" begged Steve; "it don't seem possible that that track was ever made by any baby like Toby says."

"It wasn't," the other told him, with a smile; "that was a full-grown monkey, and I should think he would stand about as high as Bandy-legs here!"

"A m-m-monkey!" echoed Toby, scratching his head; "and that was what stole our f-f-fine h-h-ham the f-f-first night we camped here, was it, and threw the s-same at Steve's head? Oh! my s-s-stars, a real live monkey. I w-w-wonder now if it's got a r-r-ringed tail like Steve said."

"But looky here, Max," interposed Bandy-legs, "monkeys don't eat fish and frogs, do they? I understood they lived on nuts and roots and fruit."

"So they do, as near as I can say," acknowledged Max; "although there may be a species that does eat animal food, though I doubt it. This fellow has lived pretty much all his life in the circus, and is as tricky as they make them. He watched Toby here working, and wondered what he had so good in that basket; so when the chance came he just dropped down and made away with it."

Toby began to scan the neighboring trees as though he half expected to see a grinning hairy face projected through the branches and leering at him.

"But after he looks in and sees what's there, he might drop the basket, mightn't he, Max?" Steve inquired.

"I think there's a fair chance that way, Steve; and so let's look around. Each choose a certain territory to cover; but don't wander too far away; and remember our old signal for assembling in a hurry. Whoever finds the creel give the Indian whoop twice. Once for trouble, and help wanted. Now scatter!"

They had done this sort of thing many times in days gone by, and were pretty well trained for service. Following the idea Max suggested, they headed in four different points of the compass, though the pond being behind cut out half the circle, and shortened their labors considerably.

Barely three minutes had gone by than a whoop rang out, coming from the quarter where Steve had gone. The others raised their heads eagerly and listened, for if no second call followed it would mean that the one who signalled needed assistance in a hurry. But almost immediately there came a second cry, proving that the missing basket had been found.

A minute later and they were clustered there, examining the trout creel. It had been opened, for part of its contents had vanished; but when Toby began to discover fine frogs' "saddles" scattered on the ground, he started to collect them in great haste.

"Seemed like the monk must have been disgusted when he opened the basket, after climbing a tree here, and found that he didn't fancy the smell of what it held," Steve gave as his opinion.

"And I guess Toby is likely to get about all his frog supplies back again," Max went on to say, in a satisfied way; "so that none of us have any kick coming."

"That old sneak fools himself more than a few times, don't he?" Bandy-legs remarked, as if beginning to see the comical side of the affair. "First there was the half ham which he couldn't take a fancy to after he stole it, and now here he's gone and cribbed a lot of frogs' legs that he throws away. It must be just a habit with him to steal. He can't help it when the temptation rises. I'd call him a kleptomaniac, wouldn't you, Max?"

"Yes," Toby hastened to remark, out of his turn, "that's what he must be, but you'll have to excuse m-m-me from s-s-sayin' the same, because it'd sure take m-m-me a year of Sundays puckerin' up my l-l-lips to try."

"Now, if you had a chance to capture a monkey, Toby, it wouldn't be near so silly as hoping to bag a great big lion, or a strong tiger that could bat us all over with one stroke of his paw," Steve advised the boy who yearned to be the proud possessor of a menagerie of his own.

"Well, p'raps I may b-b-before we leave here," Toby calmly went on to say, "that is, if the rest of you g-g-give-me a h-h-helping hand."

"You can count on that, Toby," Max assured him, for everybody felt vastly better, now that the worst seemed known; "but since we've found what was lost, and made an important discovery, let's hike hack to our camp, where we can talk it all over, and settle on our plan of campaign."

"Yes," Bandy-legs remarked, "and while that slippery customer is hanging around here nothing's going to be safe from him. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the old sneak had paid a visit to our tent while we've been investigating up here; and poking his nose into every package we've got there, hoping to find some peanuts, or something else he likes particularly well," and this prospect sent the boys on the full run over the short-cut between the pond where the frogs held their nightly chorus, and the camp.



"Everything's lovely, and the goose hangs high!" sang out Steve, when they had once more arrived in camp, to find things just as they had been left, with no sign of tampering on the part of the inquisitive and perhaps hungry monkey.

"It's all right, because no damage was done, since Toby got back his stolen high jumpers," Bandy-legs announced.

"Yes, and he's agoin' to have p-p-part of the s-s-same for lunch, understand?" declared the late frog fisherman; "and say, Max, you never did see such c-c-crazy antics in all your life as when they f-f-found that red rag had a jag in it. Great g-g-governor! how they'd try to c-c-crawl up the string backwards, or any old way. Near died alaughin' at the s-s-same; then I reckoned it was kind of c-c-cruel to keep 'em sufferin' so, and I'd knock 'em on the head. 'Bout time I g-g-got busy with the fryingpans, ain't it?"

No one told him to "hold his horses," for they were only too well pleased nowadays when Toby offered to take upon himself the getting of a meal, since he had proved his ability to do fair camp cooking. Time was when they would have utterly refused to let him try his hand, because they knew how he would spoil everything he attempted to serve up; but times had changed apparently, and Nora's lessons were bearing fruit.

It was just as well that Toby cooked an unusual amount of stuff for luncheon, because it happened that the camp was destined to have visitors before they had gotten very far along with the meal.

Perhaps the smoke made by their fire attracted attention, for the first thing the boys knew they heard the sound of voices somewhere near, and belonging to men at that.

They looked up at each other, and Bandy-legs was the first to express an opinion.

"Say, I wouldn't be s'prised now, if it's Farmer Ketcham and one of his hired men acomin' over to see us about something."

"Whew!" exclaimed Steve, "I hope his old bull hasn't broke loose now, and is on the rampage. Seems to me as if we had about enough to bother with, as things stand, without having a bull tearing in on us any old time; and Toby here wearing that red bandana around his neck all the time, trying to make believe he's a cowboy from out on the plains."

"There they come!" said Max, pointing as he spoke.

A few seconds later, and Toby uttered a loud cry.

"Why, I d-d-declare if 'tain't M-m-mister Jenks!" he announced.

"Jenks!" echoed Steve; "seems like I ought to know that name; heard it somewhere or other. Who is he, Toby, and where'd you meet him?"

"Why, d-d-don't you remember, boys, he owns the c-c-circus!"

"Oh! sure, that's a fact!" Steve exclaimed, "and you had some mighty pleasant dealings with him, too, didn't you, Toby? Fifty plunks was it he paid you because you sent in the first news about his missing animals? Mebbe he's changed his mind, and wants that hard cash back again—followed you all the way up here to coax you to pan out. Mebby he thinks he needs it in his business."

But Toby shrugged his shoulders, and smiled in a way that proved he felt pretty sure the journey would have been taken for nothing, should such prove to be the case.

"I can give a guess what brings Mr. Jenks up here," interrupted Max; "and it's got some connection with our torment, that trained monkey. But they're waving their hands to us right now, and coming this way; so we'll soon know all about it."

The two men soon reached the camp. Mr. Jenks it was, just as Toby had said, and the party with him seemed to be a farmer, who might possibly live within a few miles of the place.

"Glad to see you again, my boy!" exclaimed the proprietor of the circus, as he held out his big hand to Toby; "and I must say this looks like a good omen to me, meeting you away up here, after you had so much to do with finding the rest of my stock. I'm shy just one fine educated monkey, the famous Link who's said to be the Missing Link, which he is right now, at least. Thought I could get on without him, but it seems that the show has lost its salt without his tricks. Everybody calling for Link, and attendance falling off when we can't produce him. So when I had a letter from this party here, Mr. Caleb Kline, who owns a farm not far away, telling me he had been visited by a big monkey that chattered, and stole like all get-out, I just made up my mind I'd come back and make a big effort to locate him. It'll be two hundred dollars in any one's pocket to capture Link."

"Won't you both sit down, and have a bite of lunch?" asked Max, feeling that it was really up to them to act as hosts on such an occasion.

Mr. Jenks looked at his companion.

"Might as well, Kline, seeing that your place is a good ways off; and we don't want to go back till dark, because that boy said he saw the monkey up in this region day before yesterday. Scared him nearly to death, the boy thinking he meant to eat him up; but Link only wanted to make friends, for he's a social chap sometimes."

Steve laughed at that.

"As full of mischief as an egg is of meat, sir!" he declared.

"What's that, have you seen him, then?" demanded Mr. Jenks, eagerly.

"Oh! he's hanging out somewhere near by, and we've had a couple of experiences with the sly rascal," Steve continued. "First time he stole half a ham, and when we were looking around in the night he flung it at my head, and nearly knocked my brains out, only I was saved by not having it hit me."

"Well, that's interesting—not the fact of your having brains, my son, but what you tell me about Link's scandalous conduct. He's a slick one, I assure you," the circus man went on to say, his face beaming with satisfaction at thus striking a warm clue so early in the hunt.

"Yes," broke out Toby, anxious to get in the spotlight as well as Steve; "and right this very morning, after I'd f-f-fished for f-f-frogs over at the p-p-pond a half mile away, and left my h-b-basket full of saddles under a tree, would you believe m-m-me, that old m-m-monk slipped up and run away with the s-s-same? C-c-course we found it again, 'cause m-m-monkeys don't f-f-fancy f-f-fish; and we saw tracks as p-p-plain as anything that looked like a b-b-baby'd been there, which was his m-m-marks, you know."

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised, now!" declared Mr. Jenks, "but what you boys will be after me to claim that two hundred yet. Link seems to have taken a fancy to you in some way, and is hanging around your camp. Now, my time is nearly up, and unless I gather him in this afternoon I'm afraid I'll have to leave here. I'm meaning to let you write down where the show'll be every day for two weeks; and you can reach me there if you do happen to take the monkey in."

He looked meaningly at Toby when saying this. Somehow Mr. Jenks seemed to have an idea that the boy who loved to collect wild animals must be the leader of the little group of campers. This arose partly through his having had former dealings with Toby Jucklin, whom he had at least found to be fairly shrewd at making a bargain.

It quite tickled Toby to have this honor thrust upon him for once in his life; and as Max could see no harm in the mistake he allowed it to go on. After all it mattered very little, since they were all chums; and what was one's business was the concern of all. And Toby seemed to be enjoying the sensation so much that his face was fairly flushed.

"We'll t-t-try to d-d-do our best, sir," Toby went on to say, feeling that it was up to him to act as spokesman, when his relations with Mr. Jenks made him so pronounced a factor in the deal.

"He's so tricky, though," observed Steve, "that you mustn't count on our being able to bring him to terms. Monkeys can bite and scratch terrible, if they once get mad, can't they, Mr. Jenks?"

The two men were sitting down alongside, and each enjoying the contents of a pannikin placed before them, containing a fair supply of all that the boys had had for their meal, as well as a brimming cup of coffee with all the "fixings."

"Yes, and I wouldn't advise you to trust too much to Link, for while he's full of fun, at the same time there's rank treachery in his make-up; so that he may turn like a flash on the hand that pets him, and use his little sharp teeth. But there's one safe way to capture him, and which we meant to employ in case we could learn where he was holding out."

"Would you mind explaining it to us, Mr. Jenks?" asked Max.

"Certainly not, son, and I mean to leave some of the material with you to use, if you get the chance. Like as not Link will keep on hanging out near your camp; and if I could remain up here longer I'd just stay here, and take my chances. You see the little bag Kline carries? Well, that contains nuts, and dried bread. I've got a bottle of strong liquor along, and we expected to follow the tactics of nearly all wild animal catchers who go out after monkeys."

"I think I know what you mean, sir," said Max; "but perhaps you'll explain a little further?"

"They know the confiding nature of the climbers," continued the circus proprietor, promptly, "and when they reach a place in the woods where they know they are apt to strike a colony of monkeys, they take a number of gourd calabashes and place a certain amount of nuts and bread, soaked in the whiskey, in each, then hide near by to watch results.

"Pretty soon the troop of monkeys come along, and scenting something good to eat, proceed to fill up on the dosed stuff. It seems pretty hard to take advantage of a weakness that they appear to have in common with the other branch of the two-legged family, don't it? But every time they get so stupid that they stagger all around, and seem to lose all fear of mankind. Then one of the watchers will step out, take hold of a monkey's hand, and lead a whole string of them away, each trying to support the others. And so they walk into cages, and upon recovering from their spree find themselves shut up for life."

"If men only had to pay as dear for their first offense, there'd be a heap less of drinking done, you hear me," remarked the farmer, who had evidently heard the description before, and yet still marveled at its ingenuity, as well as thought it pretty hard on the poor monkeys.

"You can leave the stuff with us, Mr. Jenks," said Max, and now the other realized he was dealing with the real leader of the camping party; "but I won't promise to use it unless we really have to. Somehow I don't exactly like the idea, though I suppose it's all right for those animal catchers to do anything at all in order to make their trip pay, because with them it's a business. But that isn't true with us boys. Perhaps we may find another way to get Link; it'll give us something to think about, and if we succeed it ought to be a feather in our caps."

"And two hundred dollars in your pockets, don't forget that, son," the circus man said, impressively. "Seems like the more I get to thinking about that monkey the less I want to lose him. It took a long time to teach him what tricks he knows, and he's always been a big drawing card to my show. I certainly hope we manage to corral him in some way. And so far as I'm concerned I'd as soon get him soaked as not, so long as I lay hands on him. It wouldn't be the first time either that he knew what strong drink is, because I'm sorry to say the man I hired to look after Link especially, used to be very fond of his bottle, and he must have taught the monkey to like the vile stuff. He's the silliest thing, when on a jag, you ever saw, and does act too comical for anything."

"I can see from that it would be an easy thing to tempt poor old Link with some of the stuff, sir," Max went on to say; "and if we fail in every other way we'll just have to come down to what you suggest; because the animal would die in the winter if left at large in this cold country. Either emigration or captivity is the only thing to save him."

"Sensible talk, son," the circus man told Max. "And to tell the truth I'm so sure you boys will be successful that I'm tempted to turn right back, and get an early train for Greenburg, so as to be with my show to-night. Things go wrong when the old man is away. It's a one-man concern at best. Nobody knows what to do in an emergency but me. Yes, Kline, after we're done eating take me back to your house, and then to the station again for the first train. I'll gladly pay you what I promised, and then wait to hear from these bright lads."

Of course this sort of talk gave the four chums more than a few pleasant thrills because everybody likes to know that they are appreciated at their true worth.

"That would m-m-mean another f-f-fifty for me, wouldn't it?" Toby was heard to say, reflectively, as though the prospect might seem quite pleasing, and he wondered whether he might not be able to save up, and after a little while augment the number of animals in his collection, after he had removed it from the back yard of the family residence out to the Jucklin farm.

While the two guests were finishing their meal there was more or less further talk, all bearing upon the different ways in which men who make it their business in life to trap wild animals, go about it out in the jungles and dark forests of the countries where such may still be found in profitable numbers to pay them to go to such enormous expense.

The boys listened, and learned considerable that was deeply interesting about the habits of these bold adventurers. Since the moving picture enterprise came into its own there have been many faithful pictures shown of how these beasts of prey live in their native lands; and the boys had even had the privilege of seeing some very fine flashlight pictures that showed all manner of untamed animals at large, so that this talk with an old traveler like Mr. Jenks was unusually interesting.

Finally the two men announced themselves ready to go back to the Kline farmhouse.

"Remember, now, boys," said Mr. Jenks, as he went around shaking every fellow heartily by the hand, "you're going to wire as soon as you get back to town, and tell me what luck you've had. I'll be ready to jump on the next train and come back to Carson, bringing that two hundred with me; because I know you're going to turn the trick on the Missing Link. Be good to yourselves, now, and here's wishing you the best of luck," and with that he passed from their sight.



After that Toby seemed to have but one object in life, which was to hatch up a clever scheme whereby the educated monkey could be trapped. He wandered around in the near vicinity of the camp, with his eyes constantly searching the branches of the trees in the vague hope that he might discover the runaway snugly squatted in some crotch and fast asleep.

"I believe Toby's got an idea he's able to jabber monkey talk," said Steve, after the day was fairly well spent, and they could hardly coax Toby to come in to his midday meal, much less do his share of cooking; "and that he expects, if only he, might find where that slick old Link holds out, he could pan-handle him, and get him to come into camp with us."

"Now you're hewing pretty close to the line," commented Bandy-legs, "and I'll let you know why. Toby's got a handful of the nut stuff in his pocket. I saw him get it out of the bag the circus man left with us. And I just bet you he's thinking of tempting Link with it."

Steve jumped up and stepped into the tent; he came out again with a broad grin on his face.

"I was mistaken, glad to say!" he remarked.

"About what?" Max asked him.

"Well, when Bandy-legs here said Toby was running around with a pocket full of the nut meat, it struck me that perhaps he'd scooped that bottle of hard stuff too, which Mr. Jenks said we might use to soak, first the dry bread and then Link. But the country is safe, for he never touched it."

"None of us have seen or heard anything of the monkey since he stole Toby's basket of frog legs this morning," ventured Max; "and it may be he's left us—cleared out in disgust because what he steals here doesn't seem to touch the right spot with him."

"Don't mention that to Toby, or you'll give him the blind staggers," said Steve; "because he's set his mind on capturing the monk; and when Toby gets a thing in that head of his he's a mighty unhappy fellow if he can't carry it through."

"What d'ye think," Bandy-legs went on to say, "I heard him grumbling to himself, and seems like he was wondering whether he couldn't keep the old monkey and let the two hundred go glimmering. Actually thinks more about an old rascal of a Simian than a handful of plunks. But we're three to one, and we'll see to it that no such fool deal as that goes through."

"No danger of it," chirped Steve, briskly; "that circus man thinks more than two hundred of Link; and five times that wouldn't tempt him to let the monkey slip through his fingers. Think of him coming away back here in hopes of bagging the slippery old scamp! No, if we do get hold of that Missing Link he's going to keep on amusing the circus public, and not just Toby Jucklin."

When the afternoon came to an end they managed to get the restless Toby to come in near the campfire; but it was impossible for him to talk, or even think of any other subject than capturing the stray monkey.

Max had considered the subject, and arrived at a sensible conclusion. They had really come out just to break the ice for the new season, and without any definite object in view save to enjoy the open air, and renew some of their pleasures of camp life.

It would be as well for them to spend some of their time in inventing ingenious traps calculated to ensnare the trick monkey. This would be pitting their smartness against that of a suspicious and clever animal; and if they won out why it would be reckoned not only a glorious triumph but at the same time put a nice little sum of good money in their pockets.

He announced this policy as they were finishing their supper, and the others had to smile to see the look of ecstatic joy that spread all over Toby's face.

"Oh! that's just fine of you boys to stand by me like that!" he burst out with, and not tripping even once, strange to say. "I'll never forget it, give you my word I won't. And some time I'll find a chance to pay you back, see if I don't."

"Hear! hear!" cried Steve.

"Bravo!" exclaimed Max.

"Good stuff, Toby," remarked Bandy-legs, "and he never fell all over himself once, you notice, fellers."

"Of course," Max continued, "we don't know whether we'll have another chance to see Link. He may have kicked the dust of these parts off his feet, and started out to find easier picking among the farmers' houses, where he could sneak in and loot the kitchens while the missus was out gathering eggs, or hanging up the wash. But if we can coax him to stay around our camp we'll keep on hoping to get him in the end."

"But, Max," ventured Steve, "if all our smart traps go begging, and he gives us the merry ha! ha! every time, wouldn't you try that monkey-catcher trick the circus man told us about?"

"I've been thinking it over," said Max, "and while I'd much prefer to take Link by some fairer scheme, if he is too sharp for us, why I reckon we'll have to turn to that way. If he isn't captured he could live by stealing through the summer, but when the cold weather came the poor beast would freeze to death, because he's a native of a hot climate, you know."

"G-g-good for you, Max!" exclaimed Toby, beaming with joy; "oh! I know now we'll g-g-get Link in the end. And to coax him to hang out around here r-r-right along I've g-g-gone and b-b-baited the place."

"How?" questioned Bandy-legs.

"I h-h-hunted up some likely p-p-places where I just thought he'd be apt to come and I p-p-put a few kernels of nuts in the crotch, each one closer to the camp. You k-k-know that's the way they ketch wild t-t-turkeys, make a t-t-trap of lathes, and have a road leading into the same, comin' up in the m-m-middle, covered over just inside. Then they strew corn all along and up onto the t-t-trap. Mister T-t-turk he starts pickin' up the g-g-grains, and is so busy that he f-f-follows on till he comes up inside the slats. Then he g-g-gets so excited that he just runs around and around, tryin' to p-p-poke his old head through the bars, and never once rememberin' that he came up in the m-m-middle!"

"Well, now, that wasn't a halfway bad idea of yours, Toby, to bait a line with the nut meat, so's to coax Link to come closer," Steve ventured to say, after listening patiently to Toby's staggering explanation; "but tell us how you expect to trap the monk after you've got him close in? I take it that's goin' to be the job that'll make us think we're up against a stone wall."

"I saw Toby practicing with a piece of old rope this afternoon, throwing a lariat, and I bet you now he's meaning to try and drop a loop over the head of that Link," Bandy-legs asserted.

Max shook his head as though the idea did not find much favor with him.

"A regular cow-puncher might manage to do it," he remarked, "but no bungler like any one of us would be. That trick monkey is too quick and smart to let a noose fall over his head while he's awake. You'd see him duck every time, and slip off, chattering like a parrot. You'll have to try something better than a lariat, Toby, if you hope to trap a wideawake monkey."

"Oh! well, I've been, h-h-hammering my h-h-head all the while," Toby explained, "and I've fixed up a lot of g-g-good schemes that I'd like to try out. Once we g-g-get him to understand that there are n-n-nuts around here, and he ain't goin' to desert us in a h-h-hurry; so I'll have a c-c-chance to sample 'em all."

"How about to-night; think it'll pay to rig that rope snare again, and bait it with some of the nuts?" asked Steve, who was rapidly becoming quite interested in the game, which appealed to his sporting instincts more and more the deeper he allowed himself to be drawn into it.

"I expected to," admitted Toby.

"We might set a number of the rope snares," suggested Bandy-legs, "so that if he missed connections with one he'd get stuck in another. They could all be connected with that stout hickory stick; or mebbe we might find others just as full of spring."

Max agreed that at least it would do no harm.

"All the same," he went on to tell Toby, "if I was you I wouldn't expect too much from that spring trap, no matter how many snares you set. If that smart monkey really put that stick in the noose, and set it off for fun, or in spite, chances are you'll never trap him that way. He knows too much about tricks and all that. But we'll give the thing another try-out to-night, and if it doesn't work we'd better change off to something else."

Accordingly all of them became very busy for some time. It was found that they could fasten two other cords to the same bent sapling, making a regular network of nooses, among which they scattered some of the nut meat which the circus man had brought along with him, knowing the weakness of the missing animal for the same.

"Whew! if he eats up all that and doesn't get caught, I'll believe he's sure a close relation of the Old Nick," Steve gave as his opinion, after this labor had been completed, and they surveyed the trap with complacency.

Toby was very enthusiastic. He declared that he felt it in his bones they would be awakened by a screaming and scolding, to find poor old Link dangling in mid-air, gripped by the hind leg in one of those entangling nooses. He even went so far as to arrange the stout collar, with its padlock and chain, which Mr. Jenks had left with them before going back, so as to have it handy in case of sudden need.

None of them slept very soundly, even Toby, who as a rule could be depended on to get his full share of rest. Not that there was any wild alarm, for the night crept on and everything remained peaceful enough; but all of the boys felt more or less excitement; and upon being awakened by some dream would lie there listening, and occasionally peeping out from the upturned flap of the tent.

The fire smouldered, and went out, for no one ventured to replenish the exhausted fuel; and during the last section of the night there was not even a spark remaining; only the cold moon above to dispel the darkness.

Then came morning, and as Bandy-legs aroused them all with his kicking to get free from his blanket, which seemed to be twisted around his neck, while his feet were chilled, they thought it best to start another day.

Toby of course was out as soon as he could get some clothes on. He had expressed himself as keenly disappointed because there had been no sign of the trap being sprung; but shortly after he went out to investigate, the others heard him coming back on the jump.

"Sounds like he's found signs to tell that Link did pay us a call," suggested Steve, rightly guessing why Toby should manifest so much excitement.

He proved to be a true prophet, for Toby, as soon as he reached them, burst out with his lament.

"What d'ye think, he's been and d-d-done it, fellers? Say, there isn't a c-c-crumb of all that nut meat left; but he stepped over every n-n-noose as neat as you p-p-please. My stars! but he's a c-c-corker. G-g-guess they make him walk on the tops of a h-h-hundred bottles in the c-c-circus. He c'n do it easy, g-g-give you my word for it. He's a w-w-wonder, that's what he is. Whew! means I've g-g-got to do some more high thinkin' if I expect to g-g-grab that Link. But I will, if I have to p-p-play hookey from school, and s-s-stay up here right along!"

Upon investigation it was found that the clever simian had indeed managed to pass in and out amidst that network of waiting loops without displacing even one of the same. Every crumb of the nut meat had vanished, too, showing how careful the sly rascal had been, and cleaned up as he went.

Bandy-legs suggested that perhaps woods rats might have done the trick, or even chipmunks or red squirrels; whereupon a close examination disclosed the plain imprints of the monkey's feet in numerous places, which proved the identity of the culprit beyond any dispute.

Max was highly amused at the outcome, for he always liked to find himself pitted against a worthy antagonist. He seldom felt like exerting himself when the game was not worth the candle. He liked to cast a fly for bass, and having deceived them with a feathery lure, play them with a slender rod and fine line, giving them the sportsman's chance to get free if only they knew how to jump out of the water and throw themselves across the taut line.

It began to look as though the boys had found a foeman worthy of their steel in this sly trick monkey; and they would possibly have all the fun they could want during the balance of their little Easter outing, in trying to outwit him.

From time to time during that day they talked matters over. Toby was not left alone in the endeavor to invent some scheme whereby Link might be caught. Steve hatched up one that they determined to try that same night. It was to dig a pit, cover it skillfully with a delicate mattress that, when sprinkled with earth would seem to be perfectly sound; but which was calculated to give way, once a weight of thirty pounds or more had embarked on the covering.

With high hopes, then, they carefully baited this trap just before retiring to the interior of the tent. Toby, always sanguine, was confident that it was going to work. He had told long stories as they sat around the camp fire, about how hunters of big game, sent out by those who dealt in wild animals, always used this trap in the shape of a pit in order to secure various species that could not be caught in their lion and tiger nets.

They had slept so poorly of late that once they did manage to forget things the entire four boys slumbered heavily for several hours. Any ordinary noise would not have awakened Toby when at home; indeed, his folks had threatened to get a patent bed that, connected with clock-work machinery, would throw him out on the floor at a certain hour arranged for. But he had something on his mind now, and hence when there suddenly arose a tremendous squealing and crashing, Toby was up on his feet as quickly as any of his three chums.

"Whoop! hurrah! we've g-g-got him at last, fellers! Quick, let's hurry and k-k-keep the beggar from c-c-climbing out again! Oh! joy! D-d-didn't he make an awful r-r-row, though? Listen to him, would you? P-p-please hurry, Bandy-legs; you're as s-s-slow as molasses in winter!"

Not stopping to even pull on their shoes they all hastened to reach the outer air, and rush toward the spot where the pit had been dug.



"Ain't he a squealer, though?" cried Steve, as they came close to the place, and saw that the thin mattress had indeed been broken down.

The sounds welled up from the hole they had dug, and there was some sort of movement down there.

"Oh! let's h-h-hurry and g-g-get him fastened to this chain!" Toby was crying. "He might j-j-jump out any minute unless we're c-c-careful. Max, have you thought about the l-l-lantern like you said you would?"

"It's here, all right," replied the other; "now, surround the pit, while I light up, so we can see how to get the old sinner out."

Accordingly they formed what Steve called "a hollow square" around the hole in the ground, out of which was coming that series of discordant squeals; but in Toby's ears no music could ever sound sweeter, for did they not mean a clever victory over the shrewdest of wild animals, an educated monkey?

Max had matches along, for a box had been fastened to the lantern, so that no unnecessary delay might be encountered should they want to do things in haste, and light was needed.

When he had applied one of these to the wick, and turned down the globe, Max swung the lantern around, and then held it over the edge of the pit very cautiously, for fear lest he further excite the occupant.

Then they all stared down, expecting to see a shrinking monkey looking helplessly up at them, cowed by his capture. The squealing had suddenly ceased as the lantern light began to fall into the hole; they could already distinguish a form in the pit; and just then a plain, unmistakable grunt smote their ears.

"Oh! my s-s-stars!" gasped Toby, plainly astounded and disgusted.

Steve gave a shout, and then laughed with all his might.

"Why, what's this?" exclaimed Bandy-legs, looking again, "only a plain old hog instead of a chattering monk? Say, this is a good one on us, fellers. Has it been this rooter and grunter that's been bothering us right along? Somebody kick me, won't you, please?"

Thereupon Steve accommodated him without the slightest hesitation.

"Oh! this is only one of those accidents that will happen sometimes," Max went on to explain. "We know it wasn't a pig that did all the other mischief, for we saw the tracks as plain as day. To-night it just came about that this porker, escaped from some farmer's pen, wandered into camp, and found those nice nuts and other stuff that we piled up on the cover of the pit. So he started to have a midnight lunch all by himself, but the ice was too thin, and down he went."

Even Toby had to laugh by that time, having partly recovered from his grievous disappointment.

"Ain't this the greatest little puzzle we ever tackled?" Bandy-legs was heard to say; "and now that we've got something in our trap, why don't you use that chain and padlock, Toby? Here's a prize pet for you. Think of fastenin' the same up in your back yard, and tellin' folks you had a wild boar in captivity. Regular sideshow freak business you might go into."

The imprisoned hog had started in to squeal once more. Perhaps it imagined the critical time in its life had arrived, when hams and loins were in demand, and that it must maintain the reputation of its species for making a row.

"But great Caesar's ghost! what ought we do about it?" exclaimed Steve, clapping both hands over his ears; "we can't stand for this all night long."

"We must manage to get him out of that, some way or other," Max declared, positively.

"Toby, you're so fond of everything that walks on four legs, s'pose you climb down into the pit and lift Mr. Hog out?" suggested Bandy-legs.

"What, me, and with only my p-p-pajamas on?" cried Toby; "I'd like to s-s-see myself adoin' that. Seems to me the b-b-best way would be to dig a trench, and then shoo the old p-p-porker out."

"That's what we'll do," Max announced. "It would seem that the monkey is too smart to step into a trap built like this, so we wouldn't have any further need of the pit. Let's get some clothes on first, so we won't take cold, and then everybody dig."

It was a duty they could not shirk, and before long they had managed to knock away part of the wall of the pit, so that an ordinary hog might manage to scramble up the incline from the depths.

Then they all gathered on the other side, and "shooed," and waved their arms as well as the lantern. The prisoner of the pit, alarmed no doubt for his safety, and seeing an opening for escape, started to climb, with such success that presently he reached level ground, gave a satisfied grunt, and then trotted off into the neighboring woods.

The four boys were laughing among themselves as they once more went back to the warmth of their blankets.

"Another dream shattered," said Steve, "and count me out after this when it comes to hatching up dark schemes against that poor ape. Some of the rest of you can try your hands if you want; but ten to one we'll have to get down to hard gravel in the end, and use that wild-animal-catcher stunt with the doped stuff. To tell you the truth I'm sort of hoping we will, because I'd like to see how it works."

"M-m-me too, Steve!" exclaimed Toby; "and I only h-h-hope Max say's the word after we've tried a few more games, and find they don't w-w-work any."

"I'll fix the limit for another night," said Max, "and then if we haven't been successful in trapping the monkey I'll agree to try Mr. Jenks' plan."

With that all of the others declared they would rest content, though it seemed as though Bandy-legs, as well as Steve and Toby, was willing to proceed to extremes as soon as possible, only Max objecting to the plan as hardly fair to the monkey.

Another day passed, and they amused themselves in various ways, taking pictures, fishing for pickerel in the big pond with fair success, and making arrangements for trying out another idea that night, in hopes of capturing the smart monkey.

This consisted of a trap fashioned somewhat on the order of the turkey cage mentioned by Toby. It was built of stout canes, carried all the way from the pond, and with the corner joints spliced with cord. Then a descending roadway was carefully dug out, and brought up inside the cage. A trigger was arranged, to be sprung should the monkey, in following the roadway, enter the cage, and which would release a little door that, falling into place, would shut the opening, and at the same time ring a bell Toby had fixed close to where his head would be as he slept.

Altogether it was quite an ingenious contraption; but all the same there was no bell ringing during that night: And yet when Toby went out next morning to examine his disappointing contrivance he reported that the monkey had actually been there, and eaten up all the nut meat, even going inside the trap, and never setting the trigger off.

Sure enough they did find his tracks in the roadway as far as the trap, but no further, which told them the animal was too smart to be caught by such a flimsy device.

Toby insisted on it that he had gone inside, because the bait had all vanished; but Max, having lifted the cage aside, showed that there was not a sign of the monkey's footprints there. On the other hand he told them the inside bait had plainly been devoured by little mice, for he showed them innumerable tracks made by their dainty feet.

So Toby declared that he was done.

"He's too cute for m-m-me, fellers, I admit," he said; "though if it wasn't for that fetching bait left by Mr. Jenks I'd k-k-keep on tryin' till I didn't know my own name. But now, Max, l-l-let 's g-g-get busy in earnest."

As he had promised them, Max would not draw back. The balance of the nut meat and some of the dried bread he put in a pannikin, and poured a portion of the contents of the bottle over the mess, until the liquid was soaked up.

This was done at a certain spot where they believed the monkey was most apt to show himself. Then the boys went away, one of them remaining on sentry duty at some little distance off, so as to give the signal should Link make his appearance.

The whole morning passed without the monkey showing up. Lunch had been served, and the one on duty relieved, so that he could take his turn at the rude table they had constructed near the tent.

Bandy-legs was the sentinel now, and would remain on post until about the middle of the afternoon, unless something happened to break the dreadful monotony.

It did.

About two o'clock Bandy-legs came running in, all out of breath, with the exciting news that the monkey had appeared, just as they hoped, and was even then busily engaged in disposing of the doped food as greedily as anything.

So they all trooped out to witness the strange sight. Toby carried along the chain and collar and padlock left in his charge by the showman; for he kept hoping that the time had now come when he might find a good use for the same.

True enough, they discovered the big monkey busily at work. His liking for strong drink was apt to prove his undoing, even as it has that of countless millions of the human race. Watching him eating like a starving thing, the boys exchanged many humorous remarks.

By the time Link had appeased his appetite he could hardly stand up straight, and Max declared there was now no longer any reason why they should not surround and capture him.

It was almost too easy after all. The stupid beast made no attempt to flee, for he staggered whenever he tried to move. He also seemed to understand his condition, for at their approach he held out one hand toward them pitifully, as though seeking their assistance to guide his faltering footsteps.

And so the exulting Toby quickly fixed that collar around his neck, snapped the little-padlock shut, and gripping the chain led the way to camp, followed by the others, with Steve holding one of the poor monkey's hands, and Max the other.

That was the story of Link's downfall and capture. The evening following he sat there, secured to a tree, and holding his head between his hands as though it ached terribly, and blinked at the boys whenever they approached; but with not even a whimper of complaint, just a little moan at times.

In the morning the monkey seemed to be all right again, and full of comical antics. And after that Toby spent about all his time hovering around the place where Link was chained, talking to him, coaxing him to show off by tempting pieces of food, and enjoying himself more than words could tell.

Their vacation was drawing to a close, and while they had not met with any really thrilling adventures, still the four chums were a unit in declaring that they had never had a better time.

A deep mystery had been solved, and they had caught the monkey which was to net them such a dazzling reward. Max had become reconciled to the means employed, as it was all for the beast's own good; and Link himself, apparently had forgotten that there was such a thing as freedom.

When the time came for them to break camp, they took down the khaki-colored tent with the customary sad rites, chanting in unison the chorus of "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground."

They were a merry lot as they started the old horse homeward, and with the captive monkey in their midst to keep them company. They had to maintain a watch on Link, for he was apt to pinch them, snatch anything he could see, from a watch to a lead pencil, and was as full of his pranks "as an egg is of meat," as Steve said.

When they arrived home Max hastened to wire Mr. Jenks of their success, and on the very next train the delighted circus man appeared in Carson, to claim the valuable runaway, and gladly turned over the two hundred dollars to the chums.

What that represented to Max and his three mates in paying the expenses of the next great outing they planned will be told in the next story of this series, to be called "Afloat on the Flood."

Until we meet again in the pages of that volume we will have to bid the boys of Carson good-bye for a short time, shake hands with the reader, and turn down the light.


[Transcriber's Note: For short books such as "Chums of the Campfire," it was common for the publisher to add additional material. "Mortimer Halleck's Adventure" was chosen to accompany the main text in this edition.]



Among the many adventurous incidents of our frontier life in northwest Iowa, fifteen years ago, I recall one that befell a boy neighbor, Mortimer Halleck, in which his recklessness came very near causing his death.

There were five of us boys, who formed a little company of tried friends and pledged comrades. We hunted, trapped, boated, went skating and swimming together, and, when the first frame school-house was built, we occupied the two back seats, on the boys' side.

In our hunts after deer, wolves, badgers, and feathered game, we found an exhilaration such as I never again expect to experience in the tamer pursuits of life. We even felt an exultant joy in the fierce buffeting of the winter blizzards which annually descended upon us from the plateaus of Dakota.

During the regular season of bird migration, the resounding golunk, golunk, of the wild goose, the shrill klil-la-la of the swift and wary brant, the affectionate qu-a-a-rr-k, quack of the Mallard drake and his mate, with the strange, inimitable cry of the whooping crane, combined to form a sylvan orchestra, the music of which thrilled us with more pleasurable sensations than were ever awakened by the household organ or the town brass band of later years.

In the early spring, during the alternate slush, mud and freeze of the first thaws, there always occurred a short vacation from school and work, in which we gathered a harvest of fun, fur and feathers.

At this season, the low, flat valleys of the Little Sioux and the Ocheyedan rivers were covered six or eight feet deep by the annual overflow; and torrents of yellow snow-water, the melting of tremendous drifts, rushed down creeks and ravines.

As soon as these impetuous currents had gathered force enough to upheave the thick layers of ice in the river-beds and break over the banks out came beaver, musk-rat and mink, driven from house and hole to take refuge upon the masses of ice and drift stuff which lodged in the thickets of tall willows that grew along the beds of these streams. Here they were obliged to stay until the water subsided, and here they often fell a prey to the rifle or shotgun of the hunter.

We owned three boats in common; and as the men of the settlement were not particularly busy during the freshet season, we could easily persuade or hire them to load our skiffs on their wagons, and haul us eight or ten miles up the Sioux or Ocheyedan, for half a day's run down home, in which scarcely the stroke of an oar was necessary, after getting out into the main channel. Floating leisurely down, we were able to hunt musk-rat, geese and ducks, which were plentiful on the water or on the banks.

Beaver were scarce, but we occasionally got one. A mink or two, a couple of dozen muskrats, and a goodly bag of feathered game were often the result of a half-day's run with a single boat.

Mortimer Halleck, who at this time lived in the fork of the rivers, and at a considerable distance from the rest of as, owned a staunch skiff, which he had himself made, and in it went often alone upon the rivers. It was upon one of these solitary trips that he met with the adventure mentioned.

On a raw afternoon in March, his father had taken Mortimer and his boat on his double horse wagon six miles up stream. At this point there was a great bend in the river, and, by crossing the neck, the water distance to the fork was lengthened to fifteen miles. Mortimer was thus set afloat with his boat, with a long afternoon's run on the river before him.

For several hours the young hunter allowed his boat to drift down with the current, then swollen to an unusual height. His eyes, roving on either hand, were now and then rewarded with the sight of a small brown bunch of fur, resting on a bit of lodged drift. Then followed a quick puff of smoke, and the echoing report from the shotgun. The troubles of the furry little chap were at an end. The kinks would straighten out of its small humped back, and, as a deft turn of the oars brought the boat alongside, the hunter's hand would reach over the edge, grasp the long, slim tail, and fling the body of the sleek little musquash into the boat.

Twice during the afternoon a flock of geese had ventured low down over the drifting boatman, and each time one of the flock had fallen a victim. The others had hurried away in noisy confusion. He had hardly expected to find beaver, yet as the night drew on without a sight of one, he felt a little disappointed. True, he had secured a profitable lot of game: two geese, a mink, and more than a dozen muskrats.

But he wanted to show a beaver with the rest of his bag, and he had about given up his hopes of it when, just as the sun was setting and while he was passing down the mid channel between two long lines of clustering willow thickets, he espied the very object of his desires directly ahead and within easy range.

The animal was rolled up in a rusty brown ball, lying in a snug nest amid the bushy sprouts from an elm stub which projected three or four feet above the water. The tree had been broken off, and leaned out from the summer banks of the river. It had grown, as elm stumps often do, a dense fringe of short, tangled brush about the end of the trunk. Among these sprouts the beaver had fashioned a nest, and was lying curled up, asleep, when Mortimer, drifting silently down within short range, raised his gun and shot at it.

But the beaver is a "hard-lived" animal, and, even when shot at such close quarters, will quite frequently flop off its perch into the water, and, clutching with teeth and claws into roots or grass at the bottom, remain there. In that case, the hunter's ammunition is simply wasted.

This had happened more than once in Mortimer's experience, and, fearing that it might happen again, for he saw the beaver floundering heavily in its nest, he brought the boat about in great haste, circled around the stump, and jammed the bow into the sprouts. He then dropped the oars, and sprang forward to secure the game.

His haste was unfortunate; for, though he grasped at the small limbs quickly enough to have held the boat in place if it had not been in motion, his impetus was so great that the unsteady skiff recoiled backward with a force that pitched him over the prow, upon the very top of the stub. He lurched off to one side, and his feet and legs splashed into the water; but he escaped a complete ducking by clenching the top of the trunk with his left arm, while with his right hand he grasped one foot of the beaver! And then he glanced around for his boat.

It was gone, and had left him in a most perilous situation. The light skiff, impelled by the force of his fall out of it, had floated back into the current, and was already more than a dozen yards out, moving down stream.

Mortimer looked after it in utter dismay.

It was now too late to make a swim for it; he could never live in that strong, icy current long enough to reach it.

With a few cautious hitches he succeeded in gaining a ticklish seat upon the broken top of the stump, where he maintained himself by resting his feet upon two of the stoutest sprouts. Seated thus, he could feel an unsteady quivering of the trunk, a trembling, wrenching motion, that told, but too plainly, of the powerful force of the flood, and of the uncertain tenure which he possessed on even this comfortless refuge.

The lad was now thoroughly alarmed, and surveyed his surroundings with a growing fear that gained not a ray of hope from the prospect. The situation was truly a grave one.

On all sides was the hurrying flow of the grim, dark waters, which rushed swirling and eddying onward. The current swashed dismally among the slender, swaying willows, on either side; and beyond these, he knew that there was at least three hundred yards of swimming depth before either shore could be reached.

If any one should happen to pass, he could not, from the land, see Mortimer, on account of the willows. The nearest house was three or four miles distant; and a voice could be heard but a little distance, above the swash of the flood and the rush of the cold wind.

Mortimer's parents did not expect him to return until late in the evening, and they would probably make no effort to learn of his whereabouts until after midnight. The night, too, was already growing very cold, with a raw, gusty wind that soughed drearily among the willows; his bare hands and wet feet were fast becoming chilled and numb.

All the desolation, helplessness and misery of the situation were forced upon him by that keen and merciless power of reflection which so often attacks the mind in moments of extreme peril or of sudden disaster.

He saw but too plainly that it was useless to look for rescue before morning, and, clinging there to his bleak and uncertain perch, he felt that he would assuredly chill to death in a few hours.

Looking out into the gloom of the coming dusk, with the long, black, freezing night staring him in the face, tears gathered in the poor fellow's eyes, and a lump of choking misery rose up in his throat. Yet he was a brave fellow, who had never been known to yield an inch before any danger which must be met, when the balance of probabilities was adjusted with any degree of fairness. In this case, the probabilities were all on one side, and that side was against him.

"There just aint any chance for me at all," he groaned, at length. "I'm in a much worse predicament than the beaver and muskrats; for if they do get killed, it's so sudden they don't know it, but I've got to die by inches. I've just got to sit here and freeze a little at a time, till I fall off and finish life by drowning."

A wretched enough prospect! Yet that was the fate which seemed certainly awaiting him. Wet as he was, and already shivering, with no chance for exercise, there seemed little chance of surviving the cold, dismal night.

Sitting in hopeless suffering, he peered about him again and again in the gathering darkness, in the vain hope of discovering something that could give him an atom of comfort. Then, whipping his numbed hands about his shoulders until they tingled, he attemped to remove his soaked and stiffening boots; but, owing to his shaky and uncertain seat, he was baffled in this effort also.

Then, with feet and legs growing every moment more numb, he sat, clinging with one hand to the stump, whipping the other, shouting at intervals, and waiting for—he dared not think what.

An hour passed; then another; dumb, dreary despair had settled upon his mind. Insensibly he fell into a half-frozen stupor. He was beginning to think, in a numb way, that it did not make any particular difference to him what happened now.

An hour or more dragged by thus sluggishly, then a sudden shock, accompanied by a grinding noise, threw him partly off the stump. Instinctively he clutched the sprouts with his chilled fingers, but slid down, expecting to sink in the cold waters.

But he struck something solid and white. It was a large ice-cake, which had come floating down the river and touched the elm stump. The jar of his fall roused the boy; he staggered to his feet, feeling strange in his head, and with queer and painful sensations about the arms and shoulders.

He tried to step, but at first it seemed as if his feet must be frozen; yet, after stamping about for a few minutes, they began to lose their feeling of lumpishness and to prickle.

He then sat down upon the ice, and, after a struggle, worked off his boots, squeezed the water from his socks, and chafed and pounded his feet until they felt alive. This done, he got up and looked around; and hope revived within him.

The ice-cake was a large and solid one, twenty feet across at least; and, owing to the falling of the river, it was floating down the centre of the channel. He was, at least, floating toward home; and there was room to stamp about and keep from freezing.

Mortimer's spirits rose with the renewed circulation of the blood. He shouted, beat his arms about his chest, he even danced, the better to warm himself up again.

It seemed to him now that he was being guided by fate. He then became confused in mind—dazed, as it were. In odd vagary, as his ice-raft floated on down the river, he peopled the darkness about him with imaginary foes, and "squared off" at them pugnaciously. His blood warming with this exercise, he began delivering in grandiloquent tones the address which he had declaimed at school, when a voice from the darkness near at hand brought him back to his situation.


"Halloo!" he answered.

"Mortimer, is it you?"

"Is that you, father?" cried the young castaway, "have you got a boat?"

"Yes," replied Mr. Halleck; "but we have been alarmed. What has kept—"

"Paddle your skiff this way, father. Here, this way; I'm on a cake of ice."

"On a cake of ice!" cried Mr. Halleck. "I knew you were in some trouble. What has happened? I borrowed Neighbor Wescott's boat, and was going to cross over to see if you were at Morley's with Pete, when I heard your voice."

Mortimer was astonished to find he had already drifted so far.

"How much longer could you have stood it!" Mr. Halleck asked, in tones that trembled a little.

"Not another half-hour," Mortimer declared, and probably he was right.

Next day he succeeded in finding his boat, safely lodged among some willows; but the beaver was missing, having probably been jarred off the nest on the stub by the ice-cake striking against it.

The river had lowered considerably, and Mortimer, while searching for his boat, saw numerous ice-rafts moving down the channel; yet he could not repress a conviction that something more than mere good fortune had directed the ice-cake to touch at his bleak and comfortless perch in the nick of time to save his life.




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