Yes, David had forgotten something, and it was very important too, he thought. He knew that Dan was always on the lookout for a chance to make a penny without work, and David was afraid that he might be tempted to repeat the trick which he and his father had played upon Don and Bert with so much success.
It would be a very easy matter for Dan to make up some plausible story to tell the grocer, and perhaps on the strength of his brother's almost unlimited credit, he might be able to obtain a few little articles of which he stood in need. David had never thought to put Silas on his guard.
"I'll hold them things fur you, if you want to run back thar," said Dan, reaching out his hand for the basket.
"No, I'll let it go until the next time I come down," answered David. "A day or two will not make much difference."
"Whar did you get them ten dollars, any how?" asked Dan, as the two once more turned their faces homeward.
"That's the money you tried to cheat me out of," replied his brother. "Don says the loss was his and not mine."
"Did he give you ten dollars more?" exclaimed Dan.
"Not ten dollars more, for this is the first he has given me. You and father got what I ought to have had."
"An' you never spent none on it, did you? I seen Silas shove it back to you."
"Yes, I've got it safe in my pocket. I'm going to keep it, too."
"Wal, I'll bet a hoss you don't," was Dan's mental reflection. "I'd oughter have some on it, an' if you don't give it to me without my axin' you, I'll have it all. I'm the man of the house now, an' it's the properest thing that I should have the handlin' of all the money that comes in."
Of course Dan was much too smart to say this aloud. He knew that any threats from him would put his brother on his guard, and then he might whistle for the ten dollars. He said no more, and the two walked along in silence until they came to General Gordon's barn. Just as David was going into it, he met Lester Brigham riding out of it. Lester scowled down at him, but David did not scowl back. He was quite willing to forget that they had ever had any difficulty and to be friendly with Lester, if the latter wanted him to be. It is probable, however, that he would have had different feelings, if he had known what it was that brought Lester over to Don's house.
David, as we have said, turned into the barn, and Dan, who had more than his share of curiosity, would have given almost anything he possessed to know what business he had there; but he could not go in to see, for he dared not face Don and Bert after what he had done, so he kept on toward home.
David deposited his basket and bundles on the steps that led to the loft, and making his way around the north wing of the house, knocked at the door, which was presently opened by Bert. David asked if Don was in, and receiving an affirmative reply, was ushered into the library, where his friend, wearied with his day's exercise, was taking his ease on the sofa, which had been drawn up in front of a cheerful wood fire. David declined to accept the chair which Bert placed for him, and opened his business at once.
"Don," said he, "would you be willing to take that money you gave me and keep it until I call for it?"
"Of course I would," replied Don, readily. "You haven't paid that grocery bill, then? Well, I wouldn't either. You are not responsible for it."
"I offered to pay it, but Mr. Jones wouldn't take the money. He says my credit is good for six months."
"Why, what has come over him all of a sudden?" said Don, who did not know that his father had had an interview with Silas that very day.
"I wish I knew. There's the money, and you won't let anybody have it, except mother or me, will you?"
"You may be sure that I will take good care of it this time. Don't forget that bear hunt, tomorrow."
"No. I'll be on hand bright and early. Good-by."
David hurried out, and picking up the basket and bundles he had left in the barn, started for home. When he got there, he was surprised to see that Dan was at work. He had pulled off his coat, rolled up his sleeves and with a frow and mallet in his hands, was busy splitting out shingles. David said nothing to him, but went into the house to put away the tea, coffee and sugar and place the articles he had bought for his mother in a conspicuous position, so that she would be sure to see them, the moment she entered the door. While he was thus engaged, Dan came in smiling, and trying to look good-natured. David was on his guard at once.
"I'll tell you what I've made up my mind to do by you, Davy," said Dan, "an' when you hear what it is, if you don't say I'm the best brother you ever had, I want to know what's the reason why. I ain't goin' agin you like I told you I was."
"I am very glad to hear it," said David.
"No, I ain't. I'm goin' to be pardners with you, an' I'm goin' to give you half the money we make outen them quail. I'll give you half what I've got hid away, too."
"I have no claim upon that," replied David. "It belongs to Don Gordon, and if you are honest you'll give him every cent of it."
"I can't do it," said Dan. "Kase why, I give pap three an' a half of it, an' spent six bits myself."
"Then give him what you have, and tell him that you will hand him the rest as soon as you can earn it."
"Not by no means, I won't," said Dan, quickly. "Ten dollars ain't nothing to him."
"That makes no difference. It is his, and he ought to have it."
"Wal, I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll pay him outen them fifty dollars we're goin' to get fur them quail. An', Davy, if you'll give me the money you've got in your pocket, I'll hide it with mine whar nobody can't find it, and then it'll be safe."
"It is safe now."
"But if I go halves with you, you had oughter go halves with me. Let's go out to them traps agin, and we kin talk it over while we're workin'."
"I am not going to do anything more with those traps."
"You hain't give it up, have you? You ain't goin' to let them fifty dollars slip through your fingers, be you?"
"What encouragement have I to do anything after what you said this morning? I have made other arrangements. I am going to work over at the General's."
David expected that his brother would be very angry when he heard this, but if he was, he did not show it. He looked steadily at David for a moment and then turned and walked around the corner of the cabin out of sight.
"That's a purty way he's got of doin' business, I do think. He's a trifle the meanest feller I ever seed, Dave is, an' if I don't pay him fur it afore he's a great many weeks older, I'll just play myself out a tryin'. If me an' him works together we kin get them fifty dollars as easy as fallin' off a log; but he can't arn 'em by hisself, an' he shan't, nuther."
This was the way Dan Evans talked to himself, as he trudged through the woods with his rifle on his shoulder, after his unsuccessful attempt to overhear what passed between his brother and Don and Bert Gordon; or, rather, after his failure to find out what it was that brought Don and Bert to the cabin. He did overhear what passed between them, but he did not learn anything by it. Of course that made him angry. A good many things had happened that day to make him angry, and he had gone off in the woods by himself to think and plan vengeance.
"Bein' the man of the house I've got more right to them fifty dollars nor Dave has," thought Dan, "an' if he don't give me half of 'em, he shan't see a cent of 'em hisself. Wouldn't I look nice loafin' around in these yere clothes while Dave was dressed up like a gentleman an' takin' his ease? I'll bust up them traps of his'n faster'n he kin make 'em. I'll show him that I'm the boss of this house now that pap's away, no matter if them Gordon fellers is a backin' on him up. I've larned a heap by listenin'. I heard Dave tell the ole woman that he's goin' to make three dollars a dozen outen them quail. I didn't larn nothing this arternoon, howsomever. Them fellers must a seed me lookin' through the cracks, kase they didn't tell him what they was agoin' to tell him when they fust come up to the fence."
Dan walked about for an hour or more, talking in this way to himself. The squirrels frisked and barked all around him, but he did not seem to hear them. He was so busy thinking over his troubles that he scarcely knew where he was going, until at last he found himself standing on the banks of a sluggish bayou that ran through the swamp. The stream was wide and deep, and near the middle of it and opposite the spot where Dan stood, was a little island thickly covered with briers and cane. It was known among the settlers as Bruin's Island. Dan knew the place well. Many a fine string of goggle-eyes had he caught at the foot of the huge sycamore which grew at the lower end of the island, and leaned over the water until its long branches almost touched the trees on the main shore, and it was here that he had trapped his first beaver. More than that, the island had been a place of refuge for his father during the war. He retreated to it on the night the levee was blown up by the Union soldiers, and spent the most of his time there until all danger of capture was past.
When Dan appeared upon the bank of the bayou a dark object, which was crouching at the water's edge near the foot of the sycamore, suddenly sprang up and glided into the bushes out of sight. Its movements were quick and noiseless, but still they did not escape the notice of Dan, who dropped on the instant and hid behind a fallen log that happened to be close at hand. He did not have time to take a good look at the object, but he saw enough of it to frighten him thoroughly. He thrust his cocked rifle cautiously over the log, directing the muzzle toward the sycamore, but his hand was unsteady and his face was as white as a sheet.
"Looked to me like a man," thought Dan, trembling in every limb, "but in course it couldn't be; so it's one of them haunts what lives in the General's lane."
Dan kept his gaze directed across the bayou, and could scarcely restrain himself from jumping up and taking to his heels when he saw a head, covered with a torn and faded hat, raised slowly and cautiously above the leaning trunk of the sycamore. It remained motionless for a moment and Dan's eyes were sharp enough to see that there was a face below the hat—a tanned and weather-beaten face, the lower portion of which was concealed by thick, bushy whiskers. As Dan looked his eyes began to dilate, his mouth came open, and the butt of his rifle was gradually lowered until the muzzle pointed toward the clouds. He was sure he saw something familiar about the face, but the sight of it was most unexpected, and so was the sound of the voice which reached his ears a moment later.
"Dannie!" came the hail, in subdued tones, as if the speaker were afraid of being overheard by some one besides the boy whom he was addressing.
"Pap!" cried Dan.
As he spoke he arose from his concealment, and the man on the other side of the bayou—Dan was pretty certain now that it was a man—stepped out into view, disclosing the well-known form and features of Godfrey Evans. Dan could hardly believe his eyes, and even Godfrey seemed a little doubtful.
"Is that you, Dannie?" asked the latter.
"You're just a shoutin'," was the reply.
"Nobody ain't thar with you, I reckon," said Godfrey.
"No, I'm all by myself. But be you sartin that's you, pap?"
"In course I am, an' I've been a waitin' an' a watchin' fur yer. I'll bring you over. You're an ongrateful an' ondutiful boy to leave your poor ole pap, what's fit the Yankees an' worked so hard to bring you up like a gentleman's son had oughter be brung up, out here in the cane so long all by hisself."
"Why, pap, I didn't know you was here," said Dan.
Godfrey walked briskly along the shore until he reached a little thicket of bushes into which he plunged out of sight. He appeared again almost immediately, dragging behind him a small lead-colored canoe which Dan recognized the moment he saw it. It was Don Gordon's canoe, the one he used to pick up his dead and wounded ducks when he was shooting over his decoys. It was a beautiful little craft, and Dan had often wished that he could call it his own. It was one thing that made him hate Don and Bert so cordially, and he had often told himself that when he was ready to carry out the threats he had so often made, that canoe should be one of the first things to suffer. The brothers took altogether too much pleasure in it, and he wouldn't have them rowing about the lake enjoying themselves while he was obliged to stay ashore. The sight of it satisfied him that the man on the opposite bank was his father, and nobody else. If he had been a "haunt" he would not have needed a canoe to carry him across the bayou.
Having placed the canoe in the water Godfrey went back into the cane after the oars—the little craft was provided with rowlocks and propelled by oars instead of paddles—and in a few seconds more he was on Dan's side of the bayou. The moment the canoe touched the bank he sprang out, and if one might judge by the cordial manner in which father and son greeted each other, they were glad to meet again.
"I didn't never expect to feel your grip no more, pap," said Dan, who was the first to speak, "an' I'm ridikilis proud to see you with this yere dug-out. How came you by it, and whar did you git it?"
"I jest took it an' welcome," answered Godfrey. "I wasn't goin' to swim over to the island every time I wanted to go there, was I?"
"In course not. I'm scandalous glad you tuk it; an' now I'll have a ride in it, an' no thanks to Don Gordon nuther. Been a livin' here ever since you've been gone?" added Dan, as he stepped into the boat and picked up the oars.
"Yes, an' I've been a lookin' fur you every day. Seems to me you might a knowed where to find me, kase here's whar I hung out when the Yanks was in the country. Hear anything about me, in the settlement?"
"Yes, lots. Silas Jones has done been to Dave fur them eight dollars you owe him."
"Much good may they do him, when he gets 'em," said Godfrey, snapping his fingers in the air.
"Dave's goin' to pay the bill," added Dan. "I done heard him say so."
"The ongrateful an' ondutiful scamp!" exclaimed Godfrey. "If he's got that much money, why don't he give it to me, like he had oughter do? I need it more'n Silas does. Hear anything else, Dannie?"
"Yes; General Gordon says, why don't you come home an' go 'have yourself? Nobody wouldn't pester you."
"Does you see anything green in these yere eyes?" asked Godfrey, looking steadily at Dan. "That would do to tell some folks, but a man what's fit the Yanks ain't so easy fooled. I'm safe here, an' here I'll stay, till——Hear anything else, Dannie—anything 'bout them two city chaps, Clarence an' Marsh Gordon?"
"O, they've gone home long ago."
"You didn't hear nothing about them gettin' into a furse afore they went, did you?"
"Course I have. Everybody knows that you an' Clarence thought Don was ole Jordan an' shet him up in the tater-hole."
"An' sarved him right, too," exclaimed Godfrey. "I reckon he's well paid fur cheatin' me outen that chance of making eighty thousand dollars. I heard Clarence was robbed afore he went away," added Godfrey, at the same time turning away his head and looking at Dan out of the corner of his eyes.
"I didn't hear nothing about that," said Dan.
Godfrey drew a long breath of relief. Ever since he took up his abode on the island he had been torturing himself with the belief that the robbery of which he was guilty was the talk of the settlement, and that he would be arrested for at if he should ever show himself at the landing again. He breathed much easier to know that his fears on this score were groundless.
"Hear anything else, Dannie?" asked Godfrey, and his voice was so cheerful and animated that the boy looked at him in amazement. "What's Dave an' the ole woman doin'?"
"That thar Dave is goin' to git rich, dog-gone it," replied Dan, in great disgust. "He got a letter from some feller up North this mornin' tellin' him if he would trap fifty dozen live quail fur him, he'd pay him so't he could make three dollars a dozen on 'em. I seed Don give him the letter, an' I heard 'em a talkin' and a laughin' about it."
"That's what makes me 'spise them Gordons so," said Godfrey, slapping the side of the canoe with his open hand. "They're all the time a boostin' Dave, an' me and you could starve fur all they keer. Now jump out, an' we'll go up to my house an' talk about it. We'll leave the boat here, so't it will be handy when you want to go back."
As Godfrey spoke the bow of the canoe ran deep into the soft mud which formed the beach on that side of the island, and the father and son sprang out. Godfrey led the way along a narrow, winding path which ran through the cane, and after a few minutes walking ushered Dan into an open space in the centre of the island. Here stood the little bark lean-to that he called his house. The cane had been cleared away from a spot about fifteen feet square, and piled up around the outside, so that it looked like a little breastwork.
The lean-to was not a very imposing structure—Godfrey would much rather sit in the sun and smoke his pipe then expend any of his strength in providing for his comfort—but it was large enough to shelter one man, and with a few more pieces of bark on the roof and a roaring fire in front, it might have been made a very pleasant and inviting camp. Just now, however, it looked cheerless enough. There was a little armful of leaves under the roof of the lean-to and there was a block of wood beside the fire-place, the position of which was pointed out by a bed of ashes and cinders. The leaves served for a bed and the block of wood for a chair; and they were all the "furniture" that was to be seen about the camp. But Godfrey was very well satisfied with his surroundings and Dan was delighted with them. It must be splendid, he thought, to live there all by one's self with nothing to worry over and no work to do. It was not even necessary that Godfrey should chop wood for the fire, for the upper end of the island was covered with broken logs and branches, and five minutes' work every morning would suffice to provide him with all the fuel he would be likely to burn during the day.
"What a nice place you've got here, pap!" said Dan, when he had taken a hurried survey of the camp.
"I reckon it's about right," replied Godfrey. "I had this fur a hidin' place while the Yanks was a scoutin' about through the country, an' I come here now kase nobody won't think of lookin' fur me so nigh the settlement. An' they won't stumble onto me afore I know it, nuther. They can't git to me if they come afoot kase the bayou'll stop 'em; an' I never heard of nobody coming up here in a boat. Nothing bothers me 'ceptin' a bar. He comes over every night to feed on the beech-nuts an' acorns, an' some night he'll come fur the last time. I'll jest knock him over, and then I'll have meat enough to last me a month. I build my fire and do my cookin' at night, so't nobody can't see the smoke, an' that's what frightened the bar away afore I could shoot him."
"I've a notion to come here an' live with you, pap," said Dan.
"'Twon't be safe," replied his father, quickly. "If you're missin' from home folks might begin to hunt fur us, an' that's somethin' I don't want 'em to do. 'Sides you must stay in the settlement an' help me. I shall need things from the store now an' then, an' as I can't go and git 'em myself, you'll have to git 'em fur me. But what was you sayin' about Dave?" asked Godfrey, throwing himself down on one of the piles of cane and motioning to Dan to occupy the block of wood.
"I was a sayin' that he's a little the meanest feller I ever seed," replied Dan, "an' don't you say so too, pap? Kase why, he's goin' to git fifty dollars fur them quail, an' he's goin' to give the money all to the ole woman."
"An' leave me to freeze an' starve out here in the cane?" exclaimed Godfrey, with a great show of indignation. "Not by no means he won't. If he don't mind what he's about we'll take the hul on it, Dan, me an' you will."
"He won't get none on it, you kin bet high on that," said Dan. "I told him I was goin' agin him, an' so I am. I'll bust his traps as fast as I kin find 'em, an' I won't do nothin' but hunt fur 'em, day an' night."
"Now, haint you got no sense at all?" cried his father, so fiercely that Dan jumped up and turned his face toward the path, as if he were on the point of taking to his heels.
"Wal, I wanted to go pardners with him an' he wouldn't le' me," protested Dan.
"What's the odds? Set down thar an' listen while somebody what knows somethin' talks to you. What odds does it make to you if he won't go pardners with you?"
"Kase I want some of the money; that's the odds it makes to me."
"Wal, you kin have it, an' you needn't do no work, nuther. I'm Dave's pap an' your'n too, an' knows what's best fur all of us. You jest keep still an' let Dave go on an' ketch the birds; an' when he's ketched 'em an' got the money in his pocket, then I'll tell you what else to do. Le' me see: fifty dozen birds at three dollars a dozen! That's—that's jest——"
Godfrey straightened up, locked his fingers together, rested his elbows on his knees and looked down at the pile of ashes in the fire-place.
"It's a heap of money, the fust thing you know," said Dan. "It's fifty dollars. Dave told me so."
"Fifty gran'mothers!" exclaimed Godfrey. "Dave done said that jest to make a fule of you. It would be fifty dollars if he got only a dollar a dozen. If he got two it would be a hundred dollars, an' if he got three, it would be——"
Godfrey stopped, believing that he must have made a mistake somewhere, and stared at Dan as if he were utterly bewildered. Dan returned the stare with interest. "A hundred dollars!" he repeated, slowly. "That thar Dave of our'n goin' to make a hundred dollars all by hisself! Some on it's mine."
"It's more'n that, Dannie," said Godfrey, who, as soon as he could settle his mind to the task, went over his calculations again, adding the astounding statement—
"An' if he gets three dollars a dozen, he'll get a hundred an' fifty dollars for the lot."
Dan's astonishment was so great that for a few seconds he could not speak, and even his father looked puzzled and amazed. He was certain that he had made no mistake in his mental arithmetic this time, and the magnitude of David's prospective earnings fairly staggered him. It made him angry to think of it.
"The idee of that triflin' leetle Dave's makin' so much money," he exclaimed, in great disgust; "an' here's me, who has worked an' slaved fur a hul lifetime, an' I've got jest twenty dollars."
"Eh?" cried Dan.
Godfrey was frightened at what he had said, but he could not recall it without exciting Dan's suspicions; so he put on a bold face and continued:—
"Yes, I've got that much, an' I worked hard fur it, too. But a hundred an' fifty dollars! We must have that when it's 'arned, Dannie."
"The hul on it?"
"Every cent. I'm Dave's pap, an' the law gives me the right to his 'arnin's, an' yours, too, until you's both twenty-one years ole. Now, Dannie, I've done a power of hard thinkin' since I've been here on this island, an' I've got some idees in my head that will make you look wild when you hear 'em. I didn't know jest how to carry 'em out afore, but I do now. These yere hundred an' fifty dollars will keep us movin' till we kin find them eighty thousand."
"Be you goin' to look fur them agin, pap?"
"No, I hain't, but you be."
"Not much, I ain't," replied Dan, emphatically.
"Who's to do it, then?" demanded his father. "I can't, kase I'm afeared to go into the settlement even at night. You hain't goin' to give up the money, be you? Then what'll become of your circus-hoss, an' your painted boats, an' your fine guns what break in two in the middle?"
"I don't keer," answered Dan, doggedly. "I wouldn't go into that tater-patch alone, arter dark; if I knowed it was chuck full of yaller gold an' silver pieces."
The savage scowl that settled on Godfrey's face, as he listened to these words, brought Dan to his feet again in great haste. The man was fully as angry as he looked, and it is possible he might have said or done something not altogether to Dan's liking, had it not been for an unlooked-for interruption that occurred just then. Godfrey had raised his hand in the air to give emphasis to some remark he was about to make, when he was checked by a slight splashing in the water, accompanied by the measured clatter of oars, as they were moved back and forth in the row-locks. This was followed by a clear, ringing laugh, which Godfrey and his son could have recognized anywhere, and a cheery voice said:—
"I'm getting tired. It is time for me to stop and rest when I begin to catch crabs."
There was a boat in the bayou, and Don and Bert Gordon were in it. They were so close at hand, too, that flight was impossible.
"I don't think there's much difference between riding on horseback and rowing in a boat, as far as the work is concerned," said the same voice. "I've done about all I can do to-day. There don't seem to be any ducks in the bayou; so we'll stop here and take a breathing spell before we go back."
"Is thar any place in the wide world a feller could crawl into without bein' pestered by them two oneasy chaps?" whispered Dan, jumping up from his block of wood and looking all around, as if he were seeking a way of escape.
"Not a word out of you," replied Godfrey, shaking his fist at his son.
Following Godfrey's example, Dan threw himself behind one of the piles of cane, and the two held their breath and listened.
WHAT HAPPENED THERE.
"You're not going to get out, are you, Don?" asked Bert, and as he was not more than four or five rods away, every word he uttered was distinctly heard by the two listeners in the cane.
"I want to stretch my legs a little," was Don's reply. "Come on, and let's explore the island. You know it used to be a famous bear's den, don't you?"
"I should think I ought to know it, having heard father tell the story of the animal's capture a dozen times or more. He must have been a monster: he was so large and heavy that it was all a span of mules could do to drag him from the shore of the lake, where he was taken out of the boat, up to the house."
"And didn't he make things lively before he was killed, though?" said Don. "He destroyed nine dogs and wounded two men. I'd like to take part in a hunt like that."
"Well, I wouldn't. It looks gloomy in the cane, doesn't it? What would we do if we should find a bear in there?"
"I don't know," answered Don, with a laugh. "Our guns are loaded with small shot, and they would hardly penetrate a bear's thick skin. If he should come at us, I'd be a goner, sure, for I am so stiff I couldn't run to save my life. But I don't think we'll find——Halloo! Bert, just look here!"
A chorus of exclamations followed, and Godfrey and Dan looked at each other and scowled fiercely.
"That's my canoe," said Don, and they heard the oars rattle as he stepped into it.
"There's no doubt about that," said Bert, in surprised and delighted tones; "but how came it here?"
"That's the question. The fellow who stole it took it up the bayou and then turned it loose, having no further use for it, or else it got away from him and drifted down here."
"Who knows but the thief brought it here himself, and that he is on the island now, hidden in the cane?" said Bert, lowering his voice, but still speaking quite loud enough to make himself heard by Godfrey and Dan.
"I hardly think that can be possible," replied Don. "You see the bow of the canoe was caught on this root; and that makes me think it was brought down by the current and lodged here."
Godfrey and Dan looked at each other again. They had taken no pains to secure the boat when they left it, and the current had moved it from its place on the bank and was carrying it toward the lake, when it caught on the root where it was discovered by its lawful owner.
"I am glad to get it again," said Don, "for I don't know what we should have done without it. It is just the thing to chase crippled ducks with. If I could see the man who stole it, I'd give him a piece of my mind, I tell you."
After that there was a pause in the conversation and the rattling of a chain told Godfrey and Dan that the canoe was being fastened to the stern of the boat in which the brothers had come up the bayou. Then there was more conversation in a subdued tone of voice, and presently a commotion in the cane indicated that Don and Bert were working their way slowly toward the camp. Dan began to tremble and turn white, and his father looked as though he would have been glad to run if he had only known where to go.
"Halloo!" exclaimed Bert, suddenly, "here we are. Come this way, Don. I've found a path."
"A path!" repeated his brother. "What should make a path through this cane?"
"I don't know, I am sure. What's this? Can you tell a bear track when you see it?"
"Of course I can," answered Don, and the listeners heard him pushing his way through the cane toward the path in which his brother stood. "But I don't call this a bear track," he added, after a moment's pause, during which he was closely examining the footprint his brother pointed out to him. "A barefooted man or boy has been along here, and that track was made not more than ten minutes ago. And, Bert," he continued, in a lower tone, "you were right about that boat after all. Come on, now, and if the thief is here we'll have a look at him."
"Pap," whispered Dan, hurriedly, "they're comin' sure's you're livin'. Le's slip around to the other side of the island, easy like, and steal their boats afore they know what is goin' on."
"We couldn't do it," replied his father, in the same cautious whisper. "They'd be sure to see us. I'll fix 'em when they come nigh enough. I'd like to shoot 'em both, to pay 'em for findin' my hidin' place."
"Don't do that, pap," said Dan, in great alarm. "Here they come, an'—— Laws a massy? What's that?"
As Dan uttered these words, a deep, hoarse, growl, so suddenly and fiercely uttered, that it almost made his hair stand on end, sounded close at his side. Don and Bert heard it, and they were as badly frightened as Dan was.
"What was that, Don?" asked Bert, in an excited whisper. "You heard it, didn't you?"
"I should think so," was Don's reply, and the words were followed by the clicking of the locks of his gun.
After that came a long pause. Don and Bert waited for the warning growl to be repeated, and stooping down, tried to peer through the cane in front of them, in the hope of obtaining a view of the animal, which had been disturbed by their approach, while Dan, crouching low in his place of concealment, looked first at his father and then glanced timidly about, as if in momentary expectation of seeing something frightful. He could hardly bring himself to believe that the noise, which so greatly terrified him, had been made by his father, but such was the fact.
If there was a person in the world, Godfrey did not want to meet face to face, that person was Don Gordon; and when he first became aware that the boy was close at hand, and that he was about to explore the island, he was greatly alarmed and utterly at a loss how to avoid him. If Don saw him there, of course he would tell of it, and that would set the officers of the law on his track (no evidence that could be produced was strong enough to convince Godfrey, that he had nothing to fear from the officers of the law) and compel him to look for a new hiding-place. The conversation he overheard between the brothers, regarding the capture of the bear, which had so long held possession of the island, brought a bright idea into his mind, and he acted upon it at the right time, too. It was the only thing that saved him from discovery. Don was not afraid of a man, and if he had known that Godfrey was hidden in the cane a few feet in advance of him, he would have walked straight up to him, and accused him of stealing his boat; but he had no desire to face a wild animal alone and unaided, and he was in no condition to do it, either. We say alone and unaided, because Bert would have been of no assistance to him. Bert was a famous shot with his double-barrel, and no boy in the settlement could show more game, after a day spent among the waterfowl, than he could; but he was too timid and excitable to be of any use to one placed in a situation of danger. Even the sight of a deer dashing through the woods, or the whirr of a flock of quails as they unexpectedly arose from the bushes at his feet, would set him to shaking so violently that he could not shoot.
"What do you suppose it was, Don?" asked Bert, and Godfrey did not fail to notice that his voice trembled when he spoke. "Was it a wild cat or a panther?"
"O, no," replied Don. "One of those animals wouldn't warn us. He'd be down on us before we knew he was about. I wish I had my rifle and the free use of my legs. I'd never leave the island until I had one good pop at him."
A slight rustling in the cane told the listeners that Don was again advancing slowly along the path. Dan was afraid that he had made up his mind to risk a shot with his double-barrel, and so was Godfrey, who uttered another growl, louder and fiercer than the first, and rattled the cane with his hands. That was too much even for Don's courage; and Bert was frightened almost out of his senses.
"Look out, Don! Look out!" he exclaimed. "He is coming!"
"Let him come," replied Don, retreating backward along the path.
"Run! run!" entreated Bert.
"That's quite impossible. I'm doing the best I can now. If he shows himself I'll fill his head full of number six shot."
Godfrey continued to growl and rattle the cane at intervals, but there was no need of it, for Don was quite as anxious to reach his boat and leave the island as Godfrey and Dan were to have him do so. He retreated along the path with all the speed he could command, holding himself ready to make as desperate a fight as he could if circumstances should render it necessary, and presently a rattling of oars and a splashing in the water told the listeners that he and his brother were pushing off and making their way down the bayou. In order to satisfy himself on this point, Godfrey crawled over the pile of cane, behind which he had been concealed and moved quickly, but noiselessly along the path, closely followed by Dan. On reaching the edge of the cane they looked down the stream and saw the brothers twenty rods away in their boat, Bert tugging at the oars as if his life depended on his exertions. The danger of discovery was over for the present, but how were Dan and his father to leave the island now without swimming? Don had taken his canoe away with him.
"If I could have my way with them two fellers they'd never trouble nobody else," exclaimed Godfrey, shaking his fist at the departing boat. "Whar be I goin' to hide now, I'd like to know?"
"Stay here," replied Dan, "an' if they come back to pester you, growl 'em off 'n the island like you done this time."
"An' git a bullet into me fur my pains?" returned his father. "No, sar. Don'll be up here agin in the mornin', sartin, an' he'll have his rifle with him, too; but I won't be here to stand afore it, kase I've seed him shoot too ofter. He kin jest beat the hind sights off'n you, any day in the week."
"Whoop!" cried Dan, jumping up and knocking his heels together.
"I don't see what bring them two oneasy chaps up here, nohow," said Godfrey, taking no notice of the boy's threatening attitude. "I never knowed them or anybody else to come up the bayou in a small boat afore, 'ceptin' when that bar was killed here. That was an amazin' smart trick of mine, Dannie. Howsomever, we hain't got no more time to talk. I'm goin' to give you five dollars, Dannie, an' I want you to go to the landin' an' spend it fur me. Get me a pair of shoes—number 'levens, you know—an' two pair stockin's, an' spend the heft of the rest fur tobacker. Then when it comes dark, I want you to get that canoe agin, an' bring it up here with the things you buy at the store."
"How am I goin' to git the canoe?"
"Take it an' welcome, like I did."
Dan shrugged his shoulders, and his father, believing from the expression on his face that he was about to refuse to undertake the task, made haste to add:—
"An' when you come, Dannie, I'll tell you how we're goin' to work it to git them hundred and fifty dollars that Dave's goin' to 'arn by trappin' them birds fur that feller up North. I have a right to it, kase I'm his pap: an' when I get it, I'll give you half—that is, if you do right by me while I'm hidin' here. I'll give you half that bar'l, too, when we find it. Then you kin have your circus hoss an' all your other nice things, can't you?" added Godfrey, playfully poking his son in the ribs.
Dan's face relaxed a little, but his father's affected enthusiasm was not as contagious now as it was when the subject of the buried treasure was first brought up for discussion. Godfrey had no intention of renewing his efforts to find the barrel—he could not have been hired to go into that potato-patch after what had happened there—but it was well enough, he thought, to hold it up to Dan as an inducement. Besides, if he could get the boy interested in the matter again, and induce him to prosecute the search, and Dan should, by any accident, stumble upon the barrel, so much the better for himself. The great desire of his life would be attained. He would be rich, and that, too, without work.
"Why can't you steal the canoe yourself?" asked Dan.
"Kase I've got to pack up an' get ready to leave here; that's why. It'll take me from now till the time you come back to get all my traps together."
Dan hurriedly made a mental inventory of the valuables his father possessed and which he had seen in the camp, and the result showed one rifle, one powder-horn and one bullet-pouch. All Godfrey had besides he carried on his back. It certainly would not take him three or four hours to gather these few articles together.
"Pap's mighty 'feared that he'll do something he can make somebody else do fur him," thought the boy. "But he needn't think he's goin' to get me into a furse. I ain't agoin' to steal no canoe fur nobody."
"An' since it's you," added Godfrey, seeing that Dan did not readily fall in with his plans, "I'll give you a dollar of my hard-'arned money for doin' the job."
"Wal, now that sounds like business," exclaimed Dan, brightening up. "Whar's the money, an' how am I goin' to get off'n the island?"
"The money's safe, and I'll bring it to you in a minute," replied Godfrey. "You stay here till I come back. As fur gettin' acrosst the bayou, that's easy done. Thar's plenty of drift wood at the upper end of the island, an' you kin get on a log an' pole yourself over. When you get home, Dannie, make friends with Dave the fust thing you do, an' tell him you was only foolin' when you said you was goin' agin him. Help him every way you kin, an' when he gits the money we'll show our hands."
So saying, Godfrey walked down the path out of sight. After a few minutes' absence, he came back and handed Dan the money of which he had spoken, a five-dollar bill to be expended for himself at the store, and a one-dollar bill to pay Dan for stealing the canoe. When Dan had put them both carefully away in his pocket, he went back to the camp after his rifle, and then followed his father through the cane toward the upper end of the island. They found an abundance of drift wood there, and from it selected two small logs of nearly the same size and length. By fastening these together with green withes, a raft was made, which was sufficiently buoyant to carry Dan in safety to the main land. When it was completed, the boy swung his rifle over his shoulder by a piece of stout twine he happened to have in his pocket, and taking the pole his father handed him, pushed off into the stream.
Poling the raft was harder work than rowing the canoe, and Dan's progress was necessarily slow; but he accomplished the journey at last, and after waving his hand to his father, disappeared in the bushes. He took a straight course for the landing and after a little more than an hour's rapid walking, found himself in Silas Jones's store. He was greatly surprised at something he saw when he got there, and so bewildered by it that he forgot all about the money he had in his pocket, and the stockings, shoes and tobacco of which his father stood so much in need. There was David making the most extravagant purchases, and there was Silas bowing and smiling and acting as politely to him as he ever did to his richest customers. If Dan was astonished at this, he was still more astonished, when David threw down a ten-dollar bill and the grocer pushed it back to him with the remark, that his credit was good for six months. Dan could not imagine how David had managed to obtain possession of so much money, and when he found out, as he did when he and his brother were on their way home, he straightway went to work to think up some plan by which he might get it into his own hands. This problem and a bright idea, which suddenly suggested itself to him, occupied his mind during the walk; and shortly after parting from his brother at General Gordon's barn, Dan hit upon a second idea, which made his usually gloomy face brighten wonderfully while he thought about it.
Dan's first duty was to rectify his mistake of the morning, and make his brother understand that he had repented of the determination he had made to work against him, and that he was going to do all he could to assist him. He tried to do this, as we know, but did not succeed, for to his great surprise and sorrow David announced that he was not going to waste any more time in building traps for Dan to break up, and this led the latter to believe that nothing more was to be done toward catching the quails. He walked slowly around the cabin, after a short interview with his brother, and the first thing he saw on which to vent his rage was Don's pointer, which came frisking out of his kennel and wagging his tail by way of greeting, only to be sent yelping back again by a vicious kick from Dan's foot.
"I'm jest a hundred an' fifty dollars outen pocket an' so is pap," soliloquized Dan, almost ready to cry with vexation when he thought of the magnificent prize which had slipped through his fingers. "A hundred an' fifty dollars! My circus hoss an' fine gun an' straw hat an' shiny boots is all up a holler stump, dog-gone my buttons, an' that thar's jest what's the matter of me. An' what makes it wusser is, I lost 'em by bein' a fule," added Dan, stamping his bare feet furiously upon the ground.
Just then a lively, cheerful whistle sounded from the inside of the cabin where David was busy arranging his purchases. Things were taking a turn for the better with him now, and he whistled for the same reason that a bird sings—because he was happy.
"If I could only think up some way to make that thar mean Dave feel as bad as I do, how quick I'd jump at it! I wish pap was here. He'd tell me how. He's as jolly as a mud-turtle on a dry log on a sunshiny day, Dave is, while I—— Whoop!" yelled Dan, jumping up and striking his heels together in his rage. "Howsomever, I'll have them ten dollars afore I take a wink of sleep this blessed night——"
Here Dan stopped and looked steadily at the pointer for a few minutes. Then he slapped his knee with his open hand, thrust both arms up to the elbows in his pockets and walked up and down the yard, smiling and shaking his head as if he were thinking about something that afforded him the greatest satisfaction.
DOGS IN THE MANGER.
David would not have been as happy as he was if he had known all that was going on in the settlement. As it happened, his father and brother were not the only ones he had to fear. These two had an eye on the money he expected to earn by trapping the quails, and for that reason they were not disposed to interfere with him until his work was all done and he had reaped the reward of it; but there were two others who had suddenly made up their minds that it was unsportsmanlike to trap birds and that it should not be done if they could prevent it. They were Lester Brigham and his particular friend and crony—almost the only one he had in the settlement, in fact—Bob Owens.
Bob lived about two miles from General Gordon's, and might have made one of the select little company of fellows with whom Don and Bert delighted to associate, if he had been so inclined. But he was much like Dan Evans in a good many respects, and had been guilty of so many mean actions that he had driven almost all his friends away from him. He rode over to the General's about twice each week, and while he was there he was treated as civilly and kindly as every other visitor was: but the brothers never returned his visits, and would have been much better satisfied if Bob had stayed at home.
These two boys, Lester and Bob, were determined that David should not earn the hundred and fifty dollars if they could help it, and they knew that by annoying him in every possible way, they would annoy Don and Bert, too: and that was really what they wanted to do. What reason had they for wishing to annoy Don and Bert? No good reason. Did you ever see a youth who was popular among his fellows, and who was liked by almost everybody, both old and young, who did not have at least one enemy in some sneaking boy, who would gladly injure him by every means in his power? Lester and Bob were jealous of Don and Bert, that was the secret of the matter; and more than that, they were disappointed applicants for the very contract which Don had secured for David.
Bob regularly borrowed and read the "Rod and Gun," and when his eye fell upon the advertisement calling for fifty dozen live quails, he thought he saw a chance to make a goodly sum of pocket money, and hurried off to lay the matter before his friend Lester, proposing that they should go into partnership and divide the profits. Of course Lester entered heartily into the scheme. He knew nothing about building and setting traps, but Bob did, and when they had discussed the matter and calculated their chances for success, they told each other that in two weeks' time the required number of birds would be on their way up the river. That very day Bob addressed a letter to the advertiser, and as soon as it was sent off he and Lester went to work on the traps.
It is hardly necessary to say that they lived in a fever of excitement and suspense after that, and anxiously awaited an answer from the gentleman who wanted the quails. The mail was brought in by the carrier from the county seat, on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, and Bob and Lester made it a point to be on hand when the letters were distributed. One Wednesday, about two weeks after the letter applying for the order was mailed, Bob went down to the post-office alone, and the first person he met there was Bert Gordon. They leaned against the counter and talked while the mail was being put into the boxes, and when the pigeon-hole was opened, the postmaster handed each of them a good-sized bundle of letters and papers, which they began to stow away in their pockets, glancing hastily at the addresses as they did so. It happened that each of them found a letter in his bundle, which attracted his attention, and, as if moved by a common impulse, they walked toward opposite ends of the counter to read them.
The letter Bert found was addressed to Don; but he was pretty certain he could tell where it came from, and knowing that his brother wouldn't care—there were no secrets between them, now—he opened and read it. He was entirely satisfied with its contents, but the other boy was not so well satisfied with the contents of his. When Bert picked up his riding-whip and turned to leave the store, he saw Bob leaning against the counter, mechanically folding his letter, while his eyes were fastened upon the floor, at which he was scowling savagely.
"What's the matter?" asked Bert. "No bad news, I hope."
"Well, it is bad news," replied Bob, so snappishly, that Bert was sorry that he had spoken to him at all. "You see, I found an advertisement in one of your father's papers, asking for live quails. I wrote to the man that I could furnish them, and I have just received an answer from him, stating that he has already sent the order to another party, and one who lives in my immediate neighborhood. What's the matter with you?" exclaimed Bob, as Bert broke out into a cheery laugh.
"When did you write to him?" asked Bert.
"On the very day I borrowed the paper."
"Well, Don was just three days ahead of you. I've got the order in my pocket."
"What do you and Don want to go into the trapping business for?" asked Bob, with ill-concealed disgust. "You don't need the money."
"Neither do you," replied Bert.
"Yes, I do. I intended to buy a new shot-gun with it. I am almost the only decent fellow in the settlement who doesn't own a breech-loader. I have racked my brain for months, to think up some way to earn money enough to get one, and when I am just about to accomplish my object, you and Don have to jump up and rob me of the chance. The man tells me that he would be glad to give me the contract, if he hadn't given it to you. I've a good notion to slap you over."
"It isn't for us," replied Bert. "It is for Dave Evans; and I think you will acknowledge that he needs the money if anybody does."
"Dave Evans!" sneered Bob.
"Yes; and he needs clothes and food more than you need a new shot-gun."
"I guess I know what I want and how much I want it," retorted Bob. "I'm to be shoved aside to give place to that lazy ragamuffin, am I? If I don't make you wish that you had kept your nose out of my business, I'm a Dutchman."
Bert did not wait to hear all of this speech. Seeing that Bob was getting angrier every minute, and that his rage was likely to get the better of him, he drew on his gloves, mounted his pony and set out for home. Bob followed a quarter of a mile or so in his rear, and once or twice he whipped up his horse and closed in on Bert as if he had made up his mind to carry out his threat of slapping him over. But every time he did so a sturdy, broad-shouldered figure, with a face that looked wonderfully like Don Gordon's, seemed to come between him and the unconscious object of his pursuit, and then Bob would rein in his horse and let Bert get farther ahead of him. Presently Bob came to a road running at right angles with the one he was following, and there he stopped, for he saw Lester Brigham approaching at a full gallop. The latter was by his side in a few seconds, and his first question was:—
"Been to the post-office?"
"I have, and there's the letter on which I built so many hopes," replied Bob, handing out the document which he had crumpled into a little round ball. "We were too late. The order has been given to that meddlesome fellow, Don."
Lester looked first at his companion, then at Bert, who was now almost out of sight, and began to gather up his reins.
"You'd better not do it, unless you want to feel the weight of his brother's arm," said Bob, who seemed to read the thoughts that were passing through Lester's mind. "I gave him a good going-over, and told him I had a notion to knock him down."
"Why didn't you do it?" exclaimed Lester. "I'd have backed you against Don or anybody else."
"Haw! haw!" laughed Bob. "I shall want good backing before I willingly raise a row in that quarter, I tell you."
"What do you mean by that?" demanded Lester.
"O, I was just joking, of course. But what's to be done about this business? Don got the contract for Dave Evans, and I want to know if we are to be kicked out of the way to make room for him."
Lester did not reply at once. He did not feel very highly flattered by the low estimate Bob seemed to put upon him as a "backer" in case of trouble with Don Gordon, and while he was trying to make up his mind whether he ought to let it pass or get sulky over it, he was unfolding and smoothing out the letter he held in his hand. When he had made himself master of its contents, he said:—
"You come over and stay with me to-night, and we'll put our heads together and see what we can make of this. I must go down to the store now, and I'll meet you here in half an hour. That will give you time enough to go home and speak to your folks."
Bob spent the night at Lester's house, and it was during the long conversation they had before they went to sleep, that they made up their minds that it was a mean piece of business to trap quails, and that nobody but a miserable pot-hunter would do it. They adopted the dog-in-the-manger policy at once. If they could not trap the birds, nobody should; and that was about all they could decide on just then.
The next morning after breakfast they mounted their horses and rode in company, until they came to the lane that led to Bob's home and there they parted, Lester directing his course down the main road toward the cabin in which David Evans lived. He met David in the road, as we know, and laid down the law to him in pretty strong language; but strange enough the latter could not be coaxed or frightened into promising that he would give up his chance of earning a hundred and fifty dollars.
Lester was in a towering passion when he rode away after his conversation with David. Lashing his horse into a run, he turned into the first road he came to, and after a two-mile gallop, drew rein in front of the double log-house in which Bob Owens lived. There was an empty wagon-shed on the opposite side of the road, and there he found Bob, standing with his hands in his pockets, and gazing ruefully at the pile of traps upon which he and Lester had worked so industriously, and which he had hoped would bring them in a nice little sum of spending money.
"Well, did you see him?" asked Bob, as his friend rode up to the shed and swung himself out of the saddle.
"I did," was the reply, "and he was as defiant as you please. He was downright insolent."
"These white trash are as impudent as the niggers," said Bob, "and no one who has the least respect for himself will have anything to do with them. I used to think that Don Gordon was something of an aristocrat, but now I know better."
"I wish I had given him a good cowhiding," continued Lester, who did not think it worth while to state that he had been on the point of attempting that very thing, but had thought better of it when he saw how resolutely David stood his ground. "But never mind. We'll get even with him. We'll touch his pocket, and that will hurt him worse than a whipping. It will hurt the Gordons, too."
"Then he wouldn't promise to give up the idea of catching them quails? I am sorry, for if we could only frighten him off the track, we would write to that man up North telling him that the party with whom he made his contract wasn't able to fill it, but we could catch all the birds he wants in two weeks."
"That's a good idea—a splendid idea!" exclaimed Lester; "and perhaps we'll do it any how, if the plan I have thought of doesn't prove successful."
Lester then went on to repeat the conversation he had had with David, as nearly as he could recall it, and wound up by saying:—
"I told him that we were going to start a Sportsman's Club among the fellows, and that after we got fairly going, our first hard work should be to break up this practice of trapping birds. Of course that wasn't true—I just happened to think of it while I was talking to him—but why can't we make it true? If all the boys will join in with us, I'd like to see him do any trapping this winter."
"But who can we get to go in with us?"
"We'll ask Don and Bert the first thing."
"Nary time," exclaimed Bob, quickly. "If they are the sort you're going to get to join your club, you may just count me out. I don't like them."
"You like them just as well as I do; but we have an object to gain, and we mustn't allow our personal feelings to stand in our way."
"Do you suppose Don would join such a club after getting Dave the job?"
"Perhaps he would. He likes to be first in everything, doesn't he?"
"I should say so," replied Bob, in great disgust. "I never saw a fellow try to shove himself ahead as that Don Gordon does."
"Well, we'll flatter him by offering to make him President of the club; and we'll promise to make Bert Vice or Secretary."
"I'll not vote for either of them."
"Yes, you will. We want to get them on our side; for if they promise to go in with us every boy in the settlement will do the same."
"That's what makes me so mad every time I think of those Gordons," exclaimed Bob, spitefully throwing down a stick which he had been cutting with his knife. "Every fellow about here, except you and me, is ready to hang on to their coat tails and do just what they do. One would think by the way they act that they belonged to some royal family. They don't notice me at all. They've had a crowd of boys in that shooting-box of theirs every spring and fall since I can remember, and I have never had an invitation to go there yet. They take along a nigger to cook for them, and have a high old time shooting over their decoys; but the first thing they know they'll find that shanty missing some fine morning. I'll set fire to it."
"Don't say that out loud," said Lester, quickly, at the same time extending his hand to his companion, as if to show that what he had said met his own views exactly. "Don't so much as hint it to a living person. We'll give them a chance to make friends with us if they want to, and if they don't, let them take the consequences. But we can talk about that some other time. What do you say to getting up a Sportsman's Club?"
Bob did not know what to say, for he had never heard of such a thing until he became acquainted with Lester. The latter explained the objects of such organizations as well as he could, and after some debate they crossed over to the house, intending to go into Bob's room and draw up a constitution for the government of the proposed society. On the way Bob suddenly thought of something.
"You and I want to earn this money, don't we?" said he. "That's what we're working for, isn't it? Well, now, if we put a stop to trapping, how are we going to do it?"
"This is the way we're going to do it: we'll drive Dave Evans off the track first. When that is done, we'll tell that man up North that we are the only one's here who can fill his order. Then we'll go quietly to work and catch our birds, saying nothing to nobody about it, and when we have trapped all we want, we'll ship them off."
"But somebody will see us when we are putting them on the boat."
"No matter for that. The mischief will be done, and we'll see how Don and Dave will help themselves. We can afford to be indifferent to them when we have seventy-five dollars apiece in our pockets, can't we?"
"Lester, you're a brick!" exclaimed Bob. "I never could have thought up such a plot. I'll have my gun after all."
"Of course you will."
"And what will become of the club?"
"We don't care what becomes of it. Having served our purpose, it can go to smash and welcome. Now will you vote for Don and Bert?"
"I'll be only too glad to get the chance. But you'll have to manage the thing, Lester."
"I'll do that. All I ask of you is to talk the matter up among the boys, that is, if Don and Bert agree to join us, and put in your vote when the time comes."
The two friends spent the best part of the day in Bob's room, drawing up the constitution that was to govern their society. Lester, who did all the writing, had never seen a document of the kind, and having nothing to guide him he made rather poor work of it. He had read a few extracts from game laws, and remembered that Greek and Latin names were used therein. He could recall some of these names, and he put them in as they occurred to him, and talked about them so glibly, and appeared to be so thoroughly posted in natural history that Bob was greatly astonished. Of course there was a clause in the instrument prohibiting pot-hunting and the snaring of birds, and that was as strong as language could make it. The work being done at last to the satisfaction of both the boys, Lester mounted his horse and galloped away in the direction of Don Gordon's home.
Lester Brigham was not at all intimate with Don and Bert. The brothers, as in duty bound, called upon him when he first arrived in the settlement, and a few days afterward Lester rode over and took dinner with them; and that was the last of their visiting. The boys could see nothing to admire in one another. Don and Bert were a little too "high-toned;" in other words, they were young gentlemen, and such fellows did not suit Lester, who preferred to associate with Bob Owens and a few others like him. Lester had been a leader among his city schoolmates, and he expected to occupy the same position among the boys about Rochdale; but before he had been many weeks in the settlement he found that there were some fellows there who knew just as much as he did, who rode horses and wore clothes as good as his own, and who had some very decided opinions and were in the habit of thinking for themselves. They wouldn't "cotton" to him even if he was from the city, and so Lester made friends with those whom he regarded as his inferiors in every way.
Lester was not at all pleased with the task he had set himself on this particular day. He never felt easy in Don's presence and Bert's, and nothing but the hope of compelling David to give up his contract and thus leave the way clear for Bob and himself, would have induced him to call upon them. He rode slowly in order to postpone the interview as long as he could, but the General's barn was reached at last, and the hostler, who came forward to take his nag, told him that Don and Bert had just gone into the house. The latter opened the door in response to his knock, and Lester knew by the way he looked at him that he was very much surprised to see him. But he welcomed him very cordially, and conducted him into the library, where Don was lying upon the sofa.
"That night in the potato cellar was a serious matter for you, wasn't it?" said the visitor, after the greeting was over and he had seated himself in the chair which Bert placed in front of the fire. "Haven't you been able to take any exercise at all yet?"
"O, yes; I've been out all day. I've had almost too much exercise, and that is what puts me here on the sofa."
"We've had some excitement, too," added Bert.
"Yes. We went up the bayou to see if the ducks had begun to come in any yet, and we found a bear on Bruin's Island."
"Did you shoot him?"
"No. He gave us notice to clear out and we were only too glad to do so. Such growls I never heard before."
"One's nerves do shake a little under such circumstances, that is, if he is not accustomed to shooting large game," said Lester, loftily. "You ought to have had me there. Perhaps I'll go up some day and pay my respects to him."
Don, who thought this a splendid opportunity to test Lester's courage, was on the very point of telling him that he and Bert were going up there the next day to see if they could find the animal, and that they would be glad to have his assistance; but on second thought he concluded that he would say nothing about it. He expected to have some sport as well as some excitement during the trip, and he didn't want his day's enjoyment spoiled by any such fellow as Lester Brigham.
"I came over to see you two boys on business," continued the visitor, drawing an official envelope from his pocket. "We talk of getting up a Sportsman's Club here in the settlement: will you join it?"
"Who are talking of getting it up, and what is the object of it?" asked Don.
"All the boys are talking of it. One object is to bring the young sportsmen of the neighborhood into more intimate relations, and another is to protect the game. Perhaps I can give you no better idea of the proposed organization than by reading this constitution, which will be acted upon by the club at its first meeting."
As Lester said this he looked from one to the other of the brothers, and receiving a nod from each which signified that they were ready to listen, he drew out the document of which he had spoken, and proceeded to read it in his best style. He glanced at his auditors occasionally while he was reading the paper, and when he came to a certain paragraph, the one upon which he and Bob had expended the most time and thought, he told himself that he had certainly made an impression, for Bert looked bewildered and Don straightened up, drew a note-book from his pocket and began making entries therein with a lead-pencil. The paragraph read as follows:
"The great object of the club being to put down pot-hunters and poachers, and stop the practice, which is so common, of trapping game and shipping it out of the country, it is hereby
"Resolved, that on and after the date of the adoption of this constitution, it shall be unlawful for any person to take by trapping, at any season of the year, or on any lands, whether private in their own occupation, public or waste, any of the game animals and birds hereinafter described, to wit: pheasant (T. Scolopax); partridge (Picus Imperialis); rabbit (Ortyx Virgiana); and red deer (Canis Lupus). The penalty for disobedience shall be a fine of ten dollars for the first offence, twenty for the second, thirty for the third, and so on; the fines to be sued and recovered before any justice of the peace in the county, and to be divided in equal parts between the informer and the poor; and in default of payment the offender shall be imprisoned for ten days in the county jail."
When the document was finished, Don asked him to read this clause over again. He complied with the request, and as he folded the paper very deliberately waited for his auditors to say a word of commendation; but as they didn't do it, he said it himself.
"Now, I drew up that instrument, and I think it is just about right," said he, complacently. "It is nothing but the truth, if I do say it myself, that there is not another fellow in the settlement who could have done it. Of course it will be open to amendments, but I don't see how or where it could be improved. It covers all the ground, doesn't it?'
"It covers a good deal, and especially the article you read twice," replied Don. "But I can't join such an organization as that. I'm a pot-hunter myself. I never went hunting yet, without I intended to shoot something for the table."
"But you are not a poacher."
"I don't know about that. I hunt in every field and piece of woods I find, no matter who owns them."
"Perhaps I had better change that," said Lester, after thinking a moment, "and say market-shooters instead of pot-hunters."
"There are no such things as market-shooters in the county."
"But there are market-trappers," said Lester. "There are persons here, who are catching quails and shipping them out of the state."
"Yes, there is one who thinks of going into the business, and I got him the job. It wouldn't look very well for me to turn around now and tell him that he must not do it."
"You could say to him that you have had reason to change your mind lately, and that you know it isn't right to do such things."
"But I haven't changed my mind."
"You ought to. The first thing you know there will be no birds for you and me to shoot."
"I'll risk that. You may trap two hundred dozen if you want to, and send them out of the county, and when you have done it, I will go out any morning with my pointer and shoot birds enough for breakfast. I'll leave more in the fields, too, than you can bag in six months," added Don, and Bert saw the point he was trying to make, if Lester did not. "Besides, what right have I to tell Dave what he shall do and what he shall not do? He'd laugh at me."
"Well, he wouldn't do it more than once. A few days in the calaboose would bring him to his senses."
"Who would put him there?"
"The club would."
"Where's the club's authority for such a proceeding?"
Lester lifted the constitution and tapped it with his forefinger by way of reply.
"I think I had better have nothing to do with it," said Don, who could scarcely refrain from laughing outright.
"We intend to make you our president," said Lester.
"I am obliged to you," replied Don, but still he did not take any more interest in the Sportsman's Club than he had done before. He did not snap up the bait thus thrown out, as Lester hoped he would. He was not to be bought, even by the promise of office. Lester saw that, and arose to take his leave.
"Well, think it over," said he. "Sleep on it for a few nights, and if at any time you decide to go in with us, just let me know. Good evening!"
"I'll do so," answered Don. "Good evening!"
Lester bowed himself out of the room and Bert accompanied him to the door. The first question the latter asked when he came back was:—
"Is there a beast or a bird in the world whose Latin name is canis-lupus?"
Don threw himself back upon the sofa and laughed until the room rang again. "Is there a beast or a bird in the world whose English name is dog-wolf?" he asked, as soon as he could speak. "I did give Lester credit for a little common sense and a little knowledge, but I declare he possesses neither. It beats the world how he has got things mixed. Just listen to this," added Don, consulting his note-book. "He speaks of a pheasant and calls it T. Scolopax. Now Scolopax is a snipe. He probably meant ruffed grouse, and should have called it Tetrao Umbellus. He speaks of a partridge when he means quail, or more properly Bob White, there being no quails on this side the Atlantic——"
"Why do people call them quails then?" asked Bert.
"The name was given to them by our forefathers, because they resembled the European quail. There is no pheasant in America either; but our grouse looked like one, and so they gave it that name, Lester calls a quail Pious Imperialis. Now that's an imperial woodpecker—that big black fellow with a red topknot that we sometimes see when we are hunting. He used to be called cock-of-the-woods, but the name was twisted around until it became woodcock, and some people believe that he is the gamey little bird we so much delight to shoot and eat. But they belong to different orders, one being a climber and the other a wader. Lester speaks of a rabbit, not knowing that there is no such thing as a wild rabbit in our country, and calls it Ortyx Virgiana, when he should have called it Lepus Virginianus, the name he uses being the one by which our quail is known to ornithologists. A deer, which he calls a dog-wolf, is Cervus Virginianus. O, he's a naturalist as well as a sportsman," shouted Don, as he laid back upon the sofa and laughed until his sides ached.
"Then he didn't get one of the names right?"
"Not a single one. After all, his ignorance on these points is not so astonishing, for everybody is liable to make mistakes; but that any boy living in this day and age should imagine that, by simply getting up a club and adopting a constitution, he could imprison or fine another boy because he didn't do just to suit him, is too ridiculous to be believed. That particular paragraph was probably copied after some old game law Lester read years ago; but he ought to know that before a sportsman's club, or any other organization, can have authority to prosecute persons for trapping birds and sending them away, there must first be a law passed prohibiting such trapping and sending away; and there's no such law in this state. It doesn't seem possible that he could have been in earnest."
But Lester was in earnest for all that—so very much in earnest that he was willing to run a great risk in order to punish Don for refusing to join his society. Of course he was angry. He and Bob had felt sure of obtaining the contract, had laid many plans for the spending of the money after it was earned, and it was very provoking to find that their scheme had been defeated, and that they were to be pushed aside for the sake of such a fellow as David Evans. Lester was sorry now that he had not given David a good thrashing when he met him in the road that morning, and told himself that he would do it the very next time he put eyes on him and risk the consequences. The thought had scarcely passed through his mind when the opportunity was presented. He met David coming along the road in company with his brother Dan. David did not seem to remember that any sharp words had passed between Lester and himself, for he looked as cheerful and smiling as usual, and, following the custom of the country, bowed to the horseman as he rode past. Lester did not return the bow, and neither did he dismount to give David the promised thrashing. He was afraid to attempt it; but, coward-like, he had to take vengeance upon something, and so he hit his horse a savage cut with his riding-whip.
"Dave can afford to be polite and good-natured," thought Lester, as he went flying down the road. "He is rejoicing over his success and my failure; but if he only knew it, this thing isn't settled yet. I'll write to that man to-night, telling him, that the parties to whom he gave the contract can't catch the birds, and then Bob and I will go to work and make it true. If we don't earn that money, nobody shall. As for those stuck-up Gordons—I'll show them how I'll get even with them."
The spirited animal on which he was mounted made short work of the two miles that lay between Don's home and Bob's, and in a few minutes Lester dismounted in front of the wagon-shed, where his crony was waiting for him.
"I've had no luck at all," said he, in reply to Bob's inquiring look. "I might as well have stayed at home. Don says he can't join a club of this kind, because, having got David the job of trapping the quails, he can't go back on him. He says he's a poacher and pot-hunter himself; and what surprised me was, he did not seem to be at all ashamed of it."
"Of course he wasn't ashamed," said Bob. "He thinks that everything he and his pale-faced brother do is just right. Did he say anything about what passed between Bert and myself at the post-office?"
"Not a word."
"I was afraid he would," said Bob, drawing a long breath of relief, "for he knows that you and I are friends."
Yes, Don knew that, but there were two good reasons why he had not spoken to Lester about Bob's threat of slapping Bert over. In the first place, he was not aware that Bob had made any such threat. Bert was one of the few boys we have met, who did not believe in telling everything he knew. Do you know such a boy among your companions? If you do, you know one whom nobody is afraid to trust. Bert wanted to live in peace, and thought it a good plan to quell disturbances, instead of helping them along. He knew that if he told his brother what had happened in the post-office, there would be a fight, the very first time Don and Bob met, and Bert didn't believe in fighting. But even if Don had known all about it, he would not have said anything to Lester. He would have waited until he met Bob, and then he would have used some pretty strong arguments, and driven them home by the aid of his fist. How much trouble might be avoided, if there were a few more boys like Bert Gordon in the world!
"I am not sorry I went down there," continued Lester, "for I had the satisfaction of showing those conceited fellows that there are some boys in the settlement besides themselves who know a thing or two. I read the constitution to them, and it would have made you laugh to see them open their eyes. Bert was so astonished that he couldn't say a word, and Don never took his gaze off my face while I was reading. When I got through he asked me to read that clause with the Latin and Greek in it over again, so that he could copy the names in his note-book. He'll learn them by heart, and use them some time in conversation and so get the reputation of being a very smart and a very learned boy. If he does it in your presence, I want you to let folks know that he is showing off on the strength of my brains. I don't suppose the ignoramus ever knew before——"
"Well, who cares whether he did or not?" exclaimed Bob, impatiently. "That's a matter that doesn't interest me. Is Dave Evans going to make that hundred and fifty dollars and cheat me out of a new shot-gun? That's what I want to know!"
"Of course he isn't," replied Lester. "We can't stop him by the aid of the Sportsman's Club, and so we will stop him ourselves without the aid of anybody. Let him go to work and set his traps, and we'll see how many birds he will take out of them. We'll rob every one we can find and keep the quail ourselves. In that way we may be able to make up the fifty dozen without setting any of our own traps. We'll write to that man, as you suggested, and when Dave finds he can't catch any birds, he'll get discouraged and leave us a clear field. But first I want to touch up Don and Bert Gordon a little to pay them for the way they treated me this evening. That shooting-box shall be laid in ashes this very night. I expected an invitation to shoot there last spring, but I didn't get it, and now I am determined that they shall never ask anybody there. What do you say?"
"I say, I'm your man," replied Bob.
And so the thing was settled. Lester put his horse in the barn, went in to supper, which was announced in a few minutes (Bob found opportunity before he sat down to the table to purloin a box of matches, which he put carefully away in his pocket), and when the meal was over, the two boys went back to the wagon-shed, where they sat and talked until it began to grow dark. Then Bob brought a couple of paddles out of the corner of the wagon-shed, handed one to his companion, and the two walked slowly down the road. When they were out of sight of the house they climbed the fence, and directed their course across the fields toward the head of the lake. Then they quickened their pace. They had much to do, and they wanted to finish their work and return to the house before their absence was discovered.
Half an hour's rapid walking brought them to the road just below General Gordon's barn. The next thing was to make their way along the foot of the garden until they reached the jetty, and that was an undertaking that was not wholly free from danger. Don Gordon's hounds were noted watch-dogs, and any prowlers they discovered were pretty certain to be severely treated. But there was no flinching on the part of the two boys. Bob led the way almost on his hands and knees, stopping now and then to listen, and finally brought his companion to the place where the boats were moored. There was only one of them available, however, for the canoe, which they had intended to take, was secured to a tree by a heavy padlock.
"Did you ever hear of such luck?" whispered Bob.
"Couldn't we paddle the other up there?" asked Lester, feeling of the chain with which the sail-boat was fastened to the wharf, to make sure that it was not locked.
"O, yes; but why is this canoe locked up? That's what bothers me. Perhaps Don suspects something and is on the watch."
"Who cares if he is?" exclaimed Lester. "I've come too far to back out now. I wouldn't do it if Don and all his friends stood in my way."
"All right. If you are not afraid, I am not. Be careful when you cast off that chain. You know that sound travels a long way on a still night like this."
Lester was careful, and the boat was pushed off and got under way so noiselessly that a person standing on the bank would not have known that there was anything going on. Bob, who knew just where the shooting-box was located, sat in the stern and did the steering, at the same time assisting Lester in paddling. The heavy boat moved easily through the water, and before another half hour had passed they were at their journey's end.
"Hold up now," whispered Bob, "and let's make sure that everything is all right before we touch the shore."
Lester drew in his paddle and listened. He heard a whistling in the air, as a solitary duck flew swiftly up the lake, and that was the only sound that broke the stillness. The trees on the shore loomed up darkly against the sky, and presented the appearance of a solid wall of ebony. Lester could not see anything that looked like a shooting-box, but Bob knew it was there, and when he had listened long enough to satisfy himself that there was nobody in it or about it, he brought the bow of the boat around and paddled toward the shore.
"Which way is it from here?" asked Lester, when the two had disembarked. "I can't see anything."
"Hold fast to my coat-tail," replied Bob, "and I'll show it to you in a minute."
Lester being thus taken in tow was safely conducted up the bank. Presently he heard a door unlatched and opened, a match was struck and he found himself inside the shooting-box. He could scarcely have been more surprised if he had found himself inside a little palace. The shooting-box was not a shanty, as he expected to find it, but a conveniently-arranged and neatly-constructed house. He borrowed a few matches of Bob and proceeded to take a thorough survey of it. "Don must have spent a good deal of time in fixing this up," said he.
"He certainly has," replied Bob, "and he handles tools like a born carpenter, too. I suppose this is a nice place to get away to when the fellows are here shooting over their decoys. Joe Packard says so, at any rate. They have mattresses and bed clothes in the bunks, a carpet and rugs on the floor, camp chairs and stools enough for the whole party, and they sit here of evenings and crack hickory-nuts and tell stories and have boss times."
"It's almost a pity to break up their fun."
"It's a greater pity that Don should take money out of our pockets and put it into those of that beggar, Dave Evans," answered Bob, spitefully.
"That's so," said Lester, who grew angry every time he thought of it. "Set her agoing!"
That was a matter of no difficulty. There was an abundance of dry fuel and kindling wood in the little closet under the chimney, and some of the latter was quickly whittled into shavings by the aid of Bob's pocket knife, Lester standing by and burning matches to light him at his work. More kindling wood was placed upon the shavings, dry stove wood was piled upon the top of this, then the slats in the bunks, the table and every other movable thing in the cabin that would burn was thrown on, and Bob took a match in his hand and extended another to his companion.
"You light one side and I'll light the other," said he. "Then you can't say I did it, and I can't say you did it!"
The matches blazed up on opposite sides at the same instant. The flames made rapid progress, and by the time the boys had closed the door and got into the boat, they were roaring and crackling at a great rate. They quickly shoved off and laid out all their strength on the paddles, but before they could reach the jetty the flames burst through the roof of the shooting-box, and the lake was lighted up for a quarter of a mile around. But no one saw it, and Lester and his companion put the boat back where they found it, made their way across the road into the fields, without alarming the hounds, and started for home on a keen run, no one being the wiser for what they had done.
A BEAR HUNT.
"I'll jest do it, an' it's the luckiest thing in the world that I thought of it. That will make me wuth—" here he stopped and counted his fingers—"twenty-two dollars and two bits, anyhow. Then my clothes, an' stockings, an' shoes, an' all the powder an' lead I want this winter, won't cost me nothing; so I shall be rich fur all that thar mean Dave is workin' so hard agin me."
It was Dan Evans who talked thus to himself, and he was standing behind the cabin, with his hands in his pockets, and looking at Don's pointer, just as he was the last time we saw him. He was so very much delighted with certain plans he had determined upon that that he did not dare meet his brother again just then, for fear that the expression of joy and triumph which he knew his face wore would attract David's notice and put him on his guard. So he remained in the rear of the cabin with his thoughts for company, until his mother came home. The dress David had purchased for her, and which he had placed in the most conspicuous position he could find, was the first thing that attracted her attention as she entered the door. Dan heard her exclamation of joyful surprise, and listened with all his ears in the hope of overhearing some of the conversation that passed between her and David; but it was carried on in a low tone of voice, and Dan was no wiser when it was concluded than he was before. He knew, however, by the ejaculations that now and then fell from his mother's lips that David was telling her something which greatly interested her, and Dan would have given almost anything to know what it was. He heard his mother laugh a little occasionally, and that brought the scowl back to his face again. He could not bear to know that any one about that house was happy.
When supper was over, and David had done the chores and assisted in clearing away the dishes, he and his mother seated themselves in front of the fireplace and prepared to pass the evening in conversation, as they always did, while Dan threw himself upon the "shake-down" on which he and his brother slept, and in a few minutes began snoring lustily. He was not asleep, however. His ears were open, and so were his eyes the most of the time. He saw everything that was done and heard all that passed between his mother and David, but not a word did he hear that interested him. David had already given his mother a history of the events of the day. She knew what his plans were and approved them.
When nine o'clock came David took possession of the other half of the "shake-down" and prepared to go to sleep. He deposited his clothes at the head of the bed, as usual, and Dan, through his half-closed eyes, saw that he threw them down in a careless sort of way, as though there was nothing of value in them.
"But he can't fool me so easy," thought Dan. "Not by no means. Thar's ten dollars somewhar in them thar dry goods, unless he give 'em to the ole woman when she fust come hum, an' they'll be mine afore mornin'. He wouldn't go snacks with me, like a feller had oughter do, an' now I'll have 'em all!"
In an hour from that time everybody in the cabin appeared to be asleep. Mrs. Evans certainly was and David seemed to be, for he lay with his eyes closed, and breathed long and heavily. Dan took a good look at him—the blazing fire on the hearth made the cabin almost as light as day—and then reaching out his hand drew David's clothes toward him. He searched all the pockets carefully, but there was nothing in them except a pocket-knife with two broken blades, and that was not what Dan was looking for. Muttering something under his breath Dan turned all the pockets inside out and then felt of the lining of the coat; but as nothing rewarded his search he tossed the clothes back upon the floor, and cautiously slipped his hand under his brother's pillow. As he did so David suddenly raised himself upright in bed, and seizing the pillow, lifted it from its place.
"If you want to look under there, why don't you say so?" he asked.
Almost any other boy would have been overcome with shame and mortification, but Dan was not easily abashed, and although he felt a little crestfallen, his face did not show it.
"It isn't there you see, don't you?" said David.
"What isn't thar?" growled Dan.
"Why, the ten-dollar bill you saw me have at the landing. It isn't in my clothes either, or anywhere about the house."
"I wasn't lookin' fur it," returned Dan.
"I'll tell you where it is, if you want to know," continued David. "It is safe in Don Gordon's pocket-book, and you can't get it out of there. I told you that you'd never have another chance to steal any of my money, and I think you will believe it now. Good-night, and pleasant dreams to you; that is, if you can sleep after such a performance."
Dan could sleep, and he did, too, after he got over his rage, but his night's rest did not seem to refresh him much, for he was cross and sullen the next morning, and ate his breakfast without saying a word to anybody. David was as bright as a lark; and after he had assisted his mother in her household duties, he took down his rusty old single-barrel from the pegs over the fireplace, slung on his powder-horn and shot-pouch, and when his mother was ready to go, he accompanied her down the road toward General Gordon's, leaving Dan sitting on the bench, moody and thoughtful.
"They don't take no more notice of me nor if I was a yaller dog or a crooked stick," growled Dan, when he found himself alone. "I'll pay 'em fur it by kickin' up a wusser row nor pap done 'bout that thar bar'l, an' I shan't be long a doin' of it nuther!"
Mrs. Evans and David separated at the forks of the road, the former directing her course toward the house of the neighbor by whom she was employed, and David hurrying on toward General Gordon's. When he reached the head of the lake he heard a loud shout; and looking in the direction from which it came, he saw Don and Bert standing on the wharf beckoning to him. David ran across the garden to join the brothers, and found that they were all ready to start on the hunt they had planned the day before. A well-filled basket, which David knew contained a substantial lunch, stood on the wharf, and near it lay the General's heavy double-barrel gun, which Bert had borrowed for the occasion, knowing that it would throw buck-shot with more force than his light bird gun. Bert was unfastening the canoe, and Don stood close by, with his trusty rifle in one hand and an axe in the other. Two other axes lay near the lunch basket, and a couple of Don's best hounds stood as close to the edge of the wharf as they could get, wagging their tails vigorously and whining with impatience.
These hounds were large and powerful animals, and their courage had been tested in more than one desperate bear fight. If they had been with their master when he visited the island the day before, something disagreeable might have happened. Godfrey Evans could not have driven them away by imitating the growl of a wild animal. They welcomed the newcomer with their bugle-like notes, and were answered by a chorus of angry yelps from the rest of the pack, which had been shut up in the barn and were to be left behind.
"Now, I call this rather a formidable expedition," said Don, as David came up. "If that bear is there to-day I wouldn't take a dollar for my chance of shooting him. One bullet and three loads of buckshot will be more than he can carry away with him. Here are the axes to build the trap with, if we don't find him on the island; there's a bag of corn for bait, an auger to bore the holes and the pins with which to fasten the logs together. Bert and I worked in the shop last night until ten o'clock, making those pins. I think we have everything we wan't, so we'll be off."
The canoe having been hauled alongside the wharf, and the articles which Don had enumerated being packed away in it, the hounds jumped in and curled themselves up in the bow, David took his place at the oars and the brothers found comfortable seats in the stern. Altogether it was a heavy load the little boat had to carry, and she was so deep in the water that her gunwales were scarcely three inches above the surface; but there were never any heavy seas to be encountered in that little lake, and so there was no danger to be apprehended.
David sent the canoe rapidly along, and presently it entered the bayou that led to Bruin's Island. As it approached Godfrey Evans's cabin Dan arose from the bench on which he was seated in front of the door, and ran hastily around the corner of the building. He did not mean that Don and Bert should see him again, even at a distance, if he could help it. He remained concealed until the canoe was out of sight, and then came back to his bench again.
While on the way up the bayou the young hunters stopped once, long enough to pick up a brace of ducks which Bert killed out of a flock that arose from the water just in advance of them, and at the end of an hour came within sight of the leaning sycamore which pointed out the position of Bruin's Island. There was no one to be seen, but that was no proof that the island was deserted. There was some one there whom the three boys did not expect to see or hear of very soon, and that was Godfrey Evans. He was waiting for Dan to come with the canoe and the tobacco and other articles he had been instructed to purchase at the store. He had watched for him until long after midnight, then retreated to his bed of leaves under the lean-to for a short nap, and at the first peep of day he was again at his post behind the sycamore. To his great relief he saw the boat coming at last, but his joy was of short duration, for a second look showed him that Dan was not in it.
The canoe came nearer to the island with every stroke of the oars, and presently one of Don's hounds started to his feet, snuffed the air eagerly for a moment and uttered a deep-toned bay. Godfrey ducked his head on the instant and crawled swiftly away from the sycamore on his hands and knees. He was careful to keep the tree between himself and those in the boat until he reached the cane, and then he arose to his feet and worked his way toward his camp with all possible haste.
"Them two oneasy chaps has come back agin, just as I thought they would," said he to himself, "and our Dave's with 'em. Don's got his rifle now and his dogs, too, so't thar ain't no use tryin' to scare him this time. I must hunt a new hidin'-place now."
Godfrey stopped in his camp just long enough to seize his rifle and ammunition; after which he plunged into the cane again and ran toward the head of the island. The muddy beach was thickly covered with drift-wood, and behind a convenient pile of branches and logs Godfrey crouched down and waited to see what was going to happen.
The actions of Don's hounds made the young hunters almost as nervous as they made Godfrey Evans. David stopped tugging at the oars and looked over his shoulder; Bert caught up his father's double-barrel and hastily loaded it with two cartridges containing buckshot; while Don, after bringing the canoe broadside to the island, dropped the paddle with which he was steering, and picked up his rifle.
"He's there yet," said Bert. "The hounds have scented him already."
"It looks like it," replied Don. "Well, we came here to find him, and if he drives us away to-day he'll have to fight to do it. Dave, you'd better load up—Bert has plenty of loose buckshot in his pocket—and mind you now, fellows, don't get excited and shoot the dogs. I'd rather let the bear go than have one of them hurt."
While David was loading his single-barrel—his hands trembled a little, and it took him longer than usual to do it—Don and Bert sat with their guns across their knees, closely watching the island, while the hounds stood in the bow snuffing the air. They caught some taint upon the breeze, that was evident, for the long hair on the back of their necks stood erect and now and then they growled savagely.
When David had driven home a good-sized charge of buckshot and placed a cap upon his gun, he leaned the weapon against the thwart upon which he was sitting and picked up the oars. Don dropped his paddle into the water, and the canoe moved around the foot of the island and along the beach, until it reached a point opposite the place where Bert had found the path the day before. Then it was turned toward the bank, and the moment the bow grounded, the hounds sprang out. The boys followed with all haste, and Bert, as he stepped ashore, drew the canoe half way out of the water, so that the current could not carry her down the stream.
"Now, we'll send the dogs in to drive him out," said Don, "and if they can push him fast enough to make him take to a tree, he's our bear; but if he takes to the water and swims to the mainland, we shall lose him. We don't care for that, however. He'll be sure to come back, and when he does he'll find a trap waiting for him. We'll see as much sport in catching him alive as we would in shooting him. Hunt 'em up, there!" he added, waving his hand along the path.