How do you like the looks of

Sometimes there is more in drawing lots than those who take part in it
imagine, and so it proved in this instance. If Ralph or Loren had
drawn the shortest stick, some things that I have yet to tell of never
would have happened.

“I’m elected,” said Tom, spitefully, “but I’ll stand by the agreement.
I have plenty of time to go down to camp and return before dark, so I
will wait and see what Wayring is going to do.”

“Do you want to go with him?” inquired Ralph.

“How can I when we are going home in the morning?”

“Then what difference does it make to you where Wayring goes?”

“I don’t know that it makes any difference. I simply wish to satisfy
my curiosity.”

It did not take many minutes to do that. After a little more
conversation with Mr. Swan Joe came toward the storehouse, in front of
whose open door Tom and his cousins were standing. There they met
Morris, the guide, who cautioned them against quarreling with their
compass in case they found themselves bewildered in the unbroken
wilderness through which they must pass in order to reach No-Man’s
Pond. When Joe and his chums came out of the store with their loaded
camp-baskets on their back, Morris also came out and accosted Tom.

“This is the first chance I have had to thank you young gentlemen for
your generosity,” said he. “Mr. Hanson has given me half the reward
you earned by restoring those guns and which you did not claim.”

“You are very welcome, I am sure,” answered Tom. “Were you with the
party that found Wayring’s canoe? If you had looked a little further
you might have found the guns, too. How about that money? Heard any
thing of it lately?”

“Not so very,” replied the guide. “All we know is, that Jake Coyle
cheated the robbers out of it very neatly, hid it somewhere, and then
took himself off. It is over on your side of the lake; we are sure of
that. You seem to be lucky, so why don’t you hunt it up and claim the
six hundred?”

“If you men who know every foot of the woods can’t find it, we
wouldn’t stand much of a show,” said Ralph. “Do you know where Wayring
and his cronies have started for? I see that they have left their
skiff behind and that Mr. Swan is taking care of it.”

“They’re bound to catch some legal trout before they go home, and are
going to No-Man’s Pond after them. That’s twelve miles from here, and
through the thickest woods any body ever heard of. They’ll catch fish,
but, as I told them, they will have a time getting there.”

Tom’s curiosity was satisfied now, and, as there was nothing more to
detain him at the lake, he was ready to undertake the disagreeable
duty to which he had been “elected.” The trip to and from the camp was
disagreeable only because Tom did not want to make it just then. He
would have preferred to stay and seek an introduction to some of the
pretty girls who had been registered at the hotel since his last
visit, and who were now in full possession of the lawn tennis court.

When Tom reached the grove in which he and his cousins had spent their
two weeks outing, an unpleasant surprise awaited him. He saw nothing
suspicious about the camp; indeed he did not look for it; but in less
than half a minute after he beached his canoe and disembarked he was
surrounded by Matt Coyle and his boys, who glared savagely at him and
brandished switches over his head.

“Well, sir, we’ve ketched one of ye,” said Matt, laying hold of Tom’s
collar. “Now will you own up or won’t you?”

With a quick jerk Tom freed himself from the squatter’s grasp and
turned and faced him. He was so bold and defiant that Matt quailed
before him.

“What have you to say to me?” demanded Tom, with flashing eyes. “Keep
your distance if you expect me to talk to you. I was in hopes I had
seen the last of you.”

“Well, you see you ain’t, don’t you?” answered the squatter, calling
all his courage to his aid. “You stole them two guns of me an’ them
six thousand dollars besides. We’ve come after ’em, an’ we’re goin’ to
have ’em, too.”

“I haven’t seen your guns or your money, either,” replied Tom. “Who
told you I had?”

“Nobody,” said Matt, who never could take time to think when he was
excited or angry. “We jest suspicion you.”

“Then go and ‘suspicion’ somebody else. You are wide of the mark. I
know you have lost the guns, for Swan found them when he found the
canoe. Morris told me a little while ago that Hanson had paid him part
of the reward. But I didn’t know about the money. Here’s Jake; Why
don’t you make him tell where it is? Every body knows that he hid it—”

“Yes; but it ain’t there now,” shouted Matt. “It’s been took outen the
place where he left it, an’ none of us don’t know nothin’ about it.”

What evil genius put it into Tom’s head to say, “I know where it is?”

“That’s what we suspicioned all along, an’ that’s what brung us here,”
exclaimed the squatter, shaking his switch at the boy, while Sam’s
face grew as white as a sheet. He recoiled a step or two and looked
anxiously at Tom.

“But I haven’t got it and never had,” continued the latter. “Do you
know where No-Man’s Pond is? Well, if you will go there, you will find
your old friend Wayring and his party; and they’ve got your money.”

“Why—why, how did they come by it?” stammered Matt.

“How do you suppose I know? They probably found it where Jake hid it.
I don’t know of any other way they could get it.”

“But they ain’t been here long enough to do much runnin’ around,” Matt
reminded him.

“They have been here three days, and that’s long enough for them to
cover a good many miles in that fast-going skiff of theirs.”

“But we’ve been right there at the cove all the time, an’ they
couldn’t have come snoopin’ around without us hearin’ them,” said
Matt, who hardly knew whether he stood on his head or his feet. “What
took ’em so far up the creek, an’ how did they know where the money
was hid?”

“I don’t know any thing about that. I simply tell you that I saw those
two valises in Joe Wayring’s camp-basket to-day, and that you will
never handle a dollar of it.”

“Why, they’re wusser’n thieves theirselves. Do you reckon they took it
to No-Man’s Pond with ’em?”

“They certainly did not leave it at the hotel,” replied Tom. “Perhaps
they don’t mean to go to No-Man’s Pond at all. They may be striking
for Irvington, for all I know, intending to claim the reward when they
give up the money.”

“They shan’t never get there,” yelled Matt, who believed every word of
this ridiculous story. “I wish we was on t’other side of the lake.”

“The only way you can get there is to go down to the outlet and ask
some of your friends living there to set you across,” replied Tom; and
as he spoke he stepped up to an evergreen, pressed the thick branches
down with both hands, and took from its place of concealment a roll of
blankets. From other trees he took more blankets, a lot of tin dishes,
and provisions enough to last a small party of moderate eaters a week
or more. Matt and his hungry family could, no doubt, have made way
with them in a single day. They watched the boy’s movements with the
keenest interest. They had ransacked every hole and corner of the
grove before Tom came, overturning logs and throwing leaves aside, but
their hour’s work had not been rewarded by so much as a can of beans.
They were as surprised as children are the first time they see a
magician take money out of a borrowed hat.

“That bangs me,” said Matt.

“I don’t suppose I should have found any of these things if you had
thought to look up instead of down,” replied Tom.

“I’d like mighty well to have the grub,” was the squatter’s answer.
“We don’t see nothin’ good to eat from one year’s end to another’s.”

To Matt’s great surprise and joy Tom said—

“You may have the grub. I can get more at the hotel. There is an old
blanket that you can have to wrap it up in. Now look here: Are you
going to follow Wayring to No-Man’s Pond?”

“You’re mighty right, I am,” said Matt, emphatically.

“I don’t know whether or not you will find him there,” Tom went on.
“But if you do don’t mention my name. Don’t let him even suspect that
you have seen me this vacation. Don’t refer to me in any way; do you
hear?”

“Do you reckon I’ve got a pair of ears?”

“I reckon you have; and I can see for myself that they are big enough
for two men. If I were in your place, I would dig out of this country
and never come back.”

“I’ve been thinkin’ of doin’ it,” said Matt.

“The whole region is in arms against you, and it is a mystery to me
how you have kept out of the clutches of the law as long as you have.
But if they don’t catch you before they will surely catch you when the
first snow comes. Mark that. They will track you down as they would a
mink.”

“Don’t I know that?” exclaimed Matt, growing red in the face with
anger. “When the snow comes we’ll have to stick clost to camp, for if
we go out we shall leave a trail that can be easy follered. But
what’ll we do when our grub is all gone?”

“That’s your lookout and not mine,” said Tom, shrugging his shoulders.
“Go off somewhere. Find a strange place where you are not known, and
then you can go and come without fear of being tracked down.”

So saying Tom tossed the blankets into his canoe, stepped in himself
and shoved away from the beach, leaving three astonished, alarmed, and
angry persons behind. If Sam Coyle had been alone there would have
been strange scenes enacted in the grove, for Sam was pretty near
frantic. Like his father, he believed the story that Tom Bigden had
cooked up on the spur of the moment, and from that time forward he was
one of Joe Wayring’s most implacable foes. As for Matt, he was utterly
bewildered—stunned. Once again he told himself that there was
something wrong somewhere. Cunning as he had showed himself to be in
outwitting the guides and officers of the law, he never parted with
Tom Bigden without feeling that the boy had got the better of him in
some way. Jake Coyle was the frightened one of the party. His father
had promised him a terrible beating, which, upon reflection, he had
decided to postpone until he could learn whether or not the six
thousand dollars were concealed in Tom Bigden’s camp. Would the
whipping be forthcoming now that the money had not been found? Having
had a good night’s sleep and something nourishing to eat, Jake was
stronger and more courageous than he had been the day before, and he
made up his mind that he wouldn’t be whipped at all. He had outrun his
clumsy father more than once, and was sure he could do it again. Matt
must have been thinking about this very thing, for he said, as he
spread the blanket upon the ground and began tossing the provisions
into it—

“If I done a pap’s dooty by you, Jakey, I’d larrup you good fashion to
pay you for hidin’ that there money where Joe Wayring an’ his friends
could find it; but I’ll let you off agin for a little while. We’ll put
as straight for No-Man’s Pond as we can go, an’ if I find that Joe’s
got the money I won’t do nothin’ to you; me an’ you will be friends
like we’ve always been. But if he ain’t got it, or if he’s hid it
where we can’t find it, then there’ll be such a row betwixt me an’ you
that the folks up to Injun Lake will think there’s a harrycane got
loose in the woods.”

Jake drew a long breath of relief, but Sam wanted to yell. The latter
was strongly opposed to going to No-Man’s Pond. His great desire was
to return to camp, separate himself from the rest of the family as
soon as he could, and look into the tree in which he had concealed the
money. Somehow he could not bring himself to believe that it had been
found and carried off.

“Say, pap, I wouldn’t go acrost the lake if I was you,” Sam ventured
to say. “So long’s we stay over yer we’re safe, ’cause the guides
can’t get to us without our bein’ knowin’ to it; but if we go to
trampin’ through woods that we are liable to get lost in they may jump
down on us afore we can wink twice.”

“No they won’t,” said Matt, confidently. “I’m too ole a coon to be
ketched that a-way. Leastwise I ain’t a-goin’ to let them six thousand
go without makin’ the best kind of a fight for ’em.”

“But somebody oughter go to camp an’ tell mam where we’re goin’,” Sam
insisted. “She’ll be scared if we don’t show up by the time it comes
dark. I’d jest as soon go as not, and I’ll jine you agin at the
outlet.”

“Sam, what’s the matter of you?” exclaimed Matt. “You always was sich
a coward you would go hungry before you would sneak out of nights an’
steal grub for us to eat; but you’ve got to stand up to the rack this
time, I bet you. I need your help; an’ if I see you makin’ the least
sign of holdin’ back I’ll give you the twin brother to the lickin’ I
promised Jake.”

That was what Sam was afraid of, and it was the only thing that kept
him from running off and making the best of his way to the tree in
which he had hidden the money. Until he had satisfied himself that it
was safe he could neither eat nor sleep.

Having tied the provisions up in as small a compass as possible, Matt
raised the bundle to his shoulder, picked up his rifle, and set out at
a rapid pace for the outlet, Jake and Sam following close behind. They
were ferried across by one of the vagabonds who had given the
superintendent of the hatchery so much trouble, and who expressed the
greatest surprise and pleasure at meeting them. But Matt was not
deceived by his friendly speech. He knew that the man would have made
a prisoner of him in a minute if he had possessed the power.

“I never thought to set eyes on you again,” was the way in which he
welcomed Matt and his boys. “You’ve kept yourselves tol’able close
since Swan burned your camp, ain’t you? An’ they do say that Jakey has
made six thousand dollars clean cash outen that Irvin’ton bank
robbery. Course I’ll set you acrost. Goin’ to change your quarters, be
you? Where do you reckon you’ll bring up?”

“New London,” replied Matt, readily. “From there we’ll take a boat to
some place on the Sound where they want wood-choppers, an’ then we’ll
settle down an’ go to work.”

“But the ole woman ain’t with you.”

“She’s goin’ cross lots, ’cause she didn’t think she could stand the
long tramp that me and the boys are goin’ to take. Yes; we’re goin’ to
hide ourselves durin’ the winter, an’ when spring comes mebbe we’ll
come too. They’ll forget all about us by that time.”

“Well, I hope the constables won’t foller you through the woods.”

“It wouldn’t be healthy for any body to do that,” replied Matt,
looking sharply at the man with his little black eyes. “A feller who
can hit a squirrel’s head at every shot can throw a bullet middlin’
clost to a mark the bigness of a constable.”

This was a threat, and the man who ferried them across the outlet took
it as such. As he was too timid as well as too indolent to take any
steps that would lead to the squatter’s apprehension, he contented
himself by going back to his cabin, smoking a pipe, and wishing he had
the reward that had been put upon Matt’s head.

The pursuers had lost a good deal of time in going from Tom Bigden’s
camp to the outlet, but they made up for it by the fast traveling they
did after they were set across. If Matt had not missed his way, he
might have come up with Joe that night. As it was, he and his boys
went into camp about three miles from the spring-hole. During their
journey they came near showing themselves to a couple of individuals
who passed through the woods a hundred yards in advance, heading
toward Indian Lake; but Matt, always on the watch, dropped in time to
avoid discovery, and the boys touched the ground almost as soon as he
did.

“Who be they?” whispered the squatter, peering through the bushes in
the vain effort to obtain a view of the strangers’ faces.

“They’re them two fellers that always runs with Joe Wayring,” answered
Jake.

“Sure?” asked Matt.

“Sure’s I can be without seein’ ’em closter.”

“That’s who they be, pap,” said Sam. “I know, ’cause they’ve got the
same kind of clothes and the same kind of hats on ’em.”

Sam and Jake were deceived by the hunting suits worn by the strangers.
The latter were a couple of sportsmen who had made a short excursion
into the woods without a guide, and were now on their way to their
hotel. Matt took a minute or two in which to think over the situation.

“Look sharp,” said he, in an excited whisper, “an’ see if they have
got camp-baskets onto their backs or grip-sacks in their hands. If
they have, we’ll bounce ’em quicker.”

“They ain’t got nary thing in their hands but jest fish-poles,”
answered Sam. “I can see ’em plain. The things they’ve got on their
backs is knapsacks.”

“Then they must have left Joe Wayring an’ the money alone at the
spring-hole,” chuckled Matt. “They can’t go to Injun Lake an’ turn
around and come back before the middle of forenoon to-morrer, an’ by
the time they see No-Man’s Pond again we’ll be through with our
business. I tell you things is beginnin’ to run my way onct more.
Ain’t you sorry you come, Sammy? We shall find Joe alone at the pond,
and it’ll be the easiest thing in the world to make him trot out that
money or tell where he’s hid it.”

“But supposin’ he won’t do it?” said Jake. “What’ll you do to him,
pap?”

“We’ll tie him to a tree an’ thrash him so’t he won’t never get over
it,” said the squatter, through his teeth. “That boy has put me to a
sight of trouble ever sense I first heard of him, an’ now I’m goin’ to
take my satisfaction outen him. We’ll make him ax our parding an’
acknowledge that we’re just as good as he is, even if we ain’t got no
good clothes to wear.”

“An’ when you get through I’ll take a hand, an’ pay him for the whack
he give me in the face with your paddle,” chimed in Jake.

“An’ I’ll pay him for—for—bein’ so mean to all of us,” said Sam.

He came near betraying himself that time. What he was about to say was
that he would pay Joe Wayring for stealing the money.

“You can do jest what you please with him, an’ I won’t say a word agin
it,” answered the squatter. “The way them rich folks has always run
over us ain’t to be put up with no longer.”

Pursuers and pursued slept soundly within three miles of one another
that night, but the morning’s sun found them all astir. While Joe and
his companions were working like beavers on their bark shanty, Matt
Coyle was wasting his time in searching for the portage that led from
Indian Lake to No-Man’s Pond. He passed the best part of the day in
recovering his bearings, and the afternoon was far spent when Jake
laid his hand on his arm and pointed silently through the bushes ahead
of him. Matt looked, and saw the smoke of a camp-fire curling up
toward the tree-tops. He listened, but no sound came to his ears to
indicate that the camp was occupied. Arthur and Roy had gone in the
canvas canoe to explore the spring-hole and Joe was resting after his
work, thinking the while of almost every thing and every body except
Matt Coyle.

“I don’t reckon he’s there, pap,” said Jake in a cautious whisper.

“He’s there or thereabouts,” was Matt’s reply. “Mebbe he’s went out on
the pond to ketch some trout for his supper. If he has, we’ll be in
time to help him eat ’em, won’t we? Jakey, you crawl up, careful like,
an’ take a peep at things. Me an’ Sam’ll stay here till you come
back.”

Matt never went into danger himself if he could help it, but always
sent Jake; and the boy had become so accustomed to it that he obeyed
this order without the least hesitation. He crept away on his hands
and knees, and at the end of a quarter of an hour returned with a most
gratifying report.

“Joe’s there, an’ he’s all alone,” whispered Jake. “He’s layin’ under
a tree an’ acts like he’s asleep.”

“So much the better for us,” replied Matt, gleefully rubbing his hands
together. “That money is our’n. Now, Jakey, you go that-a-way; Sam,
you go this way; an’ I’ll keep in the middle. In that way we shall
have him surrounded an’ he can’t give us the slip. When you hear me
whistle like a quail, jump up an’ grab him.”

“But, pap, he’s got a gun,” said Jake, apprehensively. “I seen it
layin’ on the ground clost to him.”

“What of it?” Matt demanded, in angry tones. “That’s the very reason I
want you to grab him; so’s he won’t have time to use his gun. Now,
then, here we go, quiet like, an’ still.”

The three moved off so silently that Joe Wayring would not have heard
them if he had been awake and listening for their approach. They came
up on each side of the camp, cutting off every avenue of escape, and
at the signal agreed upon made a simultaneous rush. Before Joe could
open his eyes he was powerless, for Matt Coyle had seized both his
hands, crossed them upon his breast, and pinned them there with a
vise-like grasp.

“It’s come our turn to boss things,” said the squatter, returning
Joe’s astonished look with an angry scowl. “We’ll learn you to drive
us outen Mount Airy an’ tear our house down jest’ cause we’re poor
folks an’ ain’t got no good clothes to wear. Jakey, you an’ Sam look
around an’ find a rope or something to tie him with.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Joe, when he found his tongue.

“That depends on yourself,” answered Matt. “You can get off without a
scratch if you will do jest what I tell you; but if you don’t it will
be wuss for you. Where is it?”

“Where’s what?” said Joe, innocently.

“Now jest listen at the blockhead!” exclaimed Matt. “You don’t know
what I mean, don’t you? I mean the money you stole from us. The money,
you varmint.” And whenever he said “money” he jammed Joe’s hands down
upon his breast with terrific force. “The money, I say. Where is it?”

“All the money I have is in my pocket,” replied Joe. “If you want it,
I can’t hinder you from taking it.” He spoke with difficulty, for
Matt’s furious lunges had nearly knocked the breath out of his body.

“Whoop!” yelled the squatter. “Listen at you! I don’t want the money
that’s into your pocket. I want what was stole from the bank. It
b’longs to me, an’ I’m goin’ to have it. Where is it, I tell you.”

“I don’t know the first thing about it. I never saw it.”

“Mebbe you’ll think different before we get through with you,” said
Matt; “found the rope, have you, Jakey? All right. Stand by to tie his
hands when I tell you; an’, Sam, you pull off his blue shirt. We won’t
fool with him no longer.”

So saying the squatter arose to his feet, pulling Joe up with him. In
a few minutes more the boy was standing with his face to a tree, and
his hands and feet were fastened to it. But the work was not
accomplished without a terrific struggle, I assure you. Joe Wayring
fought desperately, and during the _melee_ Jake was floored by a neat
left-hander in the jaw, and Sam received a kick that doubled him up in
short order. Of course this vigorous treatment added to their fury,
but Matt was disposed to be hilarious over it.

“Well, then, what made you hide the money where he could find it, if
you didn’t want to get a whack from his fist?” said he. “If you had
brung it straight to me, like you oughter done, Joe never would a hit
you.”

“That makes another thing that I’ve got to pay him for,” groaned Jake.
“Hurry up an’ get through with him, pap, ’cause I want to get at him.”

“Then go an’ cut some good tough hickories, both of you. They’ll be
back in a few minutes,” said Matt, as the boys took their knives from
their pockets and disappeared from view, “an’ before they come, you
had better make up your mind to tell me what you have done with that
money. I’ve got all the proof I want that it was seed in your
camp-basket yesterday.”

“Who told you so?” inquired Joe.

“I ain’t namin’ no names,” replied Matt; and then, for the first time,
it occurred to him that if the valises were in Joe’s camp-basket
yesterday they might be there yet, and he at once proceeded to satisfy
himself on that point. The contents of all the baskets were quickly
thrown out upon the ground, but the valises were not brought to light.

“I done that jest ’cause I happened to think of it, an’ not ’cause I
expected to find the money,” Matt exclaimed. “I knowed you would hide
it as soon as you got here. The boys is comin’. They’d like amazin’
well to larrup you on your bare back, an’ they will do it too; we’ll
all do it, if you don’t quit bein’ so pig-headed an’ tell us right
where we can go an’ find that money. Speak quick. Will you do it?”

“I tell you I don’t know any thing about it,” replied Joe, “and you
can’t make me say any thing else. If any body told you a different
story, which I don’t believe, he fooled you. That’s all I’ve got to
say.”

Just then Jake and Sam came out of the bushes with their hands full of
switches.

“How do you like the looks of _them_?” said Matt Coyle, picking up one
of the switches and flourishing it before Joe’s face. “It’s hickory
an’ it’ll cut. Whew! I don’t like to think how it will cut when it’s
laid on good and strong. Now, then, where is it? You see that we are
in dead ’arnest, I reckon, don’t you? What have you done with it?”

It was at this juncture that the canvas canoe carrying Roy Sheldon and
Arthur Hastings came around the point in full view of the camp. The
boys were so surprised at what they saw before them that for a minute
or two they were incapable of action. They were as motionless as so
many sticks of wood; and, although their blood boiled with indignation
when they saw Jake so unmercifully beaten, they never said a word.
But, when Matt drew back as if he were about to strike Joe with the
switch he held in his hand, they had life enough in them.

“Hold on there! If you touch that boy I will put more holes through
you than you ever saw in a skimmer,” shouted Arthur, as he raised his
gun to his shoulder; and the squatter’s triumph was cut short.

“This is an outrage that shall not be over-looked,” said Roy, plunging
his paddle into the water and sending the canvas canoe rapidly toward
the beach. “Keep him covered, Art, so that he can’t escape, and we’ll
march the whole caboodle of them to Indian Lake.”

Before the words had fairly left Roy’s lips Arthur found, to his
intense amazement, that he was pointing his gun at the bushes, instead
of covering Matt Coyle’s head. The squatter and his boys had dropped
to the ground, and that was the last that was seen of them. If three
trap-doors had opened beneath their feet, they could not have
disappeared with more astonishing and bewildering celerity. The boys
did not wait to beach the canoe but jumped overboard, as soon as they
could see bottom, and rushed to Joe’s relief.

“Who, what—how—what’s the meaning of this?” stammered Roy, drawing his
knife across the rope that held the prisoner’s hands, while Arthur
severed the one with which his feet were confined. “How came those
vagabonds up here, and what was it that Tom Bigden told them about
money?”

Joe Wayring stretched his arms and briefly explained.

“You came just in time, boys,” said he, in conclusion. “Did you see
Jake’s face when Matt got through beating him? That was a contemptible
thing for Matt to do, and he ought to be punished for it.”

“Your back would have looked worse than that if we had delayed our
coming a few minutes longer,” said Roy. “How did you feel when Matt
told you that he had seen Art and me putting for the lake as fast as
we could go?”

“I didn’t pay the least attention to it, for I thought he said it to
frighten me. It seems that Jake has lost track of the money that was
stolen from the Irvington bank; but if Tom Bigden said he had seen it
in my camp-basket, I don’t see what induced him to do it.”

“What was it that induced him to tell Matt to steal your canoe?” asked
Arthur.

“I don’t know that he did. I only think so from what I have heard.
Now, fellows,” said Joe calmly, but with determination, “my fishing is
ended for a while, and I am going on the war-path. I’ll see whether or
not I am to be tormented in this way by people who can not truthfully
say that I ever did the first thing to injure them.”

“Count us in,” said Arthur. “I wish the portage was clear so that we
could start for the lake at once; but I am afraid to try it in the
dark.”

“We mustn’t try it in the dark. We’d get lost before we had gone a
hundred yards,” said Roy. “We’ll make an early start in the morning. I
would give something handsome if I knew just how this thing stands,
and how Matt Coyle found out that we were camping here. I wonder what
Tom will have to say for himself when the matter is brought into
court.”

“I can’t believe that he had any thing to do with it,” answered Joe.
“If he has half the sense I give him credit for, he must see that he
would sooner or later bring himself into trouble by acting as Matt
Coyle’s counselor.”

“He’s got sense enough; no one disputes that,” said Roy. “But I tell
you he is at the bottom of this trouble. Matt and his boys knew what
they were doing when they crossed to this side of the lake and came
straight to No-Man’s Pond.”

“That’s what I say,” chimed in Arthur.

“Well,” replied Joe, “I shall need better evidence than a vagabond’s
unsupported word before I will believe that Tom Bigden is to blame for
any thing that has happened to me to-day. I don’t doubt that his will
is good enough; but he would be afraid to put himself into the power
of such a fellow as Matt Coyle. At any rate I’ll not make trouble for
him if I can help it; but I’ll never rest easy till Matt’s whole tribe
has been arrested or driven so far out of the country that they can’t
get back in a hurry.”

“This is what we get by coming into the woods without our body-guard,”
said Arthur. “If Jim had been here Matt could not have stolen a march
on you as easily as he did.”

I believe I forgot to tell you that Jim, Arthur Hastings’s little
spaniel, was not with the boys this trip. A few days prior to his
master’s departure for Indian Lake he managed to get run over by a
loaded wagon, and Arthur had left him at home under the doctor’s care.
Jim hated the squatter and his kind most cordially, and would
certainly have given the alarm the moment they came within scenting
distance of the camp.

That night the boys did not sleep a great while at a time. Not an hour
passed that I did not see one of them punching up the fire or walking
around the shanty with his gun in his hands. But they were not
disturbed. Matt Coyle had seen enough of Arthur Hastings and his
double-barrel for one while, and if he was anywhere in the
neighborhood he did not show himself. When day broke Joe Wayring and
his friends did not linger to take a dip in the pond or run races
along the beach, but ate a hastily prepared breakfast, packed their
camp-baskets, and set out for the lake. They held a straight course
for it, but the traveling was so difficult that it was high noon
before they got there. The first man they saw was Mr. Swan, who was
just pushing away from the landing in front of the Sportsman’s Home.
His canoe was loaded, and that proved that he was going somewhere.

“Hallo!” was his cheery greeting. “Did you get lost or run out of grub
or what? I did not expect to see you again for two or three weeks.”

“We didn’t get lost, and we’ve lots of grub left,” replied Arthur.
“Where have you started for, if it is a fair question?”

“I am going where the rest of the boys are going, or gone; into the
woods to find Matt Coyle’s trail and Jake’s,” answered the guide. “If
I can’t find but one I’d a little rather have Jake, because there’s a
bigger reward offered for him. There are a dozen or fifteen men in the
woods now, and there’ll be as many more by this time to-morrow. Them
vagabonds can’t run loose any longer, for the boys are in dead earnest
now, and have broken up into little parties instead of going in a
body. In that way they can cover more ground, and stand a better
chance of getting a big slice of the reward. Of course you haven’t
seen Coyle lately?”

“Haven’t we, though?” exclaimed Roy. “There’s where you are mistaken.
Are you in a very great hurry? Then come ashore and I will tell you a
little story.”

The guide smiled as he turned his canoe toward the beach, but before
Roy Sheldon had talked to him five minutes the smile gave place to a
frown. He listened in the greatest amazement to the boy’s brief and
rapid narration of the exciting incidents that had happened at the
spring-hole, said “I swan to man!” a good many times, and when Roy
ceased speaking sat down on the ground right where he stood, there
being no log handy, to think the matter over.

“Well, well! So Matt broke up your fishing picnic and frightened you
away from the pond, did he?” said the guide, after a long pause. “I
don’t know as I blame you for wanting to get back among folks. I’d be
scared too, if some fellers should tie me to a tree and threaten to
wallop me.”

“Matt broke up our fishing for the present, but we want you to
understand that he didn’t scare us away from the pond,” said Arthur,
earnestly. “We are going to Irvington to lodge a complaint against
him, and as soon as that has been done we intend to take a hand in
hunting him up.”

“You? You boys alone?” exclaimed the guide.

“Yes; we three fellows alone, unless you will go with us. But you
mustn’t think we are afraid of him. If he is such a terrible man,
what’s the reason he took to his heels the minute he saw the muzzle of
Art’s gun looking him in the face?”

“Most any body would run under them circumstances if he thought he had
the ghost of a chance,” replied Mr. Swan. “You had the drop on him.”

“But we didn’t have the drop on him last night when we were asleep,
did we? If he was so sure that money was in our camp, what’s the
reason he didn’t come and get it after dark? He was afraid to try it.”

“Most likely he was,” answered the guide. “Well, if you’re bound to
go, I’d like to have you with me so’t I can sorter keep an eye on you.
Let’s go and get your skiff. I put it in one of the boathouses under
cover.”

“But we want to make complaint against Matt,” said Joe.

“Why not wait till he has been arrested for stealing them guns and
that canoe, and then make it? You will save at least four days by it,
and by that time Matt may be took up and you and me have no hand in
it. We kinder thought him and his crowd had skipped the country,
because we ain’t seen none of ’em lately; but the boys _will_ be
surprised, and mad too, when they hear what he done in your camp.”

While the guide was talking in this way he led the boys along the
beach toward the boathouse in which he had placed their skiff for
safekeeping. To put it into the water, take the provisions out of the
camp-baskets and stow them in the lockers, ship the oars and return to
the place where Mr. Swan had left his canoe, was but a few minutes’
work. When the latter shoved off from the beach the two boats moved
side by side, I occupying my usual place on the stern locker.

“There’s one question that has been running in my mind ever since I
heard your story, and which I ain’t been able to answer yet,” observed
the guide, as the boys slackened their pace so that the canoe could
keep up. “What made Matt Coyle think that you boys had the money in
your possession, and how did he know where to find you? It looks to me
as though somebody had posted him in regard to your movements, and if
Tom Bigden had been in your company since you came here I should say
that he was the chap. Do you suspicion him?”

Arthur and Roy looked at Joe as if to say: “What do you think of it
now?” and the latter replied:

“I don’t know whether to suspect him or not.”

“Well, if Tom’s mixed up in it, it won’t take long to find it out,”
said the guide, indifferently. “The minute Matt is brought before the
justice he’ll blab every thing he knows.”

When Joe heard this he almost wished that he had not been in such
haste to declare that he would never rest easy until Matt and his
family had been arrested or driven so far out of the country that they
wouldn’t get back in a hurry. Joe was indignant, as he had reason to
be, but he was not vindictive.

“I’d rather Matt would get off scott free than be the means of
bringing Tom Bigden into disgrace,” was his mental reflection. “If I
could help him out of the country I would do it. But then, there’s the
money. What’s to be done about that? Do you suppose Jake has really
lost track of those six thousand dollars?” he added, aloud.

“I am sure of it,” answered Roy, “What put that thought into your
head?”

“If he intended to share it with the members of his family, what’s the
reason he did not take it to his father the minute he found it?” asked
Joe, in reply. “Every thing goes to prove that Jake wants all the
money, and if he can make his father believe that he has lost it of
course he will not be expected to divide.”

“Oh, you’re off the track,” said Arthur, confidently. “If Jake had
told Matt any funny story like that, don’t you think the beating he
got up there at the spring-hole would have brought the truth out of
him? What do you think about it, Mr. Swan?”

“I haven’t yet made up my mind,” replied the guide. “This much I know.
That money is hidden somewhere in the woods, and it’s going to be no
fool of a job to find it.”

“Have you decided upon any plan of action?”

“Well, yes. We might as well hunt for a needle in a hay-stack as to go
wandering about through the timber looking for a couple of grip-sacks,
for I have been told that these woods cover almost two thousand square
miles of ground. There must be some sort of system about the search,
or it won’t amount to any thing. The rest of the boys are trying to
catch Matt and all his family, believing that if they can do that they
will get the money. Perhaps they will, and perhaps they won’t. I
wasn’t going to do business that way. I intended to find their camp
the first thing I did, and hang around it night and day till I got a
clew. If Jake knows where the money is, he’ll have to go to it every
little while to make sure it is safe, won’t he?”

The boys all thought he would, and Joe said:

“If I were in Jake’s place I would go to it just once, and when I
found it I’d take it and leave the country. A brute of a father who
pounded me as Matt pounded Jake should not see a cent of the money.”

“Mebbe that’s what Jake means to do,” answered the guide. “I hope it
is, and that we will be in sight when he tries it; for it will be no
trouble at all for us to slip up and gobble him and the money at the
same time. That would scare Matt, who would lose no time in getting
away from these woods.”

“That’s just what I hope he will do,” said Joe, to himself. “Somehow I
can’t bear the thought of seeing him come into court to get a Mount
Airy boy into trouble.”

“I’ve often thought of it as a curious thing that the stolen guns and
your canvas canoe should have been found in the same place, and that
place the cove where Matt’s camp used to be,” said Mr. Swan, after a
little pause. “By putting this and that together, I have come to the
conclusion that Matt and his family hang out near that cove, believing
it to be the safest place for them. I thought I would go up there
after dark and skirmish around a bit. What do you think?”

“If that is what you have decided upon, why, go ahead,” replied
Arthur. “We shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that we
are busy, even if we don’t accomplish any thing.”

“We don’t want to go near the cove until after dark,” the guide went
on. “We tried that once, you know, but Matt got wind of our coming and
took himself safely off.”

A plan of operations having been decided upon, the boys took Mr.
Swan’s canoe in tow and pulled for the lake with long and lusty
strokes. Shortly after twelve o’clock they landed in a little grove to
cook their dinner; but, after they had taken a look at the heap of
ashes, potato skins, charred chunks, withered hemlock boughs,
fish-heads, bones, and empty fruit and bean cans that were scattered
about, they told one another that they would go farther and find a
neater place.

“This is the worst camp on the lake, isn’t it?” said Roy. “The fellows
who lived here were either new hands at the business or else they were
a lazy lot.”

They were both. The grove was the site of Tom Bigden’s old camp, and a
nice looking spot he and his cousins had made of it. But such groves
were plenty along the beach. Another was quickly found, an excellent
dinner was prepared and leisurely eaten, and after Mr. Swan had taken
time to smoke a pipe the party shoved off and headed toward the creek
that led to Matt Coyle’s old camp.

“Now, then,” said the guide, who thought it time to assume direction
of affairs, “we don’t want any more loud talking. And be careful how
you let them oars rattle in the rowlocks. A slight noise can be heard
a long distance in a quiet place like this, and Matt is always
listening.”

Having cast off the painter of his canoe, Mr. Swan went on ahead, and
the skiff followed slowly in his wake. Mile after mile they passed
over in silence, all unconscious of the fact that almost every thing
they did was observed by one who threaded his way cautiously through
the bushes abreast of them, and who would have given a large sum of
money if he could have had one of their boats at his disposal for a
few minutes.

So well did Mr. Swan regulate his pace that it was just dark when he
and his young companions arrived at the mouth of the little stream
which connected the creek with the cove in which Matt enacted that
neat piece of strategy described by Fly-rod in his story. Here he
stopped and listened for a long time. No sounds came from the woods to
indicate that the squatter and his family were occupying their old
camp; but that was no sign that they were not there, and the guide
proceeded very cautiously. He did not attempt to force his canoe into
the stream, but made a landing below it, and the skiff drew up
alongside of him.

“What’s the next thing on the programme?” whispered Joe, lifting his
oar out of the rowlock and laying it carefully on the thwarts. “Shall
we all go in?”

“I reckon we might as well,” replied the guide. “Why not?”

“You remember what happened the last time we were here, do you not?”
replied Joe. “How Matt came around in our rear and threw away our
things and stole two of our boats?”

“It ain’t likely that I’ll ever forget it,” said Mr. Swan, “nor how
mad we all were to see how completely he had outwitted us. But he
can’t do that this time, for we are not going into the cove. We’ll
leave the boats here.”

“Matt Coyle isn’t within a dozen miles of this place,” said Roy,
decidedly. “He’s on the other side of the lake.”

“That don’t signify,” answered Mr. Swan. “There are plenty of
vagabones at the outlet who would set him across for the asking, and
it ain’t a very fur ways from there to this cove. Now, if he is here,
we’ll not give him a chance to slip away from us like he did last
time. Yon know right where the camp was, don’t you? Well, I’ll go off
by myself and surround it. At the end of twenty minutes, as near as
you can guess at it, creep up toward the place you think I am, no
matter whether you hear from me or not. Spread out from the center as
you go, so as to come upon the camp from all sides. If he isn’t there,
we’ll find out whether or not he has been there very lately, and that
will be something learned.”

Mr. Swan lingered a minute or two to give a few additional
instructions, and then moved silently away through the darkness. The
first thing the boys did, when they found themselves alone, was to
secure their guns and cartridge belts, and the second to draw the bows
of the skiff and canoe upon the bank so that the current would not
carry them away. After that they struck a match to see what time it
was, and sat down to wait as patiently as they could for the twenty
minutes to pass away.

“I hope Matt Coyle isn’t here,” said Joe, suddenly. “Or if he is, I
hope he will take the alarm and make off before Mr. Swan gets a sight
of him.”

“Well, you are a pretty fellow,” said Roy, with a slight accent of
disgust in his tones. “After what he has done to you, do you want him
to get off?”

“Yes, I do; and I can’t help it,” answered Joe. “But it is not on his
own account, I assure you. To me there is something repugnant in the
thought that such a fellow as Matt Coyle can get any body into
trouble, especially such a boy as Tom Bigden might be if he only
would. If Tom put it into his head to steal my canoe, or if he told
him that we had taken the six thousand dollars with us to No-Man’s
Pond—why, fellows, just think what a story that would be for him to
tell in court?”

“Well, could Tom blame any body but himself if he did tell it?”
demanded Arthur. “He had no business to have so much to do with that
squatter. Where do you suppose the money is, any way?”

“Did it never occur to you that some of the vagabonds who live at the
outlet might have stumbled upon it?” asked Roy.

“Or that some other member of Matt’s family, Sam for instance, might
have found it where Jake hid it?” chimed in Joe.

“That’s so,” exclaimed Arthur. “But if Sam’s got it what is he going
to do with it? It would be little satisfaction to me to have so much
money in my possession unless I could use some of it.”

“The twenty minutes are up,” said Joe, examining the face of his watch
by the light of a match. “Mr. Swan has had time to ‘surround’ the
camp, and we must be moving. We must be careful, also, and not get out
of supporting distance of one another, for there is no telling what we
may run onto in the dark.”

It was not without fear and trembling that the boys began their
advance upon the squatter’s camp. They had given Mr. Swan to
understand that they were not afraid of Matt, and they would have made
their words good if it had been daylight and they had been standing on
the defensive; but advancing upon his supposed hiding-place in the
dark was something they had not bargained for. Matt might be standing
guard with a club in his hand, ready to brain the first one who showed
himself.

“I declare, that’s just what he is doing. There he is, standing by
that fire.”

So thought Joe Wayring, who by good luck happened to strike the well
beaten path that led through the evergreens from the cove to the spot
whereon the squatter’s miserable lean-to had once stood. Having no
bushes to impede his progress, Joe crept rapidly forward on his hands
and knees without making the slightest sound, and in a few moments
came within sight of a glowing bed of coals, with a clearly defined
pair of legs in front of it. A second glance showed Joe that the legs
belonged to a man who loomed up wonderfully tall and stout in the
darkness, and that he held across his breast something that looked
like a bludgeon. He was gazing in Joe’s direction, too, and that was
the way he would undoubtedly run when he became aware that his enemies
were closing in upon him. What was to be done now, and where were Mr.
Swan and the other boys?

“If he makes a charge he’ll run over me and never know there was any
thing in his path. I’ll give him all the room he wants,” soliloquized
Joe; and, suiting the action to the word, he got upon his feet and
backed softly into the bushes.

After standing a second or two in a listening attitude, the man kicked
the coals together with his heavy boot, and threw upon them a dry
hemlock branch, which instantly blazed up, revealing the guide’s
honest face. Joe was greatly relieved. “How you frightened me,” said
he, as he came down the path. “You looked as big as a tree, and I
thought you were Matt Coyle, sure.”

“You can see for yourself that he or somebody else has been here
within a few hours,” replied Mr. Swan, tossing another branch upon the
coals.

“Do the signs tell you any thing?”

“Haven’t seen any sign yet except this smouldering fire. Call up the
rest of the fellows and we will go into camp back there at the creek.
In the morning we’ll take a look around and see what we can see.”

Guided by an occasional word from Joe the other two presently came up.
By this time the fire was burning brightly, and by the aid of the
light it gave they were enabled to examine the ground about it. They
found the charred remains of the squatter’s lean-to, but could not
discover the first thing to give them a clew to the identity of the
person or persons who built the fire. The guide was almost sure it was
not Matt Coyle, for Matt invariably left some sort of rubbish behind
him. Whoever he was, he had not been gone more than half an hour, for
the coals had hardly ceased blazing when Mr. Swan found them. They
lingered long enough to see the fire burn itself out and then started
for the creek, where a great surprise awaited them.

Continue Reading

ABOUT VARIOUS THINGS

“There, now,” soliloquized Jake Coyle, as he wended his way through
the gloomy woods after concealing the canvas canoe and the two valises
he had fished up from the bottom of the lake. “I’m a rich man, an’
nobody but me knows the first thing about it. As soon as it gets
daylight, I’ll come back an’ hide the guns an’ the money an’ the canoe
all together, in a better place, so’t if pap gets a hint of what is
goin’ on, an’ I have to dig out from home in the middle of the night,
I shall know right where to find ’em without runnin’ through the woods
to hunt ’em up. Now, as soon as I can get Rube to buy me some shoes
an’ clothes an’ powder an’ lead, I’ll go back to some of them swamps
that I’ve heared pap tell about, an’ trap on my own hook. I’ll sell my
skins in New London, ’cause nobody don’t know me there. I’ll be
’rested if I stay around where pap is.”

In blissful ignorance of the fact that his father, following close
behind him, had seen almost every move he made that night, Jake
lumbered on through the darkness, and at last found himself on the
“carry” that ran close by the door of Rube Royall’s humble abode.
Cautiously approaching the door, Jake pushed it open and looked in. He
could see nothing, for the fire on the hearth had gone out, and the
interior of the cabin was pitch dark. But he heard the heavy breathing
of the sleepers, and, believing that his father was among them, he
entered on tiptoe, stretched himself out on one of the beds beside his
slumbering brother, and drew a long breath of relief. The night had
been full of excitement, and the day was destined to bring more.

About eight o’clock the next morning, after breakfast had been eaten
and Rube had gone to sleep, the old woman and her boys gathered in the
wood yard in front of the house, and talked and wondered at the
prolonged absence of the head of the family. Jake appeared to be very
much concerned about him.

“Say, mam, when did you see him last?” he anxiously inquired.

“Not sence you left hum last night,” was the reply. “I didn’t think
nothin’ of your bein’ gone, ’cause I thought mebbe you had went after
more grab; but I don’t see what took the ole man away so permiscus. I
couldn’t make head or tail of the way he went snoopin’ around
yisterday, first in the house, then in the woods, an’ the next thing
you knowed you didn’t know where he was. ’Taint like him to be gone
all night in this way. Why, Jakey, what makes your face so white?”

“Dunno; less’n it’s ’cause I’m afeared the constables have got a hold
of him,” answered the boy.

“Oh, shucks!” exclaimed the old woman. “You needn’t——”

She was going to say something else but didn’t have time. Just then
hasty steps sounded on the hard path, and the three looked up to see
the missing man approaching at a rapid run. He was angry about
something, Jake could see that with half an eye, and frightened as
well.

“Git outen here!” said Matt, as soon as he could make himself heard.
“Scatter! They’re comin’!”

“Who’s comin’?” asked the old woman, who was the only one who could
speak.

“Swan, an’ all the rest of them fellers that went out to ’rest them
robbers.”

“Did they ketch ’em?”

“Now jest listen at you! Do you reckon I stopped to talk to ’em,
dog-gone ye? I dug out soon as I heard ’em comin’ through the woods.”

“Where was they?”

“Up there by the cove where our camp was burned, an’ headin’ straight
for it.”

“The cove?” gasped Jake.

“Yes, the cove, you ongrateful scamp, an’ goin’ as straight t’wards it
as they could go. They’re bound to nose out something there,” said
Matt, remembering that he must have made a good many wide and plain
trails while he was roaming around looking for Jake’s treasure, “an’
if they find them two grip-sacks that you left there last night I
wouldn’t be in them ragged clothes of your’n, Jakey, for no money in
this broad world. You are a purty chap to go an’ find six thousand
dollars an’ hide it from your pap, I do think. Now scatter out an’
make for that there cove as quick as it is safe. Then we’ll be on
their trail, ’stead of havin’ them on our’n. Jakey, stay where I can
put my hands on you when I want you.”

These words recalled the boy’s senses and brought his power of action
back to him. He did not know which he stood the most in fear of—his
father’s wrath, the probable loss of his money, or the sheriff and his
posse; but he _did_ know that he was not safe where he was, so he
caught up his rifle, which rested against a log close at hand, and
took to his heels. Sam was frightened, too, but not to the same degree
that Matt and Jake were, because he was not as guilty. He kept his
wits about him, and proved by his subsequent movements that he could
act as promptly and intelligently in a crisis as his brother could.
When Jake disappeared, and Matt and his wife ran into the cabin to
collect the few articles of value they possessed, previous to seeking
safety in flight, Sam stood and communed thus with himself:

“Beats the world, an’ I don’t begin to see through it; but how did
that Jake of our’n get them six thousand dollars that was stole outen
the Irvin’ton bank? He’s got ’em, ’cause pap said so; an’ they’re hid
somewheres near the place where our old camp used to be. Wonder if
Jakey is goin’ there now? I reckon I’d best keep an eye on him an’
find out. Why didn’t he go halvers with the rest of us, like he’d
oughter done? If I can get my hands on that money he won’t never see
it agin, I tell you.”

Jake Coyle’s brain was in such a whirl that he never once thought to
look behind him as he hurried through the woods toward the head of the
outlet; and even if he had he might not have seen Sam, who was a short
distance in his rear and keeping him constantly in sight; for Sam took
pains to cover himself with every tree and bush that came in his way.
Once he came near being caught; for Jake, recalling his angry sire’s
parting words, and apprehensive of being followed, suddenly threw
himself behind a log and watched the trail over which he had just
passed. But, fortunately for Sam, he saw the movement, rapid as it
was, and stopped in time to escape detection. A less skillful woodsman
would have lost Jake then and there, or else he would have run upon
him before he knew it.

After spending a quarter of an hour in patient waiting Jake must have
become satisfied that his fears of pursuit were groundless, for he
jumped up and again took to his heels. He kept on past the outlet,
skirted the shore of the lake until he came within a short distance of
the place where Tom Bigden and the squatter held their consultations,
and there he took to the woods and struck a straight course for the
cove, Sam following close behind.

It was ten miles to the cove by land, and all the way through timber
that had never echoed to the woodman’s ax. It was a distance that few
city-bred boys could have covered at a trot, but it was nothing to the
squatter’s sons, who would have done it any day for a dollar. Twice
while on the way did Jake try his “dropping” dodge, but Sam was too
sharp to be caught. The last time he tried it was when he was within a
stone’s throw of the cove; and then he dived into a thicket, and
waited and watched for half an hour before he made a move. Sam,
patient and tireless as an Indian, did not move, either, until he saw
Jake come out of the thicket and make his way toward the log in which
the stolen guns were concealed. He saw him take out the cases, one
after the other, and hide them in another log nearer the cove; and
while he was wondering what his brother’s object could be in doing
that the sound of voices in conversation came from the direction of
the creek, whereupon Jake fled with the greatest precipitation, hardly
daring to stop long enough to cover the end of the log with a bush
which he cut with a knife. He threw himself behind the first fallen
tree he came to, and looked cautiously over it to see what was going
to happen.

Jake thought, and so did Sam, that the voices belonged to the members
of the sheriff’s posse, who were still loitering about in the vicinity
of the cove to see what else they could find there; consequently their
surprise was great when they saw Ralph Farnsworth step out of the
evergreens with his gun on his shoulder. He stopped and looked around
when he stumbled over the bush that concealed the end of the log,
stooped over for a minute, and when he straightened up again he held
in his hands the Victoria case in which reposed the Lefever
hammerless. Then it was that Ralph sent up those excited calls to
attract the attention of his companions, who presently joined him.

If Jake and Sam had been working in harmony, they never would have
remained inactive in their places of concealment and let Tom and his
cousins carry off those guns. Jake, especially, was hopping mad. He
got upon his knees, exposing so much of his ragged clothing above the
log that he certainly would have been seen if Tom and the rest had
glanced in his direction, and shook his fists over his head.

“They’re thieves theirselves if they take them guns away,” muttered
Jake, between his clenched teeth. “I was goin’ to give ’em to Rube,
an’ tell him to buy me some shoes an’ clothes outen my shar’ of the
reward; but now I can’t have ’em. I wisht they would go off; for if
they tech them grip-sacks—”

Jake finished the sentence by pushing up his sleeves and looking
around for a club. The money was hidden but a short distance from that
very log, and if Tom and his cousins had found it Jake would have
rushed out and fought them single-handed before he would have given up
his claim to it. But things did not come to that pass. Ralph had come
upon the guns by the merest accident, and he and his friends did not
think to search for any other stolen property. They took the guns away
with them, and the minute they were out of sight Jake began to bestir
himself. He came out on his hands and knees, crawled past the empty
log, and disappeared among the bushes on the other side of it. While
Sam was trying to decide whether or not it would be quite safe to
follow him, Jake glided into view again, holding a valise under each
arm.

“There they are! Sure’s you’re born, there they are!” cried Sam, in
great excitement; and if he had uttered the words a little louder Jake
would have heard him. “Now, all I’ve got to do is to keep my eyes on
them things an’ never lose track of ’em agin.”

And Sam didn’t lose track of them, either, although Jake spent nearly
an hour in hunting up a safe hiding-place for them. He ran swiftly
from point to point, closely scrutinizing every log and thicket he
came to and stopping now and then to listen, and Sam followed him
wherever he went and saw all he did. At last Jake found a place to
suit him. A gigantic poplar had been overturned by the wind, and in
falling had pulled up a good portion of the earth in which its
far-reaching roots were embedded, thus forming a cavity so deep and
wide that Rube Royall’s cabin could have been buried in it, chimney
and all. Into this cavity Jake recklessly plunged, and when he came
out again fifteen minutes later his arms were empty. He had left the
valises behind.

“An’ he won’t never see ’em agin, nuther,” said Sam, gleefully.
“They’re mine now, an’ so is the money that’s into ’em.”

During the long hours he had spent in dogging his brother’s steps, Sam
Coyle had not been so highly excited as he was at this moment. When
Jake disappeared, apparently holding a direct course for Rube’s cabin,
Sam did not move. Impatient as he was to see the color of that money,
he was too wary to imperil his chances by doing any thing hasty.

“I can stay right yer till I get so hungry I can’t stay no longer,”
was his mental reflection; “but Jake’s got to show up purty soon,
’cause if he don’t, him an’ pap’ll have a furse. He told Jake, pap
did, that he wanted him to stay where he could get his hands onto him;
an’ when pap talks that-a-way, he means business. So I reckon Jake
will go a lumberin’ towards hum till he meets pap, an’ then he’ll
pertend that he’s been a-lookin for him.”

When this thought passed through Sam’s mind it occurred to him that he
had better not remain too long inactive, for this might be the last
opportunity he would ever have to remove the money from Jake’s
hiding-place to another of his own selection; so, after half an hour’s
waiting, Sam set himself in motion. He did not get upon his feet, nor
did he go directly toward the fallen poplar. He crawled along on his
stomach and made a wide detour, so as to approach the cavity on the
side opposite to that on which Jake had entered and left it. Of course
this took him a long time, but he made up for it by the readiness with
which he found the money when he arrived at the end of his toilsome
journey. A little prodding among the leaves at the foot of the poplar
brought the valises to light, and in ten minutes more they were hidden
in another place where Jake, when he discovered his loss, would never
think of looking for them. They were not shoved into a hollow log nor
covered up in the leaves. They were placed high among the thick
branches of an evergreen and tied fast there, so that the wind would
not shake them out.

“There,” said Sam, after he had made a circuit of the tree and viewed
it from all sides. “Nobody can’t find ’em now. They are mine, sure. I
reckon I’d best go to the cove an’ set down, ’cause pap’ll be along
directly.”

Sam had barely time to reach the cove and compose himself when Matt
put in an appearance. His first words explained why he had been so
long in getting there, and quieted the fear that suddenly sprang up in
Sam’s mind, that his father had been following him as he himself had
followed Jake.

“Haven’t I said all along that Rube wasn’t by no means the friend to
us that he pertends to be?” said the squatter, fiercely. “I didn’t run
as fur into the bresh as you boys an’ the ole woman did, but got
behind a log where I could see every thing that was done at the
shanty. I seen the sheriff’s men when they come outen the woods an’
surrounded the house, an’ purty quick along come Swan, watchin’ over
the two robbers an’ carryin’ a pistol in one hand an’ Jake’s canvas
canoe in the other. They waked Rube up, an’ he stood in the door an’
talked to ’em as friendly as you please. He showed ’em where we hid
the two skiffs we stole from Swan’s party on the day they burned our
camp at this here cove; an’ then one of the robbers an’ sheriff an’
five or six guides an’ constables got into ’em an’ pulled up to that
snag opposite Haskinses’ landin’, in the hope of findin’ them six
thousand dollars. But they had their trouble for their pains. Jakey
brought ’em up with your mam’s clothes-line last night, an’ hid ’em
somewheres around here. Seen any thing of Jake since you been here?”

“Nary thing,” replied Sam. “I was a wonderin’ why he didn’t come. You
told him to stay where you could get your hands onto him.”

“So I did, an’ this is the way he minds his pap, the ongrateful scamp.
I wanted him to meet me here an’ show me where that money is. He
needn’t think he’s goin’ to keep it all, even if he did capsize them
robbers. I’m the one who oughter have the care of it, bein’ as I’m the
head man of the house. Ain’t that so, Sammy?”

“Course it is. If I’d found it, I would have gone halvers with you.
How do you know Jake brung it up here an’ hid it?”

“’Cause I follered him. That’s what kept me out all night. I was
lookin’ for it when I heard Swan an’ the rest of the guides comin’. I
wisht Jakey would hurry up an’ come.”

“Say, pap,” exclaimed Sam. “Let’s me an’ you hunt for the money all by
ourselves. If we find it, we’ll hold fast to it an’ never give Jake a
cent to pay him for bein’ so stingy.”

“I’d like mighty well if we could do it,” answered Matt. “But I looked
high an’ low for it all last night, an’ not a thing that was shaped
like a grip-sack could I find. I’m jest done out with tiredness. You
look for it, Sammy, an’ I’ll lay down here an’ take a little sleep.”

Without waiting to hear whether or not this proposition was agreeable
to Sam, the squatter stretched his heavy frame upon the leaves, pulled
his remnant of a hat over his face and prepared for rest. Sam looked
curiously at him for a moment, then arose to his feet and disappeared.
He went straight to the log behind which Jake had concealed himself
when alarmed by Ralph Farnsworth’s approach, scraped a few leaves
together for a bed, and laid himself down upon it. But before he went
to sleep he made up his mind that he would not say a word to his
father about the loss of the guns; it would hardly be safe. Sam knew
that his father expected to make some money out of those guns, and
when he found that he could not do it, he would be apt to lose his
temper and try to take satisfaction out of somebody.

“That would be me,” soliloquized Sam, “’cause I am the nighest to his
hand. I guess I’d best pertend that I don’t know nothin’ about them
guns. Let pap find out for himself that they are gone, an’ then he’ll
think that Swan found ’em when he found the canoe.”

Having come to this decision Sam settled himself for a comfortable
nap, from which he was aroused an hour before dark by his father’s
stentorian voice. He got upon his feet and brushed the leaves from his
clothing before he answered.

“Well, what’s the use of yellin’ that-a-way an’ tellin’ Swan an’ all
the rest of the guides where you be?” shouted Sam. “Here I am.”

“Have you found the money?” asked Matt, in lower tones.

“Course not. If I had, I should ’a’ waked you up. ’Tain’t in these
here woods, pap, ’cause if there’s an inch of ’em that I ain’t peeped
into sence you’ve been asleep I don’t know where it is.”

“I tell you it is hid in these woods too,” said the squatter, angrily.
“Didn’t I foller Jake up here an’ hang around while he was hidin’ the
grip-sacks an’ the canoe?”

“Well, then was the time that you oughter jumped out an’ took it away
from him,” said Sam. “I’ll bet you the guides found it same’s they did
the canoe.”

“Now, jest listen at you! Wasn’t I hid in plain sight of them when
they was ferried acrost the outlet at the hatchery, an’ didn’t I take
pains to see that they didn’t have no grip-sacks with ’em? If I had
took it away from him by force he would have got mad an’ went an’ told
on me; don’t you see? I knowed that the only chance I had was to steal
the money unbeknownst to Jakey, an’ make him think the guides got it.
Looked in every place without findin’ it, did you? Well, there’s one
thing about it. If Jakey don’t come up here to-morrer an’ give me them
six thousand dollars, I’ll tell on him, an’ he shan’t live in my
family no longer. It’s most dark, Sammy, an’ time for me an’ you to be
a-lumberin’.”

“Where to?” inquired Sam.

“Why, to Rube’s, in course. We ain’t got no place else to go, have
we?”

“But what’s the sense in goin’ there when you know Rube ain’t friendly
to you?”

“Me an’ your mam talked it all over, an’ we know jest what we’re goin’
to do,” replied the squatter. “We’ve got to take to the woods now, an’
live like we done before Rube opened his shanty to us. We’re in danger
long’s we stay there, an’ this night will be the last one we shall
ever spend under his roof. But we’ve got to have some furnitur’ to put
into our shanty after we get it built, an’ we’ll try to get it of
Rube. I shall make enough outen them guns to buy the furnitur’, an’
then if Jake will come to his senses an’ give me the handlin’ of that
money we’ll live like fightin’ fowls; won’t we, Sammy?”

Aloud Sam said he thought they would; but to himself he said it would
be a long time before his father would have the handling of that
money. He intended to keep every dollar of it, although, for the life
of him, he could not make up his mind what he would do with it.

It was dark long before Sam and his father reached the cabin, and the
only member of the family they found there was the old woman, Rube
being at the hatchery on watch, and Jake having failed to “show up.”
That made Matt furious.

“Looks as if he meant to keep outen our way, find that money when he
gets a good ready, an’ take himself off,” exclaimed the squatter. “It
won’t work, that plan won’t. I ain’t fooled the sheriff an’ all his
constables for years an’ years to let myself be beat by one of my own
boys at last, I bet you. We’ll stay here to-night, ’cause we ain’t
nowhere else to go, an’ to-morrer we’ll buy some bed-furnitur’ an’
cookin’-dishes of Rube, an’ go to hidin’ in the woods agin. If Jakey
wants to live with us, he’d best bring them six thousand dollars with
him when he comes hum.”

The squatter went to sleep fully expecting to find the missing boy
occupying his shake-down when he awoke in the morning; but he was
disappointed. His absence alarmed Matt, who began to fear that Jake
had fallen into the hands of the constables; but a few cautious
questions propounded to Rube, when the latter came to breakfast, set
his fears on that score at rest.

“No; the sheriff didn’t ketch Jakey,” said the watchman, “but he was
clost after him, ’cause he knowed that Jakey was the chap who took the
robbers over the lake and spilled the grip-sacks into the water. How
did the sheriff find that out? The robbers told him, an’ described
Jake an’ his canoe so well that all the guides knew in a minute who
they would have to arrest. Where did Jake hide the money after he
fished it outen the lake?”

“How do you ’spose I know!” growled Matt.

“Who should know if you don’t?” replied Rube. “I seen you follerin’
him in a skiff.”

“Well,” said Matt, who saw it would be useless for him to deny it, “I
don’t know where he put the money, an’ I’m mighty sorry for it. Seen
any thing of Jake lately?”

“No, I ain’t, an’ what’s more I don’t expect to see him again very
soon, either. He’ll keep clear of me, for he knows that if I could
find him it would be my bounden dooty to take him up an’ lay claim to
part of the six hundred dollars reward. All you’ve got to do is to
make yourselves comfortable here in my house—”

“Well, we ain’t goin’ to make ourselves comfortable in your house no
longer,” interrupted Matt. “We’re thinkin’ of takin’ to the woods.”

“What for?”

“’Cause we don’t think it safe here so nigh the place the constables
come every time they go into the woods. We’d feel better if we was a
piece furder off from ’em.”

Rube carelessly inquired where his guest thought of going; but Matt
did not give him any satisfaction on that point. He thought he might
as well send word to the sheriff and be done with it. Then he broached
the subject of furniture, and found that, although Rube was quite
willing to sell what he did not need for his own use, he had one hard
condition to impose. Cash up and no trust had been his motto through
life, and he was too old to depart from it now. He wanted to see the
color of Matt’s money before he let a single thing go.

“That’s the way I’m workin’ it to keep him here till I can find them
guns,” thought the watchman, as he threw himself upon his shakedown.
“Matt ain’t got ten cents to his name; an’ where’s he goin’ to get it?
Winter’s comin’ on, an’ it would be the death of him an’ all his
family to take to the woods without something to wrap themselves up in
of nights, an’ so I reckon they’ll stay here with me for a while
longer. But I don’t know what to think about Jakey.”

Rube Royall was not the only one who did not know what to think of
him.

When the watchman took possession of his shake-down Matt Coyle and his
family, following their usual custom, adjourned to the open air and
sat on the logs in the wood-yard, smoking their pipes, talking over
their troubles, and consulting as to the means they ought to employ to
“get even” with the guides and other well-to-do people who were so
relentlessly persecuting them. On this particular morning they talked
about Jake and his unaccountable absence; that is, Matt and his wife
did the talking, and Sam sat and listened, all the while looking as
innocent as though he had never heard of the Irvington bank robbery,
or felt the weight of the two valises that contained the six thousand
stolen dollars. His brother Jake would have betrayed himself a dozen
times in as many minutes; but Sam did nothing to arouse suspicion
against him. Matt at last gave it as his opinion that Jake intended to
run away with the money, and repeated what he had said the night
before—that a man who had spent years of his life in dodging
constables was not to be beaten by one of his own boys. Then he filled
a fresh pipe and strolled off toward the hatchery. He thought that was
the safest place for him, for if the sheriff came back after Jake Matt
would see him when he signaled for a boat to take him across the
outlet, and have plenty of time to run to the cabin and warn his
family.

Of course the squatter did not show himself openly. He took up a
position from which he could see every thing that went on about the
hatchery, and smoked several pipes while he waited for something to
“turn up.” If the sheriff was looking for Jake, he certainly did not
come near the outlet; but somebody else did. It was Tom Bigden. Matt,
of course, was not aware that the boy had come there seeking an
interview with him; but when he saw him loitering about the hatchery
with no apparent object an idea suddenly popped into the squatter’s
head.

“I jest know that Bigden boy didn’t tell me the truth when he said
that him an’ his cousins was strapped for money, an’ that they would
have to go to Mount Airy before they could buy them guns of me,”
soliloquized Matt. “I’ll watch my chance to ketch him while he is on
his way to camp, an’ tell him that I can’t wait no ten days for my
money. I must have it to onct, ’cause I want to buy that furnitur’ of
Rube.”

While he was talking to himself in this way Matt got up and started
for the lake; and, as we have seen, he got there in time to intercept
Tom Bigden. So far as Matt was concerned, the interview was a most
unsatisfactory one. Tom was so very haughty and independent that the
squatter knew, before he had exchanged half a dozen words with him,
that there was “something wrong somewheres.”

When Tom paddled away, after promising to meet Matt the next morning
at seven o’clock, he left the man revolving some deep problems in his
mind. Matt never once suspected that Tom had found the guns, but he
did fear that he had found the valises that contained the bank’s
money, and the thought was enough to drive him almost frantic. As soon
as Tom was out of sight he caught up his rifle and posted off to the
cabin to see if Jake had been there during his absence; but neither
Sam nor the old woman could tell anything about him.

“I’d give every thing I’ve got in the world if I could get my hand on
that boy’s collar, for jest one minute,” cried Matt, as he stormed
about the wood-yard shaking his fists in the air. “He kalkerlates to
ruinate the whole of us by runnin’ off with them six thousand. I’ll
tell you what we’ll do, ole woman. To-morrer mornin’ at seven o’clock
I shall have money enough to buy the furnitur’ we need, an’ soon’s we
get it we’ll go up to the cove an’ camp there agin. Jake hid that
money somewheres around there, an’ if he don’t take it away to-day he
won’t never get it, for we shall be there to stop him. Don’t you
reckon that’s the best thing we can do?”

Too highly excited to remain long in one place, Matt did not stop to
hear his wife’s answer, but posted off to the cove after the guns. He
might never see a cent of the six thousand dollars, he told himself,
but the guns he was sure of.

“That Bigden boy didn’t say, in so many words, that he had fifty
dollars to pay for them, but he winked, an’ that’s as good an answer
as I want. He wouldn’t dare fool me, knowin’ as he does that I can
have him ’rested any time I feel like it. Here is where we left ’em,”
said Matt, stooping down in front of the log in which he and his boys
had concealed the property he wanted to find. “But I do think in my
soul that somebody has been here. The chunks is all scattered around
an’—yes, sir; the guns is gone.”

Matt dropped upon his hands and knees and peered into the hollow,
which he saw at a glance was empty. Then he seated himself upon the
log and took his pipe from his pocket. He did not whoop and yell, as
he usually did when things went wrong with him, for this new
misfortune fairly stunned him. His knowledge of the English language
was so limited that he could not do justice to his feelings; but by
the time he had smoked his pipe out he had made up his mind what he
would do.

“In course that Bigden boy will have the fifty dollars in his pocket
when he comes after the guns to-morrer,” said he. “So all I’ve got to
do is to get him ashore an’ take it away from him. I reckon I’ve lost
them six thousand, but I ain’t goin’ to be cheated on all sides, I bet
you. Then if he blabs, I’ll tell about his bein’ in ca-hoots with me
when I stole Joe Wayring’s canvas canoe. I reckon that’s the best
thing I can do.”

I have already told you how hard Matt tried to carry out this
programme when he met Tom Bigden on the following morning and how
signally he failed. Tom could not be induced to approach very close to
the beach, and was so wide-awake and so quick with his paddle that
Matt could not seize his canoe. The squatter’s proverbial luck seemed
to have forsaken him at last. He was being worsted at every point.

I pass over the next few days, during which little occurred that was
worthy of note. Jake Coyle kept aloof from his kindred, who had not
the faintest idea where he was or how he lived. Matt and the rest of
his family again established their camp at the cove, and they did not
go there a single day too soon; for when it became known among the
guides that the stolen guns had been found and given into Mr. Hanson’s
keeping a dozen of them plunged into the woods, intent on earning the
hundred dollars that had been offered for the squatter’s apprehension,
and ridding the country of a dangerous man at the same time. Tom
Bigden and his cousins fished a little and lounged in their hammocks a
good deal, and, having had time to become thoroughly disgusted with
camp life, were talking seriously of going home.

As bad luck would have it, the three boys went up to the Sportsman’s
Home after their mail on the same day that Mr. Swan returned from his
trip to Mount Airy. They heard him say that he had restored the canvas
canoe to his owner, that Joe Wayring was all ready to pay another
visit to Indian Lake, and that he and his two chums might be expected
to arrive at any hour. Ralph and his brother did not pay much
attention to this, for they didn’t like Joe well enough to be
interested in his movements; but Tom paid a good deal of attention to
it. He spent an hour or two the next morning in loafing about the
hatchery, and another hour on the beach waiting for Matt Coyle. That
was the time he was seen by a couple of guides and their employers,
who were camping on the opposite side of the Lake, and who had a good
deal to say about the incident when they went back to their hotel.
They saw Matt plainly when he came out of the bushes and accosted Tom,
and if they had been near enough they might have overheard the
following conversation:

“I seen you hangin’ around the hatchery, an’ thought that mebbe you
had something to say to me; so I come up yer,” said Matt, who, for
some reason, was in exceedingly good humor.

“You have been a long time coming,” was Tom’s reply. “I began to get
tired of waiting and was about to start for camp. What has come over
you all of a sudden? You are not quite as ugly as you were the last
time I saw you.”

“An’ you ain’t quite so skittish, nuther,” retorted Matt. “I couldn’t
get you to come ashore last time you was here.”

“Of course not. You meant to rob me, and I knew it. What good fortune
has befallen you now?”

“You may well ask that,” replied the squatter, sitting down on the log
and producing his never failing pipe. “I did think one spell that luck
was agin me, but now I know it ain’t. The reason I kept you waitin’ so
long for me was ’cause I run foul of Jake as I was comin’ here.”

As soon as Tom had time to recover from the surprise that these words
occasioned, he told himself that he wouldn’t be in Jake’s place for
any money.

“I ain’t sot eyes on that there boy for better’n a week, an’ you can’t
begin to think how tickled I was to see him,” continued Matt. “He’s
been livin’ tol’able hard since he’s been away from hum, an’ I reckon
it’ll do him good to get a jolly tuck-out onct more.”

The squatter might have added that he and his family had also lived
tolerable hard during Jake’s absence. They had put themselves on half
rations, trying to make their bacon and potatoes last as long as
possible, for when their larder was empty they did not know where the
next supply was coming from.

“What did you do to Jake when you ran foul of him?” inquired Tom.

“What did I do to him? Why should I want to do any thing to him,
seein’ that he has come hum to show me where them six thousand is hid?
I jest tied him hard an’ fast, so’t I could easy find him agin, an’
left him in the bresh behind Rube’s cabin with the ole woman watchin’
over him to see that he don’t get loose,” replied Matt, with a grin.
“Did you want to say any thing to me?”

“I thought it might interest you to know that your friend Joe Wayring
is coming back to Indian Lake, and that he will probably bring Jake’s
canoe with him,” answered Tom.

“Is _that_ all?” exclaimed Matt, knocking the ashes from his pipe and
glaring fiercely at the boy. “Have you made me tramp three or four
miles through the woods jest to tell me that? I don’t care for Joe
Wayring an’ his ole boat now. They can go where they please an’ do
what they have a mind to, so long’s they keep clear of me. I wisht I
hadn’t come. Jakey an’ me might have been most up to the cove where
the money is hid by this time.”

Seeing that Matt was disposed to get angry at him for the time he had
wasted and the long tramp he had taken for nothing, Tom stepped into
his canoe and shoved off, while the squatter disappeared in the woods,
grumbling as he went. He took the shortest course for the outlet, and
in the thickest part of the woods, a short distance in the rear of the
watchman’s cabin, found his wife keeping guard over the helpless Jake,
who was so tightly wrapped in ropes that he could scarcely move a
finger. The woman had accompanied Matt to the hatchery with the
intention of begging a few eatables of Rube; but, finding him fast
asleep, she helped herself to every thing she could find in the house,
without taking the trouble to awaken him. When Matt came suddenly upon
Jake in the woods and made a prisoner of him before he had time to
think twice, his mother was on hand to stand sentry over him.

“That Bigden boy made me go miles outen my way an’ lose two or three
hours besides, jest ’cause he wanted to tell me that Joe Wayring is
comin’ back to Injun Lake directly,” said the squatter, in response to
his wife’s inquiring look. “Jest as if I cared for him when there’s
six thousand dollars waitin’ for me. Now, Jakey, what brung you to the
hatchery? I ain’t had a chance to ask you before.”

“I come to git some grub, for I’m nigh starved to death,” said Jake,
and his pinched face and sunken eyes bore testimony to the truth of
his words. “I allowed to take one of the skiffs that we stole from
Swan and his crowd, an’ go up to the lake an’ rob another suller.”

“Well, you wouldn’t have found the skiffs, even if I hadn’t collared
you before you knowed I was within a mile of you,” answered Matt.
“Rube told the guides where we hid ’em, an’ they took ’em off the same
day they carried away your canvas canoe. But I’m glad you come after
one of ’em, for it brung you plump into the arms of your pap, who has
been waitin’ for more’n a week for you to came an’ show him where you
hid them six thousand dollars. Be you ready to do it now, Jakey?”

“I allers kalkerlated to do it,” replied Jake. “Sure hope to die, I
did.”

“I’m glad to hear it; but I’d been gladder if you had brung the money
to me the minute you found it. Untie his feet, ole woman, an’ we’ll go
back to camp.”

“An’ my hands, too,” added Jake.

“You don’t need your hands to walk with,” said Matt.

“But I need ’em to keep the bresh from hittin’ me in the face while we
are goin’ through the woods, don’t I?”

“Oh, shucks! The lickin’ you’ll get from the bresh won’t be a patchin’
to the one you’ll get from me if we don’t find them grip-sacks
tol’able easy,” replied Matt in significant tones. “Now, you go on
ahead, takin’ the shortest cut, an’ me an’ yer mam’ll foller.”

Having helped the boy to his feet, Matt waved his hand toward the
cove, as if he were urging a hound to take up a trail, and Jake
staggered off. I say staggered, because he was too weak to move with
his usual springy step. When his strength failed through long fasting,
his courage also left him, and Jake had at last determined that if he
could secure one of the skiffs he would take the money to Indian Lake
and give it up to the sheriff. He was afraid to surrender it to his
father, because he knew that Matt would thrash him for not giving it
up before. His father came upon him suddenly while he was making his
way around the hatchery toward the place where the skiffs had been
concealed, and Jake, too weak to run and too spiritless to resist, was
easily made captive. He was very hungry, and repeatedly begged his
father to untie his hands and give him a slice off the loaf of bread
that he could see in the bundle the old woman carried on her arm; but
Matt would not listen to him.

“Show us the money first, Jakey,” was his invariable reply, “an’ then
you shall have all you want. But not a bite do you get till I feel the
heft of them grip-sacks. ’Tain’t likely that I’ll go outen my way to
please a ongrateful scamp of a boy who finds six thousand dollars an’
hides it from his pap.”

The long ten-mile tramp through the woods exhausted the last particle
of Jake Coyle’s strength, and when he led his father to the brink of
the cavity at the foot of the poplar he wilted like a blade of grass
that had been struck by the frost.

“Is it in there?” cried Matt, excitedly.

“Yes; clear down to the bottom, clost up under the roots of the tree,”
said Jake, faintly. “Now, mam, untie my hands an’ give me a blink of
that bread, can’t ye?”

The woman, who was not quite so heartless as her husband, thought she
might safely comply with the request. Jake could not have got up a
trot to save his life; but he had strength enough to eat, and the way
Rube’s bread and cold fried bacon disappeared before his attacks was
astonishing. He ate until his mother called a halt and reminded him
that if he kept on there wouldn’t be anything left over for supper.

Meanwhile Matt was working industriously, almost frantically,
expecting every moment that the stick with which he was making the
leaves fly in all directions would strike one of the valises. In a
very short space of time the ground about the roots of the tree was as
bare as the back of his hand, but nothing was to be seen of the money.
Having taken the sharp edge off his appetite, Jake began showing some
interest in the proceedings, and the longer his father worked, the
wider his eyes opened.

“You don’t seem to throw out nothing, pap,” said he, at last.

“I know I don’t,” answered Matt. “But you will seem to feel something
if I don’t find it directly, for I’ll lick ye good fashion.”

“As sure’s you live an’ breathe, pap, I hid it there, clost under the
roots of that tree,” said Jake, who was almost overwhelmed with
astonishment. “I can’t for the life of me think what’s went with it.”

“Mebbe you can after you’ve had a hickory laid over your back a few
times,” replied Matt. “I’ve heard tell that a good lickin’ goes a long
ways in stirrin’ up a boy’s ideas.”

Just then a new actor appeared upon the scene. It was Sam Coyle, who
had been left in camp to watch over things during the absence of his
father and mother. While dozing over the fire he heard and recognized
his father’s voice, and came out to see what he was doing. He took
care to pass the tree in which the valises were hidden, and to look
among the branches to make sure that they were still there.

“Hallo, Jakey,” said he, in a surprised tone. “Where did you drop down
from? What be you lookin’ for, pap?”

“Jakey allowed that he come hum to show me where them six thousand was
hid; but it’s my idee that he come a purpose to get his jacket dusted,
’cause the money ain’t here,” replied Matt. “Jakey oughter know better
than to try to fool his pap that a-way.”

“I ain’t tryin’ to fool you,” protested Jake. “I put the grip-sacks
into that hole, an’ I don’t see where they be now.”

“If he is tryin’ to make a fule of his pap, he deserves a lickin’,”
continued Matt, paying no sort of attention to Jake. “An’ if he hid
the money here, an’ somebody come along an’ found it, he had oughter
have a lickin’ for that, too, to pay him for not givin’ it up to me
the minute he got it.”

As the squatter said this he threw down the stick with which he had
been turning over the leaves, climbed out of the hole and began
looking for a switch. Jake saw that things were getting serious, and
so did Sam. It is doubtful if the latter would have revealed the
hiding-place of the money to save his brother from punishment, but
still he did not want to see him whipped.

“Look a here, pap,” said Jake, desperately. “I told you honest when I
said I put the grip-sacks at the root of that there tree. You can
pound me if you want to, but it’ll be wuss for you if you do.”

There was something in the tone of his voice that made Matt pause and
look at him. “What do you reckon you’re goin’ to do?” said he.

“In the first place, I shan’t steal no grub to feed a pap who pounds
me for jest nothin’,” replied the boy.

“I ain’t a-goin’ to pound you for nothin’. I’m goin’ to pay you for
not givin’ me the money.”

“An’ in the next place I shan’t stay with you no longer,” continued
Jake. “I’ll go down to one of them hotels an’ tell every thing I
know.”

“Whoop!” yelled Matt, jumping up and knocking his heels together.
“Then you’ll be took up for a thief.”

“I don’t care. I’ll be took up some time, most likely, an’ it might as
well be this week as next. I ain’t to blame ’cause the money ain’t
where I left it, an’ I won’t be larruped for it nuther.”

Matt was in a quandary, and he could not see any way to get out of it
without lowering his dignity. According to his way of thinking Jake
deserved punishment for the course he had pursued, but Matt dared not
administer it for fear that the boy would take revenge on him in the
manner he had threatened. At this juncture Sam came to his assistance.

“Look a yer, pap,” said he. “You was hid in the bresh where you could
see the sheriff an’ his crowd when they crossed the outlet on the
mornin’ they stole Jake’s canoe, wasn’t you? Well, couldn’t you have
seen the gun-cases if they had ’em in their hands?”

Matt said he thought he could.

“You didn’t see ’em, did you? Then don’t that go to prove that the
guides didn’t find the guns when they found the canoe? Somebody else
took ’em, an’ the money, too.”

“Who do you reckon it was?”

“I’ll bet it was that Bigden crowd.”

“I’ll bet it was too,” exclaimed Jake, catching at the suggestion as
drowning men catch at straws. Of course he knew that Tom and his
cousins carried off the guns, for he had seen them do it; but he dared
not say so, for fear that his father would punish him for permitting
it. Where the money went was a question that was altogether too deep
for him. Matt was so impressed by Sam’s answer that he found it
necessary to sit down and fill and light his pipe.

“I’ll bet it was, too,” said he, when he had taken a few long whiffs.
“I thought that Bigden boy was mighty sot up an’ independent the
second time I seen him, an’ he could afford to be, knowin’, as he did,
that I couldn’t perduce the guns. Now what’s to be done about it?”

“Why can’t we take a run down to their camp to-morrer an’ see what
they’ve got in it?” said Jake. “Of course we’ll have to swim to get on
their side of the creek—”

“An’ jest for the reason that we ain’t got no boat,” snarled Matt.
“That’s what comes of my givin’ that canoe to you ’stead of keepin’ it
for my own. You hid it where they could find it, but I would have took
better care of it. Now, le’s go to camp an’ eat some of the grub that
the ole woman helped herself to in Rube’s cabin. Jake, I’ll let you
off till to-morrer, an’ I won’t tech you at all if we find the money
an’ guns in Bigden’s camp; but if we don’t find ’em I’ll have to do a
pap’s dooty by you.”

Jake, glad to have even a short respite, made no reply, but he did
some rapid thinking.

Now it so happened that Tom and his cousins were not at home when Matt
Coyle and his young allies visited their camp on the following day.
They had gone to Indian Lake after their mail. Contrary to their usual
custom they all went, each one of the party declaring, with some
emphasis, that he was sick and tired of acting as camp-keeper, while
his companions were off somewhere enjoying themselves, and wouldn’t do
it any more because it was not necessary. They could take their most
valuable things with them in their canoes and the rest could be
concealed. The result of this arrangement was that when the squatter
and his boys found the camp they found nothing else.

This was the day that Joe Wayring and his chums arrived at Indian
Lake, and Tom and his friends found them standing on the beach,
talking with Mr. Swan, as I have recorded. After exchanging a few
common-place remarks with the new-comers, Tom kept on toward the
hotel.

“I see Joe has brought his canvas canoe back with him,” observed Tom.
“If Matt Coyle knew it how long do you think it would be before he
would manage to steal it again?”

“I hope you won’t put him up to it,” said Loren. “You once got
yourself into a bad scrape by doing that, and it was more by good luck
than good management that you wriggled out of it.”

“I haven’t forgotten it,” replied Tom, with a light laugh. “I assure
you that I shall have no more suggestions to make to Matt Coyle; but I
do wish he could make things so hot for Wayring and his party that
they couldn’t stay here. They haven’t forgotten how to be mean, have
they? They wouldn’t tell us where they were going to find
trout-fishing, so we will watch and find out for ourselves.”

When Tom’s letters, which came addressed to the care of the
Sportsman’s Home, were handed out he found that one of them contained
a request for his immediate return to Mount Airy. Some of his New
London friends were at his father’s house, and if Tom and his cousins
wished to see them they had better come home without delay.

“Well, I’d as soon go to-morrow as next day, for I am tired of life in
the woods,” said Tom. “If we had only brought our blankets and
provisions along, we could have made a start from here; but as we
didn’t do it some one will have to go to camp for them. It won’t be
necessary for all to go, so I propose that we draw lots to see who
goes and who stays.”

Without waiting to hear from the others on the subject, Tom arranged
three sticks of different lengths in his closed hands, saying, as he
held them out to Loren,

“The one who gets the shortest stick is elected.”

Loren and Ralph made selection, and Tom was left with the shortest
stick in his hand. Of course he was mad about it. He always was when
he was beaten.

Continue Reading

MORE TROUBLE FOR TOM BIGDEN

Let us now return to Tom Bigden, whom we last saw paddling
disconsolately toward the camp where he had left his cousins, Ralph
and Loren Farnsworth, a short half hour before. Tom had expected to
spend a pleasant forenoon at the hatchery, taking lessons in
fish-culture; but his interview with Matt Coyle had knocked that in
the head. The squatter’s astounding proposition, taken in connection
with the dreadful things he had threatened to do in case his victim
failed to comply with his demands, had opened Tom’s eyes to the
disagreeable fact that he had over-reached himself by yielding to his
insane desire to take vengeance on Joe Waring. He knew he could not
enjoy himself at the hatchery with the fear of exposure and disgrace
hanging over him, so he started for camp at his best paddling pace to
ask Ralph and Loren what he should do about it.

“When a fellow like Matt Coyle can lay commands upon me and threaten
me with punishment if I do not obey them—by gracious! Is it possible
for me to get any lower down in the world? I wish I had never heard of
that Joe Wayring. Every thing seems to go smoothly with him without an
effort on his part, but, no matter how hard I try, every thing goes
wrong with me. Did any body ever hear of such luck?”

Tom was angry now as well as frightened, and, what seemed strange to
me when I heard of it, he blamed Joe Wayring, and not himself, for the
troubles he had got into. He must have brought a very black face into
camp with him, for when he ran the bow of his canoe upon the beach in
front of the grove where Loren and Ralph were idling away the time in
their hammocks the former called out:

“Hallo! who are you mad at now?”

“Everybody,” snarled Tom. “Say, Ralph, you remember that after our
interview with the squatter, on the day the constable drove him out of
Mount Airy, you declared that you wouldn’t have had it happen for any
thing, don’t you?”

“I remember it perfectly,” replied Ralph. “I was afraid that trouble
of some sort would grow out of it, and judging from the looks of your
face my fears have been realized. What’s up?”

“That was the first interview I held with Matt Coyle, but I am sorry
to say it wasn’t the last,” continued Tom.

“Have you seen him to-day?” exclaimed Loren.

“I have, and I tell you he’s got me in a box. But hold on a minute. I
want to let you into a secret. It was I who put it into his head to
steal Joe Wayring’s canvas canoe.”

“There,” said Ralph, shaking his finger at his brother. “What did I
tell you?”

“That’s no secret at all,” answered Loren. “We were satisfied from the
first that you knew all about it. You looked very surprised and
innocent, and I know you were mad when you discovered that Matt had
robbed you as well as the rest of us; but you didn’t play your part
well enough to ward off all suspicion.”

These words added to Tom’s fears. “Do you think Joe suspected me?” he
inquired.

“If he did, he made no sign,” replied Loren. “Perhaps one reason why
Ralph and I suspected you was because we could read you better than
Joe could. Well, what of it?”

“Well,” said Tom, desperately, “Matt Coyle tells me that, as an
accessory before the fact, I am liable to punishment at the hands of
the law. That is what he is working on. You have heard that he stole a
couple of valuable guns from an unguarded camp a few weeks ago. There
has been a reward of one hundred dollars offered for the recovery of
those guns, and, as Matt dare not take them up to the Sportsman’s Home
himself, he demands that I shall act as his agent, and share the
reward with him.”

“Demands?” repeated Loren.

“But before he will give the guns into my possession, I must pay him
fifty dollars, cash in hand,” added Tom. “Yes, sir; he _demands_ that
I shall do this under penalty of being denounced to the officers of
the law.”

“Whew!” whistled Ralph. “Here _is_ a go!”

“That Matt Coyle has more cheek than you showed on the day of the
canoe meet, when you purposely capsized Prank Noble and claimed foul
on it,” said Loren. “Are you going to give him the money?”

“He’ll have to; he can’t get out of it. But here’s where the trouble
is going to come in,” said Ralph, who was by no means thick-headed if
he did hate books. “The minute Tom gives him fifty dollars for those
guns, that minute he puts himself completely in the villain’s power.”

“That was the way I looked at it,” said Tom. “But what can I do? What
would you do if you were in my place?”

“The sight of those fifty dollars will show that lazy Matt how he can
make a very nice income without doing a stroke of work,” continued
Ralph. “He’ll go on stealing, and as fast as he accumulates property
he will make Tom buy it of him, no matter whether there is a reward
offered for it or not. There is only one thing you can do. You had
better start for home bright and early to-morrow morning, get fifty
dollars of your father, if he will give it to you, hand it over to
Matt as soon as you can find him, and then shake the dust of the
Indian Lake country from your feet forever, or at least until that
squatter has been placed behind prison bars.”

“But Matt says I need not hope to escape him by going home,” said Tom.
“He reminded me that a constable can catch me in Mount Airy as easily
as he can here.”

“That’s so,” assented Ralph, “but what other show have you? When you
give him the money you will put him in good humor, and I don’t think
he will denounce you until he has had some sort of a row with you. You
must keep him good-natured.”

“And the only way I can do that is by keeping his pockets full,” said
Tom, with a groan. “I won’t do it. I’ll give him the fifty dollars,
because I can’t help myself; and when I part from him he will never
see me again. My supply of spending money is not as generous as it
might be, and Matt shall not see a dollar of it.”

“Here’s another point,” said Loren, swinging himself from his hammock.
“Matt is going to be arrested some day, and what assurance have we
that he won’t tell all he knows?”

“We haven’t any,” said Tom, fiercely; and then, to the surprise of
both his cousins, he broke out into the wildest kind of a tirade
against Joe Wayring and every body who was a friend to him. Knowing
that they could not stop him, they let him go on and talk himself out
of breath.

“I’d like to see something happen to that boy, for if it hadn’t been
for him and his chums I never would have been in this fix,” said Tom,
at last. “Because we wouldn’t toady to them, they slammed the door of
the archery club in our faces, and went against us in every way they
knew how. Well, it is a long lane that has no turning, and we may come
out at the top of the heap yet. Will you fellows stand by me? I mean
will you go home with me, and come back when I get the money?”

Ralph and Loren gave it as their opinion that their cousin Tom ought
to know better than to ask such a question. Hadn’t they always stood
by him, through thick and thin, and made common cause with him against
every one he did not like? Of course they would stay with him until
his trouble with Matt Coyle was settled, and do all they could to help
him.

“I’m glad to hear it, for I should dreadfully hate to be left to
myself in an emergency like this,” said Tom. “But we haven’t a single
hour to lose. Matt said he would give me ten days to go to Mount Airy
and return, and we ought to start to-morrow. Which one of you will go
to the hotel with me after a supply of grub?”

“Let Ralph go,” said Loren. “He’s treasurer. I will stay here and look
out for things about the camp, and perhaps I shall be able to think up
some way for you to wriggle out of Matt Coyle’s clutches.”

Ralph, weary of loafing about the camp and glad of an opportunity to
stretch his arms, readily agreed to accompany his cousin to the
Sportsman’s Home and buy the provisions they would need while on their
way to Mount Airy. The two set out at once, and when they came back at
dark they had a startling story to tell the camp-keeper. The Irvington
bank had been robbed of six thousand dollars, and the thieves had been
traced to Indian Lake.

“I should think there were rascals enough here already,” said Loren,
after he had listened to all the particulars.

“They keep coming in all the while,” replied Ralph, “and the landlords
don’t like it very well. It’s hurting their business. The sportsmen,
especially those who have women and children with them, are leaving as
fast as they can pack up. We’ll be off to-morrow, and I hope we shall
never come here for another outing. Tom, are you sure you can take us
straight to the creek that leads from the pond to the Indian river?
You know we told you that, in the absence of a guide, we should depend
on you to show us the way home.”

“Don’t be uneasy,” was Tom’s confident answer. “I have a good many
landmarks to go by, and I’ll not take you an inch out of a direct
line.”

Of course there was but one thing talked about around that camp fire
between supper time and the hour for retiring, and that was the
attempt on the part of Matt Coyle to make a receiver of stolen
property out of Tom Bigden. The longer they dwelt upon it the darker
Tom’s prospects seemed to become. The fear of what the squatter could
do, if he made up his mind to be ugly, effectually banished sleep from
their eyes for the greater part of the night; and the consequence was
that when they arose from their beds of browse the next morning they
were too cross and snappish to be civil to one another. During the
time that was consumed in cooking and eating breakfast, packing the
canoes, and getting under way, they did not speak half a dozen words
aloud; but they all kept up a good deal of thinking, and no doubt it
was while Tom was in a fit of abstraction that he lost his way. At any
rate, he left the lake at least two miles below the point at which he
ought to have left it. He turned into the creek up which Matt Coyle
and his boys fled on the morning following their encounter with Joe
Wayring and his chums, and Ralph and Loren blindly followed his lead.
Not until they made a landing, about two o’clock in the afternoon, to
eat their lunch, did Tom begin to suspect that he was a little out of
his reckoning. If they had come there a few hours sooner, they would
have seen Mr. Swan and his party; for, as luck would have it, they had
landed within a short distance of Matt Coyle’s old camp.

“I am obliged to confess that I am any thing but a trustworthy guide
for this neck of the woods,” said Tom, after he had looked in vain for
some of the landmarks of which he had spoken the day before. “I don’t
think I ever saw this place until this moment.”

“Well, I am sure I have,” said Loren. “On our way down we camped
within sight of that leaning tree over there. Didn’t we, Ralph?”

“I think so. I am quite sure I shot at an eagle on that same leaning
tree. You fellows fix the lunch, and I will very soon find out whether
I am right or wrong,” said Ralph, getting upon his feet and shoving a
cartridge into each barrel of his gun. “If this is the place I think
it is, I shall find a little clearing back here about a hundred yards,
grown up to briers. Don’t you remember we picked a few berries there
on the way down?”

“I haven’t forgotten about the berries, but I don’t think you will
find that or any other clearing in these thick woods,” answered Tom.
“But go ahead and look, and we will have the lunch ready by the time
you get back.”

Ralph shouldered his gun and disappeared among the evergreens. He was
gone about ten minutes, and then Tom and Loren heard him calling to
them in an excited voice.

“Oh, fellows! Oh, fellows!” shouted Ralph. “Come here. Come as quick
as you know how.”

Tom and his cousin were in no hurry to obey this peremptory summons.
They did not know what they might find back there in the bushes. Their
faces turned white, and the hands with which they pushed the
cartridges into their guns trembled visibly.

“Are you coming?” cried Ralph, impatiently.

“What have you found?” Loren managed to ask, in reply.

“Something that will make you open your eyes,” was the answer. “But it
won’t hurt you. Why don’t you come on?”

These reassuring words brought Tom and Loren to their feet and took
them into the evergreens; but it was not without fear and trembling
that they slowly worked their way toward the place from which Ralph’s
voice sounded, nor did they neglect to hold themselves in readiness to
take to their heels the instant they saw any thing alarming. They
reached Ralph’s side at last, and were astonished beyond measure to
find him holding a Victoria gun-case in one hand and an elegant
double-barrel hammerless in the other. As they came up he raised the
hand that held the case, directing their attention to a finely
finished Winchester rifle that rested against a log near by.

“What’s the meaning of this? Where did you find them?” exclaimed Tom,
as soon as he had found his tongue.

Before speaking Ralph stepped to the end of the log and pointed to the
hollow in it. Then he picked up a bush that appeared to have been
lately cut, and laid it across the opening.

“That’s the way it was when I came along here a few minutes ago,” said
he. “I stumbled against something, and when I looked to see what it
was I found that I had kicked this bush away and exposed the opening.
As I was searching for that blackberry-patch, and nothing else, I was
about to pass on, when something glittering caught my eye. It was the
buckle on this gun-case. That’s my answer to your second question,
Tom. In reply to your first, I say: It means that you need have no
further trouble with Matt Coyle, and you needn’t ask your father for
that money.”

“Do—do you think these are the stolen guns?” stammered Tom.

“Of course they are,” said Loren, confidently. “That one by the log is
a Winchester, and I see the name Lefever on this. I tell you, old
fellow, you are in luck.”

“For once in my life I believe I am,” said Tom, taking the
double-barrel from his cousin’s hand and giving it a good looking
over. “Seen any signs of the berry-patch, Ralph?”

“Never a sign.”

“And you won’t see any in this part of the country, either,” answered
Tom. “We missed our way, and that was a very fortunate thing for me.
I’ve got the weather-gauge of Matt Coyle now. Let’s eat our lunch and
start back for our old camp.”

So saying Tom shouldered the Lefever hammerless and turned his face
toward the creek, Loren following with the Victoria case in his hand,
and Ralph bringing up the rear with the Winchester. They had many a
hearty laugh at Matt Coyle’s expense, but when they sat down to lunch
they began to look at the matter seriously.

“You’ve got the upper hand of him now, and you want to keep it,” said
Ralph. “I don’t think it would be quite safe for you to defy him.”

“By no means,” replied Tom. “I have no intention of doing any thing of
the sort. I shall have an interview with him at the earliest possible
moment, and tell him when he produces the guns I will give him his
money. I can’t be expected to fill my part of the contract until he
fills his; and that’s something he can’t do, thanks to Ralph. Why,
boys, I feel as if I had got rid of an awful load.”

For the first time since he came to Mount Airy to live Tom Bigden was
perfectly happy. According to his way of looking at it, he had turned
the tables on the squatter very neatly, and any sensible boy would
have said that the best thing he could do was to keep clear of that
low fellow in future. But he did not do it. Scarcely a week passed
away before his hatred for Joe Wayring led him into a worse scrape
than the one from which he had just been extricated by his cousin’s
lucky discovery.

I must not forget to say that while the boys were lounging about on
the bank of the creek, eating their bacon and cracker, there was
something going on in the woods behind them. Every thing they did
while they were standing beside that hollow log, examining the guns
that had been found in it, was seen, and every word they uttered had
been overheard by a young ragamuffin who was concealed within less
than a stone’s throw of them. Ralph Farnsworth had come upon him so
suddenly that he did not have time to run far. He shook both his fists
in the air and gnashed his teeth with rage when he saw Tom and his
cousins walk away with the guns in their possession, and as soon as
they were out of sight he came from his place of concealment and crept
toward the log on all-fours. But he did not stop there. He simply
glanced at the hollow as he passed and presently disappeared in a
thicket on the opposite side. When he came into view again he was
closely hugging two small valises, one under each arm. The angry scowl
was gone from his face, and he was grinning broadly and going through
a variety of uncouth antics, expressive, no doubt, of great
satisfaction and delight. He stopped and listened, and the sounds that
came to his ears told him that Tom Bigden and his companions were
shoving off in their canoes and heading down the creek toward the
lake. When their voices died away in the distance he bent himself
almost double, and moved off with long, noiseless strides.

The three canoeists reached their camp in the grove long before dark,
for the swift current in the creek helped them along at the rate of
three miles an hour. Tom’s first care was to make sure of the guns;
and these he at once proceeded to hide in the thick branches of an
evergreen, while his cousins cut wood, made the fire, and cooked the
supper. They had brought very light hearts back with them, but one of
their number, at least, did not sleep any the better for it. It was
Tom, who grew uneasy every time he thought of the coming interview
with the squatter, which he hoped to bring about on the following day.
How was it going to end? That was the question Tom kept asking
himself, and when he saw the day breaking, after an almost sleepless
night, he had not found a satisfactory answer to it.

“I suppose we ought to go to the Sportsman’s Home at once and give
those guns up,” said Loren, as he raked the coals together and threw
on an armful of fresh fuel. “We’ll not touch the reward, of course.”

“Certainly not,” replied Ralph. “But I would freely give a hundred
dollars, if I had it, to see Matt Coyle shut up for a long term of
years.”

“But he will have a trial before he is shut up, and there is no
knowing what secrets he may tell while that trial is in progress,”
said Loren.

“You don’t know how that thought worries me,” said Tom. “It is on my
mind continually. I wish you fellows wouldn’t give up the guns until I
have seen Matt.”

“What good will it do to keep them?” asked Loren.

“I don’t know that it will do any good; but I should like to be with
you when you hand them over to Mr. Hanson. I can’t go up to the
Sportsman’s Home to-day, for I have a most disagreeable piece of work
to do first. The sooner I get that off my hands, the sooner I shall
feel easy.”

Tom ate but little breakfast, for he seemed to have lost all desire
for food. He drank a cup of coffee, and then arose to his feet and
said good-by, adding, as he pushed his canoe from the beach and
stepped into it—

“I shall have something to tell you when I come back. I don’t know
whether it will be good or bad, but when I see you again I shall know
more than I do now.”

“Where are you going?”

“Down to the hatchery. It was while I was on my way there day before
yesterday that I met Matt. I have an idea that he hangs out somewhere
in that neighborhood.”

Tom passed a very pleasant hour with the superintendent, who showed
him every thing of interest there was to be seen about the hatchery,
and took much pains to make all the little details of the science
clear to him, even going back to the time of the Romans, among whom,
it is stated by several writers, the art approached a remarkable
degree of perfection; but it is doubtful if Tom knew any more about
fishes when he went away than he did when he came. He was thinking of
Matt Coyle, to whom the superintendent incidentally referred daring
the progress of the conversation.

“When we first came here, of course we were empty-handed,” said he.
“We set the traps in the outlet to catch fish so that we could get
their eggs; but a few vagabonds of the Coyle stamp made it their
business to cut our nets almost as fast as we could put them in. When
we threatened to have them arrested, they replied that we had better
let them alone or they would set fire to the hatchery. They said they
would fish where they pleased, and nobody should stop them; but they
have thought better of it, and don’t bother us any now. Matt Coyle and
his boys are the worst of the lot. They steal every thing they eat and
wear, but so far they have not interfered with us. When they do, we
shall have them arrested, Hanson or no Hanson.”

“What has he to do with it?” inquired Tom. “Doesn’t he want them to be
arrested?”

“Not just yet; not until he has recovered two stolen guns Matt has in
his possession,” answered the superintendent. “That is a matter of
dollars and cents to both the hotels at the lake, for if those guns
are not restored to their owners the landlords will be ruined.”

“Perhaps if he were shut up for a while he would lose heart, and tell
where the guns could be found,” suggested Tom.

“Swan and the other guides who know him think differently. That was my
idea, and I urged it upon the guides, for I wanted that villain and
all his tribe out of my way. But Swan says Matt is a man who can’t be
driven. However, Rube has his eye on him, and perhaps he will discover
something one of these days.”

“Who is Rube?” asked Tom.

“Our watchman. He used to be one of Hanson’s guides; but he proved too
lazy for the business, so Hanson induced us to bring him down here to
watch the hatchery and act as spy upon Matt’s movements at the same
time. When Swan and his friends destroyed Matt’s camp Rube took him
into his house. He and his family are there now, and Rube is trying
the best he knows how to get into their confidence so that they will
tell him where these guns are concealed. I ought, perhaps, to say that
three members of the family are at Rube’s house now. Where the other
is no one seems to know. Yesterday morning the sheriff made an attempt
to arrest Jake, but the family got warning in time, took to the woods,
and Jake hasn’t come back yet.”

“What had he been doing?” inquired Tom, who was much more interested
in this than he was in the science of fish-culture.

“You heard about the Irvington bank robbery, didn’t you? Well, every
thing goes to prove that the six thousand dollars the thieves secured
is now in Jake Coyle’s hands.”

This was the most astounding piece of news that Tom Bigden had ever
listened to. “How did Jake get hold of it?” he asked.

“Well, the sheriff summoned a posse, caught the robbers after a short
chase, and they told him that the boy they hired to ferry them over
the lake, and who was robbing a cellar when they first spoke to him,
capsized them on purpose and spilled the money out into the water. You
see Jake caught a glimpse of the money when one of the robbers opened
his valise to pay him the five dollars he demanded for ferrying them
over, and made up his mind to have it for his own.”

“I had no idea Jake Coyle was smart enough to do a thing like that,”
said Tom, who could scarcely credit his ears. “Do you believe the
story?”

“Why, the guides tell me that the whole family are sharper than steel
traps. Of course I believe the story. On the way home the sheriff ran
upon a canvas canoe that Matt stole from Joe Wayring up in Sherwin’s
Pond, and the robbers recognized it the minute it was put together as
the one in which they had started to cross the lake. When the sheriff
heard this he knew at once that the ferryman was Jake Coyle, and
nobody else, for he is the one who steals all the grub for the family.
When they came here to be set across the outlet they surrounded Rube’s
house with the intention of arresting Jake, but he and the rest had
been warned, as I told you, and could not be found. After that the
sheriff took one of the robbers up the lake to point out the snag on
which Jake capsized the canvas canoe, but the money wasn’t there.”

“Have you any idea what had become of it?”

“I haven’t the least doubt that Jake went up there night before last,
dived for the valises and took them off in the woods and hid them.
That is what the sheriff thinks, and it is the plan he is working on.”

“I am glad I went to the hatchery this morning,” thought Tom, as he
pulled slowly toward camp after thanking the accommodating official
for the pains he had taken to teach him something. “I have had a good
time, and I have heard one or two things that may be of use to me.”

While on his way from his camp to the hatchery Tom Bigden had kept as
close to the beach as the depth of the water would permit, looking
everywhere for Matt Coyle, but without seeing any thing of him. Better
luck, however, awaited him on his return, for when he came opposite to
a lonely part of the beach, near the spot on which their former
interview was held, he saw the squatter step cautiously out the bushes
and beckon to him. No doubt the man was surprised at the readiness
with which Tom brought his canoe around and headed it for the shore.

“Say,” exclaimed Matt, when Tom had come within speaking distance.
“I’m powerful glad to see you, ’cause I want to let you know that I
can’t wait no ten days for them fifty dollars. I must have it to
onct.”

“What’s your hurry?” asked Tom. He did not exhibit any signs of anger,
although the man was even more peremptory and domineering than he had
been before. Tom knew that the squatter’s triumph would be of short
duration, and he could afford to let him be as insolent as he pleased.

“I’m goin’ to buy some furnitur’ of Rube, an’ he won’t let it go
less’n he gets the cash in his hands first,” answered Matt.

“What do you want of furniture while you are living in Rube’s house?
Why can’t you use his?”

“How do you happen to know that I am livin’ into Rube’s house?”
demanded the squatter, opening his eyes.

“Why, every body knows it,” replied Tom, carelessly. “It is pretty
well known, too, that you narrowly escaped capture when the sheriff’s
posse surrounded that house the other morning. Where are you living
now, and what has become of Jake?”

“Say,” replied Matt, speaking in the confidential tone that had so
exasperated Tom on a former occasion. “I don’t mind telling you all
about it. Things is gettin’ too public around Rube’s house to suit us,
an’, besides, we don’t think he’s the friend to us that he pertends to
be; so we’re goin’ to take to the bresh, an’ there we’re goin’ to
stay. I want some chairs an’ bed fixin’s to furnish my shanty, when I
get it built. Rube’s got ’em, but he wants the ready money for ’em. I
seen you when you was down there to the hatchery, an’ that’s the
reason I come up here to ketch you.”

“All right,” said Tom. “How soon can you produce those guns?”

“I can have ’em here to-morrer mornin’ by sun-up.”

“That’s too early for me,” replied Tom. “We have breakfast about six,
and I can get here by seven; I will be here.”

“Not to-morrer?” exclaimed Matt.

“Yes, to-morrow.”

“But you said you would have to go to Mount Airy after the money.”

“I have seen my cousins since then, and I find that it will not be
necessary for me to go home.”

“Have you got the money?” said Matt, eagerly.

Tom winked first one eye and then the other.

“There, now. I knowed you had it all the time; but you kind of thought
you could beat me in some way or other, an’ that you could get out of
buyin’ them guns. But you know better now, don’t you? I want to be
friends with you, but I tell you, pine-plank, that I won’t stand no
nonsense. I’ll tell on you sure, if you—”

“Now, don’t switch off on that track, for if you do I’ll not listen to
another word,” said Tom, angrily; and to show that he was in earnest
he pushed his canoe away from the beach and turned the bow up the
lake.

Then there was a short pause, during which Matt stood with his hands
on his hips and his eyes fastened searchingly upon the boy’s face. It
was beginning to dawn upon him that Tom was a trifle more independent
than he had been.

“Say,” he growled at last. “What trick are you up to?”

“Why, what makes you think I am up to any trick?” asked Tom,
innocently. “You said you wanted me to buy those guns for fifty
dollars; and I say I will be ready to do it to-morrow morning. Is
there any trick about that?”

“You’re goin’ to bring a constable with you,” Matt almost shouted. The
thought popped into his head suddenly, and made him dance with rage.

“I shall come alone,” was the quiet reply.

“There ain’t no one constable in the Injun Lake country that can take
me up,” Matt went on, furiously. “But if you do bring one on ’em with
you, I’ll tell him that you was knowin’ to my stealin’ of that canvas
canoe.”

“What’s the use of lashing yourself into a tempest for nothing?” said
Tom, coolly. “You can hide in the bushes, and if you see any one with
me you need not come out. I’ll be here at seven o’clock, and when you
put those two guns into my canoe I will put fifty dollars in
greenbacks into your hand. Is that the understanding?”

“Don’t you want me to hide ’em a piece back in the bresh so’t you can
say that you found ’em?” inquired Matt, in rather more civil tones.

“No; I want you to put them into my canoe. I will find them there,
won’t I? Is it a bargain or not?”

“It’s a bargain. I’ll be here; an’ if you ain’t—”

The squatter did not say what he would do if Tom failed to appear at
the appointed hour, for the latter did not linger to listen to him. He
put his canoe in motion again and pulled toward the point above, while
Matt backed up to a log and took his pipe from his pocket.

“Something’s wrong somewheres,” he told himself, as he filled up for a
smoke. “He didn’t act that-a-way t’other day, but was as humble as a
hound purp that had jest been licked. Now, what’s in the wind, do you
reckon? Has he been snoopin’ round in the woods an’ found them
six—whoop!”

The bare thought that perhaps Tom had stumbled upon the valises, and
intended paying him for the stolen guns out of the money that Matt
regarded as his own, was enough to drive the man frantic. He sprang to
his feet, jammed his pipe into his pocket, caught up his rifle, which
he had placed behind a convenient tree, and dashed into the bushes.

“I wonder how Mr. Coyle feels by this time,” chuckled Tom, as he
rounded the point and left the place of meeting out of sight. “My face
must be an awful tell-tale, for Matt knew there was something up as
soon as he looked at me. I expect to have a time with him to-morrow.”

With this reflection Tom dismissed Matt Coyle from his mind, and
thought of Jake and the extraordinary trick to which he had resorted
to gain possession of those valises and their contents. He certainly
did know more when he arrived at camp than he did when he went away in
the morning, and he had so much to tell that it was almost supper time
before the dinner was served. Another sleepless night, a single cup of
coffee in the morning, and Tom was ready for what he fondly hoped
would be his last interview with Matt Coyle.

“I am afraid you are going into danger,” said Ralph, anxiously. “I
shall not draw an easy breath until I see you coming back. Be very
careful, and don’t let him get the slightest advantage of you.”

Although Tom was in no very enviable frame of mind, he made reply to
the effect that he knew just what he was going to do, for he had
thought it all over while his cousins were wrapped in slumber, and
then he sat down in his canoe and paddled away. His heart beat a
little faster than usual when he came within sight of the place where
he was to meet the squatter. The latter was not to be seen; but as Tom
backed water with his paddle, and brought his canoe to a stand-still a
few feet from shore, he came out of the bushes and showed himself.
Acting upon the hint Tom had given him the day before, Matt kept
concealed long enough to make sure that the boy had not brought an
officer with him for company. Tom was really amazed when he looked at
him. Instead of the angry, half-crazy man he expected to meet, he saw
before him (if there were any faith to be put in appearances) one of
the jolliest, happiest mortals in existence. His face was one broad
smile, and he rubbed his soiled and begrimed palms together as if he
already held between them the greenbacks which he thought Tom carried
in his pocket.

“That’s all gammon. He has laid a trap for me,” soliloquized the boy;
and, alarmed by the thought, he gave a quick, strong stroke with the
double paddle that sent the canoe ten feet farther away from the
beach. Matt saw and understood, and for a brief moment a savage scowl
took the place of the smile he had put on for the occasion. But it
cleared away as quickly as it came, and then Matt smiled again.

“Have you got it?” said he, in insinuating tones. “Have you brung the
money with you?”

For an answer Tom winked his left eye.

“I’m powerful glad to hear it,” said Matt. “Come ashore an’ we’ll soon
settle this business.”

“Where are the guns?”

“Back in the woods a piece. I hid ’em in the bresh, ’cause I thought
that mebbe you would rather take ’em out yourself, so’t you could say
you found ’em without tellin’ no lie about it. See?”

“That isn’t according to the agreement we made yesterday,” replied
Tom. “I told you, as plainly as I could speak it, that you must put
the guns into my canoe and I would find them there.”

“Well, how be I goin’ to put ’em in your canoe while you keep it
twenty feet from shore?” demanded Matt. “You come up closter.”

“You go and get the guns. It will be time enough for me to get in
closer when I see that you have got them.”

“An’ it will be time enough for me to get the guns when I see that you
have brung the money with you,” retorted Matt, who was getting so
angry that he could with difficulty control himself.

Tom laid his paddle across his knee and took a purse from his pocket,
all the while keeping a sharp watch upon Matt Coyle, who had moved
down the beach, inch by inch, until he was now standing in the edge of
the water. Taking from the purse a small roll of bills, Tom held it up
before his right eye and winked at the squatter with the other.

“There’s money; now where are the guns?” said he. “I thought you were
in a great hurry to have the business settled.”

“I don’t believe there’s any fifty dollars in that there little wad of
greenbacks,” replied Matt. “Lemme see you count ’em out on your knee.”

Instead of complying with this request, Tom shut up the purse and put
it into his pocket. When Matt saw that, he could no longer restrain
himself. With a sound that was more like a roar than a shout, he
jumped into the water, his arms extended and his fingers spread out
like the claws of some wild beast, and made a long plunge in the hope
of seizing upon the gunwale of Tom’s canoe. But the boy was on the
alert. With one stroke of the paddle he sent the canoe far out of
reach, and in a second more Matt was floundering in water that was
over his head. Knowing that he could not overtake Tom by swimming, he
gave vent to his fury in a volley of oaths, and went back to the
beach; whereupon Tom also returned, and took up his old position.

“It seems that you are the one that is up to tricks,” said he, smiling
in spite of himself at the ludicrous figure Matt Coyle presented in
his dripping garments. “Now, when you get ready, I should like to have
you tell me what you meant by trying to get hold of my canoe?”

“Why didn’t you count out the money on your knee, like I told you,
so’t I could be sure you had brung the fifty dollars?” roared Matt,
shaking both his clenched hands at Tom.

“Didn’t I take your word for it when you told me that you had the
guns? Very well; you will have to take mine when I say that I am ready
to carry out my part of the agreement when you carry out yours. Show
me the guns; that’s all I ask of you. Look here; do you know where
those guns are at this moment?”

“No, I don’t,” answered Matt, blurting out the truth before he
thought.

“So I supposed. Well, I do. When the sheriff and his posse were coming
home, after capturing those bank robbers, they found Joe Wayring’s
canvas canoe, and likewise the Lefever hammerless and Winchester
rifle.”

[Illustration: TOM BIGDEN BLOCKS MATT COYLE’S GAME.]

“Whoop!” yelled the squatter. “’Tain’t so, nuther. They wasn’t all hid
in the same place.”

“I know it,” replied Tom, who knew just nothing at all about it. The
canvas canoe might have been concealed in that hollow log and Tom and
his cousins would have been none the wiser for it; because after the
guns had been brought to light they did not look for any thing else.
“You must remember that there were several men in that posse, and that
they could cover a good deal of ground in an hour’s time. They
searched every inch of those woods, and found—”

Matt opened his mouth and gasped for breath.

“Did they—did they find—”

“No,” answered Tom, who knew what Matt would have said if he could.
“They did not find any money. Your Jake is the only one who knows
where that is.”

“I know where it is, too,” said the squatter, whose lip quivered as if
he had half a mind to cry about it. “But the trouble is that I can’t
find it.”

“Then if you can’t find it you don’t know where it is.”

“I tell you I do too. It’s up there in the same woods that the canoe
an’ guns was hid in,” cried Matt, once more speaking a little too
hastily.

It was now Tom’s turn to open his eyes. After a little reflection he
said—

“If you think the money is in that particular part of the woods, why
don’t you go there and stay till you find it? Or else make Jake show
you where it is.”

“But Jakey won’t do it. He ain’t that sort of a boy.”

“Then denounce him to the sheriff.”

“What’s that?”

“Why, expose him; tell on him. I’ll bet you he will be quite willing
to reveal the hiding-place of those valises when he feels an officer’s
grip on his collar.”

“But what good will that do me? The constable who takes Jakey up will
get the reward that’s been offered, an’ I shan’t see none of it.
Whoop!” shouted Matt, going off into another paroxysm of rage. “Every
thing an’ every body seems to be goin’ agin me this mornin’.”

“Well, then,” said Tom, who had the strongest of reasons for hoping
that the squatter might never fall into the clutches of the law, “if I
were in your place, I would have a serious talk with Jake. I’d tell
him that he is sure to be arrested, sooner or later, that it is
preposterous for him to think he can keep the money, and urge him to
give it up and claim a portion of the reward. Some of it will have to
go to the officers who found the robbers, you know. If you will do
that, I will promise that Joe Wayring will not prosecute you for
stealing his canoe.”

“’Taint no ways likely that Joe would do a favor for you,” said Matt,
in a discouraged tone, “’cause you an’ him don’t hitch.”

“I know we don’t like each other any too well, but I can say a word
for you, all the same. I don’t know that I can do any good here, so I
will go back to camp. I came down according to agreement, but I knew I
shouldn’t make any thing by it. You held fast to those guns too long.
They have been found, and your hundred dollars are up stump.”

“If you knowed it, why did you pester me that-a-way for?” demanded the
squatter, growing angry again.

“Why did you tell me you had the guns hidden a little way back in the
woods when you hadn’t?” asked Tom, in reply. “I saw through your game
at once. Your object was to get me ashore and rob me. You would have
committed a State’s prison offense; but I shall not say any thing
about it unless you wag your tongue too freely about me. If you do
that, look out for yourself.”

So saying, Tom turned his canoe about and started for camp, well
satisfied with the result of his interview with the squatter. He had
kept his temper in spite of strong provocation, and made Matt believe
that he was in no way responsible for the loss of the guns. More than
that, he had given him good honest advice, and kept up a show of
friendship by making a promise he did not mean to fulfill.

“I’d like to see myself asking a favor of that Joe Wayring,” said he,
with a sneer. “It would please him too well, and I wouldn’t do it
under any circumstances. My object was to leave Matt in good humor, if
I could. Of course he was mad because he did not get the money, but
not as mad as he would have been if he had succeeded in getting hold
of the canoe. If he had done that, I calculated to give him such a rap
over the head with my paddle that he wouldn’t get over it for a month.
I don’t think I shall have any more trouble with him this season. Next
vacation I shall steer clear of Indian Lake, and take my outing
somewhere else.”

Ralph Farnsworth and his brother were so very much concerned about Tom
that they did not do any camp work after he went away. As soon as he
was out of sight, they sat down on the bank close to the water’s edge,
and there they remained for four long, anxious hours before Tom came
around the point and showed himself to them. When he saw them waiting
for him he took off his cap and waved it in triumph over his head.

“He was awful mad, and, after trying in vain to get me out on shore so
that he could take my money away from me, he rushed into the water and
made a grab at the canoe,” said Tom, as he ran the bow of his little
craft upon the beach. “But, after all, I didn’t have as much of a time
with him as I thought I should. There’s your purse, Ralph. Now, if one
of you will dish up a good dinner, I think I can do justice to it. I
haven’t had much appetite for a day or two past, but I am ravenously
hungry now.”

With these preliminary remarks Tom Bigden took possession of one of
the hammocks and told his story from beginning to end, saying, in
conclusion—

“That part of the woods seems to be a repository for Matt Coyle’s
stolen goods. If we had looked a little farther we might have found
that money.”

“I wish we had,” said Loren. “Of course we should have laid no claim
to a share of the reward. We would have given our portion to the
guides, and perhaps gained their good will by it. Every time we go to
the hotel after supplies or mail I notice that they look at us
cross-eyed, as if they thought we were good fellows to let alone.”

“And what makes them do it?” Tom almost shouted. “It is because Joe
Wayring and his friends have gained Swan’s ears, and stuffed him full
of lies about us. Ugh! How I should like to see that boy taken
down—clear down; as far as any body can go by land. Say,” he added,
after cooling off a little, “I am ready to give up the guns now. Matt
Coyle may believe that Swan and his party found them at the time they
found Wayring’s canoe, and he may not. At any rate, I do not like to
take the risk of his jumping down on our camp some dark night and
finding them here. So I propose that we get rid of them this very
afternoon.”

The others agreeing, and a bountiful dinner having been disposed of,
the three boys stepped into their canoes and set out for Indian Lake,
taking the guns with them. A more astonished and delighted man than
Mr. Hanson was when they walked into his office and laid the cases
upon his desk Tom and his cousins had seldom seen; but the language in
which he expressed his gratitude for the service they had rendered him
almost made Tom wish that he had held fast to the guns a little
longer. After asking when, and where, and how they had found them, and
listening with the liveliest interest to their story, Mr. Hanson said—

“That villain Coyle shall be arrested to-morrow, if I have unemployed
guides enough in my pay to find him. I should have been after him two
weeks ago, if it hadn’t been for these guns; and now that I’ve got
them I shall not fool with him a day longer. You have fairly earned
the reward,” he added, opening his money drawer, “and I am
authorized—”

“We don’t need money, Mr. Hanson, and we’ll not touch a cent of it,”
interrupted Ralph. “Give it to the guides who lost their situations
when the guns were stolen.”

“Swan and Bob Martin?” said Mr. Hanson. “Well, they are deserving men,
and, although they did not lose their situations on account of the
loss of the guns, because they were working for me and not for the
sportsmen with whom they went into the woods, still I know they would
be glad to have the money. I’ll hand it to them, if you say so, and
tell them I do it at your request.”

“Thank you,” answered Ralph. “We shall be much obliged.”

“Hold on a minute,” said Mr. Hanson, as the boys turned away from the
desk. “The gentlemen who own these guns are not the only ones
benefited by your lucky find. You have saved me the loss of a good
deal of patronage, and I wish to make you some return for it. Whenever
you want any supplies, go to the store-house and get them. They shan’t
cost you a cent.”

Thanking the landlord for his liberality, Tom and his companions left
the hotel and walked slowly through the grounds toward the beach.

“The place is almost deserted,” observed Tom. “There are not half as
many guests here as there were the first time we saw the Sportsman’s
Home.”

“Probably they have gone into the woods,” said Loren.

“Then how does it come that there are so many guides lying around
doing nothing?” asked Tom. “I don’t believe there are many guests in
the woods. They have gone home, or to other fishing grounds where
their camps will not be robbed the minute they turn their backs. Matt
said he would ruinate the hotels, if they didn’t give him work, and he
seems in a fair way to do it.”

“Say,” whispered Ralph. “I didn’t like what Hanson said about having
Matt Coyle arrested.”

Tom was about to answer that he didn’t like it either, when he heard
footsteps behind him and a voice calling out: “Just another word
before you go, boys,” and upon turning around he saw Mr. Hanson in
pursuit.

“I forgot one thing,” said he, when he came up. “Can you make it
convenient to come here day after to-morrow morning? By that time
we’ll have Matt hard and fast, most likely. The sheriff says he will
have to take him to Irvington, that being the nearest place at which
we can have him bound over to appear before the circuit court. I can
prove by Rube Royall, the watchman at the hatchery, that Matt
acknowledged stealing and concealing the guns, and I shall need you to
testify to the finding of them. You will be around, won’t you?”

The boys said they would, but their voices were almost inaudible, and
the faces they turned toward one another when Mr. Hanson had left them
were very white indeed.

“Now we _are_ in a scrape,” said Loren, who was the first to break the
silence. “Tom Bigden, that fellow will tell all he knows about you
just so sure as you get up in court to bear witness against him. You
told him that the guides found and returned the guns.”

“So I did,” groaned Tom. “So I did; but he won’t be long in finding
out that I lied to him, will he? What shall I do? What can I do?
There’s one thing about it,” added Tom, who, although badly
frightened, tried to put a bold face on the matter. “Matt Coyle has
not yet been arrested, and I’ve got so much at stake that I don’t want
him to be. I shall seek another interview with him in the morning,
and, if I can bring it about, I will tell him just what Hanson said
about him. It is all that Joe Wayring’s fault. If he had treated us
decently I wouldn’t have been in this scrape. I’ll do that boy some
injury the first good chance I get.”

On their way to camp the boys kept within talking distance of one
another and discussed the situation. Loren was of opinion that his
cousin Tom had better draw a bee-line for Mount Airy bright and early
the next morning; but Tom and Ralph agreed in saying that that would
be the very worst thing that could be done under the circumstances.
Mr. Hanson had plainly told them that he would need them for
witnesses, and if Tom was foolish enough to run away he had better
make a long run while he was about it and get out of the State, or the
authorities would catch him sure.

“I shall not run an inch. I’ve got to stay and face it down,” said
Tom, quietly; and his cousins knew, by the way the words came out,
that he had decided upon his course. “There were no witnesses present
when I told Matt to steal Joe Wayring’s canoe, and the matter will
simply resolve itself into a question of veracity; and when it comes
to that I think my word will have about as much weight as a tramp’s.
All the same, I don’t want Matt arrested if it can possibly be
avoided.”

Tom slept the sleep of the exhausted that night, and at seven o’clock
the next morning shoved his canoe away from the beach and pulled
toward the hatchery.

Continue Reading

AMONG FRIENDS AGAIN

I cannot give you even a faint idea of the extravagant demonstrations
of delight to which Jake Coyle gave way when he saw the two valises
deposited side by side on the bottom of the canoe. He had been
tormented by the fear that his father had found and appropriated the
money, and he could not convince himself that those fears were
groundless, until he had opened both the valises and plunged his hands
among the glittering silver pieces with which they were filled almost
to the top. Then he threw himself back in the stern of the canoe and
panted as if he were utterly exhausted with his exertions.

“I do think in my soul that I’ve got it,” said he, in an excited
whisper. “Now what’ll I do with it to keep it safe? If pap or that Sam
of our’n——”

For some reason or other Jake became frightened when he thought of his
father and brother. The idea of sharing his ill-gotten gains with them
never once entered his head. He scrambled to his feet and hastily
pulled on his clothes, after which he raised the anchor and paddled up
the lake. As soon as I got under way the pursuing skiff was set in
motion also; but I lost sight of it after we rounded the first point
and entered the mouth of the creek which had been the scene of Joe
Wayring’s exciting encounter with Matt Coyle and his boys a few weeks
before.

Up this creek Jake paddled as swiftly as he could, his object being to
find a hiding-place for the money so remote from the hatchery that no
one who lived about there would be likely to stumble upon it. For two
hours he never slackened his pace, and by that time I became aware
that we were drawing near to the site of Matt’s old camp—the one that
had been destroyed by Mr. Swan and his party. A few minutes later I
passed through the little water-way that connected the creek with the
cove, and there Jake made a landing and got out.

“I’ve heared them say that lightning don’t strike two times in the
same place,” said he, as he drew me higher upon the beach and took
hold of the valises, “an’ that’s what made me come up here. Swan has
been here once an’ done all the damage he could, an’ ’tain’t no ways
likely that he’ll come agin. Pap dassent come so fur from home, ’cause
he’s that scared of the constables that he sticks clost to the shanty
all the time, an’ don’t even go huntin’ for squirrels; so I reckon the
woods about here are the best place I can find to hide my money. I’ll
leave my canoe, too, an’ then, when I get ready to strike out for
myself, I’ll have him an’ the money an’ both them fine guns right
where I can lay my hands onto ’em.”

So saying Jake disappeared in the bushes, taking the valises with him.
He was gone half an hour, and when he returned he proceeded to fold me
up and tie me together with a piece of rope. This done he found a
hiding-place for me under a pile of brush about twenty feet from the
spot where the lean-to stood before it was burned, and, after covering
me up as well as he could in the dark, glided away with noiseless
footsteps. It was a long time before I saw him again, but he had not
been gone more than five minutes when I heard a slight rustling among
the leaves and a snapping of twigs as if some one was walking
cautiously over them. Then I knew I was not alone in the woods. Who my
invisible companion was I could not tell for certain, but I believed
it was the occupant of the skiff that had followed us from the outlet.
He revealed his identity when he came near my place of concealment,
for I recognized his voice. It was Matt Coyle. He had kept Jake in
sight until he saw him paddle into the creek, and then he landed and
took to the woods. Something told him where the boy was going with the
money he had fished out of the lake, and by going afoot and taking a
short cut he gained on Jake so much that he arrived in the vicinity of
his old camp at least ten minutes ahead of him. But he could not see
where the valises had been hidden—the woods were too dark for that—and
now he was trying his best to find them, as I learned from his
soliloquy.

“He’s a pretty smart boy, Jakey is, but not smart enough to fool his
pap,” I heard him say. “The ondutiful scamp! I had oughter wear a
hickory out on him the minute I get home; but here’s the diffikilty;
if I do that he’ll tell Rube where them fine guns is hid, an’ the
minute they are give up to their owners then Rube’11 turn squar’
around an’ have me took up for the sake of gettin’ the reward. See? If
I can find the money all unbeknownst to Jakey, an’ take it off an’
hide it somewhere else, so’t I can find it every time I want to use a
dollar or two, then Jakey’11 think that the constables have stumbled
on it, an’ he won’t never say a word; but if I try to force him to
give it up there’ll be a furse, sure. He’s like his pap, Jakey is. It
won’t do to crowd him too fur. Mebbe it’s in yer.”

Matt bent over my hiding-place and thrust his hand into the pile of
brush. He felt all over and around me, and uttered many an exclamation
of anger and disgust when he found that the valises were not there
with me. He spent the whole of the night in tramping about the woods
in my neighborhood, and how he missed the objects of his search I
don’t know to this day. He rested a little while before daylight—at
least I thought he did, for the sound of his footsteps ceased for an
hour or two—but as soon as he could see where he was going he was up
and at it again; but this time he was interrupted. Deeply interested
as he was in his search, he did not neglect to keep his eyes and ears
open, and consequently he did not fail to hear the threatening sounds
that came to him on the morning breeze. I heard them a few minutes
afterward, and would have shouted with delight if I had possessed the
power. Mr. Swan and his party were approaching. Although I could not
see them I was certain of it, for I had been in the guide’s company so
often that I could have recognized his voice among a thousand.
Presently they came close to my hiding-place and I heard one of the
party say—

“Here’s where Matt’s lean-to stood. We came pretty near catching the
sly old coon that day, but he must have had some member of his family
on the watch. We found the fire burning and the dinner under way, but
Matt was nowhere to be seen.”

“They have been back here since then, and within a few hours, too,”
said Mr. Swan. “See how the leaves are kicked up. Let’s look around,
boys, and perhaps we shall find something.”

I was delighted to hear this order. The “boys” began to look about at
once, and one of them followed Matt’s trail straight to my place of
concealment. The constable who accompanied him kicked the pile of
brush to pieces, caught hold of the rope with which I was bound, and
dragged me into view. The first words he spoke seemed to indicate that
he had never seen any thing like me before.

“What in the name of common sense is this?” said he.

“That?” replied Mr. Swan, who stood close by. “Oh, that is Joe
Wayring’s canvas canoe—an old thing that saw his best days years ago.
But Joe thinks a heap of him and will be mighty glad to get him again.
I haven’t got any thing to do just now, and so I will make it my
business to take the canoe up to him. Joe is a good fellow, and I
shall be glad to do that much for him.”

Thank goodness, I was in a fair way to see Joe Wayring once more! I
was as happy as I wanted to be after that. I hoped Mr. Swan would take
me home at once, for I was impatient to see Fly-rod and the long bows
and the toboggan and all the rest of my friends in Mount Airy. I
looked around at the members of the squad and saw many familiar faces
among them. In fact, I had seen them all at one time or another, with
the exception—could I believe my eyes? I looked again, and told myself
that there could be no mistake about it. There were two strangers
among them, and they were dressed in slouch hats and long dark coats.
They were neither hand-cuffed nor bound, but they were closely watched
by two armed officers who took no part in beating the bushes. They
were the bank robbers—the very men I had tumbled out into the lake. If
I had had the slightest doubt of their identity it would have been
dispelled when the deputy sheriff said—“Now, boys, we’ve got some
evidence. Who can stretch this canvas canoe?”

Mr. Swan replied that he could, and he did. Under his skillful hands I
quickly assumed my usual symmetrical proportions; but before he was
through with me one of the robbers called out—

“That’s the boat. That’s the very boat that we started to cross the
lake in.”

“How do you know?” asked the sheriff.

“Because, as we told you, we examined him with the aid of a lighted
match before we would trust ourselves to him,” replied one of the
prisoners. “I believe that boy tipped us over on purpose.”

“I haven’t the least doubt of it,” assented the sheriff. “You let him
see the inside of one of the valises, and of course the sight of so
much money excited his cupidity.”

“I hope Jim didn’t hit him when he shot at him,” said the other
robber, in an anxious tone.

“Haven’t I told you more than a dozen times that you need not borrow
trouble on that score?” asked the officer. “If the boy had been hurt
we should probably have heard of it when we crossed the outlet at the
hatchery the next morning. Robbing the bank is all you will have to
answer for.”

And wasn’t that enough? I wondered. I did not know just what the
penalty was for the offense of which they were guilty, but I did know
that they were destined to pass some of the best years of their lives
in prison. I was surprised to hear the sheriff talk so familiarly with
the robbers, but really there was nothing surprising in it. Having
captured them, as he was in duty bound to do, he showed them as much
consideration as he showed the guides he had summoned to his
assistance, but he kept a sharp eye on them to see that they did not
escape.

“Put him together again, Swan, and we will go on and pay our respects
to Jake Coyle,” continued the officer. “It is possible that he intends
to return the money and claim the reward. If he does—”

“Don’t fool yourself,” said Mr. Swan, with a laugh. “If Jake ran into
that snag on purpose, he did it with the intention of fishing up that
money and keeping it. He can’t claim the reward, for there is a
warrant out for him. He helped to steal this canvas canoe.”

Having tied me together with the rope, Mr. Swan raised me to his
shoulder, ordered the guides to stop talking, and the entire posse set
off through the woods in the direction of the hatchery. As they drew
near to it they spread out right and left, forming a sort of skirmish
line which was so long that those on the flanks were out of sight of
one another, and in this order moved forward with increased caution.
The sheriff and Mr. Swan remained in the center with the two
prisoners, the latter holding me in one hand and a revolver in the
other. The officer consulted his watch very frequently, and at the end
of ten minutes moved out of the bushes to the “carry,” followed by Mr.
Swan and the captives. Then I understood the meaning of this maneuver.
The sheriff’s object was to surround Rube’s cabin and capture the
inmates.

As soon as he reached the “carry” the sheriff gave a shrill whistle
and ran forward at the top of his speed, leaving the guide to follow
with the prisoners. When we came within sight of the cabin a few
minutes later I saw the entire posse gathered around it, and the
sheriff and Rube standing in the doorway, the latter rubbing his eyes
as if he had just been aroused from a sound sleep.

“Sold again,” said the officer, as Mr. Swan came up.

“There, now!” exclaimed the guide, who was profoundly astonished.
“Well, I told you that Matt was a sly old fox, and that you’d have to
be mighty sly yourself if you caught him. The young ones are chips of
the old block, and can dodge about in the woods like so many
partridges. How did he find out that we were coming, do you reckon?”

“That’s a mystery,” answered the sheriff.

I could have told him that it was no mystery to me. The officer and
his posse had made a good deal of noise in coming through the woods,
and of course Matt Coyle heard them long before they came in sight.
Knowing that they would have to go to the hatchery in order to procure
boats to cross the outlet, he took to his heels in short order, made
the best of his way to the cabin, and started his family off into the
woods. That was all there was of it, but it proved the truth of the
remark Mr. Swan once made in Joe Wayring’s hearing—that Matt Coyle
always had luck on his side. The fugitives did not awaken Rube, for
they knew that he had nothing to fear from the officers of the law. I
had often wondered what sort of a game the watchman was up to (I was
as sure that he was playing a part as Matt was), and now I was given
some insight into it.

“You would ’a’ ruined Hanson if you’d arrested Matt Coyle,” said Rube,
when the guide ceased speaking. “If you take him up afore them guns is
found he’ll lose a dozen good customers next season, Hanson will,
’cause they say they’ll never come back to his hotel till their
property is given up to ’em. You don’t want to be in too big a hurry.
Both the boys has offered to give me the guns for half the reward, an’
as soon as they tell me where they are hid I’ll bring ’em up to the
lake. Then you can ’rest Matt, as soon as you please.”

“I wasn’t after Matt, although I should have taken him in if I had
found him here,” answered the sheriff. “I was looking for Jake.”

“What’s he been a doin’ of?”

“We think he knows something about the money that was stolen from the
Irvington bank.”

“I know he does,” said Rube, earnestly. “I thought so yesterday
morning, when I was readin’ about it in the paper that Swan give me,
an’ I thought so last night when I stood at the head of the outlet an’
saw him go up the lake in the canvas canoe. Say,” he added, in a lower
tone, “is them two fellers the robbers?”

The officer nodded.

“An’ do you reckon Jake knows where they hid the money?”

“We don’t think they hid it. Jake capsized them, and turned the money
out into the lake.”

“Well, I’ll bet you it ain’t there now,” said Rube. “Jake got it up
last night, less’n Matt stopped him.”

“Was Matt with him?”

“He follered him in one of the boats that he stole from you fellers up
the creek on the day you burned his camp.”

“Where are those boats now?” inquired Mr. Swan.

“Up to the head of the outlet, hid in the bresh. I can show ’em to you
any time.”

“Come on and do it then,” said the Sheriff. “There’s no use wasting
time here. It won’t take us long to row up to that snag and see if the
money is there. Four of us are enough. We will take one of the
prisoners with us to show us right where the snag is, and the other
can stay here.”

Having designated by name the guides whom he wished to accompany him,
the sheriff followed Rube through the woods toward the place where the
skiffs were concealed, Mr. Swan bringing up the rear with me on his
shoulder. The skiffs were quickly hauled out of their hiding-places
and launched, and at the end of an hour we were all anchored alongside
the snag, and two of the guides were searching the bottom of the lake
for the valises, which I knew to be all of ten miles from there in a
straight line, and twenty by water. At last the guides came up and
reported that there was no use of looking any longer. The grip-sacks
were not there.

“Are you sure that this is the snag on which that boy capsized you?”
inquired the sheriff.

“As sure as I can be,” replied the prisoner, to whom the question was
addressed. “It was the first one he came to, and it was directly
opposite the house whose cellar he robbed. Are you going to give up
looking?” he added, as the guides climbed back into their skiff. “I
hate to think that that villain will remain at liberty to enjoy that
six thousand, after all the risk Tony and I ran to get it.”

“He’ll not remain at liberty very long,” answered the sheriff, with
some asperity. “I’d have you know that I understand my business. I
pledge you my word that you will see him in New London jail in less
than a week after you get there.”

This assurance seemed to satisfy the robber that justice would be
done, and he had no more to say.

In obedience to the sheriff’s order the guides pulled back to the
outlet and landed in front of the hatchery. The rest of the posse were
ferried over to the opposite side and set out on foot for Indian Lake,
all except the other prisoner, who was taken into the canvas canoe
with Mr. Swan.

When we reached the lake I learned that there had been a regular
exodus from the woods during the last two days. As soon as the women
and children who were in camp heard that there were a couple of bank
robbers hiding somewhere in the wilderness, they made all haste to get
back to the hotels, where they knew they would be safe. Both the
landlords were in a state of mind that can hardly be described. The
season was not half over, and yet some of their guests were leaving
every day, bound for other places of resort where thieves were not
quite so plenty. Matt Coyle would have hugged himself with delight if
he could have heard what I did. I arrived at the lake about nine
o’clock in the morning, and at nine o’clock that night Mr. Swan and I
were well on our way toward Mount Airy, which we reached without any
mishap. We found Joe and his two chums, Roy and Arthur, enjoying a
sail on the lake in the Young Republic.

“I kinder thought you would like to have your canoe back again, and so
I brought him up,” said Mr. Swan, when he had shaken hands with the
boys. “No, I won’t take nothing for it, and I can’t go up to your
house and stay over night, neither. I’ve got to get back as soon as I
can, for there’s plenty of work to be done at Indian Lake. The
Irvington bank robbers have been captured, but Matt Coyle and his boys
are still at large, and they’ll ruinate our business and the hotels’
business, too, if we don’t tend to ’em right along.”

While the guide was telling the boys how the robbers had been hunted
down and captured, he took hold of the rope with which I was tied and
lifted me out of his skiff into the sail-boat, and then he said
good-by and pulled away, while the Young Republic came about and
scudded back toward Mr. Wayring’s wharf.

Fly-rod told you, at the conclusion of his narrative, that when Joe
Wayring returned from his trip to Indian Lake he expected to meet his
uncle, who was to take him and his chums on an extended canoe trip to
some distant part of the country, “either east or west, they didn’t
know which;” but in this he was disappointed. Uncle Joe had been
called away on important business, and the probabilities were that if
they took their proposed trip at all it would not be until near the
end of the vacation, and then it would be a very short one. So, for
want of something better to do, Joe Wayring proposed an immediate
return to Indian Lake.

“The time is our own until the first Monday in September,” said he,
“and what’s the use of staying around the village and doing nothing?
We know we can enjoy ourselves at the lake, but this time we’ll give
Matt Coyle and his boys a wide berth. We’ll leave the regular routes
of travel, and visit the famous spring-hole that Mr. Swan has so often
described to us.”

Arthur and Roy readily agreed to the proposition, and on the day I was
restored to my lawful master the arrangements for the return trip had
all been completed. They were only waiting for Fly-rod, whose broken
joint was being repaired by a skilled mechanic. He came the day after
I got home, and you may be sure I was glad to see him once more. We
passed the night in relating our adventures and exploits, and daylight
the next morning found us on the wharf, waiting for Arthur Hastings to
bring up the skiff.

The trip down the river, through the pond where the “battle in the
dark” took place, and thence to Indian lake, was made without the
occurrence of any incident worthy of note, and in due time the skiff
was run upon the beach in front of the Sportman’s Home. We did not see
Matt Coyle or any of his family on the way, but we heard of them in
less than ten minutes after we arrived at the lake. While Joe and his
chums were overhauling the stern locker, in search of the letters they
had written the night before, Mr. Swan came up.

“You’re here, ain’t you?” said he, in his cheery way. “Now you are off
for that spring-hole, I suppose. Well, if you will go into the woods
without a guide to take care of you, No-Man’s Pond is the safest place
for you. But you want to watch out for Matt Coyle, no matter where you
go. He’s down on all you Mount Airy folks, and Rube Royall heard him
say that he was intending to tie you to a tree and larrup you.”

“Does Matt carry an insurance on his life?” inquired Roy. “If not,
he’ll think twice before he tries that.”

“Who is Rube Royall?” asked Arthur.

“He is acting as watchman at the State hatchery, but he is really in
Hanson’s employ,” replied Mr. Swan. “Of course Rube keeps poachers
away from the outlet of nights, but he was hired to watch Matt Coyle.
He’s too lazy to be a guide, Rube is; but he’s honest, and hates Matt
as bad as I do.”

“Why does Mr. Hanson want to have Matt watched?” asked Joe.

“You remember about the Winchester rifle and Lefever hammerless that
were stolen a while back, don’t you?” asked the guide. “Well, the men
who own them guns are worth anywhere from twenty-five to fifty dollars
a day to the hotel they put up at, because they always bring a big
crowd with them. They went home madder’n a couple of wet hens, saying
that they would never come to this lake again till their guns had been
found and Matt put in jail. We could have arrested Matt long ago, for
he’s been living with Rube ever since we burned him out; but if we’d
done it we should have lost the guns, for Matt would stay in jail till
he died there before he would tell where the guns were hidden. He’s
just that obstinate. However, Rube don’t need to watch him any more.
Hanson’s got the guns, and who do you think brought them to him. It
was Tom Bigden and his cousins.”

Although I was closely packed in my case I caught every word of the
conversation I have recorded, and I assure you I was surprised to hear
this. Had Tom complied with Matt’s demands and paid him fifty dollars
for the guns? Why didn’t Joe ask the guide to go into details?
Probably he didn’t think it worth while, for all he said was—

“I wish those fellows had stayed at home.”

“They wouldn’t look at the reward, but told Hanson that it was to be
give to me and Morris,” continued the guide. “Morris has got his
share, but I ain’t seen mine, for this is the first time I have been
here since the guns were recovered. Now all we’ve got to do is to
arrest Matt and hunt up Jake. That boy’s got six thousand dollars
hidden somewhere in the woods.”

“Why, hasn’t that money been found yet?” exclaimed Roy.

“Not yet, and somehow we don’t make out to get on Jake’s trail. He
hasn’t been to Rube’s house since the day we found your canvas canoe
hidden under that pile of brush. He’s hiding in the woods, living on
what he can shoot and steal. I tell you the outlook is mighty dark for
us guides. There’s more than two hundred guests gone away since the
Irvington bank was robbed, and half of us are idle. Of course our pay
goes on, but no honest man wants to take money that he doesn’t earn.”

“Well, I must say that things have come to a pretty pass when a few
vagabonds can shut up two hotels and throw fifty men like Mr. Swan out
of employment,” said Joe, as the guide went down the beach toward the
place where he had left his canoe. “Now that the guns have been
recovered, Matt Coyle ought to be arrested without an hour’s delay. I
hope he and Jake will be looking through iron bars when we return.”

Joe would have put his wish into stronger language than that if he had
known what was to happen to him before he saw Indian Lake again.

Mr. Swan, who had come to Indian Lake to purchase some supplies for
his family, took a couple of baskets from his canoe and walked back to
the place where Joe Wayring and his friends were standing.

“There’s one thing I ’most forgot to tell you,” said he, as he came
up. “Them three cronies of yours, Tom Bigden and his cousins, are
spending their vacation in visiting with Matt Coyle and his family.”

“Great Scott!” exclaimed Roy and Arthur, in concert.

“Leastwise we think they are,” continued the guide, “for they have
more to do with Matt than they do with any body else. The boys have
often seen them together, and they seem to be as thick as so many
thieves.”

“That’s what we get by sending them word that if they wanted their
fishing-rods they could come and get them,” said Joe, after a little
pause. “If we had redeemed their property at the time we redeemed
ours, Tom and his cousins wouldn’t have come here.”

“Well, the woods are big enough for all of you, ain’t they?” said the
guide. “You needn’t have any thing to do with ’em if you don’t want
to.”

“We are not sure of that,” answered Roy. “We shall not trouble them,
but that’s no sign that they will keep away and let us alone.”

“Why are they having so much to do with Matt Coyle?” said Arthur.
“That looks suspicious.”

“It does indeed,” said Joe, seriously. “I am afraid it means business
for us.”

“I don’t see why it should,” replied Mr. Swan. “You stay on this side
the lake and let them stay on the other, and you needn’t come together
at all. They ain’t going to tramp twelve miles through the woods to
that spring-hole just for the sake of getting into a fuss with you.”

“Don’t they know that Matt and his boys are in danger of arrest?”
asked Arthur.

“Course they know it. They couldn’t help it, seeing that they come
here every few days after supplies and mail,” said the guide. “The
guides who saw them talking together didn’t know what to make of it,
and I don’t either.”

“There’s something between Tom and Matt, and you may depend upon it,”
said Joe. “It has leaked out in Mount Airy that Tom tried to put Matt
up to lots of mischief before he went away. He told the squatter that
it would be a good plan for him to burn my father’s house, and turn
our sailboats adrift so that they would go into the rapids and be
smashed to pieces.”

“Well, he’s a bright feller!” exclaimed the guide. “Don’t he know that
he will get himself into trouble by that sort of work? There they come
now.”

The boys turned about and saw three canoes coming toward the landing.
The crews who were handling the paddles must have been surprised to
see Joe and his chums there, for as soon as they recognized them they
stopped and held a short consultation.

Now, although the two opposing factions to which Tom and Joe belonged
felt very bitter toward each other, they had never come to open
warfare. They played ball together, always spoke when they met, and
tried to be civil; but there was scarcely a boy on either side who
would not have been glad to see Tom Bigden neatly thrashed. Prime,
Noble, Scott, and the rest of the fellows who made their head-quarters
at the Mount Airy drug store disliked him because he had tried to set
himself up for a leader among them; and Joe and his friends had no
friendship for him because they knew how persistently Tom, aided by
his cousins, had tried to injure them ever since he came to the
village to live.

“If Tom could point to a single mean thing we ever did to him, I
shouldn’t be so much surprised at his hostility,” Joe often said. “But
for him to attempt to ride over us rough shod just because he is
jealous of us—that’s something we won’t put up with. If he had the
least spark of manliness in him, he would quit his under-handed work,
come out open and above-board, and settle the matter with a fair
stand-up fight. But he is too big a coward to do that, so he tries to
sick Matt Coyle onto us.”

Having brought their consultation to a close, Tom and his cousins
dipped their paddles in the water again and drew up alongside the
skiff. If you had been there you would have thought, from the cordial
manner in which they greeted Joe and his companions, that they were
the best friends in the world.

“Much obliged to you for telegraphing to us about our rods,” said Tom.
“We’ve got ’em now, and it will be a cold day when Matt Coyle gets his
hands on them again.”

“I shouldn’t think you would like to associate with that man as freely
as you do,” said Roy, who could not forget that Tom had tried his best
to make one of their canoe meets a failure. “He will spring something
on you sure, and I wouldn’t have any thing to do with him.”

Tom Bigden’s amazing assurance was not proof against an assault like
this. He turned all sorts of colors, but managed at last to say, in
reply—

“You must think I am hard up for associates. My interviews with Coyle
have been purely accidental. I couldn’t help speaking to him when he
spoke to me. Where are you fellows going?”

“We intend to hunt up some trout-fishing before we go home,” answered
Arthur.

“Then you’ll have to go back to some of the spring-holes,” said Loren.
“I’ll bet there isn’t a legal trout in any of the waters about here.
They’ve been fished to death.”

Arthur had nothing more to say, for it was no part of his plan to tell
Tom just where he and his companions were going. The three boys
loitered about for a minute or two, trying to think of something else
to talk about, and then they said good-by and walked toward the
Sportsman’s Home.

“I don’t see what there is betwixt you boys,” said Mr. Swan, as soon
as Tom was out of hearing. “Those fellows seem friendly enough.”

“Yes; but we know that they are not to be trusted,” replied Joe.
“Ralph and Loren are not so very bad, but Tom will do us a mean turn
the first good chance he gets.”

“He didn’t tell the truth when he said that he had met Matt Coyle only
by accident,” added the guide. “Some of the boys told me that one day
last week he waited for Matt Coyle about two miles this side of the
hatchery for more than an hour. That looked as though he had made an
appointment.”

“I wish I had thought to speak to Tom about those guns,” observed Roy.
“Do you know how he came to get hold of them, Mr. Swan? He must have
told some sort of a story when he turned them over to the landlord of
the Sportsman’s Home.”

“I guess you don’t believe he come by ’em in a legitimate way,”
laughed Mr. Swan. “Well, mebbe he didn’t; I don’t know. He said he
found ’em while he and his cousins were roaming about in the woods,
hunting squirrels. The place to hunt for them is around cornfields,
and not in thick woods.”

Having at last found their letters, Joe and his chums slung their
camp-baskets over their shoulders, and started for the hotel, talking
with the guide as they went, and listening attentively to his
instructions regarding the route they would have to follow in order to
reach the spring-hole. They engaged him to look out for their skiff
while they were gone, after which they hunted up the storekeeper, from
whom they purchased supplies enough to last them a week.

“Going up to No-Man’s Pond, be you?” said Morris, the guide who had
patched up the hole that Matt Coyle’s scow knocked in the skiff on the
night the “battle in the dark” took place. “Well, you’ll catch plenty
of fish, but you will have a hard time getting there. You see, some
lazy lout of a guide went to work and filled the carry full of trees
and bushes, for fear that he might be called upon to show a guest over
there. You will have to pick your way through the thickest woods you
ever saw; so you want to go as light as possible.”

“We shall take nothing but my canvas canoe, these three camp-baskets,
and our rods and guns,” replied Joe. “We have a good compass—”

“Well, whatever you do, don’t quarrel with it,” said Morris. “If you
get turned around and see the sun go down in the north, when he ought
to set in the west, don’t get frightened and run yourself to death,
the way Billy Sawyer done two years ago. Billy had been guide for this
country, man and boy, for more than twenty years. The last time I saw
him, he was just starting out for the swamp about three miles the
other side of No-Man’s Pond, intending to spend a month or so in
trapping; but we don’t think he ever saw the swamp or the pond,
either. First he lost his bearings, then he lost his head, then he
went tearing through the woods, till he dropped and died of exhaustion
within half a mile of the hotel.”

“And he was an old guide, you say?” exclaimed Roy.

“Sartin. Guides ain’t no more infallible than other folks. I have been
lost myself; but my employer didn’t know it, I bet you. I kept my head
about me, and worked my way out all right. Well, good-by. You can eat
supper on the shore of that pond if you hold the direct course; but if
you lose it don’t grumble at the compass.”

The boys knew just how hard it was for a bewildered person to place
implicit faith in the needle, for they had been lost scores of times
in the woods in the immediate vicinity of Mount Airy; but they did not
get lost this time. Joe Wayring went in advance, carrying me in one
hand and the little brass box in the other, and brought his companions
to No-Man’s Pond, as the spring-hole was called, in ample time to
catch and cook a supper of trout and make all the necessary
preparations for the night. Twice while we were on the way we came in
sight of the portage that led from Indian Lake to the spring-hole, but
we could not see any signs of a path. It was completely concealed by
the huge trees that that lazy guide had cut across it.

“I wonder if this is the place we’re looking for,” said Joe,
depositing me at the roots of a spreading balsam and taking the camp
basket from his back. “It must be. Here are the mountains on three
sides of us and the hills on the other, and over there is the golden
bathing beach that Mr. Swan told us of. Hi yi! Did you see that?” he
added, as a monster trout showed himself above the water within easy
casting distance of the edge of the lily-pads.

“I should say so,” replied Arthur. “I don’t care whether this is
No-Man’s Pond or not; there are big trout in it, and this is a
splendid place to build a shanty. Now let’s get to work. Who will put
the canvas canoe together and catch supper for us? who will cut the
wood and pick browse for the beds? and who will throw up a roof of
some sort for us to sleep under to-night? Most any thing will do, as
there are no signs of rain. To-morrow we will pitch in, all hands, and
put up a good house.

“I’ll pick the browse,” said Roy, who was lying prone upon the leaves
fanning himself with his hat. “I’m just tired enough to do such lazy
work. I’ll tell you what’s a fact, fellows: If I were Mr. Hanson, and
could find out what guide it was who choked up that portage, I’d never
give him another day’s employment as long as he and I lived. I am
tired to death and roasted besides.”

The others said they were too, but they did not waste time in
grumbling over it. They set to work at once, Arthur clearing the
leaves from the ground on which he intended to erect the lean-to,
while Joe took me from my case and made me ready for business. After
that he put Fly-rod together, fastened a couple of flies to his
leader, and shoved through the lily-pads to catch that big trout, or
others like him, for supper. By that time Roy Sheldon had mustered up
energy enough to take his double-bladed ax from his basket and go in
search of firewood. They worked to such good purpose, one and all,
that, by the time the sun went down and darkness settled over the
spring-hole, they were ready for the night. The browse lay a foot deep
all over the floor of the lean-to; the beds were made up side by side,
with a pillow (a little bag of unbleached muslin, left open at both
ends and stuffed with browse) at the head of each; the fire had burned
down to a glowing bed of coals, over which the trout and coffee-pot
were simmering and sputtering; and the whole was lighted up by the
Ferguson jack-lamp which hung suspended from a clipped bough close at
hand. A tramp of twelve miles on an August day, through a wilderness
so dense that not the faintest breath of air can reach you is no joke;
and it was little wonder that the boys were too tired to talk. They
ate their trout and johnny-cake and sipped their weak coffee in
silence, and then crawled to their beds under the lean-to without
thinking to wash the dishes; although that was a disagreeable duty
they seldom neglected. They slept soundly, too, in blissful ignorance
of the fact that there was another camp within less than three miles
of the spring-hole, and that the owners of that camp were looking for
them.

Nine hours’ sleep has a wonderfully rejuvenating effect upon a healthy
boy; and when our three friends left their blankets at five o’clock
the next morning, and started on a keen run toward the “golden bathing
beach” before spoken of, they were their own jolly, uneasy selves
again. A hasty dip in the water, which was so cold that they could not
long remain in it, two or three hotly contested races along the beach
to get up a reaction, followed by a vigorous rubbing with coarse
towels, put them in the right trim for more trout and johnny-cake; and
the trout and johnny-cake put them in the humor for the work that must
be done if their sojourn at the spring-hole was to be a pleasant one.
The Indian Lake wilderness was noted for its sudden and violent
storms, and when they came the boys meant to be ready for them. They
did not forget to wash the dishes this time, and then Arthur and Joe
went to work to build the shanty, while Roy busied himself in
collecting a supply of fuel and building a range.

If you have never passed a vacation in the woods, you probably do not
know that a camp fire and a camp range are two different things. The
first is made directly in front of the open part of the shanty, and is
intended for warmth and comfort, and for light, also, when you have no
lantern or jack-lamp. The range is built off on one side, a little out
of the way, and is made by placing two green logs, five or six feet
long, and eight inches in diameter, side by side on the ground, about
a foot apart at one end, and nearly touching at the other. The open
end of the range is placed to windward—that is in the direction from
which the wind blows—to create a draft, and the upper sides of the
logs are hewn off square with an ax, so that the pots, pans, and
kettles will stay where they are put, and not slip off into the fire.
You build a hard-wood fire between these logs, and when it has stopped
blazing and burned a thick bed of coals you are ready to begin your
cooking. To facilitate the handling of hot dishes on the range, Joe
Wayring had a pair of light blacksmith’s tongs, with the jaws curved
instead of straight. This was the handiest little tool I ever saw.
With its aid Joe could pour out coffee, dish up soup, and remove the
frying-pan from the range; and, as the tongs were always cold, no one
ever saw him dancing about the fire with burned fingers.

The boys worked until three o’clock without even stopping for lunch,
and then Roy got into the canvas canoe and pushed out to catch trout
enough for supper, while Arthur cut down evergreens to furnish fresh
browse for the beds. It was about this time that I introduced them to
you in the first chapter. Joe Wayring had just put the finishing
touches upon the shanty (I didn’t wonder that he was satisfied with
it, for Mr. Swan himself could not have put up a neater little house)
and started the conversation with which I commenced my story. He gave
it as his opinion that their camp was well out of Tom Bigden’s reach,
and that Matt Coyle and his boys were much too indolent to walk twelve
miles through a thick wood just to get into a fight with them; and at
the very moment he said it some of those whose names he had mentioned
were trying their best to find him.

Having disposed of their late dinner and cleaned up the camp, the boys
were at liberty to lie around under the trees and rest. This, for a
wonder, Joe Wayring was quite willing to do; but Roy and Arthur
suddenly took it into their heads that they would like to explore the
spring-hole and see how big it was and what it looked like.

“Well, go on,” said Joe, “and I will stay here and keep up the fire
and rest. Two are enough to ride in that canoe. Take your rods and
catch some trout for breakfast. You ought to have fine sport, for they
are jumping up in every direction.”

Roy and Arthur thought it best to act upon this suggestion, and from
force of habit they also put their guns into the canoe before shoving
out into the spring-hole. That was one of the luckiest things those
two boys ever did.

By the time they had made two hundred yards from shore, the voyagers
discovered that No-Man’s Pond was not a circular basin, as it appeared
to be when viewed from the beach in front of their camp. Its shape was
very irregular. Numerous long points jutted into the water from both
sides, and behind these points were secluded bays in which numberless
flocks of wood duck lived unmolested by any enemy save the bald eagles
that now and then swooped down and carried off one of their number for
dinner.

The boys paddled up on one side of the spring-hole and down the other,
going entirely around it and exploring all the little bays and inlets
in their course, seeing nothing in the shape of game except the ducks,
which quickly sought concealment under the broad leaves of the
lily-pads, and finally they dropped anchor in the mouth of a little
brook that emptied into the pond, and jointed their rods. It did not
take them more than twenty minutes to catch their next morning’s
breakfast. In fact, the trout were so eager to take their flies,
sometimes jumping clear out of the water to meet them, that the sport
was robbed of all excitement.

“I would as soon fish in an aquarium,” said Roy, as he pulled his rod
apart and shoved it into its case. “I like to angle for trout, but
this suits me too well. What would some of Mr. Hanson’s guests, who
haven’t caught a legal fish this season, give to be here with us?
Let’s go to camp and see what friend Joe is doing.”

For some reason or other the boys did not sing and shout, as they
usually did on occasions like this. Arthur lay at full length in the
bow, his chin resting on his arms, which were crossed over the
gunwales, and Roy plied the paddle with so much skill that it scarcely
made a ripple in the water. As we came noiselessly around the point
that obstructed our view of the upper end of the spring-hole, Arthur
uttered an ejaculation of astonishment and alarm, raised himself to a
sitting posture with so much haste that he came within a hair’s
breadth of capsizing me, and reached for his gun, while Roy sat with
open mouth and staring eyes, holding his paddle suspended in the air,
and looking in the direction of the camp. I looked too, and if I had
possessed a heart the scene that met my gaze would have set it to
beating like a trip-hammer.

Joe Wayring was no longer lying at his ease under the shade of the
evergreens. He was standing with his face to a tree, which he seemed
to be clasping with his white, sinewy arms; his back was bared, and he
was looking over his shoulder at Matt Coyle, who stood behind and a
little to one side of him, rolling up his sleeves. Near by stood Sam,
and Jake, each holding a heavy switch in his hand.

In an instant I comprehended the situation—or thought I did. I had
heard Matt declare, in savage tones, that some day he and his boys
would tie Joe Wayring to a tree and larrup him till he’d wish that he
and his crowd had minded their own business; and now Matt was about to
carry his threat into execution. He meant to do his work well, when he
got at it; for, in addition to the switches that Jake and Sam held in
their hands, I saw several others lying on the ground beside them. I
had never dreamed that the enmity Matt cherished toward my master was
so intense and bitter that it would lead him to go twelve miles out of
his way to wreak vengeance upon him, and it was a mystery to me how he
ever found out that Joe and his two chums were camping in this
particular spot. I did not believe that Matt had come there by
accident, and he hadn’t, either, as I afterward learned. He and his
boys were on Joe’s trail within three hours after he left Indian Lake,
and they had been looking for him ever since, being urged on by
something besides a desire for revenge, as I gained from the very
first words I heard the squatter utter.

When we rounded the point we were within less than thirty yards of our
camp, and in plain sight of it; but its occupants were so deeply
interested in their own affairs that they did not see us. I felt a
thrill of indignation run all through me when I caught a glimpse of my
master’s pale face, and was proud of him when I saw that there were no
signs of cringing in him. Matt bared his brawny arm clear to the
shoulder, caught up a switch, gave it a flourish or two to make sure
that it would stand the work to which he intended to put it, and then
said in a loud voice, as if he were addressing some one on the other
side of the spring-hole:

“Now, then, where is it? You see that we are in dead ’arnest, I
reckon, don’t you? What have you done with it?”

“I tell you I don’t know any thing about it,” said Joe’s clear,
ringing voice in reply. “I never saw it.”

For some reason or other these words seemed to set Jake Coyle beside
himself. He yelled like a wild Indian, leaped from the ground, and
made his heavy switch whistle as it cut the air in close proximity to
the prisoner’s unprotected back. As soon as he could speak plainly he
shouted—

“You have seed it too, an’ you do know somethin’ about it. Whoop! Put
it onto him, pap, or else stand away from there an’ let me get at him.
Don’t you mind how he slapped me in the face with that paddle of
your’n? An’ now he’s gone an’ stole—”

“Don’t be in a hurry, Jakey,” interrupted Matt. “Your turn’ll come
after I get through with him. I’ll let you at him directly. Look
here,” he went on, once more addressing himself to Joe. “You won’t get
no help from your friends, an’ you needn’t look for it. When we was
comin’ through the woods, we seen ’em puttin’ for Injun Lake tight as
they could go. Didn’t we, Jakey? Now if you will ax our parding for
your meanness to us, an’ tell us where it is, we’ll let you off easy.
What do you say?”

“I say I won’t do it,” answered Joe, in undaunted tones. “I shan’t ask
your pardon, and you can’t make me. I haven’t done any thing to you.”

“You ain’t?” roared Matt, drawing back the switch as if he were about
to let it fall on Joe’s back. “Don’t you call drivin’ honest folks
outen Mount Airy ’cause they ain’t got no good clothes to w’ar, an’
keepin’ ’em from earnin’ a livin’ that they’ve got jest as good a
right to as you rich ones have—don’t you call that doin’ somethin’?”

“And furthermore,” continued Joe, “I tell you, for the last time, that
I don’t know any thing about that money. I never saw it.”

“Whoop!” shouted Jake, going off into another war-dance. “You have
seed it, an’ you know all about it. You had them two grip-sacks into
your baskets, you an’ your friends did, when you left Injun Lake to
come up yer. Tom Bigden said so.”

“Whoop!” yelled Matt, in his turn. “Now you’ve done it, you fule!
Didn’t that Bigden boy say plain enough that he didn’t want you to
speak his name at all? See if that won’t put some gumption into your
thick head; an’ that, an’ that! I’ll learn you to find six thousand
dollars, an’ go an’ hide it from your pap, an’ then let fellers like
Joe Wayring steal it from you, you ongrateful scamp.”

[Illustration: ARTHUR HASTINGS’ FORTUNATE ARRIVAL.]

Jake was generally on the lookout for sudden bursts of fury on the
part of his sire, but this time he was taken by surprise. Before he
could dodge or stir an inch from his tracks, he received a most
unmerciful beating, one that gave me a faint idea of what was in store
for Joe Wayring. When he turned to run, the face he presented to our
view was bleeding in half a dozen places.

“There, now,” exclaimed Matt, who was almost frantic. “Go an’ hide
some more money from your pap, an’ blab when you was told to hold your
jaw, won’t you? Now that I have got my hand in, I reckon I might as
well finish with you,” he continued, turning back and taking his stand
behind the prisoner. “Once more I ax you: Will you tell me where you
have hid that money?”

“I have nothing more to say,” replied Joe, in an unfaltering voice.

The answer added fuel to the fire of Matt’s rage. He moistened his
hand and seized the switch with a firmer hold, while Joe turned his
face to the tree and nerved himself to receive the expected blow. That
was more than Arthur Hasting could endure; but it brought his
scattered wits back to him. In an instant his double barrel was at his
shoulder, and his flashing eye was looking along the rib.

“Hold on there!” he shouted. “If you touch that boy I will put more
holes through you than you ever saw in a skimmer. Throw down that gad
and stand where you are.”

The effect of these words was magical. Jake Coyle, whose doleful howls
of anguish had awakened a thousand echoes among the surrounding hills,
suddenly ceased his lamentations; the white face of Joe Wayring turned
toward us lighted up with hope; and Matt and Sam looked at Arthur and
his threatening gun with eyes that seemed to have grown to the size of
saucers. For a second or two no one moved or spoke; then one of the
three marauders gave a perfect imitation of the cry of alarm the
mother grouse utters when her brood is menaced with danger, whereupon
Matt and his boys disappeared in the most bewildering way. They were
seen to drop where they stood, and that was the last of them. Although
Arthur rose to his feet as quickly as he could and Roy plied the
paddle with all his strength, they did not catch another glimpse of
the squatter, nor was there the slightest rustling in the bushes to
tell which way he and his allies had gone.

Continue Reading

Great Scott

“Human natur’!” yelled Jake, when the ball sung through the air close
to his ear. “I’m shot! Whoop! I’m killed.”

He let go his hold upon the snag and fell back into the water with a
sounding splash; but rising with the buoyancy of a cork, and finding,
to his astonishment, that he was not at all injured, he swam rapidly
in my direction, but so silently that I could not hear the slightest
ripple. The robbers, if such they were, were struck dumb by the
alarming sounds that had been called forth by their random shot; but
at length one of them broke the silence.

“I hope you’re satisfied,” said he, in savage tones. “You have added
murder to burglary, and now we are in for it, sure. I’m off this very
minute.”

“Where are you going, Tony?” asked his companion, in pleading tones.

“I’m going to get ashore and strike out through the woods the best I
know how. I don’t care where I bring up, so long as I put a safe
distance between myself and the guides who will be on our trail at
daylight. They’ll track a fellow down as a hound would.”

“Are you going to desert me? I can’t swim ashore.”

“Then walk. The water isn’t up to your neck.”

“But the mud! What if it should be a quicksand?”

“The mud isn’t an inch deep. That boy told us a pack of lies from
beginning to end. He capsized us on purpose; but I am sorry you shot
him. Come on, if you are going with me.”

“Must we leave the money behind after all the risk we ran to get it?”

“The money can stay where it is till the rust eats it up for all I
care,” replied Tony, who was very much alarmed. “I wouldn’t stay here
a minute longer after what you have done for all the money there is in
America.”

“But there are six thousand dollars in those grip-sacks,” protested
Jim, “and that amount of cash don’t grow on every bush.”

“I know it; but there’s no help for it that I can see. You have
knocked us out of a fortune by being so quick with your revolver.”

Here the speaker broke out into a volley of the heaviest kind of
oaths, and Jake Coyle sat composedly in the canvas canoe listening to
him. The boy’s courage came back to him the instant he found himself
in the boat with the double paddle in his hand, and instead of making
haste to return to the other shore, as I thought he would, he kept
still and waited to see what his late passengers were going to do.
Although he was not more than twenty yards from them they could not
see him, for, as I have said, the night was pitch dark.

“I knowed by the way them fellers went snoopin’ around that suller,
an’ by the funny story they tried to cram down my throat, that they
wasn’t sportsmen like they pertended to be,” soliloquized Jake, giving
himself an approving slap on the knee. “An’ I knowed the minute I seed
that money that it wasn’t their’n, an’ that’s why I upsot ’em into the
lake. Whoop-pee! I’ve got a silver mind up there by that snag, an’
to-morrer night I’ll slip up an’ work it.”

Hardly able to control himself, so great was his delight over the
success of his hastily conceived plans, Jake sat and listened while
the robbers floundered through the water toward the shore; and when a
crashing in the bushes told him that they had taken to the woods, he
headed me for the place where he had left the stolen provisions. Six
thousand dollars! Jake could hardly believe it. It was a princely
fortune in his estimation, and it was all his own; for no one except
himself and the robbers knew where it was, and the latter would not
dare come after it, believing, as they did, that their chance shot had
proved fatal to Jake. It would be an easy matter for the boy to bring
the two grip-sacks to the surface by diving for them, but what should
he do with the money after he got hold of it? Unless he went to some
place where he was not known, it would be of no more use to him than
those fine guns were to his father. There was but one store within a
radius of fifty miles at which he could spend any of it, and Jake knew
it would not be safe to go there. The store was located at Indian
Lake, and that was the headquarters of the guides who were so hostile
to his father’s family.

“It’s a p’int that will need a heap of studyin’ to straighten it out,”
thought Jake, putting a little more energy into his strokes with the
double paddle. “But I’m rich, an’ I needn’t stop with pap no longer’n
I’ve a mind to. That’s a comfortin’ idee. Wouldn’t him an’ Sam be
hoppin’ if they knowed what had happened to-night? I don’t reckon I’d
best have any thing more to say to Rube about them guns. I don’t care
for fifty dollars long’s I got six thousand waitin’ for me.”

Jake found the bags where he had left them, and also the five dollars
which the robbers had paid him for ferrying them across the lake. He
loaded the bags into the canoe, after putting the money into his
pocket, and set out for home, which he reached without any further
adventure. He took a good deal of pains to avoid the watchman at the
hatchery, although there was really no need of it. Rube knew well
enough that the food Matt’s wife served up to him three times a day
had never been paid for. The first words he uttered when he presented
himself at the breakfast table the next morning proved as much.

“Beats the world how you folks keep yourselves in grub so easy,” said
he, as he drew one of the stools up to the well-filled board. “I never
see you do no work, an’ yet you never go hungry. Well, I don’t know’s
it’s any of my business; but I’d like mighty well to make it my
business to ’rest them two robbers that’s prowlin’ about in these
woods.”

“What robbers?” inquired Matt; while Jake, taken by surprise, bent his
head lower over his cracked plate and trembled in every limb.

“I don’t know’s I can give you any better idee of it than by readin’ a
little scrap in a paper that Swan give me early this morning,”
answered Rube, pushing back his stool and pulling the paper in
question from his pocket.

“Swan!” ejaculated Matt, his face betraying the utmost consternation.
“Has he been round here?”

Rube replied very calmly that the guide had been around there, adding—

“Him an’ a whole passel of other guides an’ constables come to see me
this morning at the hatchery afore sun-up. They told me all about it
an’ give me this paper. They was a lookin’ for the robbers.”

“An’ don’t you know that they’re lookin’ for me too?” exclaimed Matt,
reproachfully. “An you never come to wake me up so’t I could take to
the bresh an’ hide? Spos’n I’d been ketched all along of your not
bringin’ me word?”

“But you see I knowed you wasn’t in no danger,” replied the watchman.
“They wouldn’t be likely to look for you in my house, an’ me holdin’
the position of watchman at the State hatchery, would they? Besides,
they don’t care for you now. They’re after a bigger reward than has
been offered for you. There’s six hundred dollars to be made by
’restin’ them robbers, an’ that’s what brung Swan an’ his crowd up
here so early. They tracked the robbers through the woods as far as
Haskinses’, Swan and the rest of the guides did, an’ there they found
a steeple pulled outen the suller door an’—Hallo! What’s the matter of
you, Jake?”

“There ain’t nothin’ the matter of me as I knows on,” said the boy,
faintly.

“I thought you sorter acted like you was chokin’. Well, they routed up
Haskinses’ folks, an’ when Miss Haskins come to go into the suller she
said she had lost some ’taters, turnups, bacon, butter, and pickles,”
continued Rube; and as he said this he ran his eyes over the table and
saw before him every one of the articles he had enumerated. “Miss
Haskins allowed that the robbers must a bust open the door to get grub
to eat while they was layin’ around in the bresh. Mebbe they did an’
mebbe they didn’t; but that’s nothin’ to me. They couldn’t track the
robbers no furder’n the suller; but they’re bound to come up with ’em,
sooner or later. Townies ain’t as good at hidin’ in the woods as you
be, Matt.”

The squatter grinned his appreciation of the complaint, and Rube
proceeded to unfold his paper. When he found the dispatch of which he
was in search, he read it in a low monotone, without any rising or
falling inflection or the least regard for pauses. It ran as follows:

“BANK THIEVES GET $6,000.

“Irvington, Aug. 3.—The cashier of the First National Bank went to
dinner about noon yesterday, after closing and locking the vault and
doors of the building. Thieves entered the bank by a back door and
secured about $6,000, mostly in specie, which had been left in trays
just inside the iron railings. Two strangers wearing long dark coats
and black felt hats were seen coming out of the alley about the time
the money was supposed to have been stolen, and suspicion rests upon
them. The sheriff is in hot pursuit, and the thieves have already been
traced as far as Indian Lake. That is bad news. The Indian Lake
vagabonds will give them aid and comfort as long as their money holds
out, and the officers will have an all-winter’s job to run them to
earth. A reward of six hundred dollars has been offered for the
apprehension of the robbers.”

Rube folded the paper again and said, as he winked knowingly at Matt
Coyle—

“You see that Swan and the rest of the guides have got bigger game
than you to look after, an’ if they’ve got an all-winter’s job onto
their hands, you’re safe, so fur as bein’ took up is concerned; I mean
that they won’t go out of their way to hunt you up.”

Having finished his breakfast Rube took possession of one of the
shake-downs, while Matt and his family adjourned to the open air to
give him a chance to sleep.

“The Injun Lake vagabones will give ’em aid an’ comfort as long’s
their money holds out,” quoted Matt, seating himself on a convenient
log and knitting his shaggy brows as if he were revolving some deep
problem in his mind. “That means us, I reckon; don’t you? I’d give ’em
all the aid an’ comfort they wanted if I could only find ’em, I bet
you. I wish we were livin’ in the woods now like we used to. We’d
stand enough sight better chance of meetin’ ’em than we do here so
nigh the hatchery.”

“An’ what’s the reason we ain’t livin’ in the woods, quiet and
peaceable?” exclaimed Sam. “It’s all along of Joe Wayring an’ the rest
of them Mt. Airy fellers who burned us outen house an’ home, so’t
we’ve got to stay around the settlements whether we want to or not.”

The mention of Joe Wayring’s name seemed to set Matt Coyle beside
himself with rage. He jumped to his feet and strode back and forth in
front of his log, flourishing his arms in the air and uttering threats
that were enough to make even a canvas canoe tremble with
apprehension. Why Matt should feel so spiteful against my master I
could not understand. Joe had no hand in driving him out of Mount
Airy, neither did he lend the least assistance in destroying Matt’s
property. The trustees and the guides were the responsible parties,
but Matt did not give a thought to them. The innocent Joe was the
object of his wrath, and he promised to visit all sorts of terrible
punishments upon him at no very distant day.

“We’ll tie him to a tree an’ larrup him till he’ll wish him an’ his
crowd had left us alone,” said Matt, in savage tones. “We’ll larn him
that honest folks ain’t to be drove about like sheep jest ’cause they
ain’t got no good clothes to w’ar. But six thousand dollars!” added
Matt, coming back to the point from which he started. “That’s a power
of money, ain’t it?”

“Six hundred you mean,” suggested Sam.

“That’s the reward that’s been offered for them robbers.”

“Who said any thing about the reward,” exclaimed Matt, almost
fiercely. “I wasn’t thinkin’ of the reward. I was thinkin’ of the six
thousand.”

“Wouldn’t you try to ’rest ’em, pap, if you should find ’em?” inquired
Sam.

“Not if I could make more by givin’ ’em aid an’ comfort, I wouldn’t.
Say,” added Matt, giving Sam a poke in the ribs with his finger. “Six
hundred dollars is nothin’ alongside of six thousand, is it? Them
fellers will have to camp somewhere, if they stay in the woods, won’t
they? An’ is there a man in the Injun Lake country that’s better’n I
be at findin’ camps an’ sneakin’ up on ’em? Jakey, go into the shanty
an’ bring out that canvas canoe of your’n. Go easy, ’cause Rube wants
to sleep after bein’ up all night. More’n that, I want him to sleep;
for I don’t care to have him know what I am up to. I suspicion that
he’s watchin’ me.”

“Where be you goin’, pap?” asked Jake, in some alarm.

“Up to Haskinses’ to take a look around his landin’,” replied Matt.
“You didn’t see any thing of them robbers while you was workin’ about
that suller, did you, Jakey?”

“Didn’t see hide nor hair of nobody,” was the answer. “If I’d seen ’em
I’d been that scared that I never would quit a runnin’.”

“Well, they was up there somewheres, ’cause Swan an’ his crowd tracked
’em that fur. But they couldn’t foller ’em no furder, an’ that proves
that the robbers must have crossed the lake right there.”

“I don’t reckon they did, pap,” replied Jake, whose uneasiness and
anxiety were so apparent that it was a wonder his father’s suspicions
were not aroused. “’Cause where did they get a boat to take ’em over?
Haskins don’t own but one, an’ he’s got that up to Injun Lake.”

“I don’t know nothin’ about that,” answered Matt, doggedly. “Them
robbers got across the lake somehow, an’ I am sure of it. Leastwise it
won’t do any harm to slip up there, easy like, an’ look around a bit.
Go an’ bring out the canoe, Jakey.”

I did not wonder at the white face the boy brought with him when he
came into the cabin and took me out of the chimney corner, and neither
was I much surprised to hear him mutter under his breath—

“I do wish in my soul that I’d busted a hole into you when I run you
onto that snag last night. Then pap couldn’t have used you this
mornin’. I’ll bet he don’t never go out in you no more.”

“Now, then,” said Matt, “put him together, ready for business—you can
do it better’n I can—while I go in after my pipe an’ rifle.”

“Say, Jakey,” said Sam, in a delighted whisper, as Matt tip-toed into
the cabin, “if pap finds the camp of them robbers won’t we be rich
folks, though? He ain’t goin’ in fur the reward, pap ain’t. Looks to
me as though he had got his eye on them six thousand.”

That was the way it looked to Jake too; and although he knew that his
father could not find the money, hidden as it was under five feet and
more of muddy water, he was afraid that he would see something at
Haskins’ landing that would make him open his eyes. And Jake’s fears
were realized. In less than an hour after he and his brother put me
into the water at the head of the outlet, Matt had paddled up to
Haskins’ landing and was taking in all the signs he found there with
the eye of an Indian trailer. Nothing escaped his scrutiny. He saw the
impress of Jake’s bare feet in the mud, the prints of boots, the marks
of the canvas canoe on the beach, and noted the place where the bags
had been left while the robbers were being ferried across the lake.
Then he sat down on a log, smoked a pipe, and thought about it.

“What was that boy’s notion for tellin’ me that them robbers couldn’t
have crossed the lake ’cause they didn’t have no boat, do you reckon?”
said he, to himself. “Come to think of it, he did look kinder queer
when I said I was goin’ to look about Haskinses’ landin’ jest to see
what I could find here, and I’ll bet that that boy knows more about
them robbers than any body else in these woods. He took ’em over,
Jakey did—all the signs show that. Course he didn’t do it for nothin’,
so he must have money. Now what’s to be done about it?”

This was a question upon which the squatter pondered long and deeply.
If Jake had earned some money the night before, of course Matt ought
to have the handling of it, for he was the head of the family; but how
was he going to get it? He knew the boy too well to indulge in the
hope that he would surrender it on demand, and as for whipping it out
of him—well, that wouldn’t be so easy, either; for Jake was light of
foot, and quite as much at home in the woods as his father was. It
wouldn’t do for Matt to come to an open rupture with his hopeful son,
for if he did who would steal the bacon and potatoes the next time the
larder ran low? Sam was too timid to forage in the dark, running the
risk of encounters with vicious dogs and settlers who might be on the
watch, and even Matt had no heart for such work. He must bide his time
and pick Jake’s pocket after he had gone to bed, unless—here the
squatter got upon his feet, knocked the ashes from his pipe, and
shoved the canvas canoe out into the lake.

“Them robbers must have made pretty considerable of a trail, lumberin’
through the bresh in the dark, an’ what’s to hender me from follerin’
’em?” he soliloquized, as he plied the double paddle. “Havin’ been up
all night they oughter sleep to-day, an’ if I can only find their
camp—eh?”

Matt Coyle began building air-castles as these thoughts passed through
his mind. He paddled directly across the lake, avoiding the snag on
which I had been overturned the night before, passing over Jake’s
silver mine, which he might have seen if he had looked into the water,
and presently he was standing on the spot where the robbers made their
landing when they waded ashore. Here another surprise awaited him.
There were no signs to indicate that the canvas canoe had been there
before, and neither were there any prints of bare feet to be seen.
Boot-marks were plenty, however, and the ground about them was wet.

“Now what’s the meanin’ of this yer?” exclaimed Matt, who was greatly
astonished and bewildered. “What’s the reason Jakey didn’t land his
passengers on shore ’stead of dumpin’ them in the water? Do you reckon
he tipped ’em over an’ spilled that money out into the lake? If he
did, ’taint no use for me to foller the trail any furder.”

Little dreaming how shrewd a guess he had made, Matt filled his pipe
and sat down for another smoke. While he was trying to find some
satisfactory answers to the questions he had propounded to himself, he
was aroused by a slight splashing in the water, and looked up to see a
light canoe close upon him. It had rounded the point unseen, and was
now so near that any attempt at flight or concealment would have been
useless. So Matt put on a bold face. He arose to his feet with great
deliberation, picked up his rifle, and rested it in the hollow of his
arm.

“No one man in the Injun Lake country can ’rest me,” I heard him say,
in determined tones, “an’ if that feller knows when he’s well off he
won’t try it. Well, I do think in my soul! If that ain’t the boy that
told me to steal Joe Wayring’s boat, I’m a sinner. He’s the very chap
I want to see, for I’ve got use for him. Hello, there!” he added,
aloud. “Powerful glad to see you agin, so onexpected like. Come
ashore.”

Tom Bigden (for it was he) paused when he heard himself addressed so
familiarly, and sat in his canoe with his double paddle suspended in
the air. He gave a quick glance at the tattered, unkempt figure on the
beach, and with an exclamation of disgust went on his way again.

“Say,” shouted Matt, in peremptory tones. “Hold on a minute. I want to
talk to you.”

“Well, I don’t want to talk to you,” was Tom’s reply. “Mind your own
business and let your betters alone.”

If Tom had tried for a week he could not have said any thing that was
better calculated to make Matt Coyle angry. The latter never
acknowledged that there was any body in the world better than himself.
Lazy, shiftless vagabond and thief that he was, he considered himself
the equal of any industrious, saving and honest guide in the country.

“Who’s my betters?” Matt almost yelled. “Not you, I’d have you know. I
can have you ’rested before this time to-morrer, if I feel like it,
an’ I will, too, if you throw on any more of your ’ristocratic airs
with me. Mind that, while you’re talkin’ about bein’ ‘my betters.’”

“Why, you—you villain,” exclaimed Tom, who could not find words strong
enough to express his surprise and indignation. “How dare you talk to
me in that way?”

“No more villain than yourself,” retorted Matt, hotly, “an’ I dare
talk to you in any way I please. You don’t like it ’cause a man who
ain’t got no good clothes to wear has the upper hand of you an’ can
send you to jail any day he feels in the humor for it, do you? Well,
that’s the way the thing stands, an’ if you want to keep friends with
me, you had better do as I tell you.”

Tom Bigden was utterly confounded. Never in his life before had he
been so shamefully insulted. Do as that blear-eyed ragamuffin told
him! He would cut off his right hand first. Almost ready to boil over
with rage, Tom dipped his paddle into the water and set his canoe in
motion again.

“Well, go on if you want to,” yelled Matt. “But bear one thing in
mind: I’ll leave word at the hatchery this very night, an’ to-morrer
there’ll be a constable lookin’ for you. You forget that you told me
to steal Joe Wayring’s boat down there to Sherwin’s Pond last summer,
don’t you? You knowed I was goin’ to take it, you never said or done a
thing to hender me, an’ that makes you a ’cessory before the fact,”
added Matt glibly, and with a ring of triumph in his voice. “Now, will
you stop an’ talk to me, or go to jail?”

Tom was frightened as well as astonished. He _had_ forgotten all about
that little episode at Sherwin’s Pond, but the squatter’s threatening
words recalled it very vividly to mind. He knew enough about law to be
aware that an accessory before the fact is one who advises or commands
another to commit a felony, and Tom had done just that very thing, and
thereby rendered himself liable to punishment. It is true that there
were no witnesses present when he urged Matt to steal the canvas
canoe, but there were plenty of them around, when he advised him to
steal the hunting dogs belonging to the guests of the hotels, and to
turn the sail boats in Mirror Lake adrift so that they would go
through the rapids into Sherwin’s Pond.

“Great Scott!” ejaculated Tom, as these reflections came thronging
upon him thick and fast. “What have I done? I have put my foot in it,
and this low fellow has the upper hand of me as sure as the world.”

I am of opinion that Tom would have given something just then if he
had not been in such haste to take vengeance upon a boy who never did
the first thing to incur his enmity.

“I allowed you’d stop after you took time to think the matter over,”
chuckled Matt, when he saw the boy lift his paddle from the water and
rest it across his knee. “I ain’t forgot that you spoke kind words to
me an’ my family down there to Mount Airy when every body else was
jawin’ at us an’ tryin’ to kick us outen house an’ home, an’ I’d be
glad to be friends with you,” he added, in a more conciliatory tone.
“But I ain’t goin’ to stand no airs of no sort. Now, come ashore so’t
I can talk to you.”

“What do you want to say to me?” asked Tom, who could hardly refrain
from yelling in the ecstasy of his rage. The man talked as though he
had a perfect right to command him. “Speak out, if you have any thing
on your mind. I can hear it from my canoe as well as I could ashore.”

“Well, I shan’t speak out, nuther,” answered Matt, decidedly. “I ain’t
goin’ to talk so’t they can hear me clear up to Injun Lake. Come
ashore.”

Tom reluctantly obeyed; that is, he ran the bow of his canoe upon the
beach, but that was as far as he would go.

“I am as near shore as I am going to get,” said he, with a little show
of spirit. “Now what have you to say to me? Be in a hurry, for my
friends are waiting for me.”

“Well, you needn’t get huffy about it,” replied Matt, backing toward
his log and pulling his pipe from his pocket. “I can tell you in a few
words what I want you to do for me, an’ as for your friends, they can
wait till their hurry’s over. Say,” added the squatter, sinking his
voice to a confidential whisper, “you know I told you when I stole
this here canvas canoe that I was comin’ to Injun Lake to go into the
business of independent guidin’. You remember that, don’t you?”

“Well, what of it?” was the only response Tom deigned to make. “No
matter what I remember. Go on with what you have to say to me.”

“Don’t get in a persp’ration,” continued Matt, with the most
exasperating deliberation. “Yes; that’s one thing that made me take
the canvas canoe—so’t I could go into the business of guidin’ on my
own hook; but when I got here I found that the landlords wouldn’t have
nuthin’ to do with me, an’ the guests wouldn’t, nuther. So I took to
visitin’ all the camps I could hear of, an’ helpin’ myself to what I
could find in ’em in the way of grub, we’pons an’ sich. I told you
that was what I was goin’ to do. You remember it, don’t you?”

Tom made a gesture of impatience but said nothing.

“Yes; that’s what I done, an’ it wasn’t long before I kicked up the
biggest kind of a row up there to Injun Lake,” said the squatter,
pounding his knees with his clenched hands and shaking all over with
suppressed merriment. “The women-folks dassent go into the woods for
fear that they would run foul of me when they wasn’t lookin’ for it,
an’ some of the guests told Hanson—he’s the new landlord, you
know—that if he didn’t have me took up an’ put in jail they’d never
come nigh him agin. Oh, I tell you I’ve done a heap since me an’ you
had that little talk up there to Sherwin’s Pond, an’ I’m goin’ to do a
heap more before the season’s over. I said I’d bust up guidin’ an’ the
hotels along with it, an’ I’m goin’ to keep my word. I’ll l’arn them
’ristocrats that I’m jest as good as they ever dare be, even if I
ain’t got no good clothes to wear.”

Tom Bigden was intensely disgusted. Matt talked to him as unreservedly
as he might have talked to an accomplice. When he paused to light his
pipe Tom managed to say—

“You hinted last summer that you intended to kidnap little children if
you got a good chance. Have you tried it?”

“Not yet I ain’t, but there’s no tellin’ what I may do if they don’t
quit crowdin’ on me,” replied Matt, with a grin. “That is one of the
tricks I still hold in my hand. I must have money to buy grub an’
things, an’ since I ain’t allowed to earn it honest, as I would like
to do, I must get it any way I can. An’ this brings me to what I want
to say to you.”

“I am very glad to hear it,” answered Tom. “Now I hope you will hurry
up. I am getting tired of listening to your senseless gabble. I am in
no way interested in what you have done or what you intend to do. What
do you want of me? That’s all I care to know.”

“Don’t get in a persp’ration,” said the squatter again. “Yes; I
visited all the camps I could hear of, like I told you, an’ among
other things I took outen them camps were two scatter-guns an’ a
rifle. One of the scatter-guns I give up agin, an’ I got ten dollars
for doin’ it, too.”

“Well, what do I care about that?” said Tom, when Matt paused and
looked at him. “I tell you I am not interested in these things. Come
to the point at once.”

“I’m comin’ to it,” answered the squatter. “I give up one of the
scatter-guns, like I told you, but t’other one an’ the rifle I’ve got
yet. There’s been a reward of a hundred dollars offered for them two
guns—fifty dollars apiece—an’ I want it.”

“Then why don’t you give up the guns and claim it?”

“Now, jest listen at the fule!” exclaimed Matt. “I dassent, ’cause
there’s been a reward of a hundred more dollars offered for the man
that stole them guns. That’s me. I can’t go up to Injun Lake to take
them guns back to the men that owns ’em, an’ I’m afeared to send the
boys, ’cause they would be took up the same as I would. See?”

“Yes, I see; but I don’t know what you are going to do about it.
You’ve got the guns, and if you are afraid to give them up you will
have to keep them. I don’t see any other way for you to do.”

“I do,” said Matt; and there was something in the tone of his voice
that made Tom uneasy. “I don’t want the guns, ’cause I can’t use ’em;
but I do want the money, an’ that’s what I am goin’ to talk to you
about. I want you to buy them guns—”

“Well, I shan’t do it,” exclaimed Tom, who was fairly staggered by
this proposition. “I’ve got one gun, and that’s all I need. Besides, I
am not going to become a receiver of stolen property.”

“I’ll give ’em to you for twenty-five dollars apiece,” continued Matt,
paying no heed to the interruption, “an’ you can take ’em up to Injun
Lake an’ claim the whole of the reward. You’ll make fifty dollars by
it.”

“I tell you I won’t do it,” repeated Tom. “I’ll not have any thing to
do with it. I’m not going to get myself into trouble for the sake of
putting money into your pocket.”

“There ain’t no need of your gettin’ yourself into trouble less’n you
want to. When you take the guns up to Hanson you can tell him that you
found ’em in the bresh—that you didn’t know who they belonged to, an’
so you made up your decision that you had better take ’em to him. See?
That’ll be all fair an’ squar’, an’ nobody will ever suspicion that I
give ’em to you. Come to think on it, I won’t give ’em to you,” added
Matt. “You hand me the twenty-five dollars apiece, an’ I will tell you
right where the guns is hid, an’ you can go up there an’ get ’em. Then
when you tell Hanson that you found ’em in the bresh you will tell him
nothing but the truth. What do you say?”

“I say I haven’t got fifty dollars to spend in any such way,” answered
Tom. He wished from the bottom of his heart that he had pluck enough
to defy the squatter, but he hadn’t. It cut him to the quick to be
obliged to sit there and hear himself addressed so familiarly by such
a fellow as Matt Coyle, but he could not see any way of escape. The
man had it in his power to make serious trouble for him.

“Ain’t you got that much money about your good clothes?” asked Matt,
incredulously.

“I haven’t fifty cents to my name.”

“You can’t make me b’lieve that. You wouldn’t come to Injun Lake
without no money to pay your expenses. Don’t stand to reason, that
don’t.”

“My cousin Ralph carries the purse and foots all our bills; but he
hasn’t half that amount left. We are pretty near strapped and almost
ready to go home.”

“Well, I won’t be hard on you,” said Matt. “I am the accommodatin’est
feller you ever see. Go home, ask your pap for the money, an’ come
back an’ hand it to me. That’s fair, ain’t it? Mount Airy is a hundred
miles from Injun Lake. You oughter go an’ come back in ten days. I’ll
give you that long. What do you say?”

“I’ll think about it,” replied Tom, whose sole object just then was to
get out of hearing of Matt Coyle’s voice. As he spoke he placed one
blade of his paddle against the bottom and shoved his canoe out into
deep water.

“That won’t do, that won’t,” exclaimed Matt. “I want to know whether
or not you are goin’ to bring me that money.”

“That depends upon whether I can get it or not.”

“’Cause you needn’t think you can get away from me by jest goin’ up to
Mount Airy,” continued Matt. “There’s constables up there same’s there
is at Injun Lake, an’ a word dropped at the hatchery will reach ’em
mighty easy. If you want me to be friends with you, you won’t sleep
sound till you bring me that fifty dollars.”

“I wonder if any other living boy ever submitted so tamely to such an
insult,” soliloquized Tom, as he headed his canoe up the lake and
paddled back toward the point. “That villain holds me completely in
his power. He can disgrace me before the whole village of Mount Airy
any time he sees fit to do so. The minute he is arrested and brought
to trial, just that minute I am done for. If I give him fifty dollars
for those guns, how much better off will I be? He will have a still
firmer hold upon me. He’ll rob other camps, compel me to buy his
plunder by threats of exposure, and the first thing I know I shall be
a professional ‘fence’—receiver of stolen goods. By gracious!”
exclaimed Tom, redoubling his efforts at the paddle as if he hoped to
run away from the gloomy thoughts that pressed so thickly upon him.
“What am I coming to? What _have_ I come to?”

“There, now,” I heard Matt mutter, as he stood with his hands on his
hips, watching Tom Bigden’s receding figure. “I’ve done two good
strokes of business this morning. I’ve brought that feller down a peg
or two, an’ I have pervided for gettin’ shet of them guns in a way I
didn’t look for. I thought for one spell that they wasn’t goin’ to be
of no use to me, but now I shall make fifty dollars clean cash outen
’em. He’ll bring it to me, for if he don’t I’ll tell on him sure, an’
then he’ll be in a pretty fix with all them people up there to Mount
Airy knowin’ to his meanness. It hurts these ’ristocrats to have a
feller like me to talk to ’em as I talked to that Bigden boy; I can
see that plain enough. Well, they ain’t got no business to have so
much money an’ so many fine things, while me an’ my family is so poor
that we don’t know where our next pair of shoes is comin’ from.”

Highly pleased with the result of his interview with Tom Bigden, Matt
shoved the canvas canoe into the water and pulled slowly toward the
outlet, once more passing directly over Jake’s silver mine. Perhaps
the sunken treasure had some occult influence upon him, for he
straightway dismissed Tom from his mind, and thought about Jake and
the robbers and the six thousand dollars.

“Don’t stand to reason that Jakey would a told me that he hadn’t seen
them robbers less’n he had some excuse for it,” said Matt, to himself.
“He did see ’em, an’ I know it. He took ’em across the lake, too. He
didn’t do it for nothing, so he’s got money. I’ll speak to him about
it when I get home, an’ then I’ll make it my business to keep an eye
on him.”

Having come to this determination Matt dismissed Jake as well as Tom
from his thoughts, and made all haste to reach the outlet, not
forgetting as he paddled swiftly along to keep a close watch of the
woods on shore. Mr. Swan and a large squad of guides and constables
were in there somewhere, and Matt Coyle had a wholesome fear of them.
When I ran upon the beach at the head of the outlet, I was not very
much surprised to see Jake step out of the bushes and come forward to
meet his father. The boy must have been in great suspense all the
morning, and although he was almost bursting with impatience to know
whether or not his father had discovered any thing during his absence
he could not muster up courage enough to ask any questions. But Matt
began the conversation himself.

“Jakey,” said he, reproachfully. “I didn’t think you would get so low
down in the world as to go an’ fool your pap the way you done this
mornin’. You told me you hadn’t seen hide nor hair of them robbers,
an’ that wasn’t so. You did see ’em, an’ you took ’em across the lake,
too. But you didn’t land ’em on this side; you dumped ’em out into the
water. Now how much did you get for it?”

Jake was not so much taken aback as I thought he would be. He had been
expecting something of this kind and was prepared for it. He knew that
his father was an adept at reading “sign,” and he was as well
satisfied as he wanted to be that his five dollars ferry money would
never do him any good. The question was: How much more had his father
learned? Did he know any thing about the silver mine? Jake didn’t
believe he did, else he would have been more jubilant. A man who knew
where he could put his hand on six thousand dollars at any moment
would not look as sober as Matt Coyle did.

“I didn’t get nothin’ for dumpin’ on ’em out, pap,” replied Jake,
after a little pause. “That was somethin’ I couldn’t help. The night
was dark, an’ I didn’t see the snag till I was clost onto it.”

“Well, what become of the six thousand dollars they had with ’em?”
inquired Matt, looking sharply at the boy, who met his gaze without
flinching. “Did you see any thing of it?”

“I seen a couple of grip-sacks into their hands, but I didn’t ask ’em
what was in ’em,” answered Jake. He looked very innocent and truthful
when he said it, but his father was not deceived. He had known Jake to
tell lies before.

“What become of the grip-sacks when you run onto the snag an’ spilled
’em out?” asked Matt.

“They hung fast to ’em an’ took ’em ashore an’ into the woods where I
didn’t see ’em no more.”

“How much did you get for takin’ the robbers over the lake?”

“Jest five dollars; an’ there it is,” said Jake, who knew that the
money would have to be produced sooner or later.

“Now jest look at the fule!” shouted Matt, going off into a sudden
paroxysm of rage. “Five dollars, an’ them with six thousand stolen
dollars into their grip-sacks! Jake, I’ve the best notion in the world
to cut me a hickory an’ wear it out over your back.”

Jake began to look wild. When his father talked that way things were
getting serious.

“Hold on a minute, pap,” he protested, as Matt pulled his knife from
his pocket and started toward the bushes. “How was I goin’ to know
that they had all that money an’ that it was stole from the bank? If I
had knowed it, I would a taxed ’em a hundred dollars, sure; but I
thought they had clothes an’ things in them grip-sacks.”

Matt paused, reflected a moment, and then shut up his knife and put it
into his pocket.

“Why didn’t you tell me that you had made five dollars by takin’ ’em
over ’stead of sayin’ that you hadn’t never seed ’em?” he demanded.

“’Cause I wanted to keep the money to get me some shoes,” answered
Jake, telling the truth this time. “Winter’s comin’ on, an’ I don’t
want to go around with my feet in the snow, like I done last year.
I’ll give you half, pap, an’ then you can get some shoes for
yourself.”

To Jake’s great amazement his father replied—

“No, sonny, you keep it. You earned it, fair and squar’, an’ I won’t
take it from you. I shall make fifty dollars hard cash outen them guns
we’ve got hid in the bresh, an’ that will be enough to run me for a
little while. Now take your boat to pieces an’ bring him up to the
house.”

So saying, Matt Coyle walked off, leaving Jake lost in wonder.

“Well, this beats me,” said the boy, after he had taken a minute or
two to collect his wits. “Pap wouldn’t take half my five dollars, an’
he’s found a way to make fifty dollars outen them guns! I don’t
b’lieve it,” added Jake, his face growing white with excitement and
alarm. “He’s found my silver mind; that’s what’s the matter of him.”

The contortions Jake went through when this unwelcome conviction
forced itself upon him were wonderful. He strode along the beach,
pulling his hair one minute and clapping his hands and jumping up and
down in his tracks the next, and acting altogether as if he had taken
leave of his senses. I had never before witnessed such a performance,
having always been accustomed to the companionship of those who were
able to control themselves, under any and all circumstances. After a
little while he ceased his demonstrations, and picking me up bodily,
carried me into the bushes and left me there.

“I won’t take him to pieces, nuther,” said Jake, aloud. “I’ll leave
him here so’t I can get him without pap’s bein’ knowin’ to it, an’
when night comes I’ll go up an’ see after my silver mind. If pap has
found it, he’ll have to give me half of it, cash in hand, or I’ll tell
on him.”

Although Jake really believed that his “claim” had been “jumped,” he
did not neglect to make preparations for working it in case he found
his fears were groundless. He came back to me about the middle of the
afternoon, and as he approached I saw him take a long, stout line out
of his pocket. What he intended to do with it I could not tell; but I
found out an hour or two afterward, for then I had a second visitor in
the person of Matt Coyle, who came stealing through the bushes without
causing a leaf to rustle. He stopped beside me and picked up the line.

“He didn’t take the canoe to pieces an’ carry him up to the house,
like I told him to, an’ he’s stole his mam’s clothes-line and brung it
down here,” said Matt to himself. “Now, what did he do that for? He’s
goin’ to use ’em both to-night, Jakey is, an’ what’s he goin’ to do
with ’em? He’s a mighty smart boy, but he’ll find that he can’t fool
his pap.”

The hours passed slowly away, and finally the woods were shrouded in
almost impenetrable darkness. The time for action was drawing near. I
waited for it impatiently, because I was sure that the temporary
ownership of those six thousand dollars would be decided before
morning, and I felt some curiosity to know who was going to get them.
While I was thinking about it, Jake Coyle glided up and laid hold of
me. In two minutes more I was in the water and making good time up the
lake towards the sunken silver mine; but before I had left the woods
at the head of the outlet very far behind I became aware that we were
followed. I distinctly saw a light Indian Lake skiff put out from the
shadow of the trees and follow silently in our wake. The boat was one
of the two that had been stolen by Matt and his family on the day that
Mr. Swan and his party burned their camp; and, although the night was
dark, I was as certain as I could be that its solitary occupant was
Matt Coyle himself. He held close in to the trees on the left hand
side of the lake, and as often as Jake stopped and looked back the
pursuer stopped also; and, as he took care to keep in the shadow, of
course he could not be seen.

“Pap thinks he’s smart,” muttered Jake, after he had made a long halt
and looked up and down the lake to satisfy himself that there was no
one observing his movements, “an’ p’raps he is, but not smart enough
to get away with the whole of them six thousand. If I don’t find them
grip-sacks, I shall know sure enough that he’s been here before me;
an’ if he don’t hand over half of it the minute I get home I’ll tell
on him afore sun-up. Here I am, an’ it won’t take me long to see how
the thing stands.”

As Jake said this, he drew up alongside the snag and dropped the
anchor overboard. He must have been in a fearful state of suspense,
for I could feel that he was trembling in every limb. When he came to
divest himself of his clothes, preparatory to going down after the
money, his hands shook so violently that he could scarcely find the
few buttons that held them together. He didn’t dive, for the splash
could have been heard a long distance in the stillness of the night,
and might have attracted somebody’s attention. He made one end of the
clothes-line fast to a brace, took the other in his hand, and,
lowering himself gently over the stern of the canoe, drew in a long
breath and sank out of sight. He was gone a full minute; but before he
came to the surface I knew he had been successful in his search, for I
could tell by the way the line sawed back and forth over the gunwale
that he was tying it to something. An instant later his head bobbed up
close alongside, and then Jake essayed the somewhat difficult task of
clambering back into the canoe. Being a remarkably active young
fellow, he accomplished it with much more ease than I expected; and no
sooner had he gained his feet than he began hauling in on the line
with almost frantic haste.

“I’ve got one of ’em! I’ve got one of ’em!” he kept on saying over and
over again; and a second afterward one of the little valises was
whipped out of the water and deposited on the bottom of the canoe.
“Pap didn’t find my silver mind, like I was afeard of, an’ it’s mine,
all mine. I’m rich.”

Forgetting where he was in the excess of his glee, Jake jumped up and
knocked his heels together; but when he came down I wasn’t there to
meet him. He gave me a shove that sent me to one side, and Jake
disappeared in the water. He was greatly alarmed by the noise he made,
and during the next five minutes remained perfectly motionless.
Supporting himself by holding fast to the anchor rope, he waited and
listened. He was so quiet that he scarcely seemed to breathe; and all
this while an equally motionless and silent figure sat in the skiff,
not more than fifty yards away, taking note of every thing that
happened in the vicinity of the snag.

The deep silence that brooded over the lake deceived Jake, and he made
ready to go down after the rest of the money. He was not out of sight
more than half a minute, and again the sawing of the line told me that
he had found the object of his search. There was another short,
frantic struggle to get into the canoe, a hasty pull at the rope, and
the second valise was jerked out of the water and placed safely beside
its companion. Jake Coyle had worked his silver mine to some purpose.

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