Young Hunters of the Lake/Chapter 27
INTO A BEAR'S DEN
"Boys, I move we go after that bear."
It was Snap who spoke, on the morning of the second day after Jed Sanborn had left them. He was eating breakfast and so were his chums.
"You mean the bear we saw up on the mountain, when we were after those wildcats?" queried Giant.
"Yes. Somehow, I think we can get him. if we try hard enough. And it would be a feather in our caps to bring back a bear."
"All right, I'm with you," said Shep. "Even if we don't get the bear we can climb to the top of the mountain and get a good look at the country for miles around. Maybe we'll be able to see Fairview."
The proposal to go after the bear pleased all the young hunters, and they decided to lose no time in getting ready for the trip.
"As there is no telling what luck we may have on the mountain, or when we'll get back, we had better take sufficient food with us to last all day," suggested the doctor's son.
The sky looked a trifle uncertain to them, but nobody wanted to stay in camp waiting for it to rain. They started off about nine o'clock, taking to the trail they had previously pursued. Snap led the way, with the others following in Indian file. The leader of the club had a rifle while the others were provided with shotguns. They carried with them sufficient ammunition to bring down a dozen bears.
Noon found them well up on the mountain and in the vicinity where the bear had been seen. On the way they had stirred up some quail and Giant had taken two shots before the others could stop him, bringing down four of the birds.
"Maybe that shot scared away Mr. Bear," said Whopper. "If it did we'll have our tramp for nothing."
"I am sorry—I fired before I could think," answered the small member of the club. "I'll not do it again."
They now advanced in silence, knowing that a bear has sharp ears and will run at the first intimation of danger. They kept their eyes and ears on the alert and their firearms ready for immediate use.
"Look!" said Whopper presently, in a strained voice. "Dodge behind the rocks!" and he literally dragged Snap down, and the others came after the pair.
"What did you see?" asked Shep.
"Two!" came from the others. "Where?"
"Away up on the mountainside. They were on a shelf of rocks, and seemed to be looking at something out on the lake."
"Can we reach them with our guns?" asked Giant.
"Might reach one of 'em with the rifle. They were a good distance off."
"Let us try to get closer," said Shep, who did not want to miss a chance to aid in bringing down such big game.
"Yes, I don't want to have the only shot," added Snap. "We all want a whack at them."
With extreme caution one after another of the young hunters looked toward the shelf of rocks Whopper pointed out. True enough, two bears were there, looking down toward Lake Narsac. As the boys watched the game they turned slowly and walked to the end of the shelf, sisappearing behind some bushes.
"I believe we can get at least one of those bears if we are careful," said Snap.
"Don't you think It would be a good plan to get above the bears by taking a roundabout route?" came from Whopper. "I think we can shoot down at them better than we can shoot up. Besides, if we are above them I think we'll be safer. They can jump down on us easily enough, but jumping up is another matter."
"Yes, and if we can't kill them with shots perhaps we can knock 'em over with rocks," said Giant.
As they tolled up the mountainside it grew darker, and they noted that the sun had gone behind a mass of angry-looking clouds. Far off they heard a rumbling that betokened a thunderstorm.
"That storm is certainly coming," said Snap. "It won't be any fun to be caught up here either."
"Perhaps it will pass off to the westward," returned the doctor's son, hopefully. "The clouds seem to be moving In that direction."
They soon gained a point about on a level with the shelf of rocks upon which they had seen the bears, but some distance to the southward. Climbing now became difficult, and they had to help one another up the steep places. Once Whopper took a tumble and would have rolled down a long distance had not Shep caught him just in time.
"You want to be very careful," cautioned Snap. "A roll down the mountainside might mean death."
By the time they had reached a point about a hundred feet above the shelf of rocks they were so exhausted they had to sit down and rest. They were now on another shelf, and from this location could look out over the entire surface of Lake Narsac. Not a boat or a person was to be seen.
"This is certainly a lonely spot," was Snap's comment. "A hermit wouldn't wish for a more choice location."
"And he could get plenty of fish and game," added Whopper. "And berries too, when they were in season."
"And wild grapes, and honey," came from Giant. "But with all that, who would want to be a hermit?"
"Not I," answered Snap. "An outing like this is all well enough, but when our vacation is at an end I'll be glad enough to get back home."
A few drops of rain were now coming down, but to these the young hunters paid no attention. Having gotten back their wind, they moved along with caution, their eyes wide open for another sight of the bears. Each wished for the honor of discovering the big game.
Presently little Giant held up his hand for the party to halt. He pointed to a spot a little below and to the right of them. There, on a flat rock, rested one of the bears, gnawing on a bone he held in his forefeet.
"Where is the other?" asked Whopper, in a whisper.
All looked around, but the second bear was nowhere in sight.
"Might as well get one, while we have the chance," said Snap. "Let us all fire at him at once. We'll be sure to lay him low. Then load up as quickly as you can, and we'll see if we can't stir up the second bear."
So it was arranged, and the four young hunters took careful aim at the creature on the rocks. It must be admitted that they were somewhat excited, for a bear is no mean creature to tackle and will sometimes put up a fierce fight to defend itself. But they steadied their nerves as much as possible, and Snap gave the order to fire.
Crack! bang! went the rifle and the shotguns, almost together, and as the smoke cleared away they saw the bear leap up, turn over and over on the rock, and then tumble down the mountainside.
"We've got him! We've got him!" yelled Giant, enthusiastically.
"Don't be so sure of it," said Snap.
"Oh, I am sure we hit him," said Whopper. "Why, I aimed right for his head."
"I know we hit him, but that isn't saying he is killed," said Shep. "Although by the way he rolled over I guess he was pretty badly wounded."
Having reloaded, they began to climb down the mountainside in the direction the bear had disappeared. They had gone less than two rods when Shep, who was in advance, let up a yell:
"Look out for the hole!"
"Where?" asked the others, but before the doctor's son could reply the others saw him sinking down. Then they felt themselves going down also.
"It must be the bears' den!" gasped Giant.
"If it is, we had better beware of the other bear," came from Whopper.
Down and down slid the four young hunters, until they landed on a pile of tree limbs and dead leaves. They had gone down in a hole a dozen feet in diameter and fifteen or more feet deep. This hole opened into a sort of cave and from the cave came a growl that fairly made their hair raise on end.
"It's the bears' den sure!" cried Whopper.
"Yes, and I hear the second bear!" gasped Shep. "Get ready to shoot him as soon as he appears!"
All scrambled to their feet and brought around their weapons, ready for use. They looked toward the cave-like opening and waited anxiously. Would the second bear leap out upon them and give them battle?