Young Hunters of the Lake/Chapter 4
THE STORY OF A GHOST
"I say, what do you want of my son Hamilton?" repeated Mr. Spink, coming after the boys with a look of curiosity on his face.
"We want to see him," replied Snap, after a look at his chums.
"We think he played us a mean trick," put in Whopper, as Snap paused.
"Oh, I thought that affair was a thing of the past," said Mr. Spink, loftily. "My son was not to blame so much as that tramp. The tramp told a string of falsehoods—"
"We don't mean that, Mr. Spink," spoke up Giant. "We mean a trick Ham and his friend, Carl Dudder, played on us this afternoon."
"Humph! You—ahem!—you must be mistaken."
"If we are we won't say anything," said Whopper. "But if he did play the trick—"
"We'll get square with him for it," finished Shep.
"What are you talking about anyway?" demanded the rich man. "I don't see why you can't leave my son alone."
"We will—if he'll leave us alone," said Snap.
"What do you accuse him of?"
"While we were swimming two fellows came up, took our clothes, and tried to run away with them," came from Giant. "We are pretty sure the fellows were Ham and Carl. When we went after them they dropped the clothes in a hurry. Two socks, a collar, and a necktie are missing."
"Yes, and my undershirt was full of knots," grumbled the doctor's son. "Just wait till I catch the fellows who did that—I'll show 'em!"
"Humph! is that all?" growled Mr. Spink. "I imagine you are only making up this tale to get my son into difficulties,—just because you know I will not permit you to come here to swim. Now clear out, and be quick about it,—and don't ever come here again." And having thus delivered himself he shook his heavy cane at them, turned on his heel, and walked away.
"He's a gentleman, I must say," declared Snap, when Mr. Spink was out of hearing. "A person can easily see where Ham gets his arrogant ways."
"Yes, and he'll stick up for Ham first, last and all the time," added Whopper.
As the boys walked home they discussed the situation from several points of view. Reaching the street leading to the railroad depot they came in sight of a familiar figure ahead of them. It was the old hunter, Jed Sanborn, and he carried a gun in one hand and a fishing rod in the other, while a basket was slung over his shoulder by a broad strap.
"Hello, Jed!" sang out Snap, and ran forward to stop the man.
"Why, boys, how are ye!" said the old hunter, turning around and halting. "Ready to go on your summer trip?" And he smiled broadly.
"Not yet," answered Shep. "But we are going out after the Fourth of July."
"So I heard. Well, I hope ye have as good a time as ye had last summer an' last winter."
"We want to know something about Lake Narsac," came from Whopper. "I've heard there were about a million snakes up there and all big fellows, too. Is that so?"
"O' course it is," answered Jed Sanborn, with a grin. "Snakes is twenty to fifty feet long, and so thick ye have to wade through 'em up to your knees. Ha ha!" and he commenced to laugh. "I got ahead of ye thet time, didn't I, Whopper?"
"But tell us the truth," insisted Giant. "We're thinking of camping up there, and, of course, we won't want to go if there is any real danger."
"Well, to tell the plain, everyday truth, boys, I don't allow as how there is any more reptiles up to Lake Narsac nor there be around Lake Firefly an' in the mountains whar I hang out. Narsac may have a few more rattlers, an' them's the wust kind—you know thet as well as I do. The wust thing I know about Lake Narsac is the ghost up thar."
"Is there really and truly a ghost?" queried the doctor's son. "Of course, I don't believe in them," he added, hastily.
"If ye don't believe in 'em why do ye ask about 'em?" demanded the old hunter, rather indignantly.
"Oh, well—" and Shep could not finish.
"Did you ever see the ghost?" asked Snap.
"I sure did, my boy."
"When?" cried Whopper.
"What did it look like?" demanded Giant.
"I see the ghost less nor a month ago—when I was up to Lake Narsac after fish. It was a foggy morning, an' I was fishing from a little island near the upper end o' the lake. All to onct I heard a strange sound, like somebody was moanin'. I sat up an' listened, an' I looked around—"
"And what did you see?" asked Giant, excitedly.
"Didn't see nuthing just then. Soon the moanin' died out, an' I thought I must have made a mistake, an' I went on fishin' ag'in. Then come that strange moanin' once more, an' it made me shiver, for I was in a mighty lonely spot. All to onct, something cried out, 'He's dead! He's dead!' I looked around, but I couldn't see a soul. 'Who is thar?' I called. Then I heard a strange whistle, an a rustlin' in the bushes. A minit later I saw a figure in bright yellow standin' out before me on the lake. It seemed to move right over the water in the fog, an' in less than a minit it was gone."
"What was it?" asked Snap, and his voice trembled a little.
"I dunno. Snap. It looked like a real old man, with claw-like hands. I called out to him, but he didn't answer, and when he seemed to be lost like in a smoke, I was scared an' I don't deny it. Just then I felt a big tug on my line an' I pulled in an' found I had hooked a water snake. Thet settled me, an' I came down to Firefly Lake an' to hum quick as I could git thar!"
"What do you think it was?" asked Whopper.
"I can't for the life o' me tell."
"Are you sure you heard that voice, or was that imagination?" asked Snap.
"It wasn't no imagination whatsomever," answered the old hunter, positively. "I heard thet voice jest as plain as I can hear yourn, an' it come right out o' the sky, too!"
"That is certainly queer," mused Snap. "You say the ghost was yellow?"
"I thought most ghosts were white," put in the doctor's son.
"Was it a man?" asked Frank.
"If it was, how did he walk on the water?" demanded Jed Sanborn. "Oh, it was a sure ghost, no two ways on it!" And the old hunter shook his head positively.
"Are there any houses near the lake?" questioned Giant.
"Not a house within two or three miles. It is the wildest place you ever visited," answered Jed Sanborn. "Hunters don't go there much on account of the rough rocks in the stream flowing inta Narsac. If you take a boat you may have to tote it a good bit—an' it ain't much use to go up there less you've got a boat, because you can't travel much along the shore—too many thorn bushes."
After that the old hunter told them all he knew about Lake Narsac. He said the lake and its surroundings were owned by the estate of a New England millionaire who had died four years before. In settling the estate the heirs had gone to law, and the rightful possession of the sheet of water with the mountains around it was still in dispute.
"One thing is sartin," said the old hunter. "If ye go up thar, ye won't have no Andrew Felps chasin' ye away—as was the case up to Lake Cameron."
"No, but we may have the ghost chasing us," answered Giant.
"Say, maybe we had better go somewhere else," suggested Whopper, hesitatingly.
"Whopper, are you afraid of ghosts?" demanded Snap.
"N—no, but I—er—I'd like to go somewhere where we wouldn't be bothered by anything."
"I am going to Lake Narsac, ghosts or no ghosts!" cried the doctor's son.
"So am I," added Snap, promptly. "If Whopper wants to stay behind—"
"Who said anything about staying behind?" demanded Whopper. "If you go so will I, even if there are a milhon ghosts up there."
"I don't believe in ghosts," came from little Giant. "It's some humbug, that's what it is."
"Maybe, maybe," answered Jed Sanborn. "But if you hear that voice and see that yellow thing—well, I reckon your hair will stick up on end, jest as mine did!"