Young Hunters of the Lake/Chapter 16

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CHAPTER XVI


THE RESCUE OF GIANT


Snap had the breakfast well underway when Shep came out of the tent.

"Hello, you're at it early," remarked the doctor's son. "Why didn't you call me and I would have helped you."

"Oh, I didn't want to disturb you, Shep, you were snoozing so comfortably."

"Where is Giant?"

"Gone off to see if he can get some game before we leave."

"Do you want me to help with breakfast? If you don't, I'll try for some game myself."

"Go ahead—only come back when I whistle," answered the leader of the club.

The doctor's son was soon on his way, with his shotgun trailing in his hand. He, too, crossed the little hill as Giant had done. Hardly had he done this than he caught sight of a wild turkey and let drive, bringing the game down some distance ahead of him.

"Now I am going to have some fun getting that turkey," he told himself, as he surveyed the mud and water before him.

It was no light task to bring in the game, and the doctor's son got both feet wet. But the turkey was a gobbler and of good size, and he was very proud when he had the game over his shoulder in true sportsman's style.

"Guess I'll go on a little further and see if I can stir up anything else," he thought. "If game is plentiful around here maybe it will pay us to stay for a day or two after all."

He trudged on, and had just caught sight of what looked like some wild ducks when a cry reached his ears. At first he imagined it came from behind him, and thought it might be Snap calling him to breakfast, but then he concluded it came from in front.

"Must be Giant," he told himself. "What can he want?"

"Help! help me!" came presently, in a fainter voice.

"It is Giant, and he is in trouble!" burst from Shep's lips, and then, without waiting, he gave a loud whistle, repeated several times. This was the old signal among the young hunters that assistance was wanted immediately.

Shep broke into a run, or rather a series of hops, for he hopped from one bunch of reeds to another, until he came close to where Giant was struggling in the water and mud. The small member of the club was now almost up to his chin and trying with might and main to pull himself from the treacherous mass that held him a prisoner.

"What's the matter, can't you get out?" asked the doctor's son.

"N—no!" gasped Giant. "Th—the mu—mud is li—like g-g-glue!"

Much alarmed, Shep looked around for something with which to aid his chum. Nothing was at hand, but not far off he saw a small sapling growing. He made towards it, and by a supreme effort pulled the sapling up by the roots. Then he ran back and threw the top of the little tree towards the unfortunate young hunter.

"Got hold?"

"Yes."

Shep began to pull, and after a mighty effort succeeded in raising Giant several inches out of the sticky mud. But try his best, he could not budge the small lad further.

"It's no go!" he gasped. "I am going down myself!"

"Do—don't le—leave me, Shep!"

"Leave you? Not much, Giant! I'll get you out somehow. But I'll have to try some other way."

While the doctor's son was looking around for some other means to employ in the rescue, a shout was heard, and Snap came running up, followed by Whopper.

"What's the matter?"

"How did Giant get in that hole?"

"I don't know how he got in, but we must get him out," returned Shep. "Can you fellows help pull on this tree?"

"Wait, here is a small rope," said Snap. "I picked it up as I left camp, thinking it might be needed. We can tie that to the tree end and stand further back."

The rope was speedily adjusted, and then the three young hunters were able to brace their feet on ground that was fairly firm.

"Now, hold tight. Giant!" sang out Shep.

"I'll hold as ti—tight as I ca—can," was the gasped-out answer, for the small youth was all but exhausted by his struggles.

The others began a steady and strong pull, and inch by inch Giant came up out of the sticky mud. To make his hold firmer he twined his arms around the slender branches of the sapling.

"He's coming!" cried Snap. "Now then, one more haul and we'll have him out!"

"Or broken in two," panted Whopper.

The final pull was given, and with a sucking sound and a splash the small member of the club came to the top of the water. He fell on the sapling and the others dragged him to a spot where it was comparatively safe. Then he got up and looked at himself ruefully. He was plastered with mud from his waist down.

"Never mind—be thankful that you're out," said Shep.

"I—I am thankful," was Giant's answer. "Bu—but I don't want any o—of S. Hooper's mud. He ca—can have it all himself!" And this was said so dolefully that all the others had to roar.

When they got back to the camp Giant told how he had chanced to get into the mud. He was thankful that Shep had come along just in the nick of time, and thankful that the others had come also. Luckily he had a change of garments with him, and he lost no time, when he was rested, in putting on clean clothes and in washing out those which were soiled.

"After this I am going to be careful where I

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INCH BY INCH GIANT CAME OUT OF THE STICKY MUD—Page 123

walk," he said, while he was eating his breakfast.

"It puts me in mind of the time you and I got in the snow hole, last winter," said Whopper, referring to an incident related in detail in "Guns and Snowshoes."

"Yes, and I was just as lucky to get out," answered Giant.

After an hour's rest, and a good breakfast, Giant declared himself as strong as ever. The tent was packed, and soon the young hunters were on their way from Hooper's Pond.

"I hope we don't make any more false turns," observed Snap, as they rowed and poled their way along. "I am getting a bit anxious to see Lake Narsac."

So were the others, and that noon they allowed themselves only half an hour for lunch. During that time some of the boys went fishing in the stream and were lucky enough to catch some trout and several suckers. Once Whopper got a strong pull, but it only proved to be a mud turtle, much to his disgust.

"Thought I had a ten-pound fish," he said.

The middle of the afternoon found them on a clear, deep stream, which broadened out constantly as they advanced. This made them certain that they were nearlng Lake Narsac, and they were correspondingly elated. At one point in the stream they came to a beautiful island, with elderberry bushes lining the shore and a patch of trees in the center. As they drew closer they saw several rabbits and squirrels, but did not get a chance to shoot the game.

"If we run short of food we can come here," observed Snap. "That game can't get away from the island."

"Shall we stop off now?" asked Whopper. "We'll be sure to get something."

"No! no! Let us go on!" cried Giant. "We want to make Lake Narsac by to-night, if we can possibly do it."

The others agreed with Giant, and they kept on until the long shadows over the mountain to the westward told them that night was again approaching.

"Looks as if we'd have to camp in the woods along this river," said the doctor's son.

"Oh, let us keep on until it is really dark," replied Giant.

"I'd like to see Lake Narsac, I must confess," answered Snap. "But even if we get there inside of the next hour we won't be able to see much."

Nevertheless, they kept on, until it was really dark. Then, by mutual consent, they drew up to the bank of the stream, leaped from the boat and stretched their limbs.

"We may be less than a mile from the lake, and we may be five times that distance," said the leader of the club. "I suppose the best thing to do is to camp where we are."

So it was decided, and once more the tent was hauled forth, and preparations were made to start a campfire. Whopper and Snap went to cut the wood. They had just stepped into the bushes when Shep and Giant heard several wild cries.

"A snake!"

"A dozen of them! This is a regular nest! Run, they are after us!"

And then both boys came running out of the bushes with all possible speed.