Young Hunters of the Lake/Chapter 19

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"Deer!" came from the others.

"Let me get a shot at 'em," added Whopper, excitedly. "That's what I came for—to bring down a dozen deer or so!"

"Make it two or three dozen, Whopper," answered Snap. "What would you do with a dozen in this warm weather?"

"Send 'em down to the poor folks of the town."

The announcement that deer were in that vicinty thrilled all the young hunters, and they at once resolved to go ashore and see if they could not bring down the game.

"Let us go back a bit," suggested Shep. "We don't want this breeze to carry our scent to them. If it does, they'll be off like a shot."

The others knew that the doctor's son spoke the truth, and so the Snapper was turned around, and they went ashore at a point where the trees were thick. Snap carried the rifle and the others had their shotguns, and all looked to the firearms to be sure they were in condition for immediate use.

With great care the four boys started to stalk the deer, as it is called. Snap led the way, and never was an Indian hunter more careful of his steps. He knew that the deer's ears were wide open for any unusual sound and even the cracking of a dry stick would attract their attention.

The journey over the rocks and through the timber was a laborious one. In some spots the undergrowth was so thick that further progress seemed, at first, impossible. Once Giant got caught so completely that the others had to help him free himself. Hardly a word was uttered, and then only in the faintest of whispers.

At last Snap felt they must be close to where Shep had seen the game, and he motioned for the doctor's son to take the lead.

"You saw 'em—you ought to have first chance at 'em," he whispered.

"I want you all to fire," was the reply.

An instant later came a faint sound ahead, and looking through the trees, the four boy hunters saw three deer walking swiftly along. One was a beautiful doe not more than half grown.

"There is our chance!" cried Shep, excitedly. "Now then, all together!"

Snap wanted to know what animal he was to fire at, but got no chance to ask, for just then one of the deer raised its head and sniffed the air suspiciously. Then the two large ones began to run with the doe at their heels.

Crack! bang! went the rifle and shotguns, as the young hunters took hasty aim. When the smoke cleared away they saw the doe stretched on the ground and one of the deer limping forward painfully. The other deer was out of sight.

"Come on—we can get that wounded one!" cried Whopper, and ran forward with might and main.

As it happened the wounded deer was the mother of the doe, and the wound, and the loss of its offspring, made the animal savage. As Whopper turned towards it, the deer suddenly made for the boy.

"Look out!" yelled Snap, but before Whopper could turn aside the deer was on him and had knocked him to the ground. Then the deer struck out with its hoofs, landing on Whopper's shoulder and cheek.

It was a moment of extreme peril, for there could be no doubt but that the deer meant to kill the young hunter. Shep raised his shotgun to fire, but was afraid to do so for fear of hitting Whopper, who was trying to rise.

"He'll be killed!" shrieked Giant, but just then Snap, using his rifle as a club, struck the mother deer in the side. The creature rolled over.

Bang! went Giant's shotgun, and the report of Shep's firearm followed. The deer struggled for a moment, then gave a final kick and expired.

When the boys ran to Whopper's side they found his eyes closed. He was breathing faintly and that was all.

"Is he—he dead?" asked Giant hoarsely, for Whopper was very dear to the small youth.

"No, but he is badly hurt," answered Snap. "Shep, run and fill your cap with water. I'll loosen his coat and collar."

The blood was pouring from the sharp cut in Whopper's cheek and his coat was torn on the shoulder from the deer's hoofs. When the water was brought, Snap bathed him tenderly, and Giant fanned him with a cedar branch. In a few minutes he opened his eyes.

"Ta—take the de—deer away!" he murmured.

"It's all right, Whopper, the deer is dead," answered Snap.

"Oh!" Whopper breathed a sigh of relief. "I am gl—glad of it!"

"You've had a close call of it," said Shep. "I was scared to death." And his still pale face showed that he spoke the truth.

It was several minutes before Whopper felt like sitting up. He was "all of a tremble," as he expressed it, and standing on his feet was out of the question.

"You take it easy," ordered Snap. "We'll bring the boat around to that cove below here and then carry you down."

"Do—don't leave me!" pleaded the hurt one. "That other deer may come back!"

"No danger," said Giant. "But I'll stay with you, Whopper, while Snap and Shep get the boat."

It was a good half hour before they had the hurt one and the game aboard the Snapper. Here the doctor's son opened up the medicine case which his father had insisted he should take along, and Whopper was given a little stimulant, and the cuts on his cheek and his shoulder were properly plastered up. He was made comfortable on some cushions in the stern and told to take it easy.

"I had no idea a deer would fight so fiercely," he said, when the others had resumed their rowing. "Those hoofs were mighty hard and sharp, I can tell you!"

By one o'clock the young hunters reached a spot that looked good enough for a midday camp, and

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going ashore they ht a fire and prepared dinner. They made themselves a pot of rich cocoa and of this Whopper partook freely and it seemed to strengthen him wonderfully.

"I think we ought to stay here until to-morrow," said Snap. "It will give Whopper a chance to recover," and so it was decided, and the tent was gotten out and erected between two small trees which stood handy.

That night they treated themselves to venison steak, cut from the doe, and never was deer meat more tender or sweeter. They also had hot bread, made by Giant in a little stone oven. In the same oven Snap made a pan of baked beans, which were put away for future use.

The entire afternoon of the next day was spent in rowing around Lake Narsac. They did not linger around the north shore, for it was wild and uninviting, and they had no desire to make the acquaintance of the snakes said to swarm there. They spent two hours inspecting a large cove to the westward, and finally concluded that this spot offered the best place for a permanent camp. There was a sandy beach, where swimming would be good, plenty of the right kind of growth for firewood, and from the rocks some distance back gushed a spring of cold and pure water.

"This is good enough for anybody," said Snap, after a careful inspection. "We can use the tent if we wish, or we can erect a cabin."

"Oh, let us put up a cabin!" cried Giant. "It is such fun building one. Don't you remember the other shelters we built?"

"If you build a cabin you'll have to count me out," said Whopper. "I think I'll be on the retired list for at least a few days more."

"Whopper shall be the general boss," cried Snap. He took off his cap. "In honor of our wounded comrade, I move we call this spot Camp Whopper. All in favor say aye!"

"Aye!" came from Shep and Giant promptly.

"Camp Whopper it is," said Snap. "Three cheers for Whopper and his namesake!" And the cheers were given with a will.

"Whopper, you ought to make a speech," said Giant. "Tell us how grateful you are, how you appreciate the deep honor, and all that—and then invite us all out to cake, lemonade, ice cream soda, strawberry shortcake, cocoanut pie, cream puffs, and a few more delicacies."

"Ice cream!" murmured Whopper. "Say, some ice cream would be great, eh? But we can't have it out here, so what's the use of talking about it? As for a speech, I haven't got anything to say, excepting that I appreciate your kindness in naming the camp after yours truly. When I am a rich man and retired, and own a castle among the Thousand Islands, I shall surely call it—let me see—Snap-Shep-Giant Villa. There now, how's that?"

"Fine!" was the cry.

"Hark!" added Shep, a moment later.

"What did you hear?" questioned the others.

"I thought I heard somebody calling. There it goes again. Listen!"

All listened, and from out of the forest behind them came a cry, followed by a blood-curdling laugh. Then they heard as plain as day these words:

"I am dead! He is dead! Who will bury me? I am dead! He is dead! Ha! ha!"