Young Hunters of the Lake/Chapter 3

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"We are in a pickle, Snap."

"It certainly looks like it, Shep."

"How long do you suppose that ram is going to keep us here?"

"I don't know—maybe you'd better ask him."

"I wouldn't feel quite so bad if I had on my regular clothing and my shoes. But with this thin outfit—"

"Here he comes again!" was the cry, and crash! the head of the ram struck the shed once more, causing it to tremble greatly.

"I really think he's trying to knock the old thing down!" was the comment of the doctor's son.

The boys tried to look across the river, but could not because of a heavy clump of bushes growing between the shed and the water's edge. They heard a distant cry and wondered what it meant.

"I believe that is Giant and Whopper calling," said Snap.

"More than likely they are tired of waiting for us. Maybe they are dressing."

A few of the sheep had come up and were gazing curiously at the boys and the ram. Then the ram commenced to walk around the shed, viewing it speculatively from all sides.

"Looks like a warrior, doesn't he? " said Shep. "Wish I had a brickbat to throw at him."

"Here's a short board!" cried Snap, and tore off a piece that was partly loose. "I wish I could reach him with this."

"Wait, I'll coax him over," answered the doctor's son, and put down a leg over the edge of the roof. At once the ram charged, and as he did this Snap threw the board at him, hitting him in the side. This so surprised the animal that he turned and ran away a distance of several rods.

"Now is our chance! Come!" yelled Snap, and leaped from the roof of the shed on the river side. His chum followed, and once again the pair put for the stream with all speed. They kept out of sight of the ram as much as possible and he did not see them until they were almost at the water's edge. Before he could come up they dove into the stream and swam out several yards.

"Say, that's what I call a narrow shave!" cried Shep, when he and his chum realized that the danger was over. "I want nothing more to do with that ram."

"It's a pity we lost the strawberries," returned Snap. "However, it can't be helped."

The two boys were soon well out in the river and they looked anxiously over to the cove. Nothing was to be seen of Giant and Whopper.

"They must be behind the bushes dressing," said Snap. "Hello!" he yelled. "Hello! Where are you?"

No answer was returned, and the doctor's son joined in the cry. Then both boys pulled a more hasty stroke and soon got to a point where they could wade ashore.

"It can't be possible they went home," said Snap, as he gazed around in perplexity.

"We'll soon see," was the answer, and the doctor's son ran to the bushes where the clothing had been left. "Well, I never!" he cried.

"Why, all the clothing is gone!"

"Yes, their clothing and ours too!"

"Do you think they've played a trick on us?"

"No, they wouldn't be so mean."

"But where are they, and where is our clothing?" "I don't know."

In deep perplexity the two chums looked around that vicinity. No trace of Giant or Whopper was to be found and the only article of wearing apparel they could discover was a blue-and-white sock.

"That's Giant's sock," said Snap. "And that proves something is wrong. He wouldn't go away and leave his own sock behind."

"True enough, Snap, but what do you think happened?"

"I don't know, unless they caught somebody in the act of running off with our duds and ran after them."

"Let us call again."

This they did, using the full power of their lungs. Soon an answering cry came back, and Whopper appeared on the river bank above them, followed by Giant. Each carried a bundle of clothing under his arm and some shoes in his hand.

"Well, what does this mean?" demanded the doctor's son, as the others drew closer.

"You're fine fellows to stay away so long," grumbled Giant.

"We called to you about a million times that we wanted help," put in Whopper.

"Well, we've had our troubles of our own," answered Snap. "A big, angry ram came after us and held us prisoners for awhile. But what happened here? Did somebody run away with our outfits?"

"Yes, and we had a great time getting them again," answered Whopper.

"We had to run after the chaps barefooted," came from Giant. "Just look at my feet," and he showed how they had been cut and scratched.

"Who were they?" demanded the doctor's son.

"We don't know exactly, but we've got our suspicions," answered the small boy.

"There were two of them," said Whopper. "Both good-sized fellows. We didn't hear them until they had all the clothes in their arms and were running away. As soon as they heard us coming both threw their coats up over their heads, so we wouldn't recognize them. They would have gotten away sure only Giant yelled that he would fire a pistol at them if they didn't stop and then they got scared and dropped the clothing in a ditch."

"And who do you think they were?" asked Snap.

"Ham Spink and Carl Dudder."

"Why, they aren't home from boarding school yet!" cried Shep.

"I don't care, that's what I think," said Giant, sturdily. "I know just how those fellows look and walk. Of course I didn't see their faces, but I am pretty sure they were Ham and Carl."

"They may have gotten home during the last day or two," said Snap, slowly, "and it would be just like them to lay around waiting to play some mean trick on us. If they had gotten off with our clothing we'd have been in a fine pickle truly!"

"That's right—worse than with the ram," answered the doctor's son, and then he and Snap told of what had occurred on the other side of the river.

"Too bad you lost those strawberries," sighed Whopper. "I like strawberries so much I could eat about—"

"A million platesful," finished Snap, with a grin.

"No, I was going to say a spoonful or two," said Whopper, and then Snap groaned.

The boys found two socks, a collar and a neck-tie missing, and a long search around failed to bring the articles to light. One of the undershirts had been knotted up tightly, and Shep had to "chaw on the beef," as boys call it, to get the knots untied.

"I'd like to know If it really was Ham and Carl," he growled. "If it was I'll fix them for this new trick of theirs."

"How were they dressed?" asked Snap.

"Each wore a brown suit, kind of yellow-brown," answered Whopper. "I'd know 'em out of a million."

"We'll lay for them, Whopper."

Having donned their clothing, the four boys started back for town. To get to the road they had to cross a wide pasture, and when they were in the middle of this they saw a man approaching. The man carried a heavy cane, which he shook at them.

"Hello, it's Mr. Spink!" cried Snap.

"Come to warn us away, I suppose," grumbled the doctor's son. "Shall I tell him about what was done to our clothing?"

"No," answered Whopper. "We are not certain it was Ham and Carl."

Mr. Spink was a tall, overbearing man, who dressed almost as loudly as did his son. He strode up to the four lads with a dark look on his face, and this look grew even more resentful when he recognized them.

"Ha! so you are going to come here in spite of my warnings, eh?" he said, harshly.

"You haven't warned us of anything, Mr. Spink," answered Snap, calmly.

"Can't you read? Doesn't the sign say, 'All trespassing forbidden'? That is plain English, isn't it?"

"I haven't seen any sign," said Shep

"Because you didn't want to see it, young man!"

"We have only been down to the cove swimming," put in Giant.

"This land is mine now, and I want you boys to keep off of it," exclaimed Mr. Spink, hotly. "If I catch you on it again I'll have you arrested."

"We'll get off as soon as we can," answered Snap. And then he added suddenly: "Is Ham home?"

"You mean my son Hamilton, I presume? Yes, he is home. What do you want of him?"

"Nothing, just now. But we may want something later," answered Snap, and started again for the road, his chums following.