Young Hunters of the Lake/Chapter 7
AT THE BOATHOUSE
"I wonder if Ham and Carl will attempt to get at our outfit," said Shep, the evening before the start was to be made.
"Well, we mustn't forget that they blew up the old boathouse before," answered Snap. "Of course, they may be afraid to try on the same thing—they'd know they'd be in danger of arrest."
"Let us go down and take a look at the things," put in Whopper. "I wouldn't want to have anything happen to the outfit for a million dollars."
The three boys walked in the direction of the building where the things were stored. Giant was not with them—he having been detained at home, to do some work for his mother.
Apparently the outfit was as it had been left, and the three boys breathed a sigh of relief. Having overhauled the things carefully, they prepared to lock up once more when Snap noticed a small boy named Joe Bright, hanging around.
"Well, Joe, what's doing?" he questioned.
"Nuthin'," answered Joe. "Say, are you fellows going on a trip to Lake Narsac?"
"Ain't you afraid of the hobgoblins up there?"
"My uncle was up there once and the hobgoblins took his things away from him."
"What did they take?" asked Whopper.
"Took his coat, which he had hung on a tree while he was fishing, and took his basket of fish, too. Say, he was scared when he saw that thing, I can tell you. He wouldn't go there again!"
"Did he see the ghost?" asked Shep.
"No, he didn't see anything, but he heard it moan and groan, and heard it say something about being cold and hungry."
"We are not afraid," said Snap, as bravely as he could. "We are going to keep our eyes peeled for that ghost, and if it shows itself there will be some shooting done. By the way, Joe, how long have you been around here?"
"Two or three hours. I didn't have nuthin' to do, and I like the water."
"Have you seen anybody around this building?"
"Yes, two fellows were here, but they went away when they saw me."
"Who were they?" asked the doctor's son.
"One of *em was Ham Spink, and the other was that chap who is always with him."
"I guess that's his name—the chap who was going to give the fireworks celebration."
"Humph!" muttered Snap. "What did they do?"
"Walked around the building several times and peeped in the windows. One of 'em tried the back door, but just then the other fellow saw me and he gave a little whistle. Then both of 'em walked away pretty quick."
"The rascals!" cried Whopper. "I'll bet a sour apple against a gooseberry they wanted to spoil our outfit!"
"Sure they did," answered Snap.
"I'll tell you what I think," said Shep, after the boys had talked the matter over for several minutes. "I think somebody ought to stay here to-night and watch this outfit. For all we know, they may come back."
"There is an old cot in the boathouse—a fellow might sleep on that," suggested Whopper.
"Then that is what I am going to do,—if my folks will let me," answered the doctor's son.
"You'll be lonely," said Snap. "Maybe I'd better stay with you. If Ham and Carl did come back you couldn't manage them alone."
"I could if I had a shotgun."
"Oh, you wouldn't want to shoot anybody, Snap!"
"No, but I could scare 'em off."
"I've got an idea," cried Whopper. "Why not fix it so as to give them a warm reception—if they do come," and then he explained what he meant.
In the end it was decided that Snap and Shep should remain at the boathouse, and Whopper ran off to tell their folks and to get a few things. As the boys were used to outings the youths' parents thought little of their staying away that night, and only sent word back that they should keep out of mischief.
"We'll keep out if we are left alone," said the doctor's son, grimly.
Whopper had brought with him an old tin pail containing some hot water and half a pound of flour. This was stirred up into a thick flour paste, and to give it the "proper flavor," as Snap suggested, they broke into the mixture two ancient eggs which one of the party had picked up.
Joe Bright had been sent away, with instructions to say nothing about what was going on at the boathouse, and soon Whopper followed him. Then Snap and Shep went into the building and locked the door behind them.
The structure was a one-story affair, with a small loft overhead, for the storage of extra oars and odds and ends of boat lumber. Up into the loft went the two boys and opened the tiny window at either end—thus letting in some needed fresh air. Then they took the rank-smelling flour paste and poured half of the stuff into an old paint can that was handy.
"Let us take turns at resting," suggested Snap, and so it was arranged.
It was a calm, clear night and before long the town was wrapped in slumber, and only the occasional bark of a dog or yowl of a cat broke the stillness. Out on the river nothing was stirring.
It was after midnight, and Snap had almost reached the conclusion that the alarm had been a false one, when, looking from one of the little windows, he saw two figures approaching the boathouse. The two boys or men had their coat collars turned up and their soft hats pulled well down over their foreheads.
Making no noise Snap aroused Shep, who was sound asleep on the cot.
"What is it?" demanded the doctor's son.
"They are coming. Hush, or they may hear you."
Silently the two boys crawled to the small window facing the town. The two figures outside were now close by and Snap and Shep felt sure they were Ham and Carl.
"Anybody around?" came the question, in a whisper.
"I don't see anybody."
"We don't want to get caught at this."
"Oh, don't get chicken-hearted, Carl."
"Humph! Please remember what happened last winter. Ham."
"Hush! Don't speak my name, please."
"Well, then don't speak mine."
"Yes, you did."
"I did not, I say. Come on."
"How are you going to get in? You said you knew of a way. I am certain the doors and windows are all tight."
"Just you follow me and I'll show you a nice little trick."
"But where do you want me to follow you to?" insisted Carl Dudder.
"Under the boathouse."
"Yes. Here is a place where we can crawl under very easily."
"Yes, but what are you going to do after you are under the building?"
"Is there a trap door?"
"No, but I know where a couple of boards are loose in the flooring, and we can shove them up easily."
"Oh! All right, go ahead, and I'll follow."
A moment later Ham Spink let himself down in a little hole beside the boathouse. Here his feet were close to the water, but he supported himself on a cross rail nailed from one section of the spiling to another. Carl Dudder followed him, and both moved cautiously forward to the front end of the building. Once Ham slipped and a slight splash followed.
"What's that?" cried Carl, in alarm, for he was decidedly nervous.
"My foot slipped, that's all," was the answer.
"Is it deep under here?"
"Not over four or five feet."
"Where are those loose boards?"
"Right here. Now take hold of that end and we'll soon have them up and be inside the building," answered Ham.