Read CHAPTER XVIII - A STRANGE VISITOR IN CAMP of The Outdoor Chums / The First Tour of the Rod‚ Gun and Camera Club, free online book, by Captain Quincy Allen, on

“What can we do about it?” asked Will, looking alarmed.

“It’s up to Mr. Smithson,” remarked Frank, in a low tone.

“Look here, boys, you understand that I want to capture the gentleman very much indeed.  Are you willing to give me a little assistance?” asked the warden.

“Why, to be sure we will.  It looks as though we might have some interest in his capture, too, judging by the way old Toby is loading up our good grub in those frying pans to suit his appetite.  He threatens to eat us out of house and home unless something desperate is done.  We’ll help capture the escaped lunatic, eh, fellows?”

“Sure we will, Frank.  Let Mr. Smithson tell us what to do, that’s all,” said Bluff, readily.

“Well, I hardly think he’ll take the alarm at sight of any strangers, so long as he doesn’t get a glimpse of me.  Now, if you three just saunter easily into camp, and pretend to treat him in a friendly way, you’ll find he can be a fine gentleman.  Humor his failing as much as you can, boys.”

“And what else, sir?” asked Frank, who was listening intently.

“Meanwhile I’ll be creeping closer all the while.  After he has been fed he may feel sleepy, because he must have been up all night.  The heat of the fire and a good feed will make his eyes heavy,” continued Mr. Smithson.

“I guess you’re right, sir.”

“Very good.  Suppose you propose that he lie down by the fire and take a nap.  Rig him up a sort of military bed.  He imagines that Bismarck is with the old emperor, off in France on the war campaign.  When he’s fast asleep I’ll creep into camp and get him secure.  It will be easy, boys, believe me.”

“Say, is he the only one loose?” asked Will, just then, his voice showing alarm.

“Why, yes, so far as I know.  Why do you ask?” demanded the warden.

“Because there’s some one else crawling through the bushes over yonder.”

“Are you sure?” asked Mr. Smithson.

“I saw his head pop up.  He’s looking in at our camp.  Get your gun ready, Frank.  Some of these crazy people are said to be dangerous,” continued Will.

“Humbug!  If you saw any one at all it must have been a scout from Andy Lasher’s camp, snooping around,” commented Bluff, disdainfully.

“Well, perhaps it might be another keeper from the asylum,” remarked Smithson.

“There it is again; what did I tell you, fel-

Will stopped speaking in a whisper and gaped.  True enough a human head had bobbed up above the tops of the bushes, as the owner of the same endeavored to get a better view of the camp.

“It’s Jerry!” ejaculated Bluff, in excitement.

Mr. Smithson dropped out of sight, thinking that the stranger in camp might look that way, being attracted by the clamor of boyish tongues.  Jerry had caught the words of Bluff and immediately turned his head.

“Hello, fellows!  Howdye?  And who under the sun is the new manager you’ve got to run the camp?” he asked, pushing out to greet them each in turn, and eyeing Mr. Smithson in some curiosity.

“How are you, Jerry?  Guess you know me all right, eh?  Why, I’m up here looking for an escaped lunatic, you see,” said that worthy, without rising.

“Talk to me about your coincidences-and that’s him right there in our camp, ordering poor old scared Uncle Toby around with the air of an emperor.  I see it all, boys,” exclaimed Jerry, shaking hands around as though he had been gone for a full week instead of one night.

“Well, he believes himself a bigger man than any emperor, for he makes and unmakes kings.  That is Bismarck you see, young man.  And we have just been laying a plan to capture him.  Suppose you all saunter into camp now.  Somebody tell Jerry what we have decided to do.  He’s looking this way, and ready to either run or hold his ground according to how the wind blows.”

“Come on, Jerry.  You can tell us all that happened later.  We must get rid of this unwelcome visitor first,” said Frank.

“We had just started out to learn what had become of you when we met Mr. Smithson, and he advised us to return to our camp, as he rather expected the gentleman he was looking for would drift that way.  Awful glad you got through that terrible storm safe, old chap,” remarked Will.

“What are those things tied in a bunch at your belt-scalps?” queried Bluff, as they walked along together.

“The tails of four wild dogs that tackled me in the big timber after I had shot a deer which they wanted,” remarked Jerry, trying to speak naturally.

“What!” exclaimed the others in concert.

“Oh, it’s a positive fact, boys.  I can take you to where the critters lie, if you want to see them later.  I was told about them ranging that section, by Jesse, who warned me to look out for them.  I met the pack all right, and I guess they wished I hadn’t.  Here’s some of the fresh venison.  I hung up most of it so we could get it later.  Then we made a breakfast on part of what I was lugging home,” Jerry went on.

“We?” remarked Frank, inquiringly.

“Of course.  Andy Lasher and myself.”

“Andy Lasher!  Where did you run across him, and how did it come that you let that miserable skunk eat breakfast with you?” demanded Bluff.

“Well, he was in a bad way, you see.  I just happened to get him out from under the branches of a fallen tree that had him pinned tight to the ground.  His arm was bruised, and we bunked together until morning.  Andy’s got a repentant mood on him.  He vows he’s done playing nasty tricks on our club.  ’Course I don’t know how it will pan out, boys.”

“Say, did he tell you anything about my gun?” asked Bluff, eagerly.

Jerry turned and looked at the questioner.

“No, he didn’t.  Suppose he confessed to everything he ever did?  But here we are, fellows, and our guest looks as if he didn’t know whether to run for it or hang by that breakfast Toby is cooking.”

Frank advanced toward the man, bowing, and assuming, as he believed, something of a military air.

“Welcome to our camp, Prince Bismarck.  Won’t you be seated, and wait for breakfast to be served?  We have only rude accommodations here, but I hope you will pardon any lack of seeming hospitality,” he said.

The wild look vanished from the face of the gaunt man, and in its place came an expression of tremendous importance.  Indeed, but for the seriousness of the situation Frank would have felt inclined to laugh outright, it was so absurd to see this poor lunatic putting on such magnificent airs.

“You forget, young sir, that I am the Iron Chancellor, and that while in the field I shun all the comforts of home life.  An iron cot, the simplest food, these are enough for me.  It leaves the brain clear to handle the tremendous affairs of state that engross our attention.  Where is King William?” the other went on.

“Oh, he’ll be along after awhile.  Perhaps, prince, after you have partaken of our simple fare and rested by our friendly fire a little time, the king may join you.”

Frank managed to keep a sober face while speaking in this lofty way, but Bluff and Jerry, unable to stand it any longer, turned their backs on the couple.

Evidently the lunatic was very hungry, in spite of his possession of an “iron will.”  He kept turning a wistful eye toward the fire where the frightened black cook was hustling coffee and ham and eggs for his benefit.  And indeed, there was such an appetizing odor in the air that several times Mr. Smithson raised his head and looked longingly over the bushes as though he wished things would move faster, so he could come into camp and get his share.

When the food was placed before him the man ate ravenously.  The boys afterwards learned that he had not tasted a bite for two days, and they wondered at his having shown even as much patience as he did.

Just as Mr. Smithson had said, the escaped lunatic became drowsy as soon as he finished eating.

“Let me fix a nice cot for you here, prince.  When the king arrives you shall be awakened, all right,” said Frank, soothingly.

The man looked trustingly at him, so that Frank felt a little qualm of conscience over the fact that he had to deceive him.

“You are very kind, young sir.  Indeed, I believe I am weary, and perhaps a nap would refresh me.  If Napoleon sends out a flag of truce notify me at once,” and he settled down on the warm blankets with a sigh of pleasure.

“Depend on it, such shall be done,” replied Frank, turning away; for he had by this time reached the limit of his endurance, and if compelled to keep this thing up much longer must have betrayed himself by laughter.

In ten minutes he flew a handkerchief as a signal that the warden could come in.

Mr. Smithson grinned as he joined them.

“It was well done, my boy.  You would sure make an actor, all right.  And now, for fear lest he slip me, I’ll have to nab him,” he said.

“Do you want any help, sir?” queried Frank.

“Oh!  I reckon not.  When he sees that I’ve got him he’ll be as meek as a lamb.  He looks on me as a jealous German general desirous of keeping him out of touch with the king.  Watch now.”

He bent over the sleeper and touched his face.

“Wake up, Prince Bismarck,” he said, in a commanding tone.

The other opened his eyes, stared and then smiled amiably, saying: 

“Oh! it’s you, is it, general?  Fate is against me again.  I yield myself a prisoner of war.  You can fasten my hands if you wish, but I have dined well for one day.”