Read CHAPTER XX - PROVING HIS CLAIM of The Outdoor Chums / The First Tour of the Rod‚ Gun and Camera Club, free online book, by Captain Quincy Allen, on

“Jerusalem!  I surely believes he’s gone an’ done it!” exclaimed old Jesse Wilcox.

Frank and Will burst out into a laugh.

“Do you recognize these tails then, trapper?” asked the former; “because we even accused Jerry of trying to palm off some substitute on us for the originals?”

“Oh! them there is original tails all right.  How did ye do it, youngster?  An’ if they ever was fierce dogs, that pack filled the bill.  I’d kinder hated to be up agin ’em myself; an’ you on’y a boy!”

“A boy armed with a double-barreled shotgun loaded with buck is able to do just as much as a man, I suppose.  I got my deer, too, Jesse, thanks to the directions you gave me.  It was a bully old time all around,” said Jerry, contentedly.

“Well, I should smile to mention it.  Ye take the cake, Jerry.  An’ now ye want me to lead ye thar, I s’pose.  Can ye describe the place well enough for me to recognize it?” asked the trapper.

“Possibly I can.  Let’s see, I remember that there was a queer-looking oak standing close by-three trees in one, as though sprouts had grown up when the parent trunk was smashed by lightning long ago.  Remember having seen anything like that in your trips through the big timber, Jesse?” asked the other, seriously.

The trapper smiled.

“Why, it’s right easy.  I know that place as well as I do my own dooryard.  Shot a stag down by them three oaks myself ten years ago come Christmas.  So that’s whar ye met up with the dog pack, was it?  All right, if so be ye are ready, we kin start right off,” he remarked eagerly.

All of the others were equally anxious to proceed, Jerry because he wished to prove his hunting triumphs, and his chums to see the evidence of his valor.  Will, no doubt, still hoped to induce the victor to attempt some sort of running stunt in connection with the tree and the dead dogs, that would form the basis of a striking picture.

Going in a bee line, as led by the sagacious trapper, who knew the woods like a book, the little company did not spend more than an hour on the way.

“Thar’s yer three oaks, son; now tell us jest whar ye was when ye shot that deer.”

As he spoke, Jesse pointed ahead.  All of them could easily see the landmark now.

“It was an old tree, and there ought to be broken branches underneath.  Yes, if you look over yonder you’ll see it.  And isn’t there something that looks yellow from here?” asked Jerry, proudly.

“Just what!  The dog story was founded on solid facts, then!” exclaimed Frank, hurrying forward, with the others at his heels.

“It was a true tale,” chimed in Will, from the rear.

They found the dogs just as Jerry had left them.  The big yellow brute lay under the rotten tree, with his head mangled from the discharge of the gun at close quarters; the dingy white one farther off, and presently Jerry led them to where he had dispatched the others.

“And there’s my package of vension, all right, hanging up yonder.  I was afraid some prowling lynx might get away with it,” he remarked, composedly; while his two admiring chums were whacking him on the back admiringly, and insisting on proudly shaking hands with him over and over again.

“Now, to make a clean sweep, come with me and I’ll show you where I pulled Andy out from under the fallen tree,” he said.

Frank laughed and would have protested, declaring that he stood ready to believe anything Jerry might say after this; but the other would not let him hold back.

“I demand that you investigate.  See, here’s where my charge tore up the ground when I fired through the rotten wood to scare the bear away.  And you can see the plain mark of claws on the old tree-trunk.  Is it so, fellows?” he asked.

“Without the least doubt.  No Ananias here, that’s sure,” declared Frank.

“All right.  Now walk this way only a short distance.  I heard the yells, you see, above the racket of the storm, and that told me the one who shouted must be near by.  There’s the fallen tree.  Think what a narrow escape Andy had from being crushed to death.”

“And it’s easy to see where you dragged him out.  Why, here are the prints of his shoes in the mud as plain as type,” remarked Frank.

“Where?” asked Will, showing sudden interest; and then after getting down to look at short range he laughed, saying:  “Everything is just as Jerry says.  I know it was Andy he pulled out from under this tree.”

“How do you know?” demanded the party in question, curiously.

“Why, you see it was Andy Lasher who knocked Bluff off that log into the lake.  We guessed it at the time, and he afterwards said as much to Jerry here.  Well, we found his footprints, and you see one of his shoes had a queer patch on the sole, a sort of triangle.  Here it is, as big as life!”

He pointed triumphantly downward.  Frank fairly shouted, and even Jerry grinned.

“Talk about your great detectives!  Why, they ain’t in the same class as our chum here.  You see, fellows, truth will out.  What more proof do you want?” demanded Jerry.

“Everything has been proven.  You are the hero of the hunt, Jerry.  I pass up my claim when you’re around.  And so Andy means to let us alone, does he?  Can he speak for his whole crowd, too?” queried Frank.

“I don’t know; perhaps not He said something about Pet Peters having to do it himself if he insisted on carrying on this nasty business of bothering us.  So perhaps we may have more trouble with them, unless Andy takes the bit in his teeth, and licks a few of his pals.”

Will was meanwhile busily engaged with his camera.  He first of all dragged several of the dead dogs around until they presented a gruesome appearance, bunched close together.

“Oh, if you would only run around that old tree a few times, Jerry, you don’t know how much obliged I’d be.  Of course any one must imagine that the dog pursuing you happens to just be out of sight at the time I snap you off.  But think how much pleasure the picture will give future generations. Please do!” he begged.

“What do I care about future generations?  It would give me the nightmare every time I looked at the measly thing.  I guess you’d feel the same way if you just imagined you were going to have a piece gobbled from your leg with every revolution you made.  Nixey for me, old chum,” observed the other, indignantly.

“Then if you won’t, I suppose I’ll have to take a still picture; but it’s really too bad.  However, I have others of you, and some day I’ll try a composite picture, inserting you in the honorable position you decline to fill,” grumbled Will, as he pressed the button, and secured his view of the venerable tree with the clump of dogs near its base.

“Talk about your obstinate chaps, did you ever see the equal of him?  When I decline to do the tall running act, he’s going to get out a fake picture anyway, with me in it!  In that case I might as well stand for it.  Here, you, I’ll conspire with you to fix it.  If it’s got to be a counterfeit, let’s make it a decent one.”

So, after all, Will’s persistency won out.

“You’ll be glad when you see the result, I’m sure,” he said, as he assisted Jerry to stand the dead hound on his stiffened feet, and make it appear as though he might be stretching out in furious pursuit of some one.

“Now, let me get started winding up around the tree.  Tell me when the humbug business is over with,” growled Jerry, beginning to circulate over the same track he had covered on the preceding day at such a speedy pace.

This matter was soon adjusted to the complete satisfaction of Will; though he seemed determined to get results, judging from the several “clicks” that announced his rapid-fire work with the camera.

The boys decided that there was no need of going back to the shack of the muskrat trapper again, while they were just half the distance from their own camp.

Jesse Wilcox directed them, so that there was small chance of their going astray; and, besides, Jerry had been over the ground before on this very morning.

“I wonder whether he’ll bother taking the pelts of those four dogs?” ventured Will, as he and his two friends walked briskly along.

“Hardly.  Dogskins may be valuable, but the buckshot in my gun just about ruined those for any use, all but the yellow fellow.  I had to laugh at Jesse when he saw these tails.  His eyes were like saucers,” declared Jerry, chuckling.

“All right, it was a pretty clever piece of work, and he knew it.  If that big hound had ever laid hold of you-ugh!  I don’t want to think of it.  Let’s talk about something pleasant-Bluff’s pump-gun for instance,” remarked Frank.

His eyes met those of Jerry, and the other turned red in the face.

“I don’t see anything pleasant about that subject.  Goodness knows we hear enough of it from him.  What d’ye suppose he wanted to stay in camp for?” he demanded.

“Perhaps to cudgel his brains in order to remember whether he could have taken it with him when we ran out of camp that night; or, perhaps, to give another look around,” suggested Frank, dryly.

“Good luck to him, then,” continued Jerry.  “He ought to employ the great American detective Will here, who discovers things by the print of a foot.  Possibly he could follow up the trail of the thief until it led to the lost Gatling gun.”

“It would have been a good idea if taken at the time.  What’s this plain trail lead to?” asked Frank.

“I think it leads direct from the hemlock camp to where Andy’s crowd holds out,” replied Jerry, who knew considerable about this region.

“Are we far away from the lake, then?”

“It’s some closer than our camp.  This trail has been traveled more or less lately, too.  That proves those fellows have been back and forth.  They’re bound to spend pretty much all their time while up here trying to make life miserable for us.  We turn to the left here, fellows, and go right along this way.”

The other two, after a look along the trail that led to the lake camp, were just starting to follow Jerry when they heard a muffled cry.  Looking hastily around, to their great astonishment no Jerry was in sight!  And in the trail they discovered a gaping hole which was partly covered with a layer of slender sticks, thickly strewn with dead leaves!