Read CHAPTER XII - The coming of the Bear of The Ranger Boys and the Border Smugglers , free online book, by Claude A. Labelle, on

“Listen fellows, let’s duck back towards the woods for a bit and have a council of war,” ordered Garry. “There will be less chance of our being observed there, and no chance of our being overheard.” So saying, Garry led the way back for about half a mile.

“We must strike while the iron’s hot, and it seems to be hot tonight. What with the young lady’s information about watching this Lafe Green person, and Dud’s hint that there was something brewing, it strikes me that we ought to get going. There’s only one logical place to start, and that is this restaurant,” said Garry emphatically.

“We must understand one thing, though. There’s an element of danger connected with this, and I don’t want to lead anyone into anything that I wouldn’t do myself, so I offer to make the first reconnoitre,” he concluded.

“That’s mighty white, Garry, but I want to make a suggestion. I’m not looking for any personal glory out of this, but I declare I think I am the logical person to go. You know I am the only one of us who can talk French and understand it, and as we have already had one clue in that manner, there’s every chance that others may follow in the same way, so I move that I go.”

Garry saw the force of the argument, and as Phil was backed up by Dick, decided that after all this was the best move.

A plan of campaign was hastily drawn up. It was decided that the other two should return to the lean-to, and there wait Phil’s return. Phil’s rifle and knapsack were to be carried back by his chums, while Phil was to take the little automatic that Garry had purchased at Bangor.

“This is only as a measure of safety, Phil,” said Garry. “And under no condition show it or use it except as a last resort. Now there’s one other thing. We want to keep a check for safety’s sake on your movements, yet you want to have time enough to follow up any clue that may arise. So let’s make it a point that you be back at the lean-to by sundown tomorrow night. If you are not there by then, we will know that you are in some sort of a pickle and plan to come to your aid. Don’t try to do anything single handed; your mission tonight is to find out what is going on if you can. If you can return tonight, so much the better. From now on too, we’ll establish a watch, taking two hour sentry duty. There may be no need of it yet, but we will get back in the habit of it, and an ounce of precaution is worth a pound of cure. Now go to it, old topper, and the best of luck.”

The chums shook hands, and then went their different ways, Garry and Dick back to the lean-to in the woods, and Phil back to town.

Just before he left the fringe of woods that bordered the edge of the town, Phil did a peculiar stunt that was later to stand him in good stead. Taking his knife from his pocket, he made a small slit in the under side of his coat lapel. In this he slipped the knife, and then held the coat at arm’s length to see if there was any lump observable. The coat, made as it was of thick khaki, showed no noticeable difference. Satisfied with the appearance, he slipped his coat on again, and went his way. Phil was thinking of the time he had been left chained to the tree in the woods by Anderson and LeBlanc, with no weapon with which he could free himself, and he was determined that this would never happen again if he could prevent it. He was satisfied that the ruse of hiding the knife would not be discovered were he captured, unless his coat was taken away from him.

In a short time Phil had approached the restaurant, and entered. Taking his seat on one of the high stools at the lunch counter, he ordered some supper. The bearded Frenchman, evidently the proprietor, who approached, shot at him a question in French.

Phil know perfectly well that he was asking him in French what he wanted, but he just stared blankly at the man, who, believing that he did not understand, spoke to him in broken English.

“M’sieu does not spik the French, hein?”

Phil shook his head and repeated his order in English. Satisfied, the man turned to the stove back of the counter and dished up a mess of piping hot baked peas, cooked with bacon instead of pork. This is a favorite dish with the French of Canada. A great slab of johnny-cake and a cup of hot coffee seemed to be the only thing on the bill of fare. For dessert there was apple pie and cheese.

The whole was put before him at once, and Phil, with the appetite of a healthy boy, fell to and soon dispatched the food. He ate a second portion of the peas, which evidently pleased the proprietor who was at once cook and waiter.

Following the order for the second helping, the big Frenchman entered into conversation with Phil. He seemed satisfied with Phil’s answer to his query as to what he was doing in those parts, when Phil told them he was camping there for a short time, preparatory to a fishing expedition.

Supper over, Phil walked over to one of the tables, where he found a week-old Bangor paper, and a Canadian French paper. Carefully avoiding taking up the French paper and thus betray his knowledge of the language, he took the Commercial and read steadily for an hour or more. During this time the place was steadily filling. Men came in, got their supper, and took seats at the many tables scattered about. Later others came in, evidently villagers who made a sort of a clubhouse of the place. A half a dozen card games were in progress, and at three of the tables couples were playing checkers. By this time Phil had read all the news and was beginning on the advertisements in order to have some ostensible purpose in remaining where he knew nobody. Another half hour passed, and then he decided to get up and watch one of the checker games that was in progress near him.

Both of the players were fairly expert, and he watched for some time with great interest. During the second game, one of the players made a bad move and let his opponent sweep off three pieces and land in the king row to boot. As he made the move, Phil could not repress a little gasp. The lucky opponent looked up at Phil and grinned, and Phil smiled back. The game was lost for the first man, and his friend proceeded to rub it in a little.

“I declare, Hoke, you’re gettin’ worse every day. You ought to see that I would clean the board if you made that move. I declare, I bet this young fellow here can beat you.”

“Bet a doughnut he can’t,” said the man called Hoke.

“Take ye up on that, an’ if you lose I’ll make you walk home and get one. They never have ’em here at night. What say, young feller, will ye give this feller a trimming for me?”

“Why, yes, I would like to play a game,” said Phil. He wanted to play for two reasons. First, it would give him a legitimate excuse for loitering there a little longer without attracting attention, and secondly, he really enjoyed a good game of checkers.

Phil disposed of his man very easily, for he was a remarkably good player. At the conclusion of the game, the defeated man demanded that his friend try a game with Phil, and accordingly changed places with him. Here was a harder opponent, and Phil was devoting his entire attention to giving him a run for the honors of the game, when the door opened and a couple of men slouched in.

Phil’s heart stood still, for they were two of the trio of tramps they had caught in their shack outside their home town. Phil was in a quandary. He couldn’t leave the game and rush out of the restaurant without doing the very thing he least wanted to, that was draw particular attention to himself.

There was only one thing to do, and that was stay and face the music. He doubted if the tramps would start anything in the room, but would probably wait outside and seek to wreak revenge on him for being one of those instrumental in their capture that time in the shack.

Then to his great surprise, they passed by him, giving him only a casual glance, but no sign of recognition.

Phil breathed a sigh of relief, and then reflected that it was not strange that they failed to recognize him. In the first place, they would hardly expect to find him in that northern town, and then his khaki clothes were of the sort that is common to the woods, but not to the town where their arrest had taken place. So it was a simple matter, their not knowing him.

He turned his attention to the game again, and had made two moves, when a phrase, spoken in French by a man at the table in back of him, startled him into alert attention.

The man had said:

“Well, Pierre, ‘The Bear’ will be here in a few moments now.”

What was he to do? “The Bear” could be no one but LeBlanc.

He must get out of the room at all costs, but how was he to avoid running into LeBlanc?

There was precious little chance that the guide would fail to recognize him, and he knew that he would be in real danger here among the half-breed’s friends and cronies.

Then, too, he must make his exit naturally, so as to arouse no suspicion in the minds of the checker players, who might be foes just as well as friends.

Already the watcher at the table was demanding they finish the game quickly so that he could have another chance at Phil.

His mind working rapidly, Phil figured out what the best course to pursue would be. The main point was to get out of the restaurant, but there was the danger that at the precise moment of his exit, Jean LeBlanc might be coming in the door.

It was not wholly fear of LeBlanc that made him want to escape unobserved, he didn’t want the treacherous guide to know that he or his chums were in the vicinity, for it would immediately destroy their usefulness; at least it would hamper their work to a great degree.

While his opponent studied the board, Phil was looking about the room. At one side of the room there was a window looking out on a side street or alley, Phil did not know which. Right beside it was a door. He decided that this was the best means of exit, for in the dark alleyway he could pass anyone coming in without their seeing who it was, and once in the shadows, he could look up and down the street, and make his escape as soon as it looked clear.

The immediate thing to be done was to bring the game to a close. His opponent had made his move, and concentrating on the game, Phil saw an obscure move, which, once made, would give his opponent the game. Without further hesitation, he made it, and the other player seized the advantage and won the game.

While he was chuckling over his victory, the other man was demanding a return chance at Phil, but the Boy Ranger forestalled this by pleading a headache from the heat and the smoke-filled room.

“Tell you what,” he said. “You two play a game, while I go outside for a few minutes and clear my head, then I’ll come back and take you on again.”

This proved to be agreeable to the others, and in another moment they were absorbed in the start of the game. Carefully edging his way over to the side door, he waited till no one was looking at him, then opened the door and slipped through not into an alleyway, but into another room!

He had been fooled by the close proximity of the window, never dreaming that there was an ell-like extension beginning flush at the side of the window. Hastily glancing about, he saw another door, and running to it, threw it open, only to have Jean LeBlanc enter just as he opened it.