THE HISTORIAN CONCLUDES HIS NARRATIVE.

HAVING plenty of time at their disposal, Joe Wayring and his friends
were in no particular hurry to reach Indian Lake. After they entered the
river they kept the skiff moving rapidly, but at the same time they did
not neglect to keep their eyes open for “rovers”—that is, any objects,
animate or inanimate, that would give them an opportunity to try their
skill with their long bows. If a thieving crow, a murderous blue jay, or
a piratical kingfisher showed himself within range, the sharp hiss of an
arrow admonished him that there were enemies close at hand. Kingfishers
were objects of especial dislike. The boys were fish culturists in a
small way, and had stocked a pond on Mr. Sheldon’s grounds. On the very
day that the “fry” were put into it, the kingfishers and minks made
their appearance, and then began a contest which had been kept up ever
since. By the aid of traps and breech-loaders the boys waged an
incessant warfare upon the interlopers, and finally succeeded in
thinning them out so that the trout were allowed to rest in comparative
peace.

The boys did not stop at noon, but ate their lunch as they floated along
with the current. The monotony of the afternoon’s run was broken by an
hour’s chase after an eagle, which they did not succeed in shooting,
although one of Roy’s arrows ruffled the feathers on his back, and by a
long search for an otter which swam across the river in advance of them.
About four o’clock in the afternoon they reached a favorite camping, or
rather, anchoring ground, a deep pool noted for its fine yellow perch,
and there they decided to stop for the night. The anchor was dropped
overboard just above the pool, and when the skiff swung to the current,
the bait-rods they had purchased to replace those that Matt Coyle had
stolen from them, were taken out of the lockers, floats were rigged, a
box of worms which they had been thoughtful enough to bring with them
was opened, and the sport commenced.

The fish in that pool were always hungry, and the floats disappeared as
fast as they were dropped into the water. A few “fingerlings” were put
back to be caught again after they had had time to grow larger, but the
most of those they captured were fine fellows, and heavy enough to make
a stubborn resistance. In less than half an hour they had taken all they
wanted for supper, and then the anchor was pulled up and the skiff drawn
alongside the bank. Roy and Joe went ashore to clean the fish, and
Arthur staid in the boat to put up the tent. This done, he brought out a
pocket cooking stove which he placed on the forward locker, and by the
time the fish were ready, he had an omelet browning in the frying pan.
That, together with an ample supply of fried perch, bread and butter and
a cup of weak tea, made up a supper to which they did full justice.

There were still a few hours of daylight left, and as soon as the dishes
had been washed and packed away in the locker, the boys took their bows
and went ashore to stretch their legs and shoot at “rovers”. Arthur
succeeded in bringing down a kingfisher after half an hour’s hard
stalking, and his companions shot a squirrel apiece for breakfast. Just
at dusk they met at the boat, which was hauled out into the stream and
anchored. The jack-lamp was lighted and hung upon one of the poles that
supported the tent, the rubber mattress was inflated, and the three
friends lounged around and talked until they began to grow sleepy. Then
the blankets and pillows were brought to light, one side of the tent was
buttoned down to the gunwale, the other being left up to admit the air,
and the boys laid down to sleep, trusting to Jim to give them notice of
the approach of danger. He gave them notice before three hours had
passed away.

About midnight the spaniel, which for half an hour or more had been very
restless, suddenly jumped to his feet and set up a frightful yelping. If
some one had been pounding him he could not have been in greater
distress. The boys started up in alarm to find the sky overcast with
black clouds, the wind coming down the river in strong and fitful gusts
and the anchor dragging. There was a storm coming up, it promised to be
a severe one, too, but it did not find the young voyagers unprepared to
meet it. The forward end of the tent was promptly rolled up, a spare
anchor dropped into the water, and the skiff was again brought to a
stand-still. By that time the rain was falling in sheets, but the boys
paid no sort of attention to it. They buttoned the tent down all around
and went to sleep again, fully satisfied with the precautions they had
taken. Jim was satisfied too, although he thought it necessary to
slumber lightly. Whenever a strong gust of wind came roaring down the
river, he would turn his head on one side and look critically at the
anchor ropes, which led through ring-bolts in the bow, and were made
fast to cleats on the forward locker; and having made sure that the
ground tackle was doing its full duty, he would go to sleep again.

The night passed without further incident, the morning dawned clear and
bright, and after a breakfast of fried perch and broiled squirrel, the
boys resumed their journey toward Indian Lake. On the evening of the
fifth day after leaving Mount Airy, they found themselves within a short
distance of their destination; but instead of going on to the lake they
turned into a creek which connected the river with a lonely pond that
lay deep in the forest. They did not intend to go to Indian Lake until
they stood in need of supplies. There were big hotels and a crowd of
guests there, and they saw enough of them at home. To quote from Joe
Wayring, their object was to get away from every body and be lazy.

The sun went down long before they turned into the creek, and night was
coming on; but they pushed ahead in order to reach a favorite anchorage
in the mouth of a little brook, whose waters could be relied on to
furnish them with a breakfast of trout. They laid out all their strength
on the oars and the skiff flew swiftly and noiselessly up the stream,
its movements being governed by Arthur Hastings, who looked over his
shoulder now and then to take his bearings. After they had been speeding
along for half an hour, he began keeping a sharp lookout for the brook;
and once when he turned around he thought he saw a moving object in the
creek a short distance away. He looked again, and a thrill of exultation
and excitement ran all through him.

“Joe,” said he, in a scarcely audible whisper, “there’s your canvas
canoe, as sure as I’m a foot high.”

“Where?” exclaimed Joe and Roy, turning quickly about on their seats.

In reply Arthur pointed silently up the creek. His companions looked,
and then they too became excited. There was a canoe in advance of them
sure enough, and dark as it was, they instantly recognized it as the one
Matt Coyle had stolen from Joe Wayring.

There was somebody in it, and he was plying his double paddle as if he
were in a great hurry. He did not appear to know that there was any one
besides himself in the creek, for he never once looked behind him.

“It isn’t big enough for Matt, and so it must be one of his boys,”
whispered Roy.

“Boy or man, he shall not go much further with that canoe.” said Joe in
a resolute tone. “That’s my boat and I’m going to have it, if you
fellows will stand by me.”

“Now Joe!” exclaimed Roy, reproachfully.

“I didn’t mean that. Of course I know that you can be depended on,” said
Joe, hastily. “Let’s take after him. If we find that we can’t take the
canoe away from him, we’ll sink her. Matt Coyle shan’t have her any
longer.”

The three oars fell into the water simultaneously, and the skiff shot
silently up the creek in pursuit of the canoe, whose occupant was making
his double paddle whirl through the air like the shafts of a windmill.
An oar rattled behind him and aroused him from his reverie. He faced
about to see the skiff close upon him. The night had grown so dark that
he could not tell who the crew were, but he knew that they would not
come at him in that fashion unless they had some object in view. Matt
and his boys always had the fear of the law before their eyes, and Jake,
believing that a constable or deputy sheriff was in pursuit of him,
turned about and churned the water into foam in his desperate attempt to
outrun the skiff. He succeeded in getting a good deal of speed out of
his clumsy craft, but fast as he went the pursuers gained at every
stroke.

“Hold on with that boat!” shouted Arthur. “We’ve got you and you might
as well give in.”

But Jake wasn’t that sort. He redoubled his exertions with the paddle,
but all of a sudden his progress was stopped so quickly that Jake left
his seat and pitched headlong into the bow of the canoe. Speaking in
western parlance he had “picked up a snag” whose sharp, gnarled end
penetrated the canvas covering of the canoe, tearing a hole in it that
was as big as Jake’s head. It did not hang there but floated off with
the current, and began filling rapidly. In a few seconds she was out of
sight, and Jake was making all haste to reach the shore. A moment later
the skiff dashed up, and Roy Sheldon struck a vicious blow at the
swimmer with his oar; but he was just out of reach. A few long strokes
brought him to shallow water, two jumps took him to dry land, and in an
instant more he was out of sight in the bushes.

“What tumbled him out so suddenly?” exclaimed Joe.

“Look out, boys! There’s a snag right under us,” said Roy.

“Where in the world is the boat?” inquired Arthur.

“There she is,” answered Joe, pointing to a swirl in the water which
marked the spot where the canvas canoe was quietly settling down on the
bottom of the creek.

“Sunk!” cried Roy. “So she is. She must have a cargo of some sort
aboard, or she would not have gone down like that. Now, what’s to be
done?”

“We can’t do any thing to-night,” replied Joe. “I propose that we anchor
here and wait until morning comes to show us how she lies. If the water
isn’t over thirty feet deep we can raise her.”

The others agreeing to this proposition, the ground tackle was got
overboard, and Roy, who handled the rope, encouraged Joe by assuring him
that the water was not an inch over twelve feet deep.

“If that is the case,” said the latter, hopefully, “I shall soon have my
boat back again. It will be no trouble at all to take a line down twelve
feet. I’d give something to know what she is loaded with.”

“Contraband goods, I’ll be bound,” said Arthur. “The fruits of a raid on
somebody’s smoke-house or hen-roost. I am sorry to know that Matt Coyle
is in the neighborhood, for we don’t know at what moment he may jump
down on us and steal something.”

“We mustn’t let him catch us off our guard,” said Roy. “It won’t be safe
to leave the skiff alone for a minute.”

The boys’ hands were as busy as their tongues, and in a short time the
tent was up, a light from the jack-lamp was streaming out over the
water, and the appetizing odor of fried bacon filled the air. The
knowledge that the thieving squatter was no great distance away, and
that he might make his appearance at any moment, did not cause them to
eat lighter suppers than usual, nor did it interfere with their
customary sound and refreshing sleep. They felt safe from attack. They
did not believe that Matt Coyle had a boat (they knew very well that he
could not have brought the punt with him), and consequently there was no
way for him to reach them unless he resorted to swimming; and they did
not think he would be foolish enough to try that.

The boys slept soundly that night, but the next morning’s sun found them
astir. Arthur made a cup of coffee over the pocket cooking stove, after
which the tent was taken down, and Joe Wayring made ready for business
by divesting himself of his clothing.

The first thing was to find out just where the canoe lay, and that did
not take them as long as they thought it would. The water was as clear
as crystal, and every thing on the bottom could be plainly seen by Joe
and Roy, who leaned as far as they could over opposite sides of the
skiff, while Arthur rowed them back and forth in the vicinity of the
snag.

“There she is!” cried Roy, suddenly; and as he spoke he caught up the
anchor and dropped it overboard. “We’re right over her, and there isn’t
a snag or any other obstruction in the way.”

Joe Wayring stepped upon the forward locker, holding in his hand one end
of a rope which he had coiled down on the bottom of the skiff so that it
would run out easily, and as soon as the boat stopped swinging he dived
out of sight. When the commotion in the water occasioned by his descent
had ceased, his companions could observe every move he made as he
scrambled about over the sunken canoe, and presently they saw him coming
up.

“Haul away,” said Joe, as he shook the water from his face and climbed
back into the skiff.

“What’s it fast to?” asked Roy.

“A bag of potatoes.”

“What did I tell you?” exclaimed Arthur Hastings. “I knew that fellow
had been on a plundering expedition.”

“But you thought he had been robbing somebody’s hen-roost or
smoke-house,” Roy reminded him.

“And so he has,” said Joe. “There’s a whole side of bacon down there.”

The boys pulled gently on the line, and presently the bag of potatoes
came to the surface. It was seized and hauled into the skiff, the line
was unfastened and passed over to Joe, who was about to go down again,
when his movements were arrested by the snapping of twigs and the sound
of voices which came from the depths of the woods. They were angry
voices, too, and rendered somewhat indistinct by distance and
intervening bushes, but the boys recognized them at once.

“There comes Matt Coyle, his wife and both their boys,” said Joe. “Now
we shall hear something.”

“I wonder what they think they are going to do,” said Roy. “Just listen
to the noise they make in crashing through the brush. One would think
there were a lot of wild cattle in there.”

Joe Wayring did not await their appearance, but went down to reeve the
line through a ring-bolt in the stern-post of the sunken canoe, and to
bring up her painter and the side of bacon. When he arose to the surface
Matt Coyle and his family were striding up and down the bank, shaking
their fists and swearing lustily.

“That there is my hog-meat, too,” roared the squatter, as Joe tossed the
bacon into the skiff. “I want it an’ I’m goin’ to have it, I tell you.”

“We don’t know that these provisions rightfully belong to you,” said
Roy. “We have an idea that you stole them last night or, rather,—”

“No, I didn’t steel ’em nuther,” shouted Matt.

“Or, rather, that one of your boys did,” continued Roy, while Joe hung
on to the side of the skiff and looked over it at the angry party on the
shore. “I am sure we don’t want them.”

“Then bring ’em ashore like we told you,” screamed the old woman.
“You’re thieves yourselves if you keep ’em.”

“Do you see any thing green about us?” demanded Arthur. “I’ll tell you
what we will do: If you will stay there on the bank in plain sight until
we get our boat raised, we will go up the creek and leave the potatoes
and bacon opposite the mouth of the trout brook, so that you can get
them after we have gone away. What are you going to do with those
sticks?” he added, addressing himself to the two boys who just then came
out of the bushes with a heavy club in each hand.

“We’re goin’ to knock you out o’ that boat if you don’t fetch that there
grub of our’n ashore without no more foolin’,” answered Jake, in
threatening tones. “It’s our’n an’ we’re goin’ to have it back.”

“That’s the idee, Jakey,” exclaimed the old woman, approvingly. “Knock
the young ’ristocrats out o’ their boat. I reckon that’ll bring ’em to
time.”

“If you try that, I’ll lay some of you out flatter than so many
pancakes,” returned Roy, defiantly; and as he spoke he tore open the bag
containing the potatoes. Catching up one in each hand, his example being
promptly followed by Arthur Hastings, he arose to his feet just in time
to dodge one of Jake’s clubs, which came whirling through the air
straight for his head. Before the missile had struck the water on the
other side of the skiff, Roy launched one of his potatoes at the
aggressor. Like most left-handed fellows Roy could throw like lightning;
and the potato, flying true to its aim and with terrific force, struck
Jake fairly in the pit of the stomach, and doubled him up like a
jack-knife.

“That’s the idee, Jakey,” yelled Joe Wayring, who was delighted with the
accuracy of his chum’s shot. “Knock them young ’ristocrats out o’ their
boat. I reckon that’ll bring ’em to time. Throw another, Jakey.”

But Jake was in no condition to throw another. It was a long time before
he could get his breath; and when he did get it, the howls with which he
awoke the echoes of the surrounding woods were wonderful to hear. The
squatter’s family, believing that Jake had been mortally wounded,
gathered about him with expressions of sympathy, and Joe Wayring took
advantage of the confusion to climb into the skiff and put on his
clothes. If there was going to be a fight he wanted to take a hand in
it.

“Whoop!” shrieked the old woman, rolling up her sleeves and shaking a
pair of huge, tan-colored fists at the object of her wrath. “If I was a
man I’d swim off to that there boat an’ maul the last one of you. Matt,
why don’t you do it? Seems like you was afeard of them fellers.”

“Yes, Matt, why don’t you do it?” said Arthur, encouragingly.

“Yes, Matt, show a little pluck,” chimed in Roy. “Come on. Swim off to
us; and if I don’t sink you before you have got ten feet from the shore,
I’m a Dutchman.”

“I don’t think we have any thing more to fear from them,” said Joe, in a
low tone. “It’s a lucky thing for us that Roy thought of using those
potatoes. If we had nothing to defend ourselves with they could drive us
away from here very easily. Now let’s raise the canoe, and go up to the
brook and catch our breakfast. I’m getting hungry.”

It was scarcely two minutes’ work to bring the wreck to the surface. It
readily yielded to the strain that Joe and Arthur brought to bear upon
the lines, and as soon as they could get hold of it, they drew it into
the skiff stern foremost, thus compelling the water with which it was
filled to run out at the hole in the bow. After that it was turned
bottom upward over the stern locker and lashed fast. Of course Matt
Coyle and his family had not been silent all this while. They had kept
up a constant storm of threats and abuse, and the squatter fairly danced
with rage when he saw the boat, with which he had expected to accomplish
so much in the way of “independent guidin’” was lost to him forever. But
they did not attempt any more violence, for Roy stood guard over his
companions with a potato in each hand, and ready to open fire on them at
any moment.

“Now, then!” exclaimed Joe, as he pulled up the anchor while the other
boys shipped their oars, “do you want these provisions, or don’t you?”

“Course I want ’em,” growled Matt, in reply. “They’re mine, an’ we ain’t
got no grub to eat.”

“All right. I don’t suppose that you have the shadow of a right to them,
but we will give them up to you if you will do as we say.”

“Wal, I won’t do as you say, nuther,” declared Matt. “I ain’t goin’ to
let myself be bossed around by no ’ristocrats, I bet you.”

“Then you shan’t have the potatoes,” said Joe, decidedly. “Give way,
boys.”

“Say! Hold on, there,” exclaimed Matt, whose larder was empty and had
been for some time. “What do you want me to do?”

“We want you to stay right there on the bank until we can go up and land
your provisions on the point opposite the mouth of the brook,” replied
Joe. “You must keep out in plain sight, mind you, for if you go back
into the woods we shall think you are up to something, and then you can
whistle for your grub.”

As Joe said this he shipped an oar, and the skiff moved up the creek
toward the point. The boys kept a close watch over Matt Coyle, but he
never left the bank. He was biding his time, so he told his wife and
boys. Joe and his friends had the advantage of him now, but there might
come a day when he could catch them off their guard, and then they had
better look out. If he couldn’t take vengeance on them this summer, he
would do it next summer. He would follow them wherever they went; and if
he couldn’t get a chance to steal every thing they had, he would make
the country about Indian Lake so warm for them that they would be glad
to go somewhere else to spend their vacations.

As Matt remained on the bank in plain sight and did not attempt to
approach them under cover of the bushes, the boys landed the provisions,
according to promise—that is, they put some of them on the point; but
Roy was sharp enough to keep out about half a peck of the potatoes to be
used in case of emergency. This being done, they pulled across the creek
into the mouth of the brook to catch a mess of trout, which they decided
to cook over a fire on the bank. The breeze was so strong that the lamp
in their little stove would not burn in the open air, and they knew that
if they put up their tent, Matt and his boys would have the advantage if
they opened a fire of clubs upon them when they came after their
potatoes and bacon.

It was well that they took these precautions, for when the squatter
appeared on the opposite bank he was fierce for a fight. He and his
backers were all armed with clubs, one of which was sent sailing through
the air toward the skiff. Jim was sitting on one of the lockers,
impatiently waiting to be called to breakfast, and the club, after
glancing from the side of the boat, struck him in the ribs and tumbled
him off into the creek.

“WHOOP-EE!” yelled Matt Coyle, dancing about on the bank in high glee.
“That was a good shot. Lookout! Here comes another that’s goin’ to send
some of you to keep company with the purp. I reckon we’ve got you whar
we want you this time, cause the taters is all on our side the creek.”

As the squatter spoke a second club left his hand, being thrown with so
much force and accuracy that if the boys had not been on the alert, some
and perhaps all of them would have been knocked overboard, for the
missile was almost as long as the cock-pit, and as it came through the
air with a rotary motion, it covered space enough to hit all their heads
at once. This was the signal for a perfect shower of clubs. Every one of
the family had two or more, which were thrown as rapidly as they could
be changed from one hand to the other, and Joe and his chums were kept
so busy dodging them, that they could not find opportunity to return the
fire. But when the squatter and his allies had thrown all their clubs
without effect, and thus disarmed themselves, the boys sprang to their
feet and opened their battery. The first potato Roy threw took Jake
square in the mouth, bringing forth another series of doleful yells from
that unlucky young ruffian, and the second put the old woman’s right arm
in a sling for a week. At the same moment Arthur wiped out the insult
that had been put upon Jim by taking Matt a whack under the eye that
raised a lump as large as a hen’s egg.

“Whoop-ee!” shouted Joe Wayring, as a potato from his own hand struck
Sam’s tattered cap from his head. “That was a bully shot. Look out! Here
comes another. We ain’t got no taters on this side of the creek, I
reckon.”

The fusillade that followed was a hot one, and the squatter and his
family, finding that they could not stand against it, beat a hasty
retreat into the bushes. Then Arthur turned to assist Jim, who had been
making desperate but unavailing efforts to climb into the skiff. He
wasn’t hurt at all, but he was very mad.

The plucky boys were not called upon to defend themselves. Matt Coyle
made an attempt to secure the provisions, but went back with an aching
head and a bloody nose, and the three chums saw no more of him that
summer. But they heard him. From his place of concealment in the bushes
the squatter and his wife abused them roundly, and shouted at them
threats that were enough to frighten almost any body.

The boys caught a fine string of trout, cooked and ate breakfast in
peace, and then kept on up the creek toward the pond. As soon as they
were out of range, Matt and his family came from their hiding-places
after the potatoes and bacon; but they made no demonstration beyond
showing the boys their fists and swearing at them.

After that things went smoothly with Joe and his companions. They
thoroughly enjoyed their outing, and when it was ended they went home
with a new lease of life, and with brains invigorated to such degrees
that they were ready to grapple with any thing that might come before
them during the school term, which was to begin on the following Monday.

During the year affairs in Mount Airy moved along in much the same way
that they do in every little village which can boast of a popular high
school and rival organizations of almost every kind. After the canoe
meet, the line was sharply drawn between the two opposing factions. They
did not come to open warfare, but they were intensely hostile, and a
very little thing would have precipitated a fight between Joe Wayring
and his friends on one side, and Noble, Scott, Prime and Tom Bigden and
his cousins on the other; for the latter did not long remain at swords’
points with the boys who made their head-quarters at the drug-store.
They had a stormy time when they first came together, and Tom announced
his readiness to thrash all the boys who had interfered with Loren
during the paddle race, provided they would come one at a time; but
Prime and a few others exerted themselves to bring order out of the
confusion, and through their efforts Tom was elected president of the
new canoe club which was organized at once. But that did not satisfy
him. If he could have had his own way in the matter, he would have
preferred to be a respected member of the other club without any office
at all. Besides, Prime and his friends could not forget that Tom, a
new-comer, had deliberately “booked” himself and his cousins for all the
best races, in utter disregard of the rights of those who ought to have
been allowed to win. They never quite forgave him for that, and there
was not that harmony in the new club that there ought to have been in
order to insure its prosperity. Tom was also elected short-stop in
Prime’s ball-club, and in the first match game that was played, had the
gratification of putting out Joe Wayring and Arthur Hastings every time
they went to the bat. That did Tom more good than any thing he had
accomplished since he came to Mount Airy, although he did feel rather
mean when Joe and Arthur complimented him on his swift and accurate
throwing.

At the next meeting of the Toxophilites many vacancies were made by the
resignation of boys who knew that they stood a fine chance of being
expelled for what they had done at the canoe meet, and by the voluntary
withdrawal of a number of others, who preferred Prime’s company and
Noble’s to the companionship of fellows who were willing to be ruled by
a lot of girls.

In the new club, of which Loren Farnsworth was chosen secretary, there
were no restrictions laid upon cribbage, cigars and billiards, and so
very good-natured was the master bowman, that he did not even object to
pipes when his men were drilling in the ranks. But he insisted on prompt
and regular attendance at all the meetings, because he wanted his
company to march in the procession on the next 4th of July.

“Say, captain,” exclaimed Tom Bigden one night after the long, fatiguing
drill was over. “We had forty men in line to-night, and I think we went
through the school of the company in a very creditable way, if some of
us are green. Couldn’t we get up a street parade just to show the
Toxophilites that some folks can do things as well as others?”

The captain was Frank Noble, and a very good drill-master he had proved
himself to be; although he was hardly strict enough to suit a veteran,
seeing that he permitted his men to smoke in the ranks.

“I have been thinking about that,” replied the captain, as the young
archers gathered about him after putting their long bows away in the
lockers. “But I think it would be better to wait awhile. It will not be
long before the lake will be frozen over, and then we will give an
exhibition drill on the ice. What’s the matter with that?”

“Nothing,” shouted all the boys. “It’s the very thing.”

“Well, then, in order to accustom ourselves to the movements and
evolutions, let every fellow bring his rollers next Thursday night, and
we will see what we can do with them.”

The boys thought it the best thing they had ever heard of, but Scott had
a suggestion to make.

“Why can’t we rent the rink for a few nights?” said he. “This armory is
hardly large enough, and besides, the floor isn’t as smooth as it might
be.”

“We could engage the rink, of course,” replied the captain. “But if we
do, the Toxophilites will find out what is going on, and we don’t want
them to know any thing about it.”

“Why, as to that, they are bound to know about it,” said Tom. “We can’t
keep it from them. You know what a fearful noise rollers make, don’t
you?”

“Well, we can’t help that,” answered Frank. “If we do our drilling here,
they can’t look through the windows and see what we are about, as they
could if we drilled at the rink. Now, if you want to go into this, you
must be on hand every night. I will promise to get you in fine trim by
the time the ice is in condition, if you will only attend to business.”

“I wonder if we couldn’t get up a competitive drill with the
Toxophilites?” said Loren.

“Not much,” replied Prime, with a laugh. “There are too many raw
recruits among us.”

“We’ll wait and give them a pull for something at the next canoe meet,”
said Tom.

“You don’t expect to enter for any of the prizes next summer, do you?”

“Of course I do,” replied Tom, “and so do my cousins. We have sent to
New London for a rowing machine, and intend to keep up our practice all
winter.”

“You might as well make kindling wood of that rowing machine when it
comes to hand, for it will not do you any good as far as winning a prize
from Joe Wayring is concerned,” said Scott. “You can’t race with him.”

“I’ll see how that is,” answered Tom, who was thinking about one thing
while Scott was thinking about another. “I was under the impression that
when our new club was organized, it was the sentiment of the members
that we were to challenge their best men for every thing. Before we can
do that, it will be necessary to have a series of trial races among
ourselves in order to determine who stand the best chance of winning,
and I calculate to be one of the select few.”

“I believe some of the fellows did speak about that, but it was all
talk,” said Captain Noble. “You see, Tom, you and I have been ruled out
of every thing by the referee’s decision on the day of the meet, and you
don’t suppose that our friends here are going to take part in sports
that we can’t have a hand in, do you? Haven’t we promised to stand by
one another?”

“Oh,” said Tom, “I didn’t know what Scott meant, but I understand the
matter now. The others won’t compete because you and I can’t. I am glad
to hear it.”

“Of course we are not barred out of any thing except the sports that
take place during the canoe meet,” added Prime. “We can play ball or
lawn tennis or polo with them. We can send a team to beat them at target
shooting, and we can enter our sail-boats for prizes in the regatta; but
I, for one, don’t care to. I’ve had quite enough of that crowd, and
think we can see all the fun we want among ourselves.”

“I think so, too,” said Tom. “I don’t care for their old canoe club, but
I should really like to see the Toxophilites go to pieces. I’d see Joe
Wayring happy before he should come into this club with my vote.”

If Tom Bigden could have stepped across the street and up the stairs
that led to the neatly furnished armory and drill-room in which the
Toxophilites were at that moment sitting down to an oyster supper that
some of the new members had provided for them, he would, perhaps, have
been very much disappointed to discover that the organization he hated
so cordially because he could not get into it, was not only in no danger
of falling to pieces, but that it was stronger than it had ever been
before. The vacancies occasioned by the resignation of Frank Noble and
his friends, had been promptly filled by good fellows, who had waited
long and patiently for an opportunity to send in their names. More than
that (and this was something that made Tom and his cousins very angry
when they found it out), the constitution had been amended so that the
membership could be increased to a hundred. The Toxophilites were
determined that the Mount Airy Scouts (that was the name of the new
club), should not beat them if they could help it; but still they did
not take in every one who applied for admission, as the Scouts did.

During the winter Tom Bigden and his cousins, who grew more vindictive
and unreasonable in their hatred as time progressed, waged a secret but
incessant warfare upon Joe Wayring and his two chums. They coaxed Mars
from the post-office to the drug-store, and sent him home with a tin can
tied to his tail. They practiced with their long bows at Roy Sheldon’s
fan-tail and tumbler pigeons as often as the birds ventured over to
their side of the lake. They went across on their skates one night, and
overturned the _Young Republic_, which Joe had hauled out on the beach
and housed for the winter; and they even thought seriously of setting
fire to his boat-house, believing that the blame would be laid upon Matt
Coyle, who was known to be trapping somewhere in the mountains. Joe knew
who it was that insulted Mars and shot at the pigeons and disturbed his
sail-boat; but when he saw by the marks on the door of the boat-house
that somebody had been trying to pull out the staple that held the hasp,
he told his chums that he had wronged Tom and his cousins by his
suspicions, and that the squatter was the culprit after all. Beyond a
doubt Matt wanted to regain possession of the canvas canoe; and in order
to save his property, Joe shouldered it one morning and took it up to
his room.

The attentive reader, if I am so fortunate as to have one, will bear in
mind that all I have thus far written is but a repetition of the story
the canvas canoe told me on that bright afternoon when I was first
introduced to him and to the other merry fellows—the long bows, the
snow-shoes and the toboggan—who found a home in Joe Wayring’s room. In
concluding his interesting narrative the canoe said:

“Now, Fly-rod, you know every thing of importance that has happened
since Tom Bigden and his cousins first stuck their quarrelsome noses
inside Mount Airy. As I said at the start, it was necessary that you
should hear the story, or else you would be at a loss to account for a
good many things that may happen to you sooner or later. I have an idea
that you are a good sort, and hope we shall pass many pleasant hours in
each other’s company.”

I thanked the canoe for his kind wishes and for the story he had taken
so much pains to tell me, and inquired how he had managed to live
through the long winter that had just passed.

“Oh, I did well enough,” was his reply. “In the first place, the long
bows and I had much to talk about, and in the next, Joe often brings Roy
and Arthur up here to spend an evening; and as they have traveled a good
deal, they are never at a loss for some interesting topic of
conversation. More than that, Joe and his uncle went off hunting last
December, and when they returned, they brought with them those conceited
things over there—the snow-shoes and toboggan—who being from another
country, think they are a trifle better than any body else. But, after
all, I have found them to be very companionable fellows, and if you can
only get them started (like all Englishmen, they are inclined to be
surly at first), they can tell you some things about shooting and
trapping that are well worth listening to.”

“Do you know what the programme is for the summer?” I asked, being
somewhat anxious to learn what I had to look forward to. “Where are we
going and what are we going to do?”

“Well, seeing that this is April, it will not be summer for three months
to come,” replied the canoe. “But you need not expect to remain idle any
longer than next Saturday. You and I will probably be employed in making
short trips about the village until school closes for the long vacation.
Immediately after the canoe meet, which in future will be held on the
3rd of July, so that the members of the club can have the whole of the
vacation to themselves, you and Joe will go up to Indian Lake—”

“But Matt Coyle is up there,” I interrupted.

“Suppose he is!” retorted the canvas canoe. “Do you think that Joe
Wayring is going to be kept away from his favorite fishing grounds just
because that outlaw has chosen to take up his abode there! You don’t
know Joe. He’ll go, you may be sure, and after he gets there, he’ll give
you a chance to show what you can do with a five pound trout.”

“Why can’t you go?” I inquired. I had already learned to like my new
friend, who had shown himself to be so good-natured and so ready to tell
me any thing I wanted to know, and I thought I would rather have him for
company than any body else.

“It is possible that I may go, but I haven’t heard any thing said about
it. I should think I might be of some use to Joe and I would not be at
all in his way.”

“But what if that squatter should steal you again? I suppose you didn’t
fare very well while you were in his hands.”

“Oh, I fared well enough,” replied the canoe, who seemed to have a happy
faculty of accommodating himself to circumstances. “But I didn’t like
the company I was obliged to keep, I tell you. Whenever Matt Coyle or
his boys took me out on the water, I would have been only too glad to
spill them out if I could have done it. I felt particularly savage on
the night Jake used me in making his raid on that old guide’s
potato-patch and smoke-house. When I saw the skiff coming after me,
wouldn’t I have laughed if I had possessed the power? I knew that Jake
was going to run me on to that snag, and when I was settling to the
bottom, I told myself that Joe would never leave me there. I wasn’t hurt
at all. I was easily mended with rosin and tallow and a piece of canvas,
and am just as good as I ever was; although I confess that I look like a
boy who has been in a fight and has to wear a patch over his eye.”

“How did the squatter make the journey from his shanty to the creek in
which Joe found you?”

“Well, he carried me on his back from the pond to the river. It took him
two days to do it, for I hindered him all I could by catching hold of
every limb and bush that came within my reach. When we got to the river,
Matt loaded me to the water’s edge with his household goods (you will
know how I shrank from contact with them when I tell you that the
blankets and quilts were so begrimed with smoke and dirt that Mars could
not be hired to sleep on them), and then one of the boys got in and
paddled me down the stream while the squatter and the rest of his family
stumbled along the bank. Matt was afraid to make his camp anywhere near
Indian Lake, because he knew that the guides would be very likely to
burn or otherwise destroy every thing he had, as they did once before;
so he turned up the creek, and hunted around until he found a place that
suited him. It was in a secluded glen, about a quarter of a mile from
the creek. He set his boys to work to build a lean-to, which would
afford them some sort of shelter until they could provide a better
covering for their heads, and started out with his rifle to get
something to eat. During his rambles he found a smoke-house and
potato-patch which he thought could be easily robbed, and as soon as he
came home, he sent Jake out on that thieving expedition which resulted
disastrously to him, for he lost his plunder and me into the bargain. I
assure you I was glad to find myself among friends once more. Why, have
you any idea what that villain meant to do? He was going to make a
pirate of me. He intended, first, to offer himself as guide for the
hotels, and if they wouldn’t take him, he intended to follow the guests
and their guides along the water courses, and rob every camp that he
found unprotected. That’s the kind of fellow Matt Coyle is. He ought to
be abolished.”

“What became of the fishing-rods he stole at the time he ran off with
you?”

“Well, they had worse treatment than I did, because they were not as
useful as I was. They have been left out in the rain and abused in
various ways, until they don’t look much as they did when the squatter
first got his ugly hands upon them. I doubt very much if their owners
would have recognized them if they could have seen them the last time I
did.”

“Will our trip to Indian Lake last all summer?” I asked.

“Oh, no; only about two weeks. After that, we shall be packed off on a
long journey, either East or West, I don’t know which, and neither did
Joe the last time I heard him say any thing about it. You see, Uncle Joe
Wayring owns large tracks of timber land in Maine and Michigan. He wants
to see them both, for he has learned that thieves are at work in both
places; but he hasn’t yet made up his mind which he wants to see the
more. When he does he will tell Joe, and then we shall find out where we
are going.”

There were a good many other questions that I wanted to ask my
communicative friend, but before I could speak again a merry whistle
sounded in the hall below, and somebody ascended the stairs three at a
time. Then I knew that my master had finished his sail on the lake, and
was coming up to his room to get ready for supper. He threw the door
open with a bang, school-boy fashion, and walking straight up to me took
me from my case and gave me a good looking over. He seemed as delighted
as a youngster with his first pair of red top boots; but I was somewhat
chagrined to learn that he did not have a very exalted opinion of my
capabilities.

“That’s a very fine rod, no doubt; but I expect to break him into a
dozen pieces before I have had him a month. A two pound trout will give
him more than he wants to do.”

What else Joe was going to say about me I never knew; for just then the
supper bell rang, and he made all haste to put me back in my case. After
a hasty toilet he bolted out of the room with the same noise and racket
he made when he came in, and I was at liberty to continue my
conversation with the canvas canoe. As usual, that useful and talkative
individual spoke first.

“What is your opinion of a boy who can deliberately persecute a fellow
like that?” said he.

“He ought to receive the same punishment you want meted out to Matt
Coyle; he ought to be abolished,” I replied. “But Joe doesn’t appear to
think much of me.”

“Don’t you worry about that,” said the canoe, encouragingly. “You will
not wonder at it when you have made the acquaintance of his bait-rod—if
you ever do; I mean the one that was stolen from him. He’s a big heavy
fellow, and strong enough to jerk a four pound black bass from the water
without any nonsense. You can’t do that, and Joe isn’t certain that he
can handle you. He doesn’t distrust you any more than he distrusts
himself. There’s one thing I forgot to tell you,” added the canoe, “and
that is, if any misfortune befalls you, you can lay it to Tom Bigden. I
heard enough during my short captivity to satisfy me that he was the
chap who put it into Matt’s head to steal Joe’s property. Matt is bad
enough, goodness knows; but the advice Tom Bigden gave him made him
worse. That is one of the secrets of which I spoke at the beginning of
my story, and it troubles me all the time. I am sure that if I could
talk to Joe about five minutes, I should feel easier; but that’s
something I can’t do.”

At my request the historian then went on to tell of other interesting
and exciting incidents in Joe Wayring’s life, but as they have no
bearing with my own exploits and adventures I omit them now, although
they may appear at some future period. By the time he grew weary of
talking it was ten o’clock, and darkness had settled down over the room;
but just as I was composing myself for the night, the door opened and
Joe Wayring came in. Making good his boast, that if folks would let his
property alone, he could find any thing he wanted on the darkest of
nights and without the aid of a lamp, Joe caught up the creel with one
hand, seized me with the other, and carrying us both down-stairs,
deposited us on the kitchen table beside something that was covered with
a snow-white cloth. Then he busied himself for a few minutes about the
stove, getting kindling and light wood together so that a fire could be
readily started; and after I had watched his movements for a while, I
made up my mind that a campaign of some sort was in prospect. When he
took the light and went out I said to the creel:

“Do you happen to know what day this is?”

“It’s Friday,” he replied. “To-morrow will be Saturday, and I should
judge by the looks of things, that we are going to make our first trip
after trout.”

Do you know by experience how a youngster feels when he is about to be
called up before a hundred or more critical school mates to recite his
little piece beginning—

“You’d scarce expect a boy like me
To get up here where all can see,
And make a speech as well as those
Who wear the largest kind of clothes.”

Do you know how he feels? Well, that’s way I felt.