What thing

“I DON’T believe I care to be one of them now,” repeated Prime, who,
being a pretty good judge of character, knew that he ran no risk in
speaking freely in the presence of the three boys before him. “I wish I
could see their old organization knocked higher than the moon; or else I
wish that a few more new fellows of the right sort would come in, so
that we could have a club of our own.”

“I was about to suggest that very thing,” said Tom. “It can’t be
possible that Wayring and his cronies have got every boy in town under
their thumbs.”

“Not by a long shot!” exclaimed Prime. “There are ten or a dozen besides
myself who do not bow to them.”

“And my cousins and I add three to the number,” replied Tom. “That’s
enough for a hunting club. But we will talk about that at some future
time. Do you belong to the other clubs?”

Prime replied that he did, adding that any body could get into them, for
there was no limit to the membership.

“The canoe and yacht clubs are getting large enough to be unwieldy,”
said he. “I know of a good many boys who are not satisfied with the way
things are managed, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there should
be a split some day. There are a few of us who are talking it up as fast
as we can. We are getting tired of seeing the same old tickets elected
every year, and think it high time we had a change.”

“Is Wayring much of a canoeist?” asked Tom.

“Indeed, he is. He can walk away from any one around here, I am sorry to
say, and in fact, there’s hardly any thing that boy can’t do. I would
give almost any thing to see him beaten, and I—say!” exclaimed Prime, a
bright idea striking him. “Are you fellows canoeists?”

“My cousins are; but I can’t say as much for myself,” answered Tom. “I
have always been called a very fair sculler, and after I learn how to
balance a canoe, I know I have muscle enough to make her get through the
water. Hastings led me to believe that it was a tight squeak between
Wayring, Sheldon and himself.”

“Aw!” said Prime, in a tone of disgust. “You let Hastings alone for
shoving in a good word for himself as often as the opportunity offers.
He never won the first prize in his life. Joe Wayring walks away with it
every time. Suppose you fellows come in and see if you can’t make Joe
lower his broad pennant for a while. If you find that you can’t beat
him—and, although I am no friend of his, I tell you plainly that it will
be the hardest piece of work you ever undertook—you might get in his way
and let him foul you, you know. I tried my level best to do it last
year, but he was too smart for me.”

By this time it was plain to all the boys that they understood one
another perfectly. The truth of the matter was, that Joe Wayring and
some of his particular friends had won too many honors, and made
themselves altogether too popular in the community. These boys were
angry about it, because they wanted to be first in every thing
themselves. Tom Bigden and his cousins had fully intended to take Mount
Airy by storm, and to establish themselves at once as leaders among
their new acquaintances; and their failure to accomplish their object
bewildered as well as enraged them. If they had known how to go about
it, they would have disgraced Joe Wayring before he saw the sun rise
again. So would George Prime. Of course they did not say it in so many
words, but that was what each boy told himself.

Before Tom and his cousins left the store they entered into an alliance
with Prime, both offensive and defensive, and talked over various plans
for annoying the boys who had unwittingly incurred their displeasure. If
they could not injure Joe and his friends in any other way, they could
put them to some trouble and expense, and this they resolved to do the
very first good chance they got. They did not decide upon any particular
course of action, but Prime said that if Tom and his cousins would come
to the store the next day, he would introduce them to a lot of good
fellows who did not like Joe and his “clique” any too well, and who
would be glad to be revenged upon them for some real or imaginary
grievance.

“I see very clearly that there is a good deal of feeling against Wayring
and his followers, and if we handle it rightly we can make it work to
our advantage,” remarked Tom, as he and his cousins walked slowly
homeward. “It is a wonder to me that something hasn’t been done to him
before this time. What they lack is a leader—some one to propose a plan
and go ahead with it.”

“Well, they have found him at last—three of him,” said Loren. “I always
was opposed to living in a little country town, because you invariably
find fellows there who think they know more than any body else—”

“And plenty of others who are willing to uphold them in that belief,”
chimed in Ralph. “I say, don’t let’s have any thing to do with the
Toxophilites. Let’s get up a club of our own and manage it as we see
proper.”

“I am in favor of that,” replied Tom. “We’ll have no fines and drills,
for one thing, and neither will we admit any girls who stick up their
noses at a good cigar. But there is one thing we must not forget to do
when we meet those fellows at the store to-morrow. If we decide upon any
thing, we must be careful how we carry it out. If we are foolish enough
to let Joe and the rest know that we are down on them, and that we
intend to do them all the injury we can, they will make things very
unpleasant for us. We don’t want them to serve us as they have served
Prime, and read us entirely out of their good books—”

“And that is just what they will do if they see us in Prime’s company,”
interrupted Loren. “Sheldon said so.”

“There is no need that they should ever see us in his company,” replied
Tom. “Our best plan would be to hold all our meetings in secret—”

“And keep our organization, if we have any, a secret,” chimed in Ralph.

“That’s the idea,” said Tom. “Then we can do as much damage as we please
in the way of setting boats adrift, and so on, and Joe and his followers
will be at loss to know where the annoyance comes from. We mustn’t
forget to speak to the fellows about that to-morrow.”

Unfortunately an incident happened that very afternoon which made it
comparatively easy for the three schemers to carry out the plans they
proposed. It was, in fact, a fight between a squatter and the Mount Airy
authorities, to whom he had made himself obnoxious. Tom and his cousins
were witnesses of the preliminary skirmish, that is, the serving of the
notice of ejectment, and when they heard a full report of the matter
from one of the boys to whom Prime introduced them, their delight was
almost unbounded. Tom danced a horn-pipe in the excess of his joy, and
repeatedly declared that nothing could have happened that was so well
calculated to further their designs. It came about in this way:

Mr. Wayring’s summer cottages were all located on the opposite shore of
the lake. The road that led to them ran down the hill, around the foot
of the lake, and through a little settlement which bore the euphonious
name of “Stumptown.” Why this name had been given to it no one seemed to
know. It certainly was not appropriate, for there was not a stump to be
seen in any of its well-cultivated gardens, from which the Mount Airy
and Lambert Houses drew their supplies of vegetables and small fruits.

The male members of this little community were licensed guides and
boatmen—the only ones, in fact, who had the right to serve the guests of
the hotels in that capacity. They lived on Mr. Wayring’s land, and in
neat little cottages which the liberal owner had erected for their
especial benefit. When the season was over and the guests returned to
their homes in the city, these men hunted and trapped in the mountains,
and entertained the village boys, with whom they were great favorites,
and who often invaded their humble abodes during the long winter
evenings, with thrilling and amusing tales of life in the wilderness.
They taught the boys woodcraft, and made themselves so useful in other
ways, that the young Nimrods of the village had never been able to
decide how they could manage to get on without them.

Into this settlement there came one day an unkempt man, with a red nose
and a very forbidding face, who brought with him a large punt, into
which he had crowded all his worldly treasures, including his wife and
two stalwart sons, not one of whom was one whit more prepossessing than
the husband and father. Without saying a word to any body the red-nosed
man, who answered to the name of Matt Coyle, took possession of a piece
of ground that had been cleared but not fenced in, and began the
erection of a shanty with boards which formed a part of the punt’s
cargo. While he and his sons were at work Mr. Hastings, who was one of
the village trustees, rode by. He did not at all like the appearance of
the new-comers, but he had nothing to say to them. There was room for
more guides and boatmen, and Matt and his family might turn out better
than they looked. If they proved to be honest, industrious people who
were willing to work for a living, Mr. Hastings was perfectly willing
that they should stay, and he knew that Mr. Wayring would provide a
house and garden for them. If they proved to be objectionable in any
way, it would be an easy matter to get rid of them.

Shortly after Mr. Hastings passed out of sight Matt Coyle wanted a
drink; and he found it—not in the lake, or in the ice-cold spring from
which the guides obtained their supply of water, but in a jug which he
fished out from a lot of miscellaneous rubbish in the punt. After he had
quenched his thirst he passed the jug over to his wife and boys, the
whole proceeding being witnessed by Nat Clark, the oldest man and best
guide and boatman in the settlement, who was getting his skiff ready to
take out a fishing party from one of the hotels.

“Look a yer, friend,” said Nat. “What you got into that there jug o’
your’n?”

“The best kind o’ whisky,” answered Matt Coyle, cheerfully. “An’ I’ve
got as much as half a bar’l more in the punt. Want a drop?”

“Not much,” replied Nat, emphatically. “An’ if you’re goin’ to stay
about yer, you’d best knock in the head of that there bar’l an’ smash
that there jug without wastin’ no time.”

“What fur?” demanded the red-nosed man, who was very much surprised.

“’Cause why, it’s agin the law fur stuff of that kind to be brung into
these yer grounds.”

“Who made that there law?”

“The trustees. You’d best do as I tell you, ’cause if they find out that
you’ve got it, they’ll spill the last drop of it fur you.”

“They will, eh?” exclaimed Matt. “I’d like to see ’em try it on. They’d
better not try to boss me, ’cause me an’ my boys have got rifles into
the punt, an’ we know how to use ’em too. Them there trustees ain’t got
no more right to say what I shall drink than they have to say what I
shall eat. Besides, how are they goin’ to find out that I have got it?”

“_I_ shan’t tell ’em, ’cause I’ve got enough to do without botherin’ my
head with other folks’s business,” answered the guide, who knew by the
tone in which they were uttered that there was a threat hidden under
Matt Coyle’s last words. “But you can’t keep it hid from ’em, an’
they’re bound to find it out.”

And sure enough they did.

Having built his shanty and moved his household goods into it, Matt
Coyle and his boys presented themselves before the manager of the
Lambert House and demanded employment as guides and boatmen. That
functionary, who did not know that there were any such disreputable
looking people in town, gazed at them in surprise, and told them rather
bluntly that he had nothing for them to do. The manager of the Mount
Airy House told them the same thing. The hotel guides were neat in
person and respectful in demeanor, and Matt and his boys were just the
reverse. The managers would not insult their guests by giving them boats
manned by such persons as they were. Matt and his boys were angry, of
course, and after wasting the best portion of the day grumbling over
their hard luck, they put the jug into the punt and started out on a
fishing excursion. They came back with a good string, but the hotels and
boarding-houses refused to purchase, because their guests, with the
assistance of the guides, kept the tables well supplied.

Things went on in this way for a month, during which Matt and his boys
had twice been thrust into the calaboose for attempting to “run the
town” to suit themselves, and at the end of that time the trustees
decided that he and his family were of no use in Mount Airy, and that
they had better go somewhere else. On the day the lawn tennis party was
held, a notice to Matt Coyle to pull down his shanty and vacate the
ground of which he had taken unauthorized possession, was given to a
constable, and Tom Bigden and his cousins happened along just as the
officer had begun to read it to him. The boys knew that there was
something going on in the settlement before they came within sight of
it, for when the officer took the notice from his pocket the squatter
declared that he would not have any papers served on him: and then
followed a loud and angry altercation in which Matt Coyle and his
family, the constable and half a dozen guides took part. Tom and his
companions quickened their pace to a run, and arrived upon the scene
just in time to hear the squatter say, in savage tones:

“I know what’s into that there paper, an’ I tell you agin that I won’t
listen to it. Some of them rich fellers up there on the hill want me to
go away from here, but I tell you I won’t do it. I’ve got just as much
right—”

“Keep still, can’t you?” shouted the officer. He had to shout in order
to make himself heard, for Matt Coyle’s voice was almost as loud as a
fog whistle. “I am going to read this notice whether you listen or not.”

“No, I won’t listen,” roared the squatter, swinging his arms around his
head. “I’ve got just as much right on this here ’arth as them rich folks
up on the hill have. Where shall I go if I leave here?”

“I am sure I don’t care where you go,” replied the officer. “But you are
not wanted in Mount Airy and you can’t stay.”

“But I tell you I will stay, too,” shouted Matt, who was so nearly
beside himself that Tom and his companions looked for nothing but to see
him assault the officer. Probably he would have laid violent hands upon
him had it not been for the presence of the stalwart guides, who stood
close behind him. “I came here ’cause I heared that there was plenty
that an honest, hard-workin’ man could do.”

“And so there is,” answered the constable, “but you are neither honest
nor hard-working.”

“They wouldn’t have me an’ my boys fur guides, ’cause we didn’t have no
fine clothes to wear,” continued Matt. “An’ nuther would they buy the
fish we ketched, ’cause—look a yer. You needn’t try to read that there
paper to me, ’cause I won’t listen to it, I tell you.”

But the constable, who had grown tired of talking, paid no attention to
him. He read the notice, raising his voice as often as the squatter
raised his; then Matt’s boys, and finally his wife came to his
assistance, and this started the guides, who flourished their fists in
the air and shouted until they were red in the face. Among them all they
raised a fearful hubbub, and, of course, the officer’s voice was
entirely inaudible; but he read calmly on, and when he had finished the
document he walked away, followed by the guides, and leaving the
squatter and his family in a towering rage. Ralph and Loren were afraid
of them now that the constable and his broad-shouldered backers were
gone, but Tom looked serenely on, and could hardly resist the impulse to
laugh outright when he saw Matt and his family stamping about, shaking
their clenched hands in the air, and acting altogether as though they
had taken leave of their senses.

“Let’s get away from here,” whispered Loren, when Matt made a sudden and
furious rush toward the shanty, and began trying to kick the side of it
in with his heavy boots, just to show how mad he was, and to give his
wife and boys some idea of the damage he would do if he only possessed
the power.

“What’s your hurry?” asked Tom, indifferently. “Can’t you see how we can
turn this to our advantage?”

“I can see that those people are in a terrible rage,” replied Loren, who
was really alarmed, “and I am afraid they will turn on us next.”

“There’s no danger of that,” answered Tom, confidently. “When men rant
and rave in that way they are not to be feared for any thing they may do
openly. They are the ones who work in secret.”

At this moment Matt Coyle became aware that he and his family were not
alone—that there were three interested spectators close at hand; and as
if to show Tom that he was mistaken in the opinions to which he had just
given expression, Matt rushed toward him as if he meant to annihilate
him, followed by all the members of his family, who shook their fists
and shouted as if they were very angry indeed. Ralph and Loren shrank
back, but Tom, who was nobody’s coward, stood his ground, looked
squarely into Matt’s eyes, and coolly put his hands into his pockets.

“What you standin’ here gapin’ at?” demanded the squatter, fiercely. He
had drawn back his fist with the full intention of striking Tom; but
when he saw that the boy did not appear to be at all afraid of him, he
thought better of it.

“Why do you come at us in that savage way?” demanded Tom. “We don’t
scare worth a cent. If you want to get even with any one for the
shameful manner in which you have been treated, there’s the man you must
go for,” he added, pointing toward the grove which concealed Mr.
Wayring’s house from view. “He is entirely to blame for all the trouble
you have had. Your cabin is on his land, and the trustees never would
have thought of ordering you off if he had not complained of you.”

Matt and his family were greatly astonished. They thought that every one
in town looked down on them because they were poor, but here was
somebody who sympathized with them. Tom, quick to see that he had made
an impression upon the angry squatter, went on to say—

“If the people of this village should treat me as they have treated you,
it would make a regular Ishmaelite of me.”

“What sort of a feller is that?” asked Matt.

“Why, Ishmael was a hunter who lived a good many years ago,” answered
Tom. “His hand was against every man, and every man’s hand was against
him. He didn’t have a friend in the world.”

“That’s me,” exclaimed Matt, who seemed pleased to know that there was,
or had been, at least one other man in existence who knew what trouble
was. “I ain’t got no friends nuther. These rich folks have tried to
starve me since I came here, but they didn’t do it—not by a long shot.”

“Now, if I were situated as you are,” continued Tom, “I would draw a
bee-line for Sherwin’s pond—”

“Where’s that?” inquired Matt.

“It lies off that way, fifteen miles from the head of this lake,”
replied Tom, indicating the direction with his finger, and wondering at
the same time how Matt could have expected to render acceptable service
as guide to the guests of the hotels, when he was not acquainted with
the surrounding country. “There are about twelve miles of rapids in the
stream that connects the lake with Sherwin’s pond, but your punt will go
through easy enough if you can keep her clear of the rocks. As I was
saying, I would go down there, put up my cabin and live in peace. I’d
make more money, too, than I could by acting as guide and boatman.”

“How would you do it?” asked the squatter, whose anger was all gone now.

“Simply by keeping my eyes open. You see those sail-boats anchored out
there? Well, if one of them should happen to get adrift some stormy
night, and come safely through the rapids into the pond and I should
catch it, I wouldn’t give it up until I got a big reward for saving it,
would I? Then again, the pointers, setters and hounds that hunt in these
fields and woods very often get lost, and their owners are willing to
give almost any price to get them back. I tell you,” exclaimed Tom, who
knew by the gleam of intelligence that appeared on the swarthy faces
before him that Matt and his family understood him perfectly, “I could
make plenty of money by taking up my abode down there on the shore of
that pond. If the things I have been talking about didn’t happen of
themselves, I’d _make_ them happen—do you see? Well, good-by, and
remember that we three boys had no hand in driving you out of Mount
Airy.”

So saying Tom walked off followed by his companions, while Matt and his
family faced about and went toward their shanty.

FOR a while the three boys walked along in silence, Loren and Ralph
being too amazed to speak, and Tom pluming himself on having done
something that would, in the end, bring Joe Wayring and some of the
other boys he disliked no end of trouble. The fact that it might bring
trouble to himself as well, never once entered his mind. Ralph was the
first to speak.

“I wouldn’t have had that thing happen for any thing,” said he.

“What thing?” demanded Tom.

“Why, that interview with the squatter. I could see, by the expression
on his face, that you put the very mischief into his head.”

“And that was just what I meant to do,” replied Tom, who laughed
heartily when he saw how troubled his cousins were over what he had said
to Matt Coyle. “I saw he was thick-headed and needed help, and so I gave
it to him.”

“But don’t you know that it is dangerous to trust a man like that? If he
gets into trouble through the suggestions you made to him—and he will
just as surely as he attempts to act upon them—he’ll blow the whole
thing.”

“What in the world has he got to blow, and how have I trusted him?”
asked Tom, rather sharply. “I didn’t tell him to turn the sail-boats
adrift or to steal the guests’ hunting-dogs, did I? I simply told him
what I should do if I were in his place.”

“But you intended it for a suggestion, and hoped he would act upon it,
didn’t you?”

“Well, _that’s_ a different matter,” answered Tom. “If he tries to
revenge himself upon the citizens of Mount Airy for refusing to employ
him or to buy his fish, and his efforts in that direction bring him into
trouble, it will be his own fault. You and I want to see some of these
conceited fellows, who think they know more and are better than any body
else, brought down a peg or two, and if that squatter is accommodating
enough to do the work for us—why, I say let him do it.”

Tom continued to talk in this way for a long time, and to such good
purpose that when they reached home his cousins had forgotten their
fears, and even expressed much interest and curiosity regarding the
course of action that Matt Coyle might see fit to pursue. If he followed
Tom’s suggestion and built his shanty on the shore of Sherwin’s pond,
they might expect to hear from him before many days more had passed
away.

“I hope that if Matt does take it into his head to do any thing, he’ll
run off Wayring’s sail-boat,” said Loren, gazing proudly at his own
beautiful little sloop, which rode at her moorings in front of the
boat-house. He had brought her up there on purpose to beat the _Young
Republic_, which was said to be one of the swiftest boats on the lake;
but the first time they came together under sail, the _Republic_ had run
away from her would-be rival with all ease, and it began to look as
though the “Challenge Cup” would become Joe’s own property. He had won
it twice, and if he won it again it would be his to keep. There were
those in the village who didn’t want to see him get it. They had
expected great things of the _Uncle Sam_—that was the name of Loren’s
boat—and indeed she did look like a “flyer”; but when they witnessed the
short race, which Joe Wayring purposely brought about one afternoon to
test the _Uncle Sam’s_ speed, they were much disappointed, and told one
another that the cup was Joe’s for a certainty.

“If Matt will only take that boat, I’ll win the next regatta,” continued
Loren. “If he does take her, Joe will never see her again, for she will
be smashed to pieces in the rapids.”

“If I could have my way, I should prefer to have Matt run off Joe’s Rob
Roy, for then you and Ralph would stand a chance of winning some of the
canoe races,” observed Tom. “But, of course, he couldn’t steal the canoe
without breaking into the boat-house, and that would send him up for
burglary.”

“Oh, no; he won’t do that,” exclaimed Loren.

Tom made no audible reply, but to himself he said:

“I don’t suppose he will; but _I_ might do it, and let Joe and the rest
blame Matt Coyle for it.”

There were still several hours of daylight left, and for want of some
better way of passing the time, as well as to put themselves in trim for
the coming canoe meet, Tom and his cousins decided that they would spend
the rest of the afternoon on the water. Ever since their canoes came
into their possession they had been assiduously practicing with their
double paddles, and Tom, who was quick to learn any thing that required
strength and skill for its execution, was fast becoming an expert
canoeist. In a hurry-scurry or portage race he could beat either of his
cousins, and on this particular afternoon he wanted to try an upset
race, of which he had that day heard for the first time.

“I saw an upset race rowed, or rather paddled, during the meet of the
American Canoe Association at Lake George last summer, and I wonder that
I didn’t think to speak of it,” said Ralph. “Well, better late than
never. We will go up to the head of the lake, where no one will be
likely to see us, and make our first trial. We are all good swimmers,
and it seems to me that we ought to make good time. The secret lies in
getting back into our canoes after we have upset them. If we can learn
to do that easily and quickly, we will stand a chance of putting Joe
Wayring to his mettle, even if we don’t beat him in the race.”

The boys went into the boat-house by a side door, and about ten minutes
afterward the front door swung open, and two Shadow canoes and one Rob
Roy were pushed into the water, and as many young fellows, dressed in
light gymnastic suits, sprang into them and paddled up the lake. They
met a few sailing parties, who waved their handkerchiefs and hats to
them as they shot by, and at the end of half an hour reached a wide and
deep cove near the head of the lake. This was their practice ground.
They had chosen it for that purpose because it was a retired spot, and
so effectually concealed by the long, wooded point at the entrance, that
a fleet of boats might have sailed by without knowing that there was any
one in the cove.

“We’ll start from this side and go across and back, as we have done
heretofore,” said Ralph, who led the way in his Rob Roy. “We’ll upset
twice—once while we are going, and once while we are coming.”

“But how does a fellow get into his canoe after he gets out of it?”
inquired Tom.

“The rule is to climb in over the stern and work your way to your seat,”
replied Ralph. “But at Lake George I saw some of the contestants throw
themselves across the cock-pit and get in that way. We’ll try both
plans, and each fellow can adopt the one that suits him best.”

When the boys had taken up their positions at safe distances from one
another, Ralph gave a shrill whistle and away they started, the light
Rob Roy taking the lead with Tom close behind. A few minutes’ work with
the double paddles brought them to the middle of the cove, and then
Ralph uttered another whistle. An instant later the three canoeists were
in the water. The Rob Roy turned completely over and came right side up
in a twinkling; and at the same moment Ralph’s head bobbed up close
alongside. He threw himself across the cock-pit and climbed in with the
greatest ease; and while bailing out the water with a tin basin that was
tied to one of the timbers of the canoe so that it could not float away
or fill and sink, he looked complacently at his companions, who were
making desperate efforts to regain their seats by climbing over the
sterns of their respective crafts.

“Grab hold of the side of your canoe, draw yourself as far as you can
out of the water, turn a hand-spring and land on your feet in the
cock-pit,” shouted Ralph, addressing himself to no one in particular. “I
saw that done at Lake George last summer by two or three different men.”

“Suppose you do it yourself and show us how,” answered Tom, who having
at last succeeded in gaining the deck, was slowly working his way toward
his seat; but instead of sitting astride of his canoe, as he ought to
have done, he tried to make headway on his hands and knees in order to
beat Loren, who was making all haste to reach the cock-pit of his own
craft. In his eagerness Tom forgot how cranky his canoe was, and,
neglecting to trim her properly, she turned over and let him down into
the water again.

Ralph, of course, could have won the race very easily, but he lingered
to watch the others, so that they all reached the turning point at the
same moment. On the home stretch another upset occurred, and this time
Tom and Loren did not waste as many minutes in getting back as they did
before. They learned rapidly, and when half a dozen more races had been
tried they became so expert that Ralph had little the advantage of them.
By this time they began to think they had had enough of the water for
one afternoon, so they pulled away for the boat house, Tom easily
distancing his cousins, who tried in vain to keep up with him.

“This afternoon’s work has opened my eyes to a thing or two,” said
Ralph, after they had changed their clothes and sponged out their
canoes.

“So it has mine,” exclaimed Tom. “Let me talk first, and see how far my
conclusions agree with yours. In the first place, you ought to win the
upset race.”

“That’s my opinion,” said Loren. “He shall win it, too, if strategy is
of any use.”

“You are no sooner out of your canoe than you are back into it again,”
continued Tom. “I am sure that neither Wayring, Hastings nor Sheldon can
do better than that. I only wish you had a little more muscle.”

“But I haven’t got it and can’t get it between this time and the race,
and so you fellows will have to help me.”

“Trust us for that,” answered Tom. “Then we’ll turn to and foul the best
contestant in the hurry-scurry race, so that Loren can win that; and if
you will lend me your Rob Roy, I’ll take my chances on carrying off the
honors in the portage race.”

“That is just the way I had planned it,” exclaimed Ralph. “We’ll show
these fellows who think themselves so smart, that there are others in
the world who are quite as smart as they are.”

It was a very pretty programme, no doubt, but it never occurred to Tom
and his cousins that possibly the boys to whom Prime was to introduce
them the next day, might not think favorably of it. There were those
among them who had never been first in any race, although they were very
expert canoeists; and it was not at all likely that they would consent
to see these new-comers carry off the prizes for which they had
contended ever since the club was organized.

Tom and his cousins were tired enough to rest now, and they found it
lounging in their hammocks under the trees, and watching the boats that
passed up and down the lake. They took another short run in their canoes
by moonlight, spent the next forenoon sailing about in Loren’s sloop,
and at one o’clock bent their steps toward the store where they were to
meet George Prime and his friends. When they arrived at the place where
Matt Coyle’s shanty stood the day before, they were surprised as well as
delighted to find that it wasn’t there.

“He’s gone, as sure as the world,” cried Ralph. “Now we shall very soon
know whether or not he has the pluck to do any thing to the men who
would not give him a chance to earn an honest living.”

Tom laughed loudly.

“Did you really think I was in earnest when I told Matt yesterday that I
thought he had been shamefully treated?” said he, as soon as he could
speak. “Why, Ralph, I thought you had more sense. I said that just to
make him mad. If I succeeded, he will do the work that we would
otherwise have been obliged to do ourselves.”

When they reached the drug-store they found Prime waiting for them.
After he had treated them to a cigar apiece, he led them through a rear
door into a store-room, where they discovered a dozen or more fellows
perched upon boxes and barrels, each one puffing vigorously at a cigar
or pipe. They were engaged in a very earnest conversation which they
brought to a sudden close when the door opened.

“Here they are,” exclaimed Prime, as the boys arose to their feet and
took their pipes and cigars out of their mouths. “Tom Bigden, and his
cousins Ralph and Loren Farnsworth, gentlemen. I believe you have met
some of my friends before at lawn parties, ball matches and the like,”
added Prime, addressing himself to the new-comers.

“I had the good fortune to meet them yesterday at Miss Arden’s,” said
one of the boys, Frank Noble by name, advancing and shaking Tom and his
cousins by the hand. “And I also had the pleasure of putting them to
their speed one day last week, when I happened to catch them out on the
lake with their canoes. You ought to make a good one,” he added, turning
to Tom. “I could see by the way you made that Shadow spin through the
water that you’ve got the muscle. All you want is practice. If you keep
it up, you can go in next year with some hope of winning.”

Tom was somewhat disconcerted by these words, and so were Ralph and
Loren, if one might judge by the blank look on their faces. It was clear
to them that there were others besides themselves who wanted prizes, and
who looked to their friends to assist them in winning those prizes.

“I thank you for your compliment and for your words of encouragement,”
replied Tom, concealing his disappointment as well as he could, and
turning to shake hands with another boy he had met at the lawn party on
the previous day, “but I am going to win the portage race this year.”

“And if I don’t come in first in the paddle race, it will not be because
I do not try my level best,” added Loren.

“And I’m going to give somebody a pull for the upset race,” chimed in
Ralph.

It was now Noble’s turn to be astonished. He looked inquiringly at
Prime, and Prime looked at Tom and his cousins. The latter saw very
plainly that while they were laying their plans they had interfered with
arrangements that had already been made by the boys by whom they were
surrounded, but they were none the less determined to have their own way
in the matter. Tom, who could hardly conceal the rage that had taken
possession of him, resolved then and there that he would stick to his
programme, no matter what promises he might be obliged to make to the
contrary. He was like an Indian, in one respect: When he wanted a thing
he wanted it with his whole heart, and he wanted it immediately. He
wanted a prize to show to his city friends when they came to visit him,
and he wanted the honors that prize would bring him.

“Well—yes,” said Prime, who knew that Noble and the rest expected him to
say something. “We’d like to have you win under different circumstances,
but as it is, I think—you see—look here; I suppose you are with us
against Wayring and the other fellows who have been walking off with the
prizes every year since the club had an existence!”

“Certainly I am,” answered Tom. “We all are, and we’re going to do the
best we can to beat them, too. Didn’t you tell us no longer ago than
yesterday that you wished we would come into the club and make Joe
Wayring lower his broad pennant for a while?” he added, turning to
Prime.

“I did; but I have had opportunity to talk the matter over with my
friends since then, and we have decided that those who have worked so
long and so hard for the prizes, ought to have them in preference to any
new-comers.”

“All right,” said Tom, silencing by a look the words of indignant
protest that arose to Ralph’s lips and Loren’s. “Who comes in for the
paddle race?”

“I do,” said Noble.

“And who is put down for the upset race?” continued Tom.

Bob Lord said that he was; and a young fellow named Scott volunteered
the information that his friends had decided that he ought to be allowed
to win the portage race, because he came so near winning it fairly the
year before.

“Then it seems that my cousins and I are to be left out in the cold,”
observed Tom, who was mad enough to break things.

“By no means,” some of the boys hastened to explain. “There are some
handsome prizes offered for the sailing races, and we intend that you
shall win them if we can make you do it.”

“Don’t want ’em,” said Tom, gruffly. “Couldn’t enter for them if we
did.”

“Why not?”

“Because we bought our canoes for exploring purposes, and not for
sailing. We received such contradictory advice from those to whom we
applied for information, that it was all we could do to make up our
minds what kind of canoes to get; and when it came to the sails, we
thought we would let them go until we could decide upon the style of rig
we needed without asking any one’s advice. We may make up our minds that
we don’t want any sails at all.”

“Oh, you mustn’t do that,” exclaimed Noble, “for if you do you will lose
half the sport of canoeing. By the way, the club meets Saturday evening,
and if you say so, I will take in your names.”

“I am obliged to you,” replied Tom. “But we had about half agreed with
Wayring and Hastings to propose us for membership.”

Ralph and Loren were greatly astonished, and Prime and his friends saw
that they were.

“I am sorry you did that,” said Noble. “Every one of us here present has
pledged himself not to vote for any thing brought forward by Wayring and
his crowd.”

“I did it before I knew what sort of boys they were,” said Tom,
apologetically, “and I don’t like to go back from my word. Are you going
to black-ball us for it?”

“By no means,” exclaimed all the boys, in a breath.

“We want you to help us carry out our programme,” added George Prime.

“Well, all the help you will get from me won’t amount to much, you may
be sure of that,” said Tom, to himself; and his cousins were so well
acquainted with him that they could tell pretty nearly what he was
thinking about.

“Have you spoken to Wayring about proposing you for the yacht club?”
asked Scott.

Tom, with unblushing mendacity, replied that he had.

“I don’t believe the regatta will amount to much this year,” remarked
one of the boys who had not spoken before. “If Matt Coyle carries out
the threats he made yesterday, there won’t be any yachts to contend for
the prizes. You heard about that, I suppose?” he added, turning to Tom
and his cousins.

“We were present when a legal process of some kind was served on him
yesterday, and we heard Matt say that he wouldn’t go away,” answered
Loren. “But when we came around the foot of the lake a little while ago,
we found that he had cleared out, taking his shanty with him.”

“You saw the constable serve him with a notice to quit, did you!”
exclaimed Noble. “Well, you missed the best part of it. You ought to
have been there about three hours later, and witnessed the fight that
took place between Matt and his family, and the officer and his posse.
The old woman proved herself to be the best man in the lot. Matt
evidently knew that an effort would be made to eject him by force, and
his wife prepared for it by boiling a big kettle of water. When the
constable, with a crowd of guides at his back, presented himself at the
door, she opened on him with that hot water; and if you could have seen
the stampede that followed, you would have laughed until your sides
ached, as I did.”

“You didn’t laugh much when it happened,” Prime remarked. “I was there,
and I know there wasn’t a man or boy in the party who showed a neater
pair of heels than one Frank Noble.”

When the burst of merriment that followed these words, and in which
Frank joined as heartily as any of his companions, had somewhat
subsided, the narrator continued:

“I am free to confess that I didn’t see any thing funny in the way the
old woman jammed that long-handled dipper into the kettle and sent its
boiling contents flying toward us, but it was very amusing after it was
all over, and I woke up in the night and laughed about it. Of course the
defiant squatters were over-powered after a while, but not until Matt
and both his boys had been knocked flat, and one of the guides had
disarmed the old woman by running in and kicking over her kettle of
water. The officer was determined to arrest the last one of them for
resisting his authority; but Mr. Hastings, who happened along just then,
and who thought that neighbors so undesirable could not be got rid of
any too quick, told the constable to chuck the squatter and all his
belongings into the punt and shove them out into the lake, after giving
them fair warning that they would be sent up as vagrants if they stopped
this side of Sherwin’s pond.”

“Did he do it?” asked Ralph.

“Of course he did. But before Matt put his oars into the water he made
us a speech containing threats which I, for one, hope he will have the
courage to carry out.”

Here Noble stopped to light his cigar which had gone out while he was
talking.