Shall we go on horseback or on foot

“Who saw Shadow last? Does anybody know?” questioned Dave, as the whole
crowd looked at each other in perplexity.

“He was close to me when we started the race,” answered Phil. “But I
soon got ahead of him and turned to one side of some big rocks while he
went to the other side.”

“And didn’t you see him after that?”

“No. But I heard him call to some of the others.”

“I think he was close behind me during the first half of the race,”
broke in Roger. “But after that I drew away from him.”

“We’ll go back to where we started from and keep calling his name,” said
our hero. “He’ll be bound to hear us if he is anywhere around.”

“Perhaps he went down into one of those openings between some of the
rocks and was knocked unconscious,” suggested Ben. “Such a thing could
easily happen.”

“Oh, I hope he isn’t seriously hurt!” cried the senator’s son.

Very soberly the four youths climbed back to the summit of the mountain,
and then began to retrace their steps toward the other side. They kept
calling Shadow’s name continually, but no answer came back.

“Over yonder is the worst opening I had to jump over,” remarked Roger,
when they were near the center of the summit.

“Let us look at it, right away,” returned our hero quickly.

All hurried to the place Roger had mentioned. It was an opening between
some rough rocks, and was all of a hundred feet long and two to eight
feet in width. How deep it was they could not surmise, for the walls
curved from one side to the other, so that the bottom of the opening was
out of sight.

“Looks to me as if it might be the entrance to some cave,” announced
Ben, as all came to a halt on the brink of the opening. “Listen!”

The crowd did so, and at the bottom of the opening they heard a faint
splashing of water as it poured over the rocks.

“Must be an underground stream down there,” remarked Phil.

“Perhaps it’s the same stream that furnishes water to the spring at our
camp,” suggested Dave. He sent up a shout. “Hello, Shadow! Are you down
there?”

“Help! Help!” came in a low voice from below.

“He’s down there, as sure as fate!” exclaimed Roger.

“Are you hurt?” shouted Phil.

“I’m pretty well scraped up, that’s all. But the rocks down here are all
smooth and wet, and I can’t climb up—try my best.”

“You are in no danger just at present, are you?” questioned Dave
quickly.

“I don’t think so—unless you fellows roll down some stones on me.”

“We’ll be careful about that,” answered Ben; and lost no time in pushing
back a number of stones which lay close to the brink of the opening.

“We’ll have to get a rope or something with which to haul him up,” said
Phil. “Dave, did we bring anything of that sort along?”

“Yes, I’ve got a good strong lariat tied to my saddle,” answered our
hero. “Frank Andrews advised taking it along; for when you are traveling
among the mountains you can never tell when you’ll need such a rope.
I’ll go back and get it.”

“Maybe you’d better bring a few straps along, too, Dave,” put in Roger.
“Then, if Shadow can’t haul himself up, he can tie himself fast and we
can pull him up.”

“Good idea, Roger. I’ll do it.”

Dave was soon on his way, and in less than twenty minutes he was back to
the spot, carrying the lariat he had mentioned and also a number of
straps taken from the outfit. The lariat was of rawhide, and more than
once had been tested by the civil engineers for its strength. It had
been purchased by Andrews from a cowboy in Texas, after the latter had
given a very fine exhibition of lassoing steers with it.

“We’re sending down the end of a lariat with some straps,” called down
Dave. “Let us know as soon as it is low enough.”

“All right,” answered Shadow, but somewhat feebly, for the tumble had
evidently knocked the breath out of him.

Tying the loose straps to the end of the rope, and weighting the whole
down with a stone, Dave lowered the lariat carefully over the edge of
the opening. It slipped through his hands readily, and soon the end
disappeared from sight over a bulge of the wall below. All of the others
watched the rope as it disappeared into the opening. They waited for
some cry from Shadow, stating that he had hold of the other end, but
none came.

“Maybe it caught somewhere on the way down,” suggested Ben.

“Well, here’s the end of it anyway,” announced Dave. “And the other end
must be free for I can still feel the weight of the straps and the
stone.”

“Hello, down there!” shouted Roger. “Can you see the rope?”

“Yes,” answered Shadow. “Please let it down about two feet farther.”

“I can’t do that just now. I’m at the end of the rope,” answered Dave.
“Just wait a few minutes, and we’ll fix you up.”

“We’ll have to tie something to it,” said Roger. “Too bad we didn’t keep
one or two of those straps up here.”

“Let’s get a stout sapling and tie that to the lariat,” said Phil. “That
will be even stronger than the straps.”

On the edge of the summit they had noticed a number of saplings growing,
and in a few minutes they had one of these uprooted. It was ten or
twelve feet in height, and plenty strong enough for the purpose
intended. It was tied fast by the roots, and then they lowered it into
the opening, all taking hold of the other end, so that it might not slip
from them.

“All right, I’ve got the rope now,” announced Shadow, a few seconds
later. “Just hold it as it is.”

“Do you think you can haul yourself up, Shadow?” asked Dave. “Or do you
want us to do the hauling?”

“I guess you had better do it if you can,” answered the youth below.
“That tumble made me kind of weak and shaky.”

“Then strap yourself good and tight,” answered Roger. “See to it that
the lariat won’t slip from the straps, either.”

It was almost dark at the bottom of the hollow into which Shadow had
tumbled. He was in water up to his ankles. But this the unfortunate
youth did not mind, for the stream had enabled him to bathe his hurts
and obtain a refreshing drink. Now he lost no time in fastening one of
the large straps around his waist, and to this he attached the lariat by
a firm knot. Then, to make assurance doubly sure, he tied another of the
straps to the rope and around his left wrist.

“Now I’m ready!” he shouted to those above. “But do be careful and don’t
send any rocks or dirt down on my head!” His hat had fallen off and into
the stream, but he had recovered it, and was now using it as a
protection for his head.

“We’ll be as careful as we can,” announced Dave. “If anything goes
wrong, shout out at once.”

It had been decided that Dave and Roger should haul up on the sapling
and the lariat; and while they were doing this, Ben and Phil were to
hold fast to them in order to prevent any of the party from going over
the brink.

Soon the sapling came out of the opening, and then the lariat came up
inch by inch.

“Are you all right, Shadow?” demanded our hero, when about half of the
rope had been pulled up.

“All right, so far,” was the gasped-out answer. “For gracious’ sake,
don’t let me drop!”

“Don’t worry,” answered Roger. And then he added to Ben: “Just carry the
sapling back and stick it between those rocks, then we’ll be sure that
the rope can’t slip.”

As Shadow even though thin, was tall and weighed all of one hundred and
thirty pounds, it was no easy matter to haul him up out of the opening,
especially as the lariat had to slip over several bends of the rocks.
Once there came a hitch, and it looked as if the lariat with its burden
would come no farther. But Shadow managed to brace himself and climb up
a few feet and loosen the rope, and then the remainder of the haul was
easy. Soon he came into sight, and in a few seconds more those above
helped him over the brink of the opening and to a place of safety.

“Thank heaven, I’m out of that!” he panted, as he sat down on a nearby
rock to rest. “I owe you fellows a good deal for hauling me out of that
hole.”

“Don’t mention it, Shadow,” answered Dave readily.

“We’d do a good deal more for you than that,” added Roger.

“Indeed we would!” came simultaneously from the others.

“After this I’m going to be careful of how I run and jump,” answered
Shadow.

“How did you come to go down?” questioned Phil.

“That was the funniest thing you ever heard about,” was the quick reply.
“Just as I came into sight of this opening, I felt one of my shoes
getting loose. I bent down to feel of it, and the next instant I
stumbled over something and rolled right down into the hole. Of course,
I tried to save myself, but it was of no use, and down I went quicker
than you can think. I struck the rocks on one side of the opening, and
then on the other side, and hit some bushes and dirt. Then, the next
thing I knew, I went ker-splash! into a big pool of water.”

“And that pool of water saved you from breaking your neck,” broke in
Ben.

“More than likely. I got up out of the pool in a hurry, and then I
walked several yards to where the stream of water wasn’t nearly so deep.
Then I set up a yell, and kept at it for nearly a quarter of an hour. I
had just about given up thinking you would ever find me, when I heard
you yelling.”

“As soon as you’ve rested, we’ll help you back to our camping place,”
announced Dave. “Then we can start up the fire again and you can dry
yourself;” for he saw that Shadow was soaking wet from his back down.

“I’m thankful this adventure has ended so well,” was Phil’s comment.
“What would we have done if anything had happened to you?”

“As it was, enough did happen,” answered Shadow ruefully. Then, of a
sudden, his face broke into a smile. “Say, when I was down there I
thought of a dandy story! One day two men went to clean a well——”

This was as far as the former story-teller of Oak Hall got with his
narrative. The others gazed at him for a moment in wonder, and then all
broke out into a uproarious fit of laughter.

“Can you beat it!” gasped Phil.

“I guess Shadow would tell stories if he was going to his own funeral!”
came from Roger.

“You’ve certainly got your nerve with you, Shadow,” announced Dave.

“I suppose you thought of the story while you were tumbling down into
the opening,” suggested Ben.

“No, I didn’t think of it just then,” answered the story-teller
innocently. “It came to me while I was waiting for you fellows to get
the rope.”

“Never mind the story now,” said Dave. “If you are rested, let us get
back to the camp and start up that fire. We don’t want you to catch
cold.” For on the summit of the mountain there was a keen, cool breeze.

They were soon on the way, Dave on one side of Shadow to support him and
Roger on the other. Phil and Ben ran ahead, and by the time the youth
who had taken the tumble arrived, more wood had been placed on the
campfire, and it was blazing up merrily, sending out considerable
warmth.

“That’s an adventure we didn’t count on,” remarked Phil, while Shadow
was drying out his clothing in front of the blaze.

“Well, something is bound to happen when we get together,” answered
Roger. “It always does.”

“After this we had better keep our eyes peeled for all sorts of danger,”
said Dave. “We don’t want anything bad to happen to our visitors during
their stay.”

Half an hour was spent in the camp, and by that time Shadow’s wet
clothing had dried out sufficiently to be worn again. The former
story-teller of Oak Hall had been allowed to tell several of his best
yarns, and now seemed to be in as good a humor as ever. His hands and
his shins had been scraped by his fall, but to these little hurts he
gave scant attention.

“I came out on this trip with Phil just to see what rough life was
like,” he announced. “If something hadn’t happened to me I surely would
have been disappointed.”

“You’ll see enough of rough life before you get home again, Shadow,”
said Phil. “Just you wait till you get to Star Ranch. I’ll have some of
the cowboys there put you through a regular course of sprouts.”

Just before the party got ready to break camp, Ben wandered off to get
several more pictures. He went farther than he had originally intended,
the various scenes before his eyes proving decidedly fascinating. He
took a view of some rocks, and then gazed for a long time across to a
hill some distance away. Then he returned quickly to where he had left
the others.

“Say, fellows, I’ve discovered some game!” he cried.

“Game?” queried Dave. “What kind?”

“I don’t know exactly what they were,” answered the youth from
Crumville. “They looked though to be a good deal like a couple of bears.
They are off in that direction,” and he pointed with his hand.

“Say, let’s go after them, no matter what they are!” exclaimed Phil.
“I’d like to get a shot at something before we return to the
construction camp.”

“I’m willing,” announced Dave.

“Shall we go on horseback or on foot?” questioned Shadow. “For myself,
I’d rather ride than walk.”

“Oh, we’ll go on horseback,” answered Roger. “There is no use of our
coming back to this place. Come on—let us get after that game right now!
Ben, you show the way.”

The campfire was stamped out with care, so that there would be no danger
of a conflagration in the forest so close at hand, and then the five
lively chums leaped into the saddle once more and started off in the
direction in which Ben had said he had seen the game.

“What made you think they were a couple of bears?” questioned Dave, as
they rode along as rapidly as the roughness of the trail permitted.

“They looked as much like bears as they looked like anything,” answered
his chum. “Of course, they were quite a distance away, and I may have
been mistaken. But anyway, they were some sort of animals, and quite
large.”

“Were they standing still?”

“No. They appeared and disappeared among the rocks and bushes. That’s
the reason I couldn’t make out exactly what they were.”

“Perhaps they were deer,” suggested Phil.

“I think they were too chunky for deer—and even for goats. Besides that,
they didn’t leap from one rock to another as deer and goats do.”

“Could they have been bobcats?”

“No. They were larger than that.”

The chums soon had to leave the regular trail, and then found themselves
in a section of the mountainside sparingly covered with bushes and an
occasional tree. The rocks were exceedingly rough, and in many places
they had to come to a halt to figure out how best to proceed.

“Say, we don’t want to get lost!” remarked Phil.

“I don’t think we’ll do that, Phil,” answered Dave. “Roger and I know
the lay of the mountains pretty well around here. And besides, I brought
my pocket compass along. Just at present we are northeast of the
construction camp.”

They could not go in a direct line to where Ben had noticed the game,
and it therefore took them the best part of an hour to reach the
vicinity.

“Now I guess we had better be on the watch,” announced Dave, and unslung
the shotgun he carried, while Roger did the same with the rifle. Seeing
this, the others looked to their automatic pistols, to make certain that
the weapons were ready for instant use.

For fully half an hour the five chums rode up and down along the side of
the hill and had Ben point out to them just where he had seen the two
animals.

“It looks to me as if they had cleared out,” said Phil in a disgusted
tone of voice. “And if they have, we have had a pretty nasty ride for
our pains.”

“Oh, don’t let’s give up yet!” pleaded Shadow. “I want to get a shot at
something—even if it’s nothing more than a squirrel.”

“If you don’t watch out, you may have an elephant crashing down on you,”
laughed Phil.

“Humph, I suppose you don’t care whether we bring down any game or not!”
retorted Shadow. “You put me in mind of a fellow who went hunting. He
came back at night, and his friends asked him if the hunting was good.
‘Sure, it was good!’ he declared. ‘I hunted all day long, and not a bit
of game came anywhere near me to disturb my fun!’”

“One thing is certain,” broke in Dave. “You’ve got to be quieter if you
expect to find any game at all. You don’t suppose a bear is going to
come out on the rocks just to listen to stories.”

“That’s right! He couldn’t bear to do it!” cried Roger gayly.

“My, my, but that’s a bare-faced joke!” cried Phil; and then there was a
general laugh over the little puns.

After that the youths became silent, and the only sound that broke the
stillness was the clatter of the horses as they passed over the rocks
between the brushwood. Thus another half hour passed, and still nothing
in the way of game was brought to view.

“I guess we’ll have to give it up and continue our trip,” said Roger at
last.

To this the others agreed, and then all started off in another direction
to hit the regular trail where it wound off towards the railroad
station.

“I think we can make a sort of semicircle,” said Dave. “And if we don’t
lose too much time we’ll be able to get back to the construction camp by
seven or eight o’clock.”

All were disappointed that they had not seen any game, and the others
began to poke fun at Ben, stating that his eyesight must have deceived
him.

“It didn’t deceive me at all,” insisted the son of the Crumville real
estate dealer. “I know I saw them as plain as day. But what the animals
were, I can’t say.”

“Oh, well, never mind!” cried Phil gayly. “If we can’t bring down any
game, we can have a good time anyway. Let’s have a song.”

“All right, boys. Everybody go to it!” cried Dave. “Oak Hall forever!”
And then all present began to sing, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, a
song they had sung ever since they had first gone to Oak Hall.

“Oak Hall we never shall forget,
No matter where we roam;
It is the very best of schools,
To us it’s just like home.
Then give three cheers, and let them ring
Throughout this world so wide,
To let the people know that we
Elect to here abide!”

They sang it exceeding well, Dave and Roger in their tenor voices, Phil
and Ben filling in with their baritone, and the long and lanky Shadow
adding his bass voice, which every day seemed to be growing deeper.
Then, after the verse was finished, at a signal from Roger, all let up
the old school cry:

“Baseball!
Football!
Oak Hall
Has the call!
Biff! Boom! Bang! Whoop!”

“Oh, my! wouldn’t it be grand if we were all going back to school
to-morrow?” burst out Phil.

“Oh, those good old baseball days!” cried Ben.

“And the skating and snowballing!” burst out Shadow.

“And the football!” added Dave. “Don’t you remember how we used to make
Rockville Academy bite the dust?”

“And all those funny initiations in the Gee Eyes!” came from Roger.

“I think if I could do it, I’d like to go back to my first days there,
even if I had to stand Gus Plum’s insolence,” said Dave, his eyes
glistening.

“Yes. But we wouldn’t stand for such fellows as Merwell and Jasniff,”
added Roger quickly.

“Oh, let’s forget all those bullies!” broke out Phil. “If we should——”

Phil did not finish, for Dave had suddenly put up his hand as a warning
to be silent. Now our hero motioned his chums behind some of the rocks
and brushwood beside the trail. Then he pointed to a large, flat rock a
distance farther on.

“A bear!” gasped Shadow.

“Two of them!” burst out Ben, in a low tone. And then he added quickly:
“I’ll bet they are the two animals I saw when I was taking those
pictures!”

“Perhaps so, Ben,” answered Dave in a whisper; “although we are a pretty
good distance from where you spotted them. However, that doesn’t matter
just now. The question is—what are we going to do?”

“Shoot ’em!” came promptly from all of the others in a breath.

Evidently the horses had either scented or sighted the bears, for they
showed great uneasiness. The bears, however, did not seem to be aware of
the presence of their enemies. Both were bending down on the rocks, as
if examining something intently.

“They are eating something,” said Roger, a moment later. “See how
eagerly they are lapping it up.”

“Maybe it’s some wild honey,” suggested Phil. “I understand bears are
all crazy about anything that is sweet.”

The shipowner’s son was right. The bears had come upon the remains of a
“bee tree” which had been blown down by the recent high winds. A section
of the tree containing a large portion of the honey had struck the
rocks, and the honey had spread in every direction. Now the two animals
were frantically lapping up the sweet stuff, each trying to get his fill
before the other got it away from him.

“I guess Roger and I had better fire first,” said Dave. “I’ll take the
bear on the left, and you, Roger, take the one on the right. Then, as
soon as we have fired, you other fellows can let drive for all you are
worth with your automatics while we are reloading. Then, if the bears
are not dead by that time, we’ll try our best to give them another dose
of lead.”

So it was arranged, and a moment later the crowd of five dismounted and
tied their horses to some trees. Then they crept forward, keeping as
much as possible behind the rocks, so that the feeding bears might not
see them.

Ordinarily the bears would have been on the alert, and their quick sense
of smell would have made it impossible for the youths to get within
shooting distance. But now both animals were so absorbed in lapping up
the honey spread around on the rocks, that they paid absolutely no
attention to anything else. It is also possible that the smell of the
honey was so strong that it helped to hide every other odor.

“Now then, fellows, are you ready?” whispered Dave, when they had gained
a point behind the rocks which was not over a hundred and fifty feet
from the bears.

“All ready!” was the whispered return.

It must be confessed that some of the youths were nervous. Shadow’s hand
shook as he started to level his automatic pistol. Had he been called on
to face a bear all alone, it is quite likely that he would have been
struck with what is known among hunters as “buck fever,” and would have
been totally unable to do anything.

Bang! crack! went the shotgun and the rifle. And almost immediately came
the crack! crack! crack! of the three automatic pistols.

Then, as the bears whirled around and started to run, Dave fired again,
and so did Roger, and the others continued to discharge their small
firearms as rapidly as possible.

Dave’s first shot had been a most effective one, taking one of the bears
directly in an ear and an eye. This had been followed up by the second
shot, and also several shots from the pistols, and presently the animal
raised up on his hind legs and then came down with a crash, to roll over
and over among the rocks and brushwood.

“He’s done for, I think!” cried our hero with much satisfaction.

“Don’t be too sure,” remonstrated Ben, who was close behind. “He may be
playing ’possum.”

In the meantime, the other bear had leaped out of sight behind some of
the rocks. Now, as Dave stopped to reload the double-barreled shotgun,
the others went on, intent, if possible, on bringing the second beast
low. That he had been hit, there was no doubt, for he had squealed with
pain and flapped one forepaw madly in the air.

The youths with the pistols were the first to again catch sight of the
second bear. He stood at bay between a number of large rocks, and
snarled viciously as soon as he caught sight of them. He arose on his
hind legs and made a movement as if to leap directly toward them.

“Shoot! Shoot!” yelled Roger, and discharged his rifle once more. But
the shot whistled harmlessly over the bear’s head. Then the other youths
took aim with their pistols, hitting bruin on the shoulder and in the
thigh.

These wounds were not dangerous, but they maddened the beast very much;
and, with a roar of rage, the bear suddenly leaped from between the
rocks and made directly for the crowd of young hunters.