“Most of our outfit is on the boat,” said Whopper. “I don’t believe anybody will carry it off.”
“Let us fix the fire so it will burn the most of the night,” said Giant. “That will scare off any wild animals that may be prowling around.”
Wood was to be had in plenty, and they cut several sticks which were not very dry and would, consequently, burn slowly. They sat up until about nine o’clock and then turned in, resolved to be up at daybreak and on their way once more, directly after breakfast.
It was cozy enough in the tent, which was just large enough to accommodate the four boys. As they were to remain there but one night they had not fixed up any couches further than to throw down some dry brushwood and a few cedar boughs. Giant and Whopper rested at the rear of the tent and Snap and Shep in front, close to the half-open flap.
Snap had been asleep about two hours when he awoke with a start. He listened and heard the bark of a fox not very far from the camp.
“Wish I could bring him down, just for the fun of the thing,” he murmured to himself, and then, reaching for his shotgun, he arose and tiptoed his way out of the tent.
The fire had burned low and Snap was wise enough to slink into the shadows, so that the fox might not see him. Just back of the temporary camp was a big rock and toward this he crawled, keeping his firearm before him and ready for use.
Several minutes passed, and then he heard the bark of the fox once more, this time much closer. He strained his eyes to catch sight of the creature, but the darkness under the trees was too great.
After that fully five minutes passed and Snap had about made up his mind that the fox had gotten scared and turned tail, when he heard a cracking of brushwood directly in front of him.
With eyes on the alert he watched in the direction from whence the sound had proceeded, and at last caught the gleam of two small eyes as they looked suspiciously at the campfire.
“Now is my chance,” thought the young hunter, and raising his shotgun he took hasty aim and pulled the trigger.
Only a sharp click followed, and all in a flash Snap remembered that in the evening he had cleaned the firearm, but had not loaded it. The fox heard the click, caught sight of Snap, and whirling around made a leap for the woods and was out of sight in a twinkling.
A SEARCH FOR A ROWBOAT
“Well, of all the chumps in this world, I’m the worst!”
Thus it was that Snap upbraided himself for having forgotten to load the firearm. He knew it would be useless to dash back to the tent for ammunition—–the fox was gone and would take good care to keep its distance.
Much chagrined over his mistake, the youth turned back and walked toward the fire. Then he set his gun against a tree and built up the blaze a bit, for the night was chilly. He was just about to leave the fire and crawl back in the tent when a voice reached him: