Nevertheless, they kept on, until it was really dark. Then, by mutual consent, they drew up to the bank of the stream, leaped from the boat and stretched their limbs.
“We may be less than a mile from the lake, and we may be five times that distance,” said the leader of the club. “I suppose the best thing to do is to camp where we are.”
So it was decided, and once more the tent was hauled forth, and preparations were made to start a campfire. Whopper and Snap went to cut the wood. They had just stepped into the bushes when Shep and Giant heard several wild cries.
“A dozen of them! This is a regular nest! Run, they are after us!”
And then both boys came running out of the bushes with all possible speed.
ON LAKE NARSAC AT LAST
It was true, they had struck a regular nest of snakes, and in less than a minute the camp seemed to be fairly overrun with the reptiles, which were from a foot to three feet in length.
Now, if there was one thing which the young hunters hated worse than anything else, it was a snake, and consequently there was a lively rush to get out of the way of the reptiles. The snakes were dark brown in color, with lighter stripes, and what variety the young hunters did not know. They might be poisonous, and the youths did not care to run any chances.
The snakes seemed to be fearless, and the fact that several were speedily killed did not daunt them. Whopper cut one in two with his hatchet and Snap crushed another with his heel. Then, as they came close to the tent, Shep hit a third with a saucepan and Giant kicked a fourth into the water. But by this time at least thirty snakes were in sight, and not knowing what else to do, the young hunters ran for the rowboat and tumbled into that. One snake went with Whopper, twined around his foot, but that youth kicked it loose and sent it squirming into the water.
“Did you ever see the like!” gasped Giant. “Why, the woods must be full of snakes!”
“We must be close to Lake Narsac,” answered Snap. “Don’t you remember what they said about snakes being plentiful?”
“If they are as plentiful as all this I want to go right back,” declared Whopper firmly. And then he looked up his trouser legs, to make certain no reptiles had gone above his ankles. The other boys were also busy, scanning the rowboat, to clear it of possible visitors.
The craft was tied to the shore but had drifted several feet from the bank. They had rushed away so quickly that all of their firearms were in or near the tent, which was but partly raised, one end flapping idly in the faint breeze that was blowing. The campfire had been started with a few dry twigs and cedar boughs and cast only a faint gleam around in the gathering darkness.
“I didn’t know snakes could be so active in the dark,” observed the doctor’s son.