“What now?” questioned Shep.
“I see a small campfire—–through yonder trees.”
“Then there is a party here beyond a doubt!” cried Whopper excitedly.
“You fellows wait here and I’ll crawl forward and investigate,” went on Snap. “It may pay us to go at this as quietly as possible.”
“Don’t get into trouble,” warned the doctor’s son.
“If I do you’ll hear of it quick enough,” answered Snap.
Then with great caution he crawled through the brushwood in the direction of the distant campfire.
A LIVELY TIME IN THE DARK
Slowly but surely Snap got closer to the campfire, which was built in a little hollow and screened from the lake by a wall of rocks.
“They built the fire there so that we couldn’t see it from across the lake,” reasoned the young hunter, and he was right.
Presently he was near enough to make out six forms around the fire. Then he recognized Ham Spink, Carl Dudder, Jack Voss, and some other of the lads of the town who usually went with Ham and Carl. One boy, named Ike Akley, was a ne’er-do-well, who had once set a barn on fire and burned up two cows. For this he had been locked up, but his father had procured his release by paying heavy damages.
The crowd around the campfire were eating supper and talking in such low tones that Snap could not make out what was said. They seemed to be in the best of spirits, as if something had happened to please them greatly.
Between the campfire and the lake a large tent had been erected. Near the tent, on the ground, lay portions of a camping outfit, and Snap wondered if it could be the things belonging to himself and his friends.
Suddenly the idea struck Snap to take a look at what might be near the water, and he moved in that direction. He had to pass through a fringe of brushwood and then he gained a tiny cove, well screened from the lake proper by a number of overhanging trees. Here it was so dark he could see but little. He felt his way along and soon reached a fair-sized boat, tied to a tree.
The craft was not the one belonging to his party and he was a trifle disappointed. Then he saw another boat and his heart gave a bound.
“It must be the Snapper!” he murmured and hurried to the second craft. But this proved to be nothing but a canoe, and again his heart sank.
“Maybe we’ve made a mistake after all,” he thought dismally, but continued to move around the cove. To reach one point he had to push through some more bushes, and in the midst of these he fairly tumbled over a third boat, piled high with various camping things. He gave a close look and almost uttered a cry of triumph.
“Our boat, and all of our things! Here’s luck at last!”
As well as he was able in the dark, he looked over the articles in the Snapper. The things were in great confusion, showing they had been thrown in in a hurry. But almost everything appeared to be there, and for this he was thankful.