“Maybe they had another boat,” put in Ike Akley. “We missed it by not looking around a little closer.”
“Whoever he is, he isn’t rowing across the lake,” said Ham. “Let us run along the shore and see if we can’t get at him some way.”
As there seemed to be nothing else to do, this plan was carried out. The crowd, however, had only gone a short distance when they literally ran into Shep, who had gone forward as already mentioned.
“Here is one of ’em now,” shouted Carl Dudder, as he caught Shep by the arm. The next moment he received a blow in the chest that sent him reeling backward.
“Who is it?” asked several.
“Shep Reed. Stop him—–he is running away!”
Carl was right, the doctor’s son was doing his best to escape. But before he had gone a dozen steps Ham Spink, Ike Akley and Jack Voss were on top of him and had borne him to the ground. They did not treat him any too gently and he was kicked in the side and the breath was literally knocked out of him.
“St—–stop! Do—–don’t ki—–kill m—–me!” he gasped, when he could speak.
“What are you doing here, Shep Reed?” demanded Ham, angrily.
“Came over after our things.”
“How do you know we have your things?”
“Well, we thought you’d be just mean enough to take our outfit—–you did something like that before, if you’ll remember.”
“Will you let me up?”
“We will if you’ll promise not to run away,” answered Carl.
“That’s the talk—–let us make a prisoner of him!” cried Ike Akley.
“You have no right to touch me,” said Shep. “You did very wrong to steal our things, and to try to burn down our cabin.”
“We—–er—–we didn’t steal any things—–we just ran off with them,” said Ham Spink.
“It amounts to the same thing.”
“Then your crowd just stole our boat and our canoe,” put in Carl Dudder.
“Is your boat gone?” asked Shep, for this was the first he knew of it.
“You know well enough it is.”
“Where is our boat and our outfit?”
“Didn’t you just take that too?” asked Jack Voss.
“Oh, then Snap-----” began the doctor’s son, and broke off short.
“Was that Snap Dodge in the boat?” demanded Ham.
“I don’t know anything about it.”
“But you just said-----”
At that moment came a cry through the dark woods:
“Shep! Shep! where are you? Go back to the raft! It is all right—–we have the outfit back! Go back to the raft!”
It was Snap who was calling, and in another minute he appeared and confronted the crowd that was holding Shep a prisoner.
THE LOSS OF THE RAFT
It was so dark under the trees that for the moment Snap did not recognize his chum. Then he uttered an exclamation of commingled wonder and alarm.