“A man,” answered Snap, promptly.
“A man!” cried Giant.
“Yes, a man—–and I don’t know whether we ought to shoot at him or not,” continued the leader of the gun club. “We certainly don’t want to commit murder.”
“But if it’s a man what is he playing ghost for?” queried the doctor’s son.
“That remains to be found out.”
“Your theory is all well enough,” said Whopper, “but it doesn’t account for the ghostlike voice.”
“I know that. Nevertheless, I think that ghost is a man.”
The young hunters continued to discuss the situation from all possible points of view. Snap’s positive declaration that the ghost was a man made all feel less frightened, and they were anxious to get better acquainted with the apparition.
“If it’s a man I’d like to capture him and give him a piece of my mind,” said Whopper. “What right has he to roam around like this, frightening everybody he meets?”
“He ordered us away from the mountain. Most likely, if it is a man, he wants this territory to himself,” answered Giant.
“That’s the way I figure it,” said Snap. “He may be crazy and may think he owns the mountains and the lake.”
“It couldn’t be that old hermit, Peter Peterson, could it?” queried Shep, suddenly.
“That’s who it is!” almost shouted Whopper. “It’s a trick of his to keep folks away from here.”
“But why should he come to us with that story of his?” questioned Giant.
“He told us that just to scare us. He thought we might go away from the lake at once.”
Again there was a lively discussion, and the young hunters agreed that, if the ghost was indeed a man, more than likely it was Peterson.
“A fellow who would play such a trick ought to be tarred and feathered,” was Whopper’s comment.
“If it proves to be Peterson we’ll have him driven out of this neighborhood fast enough,” said Snap.
Another hour went by, and as the ghost did not reappear the young hunters grew heavy eyed, and one after another took a short nap. Thus the night passed, and at last the sun showed itself over the mountain top to the eastward, heralding another day.
With the coming of sunlight the boys were inclined to treat the coming of the ghost as a joke. They could not explain the ghostly voice, however, although Snap said he imagined the man playing ghost might be a ventriloquist.
“Some of those ventriloquists are very clever,” he asserted, “and they can throw their voices almost anywhere.”
The sun soon dried the grass and bushes, and after eating what was left of the quail, and the lunch brought from the camp, the young hunters struck off in the direction whence the bear they had shot had disappeared. They traveled with extreme care, for none of them wished to risk a tumble down the mountainside.
“Look! look!” yelled Snap, presently, and pointed some distance ahead.