“We must cut and run for it, that’s all, for the fire is coming swiftly!”
NEVER GIVE UP
At first, the boys made light of the flight. All of them were pretty fair runners, and although the weather was warm for such exertion, they did some clever work.
“It’s getting worse back there!” said Will, who brought up the rear.
Frank had known this for several minutes, and was correspondingly worried.
The wind had risen to such an extent that it rushed through the tree-tops like an express train, making a doleful sound. Nor was this all, for they could plainly hear a crackling from the rear that was gradually becoming a subdued roar.
“Oh! I saw the fire then!” called Will a minute or two later.
Looking over their shoulders as they ran, all of them had glimpses of the flames leaping hungrily upward. What Mr. Mabie had feared all along had actually come to pass. All of them were glad, however, that it had not been through any fault of theirs, since they had built no fire that day.
“Frank, it’s catching up with us! Whatever shall we do?” panted Bluff, close beside the one he addressed.
Frank had been considering this same question. He at first thought they might outrun the fire, but now he changed his mind. The woods were so dense, and the vegetation so thick, that whenever they tried to make fast time they kept tripping over trailing vines, or else banging up against the trunks of the forest monarchs, sometimes damaging their noses by the contact.
“What was he telling us about fighting fire with fire?” asked Jerry, who was by this time feeling not quite so jaunty as usual, but ready to seize upon any opening that promised safety.
“That was out on the prairie. I don’t think the scheme would work here in the woods. It would take too long for the second blaze to get a start, and we’d be caught between the two fires,” was Frank’s reply.
“But we must do something pretty soon!” cried Will.
[Illustration: “FRANK, IT’S
CATCHING UP WITH US!”—Page 192.
The Outdoor Chums After Big Game.]
Indeed, it would appear so. They were now enveloped in a pall of smoke, that, entering their eyes, made them smart fiercely. Not only that, but the fire could be seen in a dozen places behind them, leaping up into the trees as the dried foliage offered such a splendid torch, and the wind urged the conflagration along.
“Will’s right. The old thing’s running us neck and crop. I believe it’s gaining on us right along!” exclaimed Bluff.
“Look for a hollow tree!” cried Jerry.
“Humbug! Just because you once got in one during a storm you think a hollow tree can be used for nearly anything. Why, we’d be smothered in a jiffy, even if we didn’t get burned to a crisp! Say something else!” shouted Bluff.