“Somebody’s been here!” said David as they hurried forward to examine the cairn.
“’Tis wonderful strange to pile stones that way,” said Micah. “’Tis new made, too.”
“Maybe it’s a cache,” suggested Lige, “but it’s a rare small un. Look and see. ’Tis a strange place for a cache!”
David lifted the flat stone from the top and discovered beneath it a small tin can. In the can was a folded paper. He removed the paper and unfolding it discovered a message written in a cramped, scrawling hand.
“Read un, Davy! Read un out loud! You reads writin’ good!” said Lige, and David read:
“i cum and stayed 2 hour, and wood not stay no longer for i hed to go and did not see you comin any were. Then i gos to the rock were We Was the day We was hunting Wen We come here ferst time. Then i done this way. i Pases 20 Pases up To a Hackmatack Tree. it was north. then i Pases 40 Pases west To a round rock, Then i Pases 60 Pases south To a wite berch i use cumpus. Then i climes a spruce Tree and hangs it and it is out of site in the Branches. if You plays me Crookid look out, i wont Stand for no Crooked work and You know what i will do to anybody plays me Crooked. You no Were to put my haf of the Swag. So i can get it Wen i go to get it.”
There was no signature.
“That’s a strange un—wonderful strange,” said David.
“Stranger’n anything I ever sees,” declared Lige.
“Whatever is un all about?” asked Micah.
“That’s the strangeness of un,” said Lige.
“Let’s show un to Doctor Joe,” suggested David.
But Doctor Joe, when they broke in upon him a moment later, was as mystified as they.
“It looks,” said he, “as though something had been cached and here are the directions for finding the cache. There’s a threat in the letter, too, and that looks bad. It’s a mystery, lads, we’ll try to search out. It doesn’t look right. Perhaps it’s the clue to some crime.”
“How can we search un out?” asked David excitedly. “We’re not knowin’ the rock, and there’s plenty of rocks hereabouts.”
“That’s true,” admitted Doctor Joe. “Go and put the paper back as you found it, and we’ll see what we can make out of it later.”
The whole camp was excited and every one followed David back to the cairn when he returned to restore the letter to its place in the can.
“‘Tis something somebody’s tryin’ to hide,” suggested Peter.
“There’s no doubtin’ that,” said David. “I’m thinkin’ ’tis not right whatever ’tis.”
“We’ll get camp in shape and have our dinner and then try to solve the mystery,” said Doctor Joe. “It is a real mystery, for no one would make an ordinary cache in this way, and if it was an honest matter there would be no threat.”
THE HIDDEN CACHE
When camp was made snug and dinner disposed of, Doctor Joe followed the boys down to the cairn. A careful examination was made of the soil surrounding the rock upon which the cairn was built, and in loose gravel close to the shore were found the imprints of feet. It was evident, however, that rain had fallen since the tracks were made, for they were so nearly washed away that there could be no certainty whether they were made by moccasins or nailed boots.