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- In Camp on the Big Sunflower - 1/22 -


IN CAMP ON THE BIG SUNFLOWER

By

LAWRENCE J. LESLIE

[Illustration: MAKING PREPARATIONS FOR THE FEAST]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

I.--AN ALARM IN THE CAMP

II.--TREASURE HUNTING

III.--WHAT OWEN KNEW

IV.--THE UNKNOWN SHELL GATHERERS

V.--A PUZZLER FOR MAX

VI.--THE FIRST CROP FROM THE RIVER

VII.--BANDY-LEGS WANTS TO KNOW

VIII.--A GREAT FIND

IX.--MAX WONDERS STILL MORE

X.--AT DEAD OF NIGHT

XI.--THE NEW COOK SPRINGS HIS SURPRISE

XII.--DANGER AHEAD ON THE TRAIL

XIII.--MAX PLAYS THE GOOD SAMARITAN

XIV.--SETTING THE MAN TRAP AGAIN

XV.--THE MYSTERY SOLVED--CONCLUSION

IN CAMP ON THE BIG SUNFLOWER.

CHAPTER I.

AN ALARM IN THE CAMP.

"Hey, Bandy-legs, what d'ye suppose ails Toby there?"

"He sure looks like he'd just seen a ghost, for a fact, Steve. Where are Max and his cousin Owen just now?"

"Oh, they walked down along the river bank to look for signs of fresh-water clams. So we'll just have to run things ourselves, Bandy. Hello! there, Toby, what under the sun are you staring at?" and the boy called Steve jumped to his feet as he called out.

It was night in the woods, with a cheery camp fire blazing close to where the restless river fretted and scolded along its crooked course.

The boy called Toby, whose last name happened to be Jucklin, also scrambled to his feet when thus hailed by his campmate, Steve Dowdy.

He was a broad-shouldered chap, unusually husky in build, and apparently as strong as an ox; but all his life poor Toby had been afflicted with an unfortunate impediment in his speech that gave him no end of trouble.

When the third boy also stood erect it was plain to see how he came by his name. His legs were bowed, and appeared too short for his body. "Now open up and tell us what you saw, Toby," demanded Steve, who was by nature inclined to be what his chums called "bossy."

"L-l-land's sake, didn't you s-s-see it, fellows?" asked the troubled one, his voice trembling with the excitement under which he was laboring.

"Stick a pin in him, Steve," advised Bandy-legs; "that's the easiest way to make him talk straight English, you know."

"Don't you dare try it, now, I tell you," warned the other, forgetting to even stutter in his indignation. "I'm going to tell you about it just when I'm good and ready. G-get that, now?"

"Please commence then, Toby," pleaded the shorter boy. "Was it a real ghost you saw, or a snake? I'm terribly set against the crawlers, you remember."

"S-shucks! 'Twan't no s-snake, Bandy; I give you my word for that. But it had the awfulest glittering eyes you ever s-saw, boys."

"Wow! listen to that for a starter, will you?" cried Steve.

"Keep going, Toby; don't let up now," begged the boy with the crooked legs.

"I just couldn't make out for sure, b-but b-back of the eyes I thought I could see----"

"Oh, what?" asked Bandy-legs, feverishly.

"A long body just l-like that of a b-b-b----" Toby seemed to swell up as he tried in vain to say the word he wanted, but it was apparently hopeless.

"Why don't you whistle, Toby, you silly?" cried Steve.

"Yes, that always helps you out, you know," the short boy declared, as he clapped a hand on the shoulder of the now red-faced stammerer.

Upon which Toby screwed up his rather comical face, puckered his lips, and emitted a sharp whistle.

Strange to say, the action seemed to cure him for the time being of his trouble.

"Was it a bear?" asked Bandy-legs, impatiently.

"Come off," remarked the other; "I was only going to say it looked like a big cat."

"He means a wildcat, Steve!" exclaimed one of those who listened with all his nerves on edge.

"Or, perhaps, it might have been a panther," remarked Steve, a tinge of eagerness in his voice, for Steve wanted to distinguish himself while on this camping trip by doing some wonderful exploit.

"And here we stand like a lot of gumps, when our guns are within reach. Right now that terrible beast may be making ready to jump on us."

As the short-legged boy spoke he made a flying leap in the direction of the tent that had been erected.

Both of his campmates were at his heels, and doubtless quite as anxious as himself.

There was a confused series of sounds following their disappearance. Then they came crawling out again, each one gripping some sort of weapon.

"Now, show me your blessed old tiger cat!" cried Steve, handling a double-barreled shotgun valiantly.

"Yes, who cares for a measly wildcat; let him step up and get what's coming to him!" declared Bandy-legs, who was waving the camp hatchet ferociously.

"I'm b-b-badgered if I c-c-care what it is right now. This rifle belonging to Max h-h-holds six bullets, fellows," spluttered Toby.

"Listen!" exclaimed Steve, with more or less authority in his voice.

"Oh, what did you think you heard, Steve?" asked the wielder of the hatchet. "Was it a whine, a cry just like a baby'd make? I've heard that's the way these panthers act just before they spring. Be ready, both of you, to shoot him on the wing."

"Rats! It was voices I heard," declared Steve.

"Then it must be Max and Owen coming back to camp from the river," Bandy-legs asserted.

"Just as like as not," Steve admitted.

"But what if the savage beast drops down on the shoulders of our chums?" said the other in tones that were full of horror.

"C-c-come on, b-b-boys!" panted Toby.

"Where to?" demanded Steve. "I'm comfortable just as I stand. What's eating you now, Toby Jucklin?"

"D-d-didn't you see, we've j-j-just got to warn our c-c-chums, and s-s-stand that t-t-terrible beast off? H-h-hurry, boys!"

"Yes, I see _you_ hurrying," said Steve, with a laugh; "why, you'd fall all over yourself, Toby, and perhaps try to swallow our only hatchet in the bargain. Besides, there's no need of our sallying forth to stand guard over Max and Owen, because here they come right now."

"Sure they are," declared Bandy-legs, "and mebbe we'll be able to find out whether it was a wildcat Toby saw, a panther, or one of those awful Injun devils they say come down here from the Canada woods once in a long time."

"All right, you c'n laugh all you l-like," the boy who stammered said, obstinately; "but wait and s-s-see what Max says."

The two boys, who strode into the camp just then, eyed the warlike group with positive surprise.

"What's going on here?" asked the one in the lead, who seemed to be a well-put-up lad, with a bold, resolute face, clear gray eyes, and of athletic build.

"Why, you see, Max," began Steve in his usual impetuous way, "Toby here thought he saw a hungry cat sizing us up, being in want of a dinner; and so we got ready to give him a warm reception."

"Y-y-you b-b-bet we did!" exclaimed the party in question, shaking his


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