Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Rick Morris, Rod Crawford,
Dave Morgan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Rick Morris, Rod Crawford,
“THE LEGEND OF LOVERS’ LEAP.” “YOU SEEM INCLINED TO
TAKE EVERYTHING TOO LITERALLY,” SAID GRANGER. —Page 132
|I.||The Camping Party||5|
|III.||Evening at Pleasant Point||26|
|IV.||A Bad Night for Piper||36|
|V.||With Rod and Reel||53|
|VI.||A Morning’s Sport||64|
|VII.||The Encounter at the Brook||74|
|VIII.||One from the Shoulder||84|
|IX.||Carl Duckelstein Fishes||91|
|X.||An Experiment with Flapjacks||106|
|XI.||The Legend of Lovers’ Leap||117|
|XII.||The Story of the Hermit||131|
|XIV.||The Haunted Island||154|
|XV.||The Mysterious Light||165|
|XVII.||What Carl’s Pail Contained||188|
|XVIII.||Disposing of Unwelcome Neighbors||200|
|XIX.||The Hermit’s Cabin||209|
|XX.||Grant to the Rescue||221|
|XXI.||Establishing Friendly Relations||232|
|XXII.||Piper Grows Secretive||244|
|XXIV.||Strange Behavior of Sleuth||262|
|XXV.||A Terrible Predicament||274|
|XXVI.||Piper Meets the Ghost||284|
The afternoon of a lazy midsummer day was waning as an old white horse drew a heavily loaded, creaking, complaining farm wagon along a crude, seldom used road which wound through the depths of a silent stretch of timberland. A sleepy looking, tow-headed boy with round apple cheeks sat on the wagon-seat and held the reins. Behind the wagon five more boys straggled along on foot, stumbling over the rocks and “cradle knolls.” The party, with the exception of the drowsy driver, who had been engaged to transport the camping outfit from Pemstock, the nearest railroad station, was bound for Phantom Lake, the objective point of the expedition.
As originally planned, the company had been made up of four Oakdale lads, Phil Springer, Sile Crane, Ben Stone and Rodney Grant; but, listening to their talk of the sport they would have on such an outing, Sleuth Piper had become inspired by a longing to join them, and almost at the last moment he had succeeded in securing permission of his parents. The five mile jaunt from Pemstock to Phantom Lake followed a journey of twenty odd miles by rail; but, despite the dust, heat and bad roads, the enthusiasm of the boys showed no symptoms of waning.
Carrying a double barreled shotgun and wearing an old leather-banded cowboy hat and a belt supporting a sheathed hunting knife, Piper followed close behind the writhing wagon, peering with an exaggerated air of caution and keenness into the timber and bushes on either hand. The rustling of a running chipmunk, the distant chatter of a red squirrel, or the cawing of a crow, lazily wheeling overhead, was sufficient to cause Piper to halt with quickly uplifted hand and the pose of one who sensed an impending danger.
“Oh, what’s the matter with yeou naow?” drawled Sile Crane in exasperation, as he finally stumbled against Sleuth’s heels. “Yeou couldn’t shoot anything if yeou saw it, and, anyhaow, the old gun ain’t loaded.”
“Hush!” sibilated Sleuth. “We’re in the enemy’s country, and peril menaces us on every hand. Who knows that the chatter of yonder squirrel or the sudden cry of the soaring crow does not betoken the near presence of some prowling varmint? There may be bloodthirsty redskins lying in ambush for us, and, unless we preserve extreme caution, perchance our scalps tonight will dangle in the wigwams of the Wampanoags.”
“Oh, go on with yeour dinged fol-de-rol,” snorted Crane. “Yeou’ve read so many of them cheap Injun stories that yeou’re half nutty. Between them yarns and the detective stuff yeou sop up, yeou’ll go clean off yeour base if yeou don’t look aout. Come, pudge along.” He ended by giving Sleuth a vigorous shove that nearly sent the smaller lad sprawling.
“Careful, Sile,” begged Ben Stone. “Have you forgotten that it was Sleuthy’s clever work which practically saved me from the stigma of a crime? If you have, I haven’t, and I’m not liable to forget it.”
“I guess I opened their eyes some that time, didn’t I, Ben?” he grinned proudly. “I made the fellers that had been poking fun at me sit up and take notice. I had them all spellbound in court when I told my story and gave my deductions.”
“Yes,” chuckled Phil Springer, who was wearing a canvas suit that crinkled and rustled at every step. “It was so still in the court room that you might have heard a gum-drop.”
“A pun that’s right worthy of Chipper Cooper himself,” observed Rodney Grant, who, although a genuine Texan and the son of a cattleman, was the most simply and practically dressed member of the party. “We must be getting near the lake. It’s sure a wonder to me that the Dutchman hasn’t rolled off the wagon-seat before this and broken his neck. Look at him! There he goes! Oh, Dutchy, look out!”
“Vat’s der matter?” he gurgled, yanking at the reins and turning to glare, red-faced, over his shoulder. “Vy iss it you at me yell like dot undt nearly make me off fall? Who vas you calling Tutchman already now? I vould haff you understood dot I peen a Cherman.”
His indignation brought a shout of laughter from the boys.
“Pardon me for breaking in on your peaceful slumbers,” entreated the Texan. “We were reckoning the lake must be right near by this time.”
The German lad rubbed his eyes, yawned, and looked around.
“Yah,” he said, “der lake hass almost reached us. It vill soon be here, I peliefe. Not much more must we on go.”
“We’ll never reach the lul-lul-lake in the world if you gug-gug-get twisted in gug-guiding as much as you do in tut-talking,” said Springer.
This turned the laugh on Springer, who sought in vain to make a sufficiently sarcastic retort, and became so excited through the effort that he stammered more than usual.
“Oh, start up your old nag again, Dutch,” urged Crane. “Yeou and Springer both murder language in a criminal fashion.”
“Maype dot peen so,” admitted the lad on the wagon; “but it iss py our mouths we talk, undt not our noses through.” With which solid shot he chirruped to the old horse, and the wagon creaked onward once more.
“It sure seems to me,” laughed Grant, “that Mr. Carl Duckelstein isn’t near as sleepy as he looks. As we’ve engaged him to bring us butter, eggs and milk daily, he may provide some amusement for us.”
In a few moments, the road taking a bend through the trees, they set the woods ringing with shouts of satisfaction, for before them they caught a glimpse of the placid blue waters of Phantom Lake. Soon the broad sweep of the sheltered island-dotted lake, with a range of mountainous hills rising directly from the shore at the further side, opened out before them, the prospect being one to make their youthful hearts beat swiftly.
Eight miles in length and fully half as far across at its widest point, the forest-surrounded, mountain-sentineled strip of water was one of the most picturesque sheets to be found in old New England, remaining as yet unspoiled by too many swarming campers and resorters, although a newly opened hotel near the base of the highest and most precipitous cliff of the range of hills was attracting increasing numbers of the latter class. From Pleasant Point, which the Oakdale boys had now reached, the hotel far across the lake could be glimpsed amid the green foliage at the base of the purple cliff.
Springer capered like a colt, shouting again in joyous abandon as he ran out on the point to get a good view of his surroundings.
“It’s gug-great, fellows,” he cried—“simply great! This is a corking place to camp. Why, here’s deep water on one side right off the rocks, and a cove with a sandy beach on the other sus-side. Gee whiz! it’s fine.”