13. The Heart Of The Adirondack.
 

Three days later found the Rover boys in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. They had left home, after a hasty but thorough preparation, two days before, and taken the train from Oak Run to the mountain village of Medwell. At Medwell they had taken the stage to Barton's Corners, and at this point had hired a private conveyance to carry them and their outfit to Timber Run.

At the time of which I write Timber Run was nothing more than a collection of a dozen houses, strung along a branch of the Perch River, where that stream turned the southern slope of a high hill known as Bald Top. There was a general store here and also an office belonging to the Timber Run Lumber Company. But business with the company was slow, and the village, consequently, was almost destitute of life, two of the houses being without tenants.

"Well, this doesn't look much like a place," remarked Sam, as they got out of the heavy lumber wagon which had brought them and their outfit over.

"Phew! but aint it cold!" exclaimed Tom, dancing around and slapping his arms over his chest. "I wonder how Nellie and Grace Laning like this?"

"I'll wager you've been thinking of Nellie all the way up," said Dick slyly, remembering how his brother had tormented him about Dora Stanhope.

"Couldn't think of anything but how cold it was," growled Tom, but his face took on a sudden redness. "Where do you go next?" he demanded, to change the subject.

"Let's go over to the store and ask for Mr. John Barrow," suggested Dick.

The store was at a fork in the roads, and thither they hurried, to get inside, for the ride from Barton's Corners had certainly been a chilling one. In the store they found a big pot stove throwing out a generous amount of heat, and around this stove were gathered half a dozen men, smoking and telling stories.

"So you are the young men who are looking for John Barrow," said the storekeeper, after listening to what Dick had to say. "He was here waiting for you, and he'll be back in a bit. Rather a cold ride, eh? Draw up to the fire and warm up."

A place was made for the lads, and while they were "thawing out," as Sam put it, John Barrow came in. He proved to be a tall, powerful built lumberman, with a well-tanned face and sharp, but kindly, eyes.

"How do you do," he said, as he shook hands. "Real glad to know you. Yes, I got a letter from John Laning, my brother-in-law, tellin' me all about you. He says as how you want a guide fer these parts. Well, I don't want to brag, but I reckon I know the lay o' the land 'round here about as good as any o' 'em, and a heap sight better nor lots."

"We'd like you first-rate for a guide," said Tom, who was pleased with John Barrow's looks, as were also his brothers. "But can you spare the time?"

"Reckon I can, just now. You see, the lumber company has got in some sort of a tangle with the owner of the timber on this tract, and consequently work is at a standstill. That's why you see so many men hangin' around here."

"Then you work for the company?" asked Dick.

"I do in the winter time, but not in the summer. I've got a tidy farm down the river a bit, and I let out my hosses to the company to haul timber. It's cash money, you see, when the haulin' is goin' on."

"I believe the Laning girls are stopping with you," put in Sam.

"Yes, Nellie and Grace came up some time ago. You see, our girl, Addie, gits tired being on the farm with only her mother, so we invited her cousins to come up for a spell. They've had some pretty good times together, so far, skatin' and sleighin', and the like. They are all anxious to see you."

John Barrow had brought with him his wagon, and into this their outfit was dumped, and a minute later they were off, down the winding and rough road running along the bank of the river, which was now frozen to a thickness of a foot or more and covered with several inches of snow.

"You say you know this locality," observed Dick, as they bumped along over the frozen ground. "Do you know the spot where Bear Pond empties into Perch River?"

"I know several such spots, my lad."

"Several!" came from all of the Rover boys.

"Yes, several. You see the ground around the pond is marshy, and the heavy rains cut all sorts of gullies here and there, so the pond empties into the river, now, at five or six p'ints."

"Are these points very far apart?" asked Sam, in dismay. "You see, I'm very anxious we should know the exact particulars."

"Indeed!" John Barrow looked at them curiously. "Say, I reckon I know what you are after!" he burst out suddenly.

"What?" came from the three.

"You're on a hunt for old Goupert's treasure."

"Why, what do you know about that?" demanded Dick. He remembered that the writing on the map said, "Beware of Goupert's ghost."

"Oh, that's an old yarn about here, and at different times we've had more'n a hundred folks a-hunting around for that old Frenchman's money box, but nobody ever got so much as a smell o' it."

"Who was Goupert?" asked Tom.

"Goupert was a thoroughly bad man, who lived sixty or seventy years ago. The story goes that he used to be a smuggler and that he came here when the authorities chased him off the Great Lakes. He had lots o' money, but he was a miser, and a queer stick to boot. He built himself a cabin on Bear Pond, and lived there all alone for two years. Then some lake men came down here, and one night there was a big row and the lake men disappeared. Goupert couldn't be found at first, but about a month later some hunters discovered his dead body tied to a tree in the woods, not far from the spot you asked about. He had been left to starve to death. The story was that the lake men had starved him in order to get him to tell where he had hidden his money box, and that old Goupert was too much o' a miser to let the secret out. So folks begun to hunt for that money box high an' low, but never got a smell o' it, as I said."

"Did you ever hunt for the money?" questioned Dick.

"No, I never had no time to waste. So you really came up on that account?"

"We came up on that account, and also to have a good time in the mountains," said Dick, before. Sam or Tom could speak. "But, Mr. Barrow, I wish you wouldn't mention this to the other folks around here. They might laugh at us for coming on what they think is a wild-goose chase."

"Oh, I won't say a word on it--if you want it that way."

"Did this Goupert leave any relatives?" asked Sam.

"No, lad, not a soul."

"Then if we should find that treasure it would belong to us," put in Tom.

"Every penny on it, lad. But don't raise any high hopes, or you may be sorely disapp'inted."

"Oh, I came for a good time," replied Tom, in an off-handed a manner as possible.

Presently John Barrow had to get out of the wagon to fix something on the harness. While he was doing this Dick leaned over to his two brothers.

"Don't say anything about the map to anybody," he whispered. "We'll keep that a secret for the present." And Tom and Sam nodded, to show that they understood.

The ride to John Barrow's house soon came to an end, and as the boys alighted at the horseblock the door opened and Nellie and Grace Laning appeared.

"How do you do, Tom!" cried Nellie, as she ran and caught him by the hand, while Grace did the same to Sam. "We're awfully glad to see you, and to see Dick and Sam, too," and a hand-shaking all around followed. Then Mrs. Barrow, a motherly woman, was introduced and also her daughter Addie, who was Nellie's age, and full of fun.

"Come right in, boys," said Mrs. Barrow. "Supper is waiting, and I'm sure you must be hungry."

"Hungry doesn't describe it," said Tom. "I could eat sole leather. Phew! what an appetite riding in this mountain air does give a fellow!"

"Can you ever remember the time when you wasn't without an appetite, Tom?" asked Nellie Laning, with a laugh.

"Never go so far into ancient history," he returned solemnly, and a general laugh followed.

Soon their outfit was safely housed in the barn, and then they entered the house, where the long supper table, filled with good things, awaited them. All three of the, girls insisted upon waiting on the boys, and it proved as jolly a meal as they had ever eaten. They lingered for an hour at the table, talking and cracking nuts, and during that time the Rover boys became thoroughly acquainted with the Barrow family.

"Oh, I've heard lots about you!" said Addie Barrow. "Nellie has told me great, long stories about Tom's bravery, and Grace has told me all about Sam's doings, and both of them have told about you, Dick----"

"Now, do be still, Addie!" put in Nellie Laning. "I declare, I never said a word!"

"Oh! A word! Why, you kept me awake one night for over an hour telling about how Tom----"

"Let's have a song," broke in Sam. "I see an organ in the next room and some music. You must play," he added, to Addie.

"She plays beautifully," put in Grace, thankful for the change of subject. "Addie, give them that new song, 'I'm Sorry, Oh, So Sorry!'"

"All right," answered the young lady of the house, and sitting down at the organ she ran her hands over the keys and started the song. She could sing and play well, and all joined in the chorus. The music was kept up for over an hour, and then the Rover boys retired, highly pleased over their reception.