14. The Start Up The River.
 

"If it wasn't for finding that treasure box I'd just as lief stay here for a few days," remarked Tom, on getting up the following morning.

"Ditto myself," came from Sam. "We could have a boss good time, eh?"

"How about it if Nellie and Grace weren't here?" came from Dick, and then dodged a shoe thrown at him by Tom and a pillow sent forth by Sam. "No, boys, it won't do--we must leave for the hunt to-day. Why, there may be a million in it."

"That's right, Dick; when you fly, fly high," said Tom. "That Frenchman never had a million. If he had a couple of thousand he'd be lucky."

"And of course, a couple of thousand is of no importance to us," put in Sam grandiloquently.

"All right; I'll go on the hunt alone."

"No, Dick, of course we'll go," said Tom hastily. "When do you want to start?"

"As soon as Mr. Barrow can get off."

But, in spite of Dick's anxiety to get off, the start was delayed for a whole day, much to Tom and Sam's secret joy. John Barrow had to go to Timber Run for things needed in the house by his wife and daughter.

When he returned there was a broad grin on his face.

"I've got news for you," he said to Dick, who had followed him down to the barn. "There's another party arrived at Timber Run on the hunt fer that treasure of old Goupert's."

"Another party. Who is it?"

"Didn't hear their names. There are two men and a young fellow o' nineteen or twenty. They have hired Bill Harney fer a guide, and are goin' to strike out fer the Pond to-morrow."

"Two men and a young fellow," mused Dick. "I'd like to know who they are."

"One o' the men looked like a preacher or schoolmaster. He called the young feller Thacher, or something like that."

"It wasn't Baxter?" queried Dick, struck by a sudden idea.

"That's the name--now I remember."

"And the man, did they call him Grinder--Jasper Grinder?" went on Dick excitedly.

"If it wasn't Grinder, it was something like it. The party came east from Ithaca."

"It's Dan Baxter and Jasper Grinder sure!" burst out Dick. "Well, this beats the nation."

"Then you know the crowd?"

"I do--to my sorrow, Mr. Barrow. That Dan Baxter is the good-for-nothing young fellow I told you of this morning, and Jasper Grinder was a teacher at the Hall. We had a big row with him and he was kicked out in a hurry by Captain Putnam. They are our enemies."

"Humph! That promises to make it interesting for you. But it's queer they should come up at the same time you're here," went on the lumberman thoughtfully.

"I might as well let you into a secret, Mr. Barrow. Will you promise to keep it entirely to yourself?"

"Certainly, lad, if it's an honest secret."

"It is honest," answered Dick, and thereupon told of the adventure on Needle Point Island and of the map on the table, and how it had disappeared, and of the finding of the second map in the brass-lined money casket later on.

"I am sure Dan Baxter has that other map," he concluded. "He wants that treasure as badly as we do."

"Then I allow as how it will be a nip-an'-tuck race between you," returned John Barrow. "The fust to get there will be the best man. o' course, with that map it ought to be plain enough sailin'."

"I thought it would be, but it will mix us up, now you say that Bear Pond empties into Perch River in several places. We'll have to try one place after another."

"Do your directions start from that p'int?"

"Yes."

"Then we'll have to find the right emptyin' place, that's all. My advice is to start fer the spot to-morrow early."

So it was arranged, and Dick called Tom and Sam down to the barn to talk it over. It was late in the afternoon, and all worked until after the supper hour in preparing for the start.

"It's a good twenty miles' tramp from here," said John Barrow, "and we'll have to climb two pretty steep mountains to get to the spot."

"Why can't we follow the stream up?" asked Tom. "That would be easier than tramping up the mountains."

"By the river the way is at least forty miles, and there are half a dozen rough spots where you'd have to walk a mile or two."

"We have our skates," said Sam. "Skating would be easier than walking, and pulling the sleds on the ice would be child's play."

"Well, I allow as how I wouldn't mind skatin' myself," said John Barrow thoughtfully. "I never thought of that before. If you want to, we can try that trail. We can take to the mountain any time, if we find skating no good."

So it was arranged that they should strike out for Bear Pond by way of the river, and the sleds, of which there were two, were packed accordingly, and the boys saw to it that their skates were well sharpened and otherwise in good condition.

"When you're skating, you want to look out for air holes," was John Barrow's caution. "Fer where the river runs between the mountains it is mighty deep in spots, I can tell you that!"

"Thanks, I'll be on my guard," answered Tom, with a shiver. "I've had all I want of icy baths this winter."

The girls were sorry to see the boys leave so quickly, but were consoled when Tom promised to stay longer on the return. On the following morning breakfast was had at six o'clock, and by seven they were off, everybody wishing them a good time. Only Mrs. Barrow knew that the boys were on a treasure, and not a bird and wild animal, hunt.

It was a clear, frosty day and everybody was in the best of spirits. The boys wore fur caps and warm clothing, and each was provided with either a rifle or a shot-gun. So far they had seen but little game around the farm, but John Barrow assured them that the timber and mountains were full of game of all sorts.

"I wonder what route Dan Baxter's party took," said Dick, as they gained the river, and stopped to put on their skates.

"I didn't hear what route they took," answered their guide. "I reckon they went straight over the mountains. I don't believe as how Bill Harney takes to skating."

"Is this Bill Harney a good sort?" asked Tom. "If he is, I can tell you he has got into bad company."

"Bill isn't so bad when he's sober. It's when he gits full o' rum that he makes things lively. He's a great drinker."

They were soon on the river, which at this point was fifty to sixty feet wide. The snow covered a large portion of the surface, but the wind had cleared many a long stretch, and they skated on these, dragging the sleds behind them. Each sled was packed high with the camping outfit, but they ran along readily.

"I wonder how long we'll be out," said Sam, as he skated by Tom's side.

"I guess that will depend upon what luck we have, Sam. If we strike the right spot first clip we ought to be back inside of five or six days."

As the party moved up the river they found the stream wound in and out between the mountains On either side were bare rocky walls or dense patches of timber, with here and there a tiny open space, now piled deep with snowdrifts.

"I see some rabbits ahead!" cried Tom presently. "Wonder if I can bring them down," he added, as he unslung his gun. But long before he could take aim the bunnies were out of sight amid the timber.

"You'll have to carry your gun in your hand for a shot at them," came from Dick. "But be careful, or you may trip up on some frozen twig and shoot somebody."

Mile after mile was passed, but no further game came to view, much to Tom's disgust.

"Not much right around here," said John Barrow, as he saw Tom put his gun back over his shoulder. "The boys from Timber Run have cleared the ground putty well. But you'll see something sure a little further on--and maybe more'n you bargain for."

"I'm not afraid of big game, Mr. Barrow. We faced some pretty bad animals when we were in Africa and out West."

"I allow that must be so, Tom. But you want to be careful even so. A big mountain deer or a bear aint to be fooled with, I can tell you that."

About eleven o'clock they came to the first falls above Timber Run. Here the water was frozen into solid masses, but the way was so uneven they found it profitable to take off their skates and "tote" the sleds around the spot. This necessitated a walk of several hundred feet through the timber skirting the edge of the river. The way was uncertain, and John Barrow went ahead, to steer the party clear of any danger.

"Finest timber in the world right here," he observed. "I can't see why the timber company don't get together and put it in the market. It would fetch a good price."

"Wait! I see something in yonder trees!" cried Dick, in a low voice. "Can you make out what they are?"

"Wild turkeys!" answered the guide. "Git down behind these bushes. If we can bag a few of them, we'll have rich eatin' for a few days!"