28. Two Failures.
 

What to do with Jasper Grinder was a problem which none of the boys knew how to solve. They were exceedingly sorry that he was among them, but as it would be impossible to send him off alone in that deep snow, they felt that they would have to make the best of the situation.

"I move we make him stay around the camp," suggested Tom. "He can watch our stores, keep the fire furnished with wood, and do some of the cooking."

"He may kick at playing servant girl," said Sam.

"If he kicks, let him clear out."

"I think Tom is right," put in Dick. "We don't want him along while we are trying to locate the treasure."

"He may slip away with our things--if he finds any trace of Baxter's party," went on Sam. "And we can't afford to lose anything more. One sled-load is enough. We'll be wanting some of those other things before long."

"I don't believe that other party is around here," said John Barrow. "We had better leave the man at the fire. We can keep our eyes open for the enemy--as you call 'em."

So it was arranged, and Dick told the former teacher. Jasper Grinder said but little in return, but asked about the possibility of any more wild beasts turning up.

"I don't want to be left alone to face another couple of bears," he said. "They would do their best to chew me up!"

"We will leave a gun in camp," said Dick. "If you see a bear coming, you can climb a tree and keep him off with the gun. If we hear a shot, we'll come back just as quickly as we can. But, Grinder, I want you to understand that you aren't to play us false," went on the eldest Rover. "If you do we'll have no mercy on you, remember that!"

Half an hour later the boys and their guide set off on their first hunt for the treasure. With great care John Barrow led the way over the rocks and other rough places. He carried a long pole, which he plunged in the snow before him whenever he was afraid there was a hollow ahead. Soon they gained the spot where Dick thought the blasted tree might be located.

The snow was scraped away, first in one direction and then another, until a spot several yards in diameter was cleared. No tree-stump was brought to light, although they found a slight hollow in which were several big roots.

"This might have been the tree once," said John Barrow meditatively. "Years make great changes, you know. The trees fall, rocks and dirt slide down hill, and that makes a big difference in the looks o' things."

"All we can do is to follow the directions on the map," said Dick. "I think we'll be bound to strike the right clew, sooner or later. Let us follow this one and see where it leads to."

"What's the next directions?" questioned Tom.

"'Go due southwest from the pine tree sixty-two paces,'" answered Dick, reading from the translation given him. "Which is southwest, Mr. Barrow?"

"Soon tell ye that," answered the guide, and brought forth his pocket compass. "That way." And he pointed with his arm.

With the compass to guide them they set off, the guide in the lead once more, and Dick counting off the sixty-two paces with great care. The way was up a hillside and over half a dozen rough rocks, and then into a hollow where the snow was up to their waists.

"No use of talking, this is treasure-hunting under difficulties," was Sam's comment. "Perhaps we would have done better had we left the hunt till summer time."

"And let Baxter get ahead of us?" put in Tom. "Not much!" He turned to Dick. "What's the next directions on the paper?"

"There ought to be a flat rock here, backed up by a sharp-pointed one," answered the eldest Rover. "I don't see anything of a sharp-pointed rock, do you? The flat rock may be under us."

"No sharp-pointed rock within a hundred feet of here," answered Sam, gazing around. He began scraping away the snow. "Dirt under us, too."

"That settles it, then. Trial No. 1 is a failure. Mr. Barrow, we'll have to try the next stream."

"So it would seem, Dick. Well, you boys mustn't expect too easy work o' it. A big treasure aint picked up every day."

"The trouble of it is, we don't know how much of a treasure it is," said Tom. "For all we know, it may be but a few hundred dollars--not enough to pay us, really, for our trouble."

"Well, even a few hundred dollars aint to be sneezed at."

"We did much better out West, when we located our mining claim," said Dick. "But then we came up here for fun as much as for treasure."

The tramp to where the next stream leading from Bear Pond was located was by no means easy. They had to crawl around a tangled mass of brushwood and over more rough rocks, until they gained the bosom of the pond itself. Then they skirted the shore for several hundred yards.

"Hold on!" cried Dick suddenly. "Rabbits!" And up came his gun, and he blazed away. Sam also fired, and between them they brought down four rabbits, which had just run out of a hollow log a short distance ahead.

"Good shots!" cried the guide enthusiastically. "Couldn't have been better. I see you are used to hunting. Many a city chap would have missed 'em entirely. I had one feller up here year before last wanted to bring down big game, but when he saw a deer he got the shakes and didn't think of shootin' till the game was out o' sight."

The four rabbits were plump and heavy, and the boys shouldered them with much satisfaction. Then the onward course was resumed, until Dick again called a halt.

"Here is where we'll make trial No. 2," he said. "Now see if any of you can locate the blasted tree in this neighborhood."

All began to search around in various directions, and presently Sam let out a call.

"Here's a fallen tree!"

"Struck by lightning?" queried Dick.

"I don't know about that. Perhaps Mr. Barrow can tell us."

The others walked over, and the guide cleared the snow from the upper end of the fallen timber.

"Not much signs of being struck by anything but the wind," he announced. "Still, I aint sure."

"We'll try from this point, anyway," said Tom. "No use of missing any chance, however small." And on this the others agreed.

Once again they began to pace off the ground as before. Here the task was as difficult as ever, as they had to pass through some timber thickly intergrown with brush.

"I suppose in Goupert's time this timber was small," observed the guide.

The tramping around was beginning to tire them, and soon Sam had to stop to rest and get back his wind.

"I feel like a regular snow-plow," he gasped. "Tell you what, it takes the wind right out of a chap."

"You rest while we go ahead," suggested Tom, but Sam did not wish to do this.

"Not much! If the treasure is going to be found, I want to be on deck!" he cried.

Presently they we're at it again, Dick pacing off the steps as carefully as ever. They had still fifteen paces to go when John Barrow came to a stop with a sniff of disgust.

"Wrong ag'in!"

"How so?"

"This is leadin' us right out on the pond."

"I declare, so it is!" murmured Dick. "We started due southwest, didn't we?"

"To a hair, lad. To tell the truth, I didn't take much to this trail from the start. To my mind this stream is a new one. I think the next outlet is one of the old-timers."

Once more they held a consultation, and Tom asked how far it was to the next stream.

"Right over yonder rise o' ground," answered the guide. "But hadn't you better wait till after dinner before ye tackle it?"

Dick consulted his watch.

"I declare! Quarter to twelve!" he exclaimed. "No wonder I'm feeling hungry."

"I was getting hungry myself," said Tom "But I wasn't going to be the first to stop. What shall we do--go back to camp?"

"Yes," said Dick. "I don't like the idea of leaving Jasper Grinder there all day alone."

"Nor I," came from the other Rovers.

John Barrow was asked to lead them back by the shortest route, and they started quarter of an hour later, after all had had a chance to rest and get back their wind.

"I hope we get a chance at some deer while we are up here," remarked Dick, as they turned back.

"I'll take you to where there are deer, after this hunt is over," replied John Barrow. "I know a famous spot, and it's not far, either."

"Hark!" suddenly cried Tom. "What sort of a yelping is that?"

All listened.

"Wolves!" answered John Barrow. "There must be quite a pack of 'em, too."

"I suppose they get pretty hungry when there is such a deep snow," said Tom.

"They do. More'n likely some of 'em have scented our b'ar meat and they want some."

"If they are heading for camp, they'll give Jasper Grinder trouble," put in Sam.

He had scarcely spoken when they heard the report of a gun, followed by a louder yelping than ever.

"They've attacked him, true enough!" cried John Barrow.

"Come on," said Dick. "The sooner we get back the better. Grinder may be having a pile of trouble, and the wolves may tear all our things to pieces if they get the chance."