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CHAPTER III RIPOGENUS DAM.
 “It’s a good thing your mother and I are worry proof.”  
Mr. Richard Golden laughed as he pushed his chair back from the table and looked across at his two sons. During the meal they had acquainted the family with the story of their adventure on the way home, and the remark had followed its conclusion.
 
“Which same takes a big load off my mind,” Bob declared with a sly wink1 at his mother.
 
“I think I shall put you both in a glass case this summer and never let you out of my sight,” Mrs. Golden smiled.
 
“Then someone would be sure to throw a rock and break the glass and we’d be certain to get all cut up,” Jack2 laughed.
 
“By the way, what’s on the program for the summer?” Mr. Golden asked. “Are you going to capture bootleggers, or hunt for buried treasure or some other simple little thing of the sort?”
 
“We’re going to hunt ghosts,” Jack replied pulling a long face.
 
“Hunt what?” Mrs. Golden cried.
 
“Ghosts.”
 
“Where did you lose them?” their sister, Edna, asked.
 
“Trying to be funny, ah,” Jack said with mock severity.
 
“Not at all,” Edna assured him. “You don’t hunt for a thing unless it’s lost, do you?”
 
“Fooling aside,” Mr. Golden asked. “Just what do you mean, Jack?”
 
“Just what I said. Your elder son and I have taken a contract to free the big Maine woods of ghosts.”
 
“Big or little ones?” Edna gibed3.
 
“We do not go after small things,” Jack replied sternly.
 
“Promise to bring me home the first one you catch. I’ve always wanted a nice little ghost to play with,” Edna laughed.
 
“But I told you that we are after only big ones.”
 
“Bob, will you kindly4 tell us what he is raving6 about?” Mr. Golden asked, making a great effort to keep his face straight.
 
So Bob explained about the offer Mr. Stokes had made them.
 
“Well, I don’t suppose you’ll be in any more danger than usual,” his father sighed when he had finished. “When do you start?”
 
“Tuesday morning, if you are willing.”
 
“And if I’m not?”
 
“Then we don’t start at all, sir.”
 
“Thanks, son, but it seems like a worthy7 object, only I want you to promise that you’ll both be careful and not take unnecessary chances.”
 
“We’ll do that,” both boys replied together.
 
Tuesday morning came in due time and, after an early breakfast, they were ready to start, having packed what things they would be apt to need the night before.
 
“Don’t forget your promise,” Mr. Golden cautioned as they jumped into the saddles of their motorcycles.
 
“We won’t,” both shouted back, waving their hands.
 
“And don’t forget my little ghost,” Edna called after them.
 
But they were too far away for her to catch their answer.
 
Moosehead Lake, the largest body of water in Maine, lies about sixty miles to the north of Skowhegan. Their way was by a dirt road but as it was in fairly good shape and there was but little traffic they made excellent time and it was but a few minutes after nine o’clock when they rode into Greenville, a small town at the foot of the lake.
 
“Two hours flat,” Bob glanced at his watch as they stopped in front of the general store where, he had often declared you could buy anything from a toothpick to a second hand pulpit.
 
Entering the store they made a few purchases and in a few minutes were again on their way. After making a sharp turn to the left on the outskirts8 of the town they climbed a long hill and at its top Bob, who was slightly ahead, held up his hand as a signal that he was about to stop.
 
“That’s what I call a view,” he declared pointing toward the north.
 
“I’ll say it is,” Jack agreed enthusiastically.
 
Before them stretched the broad expanse of Moosehead Lake, its surface dotted with many small islands and bordered with rugged9 mountains whose tops lost themselves in the blue haze10 thirty miles away. Half way up the lake Mount Kineo reared its rocky head while the Kineo House, one of the finest summer hotels in the country, nestled at its foot.
 
“I’ll bet Europe has got nothing on this,” Jack declared.
 
“If it has I’d sure like to see it. But that reminds me of a story.”
 
“Go ahead if it isn’t too long,” Jack told him. “But make it snappy.”
 
“Once upon a time,” Bob began, “an American was travelling in Europe and turning up his nose at everything his companion, an Englishman, showed him. ‘We’ve got a bigger one than that in America,’ he would say. Finally they came to Mount Vesuvius, which, at the time was belching11 out volumes of smoke. ‘There,’ asked the Englishman, ‘have you got a bigger volcano than that in America?’ The American hesitated a moment then said, ‘Mebby not but we’ve got a waterfall that would put the blamed thing out in two minutes.’”
 
“Three cheers for that guy,” Jack laughed. “He had the right spirit.”
 
Leaving the town behind they struck into the forest.
 
“Say good bye to civilization,” Bob cried. “We won’t pass another house except three summer camps and a log cabin for forty miles.”
 
The road was an excellent one having been constructed by the Great Northern Paper Company and opened to the public only a short time before.
 
“Any speed limit up here?” Jack asked as he increased his pace.
 
“Not unless you see a cop,” Bob laughed.
 
Faster and faster the wheels sped until Bob’s speedometer registered fifty miles an hour.
 
“This is fast enough,” he shouted.
 
“Righto,” Jack shouted back. “Keep her steady.”
 
A few minutes later they flew past the Lilley Bay House and then for miles only the unbroken forest lined the road, until about twelve miles further on they came to a small log cabin, the headquarters of the Maine forester. On the left side of the road was a small spring house and they stopped for a drink of water.
 
“Seems as though there must be ice in that water,” Jack declared after he had taken a good drink.
 
“It’s not much above freezing for a fact,” Bob agreed.
 
“Thirty-six degrees all der time.”
 
The boys jumped at the sound of the voice and saw a man evidently about thirty years old, standing13 by the edge of the road. His face, though dark as an Indian’s was pleasant of mien14 and, although he was evidently a half-breed, the feeling was instinctive15 that here was a man one could trust.
 
“And it’s as good as it is cold,” Bob smiled.
 
“Oui, eet ver’ bon. But what dem bike you ride? Me no hear sound.”
 
Bob explained the construction of the wheels and the man showed great interest.
 
“Dem ver’ fine bikes,” he declared as he finished.
 
“Are you the forester?” Jack asked.
 
“Oui, dat me, Pierre Beaumont.”
 
“But I thought the state always appointed an American.”
 
“Me American. Geet papers, oui,” the man drew himself up proudly. “Me een big war.”
 
“Shake,” and Jack held out his hand and Bob quickly did the same.
 
“Don’t you get lonesome here all by yourself?” Jack asked after they had talked of the war for several minutes.
 
“Non, no geet lonesome. Plenty work most all time. But whar you two go?”
 
“We’re going up to Chesuncook to Jacques Bolduc’s camp to catch trout17,” Bob explained.
 
Instantly a strange look came to the man’s eyes and he quickly shook his head.
 
“You no go to dat camp.”
 
“Why not?” Jack asked.
 
“She one ver’ bad camp,” he answered still shaking his head.
 
“But what’s bad about it?” Bob asked. “I thought he kept a good camp.”
 
“Oui, Jacques, heem keep bon camp. Heem frien’ to me. Heem fine feller, but you no go to heem camp. Heem got ghost dar.”
 
The man spoke18 rapidly and the boys could see that he was very much excited.
 
“Maybe we’ll catch the ghost,” Bob laughed.
 
“No catch heem ghost. No can shoot heem.”
 
“What do you know about it?” Bob asked. “We’ve heard there was a ghost up there.”
 
“My brudder, Baptist, heem work up dar for Jacques two-tree year, but heem no work dar no more. Heem come here two-tree week ago an’ heem tell me ’bout dat ghost. Heem see heem one dark night. Heem big, ten feet mebby twelve, all white an’ fire. Heem say heem ver’ bad ghost, oui. You no go that camp.”
 
“But did you ever hear of a ghost hurting anyone?” Bob asked.
 
The man scratched his head slowly as if thinking deeply.
 
“My fader, heem see ghost an’ heem die one week after.”
 
“What did he die of?” Jack asked.
 
“Heem geet ver’ bad fever, heem die. You no go, eh?”
 
Neither of the boys laughed. They had too much respect for the man to let him see that they thought him foolish in his fear of ghosts. It is a common belief among the half-breeds and cannucks of northern Maine and very few of them are free of it. So Bob was perfectly19 sober as he told him that they were not afraid of the ghost and would go. The forester showed deep concern and again shook his head as he said:
 
“You ver’ brave boys, but you no stay dar long. You see heem ghost you come away ver’ queek, oui.”
 
After another hour’s ride through the deep forest broken only by two summer camps they reached the huge Ripogenus Dam, a mighty20 structure of cement, the third largest in the United States, also built by The Great Northern Paper Company. The dam, at the foot of Chesuncook Lake, 308 feet long and 78 feet high, is so wide that three automobiles21 can be driven abreast22 across it. At one end is a chute down which the logs are sluiced23 in the spring following the winter’s cut.
 
It was not their first visit to the dam, but they never tired of gazing down into the deep gorge24 where now only a small stream of water leaped from rock to rock.
 
In the distance, but seemingly so near that it appeared to be guarding the entrance to the gorge, rose Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in the state, its sides heavily wooded almost to the top.
 
“This is almost as grand a view as that other one,” Bob declared as he leaned his wheel against the wall of the dam.
 
“In a way it’s greater,” Jack insisted and Bob did not dispute him.
 
“Do you know how far it is to Katahdin?” Jack asked.
 
“A little over seven miles, I believe.”
 
“It doesn’t look more than a mile at the most.”
 
“Distances are very deceptive25 in this clear air,” Bob told him.
 
“Guess I know that. But this isn’t getting up to camp. I wonder where the dam keeper is.”
 
“What kind of a keeper did you say?” Bob almost shouted.
 
“I said the dam keeper, why?”
 
“Nothing only it sounded kind of funny coming from you.”
 
“Oh, I see,” Jack laughed. “But I didn’t put an N on the word.”
 
While talking they were walking slowly toward the end of the dam where there was a small house. Bob knocked on the door and it was opened almost immediately by an old Irishman.
 
“Good morning, sir,” Bob began.
 
“The top uv the mornin’ ter yess,” the old man grinned holding out his hand which Bob was quick to grasp. “An’ whot kin5 I be after doin’ fer yess?”
 
“We want to get up to Jacques Bolduc’s camp.”
 
“Ye don’t say. Don’t believe thar’s bin12 a blessed soul up thar fer over a week. Whot wid all the talk aboot ghosts it’s scared ’em all away, an’ it’s a shame so it is.”
 
“I was wondering if there was a canoe we could hire around here.”
 
“Thar is not, but it’s meself as has one thot ye’re welcome to.”
 
“That’s very kind—” Bob began but the old man interrupted.
 
“Tut, tut me bye, it’s welcome I said ye was.”
 
After a few minutes during which the old man told much the same story concerning the camp as the forester had related, with the exception that he made it plain that he did not believe in ghosts, he led the way down around the end of the dam to a small boat house.
 
“Thar ye be,” he said as he threw open the door. “An’ it’s a good one.”
 
“We’ll be very careful of it and bring it back this afternoon,” Bob assured him.
 
“Not a bit uv it. Iny time widin a week’ll do. I don’t use it once in a dog’s age.”
 
“Would you mind if we leave our wheels here in the boat house?” Bob asked.
 
“Niver a bit.”
 
“There’s a genuine gentleman for you,” Bob declared a little later as they were paddling up the lake.
 
“You said it,” Jack agreed.
 
There was only a light wind blowing and the canoe moved rapidly through the water as they dug deep with the paddles, anxious to reach the camp where they hoped excitement awaited them.
 
“If we get time while we’re up here we must climb Katahdin,” Bob said after they had gone a couple of miles.
 
“We’ll do that thing,” Jack agreed.
 
Chesuncook Lake is about twenty miles long and for the most part narrow, the distance across being not more than two miles in the widest place, so they were never very far from land. The shore is heavily wooded, the giant spruces growing almost to the water’s edge except where huge rocks gave their roots no chance. It is a wild country, the camp to which they were going, being the only one within many miles.
 
“I’ll say this looks like a good haunting ground for ghosts,” Jack laughed as he rested for the moment.
 
“And a place where they’re apt to be pretty hard to find,” Bob added.
 
“I reckon that must be the camp,” Bob cried a little later, pointing with his paddle.
 
“Must be since it’s the only one on the lake,” Jack agreed as he swung the canoe toward the shore.
 
It was a place of surpassing beauty. The large central building, built of unpeeled logs, occupied the highest point of a large knoll27 which was surrounded by trees so large that their branches almost met over the roof. Nestled among the pines and spruces but a short distance away were the small log cabins containing the sleeping quarters and sitting-rooms.
 
“The place seems deserted,” Bob declared as the canoe slowly approached the shore where a small wharf28 reached out a few feet into the lake.
 
“Well, you didn’t expect a crowd to meet us after what we’ve been told, did you?”
 
“No, but somehow it doesn’t seem natural not to see a soul about.”
 
The canoe touched the wharf and the boys sprang out, and dragged the craft from the water.
 
The light breeze had failed entirely29 and not a sound broke the vast silence as they stood looking up at the large cabin.
 
“Well, let’s not stand here and moon,” Jack said after several minutes had passed.
 
They walked slowly up the narrow path which led from the wharf to the central house about a hundred yards distant.
 
“Be careful that you don’t let slip something that might give us away,” Bob cautioned as they approached the house.
 
“Mum’s the word. But do you suppose there’s anybody here?”
 
“That man Jacques must be somewhere about, I should suppose.”
 
They were about to step onto the porch when the door suddenly opened and a man came out. He was a large man, one of the largest the boys had ever seen standing all of six feet four and built in proportion. That he was powerful was plainly to be seen. His face was dark and a scowl30 which seemed permanent gave to it a most unpleasant cast. He was dressed in corduroy trousers and a dark blue shirt open at the neck revealing a hairy chest. On his feet were a pair of Indian moccasins.
 
“We are looking for Jacques Bolduc,” Bob announced.
 
A deep rumble31, which seemed to start away down in the man’s throat, ended with the words:
 
“Me heem.”
 
“Then—then you have charge of the camp?” Bob asked almost too surprised to speak.
 
“Oui. Me boss here.”
 
The two boys looked at each other before Bob spoke again. Each was wondering why Mr. Stokes had not told them more about the sort of man they would find in Jacques Bolduc.
 
“Can we get board here for awhile?” Bob asked.
 
“Oui. Dis camp she open for business.”
 
“You don’t seem to have many guests,” Jack declared before Bob could nudge him.
 
“Non. No guests now.”
 
The man’s face was a study as he spoke the words. Whether anger or sorrow caused the expression Bob was unable to determine.
 
“How long you stay?”
 
“Why, er I hardly know. Maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks. Is the fishing good?”
 
Instantly the man’s face lighted up although the scowl did not entirely disappear.
 
“Oui, she be bon. Come back an’ me show you.”
 
They followed him around to the back of the house and into a small shed like structure which evidently served as the kitchen. He pointed16 to a table in the middle of the room and they saw three of the largest trout they had ever seen.
 
“They’re sure beauties,” Jack declared, lifting the largest up by the gills. “This fellow must weigh all of twelve pounds.”
 
“Heem fourteen pounds.”
 
“I don’t doubt it.”
 
“Me catch um dees morning.”
 
“Can we have some for dinner?” Bob asked.
 
“Oui. Me cook um. No geet cook now. Heem geet scared, run off. Me have do all work.”
 
“That’s too bad,” Bob assured him. “But you won’t find us hard to suit so long as the fishing is good.”
 
“Me bon cook.” There was no hint of braggadocia in the man’s voice. He was simply stating what, the boys were soon to learn, was a fact.
 
“Come an’ me show you whar you sleep.”
 
He led the way down a path to the right of the house and threw open the door of a small cabin built under the spreading branches of a giant spruce.
 
“Dees suit, oui?”
 
“Fine.” Both boys spoke the word at the same time.
 
“Bon. Me go geet dinner. Blow horn when she ready.”
 
He left them and they looked about the rooms, two in number.
 
“They’re good and clean,” Jack declared passing into the tiny bedroom which held two single beds and nothing else.
 
However, the living-room was very comfortably furnished with three large easy chairs, a table and a sofa in one corner. A fire place of rough stones occupied nearly the whole of one end of the room while the other was taken up by a broad seat on which were lying a couple of bear skins.
 
“What do you think of our host?” Bob asked in a low voice as he sat down in one of the chairs.
 
“He’s not much for looks except for his size. Goodness knows he’s big enough.”
 
“He’s no dwarf32 for a fact. But his face?”
 
“Not exactly pleasantly featured. Still he must be all right or Mr. Stokes wouldn’t have praised him up so.”
 
“And we have that forester’s testimony33 to boot. Still it’s funny that neither of them said anything about his looks.”
 
They had brought their bags with them and for a time were busy getting settled although, as Jack laughingly declared, it wasn’t a very long job as they were travelling light.
 
It was just an hour later that they heard the welcome sound of the dinner horn.
 
“Be careful what you say,” Bob cautioned, as they started for the big cabin. “We want to find out what he knows about the business without having him suspect that we know anything about it. I’m not at all sure that he’s so innocent in spite of Mr. Stokes’ belief in him.”
 
“I wouldn’t trust him with a plugged nickle so far as his looks go,” Jack agreed.
 
“One thing’s sure,” Bob declared a little later as he reached for another helping34 of trout, “he told the truth when he said he could cook.”
 
Jacques, who at their invitation, had been eating with them, had gone to the kitchen for something and it was while he was absent that the boys found opportunity to exchange a few words.
 
“You’re right about that,” Jack agreed. “But you haven’t got very far in finding out what he knows about the funny business.”
 
“Well, I didn’t want to be in too much of a hurry. It might arouse his suspicion but I’ll say something pretty soon.”
 
Jacques returned just then bearing an immense apple pie.
 
“My, but that looks good enough to eat,” Bob laughed.
 
“If he can cook as good pie as he can fish we’ve got a treat ahead of us,” Jack declared as he passed his plate for a helping.
 
The breed seemed pleased at the words of praise and the scowl lightened, but did not entirely vanish.
 
“Business seems kind of quiet, doesn’t it?” Bob ventured as he passed his plate for a second piece of pie.
 
“Beesiness heem rotten,” Jacques scowled35.
 
“Is it because your place is so far north?”
 
“Non. She no too far away.”
 
Bob was feeling his way carefully to avoid arousing the breed’s suspicion.
 
“Fishing been good all the time?”
 
“Oui.”
 
“You’ve got a fine place here.”
 
“Oui.”
 
By this time Bob was sure that the man was undecided whether or not to tell them of his trouble.
 
“I’m sure no one could find any fault with the board,” he encouraged him.
 
“No kick ’bout grub.”
 
“Then I don’t see—”
 
“It’s dat ghost,” Jacques interrupted suddenly. “Heem scare all people away.”
 
“What do you mean, ghost?” Jack asked.
 
“Dees camp, heem haunted.”
 
Both boys laughed and Bob said:
 
“But you don’t believe in ghosts?”
 
For a moment the man made no reply, but looked steadily36 at his plate.
 
“Me no used to,” he declared finally. “Now me no know. You no believe um, eh?”
 
“Not on your life,” Bob laughed.
 
“There ain’t no such animal,” Jack added.
 
Jacques shook his head sadly it seemed to the boys.
 
“Mebby you stay here some time you change mind, oui.”
 
“Maybe, but I doubt it,” Bob declared as the man got up and began to clear away the dishes.
 
It was evident that enough had been said on the subject for the present and they returned to their cabin after telling their host that they would try fishing later in the day.
 
“Well?”
 
“Well?”
 
“I spoke first,” Jack laughed.
 
“All right. I suppose you want to know what I think of him now.”
 
“You guessed it.”
 
“Well, I think he’s all right.”
 
“You mean you don’t think he’s in it?”
 
“Exactly.”
 
“But why? What did he say to change your opinion?”
 
“Nothing. But I never said I thought he was guilty.”
 
“But you did all the same. I mean you thought so.”
 
“I won’t deny that I did have a sneaking37 impression that way, but something in the way he spoke made me change my mind. Oh, I know he’s not very prepossessing so far as looks go but, son, there’s something in his face when he talks that tells me he’s honest. Of course, I may be wrong, but that’s the way things stand in my mind just now.”
 
“Well, I’m neutral,” Jack said after a moment’s thought. “But what shall we do now, take a walk or a nap? I’m not sleepy.”
 
“Nor I, so I vote for the walk.”
 
They were gone a little over two hours during which time they made a pretty thorough canvass38 of the immediate26 neighborhood.

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