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HOME > Short Stories > The Golden Boys at the Haunted Camp > CHAPTER V CLUES.
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 That night Bob again awoke. Wide awake in an instant he glanced toward the wall opposite, but there was no spot of light there. Remembering that the spot had not appeared the night before until he had been awake for some time he waited. Slowly the minutes passed until he judged that he had been awake fully1 a quarter of an hour before it appeared. Remembering that he had promised to call Jack2 in case the spot came, he whispered loudly.  
Jack was a heavy sleeper3 and he had to call several times before he succeeded in arousing him.
“What’s the matter?”
“You wanted to see the ghost. Look on the wall over your bed,” Bob whispered.
He could hear the bed creak as Jack raised himself.
“Well, what do you know about that?”
“Sure you aren’t dreaming?” Bob asked.
“Just a minute till I pinch myself. No, I felt it all right,” Jack declared.
“Now watch it.”
The spot had begun to move as on the previous night and took the same path. Neither spoke4 or moved until it had made the journey and returned to its first position. Then Bob heard Jack getting out of bed.
“What you going to do?” he asked.
Jack made no reply but a second later he had pulled down the shade on the window on the side of the room at the foot of Bob’s bed. Instantly the spot disappeared.
“Guess that proves that it comes from outside,” Jack chuckled5 as he sat down on the foot of Bob’s bed.
“Good boy. I never thought of that,” Bob declared.
“Well, haven’t I always told you that I used my head for something else than a hat rack?” Jack asked.
“I never disputed it. But suppose you raise the shade again and see if it’s still there.”
Jack quickly did as his brother suggested but the spot did not reappear.
“Now listen,” Bob ordered.
Two or three minutes passed then, seemingly from a great distance, came that same weird6 laugh.
“Did you hear it?” Bob asked.
“Sure did.”
“Then I didn’t dream it.”
“Not this time anyhow,” Jack assured him.
“Well, I never heard of a ghost that could be stopped by anything so thin as a window curtain so that makes it certain that it’s due to some human agency. Not that I ever thought otherwise,” he hastened to add, “but it’s kind of comforting to have positive evidence.”
“You bet,” Jack agreed.
They talked for some time longer, but as the spot did not again appear, Bob finally said:
“Well I reckon the show’s over for tonight so we might as well go to sleep again.”
“Guess that curtain kind of fazed his ghostship,” Jack chuckled as he groped his way back to his bed.
But he came back before reaching it to say:
“How about getting up early and reconnoitering a bit?”
“Good idea. What time is it?”
“Half past one,” Jack replied glancing at the luminous7 face of his wrist watch.
“All right, I’ll call you about four and we’ll scout8 around.”
Bob possessed9 the faculty10 of being able to awake at any time fixed11 in his mind on going to sleep so he had no fear of oversleeping and in a few minutes they were both once more in the land of nod.
The eastern sky was just beginning to redden when he shook his brother.
“Come on if you’re going ghost hunting with me,” he said.
“Be with you in the shake of a dog’s tail,” Jack replied as he sprang from his bed.
“Which way’ll we go?” Jack asked as soon as they were out of doors.
“Which way did you think that laugh came from?”
“It seemed to be from up the lake.”
“Same here. Suppose we go that way.”
“Suits me.”
“And we want to be careful not to overlook anything,” Bob cautioned.
“You bet. Say, Bob, we ought to have Kernertok and his dog, Sicum, here. I’ll bet he’d track ’em or it down.”
It was still dark in the thick woods, but the light was increasing every minute and, as soon as they were well away from the camp, Bob proposed that they sit down and wait a little until it got lighter12.
“We might miss something in the dark,” he said.
“Probably you mean, that is, if there’s anything to miss,” Jack agreed.
In half an hour Bob declared that it was light enough and they started off through the thick forest paralleling the shore of the lake. They went very slowly searching every foot of the way for some sign that would serve as a clue: a fresh foot print, a newly broken twig13 or some other indication of the recent passing of human beings.
“It’s been so dry lately that I’m afraid foot prints wouldn’t show anyway,” Bob declared after they had gone about a hundred rods and had found nothing.
“If we only had a nose like a dog’s now we might be able to do something,” Jack added.
A few minutes later Bob stooped and picked something from the ground with an exclamation14 of satisfaction.
“What is it?” Jack, who at the moment was a few feet behind him, asked.
Bob held out his hand and in it was the stump15 of a cigarette about an inch long.
“Huh, is that all?”
“But it means that someone has been here.”
“Sure, but how long ago?”
“Since the last rain. You can see that it has never been wet because the paper would have turned brown if it had and there’s not the least trace of it except at the end where it was in someone’s mouth.”
“I reckon you’re right there, Sherlock,” Jack admitted.
“And Mr. Sleeper doesn’t smoke and Jacques always smokes a pipe. At least I never saw him smoke a cigarette.”
For the better part of an hour they searched the ground all around the place but in vain. No other trace could they find.
“It beats me,” Jack declared finally. “I thought we knew something about woodcraft and all that sort of thing, but the fellow who dropped that stub has us skinned a mile.”
“Unless he dropped it from an air ship,” Bob suggested.
“Are you serious?”
“Hardly. Still I suppose it might have happened that way.”
“Well, let’s go on. We don’t need to be back for a couple of hours.”
After they had covered perhaps a mile more with no results, Bob suggested that they cut over to the lake and follow the shore back.
“We might find where a boat was pulled up,” he said.
For the greater part of the way the trees grew close to the water’s edge and they found it very hard going, but they were used to pushing their way through places where it seemed almost impossible to pass.
“One thing’s sure,” Jack panted as he climbed over a fallen tree, “No one could have landed along here and got through this stuff without leaving some marks.”
They were about half way back when they came to a place where there was a bit of beach. It was rocky but between the rocks were patches of sand and Bob’s quick eye caught sight of a foot print imbedded deeply in the soft sand.
“Here’s something,” he cried as he stooped over to examine the mark.
For some minutes he gazed at the print while Jack was eagerly hunting for others. But in this he was unsuccessful. That one was the only foot print on that part of the shore.
“Looks as though he had tried to step only on the stones and had made a single misstep,” he said as he came back to where Bob was still kneeling.
“That would be easy,” Bob agreed as he straightened up.
“Well, what do you make of it, Sherlock? How tall was he and what was the color of his hair?” Jack grinned.
“You ought to know that it takes at least two foot prints to judge a man’s height by and we’ve only one, but look at it yourself and see if it tells you anything.”
“Hum, ’bout a number eight and it wasn’t a moccasin. That’s about the limit of my deductions,” Jack declared a moment later.
“You hit all except the important points,” Bob smiled.
“Such as what?”
“Well, in the first place, that print was made by a heavy man and—”
“I might have mentioned that except that I thought it was too obvious,” Jack interrupted.
“And again it was made by a man from the city.”
“Not necessarily. He might have found those pointed16 toed shoes or they might have been given to him or—”
“Deductions are seldom absolute,” Bob broke in. “I’m only stating what is probable and you never saw a native with a pair of shoes, that would make that mark, on his feet.”
“My error. Pray proceed.” Jack humbly17 apologized.
“And most significant of all that print was made within the last twelve hours.”
“How do you know that?”
“It’s easy. As you see it is not more than a foot from the water and if you’ll remember there was a strong wind blowing this way just before sundown yesterday.”
“And there must have been surf enough to have washed the print out if it had been there then,” Jack finished.
“But I don’t see how he got away from here without leaving a trail.”
“Neither do I and that fact rather downs my theory that he was a city man,” Bob acknowledged.
For another half hour they searched the surrounding neighborhood but without any result and finally started back arriving at the camp just as Jacques blew the rising horn.
“What’s next?” Jack asked when they were back in their cabin.
“Seems to me our best bet is to be outside tonight.”
“My idea exactly.”
For the first time since they had been there the day passed slowly to the boys anxious as they were for the night to come. They had decided18 not to tell the Sleepers19 what they had seen deeming it best to keep it to themselves for the present at least.
That night was very dark as there was no moon and the stars were obscured by thick clouds so they were unable to see more than three or four feet ahead of themselves as they stole softly out of the cabin shortly after eleven o’clock. The window at the foot of Bob’s bed faced the north and it was in that direction they turned their steps. The forest began not more than forty feet from the cabin so they had but a short distance to go.
“He or they must have been about here,” Bob whispered as they paused beneath a large spruce.
“Couldn’t have been much further back,” Jack agreed.
“Then suppose you take this tree and I’ll get one a bit over this way.”
Jack quickly swung himself into the lower branches of the tree while Bob moved off to the right. About ten feet above the ground he found a convenient crotch and proceeded to make himself as comfortable as circumstances would permit. How still it was. No breeze stirred the branches and save for an occasional croak20 of a frog no sound broke the silence. An hour passed and Jack was finding it difficult to keep awake. He wondered how Bob was making out in his perch21 a few yards away, and if he was as sleepy as he was.
He had just glanced at his watch and noted22 that it was a quarter past twelve when a shrill23 cry rang through the forest. It was a cry of fear or pain, he was not sure which and, for a moment he waited uncertain what to do. Then he heard Bob’s voice from beneath the branch.
“What was that cry?”
“Just what I was going to ask you.”
“Did you think it came from the Sleepers’ cabin?”
“Shouldn’t say so. It sounded farther off than that.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“Then I reckon we’d better go see,” Jack said as he dropped lightly to the ground.
They made their way as rapidly as possible toward the cabin, not daring to make use of their flash lights, and had nearly reached it when a voice ordered:
“That’s near enough.”
At the same instant a beam of light sprang from the porch.
“That you Mr. Sleeper?” Bob asked in a low tone.
“Is that you, Bob?” The man asked instead of replying to his question.
“It’s me all right,” Bob said as he stepped forward.
Mr. Sleeper had a rain coat over his pajamas24 and in his hand was a revolver which he slipped into the pocket of the coat as the boys came up on the porch.
“Did you hear that yell a few minutes ago?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, we heard it and wasn’t sure but what it came from your cabin. That’s why we came to see,” Bob told him.
“You got dressed mighty25 quick.”
“Because we were not undressed,” Bob explained.
“Been roosting out in the trees,” Jack added.
“Roosting in trees! I don’t quite understand.”
“I’ll tell you all about it,” Bob said and explained what had happened.
“This bids fair to be quite an interesting problem,” Mr. Sleeper declared as soon as he had finished. “That yell didn’t come from this cabin, but it wasn’t a great way off. Haven’t I read that a wild cat makes a cry like that?”
“That was no cat,” Jack assured him. “It’s a fact that they do sound something like it, but there’s a difference.”
“You have heard them?”
“Lots of times. If you’d ever heard one you could tell the difference.”
“Then you think it was a man?”
“Either a man or a woman. No four-legged animal around here makes a noise like that.”
Just then the door of the cabin opened and a voice asked:
“Did you catch it, daddy?”
“Not yet, kitten.”
“Well, please take this.”
In the dim light the boys saw her hand her father a small object and the next moment he burst into laughter.
“That kid’ll never learn to be serious I’m afraid,” he said as he held the thing out for the boys to see.
It was a small salt shaker.
“Thought you’d better put some on its tail,” Jack laughed.
“It’s the only way he’d ever catch anything except a cold,” the girl chuckled loudly enough for them all to hear.
“I’ll catch you if you don’t get back to bed,” Mr. Sleeper tried to make his voice stern as he started toward the door but it slammed almost in his face and he laughingly turned back.
“She carries too many guns for me,” he sighed.
Suddenly Jack grasped Bob by the arm. “Look over there toward Katahdin,” he ordered.
As Bob turned his eye quickly caught what had caused Jack’s exclamation. Far away, seemingly nearly a mile high in the heavens, a light was flashing. It would appear and disappear a few times in rapid succession and then would go out for a time only to begin again a moment later.
“It’s a signal of some sort,” Bob declared, “and unless I’m mistaken its Morse. Hold your flash here quick.”
Searching his pockets he quickly found a pencil and a scrap26 of paper and began writing down the letters as the strange light spelled them out.
Then the light stopped and although they waited for some time it did not reappear.
“You got ’em just in the nick of time,” Jack declared as Bob passed the paper to him. “That first word’s half, of course.”
“And the fellow who was signaling must have been on the very top of Katahdin,” Bob asserted.
“Have you any idea what it means?” Mr. Sleeper asked.
“Only that something’s due to happen at eleven thirty tomorrow night.”
“Why not at eleven thirty in the forenoon?” Jack asked.
“It’s possible, of course, but it’s more likely to be at night,” Bob insisted.
They talked a while longer and then, as nothing more happened, the boys returned to their own cabin.
“Suppose we go up in the morning,” Bob said as they were undressing.
“Up where?”
“Up Katahdin, of course.”
“Just the ticket. We may find out something and we’ll have the trip anyway.”
As soon as breakfast was over they asked Jacques to put them up a lunch telling him that they were going to climb Katahdin. Was it fancy or did Bob detect a strange hint of fear in the half-breed’s eyes as he told him their destination? He was not sure for his expression changed almost instantly and a smile of assent27 took its place.
“She ver’ hard climb,” he warned them.
“I reckon,” Bob agreed.
“Mebby you wait go some other day. Look lak rain today.”
Bob was not sure but fancied there was a note of eagerness in the man’s voice.
“Oh, well, we can’t any more than get wet,” he declared and the man offered no more objection.
“It’s a good thing we brought those pocket radios with us,” Bob said when they were back in the cabin.
“Why, what you going to do with them?”
“We’ll leave one with Mr. Sleeper and take the other with us.”
“Good idea.”
The radios mentioned were a recent invention which they had worked and were very compact, a small selenium plate taking the place of the ordinary aerial.
Mr. Sleeper displayed great interest when they showed him the outfit28 and explained how it worked.
“Sure I’ll keep one and if you get into any trouble just let me know,” he said as soon as they had told him their plans. “I’d like to go with you but I’m afraid I couldn’t stand it. I’m not much of a walker. Broke my leg a few years ago and it never was set right. Gives out if I attempt to walk very far.”
“But my legs are all right and I want to go.”
“I was afraid you were listening behind that door.”
“But I can go?” Helen asked eagerly.
“Not this time, kitten. This is no trip for a girl.”
“We’ll take you up there before the summer’s over,” Bob promised.
“Did you notice anything peculiar29 about Jacques when I told him where we’re going?” Bob asked as he pushed the canoe off and dug his paddle deep in the water.
“No, why?”
“I just wondered.”
“But did you?”
“Well, I hardly know. Perhaps I just imagined it but it seemed to me that he wasn’t very anxious for us to go.”
“But what earthly reason could he have?”
“Haven’t an idea unless he’s mixed up in this mess in some way.”
“But you don’t think—”
“No I don’t think he is but you never can tell, you know,” Bob interrupted.
It was shortly after eight o’clock when they reached the dam.
“Have ye seed thot ghost yit?” the keeper asked them as they drew the canoe from the water.
“Not yet,” Bob smiled.
“Where you goin’?”
“Going to climb Katahdin,” Jack told him.
“Thot’s a pretty stiff climb so it is but it’s meself as guesses ye’re good fer it. But by the way, ye’d better kape yer eyes open ’cause that’s someone up thar.”
“What do you mean?” Bob asked.
“Faith an’ I mane whot I say. I seen a light up thar most ivery night fer a wake or more.”
“What kind of a light?”
“I dunno, but it was a flashing light, like as if somebody was makin’ a signal.”
“Well, we’ll be on the look-out,” Bob promised as they started down the gorge30.

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