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HOME > Short Stories > The Golden Boys at the Haunted Camp > CHAPTER IX BURROWING.
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CHAPTER IX BURROWING.
 “The ladder, Jack1, the ladder!”  
After another thorough search of the chamber2 which had disclosed nothing to aid them, the boys had sat for some moments side by side on the hard floor each busy with his own thoughts. It was Bob who had broken the silence.
 
“Well, what do you know about that? Please kick me where it will do the most good. Talk about being dumb. Here we’ve got a perfectly3 good ladder right close by and we never thought of it.”
 
In another moment they had crawled back into the other room and were examining the old ladder which led up to the trap door.
 
“It’s nailed fast to that piece of wood,” Bob said.
 
“No it isn’t,” Jack insisted and to prove that he was right he grabbed hold of it and proved that while it was nailed fast to the piece of wood as Bob had said, the latter was in no way fastened to the wall.
 
“Go easy now,” Bob whispered. “We don’t want them to hear us or they will be watching the other opening, that is if there is one.”
 
“Let me go first, I found it,” Jack insisted a few minutes later after they had dragged the ladder through the hole and had raised it in the corner.
 
“All right, but I’ll be right at your heels.”
 
“Must be a hole through here,” Jack announced as soon as his head was up above the ledge4. “There’s a pretty strong draft here.”
 
“How big is it?”
 
“It’s none too large, but I reckon we can squeeze through.”
 
“Look out you don’t get stuck in it.”
 
By this time Jack’s feet had disappeared from sight or rather from touch for, since he had the torch Bob was unable to see a thing. He followed as rapidly as he could raise himself over the edge of the rock. As Jack had said the passage was a pretty tight fit, in fact there was barely room enough for him to hitch5 his body forward inch by inch. A few feet ahead he could hear Jack grunting6 and puffing7 as he crawled along. He had gone but a few feet when a sudden thought struck him. Suppose the men above had heard them and, suspecting what they had done, should drop through the trap and—
 
“But it’s too late to worry about that now,” he thought. “Probably they’d think that one of us was on guard and be afraid to risk it anyhow.”
 
It seemed to him that they had been in the passage for a long time although it really was only a few minutes, when Jack called back:
 
“Light ahead.”
 
“Wait a minute,” Bob ordered, and Jack stopped until he caught up with him.
 
“Look,” he said, pressing his body close against the side so that Bob could look past him.
 
In the distance, although it was hard to judge how far away, appeared a spot of light.
 
“It’s a way out all right,” he whispered. “But, Jack, we’ve got to be mighty8 careful, because more than likely one of them at least is watching there.”
 
“Maybe, but I doubt it.”
 
“Why?”
 
“Well, I don’t believe they could hear us when we moved the ladder. We didn’t make hardly a bit of noise and then again they wouldn’t think we would find that hole.”
 
“But that’s all guess work. I tell you we must go on the assumption that they’re on the watch.”
 
“Sure, but just the same I bet they aren’t.”
 
The passage was a little larger now and they were able to make better headway so that it was only a few minutes before they had reached the end of the burrow9. Jack had been filled with misgivings10 for the last thirty feet or so of the passageway. That hole looked mighty small to him and although it seemed to get larger as they got nearer it continued to look far too small for their purpose.
 
“I was afraid of it,” he called back a minute later as he reached the end.
 
“Afraid of what?”
 
“Look at the hole and you’ll see,” he replied squeezing close to the wall.
 
“Goodness, only a rabbit could get through there,” Bob declared.
 
“And we’re no rabbits.”
 
“But there’s one good thing about it. Probably they don’t know of it.”
 
“But what good’s that going to do us if we can’t get out?”
 
“Maybe we can. The ground there looks pretty soft and perhaps we can dig out.”
 
“We might if we had a shovel11.”
 
“You wait a minute,” Bob said as he began to hitch backward. He remembered feeling a flat stone a few feet back and the thought struck him that it might serve as a shovel.
 
“Here, try this and see how it works,” he said a moment later passing the rock, which was about a foot long and half as wide, to Jack.
 
“It’ll be a long hard job but I believe it can be done,” Jack announced after he had worked for about five minutes.
 
“See if you can get back of me and let me try it.”
 
“Wait till I get tired. We’ll work in short shifts. It isn’t very hard digging even with this stone but the main trouble is going to be to dispose of the dirt.”
 
“You work it back of you and then I can push it back of me with my hands,” Bob assured him.
 
But it was slow hard work. They were so cramped12 for room that they tired quickly, although they changed places every little while.
 
“Take it easy, Jack boy,” Bob cautioned. “She’s coming along in good shape and we’re in no hurry.”
 
“And it’s a lucky thing we aren’t,” Jack chuckled13, “or I reckon we’d have to wait till our hurry was over.”
 
It took exactly three hours by Bob’s watch before Jack declared that he believed he could squeeze through.
 
“You can pull me back by the heels if I get stuck,” he told Bob.
 
“Wait a minute before you try. How far from the shack14 do you suppose we are?” Bob asked.
 
“I should say about three hundred feet.”
 
“Which is about a hundred too much. I don’t think it’s more than two hundred if it is that.”
 
“Maybe you’re right. I didn’t pay much attention to the distance while we were crawling through. But what difference does it make?”
 
“It might make a lot and then it might not make any. It all depends on whether or not you’ll be in sight of the shack when you get out. I don’t think that anyone has been watching this place because I don’t believe they know anything about it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s so, you know. They may be ready to grab us the instant we show our heads, but we’ve got to risk that. I only want to caution you to keep low down and not make any noise.
 
“All right, then, here goes.” And Jack started to force his body through the hole.
 
It was a tight fit and required a lot of twisting and squirming, but he finally managed it. As he drew his feet out he lay still stretched at full length on the ground only raising his head slightly to glance about him. There was no sound to indicate the presence of anyone and after a moment he got to his hands and knees. To his great satisfaction he saw that the opening was surrounded by thick growth and that the shack was not visible. He placed his head back into the hole and whispered:
 
“It’s all right, old man, there’s nobody here and the shack is out of sight.”
 
“Can you hear them talking?”
 
“Not a thing.”
 
“Then they’re probably in the cave. Think I can get through?”
 
“Not yet. It was all I could do and you’re too fat, but hand me that stone and I’ll soon fix it so you can.”
 
Working from the outside was much easier and in about fifteen minutes he had enlarged the opening sufficiently15 to permit him to pull Bob through.
 
“Now let’s beat it,” Bob said as soon as he was on his feet.
 
“Just a minute,” Jack proposed. “If they’re in the cave what’s the matter with locking them in? I believe we could do it.”
 
“But what good would it do?” Bob objected. “No, it’s too much of a risk for the amount of gain. We couldn’t leave them there to starve, you know. I say let’s beat it while the beating’s good.”
 
“I suppose you’re right,” Jack agreed somewhat reluctantly. “But I sure hate not to try it.”
 
“He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day,” Bob quoted.
 
He turned and was about to lead the way down the mountain when the unexpected happened. A large clump16 of bushes, a few feet behind them, suddenly parted and a burly black whiskered giant stepped out. The man was evidently as much surprised at the meeting as were they and for an instant no one spoke17.
 
“How you geet out?” the man finally demanded.
 
He did not wait for an answer but turned and shouted:
 
“Here dey am.”
 
“Follow me,” Bob said quickly at the same time bounding away into the thick woods closely followed by Jack.
 
He knew that the path was only a short distance away but, for a moment was undecided as to whether it would be best to strike it or to keep to the thick woods. But before he had taken many steps he decided19 to pursue the latter course judging that they would be better able to elude20 them in case they took up the chase.
 
“Keep close behind me, Jack,” he cried turning his head.
 
“You can’t lose me,” Jack shouted back. “But hit it up lively. That fellow’s coming like a bull moose.”
 
So thick was the undergrowth that, although their way led down hill, they were unable to make anything like fast time. Once a loud report sounded not far behind and he heard the thud of the bullet as it struck a tree a little to his right.
 
“Make it snappy,” Jack cried and he redoubled his efforts to make time.
 
They could hear the sound of pursuit only a short distance behind and it seemed as though the man was gaining on them. But a moment later the sound of a cra............
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