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HOME > Short Stories > The Golden Boys at the Haunted Camp > CHAPTER XI THE HUNT FOR HELEN.
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CHAPTER XI THE HUNT FOR HELEN.
 It was nearly nine o’clock when they returned from a long sail on the lake and, declining an invitation to sit on the porch of the Sleeper1’s cabin on the ground that they might miss something if they stayed away from their cabin any longer, the boys bade them good night and turned off toward their quarters.  
“Give a yell if anything happens,” Mr. Sleeper called when they were about half way to the door. “I’m going to sit up, you know, and if there are any demonstrations2 I should like to be present.”
 
“Do you know, Jack3,” Bob began a little later, looking up from the book he was reading, “I can’t for the life of me understand how it is that nothing has been seen or heard in the other cabin.”
 
“Are you sure there hasn’t?”
 
“Of course we’ve only their word for it.”
 
“Of course.”
 
“But why should they lie about it?”
 
“I haven’t said they had lied.”
 
“But you implied it.”
 
“Maybe.”
 
“Look here, son, do you suspect that they know anything about it?”
 
“Who was that detective that used to say ‘suspect everyone and everything’? No, frankly4 I don’t. We came here first and the ghost was busy long before that so how could they be mixed up in it?”
 
“Of course that’s a point in their favor, but after all it doesn’t prove anything. One or all of them, for that matter might have been around here somewhere without actually stopping at the camp.”
 
“That’s true too. But really you know we have no real reason to suspect them. They certainly are refined people and why should they be up here for any such purpose as that? If it wasn’t for two or three litle things, about which we have spoken, I’d never have given a thought to them in that connection.”
 
“I know what you mean and I feel the same way.”
 
“One thing is pretty sure and that is that if they are mixed up in it they are not the ones who are actually doing it. They couldn’t have shot that arrow the other day you know.”
 
“And that’s another point in their favor.”
 
“Well, I guess we’ll have to return a verdict of not—What was that?”
 
A loud thud on the door interrupted him and, even as he asked the question, Jack was on his way toward the door. It was dark outside as there was no moon but the light of the lamp shone out and enabled him to see for a distance of several feet. There was no one in sight and, after a hasty glance around, he was about to turn back when his eye caught sight of an arrow deeply imbedded in the pine door. It took a strong pull to draw it out, but in a moment he had it inside and was showing it to Bob who, instead of following him to the door had hastened to the window beneath which he had set the trap.
 
“Another warning, I suppose,” he said with a slight grin as he pointed6 to a bit of paper which was tied with a bit of string about the middle of the arrow.
 
Jack had it off in a jiffy and together they bent7 over it. There were but two words printed in large letters, “Last warning.”
 
“The plot thickens,” Bob whispered and Jack was sure that he detected a note of uneasiness in his brother’s voice.
 
“Three strikes and out, eh?”
 
“Not out,” Bob snapped. “In the words of the immortal8 Perry, ‘We’ve only just begun to fight’.”
 
“If only we could get hold of something to fight. Ghosts are mighty9 elusive10 things, I’ll tell the world,” Jack declared.
 
“But, judging from that note, we’re about due to find something,” Bob reminded him.
 
“How about calling Mr. Sleeper?”
 
“Not yet. Let’s wait and see if anything more happens. We can show him the arrow and note just as well in the morning.”
 
For an hour they sat, one on each side of the table, and read without speaking. Then, just as the clock, over in the dining cabin, struck eleven Jack closed his book.
 
“Time to put out the light,” he said.
 
Bob also closed this book and turned the light so low that practically no light came from it.
 
“If we hear anything,” he said, “I’m going to hide right below that window sill and if you see that thing I want you to give a low whistle. Somehow or other I have a hunch11 that he or it’ll be too sharp to walk into that trap and I’m going to make a grab for it.”
 
He had hardly finished when the spot of light appeared on the wall and he at once did as he had said. The window sill was only about two feet from the floor and his position, as he crouched12 there, ready to spring was anything but comfortable. He was obliged to move slightly from time to time to keep his muscles from cramping13, but he was careful to make no noise.
 
For what seemed a long time but was in reality only a few minutes he waited and then the signal came. Instantly he jerked himself up and, without waiting for even a glance, thrust both hands through the cotton mosquito netting. They closed on something hard and, with a quick yank, he pulled it in through the window.
 
“Turn up the light, Jack,” he shouted.
 
Jack quickly obeyed the order and, as the light flooded the room the two boys gazed at the object which Bob held in his hands. For a moment neither spoke5 then Jack gave vent14 to low chuckle15.
 
“Some ghost,” he laughed.
 
It was little wonder that the boy laughed for the object which Bob was holding in his hands was a pumpkin16 painted white and mounted on the end of a broom handle. Grotesque17 features had been cut through the rind and the inside had been hollowed out and a candle fitted to the end of the pole. A white sheet was draped on the lower part of the pumpkin and flowed down nearly to the lower end of the pole.
 
“Did anybody have hold of it?” Jack asked.
 
“Must have. It took a good yank to get it away.”
 
“But did you hear anything?”
 
“Narry a sound.”
 
“Where do you suppose they got hold of a pumpkin at this time of year? Must be a last year’s one.”
 
“Of course.”
 
“Well, what—”
 
But the question was left unfinished for at that instant a loud shriek18 rang out through the night. For an instant the two boys looked at each other without speaking, then they heard Mr. Sleeper calling.
 
“Bob, Jack. Here quick!”
 
They rushed out of the cabin together and met Mr. Sleeper half way between the two buildings.
 
“Did you hear that yell?” he gasped19.
 
“Of course. What was it?” Bob said quickly.
 
“I—I’m not sure but I’m afraid it was Helen.”
 
“Helen!”
 
Both boys uttered the name at the same time.
 
“It sounded like her voice and she’s gone.”
 
“Gone? Where?”
 
“I—I wish I knew. You see, she stepped out on the porch just a minute ago and then I heard that yell. I rushed out as quickly as I could but she wasn’t there.”
 
Just then Jacques joined them.
 
“What dat yell?” he demanded.
 
“That’s what we all want to know,” Bob told him. “Mr. Sleeper thinks it was Helen.”
 
“Where ees she?”
 
“She’s gone,” Mr. Sleeper groaned20 just as a voice called from the cabin.
 
“Where’s Helen?”
 
Mrs. Sleeper appeared, coming down the path, a bath robe thrown hastily about her. Her husband caught her in his arms and hastily explained what had happened, trying to make as light of it as possible. But she was not deceived and sobbed21 heavily as he led her back to the cabin, the others following.
 
“What can we do?” Mr. Sleeper asked a moment later.
 
“Go after them, of course,” Jack said eagerly.
 
“They can’t be far away and if Mrs. Sleeper isn’t afraid to stay here alone I suggest that you and Jacques go one way while Jack and I go another,” Bob suggested.
 
“Go by all means.” Mrs. Sleeper sobbed. “And don’t come back without her. I couldn’t bear that.”
 
“I’ll get our flashes,” Jack said.
 
He was back almost immediately and Mr. Sleeper brought out two flash lights handing one to Jacques.
 
“We’ll go down the lake while you go up,” Bob proposed. “But we don’t want to overlook anything. Look for a trail and if you find it give a yell and we’ll do the same.”
 
“Probably her father couldn’t follow an elephant track, but Jacques ought to be able to recognize a trail if he finds one,” Bob said as soon as they were out of hearing of the others.
 
“It’s like hunting for a needle in a hay stack in this darkness, but take it from me, we’re going to find that girl,” Jack declared.
 
“You said it, son,” Bob replied grimly.
 
Putting into use every bit of the training they had received from long years spent in the woods they made their way, as rapidly as they deemed prudent22, through the black forest.
 
“Perhaps they took her in a canoe,” Jack suggested.
 
“Maybe, but if they did it would be useless to try to follow them on the lake in the night. Water leaves no trail, you know. No. I’ve a hunch that they didn’t have a boat and that they went this way.”
 
“Well, I hope your hunch is right,” Jack declared as he stubbed his toe on a root and fell headlong.
 
For an hour they pushed on. They were not going in a straight line, but were zig-zagging in the hope that they would cross the trail of the man or men who had stolen the girl, but, as time passed and they found not the slightest clue, a feeling of discouragement took possession of them.
 
“I’m afraid it’s no use,” Bob panted as he stopped to rest. “Either they didn’t come this way or else they were clever enough not to leave a trail.”
 
“I think your first guess is right,” Jack declared. “I don’t see how anyone could get through this thick woods in the dark without leaving some sign.”
 
“Shall we turn back?”
 
“After what she said?”
 
“I know, but—”
 
“No buts about it. Let’s keep at it. It’s the only thing to do.”
 
“All right, come on.”
 
They had gone but a few feet when Jack’s keen eyes caught sight of something white caught on an old stump23. With a low cry he snatched it up and held it out to Bob.
 
“It’s hers,” he declared.
 
“Are you sure?” Bob asked looking closely at the small handkerchief.
 
“Of course I am. Look at that S in the corner.”
 
“I guess there’s no doubt about it. Now let’s see if we can’t find the trail.”
 
For some minutes, by the light of the flashes, they searched. A broken twig24, a single imprint25 of a foot or an abrasion26 of the bark of a tree would be enough to give them the direction. And finally, a few feet away from the place where he had found the handkerchief, Jack hit it.
 
“Here we are, Bob,” he cried, “see that broken twig?”
 
It is one thing to find a hidden trail in the dense27 woods when one does not know where to look, but it is not nearly so difficult for one versed28 in the art to follow the trail once it is located. From now on they had little trouble in keeping on the scent29.
 
“We promised to yell if we found it,” Jack reminded Bob a moment later.
 
“I know, but it would be the wrong thing to do now. In the first place they wouldn’t hear us and then we may be nearer the villains30 than we think.”
 
So they pushed on, now making fairly rapid headway and then having to hunt for some time before being sure which way the trail led.
 
“I’ve lost all sense of direction,” Jack said, after they had searched for several minutes, about a half hour after striking the trail, “but it doesn’t seem to me that we’re heading for Mount Katahdin. How about it?”
 
“I haven’t been paying much attention to that myself, but I think we’re a long way off the mountain trail. Unless I’m mistaken we’ve been heading toward Millinockett Lake for some time.”
 
“But what do you suppose—Hark, did you hear that?”
 
“No, I heard nothing.”
 
“Well, I did. Listen.”
 
Both boys strained their ears and a moment later a faint but unmistakable sound was heard.
 
“It’s a girl crying,” Jack declared.
 
“And only a little way ahead of us,” Bob added. “Come on but be careful, it may be a trap.”
 
They had been using their flash lights freely as it was necessary in order to make any kind of time through the dense forest, but now they groped their way between the trees in the pitch darkness fearing to show a light. That the............
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