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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Mystery at Camp Lenape » CHAPTER XIV SO LONG, LENAPE!
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CHAPTER XIV SO LONG, LENAPE!
It was past ten o’clock that night when Jerry and Jake Utway tapped softly on the door of the trunk room. The door opened a crack.

“It’s us—the twins!” Jerry whispered urgently. “Are you all right?”

“Yes. Come in,” responded a familiar voice. The two boys, with a backward look into the starlit night, slid through the doorway, and Jake snapped on his flashlight.

They saw before them a stranger. No, it was Burk—but a different Burk, a man new-made in the few hours since they had seen him. Now, they could see that he was quite a young man, a being entirely different from the haggard, bearded fugitive they had rescued. During siesta hour, as they had promised, they had smuggled into the hiding-place not only food, but also a razor with which Jake methodically scraped his upper lip every two weeks or so. They had also made up a bundle of clothing extracted from their camping outfits. But they had not expected such a transformation as that which had produced this likeable young fellow who now smiled back at them in the rays of the lantern.
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Burk had shed his drab convict’s clothing, torn and stained as it was. He was now attired in garments contributed by the twins, and wore a flannel shirt, black sweater under a Norfolk jacket, and Jake’s corduroy trousers. A pair of stout army shoes had replaced his sodden prison footwear. A cloth cap concealed his tell-tale cropped head; he would not dare to remove that cap where others might see him. His shaving operations had left a small, neat mustache on his lip, which gave him a cocky, cheerful look. In fact, the food and rest he had taken had done much to restore him to his old, care-free outlook upon life. This was a surprising Burk; he was actually grinning at them, as though his whole future did not depend upon the outcome of the adventure upon which they were about to embark.

“Is everything ready?” he asked.
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“Well,” answered Jake slowly, “we’ve had to make a few changes in our plans. It’s this way. A goofy kid named Jones, in my tent, has gone and gotten himself lost somewhere. Our leader is worried to death about what might have happened to him—this kid is a nosy bird we nicknamed Sherlock, and is always fussing around trying to detect things. He didn’t show up for supper, and everybody’s been chasing all over the place ever since, trying to find him. We’re supposed to be looking for him now ourselves.”

“I think, from what you say, that I know the boy you mean. Well, he detected himself into some trouble.”

“You’ve seen him? You know where he is?”

“I do. If you’ll look over in the corner, there by my bed, you’ll find him safe and sound, though a little scared.”

The Utway twins pushed past the speaker, and tiptoed to the place mentioned. Sure enough; there on the canvas lay Sherlock Jones, flat on his back, his wrists pinioned behind him, a gag in his mouth held in place by his own handkerchief, above which a pair of pale eyes goggled through his thick glasses with a piteous, pleading look. For some hours past, the amateur sleuth had been expecting a gruesome death any moment from the mysterious stranger who had trapped him; now, at sight of the notorious Utway brothers, he thought his last hour had struck. He wriggled in his bonds helplessly. Through all the long time of his captivity, Sherlock Jones had come to the conclusion that he didn’t want to be a famous detective. If he ever got through this harrowing experience alive, he’d never shadow another suspect again.
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“How—how did he get here?” gasped Jerry.

“I’m sorry for the poor chap, boys, but it couldn’t be helped. He was smart enough to find out where I was, and if I hadn’t tied him up, he would have had me caught in the wink of an eye! It was the only thing I could do.”

“Well, that’s not so good,” put in Jake. “Dog-gone it, why did he have to come snooping around right at this time? It’s a mess; it will make our getaway all the harder. I thought that all we would have to do would be to sneak out our stuff after Taps to-night, and hit the trail. But right now, half the camp is chasing all over the place, looking for this sap; if we try to get through now, they might easily spot us, and if we stay here, they might decide to look in here any minute. What’ll we do with him?”
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“Yes, what?” Jerry echoed. “If we don’t leave pretty quick, we’ll be nabbed. Sherlock heard everything, and we don’t dare let him go now. Even if we leave him here, he’ll work loose sooner or later, and that will be even worse for us.” He glared at the prostrate Sherlock, the whole cause of this hitch in their carefully laid plans. “I guess we’ll just have to tie him tight and get as far away as we can before he’s discovered.”

“You two are ready to travel, then?” asked Burk.

“We couldn’t get our blankets, because everybody in the tent is awake and up,” said Jerry, “but that’s all right. We can start right away, sure.” Both twins wore khaki hiking breeches, woolen stockings, flannel shirts, and high shoes, and each wore a heavy mackinaw that would protect him well from the cold.

Burk’s tone was serious. “And you’re still determined to run away from your friends and go with me? Don’t you think it would be wiser to let me start off alone, and let me take my chance without involving you in my trouble?”

“Dead sure. We go with you. Honest, we can help you a lot—we know all the trails around here, and we can hike fine. We’re with you to see this through to the finish!”
136

Jake, during this whispered discussion, had been lost in thought. Now he broke out with the scheme that had occurred to him. “Listen! The only thing we can do with Sherlock is to take him with us! Sounds crazy, I know,” he went on, looking at their amazed faces, “but we can’t leave him here to let the cat out of the bag as soon as we’re started. If we can take him with us up the mountain and leave him somewhere, we’ll be far away before he can find his way back and break the news. What do you think? Anyway, we’ve got to do something right away; the longer we stick around here, the less chance we’ll have to get clear. The campers are buzzing all over the place like hornets; pretty soon the moon will rise, and we won’t be able to get ten feet without being spotted. Do we take him?”

“That might be the way out,” said Burk slowly. “It’s my fault that we’re in this fix, and I don’t want the poor fellow to suffer any more than he has to. Let’s go!” The delay was telling on the man’s nerves. He longed to get into the open, and start the dash for Canoe Mountain; each minute they lingered would bring them fresh difficulties. “Here, I’ll take the lad. You two lead the way.”
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Without ceremony, Burk lifted the helpless Sherlock and slung him over his shoulder in the position known as “fireman’s lift.” The bound boy was too helpless to put up a struggle as he was borne away in this undignified fashion, and hung limply while Burk, with cat-like steps, made for the door in the wake of the Utway twins.

It was a fine night outside. The air smelled fresh and cool; later it would be edged with the chill of the mountains, but now it was soft and spicy with pine scents, and breathing it brought a recklessness to one’s senses. The lodge above the little party was dark, but several lanterns burned among the tents below them on the hillside, rivalling the far pale radiance of the constellations in the summer heavens. Taking care that not the slightest noise should disturb the watchful searchers scattered in the darkness about them, the twins led the way past the windows of the kitchen, scouted ahead as far as the side of the ice-house, and beckoned the burdened man to follow. A breathless dash, and they were in the cover of the low bushes that grew on the camp side of the wood-road, and here they paused a moment for breath.

Jake felt his brother’s fingers clutch his arm with a swift start.
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“Look!” breathed Jerry. Coming down the path were four or five dim forms, their legs showing in the yellow pool of light from the big lantern that marched with them. Burk also saw the advancing squad. Unceremoniously he dumped his bound burden among the bushes, and flopped down beside it, just in time. The lantern was swung high over the bearer’s head, and a voice challenged them.

“Who’s over there?”

Jake recognized the tall, spare figure of his councilor. “It’s Jake!” he called. “Did you find anything, Mr. Avery?”

Jim Avery left the group a few steps, to meet them. Already he was dangerously close upon the hidden figures. “No, not yet. We were just up to the hospital tent. No sign of him. We’re going down to the dock again now. Hadn’t you boys better get to bed?”

“We can’t go to sleep as long as old Sherlock is missing,” responded Jake truthfully.

“Well, better go to the tent soon, anyway. And don’t get too far away from camp!”

The councilor hurried off to catch up with the rest of the search party. Jake and Jerry breathed sighs of relief as the light was taken from their faces, and they watched it bobbing off down the hill toward the baseball field.
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“Whew! That was a close call! Jerry, I thought I’d yell if he came an inch closer!” Jake drew his sleeve across his brow. “Guess we can start again now, Mr. Burk. Can we help you any with packing Sherlock?”

Burk was already on his feet again, lifting the inert body to his shoulders.

“I can manage, thanks,” he whispered. “But as soon as we get out of the danger zone, I’m going to untie the poor chap. This must be hurting him. He can’t do any damage now, if we untie him. I’m sure sorry I had to lash him up this way.”

He fell in behind the two boys, now striking through the patch of cleared woodland that led to the road. Their plan was to follow the road for about half a mile, circle the farm where it ended, and from there head through the mountains southward, along the Lenape range toward Canoe Mountain. The night was yet young, and they hoped to put some miles between the camp and themselves before morning would force them to stop, rest, and hide from any possible discovery. A sallow tinge on the eastern horizon told them that the moon would shortly be rising, to light them on their fleeting way. Behind them trudged the man Burk, his burden heavy but his heart lighter than it had been for many a day, and the taste of freedom on his lips.
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As they topped a rising knoll above the road, Jake Utway looked back. He could still see a few dancing lights, like will-o’-the-wisps over the camp.

“So long, Lenape!” he said softly, and headed up the road, on the first leg of their dash for Canoe Mountain. Something told him that he would pass through many hazardous passages before he again saw the familiar scenes of the camp by the lake. Their daring venture had taken them outside the pale of law, now; every man’s hand would be against them. There would be no ease for them until somehow, somewhere, they could prove that the courts of the land had pronounced guilty an innocent man.


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