E-text prepared by James Eager
1. The disease "consumption" as used in this book has been renamed in modern times. Today we call this disease "tuberculosis." (The term "consumption" might also have been applied to other wasting diseases such as cancer.) Of course, tuberculosis in one as young as the character of "Skinny" is pretty serious.
2. The first 3 books in the Roy Blakeley series are pretty much one story.
ROY BLAKELEY HIS STORY
Being the true narrative of his adventures and those of his troop on land and sea and in the mud—particularly in the mud. Taken from the Troop Book of the 1st Bridgeboro Troop B. S. A. and arranged by himself with the assistance of Pee-wee Harris and
PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH
TOM SLADE, BOY SCOUT, TOM SLADE AT TEMPLE CAMP, ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY HOWARD L. HASTINGS
PUBLISHED WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
"I began sinking as low as my waist"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. TROUBLES OF MY OWN—THE BIG CONCLAVE II. SWATTING THE SPY III. SWATTING THE SPY—CONTINUED IV. THE PLOT GROWS THINNER—OR ELSE THICKER V. LOST VI. THE TIGHT PLACE VII. WEETONKA, THE TERRIBLE CHIEF VIII. RESOPEKITWAFTENLY IX. THE LOST LETTER X. THE RAVENS XI. LOST XII. ARTIE'S ADVENTURE XIII. TRACKING XIV. THE SLACKER XV. DURING NOON HOUR XVI. NOBLE RAGS XVII. THE TWO CROSSES XVIII. SCOUT LAW NUMBER THREE XIX. THE END OF THE MEETING XX. MOSTLY ABOUT SKINNY XXI. SOMETHING MISSING XXII. SHOWS YOU WHERE I DO THE TALKING XXIII. IN THE WOODS XXIV. TREASURE ISLAND XXV. THE SHORT CUT XXVI. IN MY OWN CAMP XXVII. THE GENTLE BREEZE XXVIII. JOLLYING PEE-WEE XXIX. JIMMY, THE BRIDGE-TENDER XXX. GONE XXXI. THE CAPTAIN'S ORDERS XXXII. I MAKE A DANDY FRIEND XXXIII. SO LONG—SEE YOU LATER
TROUBLES OF MY OWN—THE BIG CONCLAVE
Well, here I am at last, ready to tell you the adventures of our young lives. Right away I have trouble with Pee-wee Harris. He's about as easy to keep down as a balloon full of gas. We call him the young dirigible because he's always going up in the air. Even at the start he must stick in his chapter heading about a conclave.
Hanged if I know what a conclave is. It's some kind of a meeting I guess. He said it was something like a peace conference, but believe me, the meeting I'm going to tell you about wasn't much like a peace conference. I told him I'd use my own heading and his too, just to keep him quiet. I think he's got his pockets stuffed full of chapter headings and that he'll be shooting them at me all the way through—like a machine—gun.
I guess I might as well tell you about Pee-wee before I tell you about the conclave or whatever you call it He's Doctor Harris's son and he's a member of the Raven Patrol. He's a member in good standing, only he doesn't stand very high. Honest, you can hardly see him without a magnifying glass. But for voice—good night!
He sings in the Methodist Church choir and they say he can throw his voice anywhere. I wish he'd throw it in the ash barrel, I know that. He always wears his belt-axe to troop meetings, in case the Germans should invade Bridgeboro, I suppose. He's the troop mascot and if you walk around him three times and ruffle up his beautiful curly hair, you can change your luck.
Well, now I'll tell you about the meeting. We had a big special meeting to decide about two things, and believe me, those two things had momentous consequences. Momentous—that's a good word, hey?
One thing, we wanted to decide about our campaign for collecting books for soldiers, and another thing, we wanted to decide how we could all go up to Temple Camp in our cabin launch, the Good Turn.
This large arid what—do—you—call—it launch—I mean commodious launch—is a dandy boat, except for one thing—the bow is too near the stern. If we were sardines instead of boy scouts, it would be all right, but you see there's twenty-four of us altogether, not counting Captain Kidd, our mascot—he's a parrot.
So I got up and said, "How are we going to crowd twenty—four growing boys and a parrot into a twenty foot launch?"
"It can't be did," Doc Carson shouted. "Then some of us will have to hike it on our dear little feet," I said.
"Or else we'll have to get a barge or something or other and tow it," Artie Van Arlen said.
"What, with a three horse-power engine?" somebody else shouted.
"You can bet I won't be one of the ones to hike it," Pee-wee yelled; "I'll dope out some scheme or other."
And believe me, he did.
Well, after we'd been talking about an hour or so on how we'd manage it, Mr. Ellsworth, our scoutmaster, up and said there was plenty of time for that as long as we were not going to camp for a couple of weeks anyway, and that we'd better begin thinking of how we were going to start about collecting books for soldiers.
All the while I had something very important to or say, and I was kind of trembling, as you might say, "for I thought maybe Mr. Ellsworth wouldn't like the idea. Anyway I got up and began:
"The author that wrote all about 'Tom Slade's adventures in the World War'," I said, "told me it would be a good idea for one to write up our troop's adventures and he'd help me to get them published."
Then up jumped Pee-wee Harris like a jack—in—the—box.
"What are you talking about?" he shouted; "don't you know you have to have a command of language to write books? You're crazy!"
"I should worry about a command of language," I told him. "Haven't I got command of the Silver Fox Patrol? Anybody who can command the Silver Fox Patrol ought to be able to command a few languages and things. I could command a whole regiment even," I kept up, for I saw that Pee-wee was getting worked up, as usual, and all the fellows were laughing, even Mr. Ellsworth.
"If you could command a division," Westy Martin said, in that sober way of his, "you ought to be able to command English all right."
"I can command any kind of a division," I shouted, all the while winking at Westy, "I can command a long division or a short division or a multiplication or a subtraction or a plain addition."
"What are you talking about?" Pee-wee yelled.
"I can command anything except Pee-wee Harris's temper," I said.
Well, you ought to have seen Pee-wee. Even Mr. Ellsworth had to laugh.
"How can a fellow your age write books?" he fairly screamed. "You have to have sunsets and twilights and gurgling brooks and—"
"You leave the gurgling brooks to me," I said; "I'll make them gurgle all right. There's going to be plenty of action in these books. And Pee-wee Harris is going to be the village cut-up." "Are you going to have girls?" he shouted.
"Sure I'm going to have girls—gold haired girls—all kinds—take your pick."
"Good night!" Pee-wee shouted, "I see your finish."
Well, pretty soon everybody was shouting at the same time and Pee-wee was dancing around, saying we were all crazy. Most of the Raven Patrol were with him and they ought to be called the Raving Patrol, believe me. Then Mr. Ellsworth held up his hand in that quiet way he has. "This sounds like the Western Front or a Bolshevik meeting," he said, "and I'm afraid our young Raven, Mr. Pee-wee Harris, will presently explode and that would be an unpleasant episode for any book."
"Good night!" I said. "Don't want any of my books to end with an explosion."
Then he said how it would be a good idea for me to write up our adventures and how he'd help me whenever I got stuck and how he guessed the author of Tom Slade would put in fancy touches for me, because he lives in our town and he's a whole lot interested in our troop. He said that breezes and distant views and twilights and things aren't so hard when you get used to them and even storms and hurricanes are easy if you only know how. He said girls aren't so easy to manage though.
"I'll help you out with the girls," Pee-wee said; "I know all about girls. And I'll help you with the names of the chapters, too."
"All right," Mr. Ellsworth said, "I think Pee-wee will prove a valuable collaborator."
"A which?" Pee-wee said, kind of frightened.
So then we all laughed and Mr. Ellsworth said it was getting late and we'd better settle about collecting books for the soldiers.
We decided that after we got to camp I'd begin writing up our adventures on the trip, but we couldn't decide how we'd all go in our boat, and that was the thing that troubled us a lot, because the fellows in our troop always hang together and we didn't like the idea of being separated.
Well, I guess that's all there is to tell you about the meeting, and in the next chapter I'm going to tell you all about how we collected the books for the fellows in camp, and how the mystery about the boat was solved. Those are Pee-wee's words about the mystery of the boat. I can't see that there was any mystery about it, but there was another kind of a mystery, believe me, and that kid was the cause of it. I guess maybe you'll like the next chapter better than this one.
SWATTING THE SPY
Now I'm going to tell you about how we collected books for soldiers and especially about Pee-wee's big stunt.
The next morning we started out and by night we had over five hundred books. Mr. Ellsworth said they were mostly light literature, but if he had only had to carry fifty of them on his shoulder like I did, he'd have thought they were pretty heavy literature, believe me.
This is the way we fixed it. The Raving Patrol, (that's Pee-wee's patrol, you know) used Doctor Harris's five-passenger Fraud car. It didn't go very good and Pumpkin Odell (Raven) said he guessed it was because the wheels were tired—that's a joke. They held up all the houses in Little Valley. That's about sumpty—seven miles or so from Bridgeboro. They've got two stores there and a sign that says "Welcome to Automobilists" and how they'll be arrested if they don't obey the speed laws. Welcome to jail—good night!
The Elk Patrol (that's our new patrol, you know) went over to East Bridgeboro with Pinky Dawson's express wagon (one horse power) and some horse—I wish you could see him. The Elks were a pretty lively bunch, I'll say that, and they cleaned out all the private libraries in East Bridgeboro. They even got cook-books and arithmetics and books about geometry—pity the poor soldiers.
The Silver Fox Patrol took care of Bridgeboro. That's the best patrol of the whole three. I'm leader of the Silver Foxes. The Ravens call us the Silver-plated Foxes, but that's because we can them the Raving Patrol and the reason we call them the Raving Patrol is on account of Pee-wee.
Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, the Silver Foxes took care of Bridgeboro. Brick Warner (He's red-headed) has a Complex car or a Simplex, or whatever you call it—I should worry. I mean his father has it. He's got a dandy father; he gave Brick five dollars so that we could have a blow—out at lunch time. Oh, boy, we had two blow—outs and a puncture.
We got over two hundred books that day—light literature, dark literature, all colors. I could tell you a lot of things that happened that day, because we did a lot of good turns, and one bad turn, when we grazed a telegraph pole. What cared we? But you'll care more about hearing of Pee-wee and the raving Ravens and how they made out. ...
Anyway, I guess I might as well tell you now about the scouts in my patrol. Don't ever borrow trouble, but get to be a patrol leader, and you'll have troubles of your own. Then you can pick out the one you want and I'll drown the rest. After that I'll tell you about the grand drive in Little Valley.
First in the Silver Fox Patrol comes Roy Blakeley—that's me. I'm patrol leader and I've got eleven merit badges. I've got two sisters too. One of them is crazy about the movies.
I've got seven scouts to look after and Captain Kidd, the parrot—he's our mascot. Our patrol color is green and he's green with a yellow neck. He's got one merit badge-for music. Good night! Then comes Westy Martin, and Dorry Benton and Huntley Manners and Sleuth Seabury, because he's a good detective, and Will Dawson and Brick Warner and Slick Warner and that's all.
Now I'll tell you about the raving Ravens. Of course, I can't tell you all that happened in Little Valley that day, because I wasn't there. Doc Carson said they had trouble with the motor and Pee-wee. He said that Pee-wee kept running wild an day. But anyway they brought back a lot of books with them, I'll say that much.
Well, when the day's drive was over, we all took our books to the troop room and piled them up on the table, and waited for Mr. Ellsworth to come. He usually comes home from the city on the Woolworth Special. We call it the Woolworth Special because it gets to Bridgeboro at five ten. Along about six o'clock he showed up, and we began sorting out the books. The biggest pile was brought in by the Ravens, and when he noticed a pile of about twenty or thirty books tied with a brown cord, he asked where those came from. Then up jumped Pee-wee, very excited, and said: "I'll tell you about those."
"Do tell," said Elmer Sawyer, winking at me.
"Good night! Pee-wee's got the floor," shouted Westy.
"Floor!" shouted Dorry Benton. "He's got the walls and the ceiling and the mantelpiece and everything."
"Will you pay a little attention?" Pee-wee screamed.
"We're paying as little as possible," I told him.
"You're the worst of the lot," he yelled; "that pile of books, the ones with the brown cord, were given to us by a kindly old gentleman; he—.
"A which?" Doc Carson said.
"Don't you know a kindly old gentleman when you see one?" Pee-wee fairly screamed.
"Let's see one," Artie shouted.
And that's the way it went on till Mr. Ellsworth came to Pee-wee's rescue like he always does. He said we should let Pee-wee have the chair.
"Here's a couple of chairs for him," we shouted.
"He can have the table too, if he wants it," I said; anything to keep him quiet.
"I don't want to be quiet," Pee-wee screamed.
Good night, that was some meeting. Well, pretty soon Mr. Ellsworth got us all throttled down and Pee-wee started to tell us about his visit to the kindly old gentleman. It seemed that was one of the houses that Pee-wee called at alone and the kindly old gentleman fell for him like grown up people mostly do. I don't know what it is but everybody seems to like Pee-wee. You know just because you jolly a fellow, it's not a sign you don't like him. Pee-wee is one bully little scout, I'll say that much.
"Do you want to hear about it?" he said.
"Proceed with your narrative," I told him; "begin at the beginning, go on till you come to the end, then stop."
"Be sure to stop," Westy said.
Well, then Pee-wee went on to tell us about the kindly old gentleman. He lived in a big white house, he said, with grounds around it and a big flag pole on the lawn, with a flag flying from it. He said that the old gentleman didn't talk very good English and he thought maybe he was a German or French or something or other. He guessed maybe he was a professor or something like that. Anyway, he took Pee-wee through his library, picking out the books he didn't want, till be had given him about twenty or thirty. Then they tied them up in a brown cord and Pee-wee took them out to the Fraud car.
Well that's about all there was to it, and I guess nothing more would have happened, if I hadn't untied the cord and picked up the book that lay on top. It was a book about German history, princes and all that stuff, and I guess it wouldn't interest soldiers much. Just as I was running through it, I happened to notice a piece of paper between the leaves, which I guess the old gentleman put there for a book-mark. As soon as I picked it up and read it, I said, "Good night! Look at this," and I handed it to Mr. Ellsworth.
It said something about getting information to Hindenburg, and about how a certain German spy was in one of the American camps in France.
Mr. Ellsworth read it through two or three times, and then said, "Boys, this looks like a very serious matter. You said the old gentleman spoke broken English, Walter?"
That's the name he always called Pee-wee.
"Cracky," I said, "Pee-wee's kindly old gentleman is a German spy."
"Sure he is," said Westy Martin, "and he's only flying the American flag for a bluff, he's a deep dyed villain."
"He can't be dyed very deep," said Doc Carson, in that sober way of his; "because we haven't any German dyes to dye him with."
I was just going to say something to kid Pee-wee along, when I noticed that Mr. Ellsworth was very serious, and Pee-wee was staring like a ghost.
"Boys," Mr. Ellsworth said, "I have no idea of the full meaning of this paper." Then he said how maybe in collecting books we had caught a spy in our net. He said that he was going to take the paper anyway and show it to the Federal Commissioner, down in the Post Office Building.
"If he's a spy, we'll swat him all right," I said.
"We'll more than swat him," Mr. Ellsworth said, and I could see by the look in his eye that he meant business.
SWATTING THE SPY—CONTINUED
We didn't swat him in that chapter because I had to go to supper, but we'll surely swat him in this one. Positively guaranteed.
Pee-wee was proud that he made such a hit with the old gentleman and especially because he got so many books from him. But when he realized that the paper I found in one of the books had something to do with spying, it was all Mr. Ellsworth could do to keep him quiet. He told us all not to say anything, because maybe, the old man might find out that he was going to be nabbed and go away. I guess Pee-wee felt pretty important. Anyway I know he was frightened, because all the next morning he kept asking me if he'd have to go to court and things like that.
"The only court you'll go to, is the tennis court," I told him; so we made up a set with my two sisters, Ruth and Marjorie, and the girls beat us three games. While we were playing, along came Mr Ellsworth and Commissioner Terry with two strange men, and I could see Pee-wee was very nervous. They sent the girls away and then began to ask Pee-wee questions. I could see that they thought the discovery we made was pretty serious.
"Are you the boy that found the paper in the book?" they asked me. Then they wanted to know what kind of a book it was, and I told them it was a book about German history and they screwed up their faces and looked very suspicious.
"You say that the man spoke broken English?" one of them asked Pee-wee.
Pee-wee was kind of nervous, I could see. "It—it—well it wasn't exactly broken," he said.
"Just a little bent," I said, and oh, you ought to have seen the frown Mr. Ellsworth gave me.
"It was kind of—just a little—" Pee-wee began.
"We understand," one of the men said. Then the other one spoke to us. He said, "Boys, we want you to go over with us and we want this youngster to identify the man. You needn't be afraid, Uncle Sam is with you."
But, cracky, I didn't like it and I guess Pee-wee didn't either. I've read stories about boys that had men arrested and all that, and I always thought I'd like to be one of those regular heroes. But when it came to really doing it, I knew then that I didn't like to help arrest anybody, and I bet most real fellows feel the same way. I felt funny, kind of. That's why I have no use for young detectives in stories, because I know you've got to be a grown-up man to feel that way and do things like that.
They had an automobile right near the tennis courts and we all got in and Pee-wee and I sat in back with our scoutmaster. Cracky, I was glad our scoutmaster was along, that's one sure thing. Pretty soon we got to Little Valley and Pee-wee pointed out the big white house with the lawn and the flag flying there. Jiminy, but it looked good and I wished we were up at Temple Camp, raising our colors near the boat landing.
While we were going up the gravel path; the old gentleman came out on his porch and looked at us and I felt kind of ashamed and I could see Pee-wee did too. But, cracky, I've got no use for spies, that's one sure thing. Pee-wee and I kind of hung behind and I guess he felt funny, sort of, when the old gentleman waved his hand to him, as if they were old friends.
I can't remember all they said but the two men who I knew were detectives showed the old gentleman the paper and asked him what it meant. First he seemed kind of flustered and angry and I know Pee-wee's heart was thumping-anyway it would have been thumping, except that it was up in his throat.
Then the men said that they'd have to search the house to see if there was a wireless and then the old gentleman got angry; then all of a sudden he sat down in one of the wicker chairs on the porch and began to laugh and laugh and laugh. Then he looked at Pee-wee and said, "I suppose this is the young gentleman who succeeded in trapping me. I must take off my hat to the Boy Scouts," and he smiled with an awful pleasant kind of a smile and held out his hand to Pee-wee.
Well, you should have seen Pee-wee. It was as good as a three-ringed circus. He stood there as if he was posing for animal crackers. And even the detectives looked kind of puzzled, but all the while suspicious.
"Are you the spy-catcher?" the old gentleman said to Pee-wee, but Pee-wee looked all flabbergasted and only shifted from one foot to the other.
"I hope you don't mean to kill me with that belt. axe?" the old gentleman asked. But Pee-wee just couldn't speak.
"He must be a telephone girl—'he doesn't answer," I blurted out, and even the detectives had to laugh.
"Gentlemen, if you will step inside, I'll make full confession and then give myself up," the old man said; "for I see there is no use in trying to escape the Boy Scouts. It was I who wrote that treasonable memorandum and I may as well tell you that I have a wireless. I will give you my whole history. I see that my young friend here is a most capable secret service agent."
"We're only small boys—we belong to the infantry," I said, for I just couldn't help blurting it out.
Well, we all went inside and I could see that the Commissioner and the detectives kept very near the old gentleman as if they didn't have much use for his laughing and his pleasant talk. I guess maybe they were used to that kind of thing, and he couldn't fool them.
When we got into his library I saw books all around on the shelves, hundreds of them I guess, and the desk was covered with papers and there was a picture of Mark Twain with "Best regards to Mr. Donnelle," written on it. Gee whit taker, I thought when I looked around; maybe Mr. Donnelle is a deep-dyed spy all right, but he's sure a high-brow.
"You'd have to take an elevator to get up to him," I whispered to Pee-wee.
"Shhh," Pee-wee said, "maybe he isn't dyed so very deep—there's different shades of dyes."
"Maybe he's only dyed a light gray or a pale blue," I said.
Then Mr. Donnelle got out a big fat red book that said on it "Who's Who in America" and, jiminy, I'm glad I never had to study it, because it had about a million pages. I hate biography anyway—biography and arithmetic. Then he turned to a certain page.
"Now, gentlemen," he said, "if you will just read this I will then consent to go with you," and he smiled all over his face.
The four men leaned over and began reading, but Pee-wee and I didn't because they didn't ask us and Boy Scouts don't butt in.
"I bet it tells all about German spies and everything, and now he's going to make a full confession," Pee-wee said; "maybe our names will be in the New York papers, hey?"
"They'll be more likely to be in the fly-paper," I said; "there's something funny about this."
"I bet he was going to blow up some ships," Pee-wee said.
"I bet he'll blow us up in a minute," I told him; because I could see that he was saying something to the men while they all looked at the book, and that the whole four of them were laughing—especially Mr. Ellsworth.
"It was the elder boy who discovered it," I heard him say, smiling all the while.
"Good night!" I said to Pee-wee, "I thought we had a German in custody, but instead of that. We're in Dutch!"
"Will they send us to jail?" he whispered.
"I think we'll get about ten merit badges for this—not," I said; "he's no spy."
Well, the men didn't pay much attention to us, only strolled over to one side of the room and began chatting together, and Mr. Donnelle got a box of cigars and they each took one.
"I wouldn't smoke one of those cigars," Pee-wee said, "they might be bombs. The Germans are pretty tricky—safety first."
Then Mr. Ellsworth came over to us, smiling all over his face. "Well, boys," he said, "I'm glad to say that our spy quest has gone up in smoke. Mr. Donnelle is one of the best known authors of America. He is writing a story of the war and our dark memorandum is just a little literary note of his about a spy among the American forces. I think we shall find it a most interesting story when it is finished. It is full of German intrigue and you will be glad to know that the imaginary spy is caught and court-martialled. You have done a fine thing by your discovery, for Mr. Donnelle has become greatly interested in the Scouts, and especially in our young scout author." Then he gave me a funny look. "So you see our dark memorandum was not so dark after all."
"G—o—o—d night!" I said; "it was a kind of a pale white."
"And I dare say," Mr. Ellsworth said, all the while slapping me on the shoulder, "that our deep-dyed villain is going to prove a very good friend."
"Even if you're deep-dyed," said Pee-wee, "sometimes the colors will run and you won't be so deep-dyed after all. My sister had a skirt and she dyed it a deep—"
Honest, that kid is a scream.
THE PLOT GROWS THINNER—OR ELSE THICKER
Pee-wee says it grows thicker and I say it grows thinner, so I put it both ways. I told him things would begin to stir up in this chapter and he said a thing always gets thicker when you stir it. I should worry.
"Suppose we should go boating or something like that where there's a lot of water," I told him; "that would thin it some if you added water wouldn't it?"
"You're crazy," he shouted.
Westy Martin wanted to name it The Deep Dyed Villain—so you can call it that if you want to—I don't care.
Now I'll start off. You remember about Mr. Donnelle saying that he had a wireless. Well, pretty soon after what I've been telling you about, the men went away and they were all laughing and good natured about it. I heard one of them say that the Boy Scouts were a wide—awake lot. Believe me, they wouldn't say that if they saw us sleeping after a day's hike at Temple Camp. If you heard Vic Norris snore, you'd think it was the West Front in France.
Well anyway, Mr. Donnelle wanted Pee-wee and me to stay at his house a little while, because he said he was kind of interested in us. He would listen to Pee-wee very sober like and then begin to laugh. And whenever Pee-wee tried to explain, it only made him laugh more.
"Anyway, I could see you weren't a very bad kind of a spy," Pee-wee said. Jiminetty, I had to laugh.
Well, Mr. Donnelle asked us all about the Scouts and we told him all about them—Pee-wee mostly did that. He's a scout propagander let— that's a small sized propagandist. We told him, how we didn't know how we are going to manage to get up to Temple Camp in our launch, because it would only hold about seven or eight boys and we had twenty-four, not counting Captain Kidd, the parrot.
"Well, now I have a little scheme," he said, smiling all the while, "and perhaps we can hit some sort of a plan. If I can only get you boys out of the way, away up at camp, I'll be able to carry on my German propaganda work." Then he winked at me and I knew he was kidding Pee-wee. Well, believe me, we hit a plan all right; we more than hit it, we gave it a knockout blow. All the while we were talking, he was taking us across the lawn till pretty soon we came to a little patch of woods and as soon as I got a whiff of those trees, good night, I felt as if I was up at Temple Camp already. That's a funny thing about trees—you get to know them and like them sort of.
Then pretty soon we came to a creek that ran through the woods and I could see it was deep and all shaded by the trees. Oh, jiminy, it was fine. And you could hear it ripple too, just like the water of Black Lake up near Temple Camp. If I was a grown-up author I could write some dandy stuff about it, because it was all dark and spooky as you might say, and you could see the trees reflected in it and casting their something or other—you know what I mean.
"Can you follow a trail?", Mr. Donnelle asked us.
"Trails are our middle names;" I told him, "and I can follow one—"
"Whitherso'er—" Pee-wee began.
"Whither so which?" I said. Because he was trying to talk high brow just because he knew Mr. Donnelle was an author.
So he led us along a trail that ran along the shore all in and out through trees, and he said it was all his property. Pretty soon I could see part of a house through the trees and I thought I'd like to live there, it was so lonely.
"You mean secluded," Pee-wee said. Mr. Donnelle smiled and I told him Pee-wee was a young dictionary—pocket size.
Pretty soon we reached the house and, good night, it wasn't any house at all; it was a house boat. And I could see the fixtures for a wireless on it, only the wires had been taken down.
Then Mr. Donnelle said, "Boys," he said, "this is my old workshop and I have spent many happy hours in it. But I don't use it any more and if you boys think you could all pile into it, why you are welcome to it for the summer. It has no power, but perhaps you could tow it behind your launch. Anyway you may charter it for the large sum of nothing at all, as a reward for foiling a spy."
"I—I kind of knew you were not a spy all the time," said Pee-wee.
Well, I was so flabbergasted that I just couldn't speak and even Pee-wee was struck dumb. We just gaped like a couple of idiots, and after a while I said, "Cracky, it's too good to be true."
"So you see what comes from collecting books for soldiers and for keeping your eyes open," Mr. Donnelle said; "you have caught a bigger fish than you thought. N ow suppose I show you through the inside."
Now here is the place where the plot begins to get thicker and, believe me, in four or five chapters it will be as thick as mud. We were just coming up to the house-boat to go aboard it, when suddenly the door flew open and a fellow scampered across the deck and ran away.
I could see that he had pretty shabby clothes and a peaked cap and I guess he was startled to hear us coming. In just a few seconds he was gone in the woods and we all stood gaping there while the boat bobbed up and down, on account of him jumping from it. But I got a squint at his face all right, and I noticed the color of his cap and how he ran, and I'm mighty glad I did, because that fellow was going to come into our young lives again and cause us a lot of trouble, you can bet.
Mr. Donnelle said he was probably just a tramp that had been sleeping in the boat and he didn't seem to mind much, only he said it would be better to keep the door locked.
"Maybe he might have been a—" Pee-wee began.
"No siree," I said. "We've had enough of deep-dyed villains for one day, if that's what you were going to say."
"Maybe we'd better track him," said Pee-wee, very serious.
"Nix on the tracking," I said, "I've retired from the 'detective business, and now I'm going to be cook on a house-boat."
"We'll have a good anchor anyway if you make biscuits," Pee-wee said.
"They'll weigh more than you do anyway," I fired back.
And Mr. Donnelle began to laugh.
Well, we didn't bother our heads any more about the tramp, but I could see that Pee-wee would have been happier if we'd have thought it was the Kaiser or Villa, instead of just a plain ordinary tramp, looking for a place to sleep. But oh, crinkums, you'll be surprised when you hear all about that fellow and who he was and I suppose you'd like me to tell you now, wouldn't you? But I won't.
I've got to go to camp meeting now, so goodbye, see you later—
Now I'm going to write until my sister begins playing the piano. Music and literature don't mix—believe me. There are two cruises in this book—a big one and a little one. You can take your pick. The little one is full of mud and the big one is full of pep. Anyway you get your money's worth, that's one sure thing.
This chapter is about the little cruise. But first I have to tell you about the house-boat, because it turned out to be our home sweet home for a couple of weeks. It didn't only turn out, but it turned in and it turned sideways and every which way. But I'm not going to knock it. It got knocks enough going through the creek and up Bridgeboro River. It knocked into two bridges, and goodness knows what all. But what cared we, yo ho? We cared not—I mean naught.
First Mr. Donnelle showed us through it and it was dandy, only in very poor shape. It's shape was square. But I wouldn't laugh at it because we had a lot of fun on it. Inside it had two rooms and a little kitchen and the roof had a railing around it and there was lots of room there. There was lots of room on the deck too. And there was a kind of little guard-house, too, to put Pee-wee in if he didn't behave. Some of the windows were broken, but I knew we could fix them easily. All we needed to do was eat some green apples and then we'd have plenty of panes. There were some lockers too, only one of them was locked and we couldn't get into it.
I guess the tramp didn't take anything, because there was nothing missing. I guess all he took was a look around. There were some cushions piled on one of the lockers and they looked as if someone had been sleeping on them.
Pee-wee said he could see the oil stove had been used by the smell—he's got such sharp eyes that be can see a smell. I told him he had a classy eye because there was a pupil in it, and you ought to have seen Mr. Donnelle laugh. I guess he thought we were crazy.
"Well we should worry about the tramp," I said, "especially now that we have a boat like this. The next thing to do is to bring the whole troop and get her fixed up."
One thing was easy anyway. Just below Bridgeboro, where we live, there is a kind of a branch flowing into the Bridgeboro River. We always called it the creek. Now we found out from Mr. Donnelle that it started along up above Little Valley. Over there they call it Dutch Creek. He said that at high tide we could float the houseboat right down into Bridgeboro River and then wait for the up tide or else tow it up to Bridgeboro. Cracky, I could see it would be a cinch ark! I was glad because we fellows didn't have money enough to have the boat carted by land. But, good night, this way was easy.
The next morning I sent a birch bark call to an the fellows in our troop. I sent them each a little piece of birch bark by courier. Connie Bennett, he's our courier. And that meant come to Special Meeting—W. S. W. S. means without scoutmaster. So pretty soon they began coming up to Camp Solitaire. That's the name I gave the tent I have on our lawn. When they were all there, I told them about Mr. Donnelle and the houseboat, and we decided that we'd hike over to Little Valley and pile right in and get it ready instead of bringing it to Bridgeboro first. We decided that if we worked on it for about three days, it would be ready.
So we all started to hike it along the road to Little Valley. We had an adventure before we got there, and I guess I'd better ten you about it. I made a map too, so you can see the way everything was. It's about five miles to Little Valley by the road.
Well, we were an hiking it along, sometimes going scout-pace and most of the time jollying Pee-wee, when all of a sudden I noticed a mark on a rock that I was sure was a scout mark. It was an arrow and it was marked with a piece of slate. Underneath the arrow was another mark like a pail, so I knew the sign meant that there was water in that direction.
I didn't know any scouts around our way that could be camping there, but whenever a scout sees a scout sign he usually likes to follow it up. So I told the fellows I was going to follow if there was any time. They said it was an old last year's mark, but go ahead if I wanted to, and I told them I'd meet them at Little Valley later. So now comes the adventure. As soon as I left the fellows, I hit the trail into the woods just like you'll see on the map I made. It wasn't much of trail and I guess a fellow couldn't follow it if he wasn't a scout. It was all thick woods like a jungle kind of, and I could see where branches had been broken by somebody that passed there. Pretty soon it began to get swampy and there wasn't any more trail at all.
As long as there's any sign of a trail you can't get me rattled, but cracky, I don't like marshes. You can get lost in a marsh easier than in any other place. Pretty soon I was plodding around deeper than my knees and it gave me a strain every time I dragged my leg out of the swamp. Maybe you'll wonder why I didn't go back, but if you do, that's because you don't know much about marshes. All of a sudden I was right in the middle of it, as you might say, and there were no landmarks at all.
Pretty soon I was in waist deep and then I was scared, you can bet. If there's one thing that gets me scared it's quicksand. As long as I could get my legs out I was all right, but when I began sinking as low as my waist and had to drag myself out by squirming and catching hold of bushes and things, then I lost my nerve—I have to admit it.
I saw I was a fool ever to go into that pesky place, but it was too late and I knew that pretty soon I'd be in too deep to get out. Oh, jiminies, I was scared. Once, after I scrambled out I tried lying flat on the marsh with the reeds laid over sideways underneath me. But they didn't hold me up and anyway I knew I couldn't lie that way forever. I wondered how a scout had ever gone through here.
Before I knew how to swim I came mighty near to getting drowned and I got lost in the woods, too, when I was a tenderfoot. But this was worse than anything I ever knew before. Once I sank down almost to my shoulders and I guess I would have been a goner, only my feet struck something hard and flat and I stood on that until I got rested a little.
All the while I looked around to see if I could decide where the land might be a little harder, but I guess I must have been in the worst part of it. I decided that the safest thing I could do was to stand just where I was. I didn't know what it was I was standing on, but anyway it didn't seem to sink any, so I was kind of safe there, as you might say. But I knew I could never raise myself out of that place and I'd have to just stand there till I got so tired and hungry, that I'd drop down and be sucked into the marsh.
So anyway, I'd have to die, I was sure of that only I didn't want to die any sooner than I had to. Two or three times I shouted as loud as I could, but I knew it wasn't any use, because I was two or three miles away from any house. Even if anybody knew, I didn't see how they could get to me and it was only by good luck that I wasn't dead already on account of the hard thing I was standing on. Every once in a while bubbles would come up and I thought it was because that thing I was standing on was sinking lower. The marsh was just about even with my shoulders and I kept looking sideways at my shoulders all the time, so as to see if I was going down any and sometimes I thought I was. But I guess I wasn't.
The weeds stood up all around me so I couldn't see, except up in the air and it was like being in a grave with just my head out. Gee, I thought about the fellows hiking it to Little Valley and beginning work on the house-boat and waiting for me to come, and I could just kind of hear them jollying Pee-wee, and oh, I wished I was there. I was wondering who the Silver Foxes would elect for their patrol leader and then I got to thinking how nobody, not even my mother and father, would ever know what became of me, because you can't drag a marsh like you can a river. And it seemed kind of funny like, to die without anybody ever knowing what became of you.
Pretty soon my legs began getting very tired like a fellow's legs always do when he keeps standing in water. Only this was worse than water. I wondered how it would feel when my knees gave out and I sank down.
Then I happened to think about having my hikebook with me. It was all wet and the pencil was wet too, but I held it up high out of the marsh and wrote this on one of the pages. After I wrote it I stuck it up high on one of the marsh weeds.
This is where Roy Blakeley, patrol leader, Silver Fox Patrol, Bridgeboro Troop, B. S. A., was sucked down into the marsh, after he couldn't stand up any more. I was standing on something that was hard and maybe you'll find my body lying on that. In my desk is something I was going to give my mother for a birthday present. I send her a lot of love too. My father too. And I hope my Patrol gets along all right and that the troop has a lot of fun this summer. I hope somebody will find this.
THE TIGHT PLACE
After that I made up my mind I wouldn't think any more about living and then I was satisfied, kind of. 'Cause as long as you know you've got to die, what's the difference. They could get another fellow to lead the patrol, that's one sure thing. Mostly I cared about my mother on account of not being able to say good-bye to her. All of a sudden it seemed as if there was more water around me than before. Up to that time it was mushy, kind of, but not much water. But now it was more like water all around me and I noticed a little bunch of net moss near me. Maybe you don't know what net moss is. It's moss that grows in swamps. Well, what do you think I saw lying on that clump of net moss? Cracky, you'd hardly believe it, but it was a spark plug. And it looked funny to see it there.
If you're not a scout maybe you don't know anything about camping, but it's one of our rules not to defile the woods with rubbish and Mr. Ellsworth always told us a tomato can didn't look right in the woods. Well, jiminety, that spark plug sure did look funny lying on that piece of net moss. It floated right near my shoulder and I lifted it off and, oh, crinkums, but it made me 'think of Bridgeboro.
It was almost the same as if it was a fellow come to rescue me, as you might say. It was just because it didn't belong there, I guess. Of course, I knew it couldn't rescue me, but it reminded me of people and that kind of cheered me up a little. Then I began to think about it. I remembered what our scoutmaster said about a fellow that's drowning—that he can think as long as his head is out of water. And this was like drowning, only slower. I was wondering how that spark plug got there. It's funny how you'll think about little things like that even when you're dying.
One thing sure, no automobile ever went through there, and no motorcycle either. Maybe a fellow in an airplane might have dropped it, or maybe—
Then, all of a sudden I began to laugh. And while I was laughing some water flowed into my mouth. But I didn't care, I was feeling so good. I knew all about the whole thing now, and I felt like kicking myself only my feet were down in all that tangle of marsh. But what cared I, yo ho—and a couple of yee hees.
Oh, I was some wise little boy scout then, and I had a scout smile long enough to tie in a couple of bow knots. That spark plug was thrown out of a motor boat. I could see that the spark points were bad and somebody threw it away because it wouldn't work and then put in a new one. And I knew that already the tide was beginning to come up and that pretty soon there would be a creek here and that I could swim in it.
Cracky, you can't scare me when it's a question of swimming, for I wasn't brought up in a bath tub. Many's the time I swam across Black Lake. Water's all right, but swamps—good night! Maybe if you don't live near meadow lands you won't understand how it was. But when the tide rises twice every twenty—four hours (you learn that in the Fourth Grade), it makes creeks through the meadows and marshes. Some of them are deep enough for small motor boats even, only you've got to be careful not to stay up one of them too long or you'll get stuck till the next day. One time that happened to Ed Sanders that owned we Rascal and he was there all night, and he almost died from poison of the mosquitoes. Anyway I would have been dead before night when the mosquitoes come out—that's one good thing. I don't mean it's one good thing, but anyway you know what I mean.
Pretty soon I could push the swamp grass out of the way and swim a little. Oh, cracky, I was thankful for that tide I I knew it would keep on coming when it once started 'cause the tide never goes back on you. Of course it goes back, but you know what I mean. Sometimes if you're on a hike and telling time by the sun it'll go under a cloud. Or sometimes if you're lost and following the stars, it'll cloud up and you can't see them any more. And crinkums, a trail will go back on you sometimes. But the tide is sure. It's got to come up, and so I knew it was coming up to rescue me and I knew I was all right as soon as I saw that spark plug.
Pee-wee wanted to name this chapter "Saved By A Spark Plug" or "The Hero Plug," but I said it sounded silly. Any way I'll never say another word against the tide. Often when I saw motor boats stuck on the flats I could hear the men in them saying things about the tide—oh, gee, you ought to have heard some of the things they said.
But I'll never say anything, anyway. It seemed kind of, you know, like an army coming to rescue me, slow but sure, and pretty soon I was swimming around, and oh, didn't I feel good!
All of a sudden like, there was a little river there and it kept getting deeper and wider and I knew it began away out in the ocean and it seemed as if it was picking its way all the way up into these marshes, to give me a chance to do what every scout knows how to do—swim.
Of course I was saved, but I didn't know how far I'd have to swim, only I was pretty sure I wouldn't have to die now.
I guess now you'd better look at the map I made, and then you'll see how the creek came in the marshes and about where I was, when it began, to rise.
Of course I didn't know where it came from or where it went, but I decided to swim against the tide for two reasons. First I was afraid to go the other way because it might just peter out, like most of those meadow creeks do, and then I'd be in the marsh again. Oh, boy, safety first. I'd had enough of marshes. Besides if I swam the other way it would be deeper and wider and I'd be more likely to find a board or a log or something and pretty soon I might come to solid shores.
But before I started I had another adventure. I took off my shoes and stockings and everything except my underclothes. But of course, that wasn't the adventure. It was a dandy adventure, but you have to wait, and if it rains to-morrow so we can't go trailing, I'll write some more. I think it'll rain to-morrow.
WEETONKA, THE TERRIBLE CHIEF
OF course you can tell when you look at the map where the creek came from. It came from Dutch Creek and Dutch Creek flows into the Bridgeboro River, and Bridgeboro River rises in the northern part of some place or other and takes a—some kind of a course—and flows into New York Bay. Once I got kept in, in school, for not knowing that. But how should I know where this creek went? It came-that was enough for me. I should worry where it went.
Before I started to swim I decided I'd go under and try to find out what it was that I'd been standing on. Because I had to thank it. A boy scout is supposed to be grateful. So I ducked and groped around in the marshy bottom and I felt something hard with a point to it. I had to come up for air, then I ducked again and felt around over it and under it. I joggled it with both my hands and it budged-not much but a little. Then I came up for air and went down and gave a good tug at it.
I guess it was just kind of caught in the mud and weeds for after I pulled some of these away a lot of bubbles came up, and then I got hold of one end of the thing and it stuck up slantingways out of the water like an alligator's mouth. Oh, gee, it was all slimy and had moss growing to it and it was black and hard. I was crazy to find out what it was and I swam around the end of it, bobbing it up and down. Then I sat on it and rocked it and it joggled. When I straddled it, it went down with me and when I jerked it, it seemed to get loose a little. The end that was sticking up wasn't very big around, only it was terribly slippery. Anyway, I sat on it and tightened my legs around it just like a fellow does with a balky horse, and then I began jouncing up and down like on a seesaw.
Pretty soon the other end came up and, oh, boy, didn't I get dumped off into the water. It looked like a slimy old log floating. I gave it a turn and then—g—o—o—d night—what do you think it was? It was a regular Indian dug-out.
I guess maybe it was a hundred years old and you can see it now, if you ever come to Bridgeboro, because it's in the Museum of our Public Library and you'll know it because it's got "Presented by 1st Bridgeboro Troop, B. S. A.," on it. I guess maybe it was about fifteen feet long and as soon as I cut into it with my scout knife, I saw that it was made of cedar and it wasn't rotten—not so much, anyway. Jiminies, that's one good thing about cedar; it lasts forever under water.
Oh, boy, wasn't I excited. I swam around it washing it off with my scout jacket, then I bailed the little dug out part out with my scout hat. It wasn't so black when I got it all cleaned off. It was kind of chocolate color and I knew it must be very old, because cedar turns that color after a long time. You learn that in Woodcraft. It was all made out of one piece and the place where you sit was just hollowed out—about big enough for one person.
Then I got inside and it was crankier than a racing shell. You had to sit up straight like a little tin soldier to keep it from tipping—it was one tippicanoe, you can bet. I fell out and had to roll it over and bail it out two or three times. At last I got the hang of it and I pushed it in the marshes a little way so it wouldn't drift up stream. There was a regular creek there now, good and wide and deep, and the water was coming up like a parade.
Then I pulled a lot of reeds and bound them together with swamp grass. That was a funny kind of a paddle I guess, but it was better than nothing and anyway I decided to wait till the tide was at flood and then paddle back with it. That would be a cinch.
So then I sat in the dug-out and just waited for the tide to come up. The dug-out stayed where it was on account of being pushed in among the reeds and oh, jiminety, it was nice sitting there. I thought maybe the creek would empty out again into Bridgeboro River and I could tie up there and, go home. But I had a big surprise waiting for me, you can bet.
It was about nine o'clock in the morning when I started on that crazy trail and it was about five o'clock in the afternoon when the tide began to turn and go back. All the while I was sitting there waiting I thought about the Indian that owned that canoe. Maybe his bones were down underneath there, I thought. Ugh, I'd like to see them. No, I wouldn't. Maybe he was on his way to a pow-wow, hey?
Well, after a while when the tide turned I started paddling down. A little water came through a couple of deep cracks, but not much and I sopped it up with my hat. But oh, jingoes, I never had to sit up so straight in school (not even when the principal came through the class-room) as I did in that cranky old log with a hole in it. And oh, you would have chucked a couple of chuckles if you'd seen me guiding my Indian bark with a bunch of reeds. Honest, they looked like, a street sweeper's broom.
After a while the creek began to get wider and then I could see far ahead of me the roof of a house. Then, all of a sudden, I heard somebody shout.
"Don't bother to plug the hole up, leave it the way it is, so if the water comes in, it can get out again."
Then I heard a voice shout, "You're crazy!" and I knew it was the fellows jollying Pee-wee Harris and they were talking about a hole in the boat, because that was the roof I saw. So then I knew I was coming out into Dutch Creek right where it passes Little Valley.
Oh, boy! Wasn't I excited? Pretty soon I could see the boat and some of the fellows on it working away, sawing and hammering and jollying each other, the way the fellows in our troop are always doing. You can see by the map just how I got to where they were. I guess I must have been as near as fifty feet before Connie Bennett threw down his hammer and shouted. "Look who's here!"
Westy Martin was sitting on the edge of the deck dangling his feet and eating a sandwich. Well, you ought to have seen them all stare.
"What in the dickens do you call this?" Wig Weigand hollered.
But I didn't say a word till I got right close to them, then I gave Westy a good swat with my reed paddle.
"I am Weetonka, the famous Indian chief!", I shouted, "and I haven't had anything to eat since eight o'clock. Give me that sandwich or I'll scalp you!"
This chapter and the next one are mostly about Wigley Weigand, but we usually call him Wig-Wag Weigand, because he's a cracker-jack on wig-wag signalling. He's good on all the different kinds of signalling. He's a Raven, but he can't help that, because there wasn't any Silver Fox Patrol when the Raving Ravens started.
The Ravens were the—what do you call it—you know what I mean—nucleus of the troop. That's how it started. There are about half a million scouts in America and all of them can't be Silver Foxes, even if they'd like to.
Wig has the crossed flags—that's the signalling badge, and the fellows say he can make the sky talk. Believe me, he can make it shout. He isn't so bad considering that he's a Raven and there's one good thing about him anyway—and that's that his mother always gives us cookies and things when we go on a hike. I got a dandy mother, too, and maybe you'll see how much I think about her, kind of, in the next chapter. Anyway I have to thank Wig Weigand, that's one sure thing.
Now maybe you think I did a good stunt in that marsh, but a scout doesn't get credit unless he uses his brains and does everything all right. And that's where I fell down, and it came near making a lot of trouble, believe me.
Many's the time Tom Slade (he's in the war now) told me never to leave a scout sign after it wasn't any more use. "Scratch 'em out," he said, "because even if it means something now, it might not mean anything six months from now." Jiminy, that fellow has some brains. He said, "Never forget to take down a sign when it's no use anymore." Well, when I found I wasn't going to die a terrible death (that's what Pee-wee called it) I didn't have sense enough to take away that note that I stuck on the reeds. When I stuck it there I reached up as high as I could, So even when the tide was high up there, I guess it didn't reach it. I was so excited to find I could get away that I never thought anything about it. And when I sailed into Little Valley in my Indian canoe, gee, I had forgotten all about it.
I found that the troop had done a good day's work caulking the hull up and slapping a couple of coats of copper paint on it, while the tide was out. So then we decided that as long as the tide was going down, we'd float her down with it to the Bridgeboro River and then wait for the up tide to float her upstream to Bridgeboro. We decided that we'd rather fix her up in Bridgeboro. So you see that this chapter is about the tide, too. Mr. Ellsworth and Mr. Donnelle both told me that I must have plenty of movement in my story, so I guess the tide's a good character for a story, because it's always moving.
Well, you ought to have seen those fellows when I sailed in shouting that I was Weetonka, the famous Indian chief. Doc Carson dropped his paint brush on Connie Bennett and he was splashed all over with copper paint—good night!
"Where did you get that thing," Pee-wee shouted, "it looks like a horse's trough."
"You have to part your hair in the middle to ride in it, I can tell you that," I told him.
"Where were you all the time?" he said.
"I was captured by a band of Apaches," I said.
"What kind of a band?" Pee-wee yelled.
"A brass band," I told him; "a brass band of Apaches."
"You make me sick!" he said, kind of disgusted.
"They took me to their village and were going to burn me at the stake, only the butcher didn't bring it, then they decided they'd chop me to pieces only the butcher didn't bring the chops—"
Oh, boy! you should have seen that kid. He fired a wet bailing sponge at me and I dodged it and it hit one of his own patrol—kerflop! I guess you'll think all us fellows are crazy, especially me. I should worry. I told them I escaped in the canoe and all that kind of stuff, but at last I told them the real story and you can bet they were glad I was saved. They all said I had a narrow escape, and I admit it was only about an inch wide.
Now, I have to tell you about how we floated the house-boat down to Bridgeboro River, and maybe you'd better look at the map, hey? Oh, but first I want to tell you about the name we gave it. Some name! We christened it with a bottle of mosquito dope. It's regular name was all rubbed off, so we decided we'd vote on a new name.
This is the way we fixed it. Each patrol thought of a name and then we mixed the three names up and made one name out of them. Then you just add a little sugar and serve.
The Ravens voted the name Sprite, the Elks voted the name Fly and the Silver Foxes voted the name Weetonka, on account of me. Then we wrote all these letters down and mixed them all up and arranged them every which way, till we got this name:
Oh, boy, some laugh we had over that name. We were all sitting around in the two cabin rooms and believe me, it was some giggling match.
"It sounds like a Bolshevik name," Westy Martin said.
"You wait till the infernal revenue people get that name," I said, "it'll knock'em out." Because, of course, I knew we'd have to send the name to the infernal revenue people—I mean internal or eternal or whatever you call it—because you have to do that to get your license number.
"It's a good name," I said, "you don't see it every day."
"Thank goodness for that," Doc Carson said, It's as long as a spelling lesson or Pee-wee's tongue."
"It'll be a pretty expensive name; it'll take a lot of paint," Brick Warner said.
"We should worry," I said.
So then I made some coffee, because I'm the troop cook, and we thought it was best to eat before we started. That bunch is always hungry.
They said it was punk coffee, but that was because they didn't bring enough to go around.
"Don't laugh at the coffee," I told them, "you may be old and weak yourselves some day." I made some flapjacks, too, and then we started.
We didn't have to do much work because the ebb was running good and strong, and we just sat around the deck with our feet dangling over, and pushed her off with our scout staffs whenever she ran against the shores. She didn't keep head on, but that was no matter as long as she went, and pretty soon (I guess it must have been about seven o'clock) we went waltzing into Bridgeboro River.
And then was when we made a crazy mistake.
Just for a minute we forgot that the tide would be running down the river instead of up. If we had only remembered that, three or four of us could have gone ashore with a rope and tied her in the channel, which ran along the near shore. Then all we would have had to do would have been to sit around and wait for it to turn, so we could drift up to Bridgeboro with it.
But just when we were floating out of the creek, we forgot all about what the tide would do to us, unless we were on the job and sure enough it caught us and sent us whirling around and away over on to the flats.
"Good night!" I said when I heard her scrape.
"We should have had sense enough to know the tide is stronger here than in the creek," they all said.
"What's the difference?" Dorry Benton said,
"We're stuck on the flats, that's all. Now we don't have to bother to tie her. When the tide changes, we'll float off and go on upstream all right. We're just as well off as if we were tied up in the channel."
Well, I guess he was right except for what happened pretty soon. So we settled down to wait for the tide to go down and change. After a while we began to see the flats all around us and there wasn't any water near us at all—only the water in the channel away over near the west shore. We were high and dry and there wasn't any way for a fellow to get away from where we were, because he couldn't swim and he'd only sink in the mud, if he tried to walk it.
Well, while we were sitting around trying to figure out how long it would be before the water would go down and then come up enough to carry us off, Doc Carson said, "Listen!" and we heard the chug of a motor boat quite a long way off.
It was getting dark good and fast now, and there was a pretty wide stretch of flats between us and the channel. Pretty soon we could hear voices—all thin, sort of, as if they came from a long way off. That's the way it is on the water.
"She's coming down Dutch Creek," one of the fellows said. After a while another fellow said he thought it was Jake Holden. Then another one said it wasn't.
"Sure it is," Connie Bennett said, "listen."
Then as plain as day I could hear the words "Crab running," and then in a minute something about "bad news." Pretty soon, through the steady chugging I could hear a voice say very plain, "I'm glad it doesn't have to be me to tell her."
We couldn't make them out because it was getting too dark, but it was Jake Holden, the fisherman, all right. Pretty soon the engine began chugging double, sort of, and I knew they were going around the corner into Bridgeboro River, because there's a steep shore there, and it makes an echo.
I was a chump not to realize what they were talking about, but they had chugged around into Bridgeboro River and were heading upstream before it popped into my thick head. And even then it was on account of something else they said, as the chugging grew fainter all the time. It seemed as if I heard it while I was dreaming, as you might say. I knew they were pretty far upstream by now, but the voice was awful clear, like voices always sound across the water, especially in the night.
"He was a nice little fellow," that's what I said, "but he had a right to keep out of that place."
Then, all of a sudden, I knew. They were talking about me. They must have been up that creek fishing and found that note of mine. And they were going to tell my people as soon as they got home.
"Holler to them, fellows!" I said; "quick-all together."
I guess the fellows must have thought I was crazy, but they hollered for all they were worth. But it was no use, for nobody answered. I guess the wind must have been blowing our way or something—anyway, they didn't pay any attention. Then pretty soon I couldn't hear the chugging any more at all.
Oh, jiminies, but I felt bad. Maybe you think that as long as I escaped and would get home all right I ought to be satisfied. But that's because you don't know anything about my mother. When my brother died I saw how she acted and the doctor said she had to stay in bed two or three days on account of her heart being not just right. Maybe he thought it would stop, I guess. And gee, I didn't want her to hear any bad news, even if it wasn't true. 'Cause I knew just how she'd act—I could just see her, sort of. I guess I was kind of thinking about it and how it would be when Jake Holden went to the house, and how she'd have to wait five or six hours, maybe till morning, before she saw me, when all of a sudden I heard Will Dawson of my patrol say, "What's the matter, Blakey?"—he always calls me Blakey. But I didn't pay any attention to him, because I couldn't speak—exactly. I didn't seem to see any of the troop, I only just saw my mother standing, maybe kind of unsteady like, and listening to Jake Holden.
Then all of a sudden I walked straight over to where the Ravens were all sitting on the cabin roof. And I spoke to Wigley Wig-wag Weigand.
I said—this is just what I said—I said, "Wig, I always claimed Ralph Warner was the best signaler in the troop and maybe you'll remember I was mad when you got the badge. But now I ain't mad, and I ain't jealous, only I don't want those men to go and tell my mother I'm dead—I—I don't. I forgot to take the note away and they're going to tell her and she—she has—her heart isn't very strong like. There's only one fellow in the troop can do it—it's you. You can do it. You can do anything, signalling. I've got to admit it now, when I need you. You're a Raven, but I want you to signal, quick. They'll see it in town. You're the only fellow can do it—you are. I got to admit it."
He didn't say much because he isn't much on talking. He's always studying the Handbook. But he jumped down and he just said, "I'll fix it." And I knew he would.
THE LOST LETTER
Then Elmer Sawyer (he's a Raven) came up to me and said, "He'll do it, Roy; don't worry. And they'll get it too, because everybody in town is out these nights looking at the searchlights down the Hudson."
That was one lucky thing. A lot of cruisers and torpedo boats were down in the harbor and up the Hudson, and we could see their searchlights even in Bridgeboro.
Wig looked all around the cabin as if he was hunting for something and then he said, "No searchlight, I suppose." If we had only had a searchlight it would have been easy, but there wasn't any on board.
"Don't you care," Pee-wee said to me, "he'll think of a way." Oh, jiminy, but he was proud of Wig. I could see that Wig was thinking and for just a few seconds it seemed as if he couldn't make up his mind what to do.
"Can you smudge it?" Connie Bennett asked.
"Guess so," he said, "you fellows rip open the ends of these cushions, but don't tear the covering any, and somebody get the stove cleared out; see if there's a damper in the pipe, and see if there's any bilge under the flooring. It'll take those fellows about twenty minutes to chug up to Bridgeboro."
Well, in two seconds he had us all Hying every which way, Elks, Silver Foxes and all. We didn't have to open more than one of the seat cushions and, lucky thing, we found it full of excelsior. That makes a good smudge.
"Only you've got to treat it," Wig said.
"Treat it!" I said; "I'll treat it to all the ice cream it can eat, if it'll only help you to send the message." I was feeling good now.
"Take it down in the bilge and treat it," he said, very sober like, to one of his patrol.
"Don't let it spend a cent," I called after him.
But I didn't go because I could see he would rather have Ravens help him. You can't blame him for that. In about half a minute they came upstairs and they had a lot of the excelsior all damp, but not exactly wet, and I don't know how they got it that way, except I know there was bilge water down under the flooring. They're a lot of crackerjacks on signalling, I'll say that much for them. There was a stove in the main cabin with a stovepipe going straight up through the roof like a smoke stack and there was a damper in it right near the stove.
"Get a handbook or a pocket code," somebody said, "so he'll have the signs right near him."
"He doesn't need any signs," Pee-wee shouted, disgusted like.
Well, this is the way Wig did it, and after he got started, most of us went up on the roof to see if we could read it. But that's mighty hard to do when you're right underneath it.
By the time the fellows came upstairs with the damp excelsior (that's what they call the smudge) Wig had a good fire started in the stove.
"Lay that stuff down here," he said; then he said to me, "What do you want to say?"
"Just say I'm safe, Wig," I told him. "Say for them not to pay any attention to what they hear."
I only waited long enough for him to get started, just so as to see how he did it, then I went up on the roof and watched the long black smoke column. Cracky, I was glad it was moonlight, that's one sure thing.
As soon as he had a good fire started he stuffed some of the damp excelsior in and shut the door, and told Artie Van Arlen (he's their patrol leader) to hold a rag over the crack in the door, because the black smoke was pouring out that way, especially because the damper in the pipe was shut.
I didn't stay there long, because the smoke was too thick for me and when I saw Artie bind a wet rag over Wig's eyes and mouth, I knew then it was going to be mighty bad in that little cabin.
"Have another ready," I heard him say; "better have three or four of them."
Then he put his hand on the damper in the pipe and turned it and then the smoke in the cabin wasn't so bad. He just turned it around quick and kept turning it around and that let little puffs of smoke through, and I heard the fellows up on the roof shouting, "Hurrah!" so I knew it was working all right. He sent up a lot of little puffs like that, just so as to draw attention, and he; kept doing it so long I got impatient.
"No use talking till you know somebody's listening," he said, kind of pleasant like to me. I guess maybe he never liked me very much, because I didn't want that badge to get into their patrol and anyway he's kind of sober, sort of, and maybe he thought I had too much nonsense. But, oh, boy, I was strong for him now...and I could see how he began to cough and I was worried.
Then he groped around to get hold of the damper, for he was blindfolded and the smoke in there was getting thicker and thicker. Then he gave it a quick turn, then waited a few seconds, then held it lengthwise with the pipe for about twenty seconds.
"R," I said to myself.
Then he opened the damper three times, each about twenty seconds, and I could hear the fellows up on the roof shouting.
"O! It's a good O! Bully for Wig Weigand!"
"Give me another towel, quick," he said to Artie. "Is the window open? you better go up, Kid."
It was the first time he ever called me kid and he had to cough when he said it. But I just couldn't move. There was something in my throat and my eyes that wasn't smoke, and I said, "I can stand it if you can—Wig."
"Go on up, kid," he said, "we've—got—got—her—talking—now," and he coughed and choked.
"Go on up, Roy," Artie Van Arlen said.
Up on the roof all the fellows were sitting 'round the edge with their legs over, watching the black column in the sky, and shouting when they read the letters. But I was thinking about those fellows down in that cabin filled with smoke and how they were doing that all on account of me.
"Pretty smoky down there," one of the Elks said to me.
"You said something," I told him.
"He's marking up the sky all right, if he can only stick it out," another fellow said. "Who's down there with him ?"
"Artie," I said.
"They'll stick it out, all right," Westy Martin said; "it's easier for Artie, he can stay near the window ."
"Bully for you, Wig, old boy!" somebody shouted, just as the E in SAFE shot up. And I knew what it meant—it meant that the words Roy is safe had been printed in great big black letters across the sky.
Then it came faster and faster and it seemed as if he must be turning that damper like a telegraph operator moves his key. "Don't worry!" it said, "reports false," "Roy Blakeley safe," "Roy safe," "Blakeley alive." He said it all kinds of different ways.
Once Artie came up coughing and choking and watched a few seconds to see if the wind was blowing the smoke away as fast as the signs were made, because that was important.
"It's lucky we have that wind," he said, and then went down again in a hurry.
Pretty soon we could see some searchlights far away and I guess they were on the ships. But ours was different and nearer to Bridgeboro, and people would be sure to see it, only maybe they wouldn't understand it and that's what made me worry. I'm good on reading smudge signals, even though I never sent many and I never have to have the handbook when I read the code, that's one thing. And I didn't pay much attention to all the talking and yelling, only kept my eyes up in the sky, watching that long smoky column. It beat any searchlight you ever saw. "Roy alive"—"Roy alive" it kept saying and sometimes "don't worry."
I didn't see how any fellow could manage a smudge and send it so fast and keep his spaces. The last word before it stopped was SAFE, or that's what it was meant to be, only the short flash for E didn't come. The fellows all began shouting when there wasn't any more, and I heard Pee-wee shout downstairs, "Aren't you going to put the name of the boat?"
"Do you want him to crack the sky open?" I heard a fellow say, and they all laughed.
But I remembered how that last E didn't come and I started down the ladder for all I was worth. I scrambled around the narrow part of the deck to the window and called, but nobody answered. The smoke was coming out thick.
"Wig," I said, "are you there? Are you all right? Artie, where are you?"
I had to turn away my face on account of the smoke. I pulled off my scout scarf and tied it over my mouth, so that it covered my ears too. Then I looked in and down low, because I knew that the smoke wouldn't be so thick near the floor. And I saw Wig Weigand lying there right under the stove pipe and his hand was reaching up holding the damper, and his hand was all white like and his eyes were wide open and staring. Then I shouted for all I was worth.
"Doc! Come down—hurry! Send Doc Carson down, Wig Weigand is dead—he's suffocated."
Doc Carson is a Raven and he's our First Aid Scout. He always has some things with him, because that's our rule. But you can bet I didn't wait for him. And I didn't care if I was killed or not, I didn't, if Wig Weigand was killed.
So I jumped right through the window and the smoke got into my eyes and made my ears ring, but I didn't care. I could taste it all thick, too, but I didn't care. That was the smoke that had to do what Wigley Weigand told it to, and he scribbled all over the sky with it, that's what he did, and now it had turned around and killed him.
I knew that up to six or seven inches from the floor there is never much smoke and I knew he must have lain down low when he was almost unconscious and worked that damper. And those fellows up there had been laughing and cheering all the while, when he was lying there like that.
I didn't see Artie anywhere and there wasn't any sound. I lay down flat and crawled over to Wig and you bet I worked quick. I tied his hands together with my scout scarf—it was the Silver Fox scarf—and I tied the scarf around my neck.
"Wig," I said, but he didn't speak and his legs and his neck hung loose, sort of, and it kind of scared me. Then I crawled to the window, because I couldn't see the door, dragging him after me. Then I did something I never thought I could do, but maybe you've noticed you can do most anything when you have to. I just stood up, then fell down again, coughing and choking, and my ears were buzzing all the time. But I didn't care, I just stood up again with him hanging to me, and I grabbed the window sill and dragged him half way across it and with his head outside, and then I staggered and tried to grab something and my eyes were stinging and, oh, I don't know, all of a sudden my head knocked and I didn't know any more.
Mr. Ellsworth says that Doc ought to write the rest of this chapter, but he wouldn't, and it's just like him. The next thing I knew I was sitting on the lowest step and Connie Bennet was holding my head. "You're all right," he said, "but you got a good bump. You were only there a few seconds."
"Did you pull me out?" I said. "Where's, Wig?"
"Doc brought him around," he said, "he got him breathing, then it was easy. We couldn't find Artie."
Maybe it was funny, but just then I didn't seem to be thinking about Artie. I felt my head and found I had a big bump on it.
"I should worry about that," I said. "Where's Wig?"
Then I got up and went around the cabin to the forward deck and there were all the fellows and Wig sitting up and Doc Carson holding him and moving: him, so as to keep him breathing—scout fashion.
"All righto, kid," Doc said, kind of pleasant, "you're a brick."
I always thought; that I was as big as he was, but he called me kid, and I didn't care. Anyways I couldn't see him very good, I admit that. Because—oh, well, maybe you can understand.
"Artie's missing," he said. "You didn't see anything of him in there?"
"I couldn't see at all, hardly," I told him.
Then Wig turned his head and looked at me and he was all white and weak looking, especially when he smiled. And he had the remains of my Silver Fox scarf, all torn, around his neck.
"All right?" he said very low.
But I just couldn't speak to him. I don't know what made me do it, but I went up to him and he looked at the bump on my forehead and said, "Hurt?"
"You should worry about that," I told him.
Then I kind of fixed the Silver Fox scarf better, so that it was around his neck and I tied it in the Silver Fox knot. "Your fellows won't mind if you wear it a little while," I said, and then I unfastened his own scarf, yellow and brown, and tied it around my neck. "There's no fellow can get this away from me to-night," I said, "I'm going to wear the Raven scarf—I am."
Then, all of a sudden, I noticed that Doc had gone away and I was holding his head up alone. So I let it down on the cushion very easy and I saw we were all alone. Maybe you won't understand and it's hard to tell you. But I didn't say anything; I just stayed there and rubbed his forehead.
"We told her," he said, kind of as if he was weak and tired.
"Yup," I said, "you told her"
"Somebody'll get it—maybe," he said.
"I ain't thinking about that," I said, "I'm only thinking about how you did it, I—I don't want the signalling badge in my patrol now, honest I don't, Wig. I want it to stay where it belongs. And I want there to be only just the one in the troop. I got mad first. That's because I'm always getting mad, I guess. But there will never be any signalling badge in my patrol, Wig. That's going to be the rule."
"There'll be a Gold Cross though," he said. And then he shut his eyes.
But I stayed right there—just because—oh, I don't know, just because I wanted to stay right there. You can't always tell why you want to do a thing.
Now when Wig said that about the Gold Cross I thought it was just because he was weak and didn't know what he was saying. Because, maybe you know as well as I do, that the Gold Cross isn't so easy to get. Only one fellow in our troop ever got it, and that was Tom Slade. Maybe I took a chance when I went into all that smoke, I'm not saying I didn't, but if I got anything at all, it would be the Bronze Medal, I guess, but nix on the Gold Cross. You don't find gold crosses growing around on every bush, you can bet. Anyway, I didn't want any honor medal because I knew Wig wouldn't get one (because they're only for lifesaving) and gee, if he didn't deserve one, I'm sure I didn't.
Anyway this wasn't any time to be thinking about medals, because Artie Van Arlan was missing and that was the principal thing we had to think about. He wasn't on the house—boat, that was one sure thing, because we looked everywhere and couldn't find him. Wig said he remembered somebody speaking to him when he was lying there, and he guessed it must have been Artie. He didn't know what he said though.
The fellows were all excited about it, especially because the boat was just beginning to float, and we didn't know whether we'd better anchor there and wait to see if he turned up. Two of the fellows climbed down and swam around and the rest kept caning. It wasn't very deep yet and they could even feel around the flats, but they couldn't find him anywhere.
I went around and looked at the window and even then the cabin was filled with smoke, but not so thick. Believe me, I wished that Tom Slade was there then, because he's great on deducing and finding clues and all like that. That's why we always called him Sherlock Nobody Holmes. Anyway, I couldn't make out what happened. Artie might have staggered up against the window to get air, but I didn't see how he could fall out, and if he was able to climb out then why didn't he come up where the rest of us were?
I couldn't make anything out of it; all I knew was he was gone. I knew he must have been drowned and his body been carried up by the tide, which was running up strong now.
Well, you can bet we didn't have any fun drifting up. Nobody said anything much; we just sat around the edge of the deck with our staffs and pushed her off, whenever she ran against the shore.
Charlie Seabury sat next to me and after a while he said, "Who's going to tell his people?"
"I am," I told him, "because I'm to blame for the whole business."
"Nobody's to blame," he said.
"Yes, I am," I said, "they just did it on account of me."
"That's because all the fellows like you," he said, "and they like to do anything for you."
Anyway, it wasn't so necessary, I see that now, and it's just the same as if I killed him. Gee, I wish it was I that got killed, I know that. Cracky, I deserved to after being such a fool.
After that, nobody spoke for a long time, then Hunt Ward, who's in the Elk Patrol, said, "It's the first fellow in our troop that died. I guess we won't go up to camp now."
"Not in this boat, anyway," I said.
Then after a while I said, "We'll send his name in and they'll print it in Boys' Life."
"I know," Hunt said, "with a black line around it."
Yet we kind of kept hoping all the time, even though we knew there wasn't any sense in it. "You thought you were a goner," Hunt said, "and you came back all right."
Now I was a big fool that it didn't put a certain idea in my head when he said that, but I only said, "Yes, but that was different."
Then Dorry Benton, who was two or three fellows away from me, said, "One thing is sure, he went through the window and into the water. Maybe he was half conscious and didn't remember there was only a narrow strip of deck there. And he must have tumbled right off it."
"I don't know," I said, "only if he isn't in the boat then he must be in the water and if he fell in the water and couldn't swim or shout either, then he must be drowned."
Then nobody said anything and we just sat there keeping her off shore and watching her drift up. When we got around Bentley's turn we could see the lights in Bridgeboro and then was when I began to realize and I hated to get home. I wished the tide wouldn't take us so fast. Some of the fellows walked around on the roof, but none of them said anything. I wished it was me instead of Artie, I know that. I ought to have been satisfied to escape without getting the Ravens to do that—I mean send that message for me. Anyway, I made up my mind I'd be the one to tell Mr. Ellsworth about it, and Artie's people too, and I'd take all the blame.
I guess nobody said anything more all the way up, until we came near the Field Club landing. The shore is like low cliffs here and after we got her over against it, a couple of the fellows got out and towed her along with ropes, till we came to the long float.
"Are we going to tie her at the float?" Connie Bennett asked, very sober like. Gee, it sounded funny to hear someone speak. Doc Carson said, "Yes." He was kind of like head of the three patrols now, because he has the most sense of all of us, I guess, and Tom Slade, who is head of the Elks, is away and I decided, all of a sudden, that I wasn't much of a patrol leader, and Artie—he was—he wasn't there.
"Look out for that canoe," somebody said, just as we were coming alongside the float. "They shouldn't have left it there," Connie said; "that's no place for a canoe." I guess we were all kind of nervous and cranky like. Then I saw that there was a black figure sitting on the lowest step of the boathouse. I was just going to call "Who's there?" when Doc said, "Pull that canoe out of the way before we smash it in."
So I jumped off onto the float and grabbed the canoe, and g-o-o-d night! it was my Indian dugout.
Then I heard one of the fellows shouting "Look who's here!" and I saw the fellow who had been sitting on the steps coming toward the float and I could tell it was Artie Van Arlen. Then I could hear Pee-wee dancing on the cabin roof and screaming, "The plot grows thicker! The plot grows thicker!"—good night, the kid was almost having a fit.
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble," I said to Artie, "would you please relate your adventures, I see that you're not dead."
"Well, not so you'd notice it," he said, "but I guess I came pretty near it."
Then I could see he was all in and must have had a pretty hard time of it, but I couldn't help kidding him, because I was feeling so good to know he was safe. Believe me, that fellow had some adventure.
"It was lucky for me," he said, "that you tied this crazy canoe or whatever you call it-"
"That is an Indian dugout, if anyone should ask you," I said, "and if I wanted to sell it to an antiquary—"
"A what?" Pee-wee shouted down from the cabin roof.
"An antiquary," I said; "comes from the Latin word aunt and the Chinese word query, meaning to ask questions—otherwise the same as Pee-wee. As I was saying, if I wanted to sell it to an antiquary I could get a large check for it."
"How large?" Pee-wee shouted.
"About eight inches by two and a half inches; now, shut up!" I said.
Cracky, you should have heard those fellows laugh.
"Well, whatever it is," said Artie, "it's lucky for me that you tied it just under the cabin window, because I fell into it—I fell in good and hard."
"I think you fell in soft," I said; "it shows how thoughtful I am. A scout is foresighted—"
"You make me sick!" Pee-wee shouted.
"Tell Doc Carson to give you some medicine," I answered.
Laugh! Because, you see, we were all feeling so good about Artie being saved that we'd laugh at nothing, like a lot of girls. But girls are all right, I have to admit that.
Let's see, where was I? Oh, yes, I was telling you about Artie. You see when I first arrived with that canoe I tied it just under the cabin window and then scrambled up through the window. So there it was all the time. Lucky thing, too. Only the funny thing was we never missed it—we were punk scouts, that's sure.
Then Artie told us how it was. "After the smoke got so thick that I was dizzy and couldn't see, I got scared and groped around for Wig. I couldn't find him anywhere and he didn't answer. I didn't know whether all of the signal had been sent or not, but anyway I knew I couldn't stand it in there any longer. I thought Wig must have climbed out of the window. So I decided I would do the same thing. Oh, but didn't I have some job finding it! I lay down flat, I knew enough to do that anyway, and then I crawled around with one hand up feeling for the window sill. When I found it I was so dizzy I just hung to it and I thought I was a goner sure."
"I know how you felt," I said, "because I was in the same trouble myself."
Then he said how he dragged himself up to the window sill and tried to shout, but couldn't. Then he fell across it and kind of wriggled out. He didn't have his senses, but he knew enough to know that there was a narrow part of the deck, just a passageway sort of, outside, and he thought he'd fall on that. But it was lucky he didn't. He fell past it right into the water and that brought him to his senses, kind of. So he sputtered and groped around till he happened to clutch the Indian dugout and it rolled over with him and the anchor that we had laid in it with a rope to hold it fast to the houseboat, the anchor rolled out, and the first thing he knew he was drifting up the river, hanging onto the dugout for dear life.
He was feeling so weak and sputtering so on account of his lungs being all filled with smoke, that he couldn't shout and after a while he drifted up on the bar near Second Bend. Then he got the dugout set right side up on the mud while he bailed it out by splashing in it with his hands and afterwards making them into a cup.
After that it was easy drifting up stream and when he got to about a quarter of a mile below the boathouse, he managed to paddle over to the shore and then he pulled himself along by holding on to the weeds and things.
"You had a pretty narrow escape," Pee-wee said.
"It was a narrow boat, why shouldn't he have a narrow escape," I said; "I had a good wide escape, anyway."
"Didn't you have your hat with you to bail with?" somebody asked Artie.
"All I had was my copy of Initiation Drill," he said.
"Why didn't you drill a hole in the boat then," I said.
"What for?", Pee-wee shouted.
"So the water could get out as fast as it came in".
"What are you talking about? You're crazy!" he yelled.
"There should be two holes in every boat," Connie Bennet said, in that slow way he has; "one for the water to come in and the other so it can get out."
Gee-williger! You should have seen Pee-wee.
Anyway, I suppose you think by this time that we're all crazy. I should worry.
Anyway, you can bet I didn't stay there long, because I wanted to find out if Wig's signal had been received. Maybe you won't understand, but down the river it seemed all right and I was sure somebody must have caught it. But after we landed and I started up home, it seemed as if it was just kind of playing, after all, because that's the way some people think about the scouts, so I hurried as fast as I could so that my mother and father wouldn't be worrying. I felt awfully funny, kind of, as I went up the lawn because I knew that if no one had come and told them about the signal, they'd think I was dead.
They were sitting on the porch waiting for me and I knew from the way my mother put her arms around me that they had been worrying. She asked we what had kept me so late and my father said that I ought to send them some word when I was going to stay out as late as midnight. I have to admit he was right, too.
But anyway, I knew that they hadn't received any word about me from anybody, and I was all up in the air about that. I could see that Jake Holden hadn't been there at all and that nobody had come and told them about the signal, either. I didn't exactly ask them, but I could tell it all the same. So I told them all about everything that happened, about how I got caught in the marsh and all that, and especially about Wig being such a hero. Then she cried a little, kind of, and I said there was no use crying because I was home all right. But anyway, she cried just the same, and hugged me awful tight just as if everything hadn't ended all right. That's a funny thing about mothers.
So then I went to bed and I lay awake thinking about everything that happened. What I thought about most was why Jake Holden hadn't come and told my mother and father like I heard him say he was going to do. You remember how I heard him say that. So that was a mystery—that's what Pee-wee would call it. And I was wondering why he hadn't come to the house to give them that note he had found. Because I knew Jake Holden (he always called me "Scouty") and he liked me, too, and I knew he would sure have come to the house if something hadn't happened.
Now that I was all calmed down, as you might say, I wasn't surprised any more about no one reading the signal, because maybe it didn't show very plain in Bridgeboro and anyway, most grown people seem to think that signalling and all that kind of thing are lots of fun for scouts, but not much use except when grown people, and especially the navy, do it.
Anyway, I should worry about grown people, because we have plenty of fun.
Oh, boy, didn't I sleep that night! When I got up I made up my mind that I'd go to Jake Holden's shanty, just for the fun of it, and find out why he didn't come and tell my family that I was dead. Because, if I was dead, he sure ought to have come and told them. Of course, I knew I wasn't dead, but anyway, how did he know that? After breakfast I did my good turn—I turned my sister Ruth's bed around for her so as it faced the bay window. I was going to turn it twice and tall it two good turns, but she said that wouldn't be fair—that that wouldn't be two good turns. I said it would be just as fair as Pee-wee turning the ice-cream freezer till the cream was all frozen and then saying he did a hundred good turns. Then she threw a tennis ball at me, but it missed me. That's one thing about girls, they can't throw a ball. They can't whistle, either.
Now comes another adventure. After breakfast I went to Marshtown (that's a few houses down near the river) to Jake Holden's shanty.
It's a funny kind of a place made out of barrel staves and part of a boat all jumbled up together, and it looks kind of like a chicken coop. He lives all alone and kind of camps out. He's a nice man, you can bet, only you have to get on the right side of him. If you can't get on the right side of him the safest place is behind him. He catches fish and crabs and goes around town selling them.
He taught me how to cook.
When I got to his shanty I saw it was locked up and he wasn't anywhere around. I guess he event down the bay crabbing. Anyway, I ran as fast as I could to Marshtown landing to see if he had gone yet, but there wasn't any sign of his boat there. Maybe you think I wasn't disappointed. Anyway, I began looking around like a scout is supposed to do, to see if there were any signs to show me whether he'd be back soon, because maybe he only went up to the club landing for gasoline. But there weren't any signs and he didn't show up.
Now, if I hadn't been a scout I would have gone home and played tennis or followed the shore up to the club landing and waited for the troop to come and go to work on the houseboat. But instead of that, I kept looking around and pretty soon what do you think I saw? I saw a footprint. Some Robinson Crusoe, hey?