ROY BLAKELEY'S BEE-LINE HIKE
PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH
Author of Tom Slade, Boy Scout, Tom Slade at Temple Camp, Roy Blakeley, Etc.
Illustrated by R. Emmett Owen
Published with the Approval of the Boy Scouts of America
Grosset & Dunlap Publishers : : New York
Made in the United States of America
Copyright, 1922, by Grosset & Dunlap
CHAPTER PAGE I WE LOSE A MEMBER 1 II MISSIONARY WORK 4 III A SOLEMN PLEDGE 10 IV WE START 18 V A STUMBLING BLOCK 25 VI A PROPOSITION 31 VII FAMINE 37 VIII REEL ADVENTURE 44 IX DIPLOMACY 50 X THE BEE-LINE 55 XI EATS 61 XII BLACK OR WHITE 66 XIII BANDITS AND THINGS 73 XIV THE HAUNTED WHEEL 78 XV A SCOUT IS OBSERVANT 82 XVI SUSPENSE 87 XVII THE HERO 91 XVIII ONE, TWO, THREE, GO! 95 XIX UP IN THE AIR 101 XX SEEING THINGS 105 XXI FETTERS 113 XXII INVASION 120 XXIII FOILED! 125 XXIV DARING DORA DANE 134 XXV PEE-WEE'S LOSS 139 XXVI THE SHERO 144 XXVII THE NEW SCOUT 149 XXVIII THE LEDGE 155 XXIX THE LAST HOPE 162 XXX A GOOD TURN 167 XXXI TOMBOY 171 XXXII BEE-LINES AND THINGS 176 XXXIII FROGS AND HATS 179 XXXIV A LITTLE BIT OFF THE TOP 188 XXXV LOGIC 192 XXXVI THE SIEGE 198 CHAPTER THE LAST (THANK GOODNESS) IT HASN'T GOT ANY NAME 206
ROY BLAKELEY'S BEE-LINE HIKE
WE LOSE A MEMBER
Now I'm going to tell you about the bee-line hike. Maybe you'll say you don't believe everything I tell you about it, but one thing sure, it's a straight story. It wasn't so long, that hike, but—oh, boy!
Now the first thing I have to do in this story is to get rid of Charlie Seabury. That's easy. Then the next thing I have to do is to tell you about Pee-wee Harris. Gee whiz, I wish we could get rid of him. That kid belongs in the Raven Patrol and when those fellows went up to Temple Camp they wished him on us for the summer. They said it was a good turn. Can you beat that? I suppose we've got to take him up to camp with us when we go. Anyway the crowd up there will have some peace in the meantime, so we're doing a good turn, that's what I said.
So this story is just about my own patrol and Pee-wee Harris, and some buildings and a couple of valleys and a hill and some pie, and a forest and some ice cream cones and a big tree and a back yard and a woman and a ghost and a couple of girls and ten cents' worth of peanut brittle. It's about a college, too. Maybe you think we're not very smart on account of being kind of crazy, but anyway we went through college in ten minutes. So you can see from that how bright we are. That's why we call ourselves the Silver Foxes.
Now Charlie Seabury (he has seven merit badges) has a grandfather who lives out near the Mississippi and his grandfather asked him to go out there and spend the summer. No wonder they call that man grand.
Charlie came to me because I'm patrol leader, and he said, "Shall I go out there and spend the summer?"
I said, "Sure, you might as well. If you hang around here all you'll spend is nickels."
He said, "But when you start up for camp you'll want a full patrol, won't you? You can't count Pee-wee in the Silver Foxes."
"Talk of something pleasant," I told him. "You go ahead out west and leave the patrol to us. We'll find a new member and when you come back in the Fall you can start the new patrol that Mr. Ellsworth is always talking about."
He said, "Good idea; what shall we call it?"
"Call it the police patrol or whatever you want to, I don't care," I told him.
He said, "Well, I guess I'll go. My grandfather has a big apple orchard and everything, and I can go swimming in the Mississippi. I'll write to you."
"How is that going to get me any apples?" I asked him. "Go ahead, the sooner the quicker, and I'll have fewer Silver Foxes to worry about. Let your grandfather worry for a while."
So that's the end of Charlie Seabury in this story. We lost a scout and his grandfather lost an apple orchard. I should worry. Maybe, later, you'll hear about the Laughing Hyenas that he started. But believe me, there are laughs enough in this story without bothering our heads about that new outfit.
We had about two weeks to hang around Bridgeboro (that's where we live) before starting for Temple Camp. If you want to know why we stayed behind when the Ravens and the Elks went, you'd better read the story that comes before this one. That will tell you how our young hero, the raving raven of the Ravens, happened to be wished on us, too.
Now a couple of days after Charlie Seabury started out west two or three of us were sitting in the swinging seat on my porch talking about what we'd do to kill time for a couple of weeks.
"What's the matter with killing Pee-wee?" Westy wanted to know.
I said, "Speak of angels and you'll hear the flutter of their wings; here he comes up the hill."
"What's he eating?" Dorry Benton asked.
"I think it's peanuts," Hunt Manners said.
Pretty soon the little angel eating peanuts crossed the road and cut up across the lawn. He's always cutting up in some way or other.
"For goodness' sake, look at him," I said; "he's a walking junk shop. We could sell him for old metal."
Honest, I had to laugh. That kid looked like a Christmas tree. He was wearing his belt-axe and it looked as if it weighed a ton the way it dragged his belt down. In front he had his scout jack-knife dangling from his belt and his big nickel-plated compass hanging by a cord around his neck. He had all his badges on, and besides he had his aluminum cooking set hanging by a strap from his shoulder. He had his brown scarf on too, he didn't care how hot it was. The reason the Ravens chose brown for their color is because they're all nuts in that patrol. He had his scout staff with the Raven pennant on it and he was jabbing it into the ground as he came along.
Westy said, "What's this? A traveling hardware store?"
Dorry said, "Are you starting off on a crusade, Kid? Where's your steel armor? What's the large idea? Have the Germans invaded Bridgeboro?"
I was laughing so hard I could hardly speak. The kid looked like that picture in the handbook that shows just how to wear the medals and things.
"What's this? A coffee-pot?" Ralph Warner asked him. "You must be going to join the Cook's Tours with all your cooking things. What's the big idea of all the exterior decorations?"
"I'm a delegation," Pee-wee said.
"A what?" I asked him.
"Don't you know what a missionary is?" he shot back at me.
"Good night! Pity the poor heathens," I said. "So that's what you've got the compass for! You're going to China? Break it to us gently. You sound like a Ford when you walk."
"You think you're smart, don't you?" he shouted. "I was out doing a good turn, so there. I was out doing a good turn for your patrol. I was trying to get you a new member. When you go after new members you've got to look like a scout, haven't you? You've got to show them what scouting is, so they'll see. Everybody knows that. Didn't you ever hear that it takes a scout to catch a scout?"
"You couldn't catch a snail with all that junk hanging on you," I told him. "Who did you try to catch?"
"Warde Hollister," he shouted.
Good night, we all began to laugh.
"Warde Hollister?" I said. "You couldn't catch that fellow with a lasso. He loves the wild and woolly front porch too much. You stand a tall chance of getting Warde Hollister into the scouts. You're wasting your time, Kiddo. What did he tell you?"
"He said he has something better to do with himself," Pee-wee said.
"There you go," Dorry told him; "that's him all over. Why should he join the Silver Foxes when he can shoot buffaloes and Indians and hunt train robbers and kidnap maidens and dig up buried treasure?"
"Where can he do that?" Pee-wee wanted to know.
"Right in the public library," I told him, "division B, second shelf from the top. That's a dangerous place, that is; I've known fellows to get killed in there. There used to be a kid that lived on Willow Place and he got drowned in a sea story in there."
"What are you talking about?" Pee-wee screamed. He always gets excited when we jolly him.
"We're talking about adventures," I said; "hair-breadth adventures—not even as wide as that, some of them. I know a fellow that got buried in a book; it was absorbing just like quicksand, and he got absorbed in it. What were you going to do, Kid? Throw the coffee-pot at him if he didn't join? You didn't intend to hack him to pieces with your scoutknife, did you? Because a scout is supposed to be kind."
"You make me tired, all of you!" Pee-wee shouted. "Do you want to hear about it or don't you?"
"Answered in the affirmative," I told him. "Begin at the end and go on till you come to the beginning."
"Then take the second turn to your left," Westy said.
"That's what I get for trying to do you a good turn," the kid shouted. "No wonder Warde Hollister said you were all crazy."
"Did he say that?" Westy wanted to know.
"Sure, and other people have said so, too," the kid piped up.
"They don't need to say so, we admit it," I told him. "Go ahead with your story. What do you want us to do? Light a camp-fire so you can unravel your yarn?"
"That fellow can be circum—circumnavigated yet," Pee-wee said, very dark and mysterious.
"Circumvented you mean," Westy said.
"You know what I mean," the kid shouted.
"Go ahead," I told him; "the plot grows thicker."
"Give us a couple of peanuts," Dorry said.
The kid turned his aluminum coffee-pot upside down and, good morning, sister Anne, it was full of peanuts!
"Let's see what's in the saucepan," I said.
A SOLEMN PLEDGE
So then we were all eating peanuts.
I said, "Go ahead, Kid, and tell us. You're a little brick to try to find us a new member. He didn't fall, hey?"
"He didn't even trip," Westy said.
"Keep still," I told him, "and let the kid tell us."
Pee-wee said, "I dressed all up and wore all my stuff so he'd see just what a scout is like. Because I thought maybe that would kind of lure him. I thought if he saw the cooking set it would remind him about camp-fires and eating and everything."
"What did he say?" Westy wanted to know.
"He said he had no use for scouts," the kid said. "He said they have to be all the time doing kind acts every day and that there isn't any fun playing soldiers. I told him there are different kinds of kind acts," the kid said. "I told him you don't have to be so awful kind. I told him it might be a kind act to break a window—if a house was on fire; that's what I told him. I told him he might do a good turn by throwing a lot of broken glass on the road to cut automobile tires——"
"What kind of a good turn do you call that?" Dorry asked him. I was laughing so hard I couldn't speak.
"That's a new one on me," Ralph Warner said.
"Suppose there were bandits in the automobile?" the kid shouted. "There! You think you're so smart. I know lots of good turns that are fun. Suppose I tripped you up so you couldn't chase a—a—poor little girl so as to steal—a—a——"
"A piece of candy from her," I said.
"That would be a good turn," the kid shouted.
I said, "Well, Kid, if a fellow doesn't believe in breaking windows and throwing broken glass in the street and tripping people up, he would never make much of a scout. I wouldn't want a fellow like that in my patrol. Forget it. We're just as much obliged to you, but the Public Library is the place for that wild animal. We could never tame him."
"Maybe if he could only see that scouts have a lot of fun," the kid said; "because he thinks they don't do anything but good turns. I wish I could get him for you, I know that, because you did a lot of things for me. But he only just laughed at me and he said we didn't have any fun."
I said, "Kid, you're a little brick. When it comes to good turns you eat them alive. We should worry about Warde Hollister. If he wants to camp out on his wild and woolly front porch, we should bother our young lives about him. Let him lurk in his hammock. Some day the rope will break and he'll die a horrible death. What are you squinting your eye at?" I asked Westy.
He was sitting on the swinging seat beside me squinting his eye awful funny.
He said, "Keep still, stop swinging for a second. Do you see that tree away, way over on the ridge? Do you know what kind of a tree that is?"
"It's a large tree," I said; "correct the first time. What about it?"
"It's a poplar tree," he said.
Dorry said, "All right, it's a large, popular tree. What about it?"
Westy said, "Take your hands off the swing, you fellows. I'm trying to get a bee-line on it. Do you know what I'd like to do?"
"Go down to Bennett's for ice cream cones?" I said.
"Come ahead!" Pee-wee shouted.
"You'd be arrested if you went on Main Street looking that way," I told him.
"Close one eye and look straight at that tree," Westy said. "Get right behind me. Now. Look."
"All right," I said, "I'm looking."
"Well, what's in a bee-line with that tree?" he asked me.
"A lot of stuff," I said; "buildings and things—and villages and landscapes."
"The line cuts Allison College right in half," Westy said. "See?"
"If it sliced a couple of slices off the High School that would be better," I said. "The High School just escapes. It crosses Main Street, I hope nobody trips over it."
"What do you mean? Trip over an imaginary line!" Pee-wee shouted at me.
"Sure," I said, "if you have a strong enough imagination. Oh, look where it goes right through Bennett's."
"Where?" the kid shouted. "Show me! Where?"
"Excuse me, I'm mistaken," I said. "It goes right—straight—wait a minute—it goes right straight through the dentist's—Dr. Wade's——"
"You make me tired!" Pee-wee yelled.
"Do you know what I'd like to do?" Westy said. "I'd like to start from here and go straight for that tree. A bee-line hike, that's what I'd call it. Let's see your compass, Kid. That tree is—just—wait a minute, hold still—that tree is just exactly—west. I'd like to start and hike right straight for it."
"How about buildings?" Hunt Manners wanted to know.
"If we came to buildings we'd have to go through them," Westy said. "Through them or over them. Or under them. Or else we'd have to move them out of the way. We'd make a solemn vow that we wouldn't turn to the right or left for anybody or anything. We'd hike right straight for that tree. What do you say?"
Oh, boy, you should have heard those fellows shout. That shows how crazy we are.
I said, "Carried by a large minority. All those who are unanimously in favor of a bee-line hike, eat another peanut. Settled. When shall we start? To-morrow morning? Righto!"
"No matter what happens we'll go right straight west," Dorry said.
"For the tree," Hunt Manners shouted.
"Even if we have to go a little——" the kid started.
"No, you don't," I said. "We go straight through the dentist's."
"If things get in our way we'll use resources, hey?" he piped up.
"We'll use dynamite," I said. "Scouts of the Silver Fox Patrol and Pee-wee Harris, First Bridgeboro, New Jersey, Troop B. S. A., all gather around your patrol leader and each give him six peanuts as a token of loyalty. That's the way the knights used to do in history——"
"It's a cinch being a patrol leader," Dorry said.
"Keep still," I told him, "and give me two more peanuts. Do you think I don't know how to count? Now all raise your hands and stick your thumbs in your ears while I say the vow. Ready? Go:
"Before the sun sinks in the sink to-morrow night, we, the members of the sterling silver triple-plated Fox Patrol will plant our patrol emblem under the branches of yonder popular tree, having taken a course due west from this swing seat on my porch, and turned neither to right nor left on the way even if we have to go through school again——"
"Even if we have to go through the mathematics room," Dorry shouted.
"And hereby we pledge ourselves with ten more peanuts each to our gallant patrol leader——"
"Have a heart," Westy said; "what is this? A hike or a monopoly?"
"It's a go," I said. "Nothing will stop us now. The world must be made safe for the Boy Scouts of America! Give me another peanut, somebody. Food will win the war. Hurrah, for the Silver-plated Fox Patrol and the bee-line hike!"
Now I'll have to tell you about where I live and about Bridgeboro and all that, so you'll know the country we invaded. But you needn't think I'm going to bother you with geography because, gee whiz, I have no use for that. Believe me, when you see my picture on the cover of a book you'll know there is no history or geography or anything like that in it. And the only figures you'll see are the numbers of the pages, because I should worry about figures in vacation.
But anyway it's dandy up where I live. My father owns a lot of property up there and so everybody calls it Blakeley's hill. It's in Bridgeboro but kind of just outside of Bridgeboro—you know what I mean.
Maybe you know how it is with towns that have rivers running through them. Rivers run through valleys—that shows how smart I am. There is always high land on both sides of a river. I don't mean it has to be right close to the river.
Now this is the way it is where I live. Blakeley's hill isn't a hill exactly, it's a ridge. It runs along the same way the river runs. The state road runs along that ridge and our house is on the state road only it's way back from the road. We've got a dandy grapevine. We've got a sun parlor, too. That's where Mr. Blakeley's son sits and reads on rainy days. That's why we call it a sun parlor.
Now if you sit on our porch you can look down over Bridgeboro; you get a peach of a view. Beyond Bridgeboro you can see the river. That's where the town ends—at the river. There are a lot of turtles in that river. Across the river the land is low until you come to the other ridge. Now the space between the two ridges is the valley of the river. Correct, be seated.
In that low land between the river and the other ridge is Little Valley; that's a village. It's where Harry Donnelle lives. He's got a Cadillac, that fellow has. Lots of times he treats us to soda, but he won't be a scoutmaster. Oh, boy, but he'd make a dandy one. Little Valley isn't very big; it hasn't got its eyes open yet.
When you get past Little Valley there's a kind of a small hill and then you come to the ridge. Up on top of the ridge is that big tree that Westy was squinting at. There are a lot of other trees up there but that one is bigger than any of them. Anywhere between my house and that other ridge you can see that tree. Down in Bridgeboro maybe there are places where you can't see it on account of buildings, but most always you can see it. If you could have a string from my porch to that tree, the string would be right over Bridgeboro and the river and Little Valley and that other small hill. So now you know just how it is. From my porch to that tree is about seven miles as the crow flies, and believe me the crows have it easy compared to the boy scouts.
So now our troubles begin. If you want to follow us, all right, it's up to you. I should worry. We have troubles of our own.
The next morning we started from my porch. We reminded ourselves of the Pilgrims and Christopher Columbus and a lot of other people you meet in school. Our young hero, P. Harris, was all decorated up like a band wagon, belt-axe, badges, compass, cooking set, a big coil of rope and the horn part of a phonograph. He had that hanging over his back like a soldier's pack. The only thing he forgot to bring was the player piano from his house.
"What's that phonograph horn for?" Westy asked him.
"It's to use as a megaphone," he said. "Suppose we want to—to—shout for a——"
"House to get out of the way?" I said.
"You never can tell when we may want to use it," he said.
"I'm sorry I didn't bring my mother's sewing machine along," Dorry said.
"We don't need that with this kid along," I said. "We'll have enough stitches in our sides from laughing."
"We ought to have some mothers and sweethearts and things to weep when we start off," the kid said.
I said, "I don't believe I've got any sweethearts around the house just at present, but wait a minute and I'll see."
"Tell them to bring some handkerchiefs," Westy said.
"And a couple of buckets of tears," Hunt Manners piped up.
I went inside and called to my mother and my sister Marjorie and asked them if they could come out on the porch and weep. My mother said she was very busy but she'd come and weep for about a minute. When they came out they were crying—from laughing so hard.
Then I delivered a speech. I said to my mother and sister, "You're supposed to keep on weeping and wringing your hands while I make a farewell speech. Don't you know the way the wives and sweethearts did when the Pilgrim Fathers started away?"
Then I said:
"Scouts of the Silver Fox Patrol and also the raving Raven that we have wished on us, there must be no good turns on this hike. We're going the same way the crow flies, only different. The first time we have to turn to right or left we will have to admit we're beaten, and come home. We'll have to turn back like somebody or other who started for some place once upon a time in the third grade history—an explorer. The battle cry is 'ONWARD.' If we do any good turns they'll have to be up and down, not to right or left. Anybody that wants to stay home can do it. At five o'clock this afternoon we intend to plant the Silver Fox emblem under that big poplar tree on west ridge. We'll start a fire there so all the world can see. That fire will mean triumph. It will mean we went in a bee-line. If we have to push Little Valley out of the way we'll do it—it isn't so big. We'll cross the valley——"
My mother said, "You'd better wear your rubbers."
I said, "Do you think Christopher Columbus and Henry Hudson wore rubbers? At five o'clock this afternoon you look over to west ridge and see what you see. We intend to go straight—it says in the handbook a scout lives straight—but we can beat that, we can go straight. We are going to go in a bee-line for that tree and take possession of it in the name of the Silver Fox Patrol B. S. A. This is the only real boy scout drive that ever happened—all others are imitations. This is the famous bee-line hike invented by Westy Martin. We're off!"
So then we raised our banner and started out. It was a big piece of cardboard fixed onto a scout staff and on it was printed with shoe-blacking:
THE BEE-LINE HIKE OF THE SILVER FOX PATROL. GET FROM UNDER, EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING.
Our first mishap was at the end of my lawn, when Pee-wee's garter broke and a lot of junk fell on the ground when he stooped down to fix it.
"Got a safety-pin?" he wanted to know.
I said, "Pick up your coffee-pot and things and put them in the megaphone and come ahead. Do you think we're going to start out to conquer the world with safety-pins?"
A STUMBLING BLOCK
Little we thought that inside of an hour we'd be on the road to fame. I don't mean that we turned to the right or left to get into the road. We just kind of bunked into fame. That hike was only seven miles long but in one way it went all the way out to the Pacific coast. Maybe it's in China by this time for all I know.
While we were going down the hill to get into Bridgeboro, Pee-wee said, "We ought to look kind of invincible, like conquerors."
I said, "Well, as long as you're the official junk wagon you might as well carry the standard."
"The what?" he wanted to know.
"The standard," I said; "that's Latin for banner. Didn't you ever hear of the Standard Oil Company?"
So we gave him the banner, and oh, boy, that kid did look funny, holding it up. He was scowling as if he thought he could frighten buildings out of the way. The stuff he had inside of his patented megaphone kept rattling and he sounded like a junk dealers' convention as he tramped along.
We decided that it would be best to go into regular formation so as to look more invincible and scare the civilized civilians in Bridgeboro.
"We'll strike terror, hey?" the kid said.
"I hope we strike a restaurant," Hunt Manners spoke up.
"I don't care what we strike as long as we don't strike our colors," I told him. "Suppose three fellows walk together, and three others behind them, and Pee-wee and I will walk ahead because I'm the leader and he's the standard bearer. Fall in."
"Into what?" the kid wanted to know.
"Into line," I said. "You walk ahead with me and do as I tell you. You're going to be courier and envoy and a lot of things. You're my official body-guard. You're my staff. Only don't break your other garter. Don't give the enemy any advantage."
So that was the way we fixed it. I marched ahead, with Pee-wee at my side holding the standard. He was a kind of a martial band, too, on account of his aluminum cooking set rattling and jingling in the phonograph horn. He looked very severe. I guess the women and children will never forget when he passed through poor, defenseless Bridgeboro. They're laughing yet. Talk about poor Belgium!
I marched along beside my official staff. I guess you know what I look like. You can see me on the cover of this book. That laugh is caused by Pee-wee. You can only see it, but oh, boy, you ought to hear it. Behind us came Westy and Dorry and Hunt Manners marching together, and behind them were Will Dawson and the Warner twins marching together. The expeditionary forces!
Behind us, after we got into town, all the kids followed along to see what it was all about, so pretty soon we had a crowd of about a couple of dozen all around us, yelling and hooting. And all the grown up people stopped and stared and then began to laugh. All the while Pee-wee looked straight ahead and his face was very severe.
We had two things to go by, the tree away off there on the ridge, and Pee-wee's compass. I carried that compass to help us in places where we couldn't see the tree. All we had to do was to go straight west.
The best way to hike a straight course with a compass is to get a very thin stick that's perfectly straight. A knitting needle is good only you must be sure not to use a steel one. You lay that across your compass. If you're going west you lay it across the east and west points. It's best to lay the compass down on something when you do that. Then you get a bead on the direction of the stick and pick out something that it points at. Then you hike straight for that thing. But there's no fun hiking a bee-line unless you're fair and square with yourself. If you go just a little bit out of your way to avoid something and try to make yourself think you're going straight, that's no fun. Because, one thing, you can't jolly a compass.
Now it was easy following that tree until we got down into town. Even then it was easy for a little distance on account of Central Avenue running east and west. We had good luck because our hike straight west down the hill took us right plunk into Central Avenue.
At the beginning of Central Avenue, where it kind of peters out at the foot of our hill, we stopped to make sure it went straight west. Because with a nice, long, straight street like that it's easy to fool yourself and say it goes straight west when it doesn't, quite. But Central Avenue did, because away down beyond the other end of it, and away across the river we could see that big tree up on the ridge. Central Avenue doesn't go all the way through town but we saw that as far as it did go it went straight west. We made good and sure. Because a bee-line hike is no good unless you're strict about it.
After we had gone a couple of blocks we couldn't see the tree any more on account of being right in the thick part of town. But we checked our course up with the compass on every corner and everybody crowded around laughing at us, and we had all the kids at our heels.
After we had gone about five blocks on Central Avenue we came to the place where it ends. It bunks right into another street that goes across it. Right across the street from the end of Central Avenue is a big house. There it was staring us right in the face. And right on the porch, plunk in front of the front door was a big fat man, staring us right in the face.
"Foiled!" I said.
"The bee-line goes right through the front door," Westy said. "That's just our luck. That's the kind of a house that has a hall going right through it. The bee-line goes right through that hall and in back is Monument Park."
"Right through the hall?" I said. "What good does that do us? It goes right through the man!"
"Now's the time for strategy," Pee-wee said.
I said, "Don't break your garter now, whatever you do, or all is lost."
"We've got to have a conference," he said.
I said, "Come on across the street and I'll consult with my official staff."
"That man looks invincible," Pee-wee said.
Westy said, "He looks immovable, that's sure."
I said, "I'm sorry now my official staff didn't bring a couple of British tanks with him."
That big, fat man just seemed to be saying, "They shall not pass."
Hunt Manners said, "Take a good look at him; does he look good-natured?"
We went across the street and stopped on the sidewalk of Grove Place right plunk in front of the big house. Then we all gathered around close to decide what we had better do next. There was quite a wide lawn in front of the house.
I said to my official staff, "Turn the standard around so the man can read it and notice if he smiles."
"He's too far away," Dorry said. "Why don't you send some one to reconnoiter and see if he smiles?"
"Send a spy," the kid whispered.
I said, "Don't tell your general what to do. You're appointed an envoy to go up to that porch and ask that man if it will be all right for Leader Blakeley of the Silver Fox Patrol B. S. A. to come up there and discuss whether we can cross his territory. Tell him if he wants to come down here and discuss it on neutral territory, you'll give him safe conduct. Do you know what that is? Take all your stuff with you and notice if he smiles. Go ahead and do just what I told you."
Honest, you'd have laughed if you could have seen that kid hiking up the walk across the lawn, rattling and jangling and hoisting his phonograph horn up on his shoulder. He tramped right up onto the porch and pretty soon I thought the man was kind of smiling.
Then, all of a sudden, good night, the kid raised his big megaphone up to his mouth to call through it and out fell the coffee-pot and the saucepan and his pair of sneakers and a lot of other stuff. I could see the big fat man just shaking.
"It's all right, come ahead!" the kid called through the megaphone.
When we came to the porch the man looked us over very funny, like. He didn't laugh, but I think he was having a hard job not to. Then I knew we'd win because I could see he was losing his morale.
He said, "Well, what's all this?"
I said, "This is the Silver Fox Patrol, First Bridgeboro Troop, Boy Scouts of America, and I'm their leader and we're on a bee-line hike and we can only go straight west."
He said, "And who are all those youngsters out on the sidewalk?"
I said, "They're just following us, they don't count."
He said, "Oh."
Then Pee-wee said, "I'll tell you about the scouts. When they start out to do a thing, they do it. See? Nothing can stop them. Maybe you know how a—a—cannon-ball goes——"
The man said, "I can imagine."
"You know what irresistible is?" the kid asked him. "Well, that's what we are."
The man said, "Oh, I see."
"Sure," Pee-wee said; "things that are hard, that's what we like."
"We eat 'em alive," Westy said.
I said to Pee-wee, "Do you know what insubordinate is? Well, that's what you are. Keep still while I talk. You're only my official staff."
The man said, "Well, you'd better pick up your official coffee-pot and saucepan, and state your terms. I'm not sure that I want an irresistible army of invasion going through my house."
"Irresistible armies of invasion aren't so bad," the kid piped up. "I'll tell you how it is——"
"Keep still," I said, "or I'll put you in the megaphone." Then I said to the man, "We started from Blakeley's Hill and we pledged ourselves to go straight west——"
"Without deviation," the kid shouted; "do you know what that means?"
I said, "We pledged ourselves to go straight west till we come to a certain tree on west ridge, and not to turn to the right or the left. So you see we'll have to go right through your house."
The man just sat there a little while, kind of thinking. I began to get anxious.
The kid said, "You know scouts always wipe their feet when they go in a house. Maybe they're kind of wild, but they always wipe their feet."
I could see the man was trying hard not to laugh, and he just sat there thinking. Then he said, "Since you admit scouts are wild I think I won't let them go through my house."
"Now, you see," I whispered to Pee-wee.
"Oh, they're not so very wild," he said.
All the time the man seemed to be thinking and he said, "If you could just climb over the house now; wouldn't that be better? Since you can do anything? I think you said you are irresistible."
Good night! I could have strangled that kid. I said, "We'd like to go the easiest way."
The man said, "Ah, then you don't really care for hard things? You are what might be called parlor scouts. I see. How about your appetites?"
"I'll tell you about our appetites!" the kid shouted.
I said, "Believe me, we can give you the best recommendations."
Then the man said, "Well, I'm sorry I can't let you go through the house."
I said, "You don't think we'd take any food, do you?"
He said, "Not that, but I'm afraid going through the house is out of the question. If you would care to try climbing over it I'll supply you with ladders. While my gardener is getting the ladders, cake and pie will be served. That is my proposition. If you care to take me up, all right. If not, we part friends. A man's house is his castle; I dare say you've heard that. If you are so wild and adventurous, show your mettle."
I said, "Didn't you see metal enough when my official staff spilled the saucepan and the coffee-pot and things?"
The man just said, "That is my offer. Cake, pie and the roof. Or nothing. You are the leader. What do you say?"
"Say yes," Pee-wee whispered to me.
Jiminies, that kid would climb over the Woolworth Building for a piece of pie.
I said, "All right, we accept the offer."
"Just sit around and make yourselves at home," the man said. Then he went around the side of the house.
Jiminies, we didn't know what to make of that man. He was nice and sociable, and he seemed to be always trying not to laugh, and everybody knows that fat people are good-natured. And he seemed kind of to like us, too. Then why didn't he let us go through his house? That was what I wanted to know. If he had just been grouchy and ordered us off his place we wouldn't have been so surprised. But if he liked us well enough to go to some trouble on account of us, then why wouldn't he let us just go through his house?
I said, "We should worry. It won't be the first roof I climbed over. Only I don't understand it, that's all."
"It's a mystery," Pee-wee said. "Maybe he's got some kind of a plot. Hey?"
"Maybe he just wants to see if we can make good," Westy said.
Hunt said, "We'll give him a demonstration, all right."
"Maybe he meditates treachery," the kid said. I guess he got those words out of the movies.
"Well," I said, "we're here because we're here and we're going to stay here and see it through."
Pretty soon the plot grew thicker. We could hear that man talking over the telephone in the house. He was saying, "Yes, get here as soon as you can; a big haul."
"We're going to get hauled in," Pee-wee said. "He's calling up the police. What shall we do?" He looked frightened.
I said, "Stay right here; we're not quitters."
Then we could hear the man saying more. Gee williger, it had me guessing. He said, "Yes—yes. Oh, we could release them in a couple of months."
"Did you hear what he said?" Pee-wee whispered. "They'll release us in a couple of months. Come on, let's get out of here. What do you think it means?"
I said, "I don't know what it means. This man has me guessing. But we haven't done anything wrong. This is the Bee-line hike. Are we going to see it through or not?"
"We are!" they all said.
"All right," I said; "over the roof for us."
Dorry said, "I guess if Warde Hollister saw us now he'd say we're up against a real adventure."
"All he wants is to be a movie actor," Pee-wee said. "That's what he told me. He said scouts were just kids. I bet he'd have to admit that this is a dark mystery, all right."
Dorry said, "I know that man's name all right, it's Copley. Often I see him at the station."
"I knew he had something to do with cops," Hunt said. "I wonder how soon we'll know what's up his sleeve."
"I wonder how soon he'll pass the cake," Pee-wee said.
Anyway we didn't have to wait long for the refreshments. Mrs. Copley came out and passed around cake and cookies and things and she was nice and friendly. And while we were sprawling around on the porch eating, a man came around with a couple of ladders.
Mrs. Copley said, "I'll just lay this plate of cookies on the table and you boys can help yourselves while you're waiting for Mr. Copley to come out." Then she put the plate on a little wicker table over near the end of the porch. After that she went in the house.
Pee-wee said, "Those cookies are good, I'm going to have a couple more."
"Don't go over to the end of the porch," I told him. "We have to stay right here in front of the door; this is where the bee-line is."
"The bee-line can have a branch to it while we're waiting," the kid said. "Maybe the bee-line might be wider than you think—maybe."
"The bee-line runs just this side of those cookies," I said.
"You're a fine kind of a leader," he said, "to let her stand that plate over there. Is that what you call tactics?"
I said, "Why didn't you take a half dozen cookies when she passed them around the same as the rest of us did? You only took one."
"You don't call that tactics, do you?" Westy asked him.
"I've got some manners," the kid said.
I said, "Well, you haven't got any cookies. Look here." Then I showed him about a half a dozen. Oh, boy, they were nice and brown and crisp and they had nuts in them. The fellows all had about as many as a dozen cookies each, because Mrs. Copley had said, "Oh, do take more, I'm sure you're a hungry lot of scouts."
Pee-wee sat there on one of the steps watching us eat cookies. Every time he moved I said, "You stay right where you are. Remember, this is a bee-line hike."
Westy said, "These cookies are mighty good."
I said, "M—mmm, that's what they are."
Hunt said, "They're about the best I ever tasted. I've got eleven left."
"I bet they were just cooked," Dorry said.
I said, "Well, here goes another."
Will Dawson said, "That's one thing I like about the Raven Patrol; they have such good manners."
Pee-wee said, "Do you mean to tell me a bee-line can't have a—a—kind of a side track to it? Especially when we're sitting still?"
"Oh, positively not," I said. "A bee-line hasn't even got any waves or wrinkles in it. It's just as straight as a line drawn right through the middle of this cookie."
"Or this one," Westy said.
I said, "Yes, but this one is bigger. Do you see this cookie, Kid? Do you see that nut sticking up out of the end of it? Now suppose I draw a straight line——"
"You make me tired!" the kid yelled, and he started to get up.
"My official staff will be seated," I said.
"You call this a kind of an army, don't you?" the kid shouted. "Do you mean to tell me that we can't make a flank movement?"
"Couldn't be did," I said; "remember your solemn pledge. Your duty is to stay as near to your beloved leader as you can. You just notice how these fellows obey me; now watch. Every scout will take a cookie in his right hand. When I say three they will start to eat. One, two, three. A scout is obedient——"
"You mean a scout is resourceful," the kid shouted, jumping to his feet. All of a sudden he grabbed the coil of rope we had and, good night, if he didn't lasso the table and drag it over to him!
Just as he pulled the table within reach and was starting to fill his pockets with cookies, we heard some one call.
"Still! Just a minute! Don't move!"
"All right. Good." I heard the voice say.
We all looked around and standing there on the lawn was Mr. Copley smiling and right beside him a fellow about twenty-five years old, I guess. He had an awful nice smile, with a regular good-natured, open face. Right beside him was a camera, and down on the ground was a big kind of a leather box with a handle to it. On that box was printed:
COPLEY FILM CORPORATION THE WEEKLY ANIMATED NEWS ALL THE WORLD IN PICTURES.
"G-o-o-d night!" I said. "We're pinched. We're in the movies!"
Mr. Copley said, "Boys, this is Mr. Tom Gilligan, of the Animated News. Our young friend of the megaphone is now famous. He will appear on the same film with President Harding leaving the White House in an automobile. Now we're going to give the people of the United States and Canada a glimpse of an amusing novelty, a scout bee-line hike. The next picture shows the young heroes climbing over a house which happens to be in their path."
So that's how it happened that part of our bee-line hike got on the screen. Most movie stars get a lot of money, but anyway we got a lot of cookies. And that's how it was that people away out in California could see our young hero lassoing a wild and woolly wicker table and massacring a whole tribe of cookies. We came right after President Harding. He was lucky because if we'd come along about ten seconds sooner on that film we'd have been climbing over the top of the White House. Just after us on that film came a railroad train that had been wrecked. That was one thing we escaped on our hike anyway.
Mr. Tom Gilligan was a nice fellow. He went around the country taking pictures of all sorts of things, famous men smiling and shaking hands, and houses burning down and people being crushed by falling buildings and everything. He said Pee-wee lassoing cookies was one of the best things he ever took. He said he'd like to take Pee-wee again.
I said, "Take him for all we care; you're welcome to him. Only don't bring him back."
It wasn't hard climbing over that house, but Tom Gilligan made us do a lot of fancy things. He said people would like that. So we had Pee-wee roll down the shed in back of the house and spill all the stuff out of his megaphone. It's worth thirty cents and the war tax to see that. You'll see me standing up on the peak of the house hugging the chimney, and holding my hand above my eyes and scanning the distant country to the West. This is what it said on that picture: "Scout Blakeley picking out the bee-line to the West, guided by his distant beacon."
It was easy sliding down the roof in back; we just slid down onto the back porch and down to the ground.
In back of that house is Monument Park. It isn't very big, you can put it in your pocket. Tom Gilligan said he'd go a little farther with us to see what we ran into next.
Now from Monument Park we could see the big poplar tree good and plain. The reason for that was partly on account of the park being so open and partly on account of the land beyond being low, because all the while we were going down toward the river. West of the park there aren't so many houses because in Bridgeboro a lot of people don't like to live too near the river. Some people are crazy. The houses down that way are not so big and they're not so close together.
The only thing that stood in our way in the park was the big wooden fence, sort of, with all the soldiers' names on it. It wasn't so very long and we might have gone around it only I decided that our path was right about through the middle of it. So we crawled under it.
Then right ahead of us was River Road, crossing our path. We stopped and took a squint and used our compass and decided that our path was between two houses.
Tom Gilligan said, "I think it's right through that house on the left."
I said, "No, sir, it's right across the lawn between the two houses. You just want us to get into some trouble so you can show the whole of the United States and Canada. I know you."
He said, "You kids take another look at that tree. Your bee-line is just—exactly—precisely—across the side porch of that house with the brown shingles. Now you see."
I said, "You're right. I've got to send my official staff to that house for permission to cross neutral territory."
But when I looked around for my official staff, there he was standing stark still about ten yards behind us.
I said, "Come ahead, official staff. What's the matter with you?"
He said, "Do you know whose house that is? I didn't know because I never came toward it this way before. It's Warde Hollister's house. I can tell by the bay window."
"That suits me," I said.
"You'll—you'll have to use diplomacy," Pee-wee said. "I know that fellow."
"Believe me," I said, "I've got the diploma for diplomacy. You fellows camp right here and leave that fellow to me. Here's where we not only cross neutral porches, but here's where we take a prisoner, too. In about ten minutes I'll have the enemy eating out of my hand."
"What?" Pee-wee just blurted out.
"Eating out of my hand," I said. "You know what eating means, don't you?"
"S——sure I do," the kid said.
I left the fellows where they were and went across the street, keeping straight west. Away over on the ridge, beyond the river and beyond Little Valley, I could see the big tree good and clear against the sky. It seemed sort of lonely up there. I said to myself, "You wait, old tree, we're coming straight along." Gee whiz, I was kind of glad that our destination was a tree and not some building or other. You'll never catch me planting the Silver Fox emblem on the roof of an apartment house. I'm not saying anything against buildings, but one thing, I have no use for them. My mother says it's good to have a roof over your head, but I'd rather have it underneath me because you can have more fun climbing over it, that's what I told her. That's why I believe in roofs. But I like trees better. I like trees better than anything except holidays. The thing I like worst of all is algebra.
I went straight over to that house and stopped on the sidewalk right plunk in front of the part of the porch that sticks out past the end of the house. Then I gave the Silver Fox call good and loud. As soon as Pee-wee heard me he started shouting it through the megaphone. It sounded like a Silver Fox with a cold.
Pretty soon the door opened, and—good night, there was Warde Hollister.
I said, "Tag, you're It. Will you please come down here on neutral territory? We belong to the League of Notions and we can't cross any frontiers—I mean front yards."
He said, "What do you want here?"
I said, "Answered in the affirmative. We're here because we're here and the end of your front porch is in the way. It sticks out like the West Front just before the armistice."
"You must be crazy," he said.
"Positively guaranteed," I told him. "We're so crazy that a crazy quilt is sensible compared to us."
"If you want to see me, come up here," he said. "Are you afraid to come up?"
"Afraid?" I said. "Didn't we go right into the same film with President Harding? Who's afraid of you? Not I, quoth he. I can't come up because I can't go off the track and your front steps are about thirty feet too far north."
"You're one of those scouts," he said.
"Tell me something new," I said; "did you think I didn't know that? Maybe you don't know I'm a famous movie star; we're all stars, we're known as the big dipper. Did you ever hear of Douglas Saving Banks?"
"Sure," he said.
"Well, I'm not him," I told him. "Come on down, will you?"
He looked across the street and saw the rest of the fellows and I guess he must have seen the big leather box with Copley Film Corporation on it. Anyway, he just stared. Then he came over to the end of the porch and sat on the railing and said,
"What do you want, anyway? One of you fellows was here yesterday. I told him I didn't want to bother with you."
"That was my official staff," I said. "We don't bother with him either; we carry him as excess baggage. That's the Japanese junk man. Did you ever hear that song? It's dedicated to him. We should worry about the scouts. But you see this is the way it is. We've got the movie people after us and we can't get rid of them. They're trying to stir up a new war here in Bridgeboro after everything is all peaceful again and school is closed. We're on a bee-line hike to a big tree over on west ridge, and we have to go straight no matter what's in the way. Gee whiz, it's not much fun.
"But, anyway, that big fellow thinks if we try to climb across your porch it will be a good idea for you to come out and look very grouchy and try to stop us; maybe you could look that way if you tried to, hey? And then we'll be very sweet and nice and give you a big hunk of candy and you'll say the boy scouts are all right and you'd like to join them. Of course you don't have to really join them. All you have to do is be in the animated news, all the world in pictures, right in the same film with President Harding. Maybe you wouldn't care to be a movie actor, hey? You should worry, it will soon be over. Mr. Gilligan, he just wants to show how fellows get to be scouts. It's propaganda. After it's all over you can go in the house again, and we'll beat it for the river. You don't have to really join, it's only in the picture. See? It won't be a real chunk of candy we hand you so as to show that we're kind and generous. It will be a rock. But it will look like candy. It will be rockcandy."
So if you saw that animated-news-of-all-the-world film and saw Pee-wee Harris handing a nice piece of candy to a boy who isn't a scout, you'll know it wasn't real candy he was handing him. That's why he had such a generous, kind look on his face. A scout is brotherly—especially with rocks.
That was the only movie play I ever wrote. I didn't write that, but I thought it up. Tom Gilligan said it was fine. One good thing, there were only three pictures in it. It was a scout propaganda picture. It was called Kindness Wins, or Letting Him Have a Rock. Only Tom Gilligan cut out the last part of the name.
That picture showed us all climbing over the railing of that porch, and then it showed Warde Hollister coming out and shaking his fist at us. He did that fine for a fellow that wasn't a scout. Then it showed us telling him about our adventures and showing him the coffee-pot and all the cooking things. And then it showed our generous little hero handing him a nice piece of candy. After that the fellow said he'd like to join the scouts because they had such a lot of fun. And so he joined and they all lived happily forever and forever.
After Tom Gilligan had taken the pictures just the way he wanted them Warde Hollister threw the piece of rock at a tree and missed it because he wasn't a scout—because scouts always aim straight, only they don't throw rocks, but if they did they wouldn't miss.
"Now you're in the movies," I said, "and you're satisfied because that's just what you wanted. And we thank you a lot."
He said, "Where are you going now?"
"Oh, just across the porch if you'll let us," I told him, "and then across the river in a bee-line. Some job, hey? Then straight for that big tree on the ridge. You look up there late this evening and see if there's a fire burning. Then you'll know we're roasting potatoes. Do you know what I think? I think the bee-line takes us right through the haunted house across the river. I bet you're glad you're only a scout in the movies. Pity the poor scouts, hey?"
He said, kind of hesitating, "I'm not afraid of haunted houses."
"Are you afraid of snakes?" Pee-wee piped up.
He said, "No, I'm not. I—like roasted potatoes, though."
"How many do you like?" the kid asked him.
"As many as I can get," Warde said. "And I'd like to go with you fellows if you'll let me."
Westy said, "Do you mean you'd like to join the scouts?"
He said, "Yes, I do."
Tom Gilligan was standing there with his camera over his shoulder and his big leather bag in his hand, all ready to go away. I guess he was going back to the station and I was sorry because I liked that fellow.
He said to Warde, "You're a wise young fellow, you are. Go in for the real thing and don't bother with imitations. What's the use of jumping off a cliff made of pasteboard when you've got real roofs to climb over? What's the use of doing stunts in a studio when you can go on a bee-line hike across the country? You're a wise young fellow, you are. You stick to the boy scouts; they'll keep you moving."
Then he said, "Well, so long, kids." And away he went.
I said, "Come over here right close to us and keep near us, Warde. We're keeping this bee-line as narrow as we can."
He jumped up on the porch rail right beside us. The others were all right there, squatting on the porch or sitting on the rail. We could see across the river and past the old ramshackle buildings there and right over the village of Little Valley to the ridge. That big tree stood up higher than all the others and it seemed just as if it were all alone off there. I guess it was about one o'clock then.
I said, "We're going to cook some eats as soon as we get to the river, because we like to eat near where there's water. Then we'll have to think how we'll get across."
"Did you come straight all the way from your house?" Warde wanted to know.
"Just as straight as we could," I said. "If we side-stepped anything we didn't mean to. There's no use saying you're going to do a thing, and then kid yourself about it and not do it. Maybe a bee-line hike is kind of crazy, but it's hard, too. It's easy to make yourself think the line runs between two houses when it doesn't. It's sort of the same when you get to be a scout. It's like a bee-line hike—sort of."
We all just sat there and nobody said anything until Westy said, "That's right."
"Maybe you don't understand," Dorry said.
Warde said, "Yes, I do understand."
After that nobody said anything, not even Pee-wee, and we just sat there.
"Sure you can go with us," I told him. "And just as I said, you'll see we're kind of crazy. But just the same we don't sneak around and we don't turn back; not till we have to, anyway. You can join the scouts just for the fun of it if you want; the same as you can start on a bee-line hike and go zigzagging around the easiest way if you want to. Maybe you don't understand just exactly what I mean," I said to him. "Anyway there's a place to be filled in my patrol."
"Could I get in—maybe?" he asked.
I said, "Sure you could. Who's stopping you? Even one of our fellows came after you, didn't he? And you see for yourself how the movie people come after us. You don't see us running after them. They know where adventures are, all right."
"And no war tax either," Westy said.
"And plenty of eats," Pee-wee piped up.
Then for a little while again none of us said anything.
So that's how Warde Hollister got to be a Silver-plated Fox. Already he has four merit badges and he's crazy like the rest of us, only more so. If he keeps on, maybe he'll be as crazy as I am because I wasn't so crazy when I started.
And that shows how you never can tell what you may run into on a bee-line hike. But when it comes to running into things just you wait till you get to the next chapter.
Now from Warde Hollister's house we went straight for the river. There aren't many houses down there and the land is low and we could see the tree all the time. We had to climb over a couple of fences and over the storage shed of the boat club, and we had to crawl under Benton's ice house that stands on piles.
Then we came to the river. There are willow trees down there and we sat under one of them to eat our lunch. We started a fire and I made some flapjacks. Warde Hollister said that was the first time he had ever eaten lunch out in the open like that and he said it was fine.
I said, "Have all you want, don't be bashful. They're nice and tender, they're intended for tenderfeet."
He said, "Is that what I am?"
"You're not anything yet," I told him; "you have to pass some tests; endurance tests and things like that. I'm going to introduce you to our scoutmaster and he'll take care of you."
"Eating flapjacks is an endurance test," Pee-wee said.
Westy said, "Sure, if you can eat these you can do anything."
"Are some of those things hard?" Warde asked me. "I mean those tests," he said.
"They're not so hard as these flapjacks," Hunt Manners told him.
"Oh, is that so?" I said. "I notice hard things don't trouble you much."
He said, "The pleasure is mine; flop me another one, will you?"
"They call these things stove-lids up at Temple Camp," Will Dawson told Warde.
I said, "Yes, and you're a pretty good stove-lifter, all right."
"I bet you have a lot of fun, you fellows," Warde said, kind of laughing.
"Sure," I told him, "we have so much fun that even the weeping willows die crying from laughing so hard. If you had this patrol to look after your hair would soon turn white. My teeth are white already from worrying. We remind ourselves of balloons instead of foxes. We should worry. You're in for it now and you can't help yourself. The worst is yet to come. Don't you care, smile and look pleasant. You might have done worse, you might have got into the Raven Patrol."
"What's the matter with the Raven Patrol?" the kid shouted, trying to eat a flapjack and shout at the same time.
"One good thing about them," Westy said.
"What's that?" Hunt asked him.
"That's that they're not here," Westy said.
"The Raven Patrol will be—it'll be flourishing when the Silver Foxes are all busted up!" the kid shouted.
"Sure," I told him, "but not until then. Wait till you see that bunch," I said to Warde. "They're dead and they don't know it."
"They died laughing at P. Harris," Westy said.
"You think you're so smart, don't you?" the kid shouted. "One of our patrol is camp librarian at Temple Camp."
"They're all highbrows," Westy said. "They think Scott's Emulsion is by Sir Walter Scott. They're all busy studying monotony in that patrol."
"Do you mean to tell me that—that—that Ravens——" the kid began yelling.
"You see how ravens can go up in the air," I said to Warde. "Now you know why they're called the Raving Ravens. They're all right as long as you don't feed them meat. They think you can do good turns riding on a merry-go-round."
"What's the second-hand scout?" Warde wanted to know.
"Good night," I said, "don't make me laugh. You mean a second-class scout. Of course there are slightly used scouts, 1915 models, but you wouldn't call them exactly second-hand. First comes the tenderfoot, then the second-class scout and then the first-class scout—and above that are the Silver Foxes in a class by themselves."
"That's because they can't get anybody to go in the class with them," Pee-wee shouted.
Westy said, "Well, here we are talking about classes in vacation time. In a minute we'll be talking about arithmetic. Let's talk of something pleasant while we're eating."
I said, "Sure, let's talk of something pleasant. I didn't start talking about the Ravens. The question is how are we going to follow a bee-line across the river? I wish the equator went across the river and we could walk on that."
BLACK OR WHITE
We knew it would be pretty easy going after we got across the river. But getting across the river, that was the question. We knew well enough that we couldn't swim straight across on account of the tide running out. It would have carried us downstream. The river isn't very wide there and it isn't much of a swim across, only if we tried it we'd land east of our course.
Westy said, "We're up against it now. What are we going to do?"
"If we wait till the tide is full," Hunt said, "we'll have to sit around here till about eleven o'clock to-night."
I said, "Do you suppose the rope would reach across?"
"Sure it would," Dorry answered, "only how are we going to get it across?"
"Throw it," Pee-wee said.
"And what will hold it there?" I asked him. "Besides, what good is the rope as long as we haven't got our bathing suits? You don't expect us to walk on the rope, do you?"
"Oh, here comes a boat!" Dorry shouted. "See it? It's just coming around the bend. There are two men in it."
"Are they nice men?" I asked him.
"What are you talking about?" Pee-wee shouted. "They're a quarter of a mile away!"
I said, "That wouldn't prevent them from being nice men. Your uncle is all the way over in Europe and he's a nice man."
"All I can see is their backs," Westy said.
I said, "Well, as far as I can tell from their backs they look as if they might be nice men. Maybe we can get them to carry the end of the rope across and fasten it on the other side."
"Yes, and what will we do then?" the kid wanted to know.
"Then we'll say 'thank you,'" I told him.
"Yes, and what then?"
I said, "Why, then we'll ask them to row us across keeping the boat close to the rope. They could never row straight across with the tide running this way."
"I don't see why the tide has to be running out just now," Hunt said.
"Neither do I," I said; "especially as it's just going to turn around and come right in again. It might as well stay in. It goes to a lot of trouble for nothing. We should worry."
Pretty soon the boat was nearly opposite us, and I shouted, "Hey, Mister, will you give us a lift across?"
Pee-wee whispered to me, "I know who that front man is; he's a detective. You better look out how you speak to him. That's Detective Pinchem."
As soon as the kid spoke I saw that he was right. I shouted, "Hey, Mister Pinchem, will you give us a lift across? We're lost, strayed or stranded."
The men in the boat started for the shore and Mr. Pinchem called, "Hello, you scouts, what are you doing here?"
I said, "We've got as much right here as this river has. It's in our way and we want to get across."
Pee-wee whispered to me very anxious-like, "You better look out how you talk to him, he's a detective. He can arrest us if he wants to."
Westy said, "Why should we be afraid? We haven't taken anything."
I said, "I'm not so sure about that. We're taking a hike. Maybe if we can't prove it belongs to us——"
"You're crazy," the kid said.
"I know a fellow who got arrested for stealing third base when he was on the High School team," Hunt said.
I said, "Hey, Mr. Pinchem, can we get arrested for taking a hike that doesn't belong to us?"
He just laughed because he knows we're all crazy. He said, "Well, what's on your mind now? You want to be arrested, huh?"
"We didn't say that," the kid spoke up.
Mr. Pinchem just stepped out of the boat and gave him a shove and said, "You've been stealing somebody's phonograph, huh? I'll have to look into that."
I said, "Good night, go ahead and look into it. All you'll see is a lot of junk."
Mr. Pinchem and that other man just stood there laughing and he said, "Well, what's on your minds? You want to get across, do you?"
I said, "We want to get across in a bee-line. Do you see that tree just across the river? The one near the shore. That's in a bee-line with that big tree away up there on west ridge. So if you'd be willing to take the end of this rope across and fasten it to that tree, then maybe you can row us over without drifting with the tide. We have to go in a bee-line."
He said, "Oh, that's it, is it? Well, now, suppose that bee-line takes you right through the County Jail. What then?"
Pee-wee looked kind of frightened.
"That's up to the County Jail," I said. "If the County Jail doesn't get out of the way, we go through it. Didn't you ever hear that boy scouts are invincible?"
Pee-wee said, "They're not—exactly—they're not always so very invincible. See? They have to be courteous. If you asked us not to go through the jail, we wouldn't. See?"
Westy said, "We've even been through public school, we're so smart."
Mr. Pinchem said, "I'd say you've been through an ice house, you're so fresh. Well, I'll see what we can do for you. I hope you'll always keep as straight as you're going now."
I said, "We always go straight; we don't go around much. We're always wide awake except when we're asleep."
He said, "Well, you're so wide awake, you didn't happen to see anything of a man around here? A man with a cap and a brown sweater?"
"He may be a colored man," the other man said.
"What color?" Pee-wee said, all excited.
"Why, black, maybe," Mr. Pinchem said; "or maybe not. A pretty rough looking customer. Didn't happen to notice any one around here, huh?"
"Is he a murderer?" Pee-wee asked.
"Well, I guess he'd be willing to be," Mr. Pinchem said. "He stole a skiff from the boat club in Northvale and it was found empty down below here in the marshes."
"Do you want me to help you find him?" the kid piped up.
Mr. Pinchem's friend said, "He held up an auto on the state road above Northvale last night. He fired two shots; got away with some jewelry and about seven hundred dollars. The chauffeur thought he was black but he wasn't sure; didn't see his face."
"He—eh—I hope you catch him," our young hero said.
He didn't seem to be quite as anxious to do the catching as he had been about a minute before.
BANDITS AND THINGS
I said, "Grab hold of this rope, Detective Harris, if you want to get across the river."
So that's the way we got across, going straight west, even while the tide was running out good and strong. Mr. Pinchem rowed over with one end of the rope, and the tide carried him about fifty yards downstream before he made the other shore. Then he got out and dragged the boat back upstream and tied the rope to the tree just where we told him to.
We had to make two trips across, but it was easy keeping our course because all we had to do was to keep hold of the rope and work the boat along with our hands.
I guess those men didn't think we could be much help to them; anyway they didn't hire Pee-wee to foil the bandit the way men do in stories. I'd like to see that kid capturing a bandit. Judging by the way he treats ice cream cones there wouldn't be much left of the bandit. I'm not crazy about bandits, anyway, but some fellows are. Anyway, I'd like a blue one better than a black one because that's my patrol color.
But, anyway, this is the way those men thought it was. Northvale is about three or four miles above Bridgeboro. It's right on the river and there's a boat club up there. So when they found that boat in the marshes down near Bridgeboro I guess they thought that fellow had left the boat and maybe was hiding somewhere around there. Because, anyway, it would be pretty hard for him to get through the marshes to the railroad track, that's sure.
Now after those men left us they started rowing back up the river and they didn't get along very fast on account of the tide being against them. Gee whiz, I'd kind of like to be a detective if I was a man, but I wouldn't want to be a truant officer.
So now our bee-line hike was about half over and we had traveled in a pretty straight line. I'm not saying that we didn't go even a yard to the right or left, because, gee, that would be impossible, but I bet we went in a pretty straight line. We didn't vary our course any just to save trouble, that's sure.
Now from the river there is open country till you get to Little Valley. The only thing that stands in the way is Riverview Park. That used to be an amusement park. They closed it up during the war because they needed the horses on the merry-go-round for ambulances in France; that's what Harry Donnelle said. He lives in Little Valley.
Anyway, they never opened that park again. Gee whiz, I didn't care much because we're always up at Temple Camp in the summer. All you could do there was spend money. You can have more fun for nothing.
So the only trouble we would have between the river and Little Valley was the board fence around that old park, and you don't call a board fence an obstacle, I hope.
Our young hero couldn't get that bandit out of his mind. He said, "I bet he's a pretty desperate robber, hey? To fire two shots."
"Sure," Westy said, "if he had only fired one it wouldn't have been so bad. And to get away with seven hundred dollars, too."
"If it had been only three or four hundred dollars I wouldn't say anything," I said. "But seven hundred is too much."
"It's grand larceny," the kid said.
"I don't call it so very grand," I told him. "If you think it's grand to steal seven hundred dollars, you've got some funny ideas. I suppose if a man stole about ten thousand dollars you'd call that magnificent larceny."
"You're crazy," Pee-wee shouted. "Grand larceny is a kind of a crime."
I said, "Well, I'm a scout, and I don't call larceny grand."
"It's a crime," Pee-wee shouted, "and he can get a long sentence for it."
"He ought to get a whole paragraph for a crime like that," I told him.
"Do you think maybe we'll run into him?" the kid wanted to know.
"Not if we see him first," I said. "I guess a man who is guilty of wayhigh robbery wouldn't hang around here."
"Sometimes scouts catch fugitives," Pee-wee said.
"More often they catch the dickens," Hunt said. "Come on, forget it."
"Sure," I said; "keep in a bee-line and you'll always go straight."
THE HAUNTED WHEEL
I guess maybe it's a half a mile across that old amusement park. All the land there is low; we could see right over the top of Little Valley as you might say, and the big tree away off there on the ridge stood out good and plain. Maybe that was partly because the sun was getting over that way. Anyway, I know that about a couple of hours later the tree looked as if it were all kind of spangled with gold like a Christmas tree. It seemed sort of as if the sun was going ahead to get the tree all decorated for us.
Westy said, "The sun's beginning to get over to the west. See?"
I said, "It's going to beat us to the tree, too."
So you can see from what I told you that it was easy to follow a straight course right through that old park. Sometimes we had to clamber over piles of old boards and we had to work our way kind of in and out through the old rotten trestle of the scenic railway. That thing crossed our path like a big, long, wriggling snake. Some of the old booths were boarded up and some of them were all falling to pieces. The concrete basin that used to be a swimming pool was all full of rubbish. And the little platform away way up, that the man used to do the dive of death from, was all falling to pieces. Some places we had to climb over the old ramshackle booths, but that was easy.
All of a sudden Westy stopped short and said, "Look ahead; do you know what?"
"What?" I asked him.
"See that old ferris-wheel?" he said. "We're going to run plunk right into it."
I took a good squint and sure enough it was right in a bee-line with our beacon. It wasn't across our path but it was lengthways with our path. It was so narrow that we might have gone past on either side of it, but just the same it was right plunk in our path. It was quite a long ways ahead.
Once, when Westy and I were going through that old park on our way home from Little Valley we got a good scare on account of that old ferris-wheel. And that's what started people thinking it was haunted. Maybe you've heard of haunted houses but I bet you never heard of a haunted ferris-wheel.
That time we went through there—oh, I guess it was a couple of years ago. Anyway, it was in the night and everything was as dark as licorice bars. Maybe you never ate those, but they're mighty good, they're black. All of a sudden we heard a kind of a creaking noise and we couldn't make out where it was. Sometimes it sounded just as if it might be a person.
We followed that noise the best we could and pretty soon we came to the old wheel. It isn't so big, that wheel. And it isn't so little either. Then we could hear the sound good and plain and it was up in the wheel. It sounded pretty spooky. Sometimes it was a noise like some one crying. And then it would kind of die away.
When we got home we told about it and Mr. Ellsworth (he's our scoutmaster) said it was probably just the wind blowing in that creaky old thing. But after that, all the kids in Bridgeboro said the wheel was haunted. If you say a place is haunted, it's haunted.
But one thing, it kept the kids away from the old park. Because, anyway, they weren't supposed to go there. Gee whiz, I can't say whether I'm afraid of a ghost or not because I never saw one, but I know that white is their patrol color. Anyway, if I were a ghost I wouldn't hang out in a ferris-wheel, I know that. I guess they're half crazy, anyway, because there used to be one in the old tumbled-down schoolhouse in North Bridgeboro. Jiminy, I should think he could have found a better place than that to stay in. But my father says it's pretty hard to find places to live in these days. We should worry, the woods for us.
A SCOUT IS OBSERVANT
Westy said, "I wonder how our old friend the ghost is?"
I said, "If we meet him we'll take him along with us. He ought to be good on a bee-line hike because he can go right through anything."
I said, "If it wasn't for Warde Hollister I'd take him into my patrol. I've got every kind of a freak in there now except a ghost."
"You haven't got me," Pee-wee shouted.
I said, "No, that's one kind of a freak I haven't got."
"If you could have a ghost and a bandit in this patrol we'd be complete," Westy said.
"I'm bad enough," Warde Hollister said.
I said, "Sure, we're satisfied if you are. Take us for better or worse; you'll probably find us a good deal worse."
Warde said, "It's been good fun so far."
"You haven't seen anything yet," I told him. "Wait till you get up to Temple Camp. Even the laughing brook is all the time giggling at us. Wait till you see the raving Ravens."
"That's all right," Pee-wee piped up. "Up there people in the village always smile at us—grown-up people."
"It's a wonder they don't laugh out loud," I said.
All of a sudden, as we were going along, Pee-wee grabbed me by the shoulder and whispered, "Look!"
"Have a heart," I told him; "don't knock me down. What is it?"
"Look!" he whispered. "Look! Where that board is broken."
Then I knew what he meant. About twenty feet off our path was a kind of an old tumbled-down shack. It was boarded up in front with old odds and ends of boards that were not painted. There was quite a big piece gone from one of the boards, and as I looked through that I could see a face.
"Shh, do you see it?" I whispered to Westy. Then I kind of urged the fellows along the path because I didn't want us to be standing right there in front of that hole.
"What—what did I tell you?" Pee-wee whispered, all excited.
"You didn't tell me anything," I said. "Shh, don't talk so loud. Come on, let's walk along a little further. Do you want him to see us?"
"Did you see?" Pee-wee whispered, so excited he could hardly speak. "It was a black man. It's the bandit. I discovered him."
"What are we going to do about it?" I asked the other fellows. "There's somebody in there."
"Sure there is," two or three of them said.
Will Dawson said, "I saw him plain; he was standing in back of a box. He was a colored man, all right."
"I was the first to discover him," Pee-wee whispered.
I said, "All right, findings is keepings; you can have him, he's yours. Now are you satisfied?"
By that time we were about ten yards past the shack, standing all in a group. The person inside couldn't see us through the opening in front of the shack but for all we knew he might be peeking at us through some little crack or hole. It made me feel funny to think that he was in there staring at us and we not able to see him.
I said, "Come on, let's walk along just as if we didn't suspect anything; we can talk while we're walking."
So we started along and Dorry said, "The best thing is for one of us to run ahead to Little Valley and tell the police there."
"You'll find the police department standing in front of the post office," I said. "That's where he usually hangs out."
I guess the only one of us that hadn't spoken at all was Warde Hollister. All of a sudden he said, "What's the good of notifying the police? Scouts aren't afraid, are they? Harris is the one who discovered him. So he ought to be the one to go back and capture him."
"That shows how much you know about scouts," Pee-wee said. "Scouts are supposed to be cautious. If you're reckless, then you're not a good scout. See? Maybe I'd like to go back and capture that bandit, but I have to make a sacrifice and not do it. See?"
I said, "Sure, it's as clear as mud. Let's sit down here just as if we were going to take a rest; let's sprawl on the ground just as if we weren't thinking about that shack at all. Then we can talk about what we'd better do."
"Maybe the ground is better a little further along," the kid said.
"This is all right," Westy said.
So we sat down right in our path and Will Dawson and Dorry Benton started playing mumbly-peg, so that if the man in the shack saw us he wouldn't be suspicious. Because if he thought we had seen him and were going to tell, he'd probably start running away.
"Don't look back," Westy said. "What are we going to do? We can't capture him ourselves, can we?"
"The only way would be to sprinkle a little salt on him," Warde Hollister said.
It seemed sort of funny the way that fellow talked because all of us had seen that black face in the shack and a bandit is no joke, especially a negro bandit, but any color is bad enough. Anyway, I was glad to see that Warde was getting crazy like the rest of us. But I didn't know till another minute how crazy he really was.
I said, "All right, but it's pretty serious. There's that black man in there. If we start toward Little Valley or back toward Bridgeboro he'll be suspicious and escape. We know where he is and maybe he doesn't know we know. How are we going to notify Mr. Pinchem or anybody else, that's the question?"
Westy said, "Maybe one of us could sneak away and hurry to Little Valley."
"Yes, and maybe he'll sneak away too," I said.
"Maybe we could start a fire and send up a smudge signal," said Dorry.
"Sure, and make it good and black because he's a negro," Warde said.
I said, "It's all very well to joke, but we have that man as good as caught. What are we going to do about it?"
"Some one hustle to Little Valley," Westy said.
"A smudge signal," said Dorry and Will.
Warde Hollister said, "Well, of course I don't know so much about scouts because I'm not really a member yet."
"They're supposed to be observant," the kid said.
"And brave," Warde said.
"Sure, but they have to be cautious," the kid said.
"They're supposed to use sense," I put in.
Warde said, "Well, I'm not afraid of what's in there. Maybe I'm not so observant, but that fellow in there can't scare me. If Pee-wee doesn't want to go and nab him, I'll go and nab him myself."
Just then he got up and started for the shack.
"Come back!" I said. "You're crazy!"
Pee-wee grabbed him by his jacket and said, all excited, "Do you want to get killed? Do you want to get killed? Sit down! Do you want to get killed? Don't you know that man fired two shots?"
Westy said, "Come back, you fool!"
Hunt jumped up and grabbed him and he and Pee-wee both tried to hold him back. "Sit down, sit down!" they said. "Do you want to get shot?"
Warde just shook them off, and he said, "This kid came up to my house yesterday and gave me a lot of stuff about scouts being courageous and brave and intrepid——"
"Let me tell you what intrepid means," the kid said, half crazy. "It—it—it—has—it has two meanings—kind of."
"A scout is supposed to risk his life and get the Gold Cross," Warde said. "That's just what you told me."
Gee whiz, before we realized it he was half way over to the shack.
"We'd better run," the kid said.
"Stay where you are," Westy told him.
I said, "That fellow has been reading crazy adventure stories, about kids capturing highwaymen and all that."
"That's what he gets from lying in the hammock and reading Deadeye Dick," Will said.
"What—what shall we do?" the kid asked.
By that time Warde Hollister was right close up to the shack. Gee whiz, I had to admit he was reckless. He just walked right up and caught hold of that loose board and gave it a yank. We just waited, cold. Every second we were expecting to hear a shot and then see that big ugly black man come dashing out.
"No wonder," Westy said; "his brain is full of boy scouts who murder and all that—that isn't—listen!"
It was just the sound of Warde pulling down that old rotten board and crawling through. We were all in such suspense that we could hardly speak. The kid was nearly dead with fright.
"Listen—shh!" Westy said.
"It's a scuffle," I said.
Then, all of a sudden, oh, boy, I can hear it now, there was a loud, sudden report like a pistol shot.
We just stood there trembling. None of us moved or spoke.
When Will Dawson spoke his voice was hoarse. "Let's go—we've got to go and look in," he said.
Westy just gulped. He said, "Wait a second—listen."
"It's awful," Ralph Warner said. "We—we can't just stand here. What shall we do?"
Pee-wee was as white as snow. He just stood there gulping.
"We'll—we'll have—to—tell his—his mother," one of the fellows said.
Just then, good night, you'll hardly believe it when I tell you. Out came one of those old boards just as if some one was kicking it, and there was Warde Hollister dragging out the poor limp black man by the neck. The man's arms were flopping about this way and that and Warde threw him down flat on the ground. Then he made his hands into two cups and slapped them together.
"Just one more shot to finish him," he said. It sounded just exactly like a pistol.
"There he is," Warde said; "and he'll never frighten good little boy scouts again. Nobody will ever get another prize for hitting him in the eye with a baseball. His glorious career as a target is over. Step up, lads, and take a look at him."
Oh, boy, I guess we never felt so silly in our lives. Poor bandit, he was just one of those figures that sit in a chair and are pelted with baseballs, three shots for a dime. "Every time you hit the nigger!" That's what the man used to call. When some one hit him a good hard crack he'd topple off the seat and then the man would give you a kewpie doll or maybe an ash-tray. The poor old wooden "nigger" had been packed away and all we had seen was his black face sticking up above some old boxes.
I said to Warde, laughing good and hard, "You knew it all the time, didn't you?"
He just said, "A scout is observant. Do I get the Gold Cross?"
Westy said, "I don't think you get the Gold Cross, but we ought to get leather medals, I know that. We're a fine outfit of scouts not to know an old 'hit-the-nigger' target from a bandit."
Warde just kicked the poor old black man. I guess the black man didn't care, because he was used to being pelted in the face. I wouldn't want that job.
Then Warde said, "Scout Harris is to blame for this horrible murder. Did you ever hear of mental suggestion?" Gee, that fellow's smart.
"Is that what you killed him with?" I said.
He said, "If you're hunting for a thing, everything looks like that thing. Harris had bandits on his brain, so one look at this thing was enough for you fellows."
"If you're looking for—for—a piece of pie," Pee-wee piped up, "will everything be pie?"
"Posilutely," I said. "Just the same as when you're in Hamburg everything looks like ham. It's the same only different. Just the same as all the buildings in Paris are made of plaster of paris. Just the same as the raving Ravens are afraid of wooden dummies. What's the answer?"
"Answer to what?" he shouted.
"Anything," I said. "It depends on what the question is. Warde Hollister is a better scout than any of us. Deny it if you dare, quoth I. He has performed the most heroic act since Artie Van Arlen, patrol leader of the Ravens, killed a couple of hours waiting for a train for Temple Camp. They don't care what they kill, those scouts."
We put the baseball target back where he belonged and I guess he's dead yet for all I know. He faced a good many bee-lines, that's one sure thing. Anyway, we should bother about him because we had our own bee-line hike to finish, only the worst was yet to come.
ONE, TWO, THREE, GO!
After that, for as much as about ten yards, we didn't have any more adventures. Then we had to climb over the band-stand, but that wasn't much of an adventure.
The next thing we passed was a lot of cookies I had in my pocket. I passed them around. After that we came to the place where Daredevil Dennell used to go up in a balloon and just beyond there is the ferris-wheel.
Now it was about half past three or so, or maybe four o'clock, when we came near the ferris-wheel. The sun was over on the ridge, anyway, and it was all kind of glinted up with yellow up there, and it was getting more that way all the time. I was glad we were going up there, you can bet.
"What do you say we take a rest in the ferris-wheel?" Westy said. "It's just about in our path."
"Suits me," I said.
Now I'll tell you the way that wheel was. There were six cars and one of them was exactly at the top and one of them was exactly at the bottom. The trestle that the wheel hung on was only half as high as the wheel. Up near the top of the trestle was the axle. So as we came along in the same direction that the wheel was standing, the next car to the one on the bottom was right in front of us and hanging just about low enough so we could reach it. Those cars were not so big and they were boarded up just like everything else was in that old park.
Maybe you'll say that the easiest thing would have been for us to climb into the lowest car which was hanging right plunk underneath. But that one seemed to be all boarded up tight. Besides, my patrol is crazy, just as I told you. The next car on the side of the wheel nearer to us was partly open on account of the boards being broken away. So what did Westy do but take a running jump with the rest of us all after him. As soon as three or four of us grabbed hold of the car, the old wheel began creaking and the car started moving down. Then all of us went sprawling out all over the ground.
"Try it again!" the kid shouted. "One—two——"
"Wait till it stops," they all shouted.
I can't tell you how far around that wheel went before it stopped. All I know is it kept creaking and creaking and then it stopped and there was a car right in front of us about ten feet from the ground. That one was most all open so it would be easy to tumble into it.
"One—two—three—go!" somebody said, and off we went for a good running jump.
I don't know who the first one was to catch hold of the car. But anyway, we all went tumbling over each other into it and down it went, creaking, creaking, creaking, till it hung from the lowest part of the wheel.
"All the comforts of home," Westy said. "I like this better than our private railroad car."
"Sure," I said, "it's just the place for Pee-wee; he's always going up in the air. Notice how it rocks? Oh, boy, I hope we don't get seasick."
In that car were two seats facing each other. Those cars were not made for as many as nine people, but we managed to crowd in all right. The floor of our car was about two or three feet from the ground and it swung like a swing. It was nice in there. Looking up through all the wire-work we could see the car at the top swinging.