The Boy Scouts' First Camp Fire
Scouting with the Silver Fox Patrol.
BY HERBERT CARTER
Author of "The Boy Scouts In the Blue Ridge," "The Boy Scouts On the Trail," "The Boy Scouts In the Maine Woods," "The Boy Scouts Through the Big Timber," "The Boy Scouts In the Rockies."
BY A. L. BURT COMPANY
* * * * *
THE BOY SCOUTS' FIRST CAMP FIRE.
THE BOY SCOUTS' FIRST CAMP-FIRE.
A HALT BY THE ROADSIDE.
Loud and clear sounded the notes of a bugle, blown by a very stout lad, clad in a new suit of khaki; and who was one of a bunch of Boy Scouts tramping wearily along a dusty road.
"Good for you, Bumpus! Can't he just make that horn talk, though?" cried one.
"Sounds as sweet as the church bell at home, fellows!" declared a second.
"Say, Mr. Scout-Master, does that mean a halt for grub?" a third called out.
"Sure, Giraffe. Brace up old fellow. You'll have your jaws working right soon, now. And here's a dandy little spring, right among the trees! How shady and cool it looks, Thad."
"That's why we kept on for an hour after noon," remarked the boy called Thad, and who seemed to be a person of some authority; "when all you scouts wanted to stop and rest. You see Davy, Allan here, and myself made a note of that same spring the other day, when we came along on horseback, spying out the lay of the land."
"Well, now," remarked the boy called Davy, as he threw himself down to stretch; "that's what our instruction book says,—a true scout always has his eyes and ears open to see and hear everything. The more things you can remember in a store window, after only a minute to look, the further up you are, see?"
The boy called Thad not only wore a rather seedy and faded scout khaki uniform; while those of all his comrades were almost brand new; but he had several merit badges fastened on the left side of his soft shirt.
These things would indicate that Thad Brewster must have been connected with some patrol, or troop of Boy Scouts, in the town where he formerly lived before his father, dying, left him in charge of the queer old bachelor uncle who was known far and wide among the boys of Scranton as plain "Daddy Brewster"—nobody ever understood why, save that he just loved all manner of young people.
In fact, it was a memory of the good times which he had enjoyed in the past that influenced Thad to start the ball rolling for a troop of scouts in Scranton. In this endeavor he had found energetic backing; and the Silver Fox Patrol of the troop was now starting out upon its first hike, to be gone several days.
Several of the eight boys forming this patrol were lagging more or less along the dusty road; for the brisk walk on this summer day had tired them considerably.
At the cheery notes of the bugle, blown by "Bumpus" Hawtree, the stray ones in uniform quickened their pace, so as to close up. Of course the stout youth had another name, and a very good one too, having been christened Cornelius Jasper. But his chums had long ago almost forgotten it, and as Bumpus he was known far and wide.
He was a good-natured chap, clumsy in his way, but always willing to oblige, and exceedingly curious. Indeed, his mates in the patrol declared Bumpus ought to have been born a girl, as he always wanted to "poke his nose into anything queer that happened to attract his attention." And this failing, of course, was going to get Bumpus into a lot of trouble, sooner or later.
His one best quality was a genuine love for music. He could play any sort of instrument; and had besides a wonderfully sweet high soprano voice, which he was always ready to use for the pleasure of his friends. That promised many a happy night around the camp-fire, when once the Silver Fox Patrol had become fully established.
And this love of music which the fat boy possessed had made the selection of a bugler for Cranford Troop the easiest thing possible. He actually had no competitor.
Presently the entire eight lads had thrown themselves down in such positions as seemed to appeal to them. Some lay flat on their stomachs, and drank from the overflow of the fine little spring; while others scooped up the water in the cup formed by the palms of their hands.
One rather tall boy, with flaxen hair, and light dreamy blue eyes, took out his handkerchief, carefully dusted the ground where he meant to sit, then having deposited himself in a satisfactory manner, he opened the haversack he had been carrying, taking out some of the contents very carefully.
"My! but they're packed smartly, all right, Smithy," remarked the fellow who had responded to the name of Davy Jones; "you certainly take a heap of trouble to have things just so. My duds were just tossed in as they came. Threatened to jump on 'em so as to crowd the bunch in tighter. What are you looking for now?"
"Why, my drinking cup, to be sure," replied the other, lifting his eyebrows in surprise, as if he could not understand why any one would be so silly as to lie down and drink—just like an animal, when nice little aluminum collapsible cups could be procured so cheaply.
And having presently found what he wanted, he deliberately returned each article to its proper place in the carryall before he allowed himself the pleasure of a cooling drink. But at least he had one satisfaction; being the possessor of a cup allowed him the privilege of dipping directly into the fountain head, the limpid spring itself.
They called him just plain "Smithy," but of course such an elegant fellow had a handle to the latter part of his name. It was Edmund Maurice Travers Smith; but you could never expect a parcel of American boys to bother with such a tremendous tongue-twisting name as that. Hence the Smithy.
While the whole patrol, taking out the lunch that had been provided, and which one of them, evidently from the South from the soft tones of his voice, called a "snack," were eating we might as well be making the acquaintance of the rest.
The Southern lad was named Robert Quail White. A few of his chums addressed him as plain Bob; but the oddity of the combination appealed irresistibly to their sense of humor, and "Bob White" it became from that time on. Sometimes they called to him with the well-known whistle of a quail; and he always responded.
There was a very tall fellow, with a remarkably long neck. "Giraffe" he had become when years younger, and the name was likely to stick to him even after he got into college. When his attention was called to anything, Conrad Stedman usually stretched his neck in a way that gave him a great advantage over his fellows. He was sometimes a little touchy; but gave promise of proving himself a good scout, being willing to learn, faithful, and obliging.
Another of the patrol had a rather melancholy look. This was Stephen Bingham. He might have gone to the end of the chapter as plain Steve; but when a little fellow at school, upon being asked his name, he had pronounced it as if a compound word; and ever since he was known as Step-hen Bingham. Whenever he felt like sending his companions into fits of laughter Step-hen would show the whites of his eyes, and look frightened. He could never find his things, and was forever appealing to the others to know whether they had seen some article he had misplaced. Step-hen evidently had much to learn before he could qualify for the degree of a first-class scout.
The one who seemed to be second in Command of the little detachment was a quiet looking boy. Allan Hollister had been raised after a fashion that as he said "gave him the bumps of experience." Part of his life had been spent in the Adirondacks and in Maine; so that he really knew by actual participation in the work what the other lads were learning from the books they read.
He lived with his mother, said to be a widow. They seemed to have plenty of money; but Allan was often sighing, as though somehow his thoughts turned back to former scenes, and he longed to return to Maine again.
Here then was the complete roster of the Silver Fox Patrol of Cranford Troop, as called by the secretary, Bob White, at each and every meeting.
1. Thad Brewster, Patrol Leader, and Assistant Scout-Master.
2. Allan Hollister, upon whom the responsibility rested after Thad.
3. Cornelius Hawtree.
4. Robert Quail White.
5. Edmund Maurice Travers Smith.
6. Conrad Stedman.
7. Davy Jones.
8. Stephen Bingham.
Of course, as the rules of the organization provided, there was a genuine scout-master to accompany the boys when possible, and look after their moral welfare; as well as act as a brake upon the natural exuberance of their spirits. This was a young man who was studying medicine with Dr. Calkins in the town of Cranford. Frequently the clever young M.D. could not keep his appointments with his boys; at such times he had to delegate to Thad his duties. And to tell the truth when they learned that as the elder doctor was sick himself, their scout-master would be unable to accompany them on this, their first real hike and outing, none of the scouts felt very sorry.
"Pretty near time we started again for the lake, isn't it, Thad?" demanded Step-hen, something like an hour after they had stopped to break the march with a bite and a cool drink.
"Oh! please let me finish this little grub," called out Giraffe, who was tremendously fond of eating; "it's a shame to waste it. You stopped me from making a fire you know, Thad; and I fell behind the rest of you that way."
"I never saw such a fellow, always crazy to set fire to things," remarked Davy Jones. "He'll burn the whole world up some day."
"I expect to set the river on fire when I get in business," grinned Giraffe.
"Give the signal to fall in, Mr. Bugler—but I say, where is Bumpus anyway?" asked the acting scout-master, looking around.
"Oh! he went wandering away some time ago," remarked Davy. "But here's his horn; let's see if I can blow the old thing."
He put the shining instrument to his lips, puffed out his cheeks, and emitted a frightful groaning sound. The rest of the scouts had just started to laugh when there came a strange, rattling noise from the woods near by, as though a landslide might be in progress. And accompanying the racket they heard a feeble voice that must belong to Bumpus, though no one recognized it, calling out:
"Help! help! Oh, somebody come quick, and save me!"
With that call every member of the scout patrol leaped erect, staring at one another in dismay.
THE PRISONER OF THE TREE STUMP.
"Oh! perhaps a wolf has got poor Bumpus!" exclaimed Smithy, who had never had any real experience in the woods, and was therefore a genuine "greenhorn" scout.
"Or a bear!" suggested Step-hen.
Thad was not the one to stand and speculate, when a comrade appeared to be in deep trouble, so he immediately cried out:
"Get your staves, and come along, everybody; no; you stay with our knapsacks, to guard them, Bob White. This may be some trick of Brose Griffin and his cronies to steal our stuff. This way, the rest of you, boys!"
"Hurrah!" shouted Step-hen, showing great animation; but cautiously falling in the rear of the procession that went rushing into the depths of the woods.
"Which way did it come from, Thad?" asked Smithy; who, despite his girl-like neatness of person and belongings, and dainty ways, was close to the leader, his face whiter than usual, but his eyes flashing with unaccustomed fire.
"I think over in this direction," said Davy Jones, before the leader could reply.
"Listen!" commanded Thad, as he held up his hand, bringing them all to a halt. Straining their ears, each scout tried to catch some sound that would give him the privilege of being the first to point to the spot where Bumpus was in sore need of assistance.
"I think I heard a groan!" remarked Step-hen, in an awe-struck voice, that trembled in spite of his effort to seem brave.
"So did I," declared Allan; "and it was over yonder to the left."
Accordingly the six boys went helter-skelter into the underbrush, making all the noise an elephant might in pushing through the woods. Perhaps it was only the result of their eagerness to reach the companion, who seemed to be in trouble; and then again, a racket like that might frighten away any wild beast that had attempted to carry their stout bugler away.
"Stop again, and listen," said Thad, half a minute later. "We must be near the place where that groan came from. Hear it again, anybody?"
"Help! oh, help! they're eating me alive!" came in a muffled voice from some unknown place near by.
Thrilled by the words, and half expecting to see some savage monster struggling with their fellow scout, the six boys stared about them in dismay. Not the first sign could they see of either Bumpus or the attacking beast.
"Where under the sun can he be?" exclaimed Giraffe.
"Perhaps it was a big eagle, or a hawk; and it's carried him up into a tree!" suggested Step-hen; and strange to say, no one even laughed at the silly idea.
"Allan has guessed it!" cried Smithy, who had chanced to see a little smile chase across the face of the boy from Maine.
"Where is he, then?" asked Thad, wheeling on his second in command.
"I think if you move over to that big old tree-trunk yonder, you'll find Bumpus, sir," replied Allan, making the scout salute; for he believed in carrying out the rules of the organization when on duty, as at present.
"But we can see the whole thing from top to bottom, and never a sign of Bumpus anywhere?" remarked Step-hen, doubtfully.
"And he ain't such a little chap that he could hide under the bark of a dead tree either," remarked Davy, scornfully.
Thad was already advancing upon the stump in question. Perhaps he had caught the hidden meaning to Allan's words; and could give a pretty good guess as to why the other smiled.
"Surround the stump, scouts!" he ordered; and the boys immediately started to obey, holding their stout staves in readiness to resist an attack, if so be some unseen wild beast made a sudden leap.
"Say, it's all a mistake; there ain't a blessed thing here!" grumbled Step-hen, when, after reaching a point on the other side of the immense stump, he could see the entire surface of its trunk, some three feet through, possibly more.
"Yes there is; and I want to get out the worst kind! Ouch! they're biting me like hot cakes! I'm getting poisoned, I know I am! Oh! dear!" came the muffled voice that they knew belonged to Bumpus.
"Whoop! he's in the old stump!" shouted Davy Jones, starting to grin broadly.
"That's right," replied the unseen Bumpus; "but please don't stand there, and guy a poor feller, boys. Do something for me before I'm a goner. Oh! how they are going for me though! I'm beginning to swell up like anything! Be quick, Thad, Allan, and the rest of you!"
"But what's biting him, do you think?" said Step-hen, looking serious again. "Can it be rattlesnakes, Thad, or bumble-bees?"
"Hardly," replied the other, readily; "I'd expect rather that it was ants. What do you say, Allan?"
"No doubt of it," came from the boy who had practical experience in the ways of the woods. "They like to make their nests in old dead trees. But ask Bumpus."
Evidently the boy who was imprisoned inside the stump of the forest monarch must have heard every word spoken by his mates, without, for he instantly called aloud:
"Yes, that's what it is, ants, and they are fierce, I tell you. I'm covered all over right now with lumps as big as hickory nuts. Be quick, boys, and get me out!"
"How under the sun d'ye think he ever got inside that stump; for the life of me I can't see any hole down here?" Davy asked, wonderingly.
"He must have fallen in through the top," replied Allan, casting a quick glance up toward the place in question. "The old thing's hollow, and it gave way under Bumpus."
"Sure, that's the way!" called out the unseen sufferer, eagerly. "Get a move on you, fellers. I want to breathe some fresh air, and take some stuff for all these poisonous bites."
"But what were you doing up that stump?" demanded Step-hen; while Thad and Allan were examining the remains of the once proud tree, as if to decide what ought to be done, in order to rescue the unlucky scout.
"I know what ails Bumpus," cried Davy; "his old curiosity bump was working overtime, and coaxed him to climb up there."
"Well, how'd I know the old thing'd give in with me like that?" protested the other, faintly. "I saw a bee going in a hole up there; and you know I'm just crazy to find a wild bees' nest in a hollow tree, because I dote on honey. But I was mistaken about that; it's ants biting me; because I caught one on my cheek after he'd taken a nibble. Oh! ain't they making me a sight, though? Where's Thad? I hope you don't just go on, and leave me here to die, boys. Please get busy!"
"Just hold up a little, Bumpus," called Thad, cheerily. "We haven't any rope to pull you up again; and besides, Allan says the top of the rotten stump would like as not give way, if anybody tried to stand on it. But I've sent Giraffe back to the spring after the ax we carried. We'll just have to cut a hole, and let you climb out that way."
"But be careful not to give me a jab, won't you, please, Thad?" asked the other, between his groans. "I'm bad enough off as it is, without losing a leg."
"Don't be afraid," replied the scout-master; "we're going to let Allan do the job, and few fellows know how to handle an ax as well as he does. And here's the tool right now; Giraffe made pretty quick time."
"But what do you want me to do?" asked the prisoner of the stump, piteously.
"Why, here's a hole already, big enough for me to stick my hand in; feel that, do you, Bumpus?" and Thad inserted his hand, to clutch the leg of the other.
"Oh! how you scared me at first, Thad; I sure thought it was a wildcat, or something, that had grabbed me. I'm trembling all over, what with the bites, the tumble, and the excitement."
"Now keep as far back from this side as you can," continued the other. "Is the hollow big enough to allow that, Bumpus?"
"It surely is, Thad," replied the other, somewhat more cheerfully, as if the confident manner in which Thad went about his business reassured him. "Guess there must be nearly a foot of space between."
"That's fine," Thad went on to say; "now keep back, and leave it all to Allan. He's going to commence chopping."
Immediately there sounded the stroke of the descending ax.
"Huh! went all the way through, that time," said Step-hen, who was watching the operation closely; "reckon the old tree must be as rotten as punk."
"Make a dandy blaze, all right," ventured Giraffe, whose mind was bent on fires, so that he never lost a chance for making one; and who loved to sit and watch it burn, much as the old fire worshippers might have done in long-ago times.
"Take care, Allan," remarked Thad; "don't strike so hard next time. Why, you'll knock a hole in that stump in a jiffy. It's only a shell."
"I could drop the whole thing in fifteen minutes, believe me," answered the boy who wielded the ax so cleverly, having learned the trick from the native woodsmen up in Maine, his native State.
Again the sharp-edged tool descended; and the hole grew considerably larger. The prisoner kept urging them to make more haste, and exclaim that he was swelling up so fast as a result of his bites, that he'd soon be unable to crawl out, even if half the tree trunk were chopped away.
But Allan was a methodical chap, and could not be urged into carelessness when making use of such a dangerous tool as a keen-edged ax. He chopped close to the imaginary line he had drawn; and as large chips fell in a shower the aperture increased in size until they could see the lower limbs of the prisoner.
"Can't you drop down on your hands and knees, Bumpus?" called Thad. "I should think the hole was big enough now to let you get out."
"Oh! I'll try," wailed the other; "I'm willing to do anything you say, Thad, if only you can patch me up, and keep me from bursting. There, I did manage to squeeze down on my knees; but I don't believe I can ever get through."
"We're willing to help you, old fellow," remarked Davy, as he seized hold of a hand; while Step-hen took the other; and between them they pulled, while Bumpus used his legs to kick backward; and finally he was dragged triumphantly out of his strange prison.
But when the boys saw his swollen face they stopped their loud laughing; for although the fat boy tried to grin good-naturedly, he was such a sight that pity took the place of merriment in the hearts of his chums.
The vicious ants had really bitten his cheeks so that they were swollen up very much, and Bumpus looked like a boy with the mumps.
THE ACCUSATION MADE BY STEP-HEN.
"Am I going to swell up any more, Thad; and will you just have to put hoops on me to keep me from bursting?" asked Bumpus, earnestly.
The other fellows wanted to laugh, but to their credit be it said that they restrained this feeling. It would be heartless, with poor Bumpus looking so badly.
"Oh! don't get that notion into your head," said the young leader; for as assistant scout-master, in the absence of Dr. Philander, Thad was supposed to take charge of the troop, and assume all his duties; "here, fellows, bring him along back to the spring. I've got something in my haversack the doctor gave me, that ought to help Bumpus."
"Was it meant for ant bites, Thad, do you know?" asked the victim, as he allowed his comrades to urge him along slowly; while he rubbed, first one part of his person, and then another, as the various swellings stung in succession.
"Well, he really said it was to be used in case any of us got scratched by a wild animal, and there was danger of poisoning; but it strikes me it would be a good antiseptic, he called it, in this case."
Having reached the spot where Bob White still faithfully stood guard over their few belongings, Thad hurriedly threw open his bundle, and took out a little package carefully wrapped up. It contained rolls of soft white linen to be used for bandages in case of need; adhesive plaster, also in small rolls; and a few common remedies such as camphor, arnica, and the like, intended for ailments boys may invite when overeating, or partaking too freely of green apples.
"Here it is," he remarked, holding up a small bottle.
"How purple it looks," observed Davy Jones, curiously; "and what's this on the label, here. 'Permaganate of Potash, No. 6; to be painted on the scratch; and used several times if necessary.' That's Doc. Philander's writing, sure."
"It looks pretty tough," commented Giraffe.
"The remedy is sometimes worse than the disease, they say," remarked Smithy.
"You don't think it'll hurt much, do you, Thad?" asked the victim, trying to smile, but unable, on account of his swollen cheeks.
"Not a bit, I understand," came the reassuring reply. "Besides, I should think that you wouldn't hold back, even if it did, Bumpus. You're in a bad way, and I've just got to counteract that poison before your eyes close up."
"Go on, use the whole bottle if you want to," urged the alarmed boy.
"The only bad thing about it is that this stuff stains like fun, and you'll be apt to look like a wild Indian for a day or two," Thad observed, as he started to apply the potash with a small camel's hair brush brought for the purpose.
"Little I care about that, so long as it does the business," replied Bumpus; and so the amateur doctor continued to dab each bite with the lavender-colored fluid until the patient looked as though he might be some strange freak intended for a dime museum.
Of course that was too much for the other boys. They snickered behind their hands, and presently broke out into a yell that awoke the echoes. Bumpus only nodded his head at them, for he was a very good-natured fellow.
"Laugh away and welcome, boys," he remarked, grimly. "Feels better already, Thad, and if the stuff will only do the business I don't care what happens. Besides, the fellows must have their fun. But they wouldn't think it a joke if any of them had climbed up, looking for a honey pot, and dropped through the rotten stuff that covered the hole in the top of that stump."
"Well," said Step-hen, "if it had been our monkey, now. He'd have had a great time climbing out; but Davy could have done it; he's more at home in a tree than on the ground."
He said this because the Jones boy was as nimble as an ape when he found an opportunity to show off his gymnastics; he dearly loved to hang from a limb by his toes, and carry on like a circus athlete or trapeze performer.
"Do we make a start now?" asked Bob White; "exactly fifteen minutes spent, suh, in rescuing our comrade in distress."
"Are you able to walk with us, Bumpus?" asked Thad.
"Oh! I guess I can amble along somehow," responded the fat boy; "but please detail a couple of scouts to keep near me, in case I begin to swell again. I'm sorry we haven't got a rope along; because I'd feel safer if I had one wrapped around me right now."
"Where's my campaign hat?" burst out Step-hen just then; "anybody seen it layin' around loose? I declare to goodness it's queer how my things always seem to disappear. I often think there must be some magic about it."
"Huh! the only trouble is you never keep a blessed thing where it belongs," declared Davy, in scorn. "Now, there's Smithy, who goes to just the opposite extreme; he's too particular, and wastes time, which a true scout should never do. The rest of us try to be half-way decent; and you notice we seldom lose anything. There's your old hat right now, just where you flung it when we dropped down here."
"Oh! thank you, Davy; perhaps I am just a little careless, as you say; but all the same it's funny how my things always go. Hope, now, I don't lose that splendid little aluminum compass I bought the other day, thinking that it might save me from getting lost in the woods some time."
"Oh! come along, old slow-poke, we're going to start There's Bumpus trying to screw his lips into a pucker right now, so he can blow the bugle. Ain't he got the grit, though, to attend to his business with that swollen face?"
Presently, after the inspiring notes of the bugle had sounded, the patrol once more took up its line of march. Each scout had his staff in his hand, and carried a haversack on his back. Blankets they had none, for all those necessary things had been entrusted to the care of a farmer, whose route home from early market took him near the intended camping place on Lake Omega; a beautiful, if wild looking sheet of water some miles in length, and situated about ten from Cranford town.
Allan and Thad headed the procession that soon straggled in couples along the side of the dusty road.
"What made you mention the name of Brose Griffin when you detailed Number Four to remain at the camp?" asked Allan, who had evidently been thinking about this same thing.
"Well," replied the scout-master, "it flashed into my mind that these tough fellows might have dogged us up here, to play some of their tricks on us when in camp; and that holding Bumpus was meant to draw the rest off, so they could run away with our haversacks, which they knew must contain lots of things we couldn't well get on without in camp."
"Smithy couldn't if his hair brush and his little whisk broom were missing," declared Allan, with a chuckle. "Why, that boy seems to only live to fight against dirt. He's the most particular fellow I ever knew."
"Oh! wait and see how he gets over that before he's been a scout two months," said Thad, also laughing. "Nothing like the rough and ready life in camp and on the march to cure a boy of being over-clean. He'd never learn any different at home, you know, because his mother is the same way, and brought him up pretty much like a girl. But he's reached the point now where the true boy nature is beginning to get the better of that false pride."
"But seriously, Thad, do you believe we'll see anything of Brose Griffin and his two shadows, Bangs and Hop?"
"I certainly hope we won't," replied the other; "but you know what they are; and I've been told that they went around asking all sorts of questions about where we intended to make our first camp-fire. It wouldn't surprise me much if they did try to give us trouble."
"What will we do if it happens that way?" asked Allan.
"Defend ourselves, to be sure," replied the scout-master, promptly, as he gave a weed a snap with his staff that cut its top off neatly.
"But scouts are not supposed to fight; that is one of the principles of the organization," Allan remarked.
"In a way you're right," replied the other, slowly; "that is, no true scout will ever seek a fight; but there may be times when he has to enter into one in order to defend himself, or save a comrade from being badly hurt. You know the twelve rules we all subscribed to when we joined the Silver Fox Patrol, Allan? Suppose you run them over right now?"
"Oh! that's easy," laughed the second in command. "A scout must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful to others, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient to his superiors, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."
"Well, in order to be brave, and helpful to others, he may even have to fight; but he is expected only to resort to such extreme measures when every other means fail. And if those three roughs come playing their jokes around our camp we'll try and speak decently with them first. Then, if that doesn't work, they'd better look out."
The way Thad snapped his teeth shut when saying those last few words told what he would be apt to do if forced into the last ditch by circumstances over which he had no control.
"I hope we can coax Giraffe to quit trying to make fires all the time," said Allan. "It's a dangerous thing to do in the woods. Why, up in Maine every hunter has to employ a licensed guide just to make sure he doesn't leave a camp-fire burning behind him when he breaks camp, which the rising wind would scatter into the brush, so that valuable timber would be burned, and heaps of damage done. I've stood my turn as a fire guard myself in the Fall, and was hired by the State too."
"Listen, would you?" said Thad, just then; "what do you suppose is the matter between Bumpus and Step-hen now? The chances are he's gone and lost something again and is accusing poor old Bumpus of taking it. Let's wait for them here, and settle the trouble."
The two in question brought up the van of the trailing patrol. As they came along Step-hen was venting his disgust as usual over the "mighty queer way" his things had of vanishing without anybody ever touching them.
"What's gone now, Step-hen?" asked Thad, as they came up, still wrangling.
"Why, just to think," called out Bumpus, "he says I never gave him back that new compass of his, after he showed me how it worked, before we started on this hike; and I say I did. As if I'd want to take his silly compass, when I learned how to tell north from the mossy side of a tree, and the way the sun hangs out up there."
"Well, I just can't find it on me anywhere," complained Step-hen; "and as I remembered showing it to Bumpus, I thought he was setting up a game on me by hiding it somewhere about him. He wouldn't let me look in his pack, either, you know."
"Course I wouldn't!" cried the fat boy, indignantly; "because that'd look like I half admitted the charge. Guess I know enough about law to understand that. Just you think real hard, Step-hen, and p'raps you'll remember where you put it; but don't throw it up at me, please."
The other grumbled something, but made no further charge. From the suspicious way in which he looked at Bumpus out of the corners of his eyes, it was plain that his mind was far from convinced, and that missing compass would be apt to make trouble during the whole trip.
WHEN THE FIRE WAS KINDLED.
"How are you feeling now, Bumpus?" asked Thad, some time later, as he once more stopped to allow all the stragglers pull up; for some of the boys were beginning to look rather fagged, though they tried to hide the telltale signs, being too proud to own up to any weakness that ill became a scout.
"Pretty ragged, to tell the truth," replied the fat boy, who was puffing as he came along. "It ain't the poison I've absorbed in my system, so much as a weakness that just makes me shiver all over. And Thad, I've walked this far before, and never felt like this, either."
"Oh! I expected that you'd have that sort of a spell," remarked the other. "You see, that tumble, and the shock of feeling something biting you, that was terrible because you were in the dark, must have given your nervous system a bad jolt. But keep up if you can, Bumpus. In a little while now we'll be near the lake, and our first camp."
"And just think of it, boys, what a roaring old fire we'll have to-night," spoke up Giraffe, craning his long neck to glance around the circle that had gathered about the leader.
"You'll just leave all that to me, Giraffe," said the patrol leader, sternly. "Here we are about to get into our first camp, and begin to take up the duties all scouts ought to learn, so they can take care of themselves, and be of help to others in the woods. And let me tell you, the first camp-fire is too serious a thing for you to start it off-hand. So I positively forbid you to think of using a single match to-night without permission."
Giraffe shrank back, looking crushed. He had been building high hopes on having unlimited chances for carrying out his favorite diversion, once away from the restraints of civilization. But he must learn by degrees, possibly through sad experience, that a fire is just as terrible in the wilderness, once it gets beyond control, as in a settled community. It is a good servant, but a very bad master.
"How far is the lake from here, would you say, Thad?" asked Davy Jones.
"Not over two miles," was the reply. "You notice that the country is getting wilder the further we go. And around Lake Omega they say it beats everything, for you can't see a single house."
"How does it come that this lake, lying so close to Cranford, has never been visited by any of you fellows?" asked Bob White, who, being a comparative newcomer, like Allan and Thad, could not be supposed to know as much about things as the rest of the scouts, who had been born in Cranford, and brought up there.
"Why, you see for a long time all this country up here was owned by a rich man, who meant to make a game preserve out of it. He even had a high wire fence built around part of the tract, including the lake, and kept game keepers here, so nobody could get in to steal a single fish. But he died before he ever had a chance to finish the job; and his widow sold the ground to a lumber concern, that never cared a thing for game. Chances are there'll be some high old hunting around up here this Fall; and I'm going to get in on it if I can."
It was Davy Jones who gave this information. He had a father who was said to be a very smart lawyer; and Davy bade fair to follow in his footsteps. At least, the boy was never asleep when anything was going on; and he could easily subscribe to that scout injunction which requires that a boy keep his eyes and ears open, in order to learn things the ordinary person would never see nor hear.
Once more they took up the march, Bumpus being a little refreshed from the halt. A couple of the other fellows kept near him from now on, and even linked arms with the fat boy, who was universally well liked on account of his disposition being sunny, no matter whether in fair weather or in storm.
Along about four in the afternoon a shout arose.
"I see water ahead!" yelled Giraffe, who had managed to get in ahead of the others.
"Well, with that neck you ought to be able to see anything," called out Bumpus, from further back in the line.
"I guess I could see whether a bee went into a hole in a stump, or just swung past," retorted the other. "But there's your lake, fellows; and we're right close up on the same, now. Just look through that opening in the trees; see the sun shining on the little waves. Say, don't it look fine, though? Talking about fires—but that'll keep," as he saw the patrol leader turn his eyes quickly upon him.
Every one felt like quickening his pace, even the weary Bumpus. Step-hen seemed especially solicitous about the welfare of his stout comrade, for he kept hovering near him, offering to lend his arm, or do any other kindly act. Bumpus eyed him a little suspiciously, as though he had an idea the other might have some dark motive in being so extra kind.
"See here, Step-hen," he declared once, when the other slipped an arm through his and helped him on his way; "I reckon you're thinking that if you're good to me I'll own up to taking that beastly little compass of yours, eh? Well, just get that notion out of your head, won't you? Because I ain't goin' to confess to something I never did. And don't you say compass to me again, hear?"
"Oh! never mind," said Step-hen, very sweetly, for him, and with a curious smile that made the fat boy uneasy; "of course if you say you didn't keep it, there must be some mistake; only it seems mighty funny how my things are always disappearing, and the rest of you get off scot free. But don't bother about it, Bumpus; sure the thing is bound to turn up somewhere. Only I hope I find it before I go and get lost in the forest. I always was afraid of that, you know. I'll try and forget all about compasses. Here, lean on me a little harder if you want to. I ain't tired a whit, and can stand it."
But Bumpus was able to walk alone. Truth to tell he fancied Step-hen was trying to frisk him all over, as if endeavoring to locate the position of some object that might feel like the missing compass.
"There's the stuff the farmer brought, fellows!" said Thad, presently.
It had been dumped alongside the road at a certain place marked by the two who had come up here on a spying trip beforehand. Each boy took what he could carry, and in this way the entire equipment was carried down to a camp site on the shore of the splendid body of water known as Lake Omega.
"That word Omega means the end, don't it?" said Davy Jones, as they started to put up one of the two tents, and gather the provisions, blankets, cooking utensils and such things together.
"I hope it won't be the end of any of us," chuckled Giraffe, who had been casting furtive looks around, as if searching for an ideal spot on which he hoped the first camp-fire would be built.
"Well, every fellow who doesn't know how to swim has got to get busy, and learn the first thing," said the patrol leader, looking toward Smithy meaningly.
"Oh! I want to know how, Thad, believe me," returned that worthy, earnestly. "My mother doesn't believe any fellow should go near the water until he knows how to swim; but how could he ever learn in that case, I'd like to know?"
"Fix himself up in a tree, and strike out!" suggested Davy, to whom a tree appealed very frequently as the first way out of any trouble.
"Now, you're away off there, suh," broke in Bob White, smiling; "he should immediately proceed to get in touch with one of those schools that teach everything through the mails; and take his dives off the dining-room table."
It was at least satisfying to see how, under the management of the two experienced leaders, Thad and Allan, the tents were soon raised. Then several of the boys were set to work digging around the upper half outside the canvas.
"What's all this for, Mr. Scout-Master?" asked Smithy, as he laid an old newspaper on the ground to kneel on, and began digging away with the hatchet; having actually drawn on a pair of new working gloves made of canvas, in order to keep his hands from getting soiled.
"Why, in case of a sudden and heavy rain, we'd be in danger of having a flood rush through the tents if we didn't make this gutter or sluice to throw it off. Notice that it's on the upper side only. And while you're finishing here, boys, Allan and myself will make the stone fireplace where we expect to do pretty much all our cooking. The big camp-fire is another thing entirely, and we'll let you all have a hand in building that of logs and brush."
So they constructed a long fireplace of stones easily found along the shore of the lake; it looked a little like a letter V, in that one end was wider than the other. And across the smaller end a stone was placed as a support for the coffee-pot which would occupy a position in that quarter, the frying-pan needing considerably more room.
Taking pattern from this first fireplace some of the other scouts, ambitious to try their hand at making such a useful adjunct to camp life, fashioned a second one close by. For the patrol was to be divided into two sections, when the matter of cooking was concerned.
The sun was sinking low behind the hills when the matter of supper was agitated. Giraffe was calling for something to stay the terrible sense of hunger he declared was making him feel weak. This thing of not being able to sneak into the home pantry between meals was already giving him trouble; and evidently Giraffe would have to lay in a greater stock when the regular chance arose, or else go hungry.
Finally, however, those who did the cooking on this first night, Thad and Allan they chanced to be, announced that the meal was ready. So, to carry out the idea of being under rules and regulations, the bugler was told to sound the assembly call, though every member of the patrol hovered close by, ready to fall to with the eagerness of half famished wolves.
Then came the job of making ready for their first camp-fire. That was a matter of such tremendous importance in the eyes of all that every fellow had to share in bringing the fuel, and helping to stack it, according to the directions of Allan.
No one worked with greater eagerness than Giraffe. He was fairly wild to see the red flames dancing upward, and the sparks sailing off on the faint night air, as though they carried messages from the camp of the Boy Scouts to some distant port unseen from that lower world.
And when finally all was ready, the young scout-master after grouping his followers around the heap, solemnly took a brand from one of the cooking fires, and with a flourish applied it to the inflammable tinder. Immediately the crackling flames shot up through the stuff prepared, and in another minute there arose a brilliant pyramid of fire that caused the neighboring trees to stand out like red ghosts. And then arose a shout from eight lusty young throats, as the Silver Fox Patrol danced around the first camp-fire of their new organization.
That was an event long to be remembered, and to be written down in the annals of the outing with becoming ceremony.
AN UNINVITED GUEST.
What a truly glorious hour that was, as those eight lads sat around the splendid camp-fire, chatting, asking questions, and giving information, as it happened they were able.
Of course Thad and Allan were usually called upon to explain the thousand and one things connected with woods life, as yet sealed mysteries to those of the patrol who were experiencing their very first camping out.
Some of the other six had doubtless made fires in the woods after a fashion, and possibly tried to cook fish over the same, with poor success. Bob White admitted that he had often been in the mountains with some of the men who worked on his father's place, and had spent lots of nights afoot in the Blue Ridge; so that he could not really be called a "tenderfoot scout."
But Bumpus and Smithy were very green; Davy Jones knew but little more; and as for Step-hen and Giraffe, they would not commit themselves, watching every move the leaders made, as though hoping to pick up information in this way that could be used at another time, and which would stamp them as real woodsmen.
To all appearances Bumpus had entirely forgotten all about his suspicions toward Step-hen. Malice he could not harbor any great length of time toward any one, his nature being too broad and forgiving.
But in the midst of an earnest discussion between several of the scouts on the subject of Indian picture writing, which it is recommended all scouts should learn as a very useful and interesting means for communicating with companions who may be late on the road, Bumpus gave out a roar.
"Hey! guess you think my eyes got closed up by that swelling, didn't you, Step-hen Bingham? Now, whatever are you sneaking my knapsack off like that, for? Want to search it, perhaps, to see if that old compass you left behind could a got in there? Well, you put it back right away; and keep your hands off my property, or I'll complain to the scout-master, see if I don't. What would I want your compass for, tell me that?"
"I thought you might have hid it just to tease me, Bumpus," grumbled the detected one, as he hastened to hang the bag back where he had found it.
"All right," returned Bumpus, falling back lazily, again; "you don't choose to accept my word for it when I say I ain't got it; and so you can take it out any old way you want. But don't you bother me again about that compass, hear?"
Some of the boys began in due time to yawn, at first slily; and then as they saw others openly gaping, they forgot to hide it behind their hand.
"Pretty near time we thought of making up our beds, ain't it?" inquired Giraffe; who secretly wondered how he was ever going to tear himself away from sitting there, his hands clasped around his shins, and admiring that magnificent sight of the fire eating up the dry fuel that was fed to it in liberal doses.
"Yes, after I've gone the rounds, to see how well our stock of provisions has been protected," replied the scout-master, getting upon his feet.
"We've got it stowed pretty much in the two tents, suh," remarked Bob White, to whom this particular duty had been detailed.
"Think any wild animal might try and raid the camp, and get away with some of our grub?" asked Bumpus, a little uneasily.
"Oh! hardly that," laughed Thad; "but one of the duties of a scout is never to just take things for granted. He must be wise enough to make provision against any ordinary happening that might come about. In other words he insures his stock of provisions like a sensible merchant does his goods. He doesn't expect to have a fire, you know; but he wants to be sure he won't be ruined if one does come."
"Huh! he'd have to pay a pretty big premium on insurance if it was known that Step-hen Bingham was around, then," remarked Davy, meaningly.
"I'm going to tell you more about that picture writing another time, fellows," Allan remarked, as he proceeded to get his blanket out of the pile, and fold it double, just as he wanted it. "You'll say it's a fine thing too. Perhaps we can get a chance to try it out at the time we send a good swimmer over to the island in the lake, to signal with the flags and looking-glass."
The rest of the boys immediately busied themselves with their blankets too; for when in camp they are pretty much like a flock of sheep, and will follow their leader, or bell-wether, without questioning.
Presently a cry arose, and it came from Davy Jones.
"Say, look at that Smithy, would you; bless me if he ain't got some white sheets, and a regular nightgown. Now, what dye think of that, fellows? Are we going to allow such sissy goings-on in this, our first camp? He'd hoodoo the whole business, sure. No luck with such baby play. Use the sheets for towels when we go in swimming; I've got an extra pair of pajamas along, that I'll lend him, if he promises to be a true scout, ready to rough and ready it in camp. Next thing he'll be pulling out a nightcap to keep from getting cold!"
All of them were laughing by now. As for Smithy, he looked as if he could not understand what all the fuss was about.
"Why, I always sleep this way at home," he stammered, as he glanced around at his hilarious comrades.
"Perhaps you do," jeered Davy Jones, who could take hard knocks without any whimper; "but mother's darling boy ain't home right now. A true scout must learn to sleep in his blanket alone. An old boot will do for a pillow; and he won't ever want to be rocked to sleep either. The breeze will be his lullaby, and the blue canopy of heaven his coverlet."
"Hurrah for you, Davy; that's as good a definition of what a Boy Scout should accustom himself to, as I ever heard. I didn't know you had it in you to talk like that," said Thad, warmly.
"Oh! I got that out of a book," declared Davy, frankly.
"And Thad, do I have to give up these nice clean sheets; and crawl in between the folds of a nasty, rough, tickly blanket?" asked Smithy, pleadingly.
"It will be just as well for you to begin right, Number Five," said the scout-master, pleasantly but firmly. "Sooner or later, if you stick by the Silver Fox Patrol, you've got to learn how to rough it. And if you think enough of your fellow scouts to make this sacrifice, all the better."
Without a word then, Smithy tossed the offending sheets across to Thad; and followed with his usual night apparel.
"I'll take those pajamas, Davy; and thank you kindly for offering to loan them to me;" he said, bravely; but when the faded and somewhat torn night suit was immediately handed over to him, the particular boy was seen to shudder, as though they gave him a cold chill.
Still, he proved to be true grit, and was soon donning them, so as to keep up with the balance of the boys. Thad winked toward Allan, as much as to say that he felt very much encouraged at the progress being made in the education of Edmund Maurice Travers Smith, the spoiled darling of a weak mamma.
"Mark my word for it," he said in a low tone to his second in command; "with all his pink and white complexion, and girlish ways, there's the making of a good scout in Smithy. Given a little time for him to get over the cruel shock these rough ways bring to his orderly system, and you'll see a different sort of fellow spring up. The seed's there all right. And mamma's baby boy will turn into as sturdy and hardy a scout as there is in the troop."
Allan smiled, and nodded. Perhaps he did not have quite as much faith as the young scout-master, because he may not have been as good a reader of character; but he realized that what Smithy had just done was as valiant a thing for one of his nature as attacking a wildcat would be for another boy, built along different lines. For he was defying what had threatened to become a part of his own being, and with gritting teeth trying to show himself a real flesh and blood boy for once.
"When we're all ready, fellows," remarked Thad, presently; "the bugler will sound taps, and after that, see to it that all lights are out but the camp-fire. I've fixed that so it will burn several hours; and once or twice during the night Allan or myself will crawl out, to add some wood from the pile you heaped up here. Not that we need the heat, you understand; but there ought to be a lot of sentiment connected with a first camp-fire; and the Silver Fox Patrol must never forget this one. All ready now?"
"Hold on!" called some one from inside the near tent; "I can't find part of my pajamas; and it'd be too cool to sleep with only half on. Now ain't it funny why it's always my things that get taken? Just like I was going to be a target for all the fun that's going."
"Of course it's that poor old careless Step-hen again, always throwing his things around, and forgetting where he put 'em," said Davy, in a tone of disgust; then he took a peep inside, and burst out into a roar of laughter, adding: "Well, did I ever see such a crazy thing? Hi! fellows look here, and see him hunting around like fun for the lower half of his pajamas, when they are trailing behind him right now, fastened to the shirt part; and he never got on to it. It's right killing, I declare."
"How could I see behind me?" grumbled Step-hen, as he hastened to get into the balance of his night outfit; "my eyes happen to be fixed in front; but some of you smart set may be able to see both ways. All ready, Mr. Scout-Master; let her go!"
The eight boys presented a comical appearance as they stood there, awaiting the sweet notes of the bugle sounding "taps;" for their pajamas were of all sorts of patterns, from gay stripes to deep solid blues and reds.
Thad gave one last look around, and picking up a lantern motioned to Allan to take charge of the other, so that at the last notes they could "douse the glim."
Then he turned toward the stout bugler, clad in the gayest suit of all, and looking like "a rolypoly pudding," as one of the other boys declared.
"Now!" called out the patrol leader, in a tone of authority.
So the official bugler raised the instrument to his swollen lips, game to do his duty; and started to put his whole soul into the thrilling score that, heard at a late hour of the night, always brings with it a feeling of intense admiration.
He had just uttered the first few notes when they saw him suddenly whirl around in consternation, and at the same time point with the bugle, as he shrieked:
"Oh! look! look what's coming in on us, fellows!"
"It's a bear!" whooped Davy Jones, making a bee-line for the nearest tree, just as might have been expected of such a gymnast.
And Thad, with one look, realized that there was no laughing matter about it; because it was a sure-enough bear that walked into their camp on his hind feet!
THE DANCING BEAR.
The excited announcement made by Davy Jones was instantly succeeded by such a mad scramble as those boys had certainly never witnessed before in all their lives. Indeed, none of them saw more than a very small proportion of the queer sights that took place, and for a very good reason; because every single fellow was more concerned about reaching a place of safety than anything else.
Davy gained his tree in about five mad leaps, and the way he mounted up among the convenient branches would have made a monkey turn green with envy. There was Giraffe also, who had very good luck in picking out a tree that offered easy stages for climbing, in that the branches began fairly close to the ground.
Thad and Allan just happened to choose the same resting-place, and met as they began to mount upward. Still, as they seemed to have forgotten an important engagement above, they did not stop to enter into any conversation just then. There was no telling which one of the crowd the invader might have selected for his victim, and each boy imagined that he could feel the hot breath of the bear right at his bare heels.
Some were not so fortunate.
For example, poor Bumpus was having a perfectly dreadful time. He had had the advantage of sighting the bear first; but that did not go very far toward counteracting his unwieldy heft, and his clumsy way of always finding something to stumble over.
True to his habits, Bumpus tripped over one of the guy ropes holding a tent in taut shape. He rolled over with a howl of fright, fancying that now he was surely bound to become bear's meat; for you see poor Bumpus had considerable to learn about the woods animals, or he would have known that as a rule the American black bear lives on roots and nuts and berries, and bothers his head not at all about feasting on fat boys, such as a tiger might fancy.
Bumpus, however, did not mean to just lie there, and let himself be eaten, not if he could do anything whatever to prevent such a vacancy in the Hawtree family. As he struck the ground he began revolving rapidly. No doubt it was rather like a barrel rolling, for Bumpus was quite round.
This sort of thing quickly brought him up against the other tent. He had not meant to make for it, but as soon as his second or third revolution brought his clutching hands in contact with the canvas, Bumpus had a brilliant idea. It was not often that he could boast of such an inspiration; but then a fellow may even surprise himself when the necessity is great.
If he could only tear away one or two of the loops that were fastened to ground stakes, what was to hinder him from pushing his way into the tent, and possibly hiding under some of the blankets?
Eagerly he jerked at the nearest one; and fortunately it seemed to be a trifle loose, for it came free in his hands. But try as he would he failed to budge the next stake, which had taken a firm hold.
In a panic, when he saw the walking bear still drawing nearer, poor Bumpus managed to push his legs under the lower rim of the tightly stretched canvas. Only the lower half of him could find admittance; the balance was of such larger girth that in spite of his frantic labor he could not push under the tent.
There he lay, one half of him safe, and the other exposed to all the peril. He dropped his face on the grass. Perhaps it was to shut out the terrible sight; or it may have been that Bumpus was like the foolish ostrich, which, upon being hotly chased, will thrust its head into a tuft of grass, and imagine itself hidden from the foe simply because it cannot see anything.
The others? Well, the boy from the Blue ridge proved himself no mean sprinter when a real live bear threatened to embrace him; for he had managed to clamber up a tree with more or less difficulty, and was even then astride a limb.
There was Step-hen on the other side of the same friendly oak, breathing hard, and casting frequent looks aloft, as though considering whether it might not be a wise thing to mount upward, so as not to attract the attention of the bear towards himself.
Smithy was perhaps almost as badly frightened as Bumpus, only he did not meet with the series of mishaps that befell the fat boy.
Like the balance of the covey the "particular" boy made a bee-line for the tree that happened to catch his eye by the light of the camp-fire. Had any of his chums thought to observe the movements of Smithy they would have discovered that for once he did not even think of stopping to brush his hair, or pick his steps. Barefooted as he was, he dashed over the intervening ground, and hugged the trunk of his tree with a zeal that spoke well for his activity.
And now they were all securely seated in various attitudes, breathing hard, and gazing at the invader with various emotions. Some still had their hearts going after the fashion of trip-hammers; others were beginning to see the funny side of the affair, and chuckle a little, even though confessing that they too had been more or less alarmed at the unexpected call of Bruin.
Of course Allan and Thad belonged to this latter class, partly because they were built a little differently from their comrades in the Silver Fox Patrol; and also on account of previous experiences along this line.
The Maine boy had come from a State where bears are plentiful; perhaps, now, it may not have been the first time in his life that Allan Hollister had found himself chased by one of the hairy tribe.
All this, which has taken so long to describe, really happened in a bare minute of time. When Thad reached a safe perch on a friendly limb, and looked around at the strange fruit those neighboring trees had suddenly taken to bearing, it was really little wonder that he felt like laughing. Some were clad in red, others blue; while a few had the gayest stripes running in circles or lengthwise throughout their pajamas.
What was this to a hungry bear? Absolutely nothing; and doubtless the invader of the first camp of the Boy Scouts saw little that appeared humorous in the situation. He had entered in a friendly way, expecting to be treated to a supper; and here his intended hosts had fled wildly, as though they feared lest he meant to make a meal of them.
Strange enough, no doubt Bruin thought, if he was capable of thinking at all. He still remained standing on his hind feet, and turning his head from one side to the other, thrusting out his nose in an odd way, as though he might be sniffing the air in order to locate the place where the food was kept.
It began to strike Thad as really comical, now that his own little panic was in the past. He also noticed certain things that had not appealed to him before, no doubt chiefly because he was too busy at the time to pay attention.
But fancy the horror of poor Bumpus when, raising his head presently, consumed by a horrible fascination he could not control, he actually saw the bear looking straight at him! That settled it, and he just knew that the savage beast had already picked him out as a tender morsel. Oh! why was he so unlucky as to be born to plumpness? If only he could be more like the skinny Giraffe, or Step-hen, perhaps this awful beast would have passed him by.
He let out a roar as he saw the bear start toward him another step, moving his forepaws as though growing anxious to embrace him.
"Keep away! Just you try to get one of them other fellows! They're the ones you want, not me, I tell you. Scat! Get out!"
But the bear only advanced still another half hesitating step, and Bumpus, unable to look longer, wriggled vainly in the endeavor to withdraw within the shelter of the tent, and then dropped his face to the earth again.
He believed that his time had come, and he might as well be saying his prayers before he made a late supper for a wild bear.
About this time a glimmer of the truth began to work in upon Thad's brain. He realized in the first place that no ordinary bear of the wild woods would act in this remarkable fashion. No doubt, had it ventured into the camp at all, it would have come on all four legs, "woofing" its displeasure that human beings had disturbed the loneliness of its haunts.
And by the way, as a rule wild bears were not in the habit of going around dangling chains behind them, which was just what he discovered this animal did. He had heard the peculiar jangling sound as the beast first rushed the camp; but at the time was hardly stopping to investigate its cause.
And perhaps that was why Allan was laughing to himself, rather than because of the queer looks of the party perched in the surrounding trees. He had already guessed the truth.
But the situation afforded no comfort to those other boys who stared, and wondered what under the sun they could do if the creature selected their tree to climb. Most of them were trying to remember whether bears really did climb trees or not; and hoping that because this one seemed different from the common black American bear, he might not be able to do much in that line.
He still stood there, erect, sniffing to the right and to the left. Why, now that Thad had guessed the secret, he could see something almost pitiful in the begging attitude of the poor bear. No doubt the animal was very hungry, and did not know how to go about finding his own meals, he had been accustomed to having them brought to him in the shape of hunks of bread or such things, most of his life.
Thad had a sudden brilliant idea. He saw a chance to have a little fun, and give his frightened companions an opportunity to further express their surprise.
When poor Bumpus tried to escape in such a clumsy fashion that he tripped over the stretched guy rope of a tent, he had let go his beloved bugle. What was music to a fellow when his existence hung in the balance. He could get another horn, but never another life.
Thad had by chance discovered the shining bugle even while on his way to the friendly tree, and had snatched it up; mechanically perhaps, for he could not have entertained any fear lest the bear would swallow such a thing.
At any rate he had it in his possession right then, and being able to play a little, he put it to his lips and trilled a few bars of a ditty that sounded like a queer sort of a waltz. And to the utter amazement of his companions the bear immediately started to tread a lively measure with his two hind feet, extending his shorter forepaws as though holding a pole.
In future years no doubt the thought of that strange picture would never appeal to Thad Brewster without exciting his laughter; for it was certainly one of the most comical things that could be imagined.
SMITHY DID IT.
"Oh! would you look at him waltzing!" cried Giraffe.
"He's turning around and around, like a real dancing bear!" echoed Step-hen; and then, still feeling a little malicious toward poor Bumpus, whom he really believed was hiding his precious compass, just to annoy him, he could not help adding: "he feels so good, because he sees his dinner all ready for him under the flap of that tent there."
That brought out another whoop from Bumpus, who felt impelled to raise his head once more, even though it gave him renewed pain.
"Oh! now I know what it all means!"
It was Smithy who uttered this cry, and drew the attention of all his chums toward the tree where the boy in the borrowed pajamas sat astride a limb, just like all the rest, and which he had certainly never stopped to brush off with his handkerchief before occupying, either.
"Have you seen the beast before, Smithy?" asked the scout-master, ceasing his little racketty waltz; which caused the bear to once more stand at attention, waiting for the piece of bread that usually came after he had performed his little trick; and still sniffing hungrily around this way and that.
"That's what I have, Thad," replied the other, eagerly. "Why he came past our house only a few days ago, and gave us quite a performance. I made friends with him too, and the man let me even give him some bread I brought out."
"Sure he did, and glad in the bargain to have some fellow help keep his show bear," Allan remarked, half laughing still.
"Hey, Smithy, suppose you climb down right now then, and renew your acquaintance with the ugly old pirate!" sang out Davy Jones.
"And there's half a loaf of that stale bread wrapped in a newspaper, left right where you c'n put your hand on it, inside the tent where Bumpus is kicking his last. You're welcome to feed it to the bear, Smithy."
It was Step-hen who made this magnificent announcement; how easy it was to think up things for some one else to do, while he clung to his safe anchorage up there among the branches of the beech tree.
"Only half a loaf, remember," put in the cautious and always hungry Giraffe; "we don't want to run short too early in the game; and there's a lot of meals to be looked after yet."
"Somebody's got to do something, that's sure," remarked Bob White. "This night air is some cool to a fellow with my warm Southern blood; and I give you my word, suh, I'm beginning to shiver right now."
"And if we don't think up some way to coax the beast to get out," declared Step-hen, gravely; "why, just as like as not he'll eat up everything we've got, and then go to sleep in our blankets, with us hanging around here like a lot of ripe plums."
"Let Davy do it," remarked Thad; for that was an expression often used among the boys, Davy being such a spry chap, and usually so willing.
But he at once set up a determined protest.
"Now, I would, believe me, boys, if I only knew the gentleman, which I don't, never having been properly introduced. Must have been out of town when he gave his little show the other day. So I respectfully but firmly decline the honor you want to pay me. Now, it's sure up to Smithy to get busy, and make up with his old chum again. Here's his chance to win immortal glory, and the thanks of the whole Silver Fox Patrol as well. Smithy, it's your move."
The delicate boy was pale before, but he turned even whiter now, as he looked in the direction of Thad.
"Perhaps I might coax him to be good; and get a chance to whip the end of that long chain around a tree," he said, in a voice he tried in vain to keep from trembling.
Thad hardly knew what to say. He understood that animals never forget an enemy, or one who has been good to them. An elephant in captivity has been known to bear a grudge for several years, until a good chance came to pay his debt.
Now Smithy said he had fed the traveling bear at the time it danced for his amusement. Doubtless, then, it might recollect him, and would be less inclined to show any vicious temper if he approached, than should a stranger try to take hold of the trailing chain.
"You said you had fed him, didn't you, Smithy?" he asked.
"Yes, with half a loaf of good bread; and I would have gone after more only just at that minute my mother happened to come to the window, and became so frightened at seeing me near the bear, she called to me to come in the house. But I shook hands with him before I went," the last proudly, as though he wanted the boys to know he was not the milksop they sometimes had imagined in the past.
"And do you think he would remember you?" continued Thad, only half convinced that he ought to let the other take the risk; though there really seemed no other way out of the difficulty that promised one-half as good chances.
"Oh! I'm sure he would, he acted so very friendly. Please let me try it, Thad. I really want to; and see, I'm not afraid at all; only I do wish I had my shoes on, for the hard ground hurts my feet. I never went barefooted before in all my life."
"Oh! let him try the trick, Thad," called out Davy; "I'm getting cold, too. This here private box is full of draughts you see; and my attire is so very airy. Blankets are what I want most right now. Give Smithy a chance to show what he can do in the wild beast taming line."
"It'll sure be the making of him," echoed Step-hen cheerfully, from his perch.
"But perhaps a quarter of a loaf would do just as well; I'd try it on him if I was you, Smithy," suggested Giraffe; who groaned to think of all that good food being wasted on a miserable traveling show bear that had strayed into camp.
"All right, if you feel confident, Smithy;" said Thad; "but watch him close; and if he makes a move as if he wanted to grab you, shin out for the tree again. We'll all stand by, ready to give a yell, so as to scare him off."
Bumpus was staring at all this amazing procedure. Slowly the fact had begun to filter through the rather sluggish brain of the fat boy that after all fate had not decided to offer him as a tempting bait to whet the appetite of a bear. He even began to pluck up a little bit of hope that Smithy might succeed in chaining the ugly old terror to a tree, and thus saving his, Bumpus' life.
When the delicate boy started to scramble down out of his leafy bower the others tried to encourage him in various ways.
"Good boy, Smithy!" cooed Step-hen.
"You've certainly got more grit than any fellow in the bunch; and I take off my hat to you, suh!" cried the Southern boy, making a movement with his hand as if in salute.
"Try the quarter loaf, Smithy; you'll find it just where Step-hen said, inside the tent where Bumpus is hanging out," Giraffe called.
"Only half-way out," corrected that party; and then ducked his head as he saw that his voice had attracted the attention of the bear.
So Smithy dropped to the ground. Thad saw that he was fearfully white about the face, and was half tempted to recall him; but had an idea Smithy would refuse to obey, now that he had resolved to prove his valor, which must have been more or less doubted in the past.
The tall, slim boy started walking toward the tent where Bumpus was confined, unable to go or come, so tightly had he become wedged under the canvas.
They saw the bear had become greatly interested. Watching the movements of the boy in the borrowed pajamas he made some sort of pitiful sound that was not unlike a groan. Evidently mealtimes had been a long ways apart lately for Bruin; but he seemed to understand that the boy had gone to secure him something.
The short forelegs began to beat imaginary time, and the bear started to again tread that queer measure, turning slowly around and around as he continued to follow out the line of discipline to which he had been brought up.
He was really begging for something to stay the pangs of hunger.
Meanwhile Smithy, though doubtless shivering like a leaf, had reached the open flap of the tent. Passing inside his eyes quickly found the half loaf of bread wrapped in a newspaper. And seizing it he tore the cover away, after which he once more appeared in view.
As he now advanced, slowly yet eagerly, in the direction of the dancing bear, he held out the bait, and began to softly call, just as he had heard one of the two keepers of the bear do:
"Bumpus! Bumpus, good boy! here supper for Bumpus!"
"Hey, quit calling him by my name," said the fat boy, indignation even making him forget his recent fear.
But Smithy paid not the least attention to him. He was advancing, repeating the name over and over; and trying the best he knew how to speak in tones resembling the thick voice of the man who had held the chain at the time the animal danced for him.
So he presently came close to the bear, which had now ceased dancing, and was thrusting out his nose toward the coveted bread, while making a queer noise. Not a fellow among the scouts moved so much as a little finger. Every eye was glued on the form of Smithy, and doubtless more than one of them really wondered while thus holding his breath in suspense, if the starving beast would actually seize upon the boy who came offering gifts.
"Oh! he took it!" gasped Step-hen.
"And it was the whole of that half loaf too," added Giraffe, with a sigh of regret.
"The chain, quick! Smithy; there's a small tree right by you that ought to hold him! That's the way! Hurrah for you, Smithy; he's done it, boys; and you can drop down now without being afraid," and Thad followed the words by allowing himself to leave the branches of his tree, landing softly on the ground.
Loud shouts attested to the delight of the other prisoners, when the delicate and pampered boy snatched up the end of the long and strong chain, bringing it around the tree Thad mentioned, and apparently locking it securely. After which Smithy staggered away from the spot, and sank down upon the ground, trembling and weak from the great nervous strain under which he had been laboring.
The shouts turned into cheers, and Smithy's name was given three and a tiger; so that the racket made even the hungry bear look wonderingly at the fantastic group that took hold of hands, and danced around the hero of the hour.
A NIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED.
"Are you sure that chain will hold, Smithy?" asked the still nervous Step-hen, when some of the noise and enthusiasm had died away, so that the scouts could act like reasonable human beings again.
They had dodged into the tents, and appeared wrapped in their various blankets; so that as they walked to and fro they resembled so many solemn Indian braves.
"No question about it," returned the other, in whose cheeks a splash of color had come, while his eyes were sparkling with satisfaction over the receipt of honors such as any Boy Scout should be proud to deserve of his fellows.
"Hey! ain't you goin' to help me out of this?" called Bumpus just then.
"Well, would you ever, if he ain't sticking there under that tent, too lazy to help himself crawl out again," remarked Step-hen; possibly wondering whether this might not be a good opportunity for him to sneak off with that knapsack belonging to Bumpus, so that he could secure the compass he was positive the fat boy was hiding from him.
"Yes, I am stuck here, and so tight I just can't hardly breathe," complained the prisoner. "Somebody go inside, and give me a shove. If that don't do the business, then another of these here pegs has got to be lifted, that's all."
Allan obliged the other with a helping hand, and Bumpus was soon able to don his blanket like the rest. Sleep had been banished for the time being, by this remarkable happening. The boys began to speculate as to what they should do with the bear, now that they had him tied up.
"It's sure a white elephant we've got on our hands," laughed Thad. "We don't dare let him loose; and if we keep him here long, he'll eat us out of house and home."
At that Giraffe groaned most dismally. If there was anything he hated to see it was good food being tossed to the beasts.
"Our first camp-fire brought us bad luck, fellows!" he complained.
"Oh! I don't know," remarked Thad. "It gave us a run for the money; and chances are, we'll never get over laughing at the funny things that happened. Then besides think what it did for Smithy! After what he did I guess there isn't a scout who will ever taunt him about being a coward."
"No, Smithy certainly made good this night; and I pass him up away ahead of me on the roll. He deserves a merit badge, suh, for his true grit," was what the generous Southern lad declared firmly.
"Hear! hear! we'll put in an application to Headquarters for a badge to be given to our comrade Smithy for saving our bacon!" cried Davy Jones.
"Well," declared Giraffe, "it might have been our bacon, in fact; because I saw him sniffing in the direction of the tent where it happens to be lying. A fine lot of scouts we'd be, camped away up here, far from our base of supplies, and to run out of bacon the first thing. What's a breakfast without coffee and bacon; tell me that?"
But apparently none of the others were so much given to thinking about the delights of eating as Giraffe, for nobody answered his question.
Thad had pulled Allan aside.
"What did I tell you about that boy?" he whispered, as he watched the emotions that flitted across the now flushed face of the proud Smithy, receiving the homage of his fellow scouts.
"Well, you were right, that's all; he did have the pluck as you said, and he showed it too. I never saw a better piece of grit, never," was the reply the Maine boy gave to the question.
"His mother and aunts may have done their level best to make a sissy out of him; and we always believed they had come mighty near doing it too; but I tell you, Allan, I just feel sure that his father or grandfather must have been a brave soldier in their day. There's warrior blood in Smithy's veins, in spite of his pale face, and his girlish ways."
"Oh! it won't take long for him to get rid of all those things," said the other, confidently. "Already we've seen him accept that tattered old pair of pajamas from Davy Jones; either of us might have hesitated to put 'em on, because of the laugh they'd raise. I think Davy only fetched them along to get a rise from the boys. Smithy is all right, Thad. Given a few months with us, and his mother won't know her darling angelic little boy."
"Say, Thad," sang out Step-hen just then; "what d'ye reckon could have happened to the fellers that own the bear? We've been talking it over, and no two think alike. Some say they got tired feeding the beast, and turned him loose on the community, to browse off poor scouts, camping out for the first time. Then others got the notion that p'raps some hobos might have stopped the show foreigners, and took their money, letting the bear shuffle off by himself."
"We'll just have to take it out in guessing, and let it go at that," was the reply Thad made. "You see, we haven't anything to go by. The bear wasn't carrying any message fastened to his collar, or anything of the sort that I could see."
"Now you're joking, Thad; the only message he had about him was a hungry one, and it showed on his face and in the way he begged," Bob White remarked.
"But, oh! dear me, don't I hope then that the two foreign chaps are hot on the trail of their lost performing pet; and will show up here bright and early to-morrow morning; for just think what an immense stack of precious grub that bear can put away inside of forty-eight hours."
Nobody but Giraffe could have had a thought along these lines.
"Well, he's tired as all get-out now, it seems," said Step-hen; "for there he's lying down like he meant to go to sleep in the shadow of that tree. Makes himself right at home, I must say. I reckon he likes us, fellows."
"Please don't say that, Step-hen; it makes me nervous," remarked Bumpus, wrapping his blanket around him after the way an ancient Roman might his toga, as if, in spite of its warmth, he had started shivering again, as the significant words of Step-hen awakened unpleasant thoughts in his now active mind.
"But how about appointing a sentry to stay on guard during the night?" suggested Giraffe, turning to the scout-master.
"What for?" asked Thad, winking at Allan.
"To watch that he don't get loose, and spread himself at our expense," the other explained. "Why, if that bear overfed, and killed himself, those foreign men'd be just awful mad, fellows. I wouldn't be surprised now, if they tried to make us pay a big sum for letting the old sinner feed on our rich truck. Sometimes these educated animals are worth a heap."
"Oh! you c'n watch all you're a mind to, Giraffe," jeered Step-hen; "the rest of us want some sleep. Be sure and shoo him away if he does break loose, and try to wreck our cooking department. I'm going to hunt for a soft spot right now inside this tent. Don't anybody dare to wake me up before the sun shows again."
With that he started to crawl under the flap of the tent. His action was the signal for a general disappearance, as the boys remembered again, now that the excitement was a thing of the past, that they were both tired and sleepy.
Thad was the last in sight. He wanted to stroll over in the direction of the uninvited guest; and if the bear remained quiet, he meant to examine for himself just how securely Smithy had made the chain.
No one could question his intentions; but then at the time Smithy was worked up to a degree that might excuse some bungling.
The bear was lying down. He raised his head and made that queer sniffing sound when Thad approached, as though possibly anticipating another feed. Thad spoke to the beast in a low, soothing tone, as he used his fingers to ascertain just how the end of the chain was fastened.
Smithy had done his work in a business-like way, in spite of trembling hands. There was a little metal bar which was intended to slip through an extra strong ring, that in turn was connected with one of the links. This being done the bear would be held securely, unless through some accident the ring and bar parted company, which might not happen once in a year's time.
So Thad, quite satisfied, left the shady tree under which the prisoner had stretched his hairy form, and returned to the vicinity of the fire. Here he busied himself for a little while, fixing things so that there would be no necessity for any one attending the camp-fire during several hours at least; indeed, the big back log would doubtless last until morning, smouldering hour after hour.
Giving one last look around, and quite satisfied with the arrangement of this, the first camp of the newly organized Silver Fox Patrol of Cranford Troop of Boy Scouts, Thad finally followed the example of his chums, crawling under the flap of the tent, which he left up for ventilation.
He found three fellows apparently already far gone in sleep, if he could judge from their steady and heavy breathing.
So Thad, chuckling to himself as some humorous thought flitted through his mind, settled down to join them in dreamland. He knew no reason why he should deny himself the rest he sorely needed. There was no danger hovering over the camp that he was aware of; the bear was securely fastened, and apparently content to take up regular lodgings again with human companions; and the fire could not communicate to any dry brush or grass, so as to cause an alarm.
And on this account Thad gave himself up to the pleasure of securing his full measure of sleep, intending to awaken inside of, say three hours, when he could creep softly out, to throw a fresh log on the camp-fire, without disturbing any one.
The last sounds he remembered hearing consisted of a crackling of the flames as they seized upon a particularly fine piece of fuel; and the croaking of some bullfrogs along the shore of the lake. Thad lazily made up his mind to try and secure the hind legs of a few of these big green "mossbacks," as he called them; for he knew from experience what a dainty meal they would make, fried with some salt pork, being equal to any tender spring chicken he knew of.
Then he slept, perhaps for some hours, Thad could not tell; when he was aroused by the greatest kind of shouting from somewhere near by. He sat up instantly, his senses on the alert, listening to locate the disturbance, and get some sort of line on its nature.
"Oh! murder! he's broke loose, and remembers about me!" Bumpus was shouting close to the ear of Thad; and there was a great scurrying in that quarter, as if the fat boy might be trying to hide himself under the blankets.
Thad hurried outside as fast as he could; and in this he was closely imitated by Bob White and Giraffe, who happened to be his other tent mates.
Already Thad had made a most important as well as surprising discovery. Those yells did not appear to be given by Allan, Step-hen, Davy Jones or Smithy. They were fashioned on another key from the well-known voices of these fellow scouts.
Of course, the first and most natural idea that flashed into Thad's mind lay in the direction of the two foreigners, whom Smithy seemed to believe must be Bohemians. Could they have followed the trail of the escaped bear, and entering the camp of the scouts by stealth, were now engaged in administering the beating to the poor animal, as they thought he deserved for leaving them in the lurch?
In one way it sounded like that might be the case, for amidst all the clamor of shouts Thad could detect something like roars or grunts from the bear.
But no sooner was he outside the tent than he realized that this could not be the case at all. The voices were certainly not those of men, but rather sounded like cries falling from boys' tongues. And instead of being raised in anger, they were frantic with fright!
An old moon had risen while the campers slept, so that it was no longer dark out on the lake near by.
The first thing Thad did was to look toward the tree where the bear had been chained at the time Smithy took care of him so neatly. He was standing on his hind legs, and giving tongue to his feelings in deep rumbling roars that seemed to almost make the very air tremble.
"Just listen to 'em go, would you?" ejaculated a voice close to Thad's shoulder, and he turned to find Allan there; while his three tent mates were close behind, all worked up again over this new and exciting mystery of the first night in camp.
"Who in the wide world can it be?" asked Bob White.
"Don't know; but I'm sorry for one of them," remarked Thad; "because he smashed into the trunk of that tree just then; and I rather guess he'll have the marks to show for it a long while."
"And listen to that splash, boys!" exclaimed Step-hen.
"Just as like as not another of the lot slipped and fell into the lake;" spoke up Giraffe, "there he goes splashing like fun, and how he does holler in the bargain!"
"Hark! what is he shouting?" asked Allan.
"Why, he's calling for help, because he thinks the old bear will get him now, sure. I c'n see him near the shore there, kicking up the water like an old stern-wheel steamboat. Say, ain't he the worst scared fellow you ever saw?"
"Don't forget there were a bunch about as bad off as that, a while back," declared Thad; "but he seems to be calling for some one to come back and help him."
"I got it then, and it was Brose!" exclaimed Bob White, who had very acute hearing.
"That explains it all," declared Thad. "Now we know who we have to thank for making all this racket. Brose Griffin and his two shadows, Hop, and Eli Bangs were going to pay us a nice little surprise party visit. Perhaps when we woke up in the morning we'd have found all sorts of things gone, and have to hike back to town to-morrow. But they didn't know we had a bear in camp, did they, fellows?"
"Oh! my, and if they didn't stumble right on the beast!" exclaimed Bumpus, who, not wanting to be left by himself in the tent, had crawled out, after taking a cautious look first. "What a rich joke on Brose and his crowd. I can just see 'em scooting for home for all they're worth. Never catch any of that bunch around our camp again on this trip, that's sure, boys."
"I hope," Thad went on to say as he stood listening; "the fellow in the lake don't go under; it must be Hop; because you know he does limp some, from that broken leg he got last winter."
"Oh! he got out all right," observed Allan.
"Sure thing," added Giraffe; "because I saw him climb up the bank; and there, if you listen, you can hear the silly right now, going whimpering along. Say, what a time we are having, eh, fellows?"
"Who'd ever think so much could be crowded inside a few hours?" declared Smithy; who felt that he would have good reason to look back on this remarkable experience as the crowning feature of his whole life, because he had certainly lived more in the last four hours than all the balance of his years thrown together.
"And boys, don't forget we owe a lot to our guest—what was that you called him, Smithy—Bumpus?" Thad continued.
"Oh! let's change it to just plain Smith," suggested Bumpus.
"But we do owe the old fellow a whole lot of thanks," remarked Bob White. "And in the morning, suh, I intend to see to it that he gets a good filling breakfast, even if I have to cut down my own allowance."
At that Giraffe groaned dismally.
"Oh! say, you don't think of going that far, I hope; and for only a dancing bear; we ought to be able to feed him on the leavings, don't you think?" he asked.
"He'd soon kick the bucket, then, Giraffe, if he waited for any leavings from your platter," observed Davy Jones; "because I notice that you lick it clean every time."
"Listen, do you hear any more shouting?" asked Thad.
Though they strained their ears no one could catch a single sound.
"Guess they've got beyond earshot," remarked Step-hen.
"But you take it straight from me, suh, they're running yet; and I wouldn't be afraid to say that they'll keep it up until they fairly drop," Bob White gave as his opinion; and indeed, all of them agreed with him there.
Then the funny side of the thing seemed to strike them. First one commenced to laugh, and then, as the others looked at him they too started, until the merriment grew, and some of the scouts were holding each other up in their weakness. Bumpus even solemnly declared the bear joined in the general hilarity; he did act a bit queerly, and made a series of sounds that might be construed into bear laughter.
Smithy remarked that the old fellow deserved another feed after such splendid service in guarding the camp.
"There's that heavy cake Step-hen fetched along; might try him on that; and if he likes it, we'll be saved more'n one stomach ache," Davy proposed.
"Why, I didn't think it was so very bad," spoke up Giraffe; and then, seeing the others frowning at him, he hastened to add; "but if you think he ought to be fed again, to keep him quiet, why break off a piece, Smithy."
"A piece!" cried Step-hen, "he gets the whole cake, understand. Talk about base ingratitude, some persons can never feel anything but the empty state of their stomach. Why, that bear saved us the whole of our grub, mebbe, by giving the alarm; and Besides, he scared that bunch so bad they'll let us alone after this. The bear takes the cake, don't he, Thad?"
"He certainly does," replied the scout-master, laughing again.
Smithy found that the chained visitor was perfectly agreeable, for the way he took that heavy cake and devoured, it was a caution.
"Watch him eat, Giraffe," suggested Davy Jones; "he can give you some valuable pointers on how to stow the grub away. You see, his neck ain't like yours, and it takes less time to navigate the channel."
"Huh! I only hope it gives him a cramp, and doubles him up," grunted the other, in more or less disgust.
"Now you're getting one off on me, you think," remarked Davy; for he had been subject to cramps a long time, and never knew when one would attack him, making him perfectly helpless for the time being; and the boys were beginning to notice how accommodating the said "cramps" seemed to be, visiting Davy just when some hard work loomed up in which the victim was supposed to have a part.
"And now what?" demanded Step-hen, yawning, and stretching his long figure.
"Do we go back to our downy couch again, fellows; or is it so near morning that we'd better stay awake?" asked Davy Jones.
"Do you know what time it is?" asked Thad, who had been inside to consult the little nickel watch he carried: "just ten minutes after two!"
"Wow! me to get seven more winks!" exclaimed Giraffe; "and please don't wake me so suddenly again, boys. My eyelids popped open with a bang. If they hadn't been fastened on as tight as they were, I'd have lost one, sure."
"That's the way you wake up, eh?" remarked Step-hen. "Remember the Irishman who heard the cannon fired when the flag went down, and asked what it was. When they told him it meant sunset he said——"
"'Sure, the sun niver goes down in ould Ireland wid a bang loike thot!'" called out Giraffe from the interior of the tent, spoiling the telling of Step-hen's little story, which no doubt every one of the boys knew.
Soon the camp was wrapped in silence again, even the contented bear lying down, better satisfied than ever with his new friends. And that wish of Giraffe's could not have borne fruit, for there was nothing heard to indicate that the bear suffered the least bit of indigestion from devouring the whole heavy cake that would have lain like lead in even a boy's strong stomach.
The rising moon sailed higher in the heavens, and looked down upon the peaceful camp of the Silver Fox Patrol. The little wavelets washed up on the shore with a sweet musical tinkle that must have been like a lullaby to the boys, seeing that even Thad failed to awaken again, while night lasted; and the smouldering camp-fire had to take care of itself from the time of that second alarm.
Some of them would very likely have imitated their habits when at home, and tried to sleep until long after sunrise; only that they were under military rules while in camp.
And so it was the clear notes of the bugle, blown by the now recovered Bumpus, as he alone could blow it, that rang out over the water, telling the sleepers that they must make their appearance for the early morning dip in the clear lake, after which the various duties of the day could be taken up, beginning with the first camp breakfast.