THE BOY SCOUTS PATROL
BY RALPH VICTOR
I. A MONKEY TRICK
II. FINDING MONEY
III. TWO AND TWO
IV. UP THE RIVER
V. OUT OF THE RIVER
VI. THE ENEMY MAKES A RAID
VII. THE COLONEL
VIII. TALKING IT OVER
IX. THE PURSUIT
X. LOOKING FOR A CLUE
XI. FORMING THE PATROL
XIII. A CHALLENGE
XIV. A DEFIANCE
XV. PEPPER TAKES A MESSAGE
XVI. WHERE WAS PEPPER?
XVII. THE MESSAGE
XVIII. IN THE JUDGE'S OFFICE
XIX. A NARROW ESCAPE
XX. A NIGHT ALARM
XXI. A SURPRISE
XXII. THE RACE
THE BOY SCOUTS PATROL
A MONKEY TRICK
"I think—" began a tall, slenderly-built lad of sixteen, speaking in a somewhat indolent way; then suddenly he paused to look down through the trees to where the river gleamed below.
"What's on your mind now, Rand?" his companion queried, a boy of about the same age, nearly as tall, but more stoutly built, and as light in complexion as the other was dark. The two were standing at the top of the road that wound down the side of the mountain from the town of Creston, which was perched, like the nest of some great bird, in a hollow of the Palisades.
"I think—" repeated the first speaker, pausing again.
"That's right, Randolph," approved his companion briskly, "always think twice before you speak once."
"I always do, Donald Graeme," retorted Rand; "but what I was really going to say when you interrupted me with your irrelevant remark, was—"
"Hurrah!" broke in Donald, waving his cap in answer to the hail of another boy who was just then seen hurrying down the road toward them. "Here comes Pepper in a rush, as usual."
It was just after dawn of a June morning that the boys were assembling. It was still dark and gloomy, for it had rained during the night and the storm had not yet passed, but the boys having planned a fishing trip for this morning were not to be deterred by the fear of a wet jacket.
"Hello, fellows!" panted the newcomer, who was smaller and slighter than either of the others, but who made up in activity and energy what he lacked in size. His hair was a glowing red and with it went a temper so quick that the nickname, Pepper, that some chum had given him, was most appropriate. It is doubtful if any of his comrades really knew his Christian name. Certainly he was always "Pepper" to every one, even at home, although he was christened Philip.
"I say, I was afraid you'd be gone when I got here."
"Well, we would have been," drawled Randolph, "only we knew you'd be late, and we took our time."
"Now that isn't fair, Rand," laughed the other, "you know I'm not always late."
"Well, maybe not ALWAYS," conceded Rand; "but almost always. What was the matter this morning—breakfast late?"
"Now, you know I didn't wait for breakfast," protested Pepper, adding rather reluctantly, "though I did stop for a bite. But even if I am late I'm not last. Jack isn't here yet, and he left home first."
"Oh, he's out on the trail somewhere, I suppose," surmised Donald. "He's always chasing for news. He'll be coming along presently with a whole budget. I believe he thinks the paper couldn't go on if it weren't for him."
"'That reminds me,' as Dick Wilson says," interrupted Rand, taking a pamphlet from his pocket and holding it out to his companions, "speaking of trails, what do you think of that?"
"What is it?" asked Pepper, eying it suspiciously. "Looks as if the cat had been walking on it." goodness, I hope not. I thought you were always hungry, but if you are only beginning I foresee a famine ahead of us. And to think of all the good food that is wasted on you, Pepper," went on Donald reflectively. "Why, to look at you any one might think that you never had had enough to eat."
"That shows how deceiving looks are," replied Pepper. "Though I never did have enough," he added plaintively.
"Of course not," returned Donald, "there isn't as much as that anywhere."
"As much what?" asked Rand.
"Food, grub, provisions, victuals," replied Donald, setting off along the road at a pace that put a stop to any more talk.
They had gone perhaps about halfway down the hill toward the boathouse when a big bay horse, drawing a light wagon in which were three boys, came quickly around a turn in the road. It bore down on them so suddenly that only by a rapid scramble up the bank by the side of the road did Rand and Donald save themselves from being bowled over.
The newcomers would have driven on with a jeering laugh only that Pepper, angry at what obedience, neatness and order are Scout virtues. Endurance, self-reliance, self-control and an effort to help some one else are Scout objectives."
"Ah, cut it out!" protested Pepper. "As Alphonse says 'that makes me the ennui.' It sounds like a boarding school prospectus. Tell as what it's about."
"Well, then," replied Rand, "in words adapted to your comprehension, it is about hunting, scouting, camping, tracking; and Colonel Snow is interested in the organization. He says that it is fine."
"Speaking of tracking," interjected Donald, "in my opinion it were no bad plan to be making tracks toward the boathouse if we are going to get anywhere the day. It is getting bright in the east and it looks like a clear day, after all. And I may also take occasion to remark that I haven't had my breakfast yet, and this Boy Scout business doesn't sound inviting on an empty stomach. We can discuss it with more comfort when we have had a bite."
"That's the talk!" approved Pepper. "That suits me down to the ground. I'm beginning to get hungry myself."
"Beginning!" exclaimed Donald. "My
"That isn't a bad guess," laughed Rand. "It is supposed to represent the track of a bear."
"What are you going to do, Rand?" questioned Donald, "hunt bears?"
"Not at present," answered Rand, "though I should like to well enough. This is a booklet about the Boy Scouts."
"The Boy Scouts!" demanded Pepper; "what's them?"
"Shades of Lindley Murray!" exclaimed Rand, "do I hear aright? What's them! And you a graduate of number one. Really, Pepper Blake, I don't believe we can let you in on this. What do you think about it, Don?"
"I have my doubts about it," replied Donald gravely.
"But what is it?" persisted Pepper. "It sounds good to me."
"That is better," drawled Rand. "It not only sounds good, but it is good, as you elegantly express it. IT, according to the pamphlet that I have here, is an organization for boys between the ages of twelve and eighteen to train them in self-reliance, manhood and good citizenship. The movement is not essentially military," went on Rand, "but the military virtues of discipline, looked like a deliberate attempt to run over them, sprang to the horse's head as it was passing, catching the bridle, and with a loud "whoa" he brought the outfit to a stop.
"What are you t-t-trying to do, Jim Rae!" he shouted to the youthful driver, "run over us?"
"Aw, g-g-go on, kiddie!" retorted Jim, a stout lad of about Rand's age, with a freckled face and a shock of aggressive red hair, mimicking Pepper, who, when excited, sometimes stuttered. "Aw, g-g-go on. Little boys shouldn't play in the road."
"If you can't d-drive without getting all over the road," went on Pepper, "why d-don't you let somebody d-drive that knows how—"
"Aw, g-g-go chase yourself," cried Jim. "You ought to bring youse mamma along to take care of youse. Get up, Bill!" with a flourish of the whip and a jerk on the lines.
The horse made a jump, but Pepper held firmly to the bridle and brought it to a stop.
"Let go that horse!" shouted Jim.
"Hit him with the whip, Jim," urged one of the boys in the wagon.
"D-d-don't you dare hit me with that whip," warned Pepper as Jim snapped the whip close to him, "or you will wish you hadn't."
"Aw, what would you do?" retorted Jim, tauntingly flourishing the lash dangerously close to Pepper's face. "You ain't big enough to scare me baby brother."
"You had better not try it, Jim Rae," asserted Pepper, "or I'll pull you out of there so quick that you will think a cyclone struck you."
"You mean a wind bag, don't you?" sneered Jim, aiming a blow at Pepper, who now loosened his hold upon the horse's bridle to jump toward the wagon, whereupon Jim changed his purpose and struck the horse with the whip. With a loud "giddap" they started with a bound, missing Pepper by a hair's breadth, and driving on down the road at a rattling pace.
"That's a regular m-monkey trick, Jim Rae, all right!" shouted Pepper. "but I'll get even with you yet!"
The only answer of the boys in the wagon was a taunting laugh as they drove away. Randolph and Donald had taken no part in the controversy, not exactly approving of Pepper's disputing with the enemy, but they had stood at hand ready for any emergency should one arise.
The three boys stood for a moment looking after the rapidly disappearing wagon, then, stooping down, Rand picked up something from the road.
"It isn't worth trying, Rand," advised Donald. "You couldn't hit him if you wanted to, and you wouldn't want to if you could. You can get even with him some better way."
"Right as usual, Donald," laughed Rand, "but I wasn't looking for anything to throw at him. I just happened to see this lying on the ground and picked it up." Holding out a coin he had found, he added: "What do you make of it?"
"W-w-what is it?" stammered Pepper, all excitement. "It l-looks like an old-fashioned cent."
"You have got me," replied Donald. "I never saw any money like that."
"Let's have a close look at it," put in Pepper.
The boys studied over the coin, which was of the size of the early copper cent, for some time without being much the wiser.
"See, there is a representation of a ship under full sail," remarked Rand, "with the name Constitution on it. I wonder what it means?"
"And it has the words 'Webster Credit Current' around it," added Pepper.
"And on the other side is shown the ship wrecked on some rocks. Something about wrecking the Constitution, I suppose," added Rand. "This side says, 'Van Buren Metallic Current,' with the date '1837'," put in Donald.
"I have it!" suddenly ejaculated Rand.
"Of course you have," admitted Donald, "but do you know what it is?"
"I see I must speak by the book, as Hamlet says," laughed Rand. "I mean I know what it is."
"What is it, then?" demanded Donald.
"It is some kind of a token, I think," replied Rand, "but I will ask Uncle Floyd about it. He will sure know."
"I w-w-wonder if there are any more of them," stammered Pepper, looking along the road. "Yes, here is another one."
"Is it like this?" asked Rand.
"It looks very similar," replied Pepper, still hunting about.
"Find any more?" called Donald.
Nor were there any more found, although they looked long and carefully up and down the road for some time.
"What is the difference between them?" questioned Pepper, when they had finally given up the hunt and sat down by the side of the road to compare the two coins.
"Why, instead of a ship this one shows, on the one side, a man in a chest with a sword in one hand and a bag of money in the other, and around the edge are the words, 'I take the responsibility.' The other side has the wreck like the first one," concluded Rand after he had examined them.
"It's a very curious thing," he continued, handing the one coin back to Pepper.
"I don't see anything very curious about them," demurred Donald.
"I mean it is very curious how they got here," explained Rand.
"I don't see anything very curious about that, either," went on Donald. "Why shouldn't they be here as well as anywhere?"
"I don't know, I am sure," laughed Rand, "only I don't see why they should be here, or anywhere, for that matter."
"Oh, I don't know," replied Donald. "Somebody probably dropped them as they were going along."
"Undoubtedly," agreed Rand. "I don't believe that they grew here. But who dropped them and how did they happen along here?"
"Ask Jack," suggested Donald, "he'll make a whole story out of it."
"They certainly are not common," went on Rand, "and people don't usually carry them in their pockets. I'd like to know the history of these and how they came here, but I don't suppose I ever shall. But, speaking of curious things, what do you suppose Monkey Rae was doing with that horse and wagon?"
"Driving them," drawled Pepper. "What do you think he was doing with them, using them for an aeroplane?"
"No," returned Rand, "I thought maybe he was using them to dredge for clams. But, speaking of clams, which would you sooner do or go a-fishing?"
"Go a-fishing!" cried Donald and Pepper, starting off on a run down the hill to the boat-house.
"Well," began Pepper as soon as they were fairly inside the house, "didn't I hear somebody say breakfast?" at the same time starting to get out of the locker the various utensils that the boys kept at the house to cook with on their fishing trips.
"Hold on there, Pepper," remonstrated Donald, as Pepper continued to pull out one pan after another. "We don't need ail that stuff. What do you think you are going to do, get up a banquet? If you are going to use ail those pots and pans, son, you will have to wash them by your lonesome."
"Huh!" replied Pepper, "there wouldn't be any novelty about that. The dish-washing seems to gravitate my way anyhow."
"That's because you use so many more of them than the rest of us," explained Donald.
"Why, I don't use any more of them than you do," expostulated Pepper. "Well, maybe you don't use any more," admitted Don with a judicial air, "but you use them more."
Pepper was about to retort in kind when there was a quick step outside the door and an alert-looking, brown-haired, brown-eyed boy, with his cap perched upon the back of his head, dashed into the room.
"Hello, fellows!" he cried, "I thought I wasn't going to get here in time, but I see I struck it at the psychological moment. I am as hungry as a bull pup."
"Hello, Jack!" responded Rand, "we began to think you weren't coming. What's the latest in Creston?"
"Oh, there is something worth while to-day," replied Jack, drawing a box up to the plank that served as a table. "Pass me some of those biscuits, Pepper, if you don't mind sparing a few, so I can eat while I talk."
"Better not try it, Jack," cautioned Rand, "for if you eat as fast as you talk or talk as fast as you eat you will either starve yourself or choke."
"All right," laughed Jack, "if that is the case I'll eat first and talk afterwards," and this he would do, notwithstanding the pleadings of the others, anxious to share in any exciting news.
TWO AND TWO
While the boys are finishing their breakfast it may be well to introduce them to the reader. The four, who were known among their acquaintances as the "inseparables," had been classmates for several terms at School No. I, of Creston, from which they had graduated the previous year and were now students of the Hilltop Academy, where they were preparing for college.
Rand—Randolph in full, surname Peyton—who was slightly the eldest of the four, was the nephew of Mr. Scott, president of the Creston National Bank. He was a native of Virginia, having come to Creston after the death of his father some two years before this time, with his mother and sister. He was bright, but inclined to be indolent, except when aroused, when his energy knew no limit. He was slow in speech, having the soft Southern drawl with a tendency to slur his r's, and was a natural leader among his companions, both in their sports and their studies.
Donald Graeme, sometimes nicknamed Old Solomon, was the son of the chief engineer of the Creston Paper Mills, and one of a considerable family of boys and girls. He was of Scotch descent and inherited many of the characteristics of his ancestry as well as many of their superstitions. Something of the burr clung to his tongue, and he was given to the occasional use of a Scotch word or phrase. He had also the Scotch canniness and never committed himself by a positive opinion. Although not as quick as Rand, he was more persistent and usually carried out, to the end, anything that he entered upon.
Jack Blake was the oldest son of Mr. Blake, editor and publisher of the Crest, the newspaper of the town. Brought up in the newspaper atmosphere, Jack had early developed a nose for news and was the best reporter, although unofficial, on the paper. He was always on the lookout for items and always putting two and two together, sometimes with most surprising results.
Lastly, Pepper Blake, Jack's younger brother, who was of a quicker, more nervous, disposition than the others and given to stammering when excited. Impetuous and quick-tempered, he was always getting into difficulties, but always finding a way out. Romantic and imaginative, but with a streak of hard horse-sense beneath.
"Well," observed Rand, when Jack at last rose from his box with a sigh of satisfaction, "what is the exciting thing you have got to tell us this morning? Whose barn is being painted now?"
"Judge Taylor's office was robbed last night," replied Jack laconically.
"What's that!" cried Rand.
"Judge Taylor's office was robbed last night," repeated Jack, enjoying the sensation his news had made.
"W-w-what!" stammered Pepper. "Who did it?"
"That's what we all want to know," answered Jack.
"What did they get?" asked Donald.
"How did they get in?" went on Pepper.
"One at a time, boys," put in Rand. "Come, Jack, tell us the whole story."
"Well, all I know is, Officer Dugan found a window open this morning and the place all upside down. The judge hadn't come down yet, so they don't know what's missing. From the tracks around it looks as if some boys were mixed up in it."
"That's queer," commented Rand. "I wonder who it could have been, and what they were after?"
"Money, of course," said Pepper.
"I don't think so," returned Jack. "If it was money I think they would have picked out a more likely place. I guess it must have been papers, or something like that."
"Pooh!" criticized Donald, "what would anybody in their senses want to steal papers for?"
"There are more unlikely things than that," replied Jack. "I have read of such things."
"Pshaw!" retorted Donald, "that's nothing. I've read of robbers' caves and all that sort of thing, but I've never seen any."
"Which proves there never were any," retorted Jack sarcastically.
"Have you got any dues, Sherlock?" asked Rand laughingly.
"Not yet," replied Jack seriously, "but I am looking for them. They sometimes turn up in the most unexpected places."
"Huh!" sniffed Donald, "your turnips run mostly to tops."
While talking thus, the boys had been putting their supplies and tackle into the boat which they had run out into the river.
"Which way do you want to go?" asked Rand when they were ready to start.
"Up," said Pepper.
"Down," said Jack.
"What do you say, Don?" continued Rand. "Either way," replied Donald. "Let them toss up for it."
Taking the coin he had picked up in the road from his pocket Rand tossed it into the air. "What do you say, Jack?" he asked.
"Heads!" responded Jack.
"Tails it is," announced Rand as he picked it up. "Pepper wins. Up, we go."
"What have you got there, Rand?" asked Jack, who had been eying the coin Rand had tossed; "something new?"
"It's something that I found in the road this morning," replied Rand, handing the coin over to Jack. "Pepper found one, too."
"Found it in the road!" cried Jack, instantly on the alert. "That's serious. Tell me about it."
"There isn't much to tell," replied Rand. "Monkey Rae tried to run us down this morning and we had a near-fight and after he had gone we found them."
"Well?" questioned Jack.
"That's all," replied Rand.
"Now I wonder," mused Jack, when the story of the encounter with Monkey Rae and his companions had been gone over in detail for his benefit, "what Monkey Rae has to do with these things," jingling the coins in his hand.
"Not as much as you or I have," announced Donald. "I can no see any connection between the two."
"Of course you can't, old wisdom," returned Jack. "You lack imagination, but I think it is there just the same. Whose horse and wagon was it?"
"That's another strange part of it," replied Rand. "I never saw them before. I was wondering whose they were, and where he got them."
"That's so," agreed Pepper. "I never thought of that; the truth is, I was so busy with Monkey that I didn't look at them."
"Well," broke in Don, "if you ask my opinion I think it would be more to the purpose if we went on our own business instead of wasting time in speculating on what is no concern of ours."
"All right, Solomon-Donald," said Rand; "it sounds wise."
"Even if it is mostly sound," growled Jack.
UP THE RIVER
"Are you all ready?" called Rand, who was stroke. "Pull!"
The boys bent to their work in earnest, and but few words were spoken while they sent the boat along, mile after mile, until they had gone some half dozen miles up the river.
"Phew!" exclaimed Pepper at length, "what is the matter with stopping here?"
"Tired?" asked Donald.
"Well, I feel as if I had been doing something," replied Pepper, resting on his oar.
"I suppose there isn't much choice in the matter," remarked Rand; "one place is probably as good as another."
"Only some of them are better," put in Jack.
"And this is one of them," asserted Pepper, "and there is a nice green place over there on the shore where we can put in and cook some fish for dinner."
"If we have any to cook," suggested Donald. "You know you have first to catch your fish before you can cook them."
"We'll do that, too, old Solomon the Second," returned Jack, who was in the bow. "That's what we came out for. Shall I let go the anchor, Rand?"
"All right, let it go," ordered Rand. "Easy now, if you don't want to scare all the fish away. What are you trying to do?" as Jack gave the anchor a swing and, failing to let go of the painter, promptly went overboard with it.
"I just went down to see if the anchor got to the bottom," explained Jack a moment later, as he scrambled over the side.
"We thought you were going to dive for the fish," said Pepper, "like the hawks do."
"Maybe I will try that later," replied Jack, shaking himself like a dog to get rid of some of the water. "Now, then, who is going to get the first bite."
For the next few moments the boys were busy getting their tackle in order and into the water, after which they settled down to await results.
"I had almost forgotten," broke in Jack after a pause, as the fish did not seem eager to be caught. "I met Colonel Snow this morning—"
"Indeed," said Rand sarcastically, "that's news."
"Now you needn't go off at half-cock," retorted Jack, "wait until I get through."
"Well, what about it?" asked Donald.
"Why, he said—Hurrah, I've got a bite!" cried Jack, pulling in his line.
"He did!" exclaimed Rand. "That was a queer thing for him to say."
"No, the colonel didn't say that," explained Jack, as he landed a good-sized perch in the bottom of the boat, "there's one for luck. That was a comment of my own. Wait until I put a fresh bait on and I will tell you what he did say. He said—"
"Hurrah, I've got one!" interjected Pepper, pulling in his line and landing another fish.
"Why, that's the same thing he didn't say before," commented Donald, referring to the colonel.
"He said—" began Jack again, but the fish were now biting freely and the boys were so busy pulling them in that, for a time, they quite forgot the colonel and what it was that he said.
"If you haven't forgotten," began Donald, a little later, when there came a lull in the biting, "I would like to know just what it was that the colonel did say."
"Why, he said," resumed Jack, "that he wanted us to form a patrol."
"A patrol!" repeated Donald. "For what? Ain't there enough police?"
"This isn't a police patrol," laughed Jack, "this is a patrol in the Boy Scouts. It's a company of from six to eight boys. Two or more patrols form a troop under a scoutmaster who teaches them a lot of things."
"What kind of things?" asked Pepper.
"All kinds of things about woodcraft and how to hunt and fish and follow trails and camp out and—and—all the rest of it."
"That's a pretty comprehensive programme," said Rand. "We were talking about that very thing this morning."
"Gee!" cried Pepper. "T-t-that would be fine. Let's do it—"
"There's quite a lot of things we have to do first," went on Jack. "Maybe Rand can tell you more about that part than I can."
"For the first thing," said Rand, "we have to get at least six boys to start with."
"That's two more than us," interjected Pepper; "that's easy."
"And form a tenderfoot patrol," went on Rand.
"Why tenderfoot?" put in Donald.
"Because we are all tenderfeet until we learn to be scouts," continued Rand. "Then if we pass the examinations we become second-class scouts."
"Second class!" objected Pepper. "Why can't we be first class?"
"We can," replied Rand, "if we keep on and pass the examinations."
"Examinations!" cried Pepper, "why that sounds like school."
"What do we have to be examined in?" asked Donald.
"On joining," went on Rand, reading from a pamphlet he had in his hand, "a boy must pass a test on the following points: Know the scout law and signs and salute."
"The scout law!" said Pepper, "what's that?"
"The scout law," read Rand, "is: "1. A Scout's honor is to be trusted.
"2. A Scout is loyal to his country, his officers, his parents and his employers."
"Wait a minute," interposed Jack, "until I land this fellow," and another fish was added to their mess. "All right, drive ahead."
"3. A Scout's duty is to be useful and help others.
"4. A Scout is a friend to ail, and a brother to every other Scout, no matter to what social class the other belongs.
"5. A Scout is courteous."
"Now it is my turn," interpolated Rand, pulling in another fish.
"6," he went on, "A Scout is a friend to animals.
"7. A Scout obeys orders by his parents, patrol leader, or Scoutmaster, without question.
"8. A Scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances.
"9. A Scout is thrifty."
"Crickets!" cried Pepper when Rand finished, "there's a whole lot to learn, ain't there? We shall have to get busy. Is there any more to it?"
"Know the composition of the National flag and how to fly it," read Rand.
"I guess I can get ten on that, all right," remarked Pepper.
"And tie four of the following knots: Reef, sheet-bend, clove-hitch, bow line, middleman's, fisherman's, sheepshank," finished Rand.
"We can pass on that all right," commented Pepper. "Say, what time is it? I begin to feel as if I would like a bite—one of the other kind. Don't you think we have fish enough?"
"Do you think so?" asked Don gravely. "Better look them over and be sure. The rest of us may want some, you know."
"Oh, I guess there is enough to go around," replied Pepper, with a laugh. "I am not so bad as that."
"Well, if you are sure there are enough," said Rand, "we might go on shore and do some cooking. I say, pull up the anchor, Jack, and you needn't go after it, you know."
"Oh, just as you say," replied Jack, hauling up the kedge.
OUT OF THE RIVER
"Here comes the Dart," announced Jack, as a hoarse whistle sounded down the river. The anchor had, by this time, been lifted into the boat and they had started to row toward the shore. "She has a whistle like an ocean liner."
"You want to look out for the swell," warned Pepper, "she kicks up a bigger swell than any other boat on the river."
"As big as the Hudson or Fulton?" asked Donald. "Why, they are half a dozen times as big as she is."
"She isn't one-eighth their size," replied Jack, "but she has got more power, for her size, than any of them. She has three smokestacks like the Fulton. Just see her come!"
The Dart, a long, low, white yacht, was coming up the river at full speed, the water curling away from her bow in a miniature cascade, the powerful engines driving her through the water with the speed of an express train.
"Gee!" cried Pepper, "look at her come. Say, she'd make Fulton with the Clermont think he was traveling backward if he was here. She is sure some boat."
"Who owns her?" asked Donald.
"She belongs to Mr. Whilden," replied Jack. "He is president of the Dart Motor-cycle Company, you know."
"Gee!" cried Pepper, "I wish he was my uncle, or something."
"What for, Pepper?" queried Rand. "Want him to invite you to go yachting?"
"That wouldn't be bad," affirmed Pepper, "and maybe if he liked my looks he might take a fancy to me and give me a cycle. Say, fellows, wouldn't it be great if we all had motor-cycles!"
"In my opinion," interjected Donald, "'tis just a waste of time wishing for what ye'll no get."
"Oh, there is no harm in wishing," returned Pepper. "You might just as well wish for a big thing as a little one."
"Just look at the wave following her," interrupted Jack. "It must be more than five feet higher than the level of the river. We will have to keep head on if we don't want to be swamped."
"See that canoe over there," broke in Pepper, and pointing to another boat. "They will be in trouble pretty soon if they don't watch out."
"Where away?" asked Rand.
"Over there by the other shore," replied Pepper. "They will turn turtle sure, if that wave catches them sideways."
The boys were resting on their oars, watching the rapidly-approaching boat.
"Maybe we had better row over that way," suggested Donald. "There are a couple of girls in the canoe and they may need some help."
"That chap is all right," concluded Rand, after he had watched the canoe for a little while. "He knows how to handle it. He is doing fine. See, he is just touching the water with his paddle, so as to keep it head-on. Maybe he thinks we will need some help."
Nevertheless, the boys kept on a course that would bring them near enough to the canoe to aid its occupants if they should need it.
"Now look at that!" cried Donald suddenly, when the boys were a hundred yards from the canoe. "Did you ever see such a fool trick as that? Just when he was coming out all right, too. Pull for ail you are worth, boys!"
Even as he spoke the boys had gripped their oars and sent their boat at racing speed for the canoe.
What had called forth Donald's exclamation was, that just as the Dart was passing the canoe one of the girls, who was seated in the stern, had suddenly risen to her feet to wave her handkerchief at some one on the yacht. As she stood up the swell from the yacht caught the light craft, rolling it from side to side, and the girl losing her balance pitched headlong over the side of the boat, capsizing it. In a moment they were all struggling in the river. As the canoe went over the man caught the girl nearest to him and helped her to the boat and then turned to aid the other girl, but she had disappeared.
"Nellie!" he called, striking out in the direction he had last seen her. "Nellie, Nellie! where are you?"
By this time the boys had reached the scene of the upset.
"Keep up your courage," shouted Rand, "we'll pick you up!"
"Never mind me!" called the young man as they came near. "See if you can't save my sister. She doesn't know how to swim."
"All right," called Rand, "we'll find her."
"Where has she gone?" asked Donald.
"I don't see anything of her," said Rand, who was standing in the bow of the boat intently watching for any sign of the girl. "Yes, there she is." A pale face had appeared for a moment on the surface. "Straight ahead, boys!"
As the boat came to the spot where he had seen her Rand made a long dive overboard, coming up a moment later with the inanimate body of the girl. He was joined almost immediately by Donald, who had followed him overboard, and so aided him in supporting her until Pepper and Jack had reached them with the boat.
It required no little effort on the part of the boys to get the helpless girl into the boat, but it was finally done, and they rowed back to the assistance of the others. The other girl was helped from the overturned canoe, to which she was clinging, into their boat which was now loaded to its full capacity.
"Never mind me," called the man, who was about twenty-two or three years old, "I can hold on behind until we get ashore!"
"Is she alive?" asked the other girl, as she was helped into the boat, looking fearfully at the girl lying in the stern. "Very much so," answered Pepper, who had been feeling her pulse. "The first thing to do is to get some of the water out of her lungs, if there is any there. Hold her with her head down. That's all right! Now, then, let's get ashore as fast as we can."
As the canoe had overturned the captain of the Dart, who was in the pilot house, seeing the accident, had rung for slow speed and, putting the yacht about, hurried back to the place. But, except for the fortunate presence of the boys, it is doubtful if he would have arrived in time to be of any assistance.
"Can we help you in any way?" called Mr. Whilden, the owner of the yacht, who was standing at the gangway as it ran down close to the boat. "I was afraid we wouldn't get here in time."
"There is an unconscious girl here that would be better on your boat," replied Rand.
"All right," responded Mr. Whilden, "we'll take her on board. Can you come alongside?" This end was shortly accomplished, then, lifting the girl up in their arms, Donald and Rand passed her to Mr. Whilden and the captain.
"Have you a doctor on board?" called Pepper. "She needs attention right away."
"Yes," responded a gentleman who was standing by. "I am a physician, I will take care of her."
At this moment there was a scream from a lady on the yacht as she caught sight of the girl. "Why it is Nellie! She is dead!" she cried, and would have fallen to the deck if she had not been caught by Mr. Whilden.
"Impossible!" he exclaimed. "How in the world could Nellie get here?" adding a moment later as he looked more closely: "Surely it is she. Is there any hope for her, Doctor?"
"Of course there is," replied the physician. "She is coming around all right, thanks to these young men, who rescued her."
"And where are they?" asked Mr. Whilden. "I had almost forgotten them in the excitement," turning to the boys, who had come on board to learn as to the fate of the girl. Shaking hands with them again and again, he explained: "She is my daughter. I hadn't any idea she was anywhere near, and I don't see how it happened yet. Why, hello, Frank!" addressing the young man who had been in the canoe, and who was now wringing the water from his clothes. "What in the world were you doing here?"
"Why, Nellie and I," explained Frank, agitatedly—he had not yet recovered from the shock of his experience—"came down to visit Mabel, and we went out for a cruise on the river."
"But how did it happen?" interrupted Mr. Whilden, "I thought you knew how to handle a canoe."
"I thought I did, too," replied Frank, "but Nellie saw you on the deck and, forgetting where she was, attempted to stand up to wave her handkerchief to you, and, the next thing we knew we were all in the water."
"I can't thank you enough," began Mr. Whilden, again turning to the boys.
"Not at all," protested Rand, "we are very glad we were in time. Come on, boys, it is time we were getting along."
"Now," went on Mr. Whilden, "isn't there something I can do for you?"
"Nothing, thank you," replied Donald. "Now that Miss Nellie is all right—I see that she is herself again—we will say good-by and go on."
"Good-by, then, and good luck," said Mr. Whilden, "and if I can ever do anything for you, be sure and let me know."
"I want to thank you and to know you, too," added Frank.
"All right," replied the boys as they pulled away from the yacht, "we shall be glad to see you anytime."
Giving three blasts of her whistle as a farewell salute the Dart resumed her course up the river,
"Who were the boys?" asked Mrs. Whilden a little later. "I want to reward them."
"Why I don't know," replied Mr. Whilden. "I clear forgot to get their names, after all."
"Well, I mean to find out for my own account," said Frank. "They are worth knowing."
THE ENEMY MAKES A RAID
"You think we had better stop and see if we can catch any more fish before we go ashore?" asked Rand, when the Dart had gone.
"Why," asked Jack, "there's enough, ain't there?"
"There was," allowed Rand, "but it is a good deal later now."
"I think we had better go on," said Jack laughingly. "There is a good place I can see. That strip of beach over there is a natural landing place."
"And a green spot back of it that would make a dandy place for a camp," added Pepper.
"I wish we could come up here and camp," said Jack. "Wouldn't it be fine?"
"I s-s-say!" cried Pepper.
"Well, s-say it," said Donald.
"Let's organize a patrol and come up here and camp out."
"You hit the bullseye that time, Pepper," cried Jack enthusiastically.
"'Twould no be a bad idea," admitted Don.
"Ah done reckon dat am a fac', for shuah," drawled Rand in the negro dialect, of which he was master.
"We will get Colonel Snow to start us," added Jack.
"Agreed!" cried the others.
"And we will see him just as soon as we go back."
"And start the thing right away."
Talking enthusiastically over their plans, the boys pulled the boat in to the shore.
"See that curious-looking house up there," broke in Don. "I didn't know there was anybody living up here."
"House! Where?" asked Rand.
"There, among the trees. It is covered with bark so you would hardly notice it."
"Oh, yes, looks like a big tree," said Jack. "Must be a hermit."
"But I thought hermits always lived in caves," demurred Pepper.
"Well, here is one that doesn't," replied Jack.
"Let's go and see him," suggested Rand.
"I don't think we had better," doubted Pepper. "If he's a hermit he doesn't want visitors, and maybe he is an outlaw."
"An outlaw," laughed Jack. "What have you been reading lately?"
"Why, there ain't 'no sich things,' at least around here," added Rand.
"Well," persisted Pepper, "there's no use rushing into things you don't know anything about, and besides we want something to eat first."
"Pepper wants to make sure of his dinner, whatever happens," said Rand.
"Somebody else thinks the same way, too, from the smoke up there."
"Smoke, where?" asked Donald.
"Up there on the top of the mountain," replied Rand. "See that haze floating away."
"I thought that was a cloud," said Jack. "I wonder what it means?"
"That some hunters are making a fire to cook with," volunteered Donald.
"Of course that is it," agreed Rand. "You can always depend upon old Solomon to knock the romance out of anything."
"Well, I don't know," continued Jack. "It looks queer to me."
"Oh, everything looks queer to you," argued Donald. "You are always seeing mysteries."
"Yes," retorted Jack, "and you can't see them until they come up to you and hit you over the head. I've got more than half a notion to go there and see what it is. Any of you want to go?"
"Not I," replied Rand. "It's a good two miles up there, if it is one, and my curiosity isn't strong enough to carry me that far."
"Nor I," added Donald. "I can find all the trouble I want without going to the top of the mountain hunting for more."
"Trouble," said Jack. "Now, who said anything about trouble?"
By this time they had reached the shore and, jumping out of the boat, dragged it up on the beach.
"Now," called Rand, when they had landed, "who wants to be cook? Don't all speak at once."
"I'll do it," volunteered Jack, "but—"
"Say no more," interjected Rand, "we couldn't do worse and Don is almost as bad. I reckon, Pepper, it must be you or I."
"If we don't want to starve," agreed the boy.
"If you and Jack will clean the fish and Don will bring the water and wash the dishes I'll do the cooking," went on Rand. "Is that fair?"
"That's fair, all right," agreed the others.
"All right, then," ordered Rand, "get busy."
While Jack and Pepper were getting the fish ready, Rand brought the stove from the boat, set it up and had it burning, and the pan hot by the time Pepper came with the first installment of fish.
"Gee! that smells good," called Jack a little later when the frying fish, under Rand's skillful manipulation, began to send forth savory odors. "You can sure cook, Rand."
"Ah done reckon dat am a fac', foh shuah," said Rand.
"Hurry up, Rand," broke in Pepper. "I can't wait much longer."
"All ready, sah," called Rand. "Dem fishes am prognosticated to ah turn."
Something passing on the river attracted attention, and the boys all walked a few paces toward the water.
At this instant, as their backs were turned, a boy ran swiftly from a nearby clump of bushes, snatched the pan from the stove, overturning the latter as he did so, and silently dashed back into the woods.
It was done so quickly and adroitly that Pepper, who was the first to catch sight of him, had scarcely time to shout:
"There goes Monkey Rae, and he has got our fish."
"What is it?" asked Rand in bewilderment.
"Monkey Rae," cried Pepper; "he's stolen our fish! Come on, boys. After him!"
"Well, of all things!" exclaimed Rand, "that takes the cake."
"I t-t-think it takes t-t-the fish," amended Pepper, as he dashed away.
The boys set out at once in pursuit of the thief, but he had too long a start, and perhaps, some knowledge of the locality, and after a vain hunt they straggled back to the boat without having found any trace of him.
"Well, that's the meanest thing yet," grumbled Pepper, looking at the overturned stove. "The oil has all run out and we can't cook any more," he went on, with so gloomy an expression that, in spite of their anger against Monkey Rae, the others could not help laughing.
"What's the matter, boys?" said a cheery voice behind them, and they turned quickly to meet the smiling glance of a man who was sitting on a rock at the edge of the glade.
He was tall, erect, and of military bearing. Quick and alert, in spite of his snow-white hair and mustache.
"Why, Colonel Snow!" cried Jack in astonishment; "where did you come from?"
"Oh, I saw you some time ago as you were coming ashore," replied the colonel, "and I walked down to meet you. What's the trouble, the enemy been making an attack?"
"Looks that way," answered Rand. "Monkey Rae made a raid on the commissary and carried off the fish we had cooked."
"That's nothing to be concerned over," continued the colonel. "Why don't you cook some more?"
"Can't," replied Pepper, "he upset the stove and spilled all the oil we had."
"Stove!" ejaculated the colonel in scorn. "What do you want with a stove?"
"Why, you can't cook without a stove," replied Pepper, "and, besides, he stole our pan."
"Pan!" exclaimed the colonel, "and plates, too. When you are out on a tramp all you need is a knife, a tincup and a match. Anybody got a match?"
"Yes, sir," replied Jack, "lots of them."
"We only need one," answered the colonel. "A good scout doesn't use more than one match to light a fire. Why, when I was out in Arizona we would make one match do for a whole company."
"Crickets!" exclaimed Pepper, "that was going some."
"Suppose you let me show you how to cook without a stove. Jack, see if you can't find some dry leaves and small twigs. Rand, you can get some bigger pieces, plenty of them. That's the kind. And, Pepper, you and Don bring up a lot of that clay from down there by the water. That's the stuff. Now wrap your fish up in a coat of clay. Never mind the scales. Coat them all over and pile them up here as fast as you get them ready. If we only had some flour we'd have a dinner in the real scout style."
"I don't see how you are going to cook them in that clay," put in Jack.
"We are going to bake them," replied the colonel. "Build a good, hot fire on top of them."
"Like they do with a clam bake?" inquired Rand.
"That's the idea," said the colonel, who, while talking, had been packing the fish in two layers on a flat rock. "Now put your leaves on—not too many—lay on your pieces, Rand, pile them up so as to leave a draught. That's it; now, Jack, touch it off."
Jack struck a match which flickered for a minute and went out.
"Tut! Tut!" cried the colonel, "that won't do!"
"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Jack, "I've plenty more."
"No," corrected the colonel, "you should rely on only one. Now, suppose we are out on the plains and this is your last match. Let me show you how to do it."
Stooping down, the colonel waited a moment until there was a lull in the wind, when he struck the match, shielding it with his hand until it blazed up, and then touched it to the leaves, which, catching the fire, were soon blazing fiercely.
"Now, then," went on the colonel, "we don't want the enemy swooping down on us again. Don't you think it would be a good plan to throw out a picket to keep guard?"
"I think it would," replied Rand, "although I don't think that he will come back."
"You mustn't depend upon that," cautioned the colonel. "Always think he will do the most unlikely thing. A good scout is always on the alert, especially in the enemy's country."
"We didn't know we were in the enemy's country," said Rand, "but I guess it is the enemy's country, wherever Monkey is. I'll take the first turn," going off and circling about the place. "I guess he's gone," he said to himself, but no harm looking!"
"Now," said the colonel, after a time, "I think our fish must be pretty nearly cooked. Rake one of them out, Don, and try it, but don't disturb the others until you find out. How is it?"
"Fine!" cried Pepper, who had assisted in the operation. "Couldn't be better. Hadn't we better put on some more?"
"You will have to build another fire," replied the colonel. "Now, see how well you can do it. Do it just as I did and light it from this fire. We had only one match, you know."
"But what do you do when that is gone?" asked Pepper.
"Oh, that's a different story," laughed the colonel. "We'll come to that later."
"Now," began the colonel, when they had finished their meal, unanimously voting it the best dinner they had ever eaten, "I know you all have been wondering how I happened to be here when you came along."
"Yes, sir," admitted Jack, "we were talking about you just before we came ashore."
"Speaking of angels, I see," said the colonel. "The fact is, boys, I've got a little shack down here in the woods and whenever I get tired of town I come out here and get a breath of the woods, and I was out here to-day."
"That was lucky for us," interjected Donald.
"Is that your house above here?" asked Rand, "the one covered with bark. We saw it as we came along. Pepper was sure an outlaw lived there."
"And you weren't so far out of the way at that, were you, Pepper?" answered the colonel. "How would you like to take a look at it?"
"'Twould be most interesting," said Donald.
"Come along then. I see the enemy were out in force," he added when they had gone part of the way.
"How was that?" asked Rand.
"Monkey Rae," replied the colonel. "There were a number of them."
"Of Monkey Raes?" cried Rand. "Gee! I hope not."
"I mean," laughed the colonel, "there were more with him."
"Yes," said Rand, "he and Sam Hopkins and Red Burns are always together."
"Who was the man with them?" went on the colonel.
"Was there a man with them?" asked Jack. "I wonder who he could have been?"
"A man who walked with a limp," continued the colonel.
"Man with a limp," mused Jack. "What was he like, did you see him?"
"No," replied the colonel. "I only see his track. They came along this way."
"Where do you see that?" asked Rand.
"Here is the trail," replied the colonel, pointing it out as he spoke. "Here is the print of a foot on the dirt and here is another. Here is a bigger and a heavier one; a man made those. You can see one of them is deeper than the other, showing more weight on that side."
"But, how can you see all that?" questioned Pepper. "You have hardly looked at them, and I couldn't see them at all until you pointed them out."
"Practice and observation," answered the colonel. "That trail is as plain as day. There wasn't any attempt to hide it. Why, out on the plains a scout would follow it at a gallop. See how far you can track it."
"'Twill no be far, in my opinion," confessed Donald. "'Tis no over plain."
But with much care and patience the boys were able to follow the track for a considerable distance, losing it every now and then and picking it up again, Rand being the quickest and Donald the most persistent; ail of them getting a little more expert as they went on.
"Where does it go now?" asked Jack after a while, when they had lost it and were unable to pick it up again.
"That's doing very well for a beginning," commended the colonel. "They went off here, I think to avoid the house, and we are almost there."
A short walk brought them to the shack, which was set in a little clearing in the woods. It was one-story high and about sixteen feet square, with a small kitchen in the back. It was provided with two doors, numerous windows, and had a small porch in front. It was ceiled inside and scantily furnished with a few chairs, a couple of tables and a couch, but the walls were ornamented with the heads of deer and elk, as well as the skins of smaller animals, and the floor was covered with bear and panther skins. Over the big fireplace hung a shotgun with a couple of rifles, and several Indian bows stood in one corner.
TALKING IT OVER
"I thought you didn't use a stove," remarked Jack, opening his eyes in astonishment at the sight of the colonel's well-appointed kitchen.
"Why not?" asked the colonel, smiling at Jack's surprise. "I don't sleep on the ground from choice, when I have a comfortable bed."
"But, you said—" continued Jack.
"This is a permanent headquarters," the colonel went on. "When I go on a march I don't carry all these things with me. What we don't have we get along without, as part of the day's task."
"That's a grand pair of horns on that elk's head," admired Rand, who was looking at the trophies of the chase that hung on the walls. "Isn't there a story that goes with that?"
"Not much of a story," replied the colonel. "It was killed on a trip I made up in the Canadian Northwest, and it was a narrow escape for me, too. It was killed by an arrow from one of those bows there."
"An arrow!" exclaimed Rand. "I didn't know that an elk could be killed with an arrow."
"An arrow is as deadly as a bullet at short range," replied the colonel. "You have read of the English archers and their famous long-bows, haven't you?"
"And Robin Hood," put in Pepper.
"Robin Hood, of course," continued the colonel. "The Indians were dangerous foes, too, even when they had nothing but their bows and arrows."
"I wonder if I could learn to shoot with one of them," mused Rand, drawing back one of the bows, a feat that required all of his strength. "Say, boys, I've got an idea."
"Hold fast to it," counseled Donald. "You may no get another."
"Let's organize an Indian patrol, and we can carry bows and arrows."
"It might be worth thinking about," admitted Donald.
"That's what we wanted to talk to you about, colonel," said Jack, "but I am afraid it's too late to take the matter up to-day."
"Why too late?"
"Because it is time we were starting for home," answered Jack.
"No trouble about that," replied the colonel. "I will walk back with you, and we can talk it over as we go along. Let's see, there are four of you here?"
"Yes, there are four of us," replied Pepper.
"Then you need two more to start with."
"Don't you lock your door when you go out?" was Jack's irrelevant query when they were ready to start.
"Not usually," replied the colonel. "There is no one to bother us up here in the woods. Do you think there is any need of it?" he asked quizzically.
"I should think there was," declared Pepper, "if Monkey Rae is about."
"I hadn't thought of that," admitted the colonel. "Giving me some of my own advice, aren't you? Always be prepared. I don't know but what I had better follow it."
Going back into the house he returned with a padlock with which he fastened the door.
"There's Gerald Moore, he would join us," began Jack, taking up the subject of the patrol again.
"Gerald Moore!" exclaimed Rand in a doubtful tone.
"What is the matter with him?" asked the colonel.
"He is the son of the janitor at the bank," replied Rand, "and—"
"Anything wrong about him?" continued the colonel.
"No," replied Rand, "but—"
"Oh!" said the colonel dryly, "I see. I suppose you all know the scout law."
"Not yet," replied Jack. "Rand read it to us, but we haven't learned it yet."
"Let me see," continued the colonel musingly, "how does number four go?"
"It says," read Rand, "a scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other scout, no matter to what social class the other belongs. A scout accepts the other man as he finds him, and makes the best of him."
The colonel made no comment, and the boys walked on in silence.
"I was wrong," acknowledged Rand after a little hesitation. "I have no objection to Gerald."
"When we are going into battle, my boy," said the colonel, stopping on the way for a moment, "we don't stop to consider to what class the man who is fighting alongside of us belongs, and this is a battle you are going into, one to make the most you can out of your lives, and if you can help some one else at the same time so much the greater is your reward."
"I see," replied Rand, "and I won't forget it."
"He was in our class, at school," went on Jack.
"He quotes poetry," added Pepper.
"Who does?" asked the colonel.
"That's bad," said the colonel gravely, "but perhaps you could cure him of it."
"He says he is descended from Tom Moore," continued Pepper.
"Well, we needn't hold that against him," suggested Donald. "It was no altogether his fault."
"Then there's Dick Wilson," proposed Jack. "He was in our class, too."
"All right," agreed the others, "it's Gerald and Dick."
"Very well, then," observed the colonel, "we will consider that settled. When you are ready let me know and I will swear you in. You know what you have to do?"
"Yes, sir," the boys answered.
By this time they came within sight of the landing where they had left the boat, and Pepper, who had run on ahead, suddenly raised such an outcry that the others rushed forward in alarm.
"What is the matter?" shouted Rand.
"The b-boat," stammered Pepper.
"What is the matter with it?" asked Donald.
"Gone! where?" demanded Jack.
"How should I know?" replied Pepper. "All I know is that it is gone."
Sure enough, there was no boat to be seen.
"It must have drifted away," said Rand.
"Sure of that?" asked Jack.
"I knew it!" suddenly broke in Pepper.
"Then why didn't you tell us," demanded Rand. "What did you know?"
"Monkey Rae," replied Pepper.
"Well, what about him?" cried Jack.
"He has taken the boat," answered Pepper.
"How do you know?" questioned Donald.
"There is his track on the sand."
"He is certainly very much in evidence," said the colonel.
"I wish I could get hold of him once," cried Rand vindictively.
"I'd much prefer to get hold of the boat just now," put in Donald.
"There is certainly something queer going on here," observed Jack.
"More mysteries, Jack?" asked Rand.
"Yes," answered Jack. "That man is mixed up in this, too."
"What man?" asked Rand.
"The man with the limp," replied Jack.
"Where is he?"
"He was here, and I believe he went off in the boat," went on Jack. "You can see his tracks around here."
"Jack is right," confirmed the colonel, "the man has undoubtedly gone off with the boat."
"Hem," said Pepper, "there doesn't seem to be anything safe here.
"What are we going to do now?" asked Rand.
"Walk home, I guess," said Donald. "I don't know how else we will get there."
"There they go now!" cried Jack, suddenly pointing to their boat near the other side of the river. "Oh, if we only had a boat to follow them in."
"I have one," said the colonel. "We can take that. Come on, boys!"
Starting off at a pace that kept the four youths on a run to keep up with him, the colonel led the way back to the house. Just before coming to it he stopped.
"Take that path to the left, it leads down to the landing," he directed. "Get the boat you will find there ready, and I will be with you in a minute."
"Are you going with us?" asked Rand.
"Do you think I am going to be left out of this?" returned the colonel. "Not for a minute!"
Following the colonel's directions, the boys went down to the landing where they found the Scout, a 25-foot cat-boat, moored. Jumping on board they made ready to cast her loose, took the stops off the sail and had it partly hoisted when the colonel came along bringing with him a gun.
"Are you going to shoot them?" asked Pepper.
"I hope not," replied the colonel, "but it is just as well to be prepared for all emergencies. You are first-rate sailors," he added, stepping on board. "Cast her off and up with the sail."
"How is that?" called Rand.
"A little more on the peak; that's it, now pull it home and make fast."
During this time the boat had drifted away from the landing and now, as the wind filled the sail she glided out into the river, running free.
"See anything of them?" asked the colonel.
"Not yet," answered Rand, who was in the bow looking up the river.
"'Tis my opinion," said Donald, "that we'll be no likely to find them." "There they are!" cried Jack.
"Where away?" asked the colonel.
"Over there by the other shore," replied Jack. "You can just see them."
"They have such a long start," doubted Rand, "that we will never catch them."
"You can't most always tell until you try," observed Jack.
"And sometimes not then," added Pepper.
With the wind on her quarter the Scout sped up the river on a course that would bring her near to the opposite shore, a little in front of the boat they were pursuing, the occupants of which, evidently having no thought of pursuit, were rowing in a leisurely fashion. It was not until the Scout was almost upon them that they gave it any attention, and then only enough to change their course sufficiently to keep out of her way.
"Boat, ahoy!" finally shouted the colonel.
To this hail those in the small boat made no answer, but apparently realizing that the Scout was pursuing them, changed their course to run directly to the shore.
"In with the sheet!" called the colonel, quickly bringing the Scout around; "there, that will do!" as Rand and Donald hauled in the sail until it was trimmed in as close as it would hold the wind, the boat laying over until her gunwale was under water. Holding her up in the wind until the peaks shivered, the colonel kept her on that course until she had run some hundred feet beyond the other boat.
"Look out, boys!" called the colonel; "we are going about," at the same time bringing the boat up in the wind, and then, as the sail filled again, heading for the other boat.
But the man in the small boat was as wary as the colonel, and as the Scout came about he changed his course at nearly right angles, and then as the sailboat went by, resumed his former course.
"He's an old fox and not easily to be caught," decided the colonel, when this maneuver had been repeated two or three times. "He is making for the other shore, and if he gets in among the shallows over there I am afraid we will lose him yet."
The Scout was now so close to the smaller boat that the occupants could easily be distinguished.
"There is Monkey Rae," declared Pepper.
"And Sam and Red," added Jack, "but I don't know who the man is."
"Boat, ahoy!" shouted the colonel.
"What do you want?" snarled the man.
"You!" shouted the colonel. "Lay to until we come alongside!"
"Come on," responded the man, "and you will get more than you are looking for!" at the same time displaying a pistol, which he pointed toward the larger boat.
"Drop that!" commanded the colonel, going forward and covering the man with the gun, while Rand took the helm. "If you make any attempt to use that pistol I will disable you at once."
With a muttered imprecation the man let the pistol fall and, seizing the oars, began rowing for the shore.
"Shall we follow him?" asked Rand.
"There is a sand-bar there, I think," replied the colonel. "If you pull up the centerboard, perhaps we can slide over it. It's no use," he added a moment later as the boat fell off, "we shall have to go round."
By this time the small boat had been pulled in close to the shore, where the man, picking up a package from the bottom of the boat, sprang over the side and, followed by the boys, ran up the shore and disappeared in the woods, leaving the boat to drift.
"Shall we follow them?" asked Rand.
"I don't want them," said Donald.
"Better let them go, I think," added the colonel.
"Well, I hope I have seen the last of Monkey Rae for a good while," went on Pepper.
"Then as Dogberry says: 'Let us call the watch together and thank God we are rid of a knave,'" quoted Rand.
Picking up the drifting boat the Scout was headed down the river and in a few minutes they were off the colonel's landing. Here, the boys would have taken their boat and rowed home, but the colonel insisted on carrying them down to Creston, which was quickly done in the bracing breeze.
"Remember, as soon as you are ready," he said as he left them, "I will swear you in as Scouts."
LOOKING FOR A CLUE
"Hello, Jack," called Rand, meeting the former on the street the following morning, hurrying along in his usual fashion, "what's the latest?"
"About what?" asked Jack in turn.
"About everything. Anything new about the robbing of Judge Taylor's office the other night?"
"Haven't heard much yet," replied Jack. "I was just going around there to see if they had found out anything more."
"Looking for clues?" questioned Rand.
"Not so much for clues as news," responded Jack. "Perhaps I can pick up some of both. You never can tell when they'll pop up. Don't you want to go along?"
"And see how you do it," laughed Rand. "I don't mind if I do. Written up yesterday's story yet?"
"About your heroic rescue of a lovely maiden from the angry waves. Of course; did it last night. Want to see it? I was going to put a head on it: 'Heroic Rescue by a Creston Boy.'"
"You don't mean it, Jack Blake!"
"Wait until you see it on the first page, double leaded, with a scarehead."
"Really and truly?"
"Really and truly."
"Please don't, Jack."
"Why, don't you want it?" asked Jack in mock surprise. "I thought you would be delighted to see your name in print."
"You know I don't want to be made ridiculous!"
"All right," responded Jack, "I'll kill it if you say so, but it would have made a sensation."
"I don't doubt that," laughed Rand, "but I'd rather not be the victim. I wonder," he went on musingly, "if we will ever see them again."
"Hardly likely," replied Jack. "If we do they will probably have forgotten us."
"Still I'd like to know how she came out."
"Oh, she came out all right," replied Jack lightly. "A little cold water won't hurt her. You know, the doctor said she was out of danger.
"It's a curious thing how they got in," he went on after a little pause, his thought turning on the robbery, which was uppermost in his mind just then.
"I don't see anything curious about it," returned Rand.
"You don't!" cried Jack. "Maybe you can explain how they did it then."
"I don't know as it needs any explaining," retorted Rand. "They got in a trough of the waves, and—"
"Trough of the waves!" cried Jack.
"What are you talking about?"
"Why, about the Whildens, of course. What are you talking about?"
"Oh, pshaw! I was talking about the burglars."
"Oh, I see," said Rand. "How did they get in?"
"That is what we would all like to know," replied Jack. "There isn't anything to show how they got in or how they went out, unless they went out through the door and locked it after them."
"That is possible, isn't it?" asked Rand.
"I suppose it is possible," admitted Jack, "but I don't see how they managed it."
"Not if they had a key?"
"It must have been that way," agreed Jack, "but where did they get this key? That don't lessen the puzzle. It was a Yale lock, and keys to them are not to be had easily, and they must have had one for the front door, too."
"Well, if they could get the one they could get the other," said Rand.
"I suppose so," agreed Jack. "It probably wouldn't be much harder to get two than one."
"Why couldn't they get in through a window?" pursued Rand.
"The windows were all locked on the inside as well as the doors."
"I see. They must have been professionals."
"Then I don't see what they wanted there."
"Because they wouldn't get enough swag to make it worth while," answered Jack,
"Swag?" questioned Rand.
"Oh, that's slang for plunder," explained Jack.
"You seem to be pretty well up in their slang," commented Rand.
"Oh, that's part of the newspaper business," was Jack's response.
By this time they had come to the building in which Judge Taylor had his office, which was on one of the main street corners of the town. A little description of the building is necessary here to make the situation clear. It was an old-fashioned, two-story brick structure, having been erected some years before. At the time of its erection there were no other buildings near it, and there were windows on all four sides. Some time later another building had been put on the adjoining lot, leaving a space of a little more than a foot between the two, thus making the windows on that side practically useless. The wall of the other building upon that side was blank, and it was upon this space that the side windows of the judge's office opened. In the rear was a yard of the width of the building and about twenty feet deep, with a low fence upon the side next to the street.
"Let's take a look around before we go upstairs," proposed Jack.
"All right," responded Rand. "I'm green at this business, you know."
Going in at the front door Jack led the way into the hall, from which a broad flight of stairs ascended to the second story. By the side of the stairs was a narrow passage, through which Jack continued to a small hallway in the rear, in which were two doors, one giving access to the cellar, the other opening on the yard in the rear.
"Do you think that they could have come in through the cellar?" asked Rand, when they entered the back hall.
"I had thought of that," replied Jack, "but every one says that these doors were bolted, and I don't see how they could bolt the doors after they had gone out."
"It does seem just a little difficult," admitted Rand.
Going out in the yard, the boys examined the rear of the building.
"They couldn't have got to the windows up there without a ladder," decided Rand, after a study of the situation. "And you say the windows were fastened?"
"That's what they say," responded Jack, "and I don't believe burglars carry ladders around in their kits. Besides there is an electric light right here, so that a ladder could be seen quite plainly from the street. "I wonder," he mused, looking into the space between the buildings, "if any one could get up through there."
"Not unless he could fly," returned Rand. "There isn't room enough for a man to get in there, and he couldn't manage a ladder if he got in."
"A boy might," remarked Jack.
"But this wasn't a boy's work," objected Rand.
"Can't always tell," replied Jack, "almost anything is possible."
Going back into the building, Jack led the way up to Judge Taylor's office, where they found an officer in consultation with the judge.
"Good morning, judge," said Jack as they entered. "We came in to see if there was anything new about the robbery."
"Good morning, boys," replied the judge. "Looking for news, as usual, eh, Jack? Well, I am sorry to say there isn't any. We are just as much in the dark as ever. It is beyond my comprehension how any one could get in and out of this place and not leave any signs to show how they did it."
"It beats me," chimed in the officer. "It was a good job, too. Looks as if there were two or three in it, the way they handled the safe," pointing to the large, old-fashioned safe, good enough in its day, but not offering much resistance to modern tools, which was standing in the middle of the room.
"They certainly made junk of it," remarked Rand; "how did they do it?"
"Steel wedges," replied the officer. "It wasn't very much of a job for yeggmen, such as these must have been. They drove the wedges in alongside of the door and burst it open,"
"But didn't that make a good deal of noise?"
"Not if they used pieces of cloth to deaden the sound of the blows," explained the officer.
"Did they get very much?" asked Rand.
"Not very much," replied the judge, "some papers and a few coins."
"Hello!" interjected Jack, who had picked up a sheet of paper from the floor.
"Found something?" asked the judge; "what is it?"
"What do you make of that?" asked Jack, handing him the paper.
"Not very much," answered the judge, looking it over. "There seems to be a smudge of dirt on it, that is all."
"Nor I," chimed in the officer. "Nothing there."
"Looks to me like finger marks," said Rand.
"That's it, exactly!" cried Jack excitedly. "Look at it this way!"
"I see," said the judge, "some one has left the impression of a dusty hand."
"It was a small hand, too," went on Jack, "not much bigger than mine."
"That seems right, too," assented the judge, "but what do you make of it?"
"It was a boy or a small man who made it," continued Jack.
"That's logical," agreed the judge, "but—"
"That may be," criticized the officer, "but I don't see that it leads anywhere."
"One minute," returned Jack, "his hand was dusty because he came in through a dusty way."
"Plato, thou reasoneth well," laughed the judge, "but we are still up against the original puzzle. What was that way?"
"How long since these windows have been opened?" asked Jack, going to one of the windows that looked on the wall of the next building.
"Not in years, I think," answered the judge. "Why?"
Without replying Jack opened one of the windows and looked out; then going to a second he did the same.
"You don't think that they came in that way, do you?" questioned the officer.
"What do you expect to find, Jack?" asked Rand.
"There you are!" he cried triumphantly, when he came to the third window; "there is where they got in!"
"How do you make that out?" demanded the judge.
"See there!" replied Jack, "this window sill is almost free of dust, while the others have half an inch or so on them. It was rubbed off of this one by some one climbing through; see, there is the print of a hand—-"
"By the shade of Coke, I think you are right!" exclaimed the judge, "but how in the world could any one get up to this window?"
"A boy might work his way up between the walls," answered Jack. "Lots of boys could do it."
"I guess you have hit it," assented the officer. "Then the boy opened the doors and the others walked in as easily as if they owned the place. A man with one eye could see it now."
"And went out the same way," concluded the judge. "But why did they need to make such a mystery of it?"
"Wanted to give us something to think about, I guess," hazarded the officer. "Perhaps they wanted to make it look like an inside job. Looks as if there were two or three men and a boy mixed up in it. That's a due, anyway, and I will send word around the country to look out for them."
"Do you think that they came from around here?" asked Rand.
"Don't think so. I don't think we have any one here smart enough to pull off a job like that. Hello, what now?" as Jack, acting upon a sudden thought, rushed from the room. "What is he after now?"
"I don't know, I'm sure," answered Rand. "Just thought of something, I guess. He often does that when he has an idea strike him."
"Here he comes back," said the officer a moment later, when Jack was heard bounding up the stairs. "I wonder what he has got now?"
"Found something more?" questioned the judge, when Jack came into the room with a rush.
"Found these between the buildings," replied Jack, showing a thin steel wedge and a small steel cold chisel. "It just happened to strike me that they might have forgotten something, so I took a look around and I found these."
"Some of the tools they used on the safe," said the officer, taking them. "Nice bit of work they are. It wasn't any burglar who made them. Now, if we could find where they were made we might get on the track of these fellows."
"Why, I saw one just like that in Wilson's blacksmith shop the other day," observed Rand.
"Wasn't just like it, was it?" asked the officer.
"Looks like the same one," replied Rand, taking the chisel in his hand.
"Guess they wouldn't look so much alike if they were together," demurred the officer, though he noted it down with the thought, "That's clue worth following."
"See if you can find anything else," suggested the judge, but a careful search about the office failed to reveal any more clues, and the boys finally went off to see, as Jack expressed it, what they could pick up on the outside.
"Come in again, Jack," said the judge when the boys were leaving, "always glad to see you. You have cleared up part of the mystery, anyhow. You are so much better a detective than we are," he added laughingly, "that I don't know but what we shall have to put the case in your hands."
"Oh, it wasn't anything, judge," responded Jack, "just putting two and two together."
FORMING THE PATROL
"Don't you think," began Pepper.
"Why not, Pepper?" asked Rand.
"What objection is there to our thinking?"
The four boys were, a couple of days later, on their way back to the town from the river, where they had been for an early morning swim.
"None whatever," retorted Pepper, "if you were capable of doing it."
"Now listen to that!" cried Rand. "Pepper thinks he's the only one that can think. If you have got any thinks in your think-tank open the valve and let some of them escape."
"One at a time, Pepper," added Donald; "make it easy for us."
"All through your interruptions?" asked Pepper; "because, if you are, I'll elucidate."
"Ah, what's that?" cried Rand, "you'll do what? How do you spell it?"
"Elucidate—explain—make dear," replied Pepper. "Do I make myself comprehensible?"
"Another one," groaned Rand. "Say, Pepper, skip the hard ones, and tell us what's troubling you."
"What I was going to say," went on Pepper, "was, don't you think—now don't interrupt—that it would be a good idea to have Gerald Moore and Dick Wilson meet with us to have a talk about the Scout business?"
"Seems as if it might be," admitted Donald.
"What made you think of having Gerald join us, Jack?" asked Rand. "I suppose you had some good reason."
"Well, I hardly know," responded Jack. "It just came into my head while the colonel was talking the other day. He's an all-around good fellow, you know, even if he does not have much money. Full of fun, and you can depend upon him every time."
"That's reason enough," agreed Rand. "I don't know much about him, except that he was in our class at school, and I'm afraid I have had a little grudge against him."
"What for?" cried Pepper.
"I guess it was because he made me work so hard to keep up with him in the class," responded Rand laughingly. "It was all I could do, too."
"Dick's a jolly good fellow, too," put in Pepper.
"For he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow, for he's a jolly good fellow," sang Jack, whereupon they ail joined in the refrain.
"Said anything to them about it?" asked Don, when they had sung it over and over until they were tired.
"Well, hardly," replied Jack, "considering it was only the day before yesterday that we thought of it, though I suppose if we are going to do anything it is time we were getting about it."
"Ah reckon dat am so," drawled Rand, then changing his tone he went on: "What do you say to having a meeting to-night and talking it over? We can have Gerald and Dick come and make a start if we like."
"That's the way, Rand," approved Pepper, "if you are going to do things, do them!"
"I see no objection," concluded Donald.
"Of course you don't," returned Pepper. "Do you know why?"
"Why, Pepper?" asked Donald.
"Because there isn't any," retorted Pepper.
"Where will we meet?" asked Jack.
"I will ask Uncle Floyd if we can have the room in the attic for a club room," went on Rand. "I know he will be interested in what we are doing."
"Then we are all fixed," cried Jack.
"What shall we call it?" asked Pepper.
"Call the room?"
"Of course not," returned Pepper; "I mean the patrol."
"Better wait until it is started," advised Donald, "it's no sure yet."
"All right, Solomon," conceded Pepper, "but if Randolph says so it's as good as done."
"Then we will consider that settled," concluded Rand, who, as a matter of course, assumed the leadership, as he usually did in most things the boys undertook. "Wait a minute," he went on as they were about to separate when they came to his house, "I will ask uncle now."
Then a few minutes later he called from the house: "It's all right, uncle says that we can have it."
"Hurrah!" cried Pepper.
"Three cheers for Mr. Scott!" after which the three went off, singing "For he's a jolly good fellow."
"What is the first thing to do?" asked Pepper when they met that evening in the room which Mr. Scott had allowed them to use.
"Well, if we are all agreed," replied Rand, "I suppose the way to organize is to organize."
"Then I move that we form a patrol of the Boy Scouts," proposed Pepper.
"Second the motion," added Jack.
"In my opinion—" began Donald deliberately, as usual.
"Now for a solid chunk of wisdom," volunteered Pepper.
"The first thing to do is to select a chairman."
"Anything to please," assented Jack. "I move that Randolph Peyton be chosen as chairman of the meeting. All in favor, say aye!"
"Aye!" shouted the boys in a chorus that made the room ring again.
"Now then, Mr. Chairman," said Jack, "get busy."
"I nominate Donald Graeme for secretary," cried Pepper.
"All in favor—" began Rand.
"Aye!" shouted the boys again.
"Then," announced Rand, "I think we are ready for business. Now, Pepper, your motion would be in order."
"In my opinion—" interrupted Donald.
"Now for another chunk," sighed Pepper.
"Order!" called Rand.
"It would no be a bad idea," went on Donald, "to read over the requirements again, so we will know what we are about."
"Oh," protested Pepper, "this is too much. Say, fellows, wake me up when he gets through."
"Now," said Rand, when Donald had finished the reading, "shall we go ahead?"
"How is it, Don?" asked Pepper; "any more objections?"
"I don't see any," returned Donald.
"All right, then, Mr. Chairman," cried Pepper; "let her go!"
"I move that we form a patrol of the Boy Scouts," said Jack.
"Second it," cried Gerald.
"Aye!" shouted the boys before Rand had time to put the motion.
"Carried," decided Rand. "Now," he went on, "I wonder how many of you can pass the examination."
"Oh," returned Pepper, "that's easy. First class in Scout lore, stand up!"
"Is it?" asked Rand, "then tell us the composition of the American flag."
"Red, white and blue," said Pepper confidently.
"Good—as far as it goes," returned Rand, "but that applies just as well to the French tricolor. What do you say, Jack?"
"Stars and stripes," replied Jack.
"Good," said Rand, "but not good enough. What do you say, Gerald?"
"Forty-six stars representing the forty-six States of the Union, in a blue field in the upper right-hand corner," replied Gerald, "with thirteen alternate stripes of red and white, representing the thirteen original States."
"Correct," commended Rand. "Now, how many red and how many white stripes?"
"Blessed if I know," admitted Pepper.
"I thought you said it was easy," said Rand. "There are seven red and six white, beginning and ending with red."
"Gee!" cried Pepper, "there's a lot more to it than I thought, but I guess we have got it now, all right."
"Now about the knots," went on Rand, whereupon they fell to tying the different knots until they had mastered them all before it was time to go home.
"Well, young gentlemen," began the colonel, a few days later, when the six boys met at his house in the woods to be sworn in as tenderfeet, "I suppose you know the requirements and that you are ail ready?"
"All ready!" responded Pepper.
"Know the Scout law and are willing to obey it."
"The composition of the American flag."
"I think we do," responded Pepper, repeating what he had learned the other night.
"And know how to fly it?"
"Union up," replied Jack.
"What does it mean with the Union down?"
"Signal of distress."
"Very good," commended the colonel, "and now about the knots?" producing some pieces of rope. "Can you tie them?"
"Like an old salt," replied Pepper.
The boys set to work on the knots and in a few minutes had them all tied, to the colonel's satisfaction, whereupon he proceeded to administer the Scout's oath.
"Raise your right hands, with the thumb resting on the nail of the little finger, the other three fingers pointing upward. This represents the three promises of the oath. Now, repeat after me: On my honor I promise that I will do my best:
"1. To do my duty to God and my country.
"2. To help other people at all times.
"3. To obey the Scout law.
"You all promise this—"
"We do," responded the boys.
"Then," concluded the colonel, "you are now members of the Boy Scouts, and I know you will be an honor to it."
"We will do our best," responded Rand.
"And now," continued the colonel, "in celebration of the organization of—By the way, you haven't chosen a name yet, have you? What kind of a name do you want?"
"Oh, I s-s-say," stammered Pepper.
"Sing it, Pepper," suggested Donald.
"L-let's have an Indian name."
"Want to indulge your savage instincts and live in a wigwam?" asked Rand.
"It's a tepee, not a wigwam," corrected Pepper. "But we can go hunting and have a good time in the woods."
"All right, Pepper," agreed Gerald, "an Indian name is good enough for me."
"Have you any name in mind?" asked the colonel.
"The Oneidas used to roam about here, didn't they?" asked Jack.
"No," replied the colonel, "they were farther north."
"What Indians were in this section?" asked Rand.
"The Haverstraws held all the land about here," replied the colonel.