THE BOY SCOUTS OF LENOX
The Hike Over Big Bear Mountain
FRANK V. WEBSTER
Author of "Only a Farm Boy," "Ben Hardy's Flying Machine," "The Boy from the Ranch," Etc.
New York Cupples & Leon Company Publishers
* * * * *
BOOKS FOR BOYS
By FRANK V. WEBSTER
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.
ONLY A FARM BOY TOM, THE TELEPHONE BOY THE BOY FROM THE RANCH THE YOUNG TREASURER HUNTER BOB, THE CASTAWAY THE YOUNG FIREMEN OF LAKEVILLE THE NEWSBOY PARTNERS THE BOY PILOT OF THE LAKES THE TWO BOY GOLD MINERS JACK, THE RUNAWAY COMRADES OF THE SADDLE THE BOYS OF BELLWOOD SCHOOL THE HIGH SCHOOL RIVALS BOB CHESTER'S GRIT AIRSHIP ANDY DARRY, THE LIFE SAVER DICK, THE BANK BOY BEN HARDY'S FLYING MACHINE THE BOYS OF THE WIRELESS HARRY WATSON'S HIGH SCHOOL DAYS THE BOY SCOUTS OF LENOX TOM TAYLOR AT WEST POINT COWBOY DAVE THE BOYS OF THE BATTLESHIP JACK OF THE PONY EXPRESS
Cupples & Leon Co., Publishers, New York
* * * * *
Copyright, 1915, by Cupples & Leon Company
THE BOY SCOUTS OF LENOX
Printed in U. S. A.
I. WHEN THE SEED TOOK ROOT 1
II. THE MAN WHO LOVED NATURE 10
III. A CLOUD OVER THE OSKAMP HOME 20
IV. THE DEFIANCE OF DOCK PHILLIPS 30
V. THE BLACK BEAR PATROL 41
VI. SETTING THE TRAP 48
VII. DOCK GOES FROM BAD TO WORSE 57
VIII. SIGNS OF TROUBLE AHEAD 66
IX. NO SURRENDER 76
X. READY FOR THE START 84
XI. ON THE WAY 91
XII. THE FIRST CAMP-FIRE 98
XIII. THE LIFE THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN SAVED 106
XIV. AT THE FOOT OF BIG BEAR MOUNTAIN 114
XV. NOT GUILTY 122
XVI. WHAT TO DO IN A STORM 129
XVII. THE LANDSLIDE 137
XVIII. CAMPING ON THE LAKE SHORE 145
XIX. FRIENDS OF THE DEER 153
XX. FIRST AID TO THE INJURED 162
XXI. SCOUT GRIT 171
XXII. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS 180
XXIII. INTO THE GREAT BOG 189
XXIV. RETURNING GOOD FOR EVIL 198
XXV. WHEN CARL CAME HOME—CONCLUSION 207
THE BOY SCOUTS OF LENOX
WHEN THE SEED TOOK ROOT
"I move we go into it, fellows!"
"It strikes me as a cracking good idea, all right, and I'm glad Tom stirred us up after he came back from visiting his cousins over in Freeport!"
"He says they've got a dandy troop, with three full patrols, over there."
"No reason, Felix, why Lenox should be left out in the cold when it comes to Boy Scout activities. Let's keep the ball rolling until it's a sure thing."
"I say the same, Josh. Why, we can count about enough noses for a full patrol right among ourselves. There's Tom Chesney to begin with; George Cooper here, who ought to make a pretty fair scout even if he is always finding fault; Carl Oskamp, also present, if we can only tear him away from his hobby of raising homing pigeons long enough to study up what scouts have to know; yourself, Josh Kingsley; and a fellow by the name of Felix Robbins, which happens to be me."
"That's five to begin with; and I might mention Billy Button; yes, and Walter Douglass, though I guess he'd take the premium for a tenderfoot, because he knows next to nothing about outdoor life."
"But he's willing to learn, because he told me so, Josh; and that counts a lot, you know. That makes seven doesn't it? Well, to complete the roster of the patrol we might coax Horace Herkimer Crapsey to cast in his lot with us!"
The boy named Josh laughed uproariously at the suggestion, and his merriment was shared to some extent by the other two, Carl Oskamp and George Cooper. Felix shook his head at them disapprovingly.
"Just go slow there, fellows," he told them. "Because Horace has always been so afraid of his soft white hands that he wears gloves most of the time isn't any reason why he shouldn't be made to see the error of his ways."
"Oh! Felix means that if only we can coax Horace to join, we might reform him!" exclaimed Josh, who was a thin and tall boy, with what might be called a hatchet face, typically Yankee.
"By the same token," chuckled Felix in turn, "a few of us might drop some of our bad habits if once we subscribed to the rules of the scouts, because I've read the same in a newspaper. They rub it into fellows who find fault with things instead of being cheerful."
"Oh! is that so, Felix?" burst out George Cooper, who took that thrust to himself. "How about others who are lazy, and always wanting to put things off to another day? Do those same rules say 'procrastination is the thief of time?'"
"Well boys," remarked Carl Oskamp, pouring oil on the troubled water as was his habit, "we've all got our faults, and it might be a good thing if joining the scouts made us change our ways more or less. There comes Tom, now, let's get him to tell us something more about the chance for starting a troop in Lenox right away."
"He said he believed he knew a young man who might consent to act as scout master," observed Felix. "It's Mr. Robert Witherspoon, the civil engineer and surveyor."
"Why, yes, I believe he used to be a scout master in the town he came from!" declared Carl. "I hope Tom is bringing us some good news right now."
"If that look on his face counts for anything, he's going to give us a chance to let out a few cheers," asserted Felix, as the fifth boy drew near.
It was a Friday afternoon near the close of winter when this conversation took place. School was over for the week, and as there was an unmistakable feeling of coming spring in the air the snow on the ground seemed to be in haste to melt and disappear.
Every now and then one of the boys would be overcome by an irresistible temptation to stoop, gather up enough of the soft clinging snow to make a hard ball, which was thrown with more or less success at some tree or other object.
The town of Lenox was just one of many in the eastern section of the great United States, and boasted a few thousand inhabitants, some industries, a high school, and various churches. In Lenox the boys were no different from those to be found in every like community. They had a baseball club that vied with rival schools in spirited contests, a football organization, and in fact almost every element that might be expected to thrive in the midst of a lively community.
There was, however, one thing in which the boys of Lenox seemed to have been lacking, and this had been brought home to them when Tom Chesney came back from his recent visit to Freeport, some twenty miles away.
Somehow the growing fever among boys to organize scout troops had not broken out very early in Lenox; but if late in coming it bade fair to make up for lost time by its fierce burning.
The boy who now joined the four whose chatter we have just recorded was a healthy looking chap. There was something positive about Tom Chesney that had always made him a leader with his comrades. At the same time he was never known to assume any airs or to dictate; which was all the more reason why his chums loved him.
"What luck, Tom?" demanded Josh, as soon as the newcomer joined the others.
"It's all fixed," was the quick answer given by Tom, who evidently did not believe in beating about the bush.
"Good for you!" cried Felix. "Then Mr. Witherspoon is willing to organize the Lenox Troop of Boy Scouts, is he, Tom?"
"He said he would be glad to have a hand in it," replied the other, "his only regret being that as he is often called out of town he might not be able to give the matter all the attention he would like."
"That's great news anyhow, Tom!" declared Josh, beaming with satisfaction. "We've just been figuring things out, and believe we can find eight fellows who would be willing to make up the first patrol."
"We would need that many for a starter," commented Tom; "because according to the rules he tells me there must be at least one full patrol before a troop can be started. And I'm glad you can figure on enough. It's going to make it a success from the start."
"There's yourself to begin with," remarked Josh, counting with his fingers; "Felix, Walter Douglass, George here, Billy Button, Horace Crapsey, Carl and myself, making the eight we need for a patrol."
"I'm glad you're all anxious to join," said Tom, glancing from one eager face to the other, as they walked slowly down the street in a group.
"Why, so far as that goes, Tom," ventured Felix Robbins, "most of us are counting the days before we can be wearing our khaki suits and climbing up out of the tenderfoot bunch to that of second-class scout. Only Carl here seems to be kind of holding back; though none of us can see why he should want to go and leave his old chums in the lurch."
At that Tom gave Carl another look a little more searching than his first. He was immediately struck by the fact that Carl did not seem as happy as usual. He and Tom had been close chums for years. That fact made Tom wonder why the other had not taken him into his confidence, if there was anything wrong.
Carl must have known that the eyes of his chum were upon him for he flushed, and then looked hastily up.
"Oh! it isn't that I wouldn't be mighty glad of the chance to go into this thing with the rest of you," he hastened to say; "don't believe that I'm getting tired of my old chums. It isn't that at all. But something has happened to make me think I may be kept so busy that I'd have no time to give to studying up scout laws and attending meetings."
"Oh! forget it all, Carl, and come in with us," urged Josh, laying a hand affectionately on the other's shoulder. "If it's anything where we can help, you know as well as you do your own name that there isn't a fellow but would lay himself out to stand back of you. Isn't that so, boys?"
Three other voices instantly joined in to declare that they would only be glad of the opportunity to show Carl how much they appreciated him. It always touches a boy to find out how much his chums think of him. There was a suspicious moisture about Carl's eyes as he smiled and nodded his head when replying.
"That's nice of you, fellows. But after all perhaps I may see my way clear to joining the troop. I hope so, anyway, and I'll try my best to make the riffle. Now Tom, tell us all Mr. Witherspoon said."
"Yes, we want to know what we'd have to do the first thing," added Josh, who was about as quick to start things as Felix Robbins was slow. "I sent off and got a scout manual. It came last night, and I'm soaking up the contents at a great rate."
"That was why I saw a light over in your room late last night, was it?" George Cooper demanded. "Burning the midnight oil. Must have been interesting reading, seems to me, Josh."
"I could hardly tear myself away from the book," responded the other boy. "After to-night I'll loan it to the rest of you, though I guess Tom must have got one from Mr. Witherspoon, for I see something bulging in his pocket."
Tom laughed at that.
"Josh," he said, "it's very plain to me that you will make a pretty clever scout, because you've got the habit of observing things down to a fine point. And if you've read as much as you say, of course you know that one of the first things a tenderfoot has to do is to remember to keep his eyes about him, and see things."
"Yes," added Josh, eagerly, "one test is for each boy to stand in front of a store window for just two minutes, making a mental map of the same, and then go off to jot down as many objects as he can remember to have seen there."
"That's quite a stunt," remarked Felix thoughtfully; "and I reckon the one who can figure out the biggest number of articles goes up head in the class. I must remember and practice that game. It strikes me as worth while."
"Listen to the row up there, will you?" burst out George Cooper just then. "Why, that lot of boys seems to be having a snowball fight, don't they? Hello! it isn't a battle after all, but they're pelting somebody or other. See how the balls fly like a flock of pigeons from Carl's coop!"
"It looks like a man they're bombarding!" ejaculated Felix.
"You're right about that, and an old man in the bargain," added Tom as he quickened his steps involuntarily; "I can see that bully Tony Pollock leading the lot; yes, and the other fellows must be his cronies, Wedge McGuffey and Asa Green."
"See the poor old fellow try to dodge the balls!" exclaimed Josh. "They're making them like ice too, and I wouldn't put it past that lot to pack a stone in each snowball in the bargain. They'd be equal to anything."
"Are we going to stand by and see that sport go on, boys?" asked Carl as he shut his jaws tight together, and the light of indignation shone in his eyes.
"We wouldn't be fit to wear the khaki of scouts if we did, fellows!" cried Tom Chesney. "Come on, and let's give them a taste of their own medicine," and with loud shouts the five comrades started to gather up the snow as they chased pell-mell toward the scene of excitement.
THE MAN WHO LOVED NATURE
"Give it to them, boys!" Josh was shouting as he started to send his first ball straight at the group of busy tormentors who were showering the helpless old man with their icy balls that must have stung almost as much as so many rocks.
He seemed to be lame, for while he tried to advance toward the young rascals waving his stout cane wildly, they had no difficulty in keeping a safe distance off, and continuing the cruel bombardment.
The smashing of that ball flung by Josh, who was pitcher on the Lenox baseball team, and a fine shot, was the first intimation the three tormentors of the old man had that the tables had been turned.
"Hey! look here what's on to us!" shrilled one of the trio, as he felt the sudden shock caused by the first snowball striking the back of his head.
Upon that the bully of the town and his two allies were forced to turn and try to defend themselves against this assault from the rear. They fought desperately for a very short time, but their hands were already half frozen, and five against three proved too great odds for their valor.
Besides, every time Josh let fly he managed to land on some part of the person of Tony Pollock or one of his cronies. And those hard balls when driven by the sturdy arm of the baseball pitcher stung mercilessly.
The old man stood and watched, with something like a smile on his face. He seemed to have forgotten all about his own recent predicament in seeing these young rowdies receiving their just dues. If he had not been old and lame possibly he might have insisted on joining in the fray, and adding to the punishment being meted out to the three cowardly boys.
Once a retreat was begun, it quickly merged into a regular panic. Tom stayed to talk to the old man while his comrades pursued the fleeing trio, and peppered them good and hard. When finally they felt that they had amply vindicated their right to be reckoned worthy candidates for scout membership they came back, laughing heartily among themselves, to where Tom and the old man were standing.
"Why, I've seen that old fellow before," Josh remarked in a low tone as he and Carl, George and Felix drew near. "His name is Larry Henderson, and they say he's something of a hermit, living away up in the woods beyond Bear Mountain."
"Sure thing," added Felix, instantly; "I've heard my folks talking about him lots of times. He does a little trapping, they say, but spends most of his time studying animated nature. He knows every animal that ever lived on this continent, and the birds and insects too, I reckon. He's as smart as they make 'em, and used to be a college professor some people say, even if he does talk a little rough now."
For some reason all of them were feeling more or less interest in the man who walked with a cane. Perhaps this arose from the fact that of late they had become enthusiastic over everything connected with woodcraft. And the fact that Mr. Henderson was acquainted with a thousand secrets about the interesting things to be discovered in the Great Outdoors appealed strongly to them.
"These are my chums, Mr. Henderson," said Tom, when the others came up; and as the name of each one was mentioned the hermit of Bear Mountain grasped his hand, giving a squeeze that made some of the boys wince.
"I'm glad to meet you all," he said, heartily. "It was worth being attacked by that lot of rowdies just to get acquainted with such a fine lot of boys. And I want to say that you gave them all the punishment they deserved. I counted hits until I lost all track of the number."
"Yes," said Felix, with a grin on his freckled face; "they're rubbing many a sore spot right now, I reckon. Josh here, who's our star pitcher on the nine, never wasted a single ball. And I could hear the same fairly whistle through the air."
"Gosh all hemlock! Felix," objected the boy mentioned, "you're stretching things pretty wide, aren't you? Now I guess the rest of you did your share in the good work, just as much as I."
"All the same I'm thankful for your coming to my assistance," said Mr. Henderson. "My rheumatism kept me from being as spry in dodging their cannonade as I might have been some years ago. And one ball that broke against that tree had a stone inside it, I'm sorry to say. We would have called that unsportsmanlike in my young days."
"Only the meanest kind of a fellow would descend to such a trick!" exclaimed the indignant Josh; "but then Tony Pollock and his crowd are ready to do anything low-down and crooked. They'll never be able to join our scout troop, after we get it started."
"What's that you are saying?" asked the old man, showing sudden interest.
"Why, you see, sir," explained Josh, always ready to do his share of talking if given half a chance, "our chum here, Tom Chesney, was visiting his cousins over in Freeport, and got interested in their scout troop. So we've taken the thing up, and expect to start the ball rolling right away."
"It happens," Tom went on, "that there is a young man in town who once served as scout master in a troop, and I've just had him promise to come around to-night and tell us what we've got to do to get the necessary charter from scout headquarters."
"You interest me very much, boys," said Mr. Henderson, his eyes sparkling as he spoke. "I have read considerable about the wonderful progress this new movement is making all over the land; and I want to say that I like the principles it advocates. Boys have known too little in the past of how to take care of themselves at all times, and also be ready to lend a helping hand to others."
"The camping out, and finding all sorts of queer things in the woods is what makes me want to join a troop!" said Josh; "because I always did love to fish and hunt, and get off in the mountains away from everybody."
"That's a good foundation to start on," remarked the hermit, with kindling eyes, as he looked from one eager face to another; "but I imagine that after you've been a scout for a short time your ideas will begin to change considerably."
"How, sir?" asked Josh, looking unconvinced.
"Well," continued the old man, softly, "you'll find such enjoyment in observing the habits of all the little woods folks that by degrees the fierce desire you have now to slay them will grow colder. In the end most of you will consider it ten times better to sit and watch them at their labors or play than to slaughter them in sport, or even to kill them for food."
"But Mr. Henderson," said Josh, boldly, "I've heard that you trap animals for their pelts; and I guess you must knock a few over when you feel like having game for dinner, don't you?"
"Occasionally I go out and get a rabbit or a partridge, though not often," admitted the old man; "and as for my trapping, I only try to take such animals or vermin as are cruel in their nature and seem to be a pest to the innocent things I'm so fond of having around me. I wish you boys could visit my cabin some time or other, and make the acquaintance of my innumerable pets. They look on me as their best friend, and I would never dream of raising a hand to injure them. Kindness to animals, I believe, is one of the cardinal principles of a true scout."
"Yes, sir, that's what it is," responded Josh, eagerly. "I've got the whole twelve points of scout law on the tip of my tongue right now. Here's what they are: A scout has got to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."
"Whew! that's going some!" declared Felix, who being prone to put things off to a more convenient season could readily see that he was sure to run up against a good many snags if he tried to keep the scout law.
"Then you can easily understand," continued Mr. Henderson, "what a treasure-house the woods is going to be to every observing boy who spends some time there, and becomes interested in seeing all that is going on around him."
"I'm sure of that, sir," responded Tom, earnestly. "I know for one that I've never paid a quarter of the attention to such things as I ought to have done."
"No, you are right there, my lad," the hermit continued, being evidently on a favorite subject, "the average boy can walk through a mile of forest and hardly notice anything around him. In fact, he may even decide that it's only a gloomy place, and outside the cawing of the crows or perhaps an occasional squirrel at which he shies a stone he has heard and seen nothing."
"Then it's different with a scout, is it, sir?" asked George Cooper.
"If he has been aroused to take a keen interest in nature the same woods will be alive with interesting things," the other told them. "He will see the shy little denizens peeping curiously out at him from a cover of leaves, and hear their low excited chattering as they tell each other what they think of him. Every tree and moss-covered stone and swinging wild grape-vine will tell a story; and afterwards that boy is going to wonder how he ever could have been content to remain in such dense ignorance as he did for years."
"Mr. Henderson do you expect to remain in town over night?" asked Tom, suddenly.
"Why yes, I shall have to stay until to-morrow," came the reply; "I am stopping with my old friend, Judge Stone. We attended the same red school house on the hill a great many years ago. My stock of provisions ran short sooner than I had counted on, and this compelled me to come down earlier than usual. As a rule I deal over in Fairmount, but this time it was more convenient to come here. Why do you ask, Tom?"
"I was wondering whether you could be coaxed to come around to-night, and meet the rest of the boys," the boy told him. "We expect to have a dozen present, and when Mr. Witherspoon is explaining what a scout must subscribe to in joining a troop, it might influence some of the fellows if you would tell them a few things like those you were just describing to us."
The old naturalist looked at the eager faces of the five lads, and a smile came over his own countenance. Undoubtedly he was a lover of and believer in boys, no matter whether he had ever had any of his own or not.
"I shall be only too pleased to come around, Tom; if Judge Stone can run his car by moonlight. Tell me where the meeting is to take place."
"The deacons of the church have promised to let us have a room in the basement, which has a stove in it. The meeting will be at eight o'clock, sir," Tom informed him.
"I hope to be there and listen to what goes on," said the hermit. "And after all I'm not sorry those vicious boys thought to bombard me the way they did, since it has given me the opportunity to get acquainted with such a fine lot of lads. But I see my friend, the Judge, coming with his car, and I'll say good-bye to you all for the present."
He waved his hand to them as he rode away beside the white-bearded judge, who was one of the most highly respected citizens of Lenox.
"Well, he's a mighty fine sort of an old party, for a fact!" declared George, as they looked after the receding car; nor did he mean the slightest disrespect in speaking in this fashion of the interesting old man they had met in such a strange way.
"I'd give something if only I could visit Mr. Henderson at his cabin," remarked Felix; "I reckon he must have a heap of things worth seeing in his collection."
"Who knows," said Tom, cheerily, "but what some good luck might take us up that way one of these fine days."
"Let's hope so," added Josh, as they once more started toward home.
A CLOUD OVER THE OSKAMP HOME
Tom and Carl walked along together after the other three boys had dropped off at various stages, taking short-cuts for their homes, as supper-time was approaching.
"What's gone wrong, Carl?" asked Tom, as he flung an arm across the shoulders of his closest chum.
"I was meaning to tell you about it, Tom," explained the other, quickly; "but somehow I kept holding back. It seemed as if I ought to find a way of solving that queer mystery myself. But only this morning I decided to ask you to help me."
His words aroused the curiosity of the other boy more than ever.
"What's this you're talking about?" he exclaimed. "A mystery is there now, Carl? Why, I thought it might all be about that coming around so often of Mr. Amasa Culpepper, who not only keeps the grocery store but is a sort of shyster lawyer, and a money lender as well. Everybody says he's smitten with your mother, and wants to be a second father to you and your sisters and brothers."
"Well that used to worry me a whole lot," admitted Carl, frankly, "until I asked my mother if she cared any for Amasa. She laughed at me, and said that if he was the last man on earth she would never dream of marrying him. In fact, she never expected to stop being John Oskamp's widow. So since then I only laugh when I see old Amasa coming around and fetching big bouquets of flowers from his garden, which he must hate to pull, he's so miserly."
"Then what else has cropped up to bother you, Carl?" asked Tom.
The other heaved a long-drawn sigh.
"My mother is worried half sick over it!" he explained; "she's hunted every bit of the house over several times; and I've scoured the garden again and again, but we don't seem to be able to locate it at all. It's the queerest thing where it could have disappeared to so suddenly."
"Yes, but you haven't told me what it is?" remarked Tom.
"A paper, Tom, a most valuable paper that my mother carelessly left on the table in the sitting room day before yesterday."
"What kind of a paper was it?" asked Tom, who always liked to get at the gist of things in the start.
"Why, it was a paper that meant considerable to my mother," explained Carl. "My father once invested in some shares of oil stock. The certificate of stock was in the safe keeping of Amasa Culpepper, who had given a receipt for the same, and a promise to hand over the original certificate when this paper was produced."
"And you say the receipt disappeared from the table in your sitting room, without anybody knowing what became of it?" asked Tom.
"Yes," replied Carl. "This is how it came about. Lately we received word that the company had struck some gushers in the way of wells, and that the stock my father had bought for a few cents a share is worth a mint of money now. It was through Amasa Culpepper my mother first learned about this, and she wrote to the company to find out."
"Oh! I see," chuckled Tom, "and when Mr. Culpepper learned that there was a chance of your mother becoming rich, his unwelcome attentions became more pronounced than ever; isn't that so, Carl?"
"I think you're right, Tom," said the other boy, but without smiling, for he carried too heavy a load on his mind to feel merry. "You see my mother had hunted up this precious receipt, and had it handy, meaning to go over to Mr. Culpepper's office in the forenoon and ask for the certificate of stock he has in his safe."
"So she laid it on the table, did she?" pursued Tom, shaking his head. "Don't you think that it was a little careless, Carl, in your mother, to do that?"
"She can't forgive herself for doing it," replied his chum, sadly. "She says that it just shows how few women have any business qualities about them, and that she misses my father more and more every day that she lives. But none of the other children touched the paper. Angus, Elsie and Dot have told her so straight; and it's a puzzle to know what did become of it."
"You spoke of hunting in the garden and around the outside of the house; why should you do that?"
"It happened that one of the sitting room windows was open half a foot that day. The weather had grown mild you remember," explained the other.
"And you kind of had an idea the paper might have blown out through that open window, was that it?"
"It looked like it to me," answered the widow's son, frowning; "but if that was what happened the wind carried it over the fence and far away, because I've not been able to find anything of it."
"How long was it between the time your mother laid the paper on the table and the moment she missed it?" continued Tom Chesney.
"Just one full hour. She went from the breakfast table and got the paper out of her trunk. Then when she had seen the children off to school, and dressed to go out it was gone. She said that was just a quarter to ten."
"She's sure of that, is she?" demanded Tom.
"Yes," replied Carl, "because the grocer's boy always comes along at just a quarter after nine for his orders, and he had been gone more than twenty minutes."
At that the other boy stopped still and looked fixedly at Carl.
"That grocer's boy is a fellow by the name of Dock Phillips, isn't he?" was what Tom asked, as though with a purpose.
"Yes," Carl replied.
"And he works for Mr. Amasa Culpepper, too!" continued Tom, placing such a decided emphasis on these words that his companion started and stared in his face.
"That's all true enough, Tom, but tell me what you mean by saying that in the way you did? What could Mr. Culpepper have to do with the vanishing of that paper?"
"Oh! perhaps nothing at all," pursued the other, "but all the same he has more interest in its disappearance than any other person I can think of just now."
"Because his name was signed at the bottom, you mean, Tom?" cried the startled Carl.
"Just what it was," continued Tom. "Suppose your mother could never produce that receipt, Mr. Culpepper would be under no necessity of handing over any papers. I don't pretend to know much about such things, and so I can't tell just how he could profit by holding them. But even if he couldn't get them made over in his own name, he might keep your mother from becoming rich unless she agreed to marry him!"
Carl was so taken aback by this bold statement that he lost his breath for a brief period of time.
"But Tom, Amasa Culpepper wasn't in our house that morning?" he objected.
"Perhaps not, but Dock Phillips was, and he's a boy I'd hate to trust any further than I could see him," Tom agreed.
"Do you think Mr. Culpepper could have hired Dock to steal the paper?" continued the sorely-puzzled Carl.
"Well, hardly that. If Dock took it he did the job on his own responsibility. Perhaps he had a chance to glance at the paper and find out what it stood for, and in his cunning way figured that he might hold his employer up for a good sum if he gave him to understand he could produce that receipt."
"Yes, yes, I'm following you now, go on," implored the deeply interested Carl.
"Here we are at your house, Carl; suppose you ask me in. I'd like to find out if Dock was left alone in the sitting room for even a minute that morning."
"Done!" cried the other, vehemently, as he pushed open the white gate, and led the way quickly along the snow-cleaned walk up to the front door.
Mrs. Oskamp was surprised as she stood over the stove in the neat kitchen of her little cottage home when her oldest boy and his chum, Tom Chesney, whom she liked very much indeed, entered. Their manner told her immediately that it was design and not accident that had brought them in together.
"I've been telling Tom, mother," said Carl, after looking around and making certain that none of the other children were within earshot; "and he's struck what promises to be a clue that may explain the mystery we've been worrying over."
"I'm pleased to hear you say so, son," the little woman with the rosy cheeks and the bright eyes told Carl; "and if I can do anything to assist you please call on me without hesitation, Tom."
"What we want you to tell us, mother," continued Carl, "is how long you left that Dock Phillips alone in the sitting room when he called for grocery orders on the morning that paper disappeared."
Mrs. Oskamp looked wonderingly at them both.
"I don't remember saying anything of that sort to you, Carl," she presently remarked, slowly and with a puzzled expression on her pretty plump face.
"But you did leave him alone there, didn't you?" the boy persisted, as though something in her manner convinced him that he was on the track of a valuable clue.
"Well, yes, but it was not for more than two minutes," she replied. "There was a mistake in my last weekly bill, and I wanted Dock to take it back to the store with him for correction. Then I found I had left it in the pocket of the dress I wore the afternoon before, and so I went upstairs to get it."
"Two minutes would be plenty of time, wouldn't it, Tom?" Carl continued, turning on his chum.
"He may have stepped up to the table to see what the paper was," Tom theorized; "and discovering the name of Amasa Culpepper signed to it, considered it worth stealing. That may be wronging Dock; but he has a bad reputation, you know, Mrs. Oskamp. My folks say they are surprised at Mr. Culpepper's employing him; but everybody knows he hates to pay out money, and I suppose he can get Dock cheaper than he could most boys."
"But what would the boy want to do with that paper?" asked the lady, helplessly.
"Why, mother," said Carl, with a shrug of his shoulders as he looked toward his chum; "don't you see he may have thought he could tell Mr. Culpepper about it, and offer to hand over, or destroy the paper, for a certain amount of cash."
"But that would be very wicked, son!" expostulated Mrs. Oskamp.
"Oh well, a little thing like that wouldn't bother Tony Pollock or Dock Phillips; and they're both of the same stripe. Haven't we hunted high and low for that paper, and wondered where under the sun it could have gone? Well, Dock got it, I'm as sure now as that my name's Carl Oskamp. The only question that bothers me now is how can I make him give it up, or tell what he did with it."
"If he took it, and has already handed it over to Mr. Culpepper, there's not a single chance in ten you'll ever see it again," Tom asserted; "but we've got one thing in our favor."
"I'm glad to hear that, Tom," the little lady told him, for she had a great respect for the opinion of her son's chum; "tell us what it is, won't you?"
"Everybody knows how Amasa Culpepper is getting more and more stingy every year he lives," Tom explained. "He hates to let a dollar go without squeezing it until it squeals, they say. Well, if Dock holds out for a fairly decent sum I expect Amasa will keep putting him off, and try to make him come down in his price. That's our best chance of ever getting the paper back."
"Tom, I want you to go with me to-night and face Dock Phillips," said Carl.
"Just as you say; we can look him up on our way to the meeting."
THE DEFIANCE OF DOCK PHILLIPS
Remembering his promise, Tom called early for his chum. Carl lived in a pretty little cottage with his mother, and three other children. There was Angus, a little chap of five, Dot just three, and Elsie well turned seven.
Everybody liked to visit the Oskamp home, there was such an air of contentment and happiness about the entire family, despite the fact that they missed the presence of the one who had long been their guide and protector.
Tom was an especial favorite with the three youngsters, and they were always ready for a romp with him when he came to spend an evening with his chum. On this occasion however Tom did not get inside the house, for Carl was on the lookout and hurried out of the door as soon as he heard the gate shut.
"Hello! seems to me you're in a big hurry to-night," laughed Tom, when he saw the other slip out of the house and come down the path to meet him; "what's all the rush about, Carl?"
"Why, you see I knew we meant to drop in at Dock Phillips' place, and we wouldn't want to be too late at the meeting if we happened to be held up there," was the explanation Carl gave.
As they hurried along they talked together, and of course much of their conversation was connected with this visit to Dock. Carl seemed hopeful of good results, but to tell the truth Tom had his doubts.
In the first place he was a better judge of human nature than his chum, and he knew that the Phillips boy was stubborn, as well as vicious. If he were really guilty of having taken the paper he would be likely to deny it vehemently through thick and thin.
Knowing how apt Carl was to become discouraged if things went against him very strongly, Tom felt it was his duty to prepare the other for disappointment.
"Even if Dock denies that he ever saw the paper, we mustn't let ourselves feel that this is the end of it, you know, Carl," he started to say.
"I'll be terribly disappointed, though, Tom," admitted the other boy, with a sigh that told how he had lain awake much the last two nights trying to solve the puzzle that seemed to have no answer.
"Oh! that would only be natural," his chum told him, cheerily; "but you know if we expect to become scouts we must figure out what they would do under the same conditions, and act that way."
"That's right, Tom," agreed the other, bracing up. "Tell me what a true-blue scout would figure out as his line of duty in case he ran up against a snag when his whole heart was set on doing a thing."
"He'd just remember that old motto we used to write in our copybooks at school, and take it to heart—'if at first you don't succeed, try, try again!' And Carl, a scout would keep on trying right along. He'd set his teeth together as firm as iron and say he'd solve that problem, or know the reason why."
"Tom, you know how to brace a weak-kneed fellow up all right."
"But you're not that kind, Carl. Only in this case there's so much at stake you hardly do yourself justice. Remember how Grant went at it, and when he found that Lee met all of his tactics so cleverly he got his back up and said he'd fight it out on that line if it took all summer."
"I see what you mean, and I'm game enough to say the same thing!" declared the other, with a ring of resolution in his voice.
Tom felt wonderfully relieved. He knew that Carl was capable of great things if only he succeeded in conquering his one little failing of seeing the gloomy side of passing events.
"Well, here we are at Dock's place. It's not a particularly lovely home for any fellow, is it? But then his father is known to be a hard drinker, and the mother finds it a tough job to keep her family in clothes and food. My folks feel sorry for her, and do what they can at times to help her out, though she's too proud to ask for assistance."
"Dock promises to be as bad as his father, I'm afraid, only so far he hasn't taken to drinking," remarked Carl.
"There's some hope for him if only he keeps away from that," ventured Tom. "But let's knock on the door."
No sooner had his knuckles come in contact with the panel than there was a furious barking within. Like most poor families the Phillips evidently kept several dogs; indeed, Dock had always been a great lover of animals, and liked to be strutting along the main street of Lenox with a string of dogs tagging at his heels.
A harsh voice was heard scolding the dogs, who relapsed into a grumbling and whining state of obedience.
"That's Dock himself," said Carl. "They mind him all right, you see. I hope he opens the door for us, and not his father."
Just then the Phillips door was drawn back.
"Hello! Carl, and you too Tom; what's up?"
Although Dock tried to say this with extreme indifference Tom saw that he was more or less startled at seeing them. In fact he immediately slipped outside, and closed the door behind him, as though he did not want his mother or any one else to overhear what might be said.
This action was positive evidence to the mind of Tom Chesney that Dock was guilty. His fears caused him to act without thinking. At the same time such evidence is never accepted in a court of law as circumstantial.
If either of the two boys had ever called at the Phillips' house before it must have been on account of some errand, and at the request of their mothers. Dock might therefore be filled with curiosity to know why he had been honored with a visit.
"We dropped around to have a few words with you, Dock," said Tom, who had made arrangements with his chum to manage the little interview, and had his plan of campaign all laid out in advance.
"Oh is that so?" sneered the other, now having had time to recover from the little shock which their sudden appearance had given him. "Well, here I am, so hurry up with what you've got to say. I came home late from the store and I'm not done my supper yet."
"We'll keep you only a few minutes at the most, Dock," continued Tom; "you take the orders for groceries for the store, don't you?"
"What, me? Why, course I do. Ain't you seen me a-goin' around with that bob-tail racer of Old Culpepper's that could make a mile in seventeen minutes if you kept the whip a-waggin' over his back? What if I do take orders; want to leave one with me for a commission, hey?"
Dock tried to throw all the sarcasm he could into his voice. He had an object no doubt in doing this; which was to impress these two boys as to his contempt for them and their errand, whatever it might be.
"We came here in hopes that you might solve a little bit of a mystery that's bothering Carl's mother, Dock," continued Tom.
It was pretty dark out there, as the night had settled down, and not much light escaped from the windows close by; still Tom thought he saw the other boy move uneasily when he said this.
"That's a funny thing for you to say, Tom Chesney," grumbled the other. "How'd I be able to help Mrs. Oskamp out, tell me? I ain't much of a hand to figger sums. That's why I hated school, and run away, so I had to go to work. Now what you drivin' at anyhow? Just tell me that."
"Day before yesterday you called at Mrs. Oskamp's house, Dock, as you do every morning, to take orders. You always make it about the same time, I understand, which is close to a quarter after nine."
"Oh! I'm the promptest grocery clerk you ever saw!" boasted Dock, perhaps to hide a little confusion, and bolster up his nerve.
"After you had gone, or to make it positive at just a quarter to ten Mrs. Oskamp, who had dressed to go out, missed something that was on the table of the sitting room where you came for orders, and which she says she knows was there when you first arrived!"
"What's this you're a-sayin', Tom Chesney? Want to make me out a thief, do you? Better go slow about that sort of talk, I tell you!" blustered Dock, aggressively. "Did Mrs. Oskamp see me take anything?"
"Oh! no, certainly not," continued Tom; "but she had to go upstairs to get a bill she wanted you to take back to the store for correction, and left you alone in the room for a couple of minutes, that's all."
Tom was fishing for a "rise," as he would have put it himself, being something of an angler; and he got it too. All unsuspicious of the trap that had been spread for his unwary feet Dock gave a harsh laugh, and went on to say angrily:
"You have got the greatest nerve I ever heard about, Tom Chesney, a-comin' here right to my own home, and accusin' me of bein' a reg'lar thief. I wouldn't take a thing for the world. Besides, what'd I want with a silly old scrap of paper, tell me?"
"Oh!" said Tom, quietly, "but I never mentioned what it was that was taken. How do you happen to know then it was a paper, Dock?"
Carl gave a gasp of admiration for the clever work of his chum. As for Dock, he hardly knew what to say immediately, though after he caught his breath he managed to mutter:
"Why, there was some papers on the table, I remembered, and I just guessed you must be meanin' that. I tell you I ain't seen no paper, and you can't prove it on me either. I defy you to; so there! Now just tell me what you're goin' to do about it."
He squared off as though he had a dim idea the two boys might want to lay hands on him and try to drag him around to the police headquarters. Of course this was the very last thing Tom and Carl would think of attempting. Strategy alone could influence Dock to confess to the truth.
"Oh! we don't mean to touch you, Dock," said Tom, hastily. "All we wanted to do was to ask you if you had seen that paper? If you denied it we knew we would have to try and find it another way; because sooner or later the truth is bound to come out, you understand. We'd rather have you on our side than against us, Dock."
"But what would a feller like me want with your old paper?" snarled the boy, who may not have wholly liked the firm way in which Tom said that in the end the real facts must be made known, just as if they meant to get some one accustomed to spying on people to watch him from that time on.
"Nothing so far as it concerned you," replied Tom; "but it was of considerable value to another. Your employer, Mr. Culpepper, might be willing to pay a considerable sum to get possession of that same paper, because it bore his signature."
Dock gave a disagreeable laugh.
"What, that old miser pay any real money out? Huh, you don't know him. He squeezes every dollar till it squeals before he lets it go. He'd bargain for the difference of five cents. Nobody could do business with him on the square. But I tell you I ain't seen no paper; and that's all I'm a-goin' to say 'bout it. I'm meanin' to let my dogs out for a little air soon's I go back in the house, an' I hopes that you'll close the gate after you when you skip!"
There was a veiled threat in his words, and as he proceeded to terminate the interview by passing inside Tom and Carl thought it good policy to make use of the said gate, for they did not like the manner in which the dogs growled and whined on the other side of the barrier.
"He's a tough one, all right," Carl was saying as they walked on together, and heard the three dogs barking in the Phillips' yard.
"Yes," admitted his chum, "Dock's a hard customer, but not so very smart when you come right down to it. He fell headlong into my trap, which is a very old one with lawyers who wish to coax a man to betray his guilt."
"You mean about saying it was a paper that had been lost?" said Carl. "Yes, you fairly staggered him when you asked him how he knew that."
"There's no question about Dock's being the guilty one," asserted Tom. "He gave himself away the worst kind then. The only thing we have to do is to try and get the truth from him. Sooner or later it's got to be found out."
"Yes," continued Carl, dejectedly, "but if he's handed that paper over to Mr. Culpepper in the meantime, even if we could prove that Dock took it what good will that do? Once that paper is torn up, we could recover nothing."
"But I'm sure he hasn't made his bargain with old Amasa yet," Tom ventured.
"Why do you believe that?" asked the other, eagerly.
"You heard what he said about the meanness of his employer, didn't you?" was what Tom replied. "Well, it proves that although Dock sounded Mr. Culpepper about being in a position to give him the paper they haven't arrived at any satisfactory conclusion."
"You mean Dock wants more than Amasa is willing to pay, is that it, Tom?"
"It looks that way to me," the other boy assented; "and that sort of deadlock may keep on indefinitely. You see, Dock is half afraid to carry the deal through, and will keep holding off. Perhaps he may even have put so high a price on his find, that every once in a while they'll lock horns and call it a draw."
"I hope you've hit on the right solution," sighed Carl; "if it didn't do anything else it would give us a chance to think up some other scheme for getting the truth out of Dock."
"Leave it to me, Carl; sooner or later we'll find a way to beat him at his own game. If he's got that paper hidden away somewhere we may discover his secret by following him. There are other ways too. It's going to come out all right in the end, you take my word for it!"
THE BLACK BEAR PATROL
It was a lively scene in the room under the church when the meeting was called to order by Mr. Witherspoon, the civil engineer and surveyor. A dozen boys were on hand, several having come from curiosity, and meaning to join the scouts later on if they saw reason to believe it would amount to anything.
Besides the boys there were present Judge Stone, his friend the hermit-naturalist, Larry Henderson, and two fathers, who had dropped around to learn whether this new-fangled movement for the rising generation meant that the boys were to be secretly trained for soldiers, as so many people believed.
Robert Witherspoon having once been a scout master knew how to manage a meeting of this sort. After he had called it to order he made a neat little speech, and explained what a wonderful influence for good the organization had been in every community where it had been tested.
He read various extracts from the scout manual to show the lofty aims of those who had originated this idea which was taking the world by storm.
"The boys have been neglected far too long," he told them; "and it has been decided that if we want a better class of men in the world we must begin work with the boy. It is the province of this scout movement to make duty so pleasant for the average lad that he will be wild to undertake it."
In his little talk to the boys Mr. Witherspoon mentioned the fact that one of the greatest charms of becoming scouts was that growing habit of observing all that went on around them.
"When you're in town this may not seem to be much of a thing after all," he had gone on to say; "but in the woods you will find it an ever increasing fascination, as the wonders of nature continue to be unfolded before your eyes. We are fortunate to have with us to-night a gentleman who is known all over the country as a naturalist and lover of the great outdoors. I think it will be worth our while to listen while he tells us something of the charming things to be found in studying nature. Mr. Henderson I'm going to ask you to take up as much time as you see fit."
When Tom and Carl and some of the other boys did that little favor for Mr. Larry Henderson they were inclined to fancy that he was rather rough in his manner.
He had not been talking five minutes however, before they realized that he was a born orator, and could hold an audience spell-bound by his eloquence. He thrilled those boys with the way in which he described the most trivial happening in the lonely wilds. They fairly hung upon his every sentence.
"When you first commence to spend some time in the woods, boys," he told them, "it will seem very big and lonesome to you. Then as you come to make the acquaintance of Br'er 'Coon and Mr. Fox and the frisky chipmunk and all the rest of the denizens, things will take on a different color. In the end you will feel that they are all your very good friends, and nothing could tempt you to injure one of the happy family.
"Yes, it is true that occasionally I do trap an animal but only when I find it a discordant element in the group. Some of them prey upon others, and yet that is no excuse why man should step in and exterminate them all, as he often does just for the sake of a few dollars."
This sort of talk roused the enthusiasm of the boys, and when after a while Mr. Witherspoon put the question as to how many of them felt like immediately signing the roster roll so as to start the first patrol of the intended troop, there was a good deal of excitement shown.
First of all Tom Chesney signed, and immediately after him came Carl, Felix, Josh and George. By the time these five names had appeared Josh had slipped his arm through that of Walter Douglass and brought him up to the table to place his signature on the list.
"We need two more to make up the first patrol," announced Mr. Witherspoon. "Unless eight are secured we cannot hope to get our charter from scout headquarters, because that is the minimum number of a troop. I sincerely hope we may be able to make so much progress to-night at this meeting that I can write to-morrow to obtain the necessary authority for acting as your scout master."
At that another boy who had been anxiously conferring with his father walked forward.
"Good for you, Billy Button!" called out Josh. "That makes seven, and we only need one more name. Horace, are you going to see this grand scheme fall through for lack of just a single name? Your sig would look mighty good to the rest of us at the end of that list." Then he ended with an air of assumed dignity, "Horace, your country calls you; will it call in vain?"
Horace Herkimer Crapsey was the boy who had been spoken of as a dainty dude, who hated to soil his white hands. Tom had expressed it as his opinion that if only Horace could be coaxed to join the troop it would prove to be the finest thing in the world for him. He had the making of a good scout only for those faults which other boys derided as silly and girlish. He was neat to a painful degree, and that is always looked on as a sort of crime by the average boy.
Horace evidently had been greatly taken by the combined talk of the scout master and the old hermit-naturalist. To the great delight of Josh, as well as most of the other boys, he now stepped forward and placed his name on the list.
"That makes eight, and enough for the first patrol," announced Mr. Witherspoon, with a pleased look; "we can count on an organization now as a certainty. All of you will have to start in as tenderfeet, because so far you have had no experience as scouts; but unless I miss my guess it will be only a short time before a number of you will be applying for the badge of second-class scouts."
"That's just what we will, sir!" cried Josh, brimming over with enthusiasm.
"We cannot elect a patrol leader just now," continued Mr. Witherspoon, "until there are some of you who are in the second class; but that will come about in good time. But it is of considerable importance what name you would like to give this first patrol of the new Lenox Troop of Boy Scouts."
There was a conference among the boys, and all sorts of suggestions were evidently being put forward. Finally Tom Chesney seemed to have been delegated as usual to act as spokesman.
"Mr. Chairman," he said, rising from his seat, "my comrades of Lenox Troop have commissioned me to say they would like to ask Mr. Henderson to name the first patrol for them. They believe they will be perfectly satisfied with any name he may think best to give them."
Judge Stone smiled, and nodded his head as though he considered this quite a neat little compliment for his good old friend. And the naturalist was also evidently pleased as he got upon his feet.
"After all, boys," he told them, "it is a matter of very little consequence what you call this fine patrol. There are a dozen names that suggest themselves. Since you have a Bear Mountain within half a dozen miles of your town suppose you call it the Black Bear Patrol."
There was a chorus of approving assents, and it looked as though not a single objection was to be offered.
"The black bear is an American institution, you might say," Mr. Henderson continued, when this point had been settled, "and next to the eagle is recognized as distinctive. From what I have heard said this evening it seems to me also that the Boy Scouts of America differ from any other branch of the movement in many ways."
"Above all things," exclaimed Mr. Witherspoon, "in that there is nothing military about the movement over here. In Europe scouts are in one sense soldiers in the making. They all expect to serve the colors some day later on. We do not hold this up before our boys; though never once doubting that in case a great necessity arose every full-fledged scout would stand up for his country's honor and safety."
"Every time!" exclaimed the impetuous Josh.
Long they lingered there, discussing many things connected with the securing of their uniforms, after the proper time had elapsed. Various schemes were suggested whereby each boy could earn enough money to pay for his outfit; because that was one of the important stipulations made in joining a troop, no candidate being allowed to accept help in securing his suit.
Before the meeting was adjourned it was settled that they were to come together every Friday night; and meanwhile each member of the Black Bear Patrol expected to qualify for the grade of second-class scout just as soon as his month of membership as arranged under the bylaws of the order had expired.
SETTING THE TRAP
"Three weeks have gone by since we had that first meeting, Tom; just think of it."
Carl was walking along the river road with his chum when he made this remark. They had seen the last of the snow vanish, and with the coming of milder days all the boys began to talk of going fishing before long.
Perhaps this saunter of the pair after school may have had something to do with the first contemplated outing of the season, and they wanted to see whether the fish had commenced to come from their winter quarters, though the law would not be off for trout yet awhile.
"That's a fact, Carl," replied the other boy; "and at our very next meeting most of the members of the patrol are going to get their badges as second-class scouts, because they've already qualified for it to the satisfaction of Mr. Witherspoon."
"Honest to goodness I believe there'll be only one tenderfoot left in the lot," Carl continued; "and that of course is our dude, Horace. He managed to exert himself just enough to fulfill the requirements a tenderfoot has to possess, but there he sticks."
"Wait a while longer," Tom told him, "and one of these fine days you may see Horace wake up. I haven't lost hopes of him by a long shot. At our next meeting, after we've passed up, the first thing we have to do is to elect a patrol leader."
Carl laughed softly.
"Oh that's all cut and dried, already," he asserted.
"Well, if it is no one has said anything to me about it," objected Tom, at which the other laughed again.
"Why should they bother when it was seven against one, Tom?" argued Carl. "Why, the boys wouldn't dream of having any other leader than you!"
"But that doesn't seem quite fair, it ought to be talked over openly. Why pick me out above every one else for that?"
"Because you've always been a leader among your schoolmates, Tom, that's why!" he was quickly, told. "You've got it in you to take the lead in every kind of sport known to boys. Baseball, football, hockey, athletics—tell me a single thing where you've had to play second fiddle to any other fellow. And it isn't because you want to push yourself either, but because you can go ahead."
"Well," said Tom, slowly and musingly, "it's mighty nice to know that the other boys like you, and if the fellows are bound to make me take the office of patrol leader I suppose I'll have to accept it."
"No one so well able to do the work as you are, Tom. But this has been a terribly long three weeks to me, I tell you."
"Now you're thinking that we haven't made a bit of progress about finding that stolen paper," suggested Tom, looking a little crest-fallen. "Both of us have tried from time to time to watch Dock after nights, but somehow we haven't had much success up to now."
"No," added Carl, with one of his heavy sighs, "if he has that paper hidden somewhere he's smart enough to keep away from his cache, so far as we've been able to find out."
"I don't believe he's come to any settlement with Amasa Culpepper as yet," Tom observed, with considerable positiveness.
"We think that, but we don't know for sure," ventured the less confident Carl. "If only I could glimpse the paper I'd have a big load lifted from my mind. And it cuts me to the quick to see poor mother trying to look cheerful when I come indoors, though I've noticed signs of tears on her cheeks several times."
"I've been thinking of some sort of scheme," began Tom, slowly.
"Good for you!" burst out Carl, delightedly. "Tell me what it is then; and can we start in to try it right away?"
"That depends on several conditions," explained the other. "First of all do you remember what that receipt made out by Mr. Culpepper looked like, Carl?"
"Do I? Why, it seems to me it must have been burned on my memory as though you'd take a red hot poker and make marks on the clean kitchen floor. When I shut my eyes nights and try to go to sleep it keeps dancing in front of me. Before I know what I'm doing I find myself grabbing out for it, and then I want to kick myself for being so foolish, when I know it's all just a silly bit of imagination."
"I'm glad you remember so well how it looked," remarked Tom, somewhat to the mystification of his companion.
"What has that got to do with your scheme?" he demanded, in perplexity.
"A whole lot," came the swift answer; "because I want you to get me up as close a copy of that receipt as you possibly can!"
"Whew! do you mean even to signing Mr. Culpepper's name at the end?" asked Carl, whose breath had very nearly been taken away.
"Yes, even to that," he was told; "in fact the paper wouldn't be worth a pinch of salt in my little game if that signature were omitted. Do you think you could duplicate the receipt, Carl?"
"I am sure I could; but even now I'm groping in the dark, because for the life of me I can't see what you expect to do with it, Tom."
"Don't forget to crease it, to make it look as though it had been folded and opened ever so many times; yes, and soil the outside a little too, as if it had been carried in a boy's pocket along with a lot of other things like marbles or a top or something like that."
"But please explain what all this means," Carl pleaded.
"Listen!" replied the other, impressively, "and I'll tell you what my game is. It may work, and it may fall flat; a whole lot depends on circumstances, but there's no harm trying it out."
"Of course not; go on and tell me."
"In watching Dock when he didn't know it, we've learned considerable about his habits," continued Tom. "For one thing every single night he walks home along the river road here after delivering a package or two at certain houses. It seems to be a part of the programme. Well, some fine night we'll lie in wait for him about this spot; and on the road will be that duplicate of the paper which we believe he stole."
At that Carl became quite excited.
"Oh! now I see what your game it!" he cried; "and let me tell you I think it's as clever a trick as could be thought of. He'll pick up the paper, thinking it may be something worth while; and when he sees that it is the very receipt he thinks he has got safely hidden away somewhere, Dock will be so rattled that the first thing he does will be to hurry to find out whether it's been taken or not."
"That's the idea, Carl; and of course we'll follow him, so as to jump in the very minute he gets out the real document to compare them."
"Fine! fine, Tom! You are certainly the crackerjack when it comes to laying a trap to trip a scamp up. Why, he'll fall into that pit head over heels; and I do hope we can snatch the paper away from him before he has a chance to tear it up."
"We'll look out for that all right, you can depend on it," came the reassuring remark from the other scout. "When will you get busy on that copy, Carl?"
"To-night, after the kids are in bed," Carl hastened to reply; "I wouldn't care to have them see what I was doing, though in this case I firmly believe it's all right."
"And if your mother wants to know, tell her," said Tom.
"I'd have to do that anyway," said Carl, without the least confusion or hesitation; "I always tell my mother everything that happens. She takes an interest in all my plans, and she's the dearest little mother a boy ever had. But she'll understand that it's only meant to be a trick to catch the thief."
"Then if you have it ready by to-morrow afternoon we might try how it works that same evening," Tom remarked.
"I wish the time was now, I'm getting so anxious to do something," sighed the second boy, as he again remembered how he had seen his mother force herself to appear cheerful when he came from school, though there were traces of tears on her cheeks, and her eyes looked red.
Soon after that the chums separated, as the afternoon was drawing near a close.
"I wish you luck with your work to-night, Carl," was what Tom called out in parting; "and if any one wants to know where we've been, be sure and tell them that so far as we've been able to find out the fishing promises to be mighty fine this spring, better than for years, if signs go for anything."
On the following day at noon when they walked home for lunch Carl showed his chum the paper. It had been carefully done, and even bore the marks of service in the way of numerous creases, and some soiled spots in the bargain.
Tom was loud in his praise.
"It certainly looks as if it had been carried in a boy's pocket for some time," he declared; "and it's up to you to say how close a copy the contents are to the original."
"I'm sure Amasa Culpepper would say it was his own crabbed handwriting to a fraction," Carl had no hesitation in asserting. "And so far as that goes Dock Phillips isn't capable of discovering any slight difference. If he ever picks this up you mark my words, Tom, he's going to get the biggest shock he's felt in many a day."
"And you can see how the very first thing he'd be apt to do would be to look around to see if anybody was spying on him, and then hurry away to find if his paper could have been taken from the place where he hid it."
"Oh! I hope, Tom, he doesn't just step over it, and never bother to pick it up."
"We've got to take our chance of that happening," he was told; "but we know how nearly every boy would act. Besides, scraps of paper have begun to seem worth something in Dock's eyes lately. The chances are three to one he'll get it."
"Well, I'll meet you at just seven o'clock to-night at the old smithy, and we'll lay the trap when we hear his whistle up the road. Dock always whistles when he's out after dark. I think it must help him keep his courage up."
The church bells had just started to ring seven when the two boys came close to the old blacksmith shop that had been deserted when Mr. Siebert moved to a better location.
They had chosen this spot because it was rather lonely, and there did not seem to be very much chance of their little game being interrupted by any other pedestrian coming along just at the critical time.
On one side of the road lay the bushes, in the midst of which the boys expected to hide; on the other could be seen the river.
All was quiet around them as the minutes passed away.
"There, that's his whistle, Tom!" whispered Carl, suddenly.
Thereupon the other scout crept swiftly out upon the road, and placed the folded paper where it could hardly help being seen by any one with ordinary eyesight. He had just returned to the bushes when a figure came hurrying around the bend, whistling vigorously as some boys are in the habit of doing. Carl's heart seemed almost to stop beating when he saw Dock suddenly halt and bend over.
DOCK GOES FROM BAD TO WORSE
Just at that instant, as luck would have it, a vagrant gust of wind, perhaps an advance courier of the prospective storm, swooped down across the road. Before the boy who was stooping over could touch the paper that had attracted his attention it was whisked suddenly away.
He made an ineffectual effort to seize upon it in the air, but missed it and had to stand there, while the paper floated far out over the river, to fall finally on the moving current.
Carl quivered with another feeling besides anxiety and suspense; keen disappointment was wringing his heart cruelly. Just when their clever little plot seemed on the point of working, a freak of fate had dashed his hopes to the ground.
He had the greatest difficulty in suppressing the cry that tried to bubble from between his lips. Even Tom must have felt bitterly chagrinned when he saw the paper go swirling off, without having had a chance to test its ability to deceive Dock Phillips, and perhaps lead him into confessing his guilt.
The grocer's boy was now walking on again. Of course he knew nothing about the character of the elusive paper, save that it had played him a little trick. They could hear him whistling again in his loud way as though he had already forgotten the circumstance.
"Hang the luck!" complained Carl, when he felt that it was safe to let a little of the compressed steam escape through the safety valve of his voice.
"That was a rough deal, all right," admitted Tom. "Who would have dreamed such a blast could sweep down and take that paper off? Too bad you had all your work for nothing, Carl."
"Oh! the work didn't amount to much," said the other boy, despondently; "but after hoping for such great things through our plan it's hard to feel that you're up in the air as bad as ever."
"We might try it all over again some time, after Dock's kind of forgotten about this happening," suggested Tom. "But if he kept on seeing loose papers every little while he might get suspicious about it. Perhaps we can think up another plan that will have the earmarks of success about it."
"I never thought the river would play me such a trick," said Carl, looking out on the moving water; "up to now I've had a sort of friendly feeling for the old stream, but after this I'll be apt to look on it as an unprincipled foe."
"Oh! I wouldn't say that," urged Tom, always practical; "the river wasn't to blame at all. And that gust of wind would have come whether we thought to place our bait on the road or not. I'd call it a piece of hard luck, and let it go at that."
"We couldn't do anything, Tom, now our paper's gone off on the current?"
"Oh well," replied the other purposely allowing himself to grow humorous so as to cause Carl to forget the keen bitterness of his disappointment; "perhaps if we went fishing to-morrow below here we might take the trout that would have your paper tucked away in his little tummy."
"That's right, Tom," the other added; "we've read some thrilling yarns about jewels being recovered that way; and I remember that even a gold watch was said to have been found, still running inside a fish after many moons."
"Yes, they tried to explain that phenomenon in a lot of ways, but I guess it must have been meant for a joke, just as my idea was."
"It's all over for to-night then?"
"Yes, let's go home," replied Tom. "We have lots to talk over and do, too. Before long the exams will be coming on, and we want to pass with honors if we expect to enjoy our vacation this summer."
"And it's pretty nearly decided I hear, that the Black Bear Patrol takes a long hike the first thing after school closes," Carl was saying, as they started down the river road into Lenox.
"Ten days in camp or knocking about will do more to make us seasoned scouts than as many months at home," ventured Tom, knowingly.
"All the difference between theory and practice you mean," added Carl. "On my own part I don't care how soon we get started. I've a whole lot of things written down to be attended to, once we get away from civilization. That long list Mr. Witherspoon gave me I've made up a name for."
"What is it, then?" asked Tom.
"Things for a Tenderfoot Scout to Look for on His First Visit to the Storehouse of Nature. What do you think of the title, Tom?"
"A pretty long one, it strikes me," answered the other; "but it covers the ground. Every one of us must have a copy, and it'll be a lot of fun to find out who'll be the first to answer all those questions."
"One thing I hope will happen before we start out on that hike," said Carl.
"Of course you're referring to that paper again, and I don't blame you a bit. We'll do our level best to get hold of it before then," and trying as well as he knew how to buoy up the drooping spirits of the disappointed chum Tom locked arms with him, and in this fashion they walked home.
The days again drifted along into weeks.
Scout matters were looking up decidedly in Lenox. There was even some talk of a second rival organization among another set of boys, though Mr. Witherspoon gave it as his opinion that nothing could ever be done with such a wild crowd.
"There isn't a single one among them, from what I hear and know, who could comply with the requirements every scout is expected to have as an asset when he makes application," was the way he put it. "Those boys couldn't subscribe to any of the rules which govern scouts in their daily life. They'd have to turn over a new leaf for a fact before they could don the khaki."
"And," said Josh Kingsley, "when such tough fellows as Tony Pollock, Asa Green, Wedge McGuffey and Dock Phillips start to turning leaves you can begin to see angel wings sprouting back of their shoulder blades."
There were already five boys who had given in their names to make up a second patrol. When it was filled they meant to join the troop, and qualify for a better standing than greenhorns or tenderfeet.
Larry Henderson had long since gone back to his wilderness home beyond Bear Mountain. Twice had Tom received a letter from the old naturalist, in which he asked a great many questions, all concerning the boys of Lenox, in whom he had not lost interest, and what progress the new troop was making.
He also expressed a hearty wish that should they ever take a trip through the section of country where he lived they would not neglect to look him up in his cabin.
One thing Tom and Carl had noticed of late, and this was that Dock Phillips had taken to going with that tough crowd again. For a while his work in the grocery store had tired him so much each day that when evening came he had been content to go to his home, eat his supper, and then crawl in between the sheets.
Once more Dock was to be seen hanging around the street corners late at night with that group of rowdies that gave the uniformed force so much trouble. Some of them only escaped arrest on numerous occasions because their fathers happened to be local politicians whom the police did not wish to offend.
Tom and Carl talked this fact over and arrived at a conclusion, which may, and again may not, have been the true explanation.
"Dock's getting tired of holding down his job," Tom had said, "He's been out of school so long now that he can't be sent back; and he doesn't like hard work either. Since his father signed the pledge he's been working steadily enough, and perhaps Dock gets into trouble at home because of his temper."
"I happen to know he does for a fact," assented Carl. "He's been acting hateful, staying out up to midnight every night, and his father has threatened to pitch him out. I rather think he's lazy, and wants to loaf."
"Perhaps he thinks that he ought to be drawing a regular salary because of that paper he's got hidden away, and which is worth so much to Amasa Culpepper, as well as to you. To keep him quiet it may be, the old man is paying him a few dollars every week on the sly, even though he refuses to come down with a big lump sum."
"Tom, would it be right for me to have another talk with Dock, and make him an offer?" ventured Carl, hesitatingly.
"Do you mean try to find out what the sum is he asked Amasa to pay him?" questioned Tom; "and agree to hand it over to him just as soon as the stock of the oil well company can be sold, after your mother gets it again?"
"Yes, like that. Would it be wrong in me? anything like compounding a felony?" Carl continued.
"I don't see how that could be wrong," the other boy answered, after stopping to think it all over. "You have a right to offer a reward and no questions asked for the return of your own lost or stolen property."
"Then I'd like to try it before we settle on leaving town, Tom."
"It would do no harm, I should think," his chum advised him. "The only danger I can see would be if Dock took the alarm and went to Mr. Culpepper, to tell him you were trying to outbid him for the possession of the paper."
"That would be apt to make him come to time with a jump, wouldn't it?" said Carl.
"Unless he got it into his head that Dock was only trying to frighten him into meeting the stiff price at which he held the paper," said Tom. "He might make out that he didn't care a pin, with the idea of forcing Dock to come down."
"Yes, because he would believe Dock wouldn't dare put his neck in the noose by confessing to us he had stolen the paper. Then would you advise me to try the plan I spoke of?"
"If you get a good chance I should say yes."
That was on a Wednesday afternoon, and Carl went home, his head filled with a programme he had laid out that concerned the cornering of Dock Phillips.
On Thursday he learned, when home for lunch, that a new boy had come for orders from the grocery. Carl was immediately filled with alarm. In imagination he could see Dock and Mr. Culpepper coming to terms at last.
After school that afternoon he waited for Tom, to whom the startling news was disclosed. The stunning effect of it did not seem to affect Tom's quick acting mind.
"Let's find out just what's happened," he remarked. "Perhaps over at Joslyn's, next door to the Phillips's, we might pick up a clue."
"Yes, and I know Mrs. Joslyn right well in the bargain," said Carl, showing interest at once. "I'm sure that if I told her as a secret just why we wanted to know about Dock she'd tell me if anything had happened there lately."
To the Joslyn house the two boys went. Mrs. Joslyn was an energetic little woman, and said to be able to mind her own business.
She listened with growing eagerness to the story, and at its conclusion said:
"I'm sorry for your mother, Carl, and I don't know that I can help you any; but there was something strange that happened at the Phillips' house last night."
SIGNS OF TROUBLE AHEAD
"Was it about Dock?" asked Carl, eagerly, while Tom could see that the color had left his face all of a sudden.
"Yes," continued Mrs. Joslyn, "Dock seems to have fallen into the habit of staying out until midnight, with some of those young fellows who loaf on the corners and get into every kind of mischief they can think up."
"That's what we've been told was going on, ma'am," said Tom.
"I could hear his father scolding him furiously, while his mother was crying, and trying to make peace. Dock was ugly, too, and for a time I thought his father was going to throw him out of the house. But in the end it quieted down."
"That's a new streak in Dock's father, I should say," remarked Tom. "Time was when he used to come home himself at all hours of the night, and in a condition that must have made his wife's heart sick."
"Yes, but you know he's turned over a new leaf, and acts as if he meant to stick to the water wagon," Mrs. Joslyn explained. "Somehow it's made him just the other way, very severe with Dock. I guess he's afraid now the boy will copy his bad example, and that's peeving Mr. Phillips."
"But he let Dock stay in the house, you say?" Carl continued. "Then I wonder why he didn't show up for orders this morning. The other boy told my mother Dock was sick and couldn't come."
Mrs. Joslyn smiled.
"Yes, he says that," she observed. "I went over to take back a dish I had borrowed, and he was lying on the lounge, smoking a cigarette. He said he was real sick, but between you and me, Carl, I'm of the opinion he's just tired of his job, and means to throw it up. He'd rather loaf than work any day."
Carl breathed more freely. It was of course none of his business what Dock did with himself, though he might think the other was a mean shirk to hang around idle when his people needed every dollar they could scrape up.
"Thank you for telling me this, Mrs. Joslyn," he said as with his chum he prepared to take his departure; "it relieves my mind in several ways. And please don't whisper my secret to any one. I still hope to be able to get that paper from Dock sooner or later, if he doesn't come to terms with Amasa Culpepper."
"I promise you faithfully Carl," the little woman told him. "I guess I'm able to hold my tongue, even if they do say my sex never can. And Carl, you must let me know if anything happens to alter conditions, because I'm dreadfully interested. This is the first time in all my life I've been connected with a secret."
"I certainly will let you know, Mrs. Joslyn," Carl promised.
"And furthermore," she continued, "if I happen to see Dock doing anything that looks queer or suspicious I'll get word to you. He might happen to have his hiding-place somewhere around the back yard or the hen house, you know. He may have buried the paper in the garden. I'll keep an eye on the neighbors while he's home."
Tom was chuckling at a great rate as he and Carl went down the street.
"It looks as if you've got Mrs. Joslyn a whole lot interested, Carl," he told the other. "She's just burning with curiosity to find out something. Every time Dock steps out to feed the chickens she's going to drop whatever she may be doing, and focus her eyes on him, even if her pork chops burn to black leather."
"I wonder what he's meaning to do?" remarked Carl, in a speculative way.
"Oh! just as Mrs. Joslyn told us, Dock's a lazy fellow," Tom suggested; "and now that his father is working steadily he thinks it's time for him to have a rest. Then we believe he's expecting sooner or later to get a big lot of money from Mr. Culpepper, when they come to terms."
"Yes," added Carl. "And in the meantime perhaps he's got Amasa to hand him over a few dollars a week, just to keep him quiet. That would supply his cigarettes, you know, and give him spending money."
"Well, it's a question how long his father will put up with it," Tom mused. "One of these fine days we'll likely hear that Dock has been kicked out, and taken to the road."
"He's going with that Tony Pollock crowd you know," Carl hinted; "and some of them would put him up for a time. But I'm hoping we'll find a chance to make him own up, and hand back the thing he stole. I'd like to see my mother look happy again."
"Does Amasa still drop in to call now and then?" asked the other.
"Yes, but my mother insists that I sit up until he goes whenever he does. You'd have a fit laughing, Tom, to see the black looks he gives me. I pretend to be studying to beat the band, and in the end he has to take his hat and go. I'm allowed to sleep an hour later after those nights, you see, to make up. It's getting to be a regular nuisance, and mother says she means to send him about his business; but somehow his hide is so thick he can't take an ordinary hint. I think his middle name should have been Rhinoceros instead of Reuben."
"What will she do when you're away with the rest of us on that ten day hike over Big Bear Mountain?" asked Tom.