TOM SLADE AT TEMPLE CAMP
By PERCY K. FITZHUGH
Author of THE TOM SLADE BOOKS THE ROY BLAKELEY BOOKS THE PEE-WEE HARRIS BOOKS
Published with the approval of THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
WHITMAN PUBLISHING CO. RACINE, WISCONSIN
Copyright, MCMXVII GROSSET & DUNLAP
Printed in the United States of America
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. ROY'S SACRIFICE 1 II. INDIAN SCOUT SIGN 10 III. PEE-WEE AND MARY TEMPLE 19 IV. TOM AND ROY 25 V. FIRST COUP OF THE MASCOT 32 VI. THE SHELTER 52 VII. THE "GOOD TURN" 70 VIII. BON VOYAGE! 79 IX. THE MYSTERY 94 X. PEE-WEE'S ADVENTURE 110 XI. TRACKS AND TRAILING 124 XII. THE LONG ARM OF THE SCOUT 136 XIII. TEMPLE CAMP 150 XIV. HERO CABIN 165 XV. COWARD 177 XVI. OSTRACIZED 188 XVII. THE WINNING OF THE GOLDEN CROSS 197
"Rejected by a large majority—I mean, elected by a large majority."
Roy Blakeley gathered up the ballots in his two hands, dropped them into the shoe box and pushed the box across the table to Mr. Ellsworth as if the matter were finally settled.
"Honorable Roy Blakeley," he added, "didn't even carry his own patrol."
This humiliating confession, offered in Roy's gayest manner, was true. The Silver Foxes had turned from their leader and, to a scout, voted for Tom Slade. It was hinted that Roy himself was responsible for this, but he was a good politician and would not talk. There was also a dark rumor that a certain young lady was mixed up in the matter and it is a fact that only the night before Roy and Mary Temple had been seen in earnest converse on the wide veranda at Grantley Square by Pee-wee Harris, who believed that a scout should be observant.
Be this as it may, Tom had carried his own patrol, the Elks, unanimously, and the Silver Foxes had voted for him like instructed delegates, while among the proud and dignified Ravens there had been but one dissenting vote. Someone had cast this for Pee-wee Harris, the Silver Fox mascot and the troop's chief exhibit. But, of course, it was only a joke. The idea of Pee-wee going away as assistant camp manager was preposterous. Why, you could hardly see him without a magnifying glass.
"If this particular majority had been much larger," announced Roy, "it wouldn't have been a majority at all; it would have been a unanimity."
"A una what?" someone asked.
"A unanimity—that's Latin for home run. Seems a pity that the only thing that prevented a clean sweep was a little three-foot pocket edition of a boy scout——"
At this moment, Pee-wee, by a miracle of dexterity, landed a ball of twine plunk in the middle of Roy's face.
"Roy," laughed Mr. Ellsworth, "you're a good campaign manager."
"He's a boss," shouted Pee-wee, "that's what he is. A boss is a feller that has people elected and then makes them do what he says."
"Well, you were glad enough to vote for him with the rest, weren't you?" laughed the scoutmaster.
And Pee-wee had to confess that he was.
But there was no doubt that Roy had managed the whole thing, and if ever political boss saw his fondest wishes realized Roy did now.
"I think," said Mr. Ellsworth, "that it is up to Tom to deliver his speech of acceptance."
"Sure it is," said Westy Martin (Silver Fox). "We want to know his policies. Is he going to favor the Elks or is he going to be neutral?"
"Is he for troop first or camp first?" asked Doc. Carson (Raven and First-aid scout).
"Is Roy Blakeley going to come in for three or four helpings at mess because he ran the campaign?" asked Connie Bennett, of the new Elks.
"Speech, speech!" called Eddie Ingram, of the Silver Foxes.
Tom looked uneasily at Mr. Ellsworth and on the scoutmaster's laughing nod of encouragement arose.
He was not at his best in a thing of this kind; he had always envied Roy his easy, bantering manner, but he was not the one to shirk a duty, so he stood up.
He was about fifteen and of a heavy, ungraceful build. His hair was thick and rather scraggly, his face was of the square type, and his expression what people call stolid. He had freckles but not too many, and his mouth was large and his lips tight-set. His face wore a characteristic frown which was the last feeble trace of a lowering look which had once disfigured it. Frowns are in the taboo list of the scouts, but somehow this one wasn't half bad; there was a kind of rugged strength in it. He wore khaki trousers and a brown flannel shirt which was unbuttoned in front, exposing an expanse of very brown chest.
For Tom Slade's virtues you will have to plow through these pages if you have not already met him, but for his faults, they were printed all over him like cities on a map. He was stubborn, rather reticent, sometimes unreasonable, and carried with him that air of stolid self-confidence which is apt to be found in one who has surmounted obstacles and risen in spite of handicaps. It was often said in the troop that one never knew how to take Tom.
"I think Pee-wee is right," he said, "and I guess Roy managed this. I could see he was doing some private wig-wag work, and I think you've all been—what d'you call it—co-something or other——"
"Coerced!" suggested Pee-wee.
(Cries of "No, you're crazy!")
"But as long as I'm elected I'll take the job—and I'm very thankful. I won't deny I wanted it. Roy won't get any favors." (Cheers) "If I have any deciding to do I'll decide the way I think is right. That's all I've got to say—oh, yes, there's one thing more—one thing I made up my mind to in case I was lucky enough to get elected." (Cries of "Hear, hear!") "I'm not going to go by the railroad. I got an idea, like, that it doesn't took right for a scout to go to camp by train. So I'm going to hike it up to the camp. I'm going to start early enough so I can do it. When a scout steps off a train he looks like a summer boarder. I ask Roy to go with me if he can start when I do. I don't want you fellows to think I was expecting to be chosen. I didn't let myself think about it. But sometimes you can't help thinking about a thing; and the other night I said to myself that if anything should happen I should get elected——"
(A voice, "You didn't do a thing but walk away with it, Tommy!")
(Cries of "Shut up till he gets through!")
"I wouldn't go to that camp in a train. I'm not going to set foot in it till I'm qualified for a first-class scout, and I'm going to do the rest of my stunts on the way. I want Roy to go with me if he can. I thank you for electing me. I'll do my best in that job. If I knew how to say it, I'd thank you better. I guess I'm kind of rattled."
The blunt little speech was very characteristic of Tom and it was greeted with a storm of applause. He had a way of blurting out his plans and ideas without giving any previous hint of them, but this was something of a knockout blow.
"Oh, you hit it right!" shouted Pee-wee. "Gee, I do hate railroad trains—railroad trains and homework."
"You don't mean you're going to hike it from here, Tom, do you?" asked Mr. Ellsworth.
"I had an idea I might canoe up as far as Nyack," said Tom, "and then follow the river up to Catskill Landing and hit in for Leeds—but, of course," he added, "I didn't really expect to be elected."
"Oh, crinkums!" shouted Pee-wee. "I'll go with you!"
"Well," said Roy, when the laughter had subsided, "this is a new wrinkle and it sounds rather risky for a half-baked Elk——" (Hisses from the Elks) "So far as I'm concerned, I think a hike of a hundred miles or so——"
"You're crazy!" interrupted Pee-wee. "You silver-plated Fox——"
"Is too much," concluded Roy. "In the first place, there would have to be a whole lot of discomfort." (Hisses) "A fellow would be pretty sure to get his feet wet." (Mr. Ellsworth restrained Pee-wee with difficulty.) "He would have to sleep out of doors in the damp night air——" (A voice, "Slap him on the wrist!") "And he would be likely to get lost. Scouts, it's no fun to be lost in the woods——" (Cries of "Yes, it is!") "We would be footsore and weary," continued Roy.
"You got that out of a book!" shouted Pee-wee. "Footsore and weary—that's the way folks talk in books!"
"We might be caught in the rain," said Roy, soberly. "We might have to pick our way along obscure trail or up steep mountains."
"You ought to go and take a ride in a merry-go-round," cried Pee-wee, sarcastically.
"In short, it is fraught with peril," said Roy.
"You got that out of a book, too," said Pee-wee, disgustedly, "fraught with peril!"
"I think it is too much of an undertaking," said Roy, ignoring him. "We can get round-trip tickets."
Pee-wee almost fell off his chair.
"But, of course," continued Roy, soberly, "a scout is not supposed to think of himself—especially a Silver Fox. I am a Silver Fox—sterling—warranted. A scout is a brother to every other scout. He ought to be ready to make sacrifices." (Mr. Ellsworth began to chuckle.)
"He ought not to stand by and see a fellow scout in danger. He ought not to stand and see a poor Elk go headlong——" (Hisses) "He ought to be ready with a good turn regardless of his own comfort and safety." (Hoots and laughter) "I am ready with a good turn. I am ready to sac——" (Jeers) "I am ready to sac——" (Jeers) "I am——" (Cries of "Noble lad!") "I am ready to sac——"
"Well, go ahead and sac, why don't you?" shouted Pee-wee in disgust. "You're a hyp——"
"Hip—hooray!" concluded several scouts.
"You're a hyp—hyp—hypocrite!" Pee-wee managed to ejaculate amid the tumult.
"I am ready to sac——"
"Oh, go on, sac and be done with it!"
"I am ready to sacrifice myself for Tom Slade," finished Roy, magnanimously. "Tom," he added, extending his hand across the table with a noble air of martyrdom, "Tom, I will go with you!"
The meeting broke up gaily, Mr. Ellsworth saying that he would certainly communicate Roy's generous and self-sacrificing offer to National Headquarters as a conspicuous instance of a memorable and epoch-making good turn.
"He gets my goat!" said Pee-wee to the scoutmaster.
"I am very glad," said Mr. Ellsworth, soberly, "that our summer begins with a good turn. The Silver Foxes should be proud of their unselfish leader." Then he turned to Doc. Carson and winked the other eye.
He was a great jollier—Mr. Ellsworth.
[Transcriber's Note: An Indian scout sign drawing was inserted here.]
The old Indian scout sign, which is the title of this chapter, means There is nothing new along this trail and it brings you back to the same place. If you are already acquainted with Tom Slade and his friends you will be safe in skipping this chapter but, otherwise, you would better read it for it will tell you a little of Tom's past history and of the other scouts with whom you are to become acquainted in this volume.
To know just how all this election business came about we must go back a year or so to a time when Tom Slade was just a hoodlum down in Barrel Alley and believed with all his heart that the best use a barrel stave could be put to was to throw it into the Chinese laundry. He had heard of the Boy Scouts and he called them "regiment guys" and had a sophisticated contempt for them.
Then all of a sudden, along had come Roy Blakeley, who had shown him that he was just wasting good barrel staves; that you could make a first-class Indian bow out of a barrel stave. Roy had also told him that you can't smoke cigarettes if you expect to aim straight. That was an end of the barrel as a missile and that was an end of Turkish Blend Mixture—or whatever you call it. There wasn't any talk or preaching—just a couple of good knockout blows.
Tom had held that of all the joys in the mischievous hoodlum program none was so complete as that of throwing chunks of coal through streetcar windows at the passengers inside. Then along had come Westy Martin and shown him how you could mark patrol signs on rocks with chunks of coal—signs which should guide the watchful scout through the trackless wilderness. Exit coal as a missile.
In short, Tom Slade awoke to the realization not only that he was a hoodlum, but that he was out of date with his vulgar slang and bungling, unskilful tricks.
Tom and his father had lived in two rooms in one of John Temple's tenements down in Barrel Alley and John Temple and his wife and daughter lived in a couple of dozen rooms, a few lawns, porches, sun-parlors and things up in Grantley Square. And John Temple stood a better chance of being struck by lightning than of collecting the rent from Bill Slade.
John Temple was very rich and very grouchy. He owned the Bridgeboro National Bank; he owned all the vacant lots with their hospitable "Keep Out" signs, and he had a controlling interest in pretty nearly everything else in town—except his own temper.
Poor, lazy Bill Slade and his misguided son might have gone on living in John Temple's tenement rent free until it fell in a heap, for though Mr. Temple blustered he was not bad at heart; but on an evil day Tom had thrown a rock at Bridgeboro's distinguished citizen. It was a random, unscientific shot but, as luck would have it, it knocked John Temple's new golf cap off into the rich mud of Barrel Alley.
It did not hurt John Temple, but it killed the goose that laid the golden eggs for the Slades. Mr. Temple's dignity was more than hurt; it was black and blue. He would rather have been hit by a financial panic than by that sordid missile from Barrel Alley's most notorious hoodlum. Inside of three days out went the Slades from John Temple's tenement, bag and baggage.
There wasn't much baggage. A couple of broken chairs, a greasy dining-table which Tom had used strategically in his defensive operations against his father's assaults, a dented beer-can and a few other dilapidated odds and ends constituted the household effects of the unfortunate father and son.
Bill Slade, unable to cope with this unexpected disaster, disappeared on the day of the eviction and Tom was sheltered by a kindly neighbor, Mrs. O'Connor.
His fortunes were at the very lowest ebb and it seemed a fairly safe prophesy that he would presently land in the Home for Wayward Boys, when one day he met Roy Blakeley and tried to hold him up for a nickel.
Far be it from me to defend the act, but it was about the best thing that Tom ever did so far as his own interests were concerned. Roy took him up to his own little Camp Solitaire on the beautiful lawn of the Blakeley home, gave him a cup of coffee, some plum duff (Silver Fox brand, patent applied for), and passed him out some of the funniest slang (all brand new) that poor Tom had ever heard.
That was the beginning of Tom's transformation into a scout. He fell for scouting with a vengeance. It opened up a new world to him. To be sure, this king of the hoodlums did not capitulate all at once—not he. He was still wary of all "rich guys" and "sissies"; but he used to go down and peek through a hole in the fence of Temple's lot when they were practising their games.
Mr. Ellsworth said nothing, only winked his eye at the boys, for he saw which way the wind was blowing. Tom Slade, king of the hoodlums, had the scout bug and didn't know it.
Then, when the time was ripe, Mr. Ellsworth called him down into the field one day for a try at archery. Tom scrambled down from the fence and shuffled over to where the scouts waited with smiling, friendly faces; but just at that moment, who should come striding through the field but John Temple—straight for the little group.
What happened was not pleasant. John Temple denounced them all as a gang of trespassers, ordered them out of his field and did not hesitate to express his opinion of Tom in particular. Mr. Ellsworth then and there championed the poor fellow and prophesied that notwithstanding his past the scouts would make a man of him yet.
After that Tom Slade came out flat-footed and hit the scout trail. He was never able to determine to whom he should be most grateful, Roy Blakeley or Mr. Ellsworth, but it was the beginning of a friendship between the two boys which became closer as time passed.
There is no use retelling a tale that is told. Tom had such a summer in camp as he had never dreamed of when he used to lie in bed till noontime in Barrel Alley, and all that you shall find in its proper place, but you must know something of how Temple Camp came into being and how it came by its name.
John Temple was a wonderful man—oh, he was smart. He could take care of your property for you; if you had a thousand dollars he would turn it into two thousand for you—like a sleight-of-hand performer. He could tell you what kind of stocks to buy and when to sell them. He knew where to buy real estate. He could tell you when wheat was going up or down—just as if there were a scout sign to go by. He had everything that heart could wish—and the rheumatism besides.
But his dubious prophesy as to the future of Tom Slade, king of the hoodlums, came out all wrong. Tom was instrumental in getting back a pin which had been stolen from Mary Temple, and when her father saw the boy after six months or so of scouting he couldn't have been more surprised—not even if the Bridgeboro Bank had failed.
Then poor old John Temple (or rich old John Temple) showed that he had one good scout trait. He could be a good loser. He saw that he was all wrong and that Mr. Ellsworth was right and he straightway built a pavilion for the scouts in the beautiful woods where all the surprising episodes of the summer which had opened his eyes had taken place.
But you know as well as I do that a man like John Temple would never be satisfied with building a little one-troop camping pavilion; not he. So what should he do but buy a tract of land up in the Catskills close to a beautiful sheet of water which was called Black Lake; and here he put up a big open shack with a dozen or so log cabins about it and endowed the whole thing as a summer camp where troops from all over the country might come and find accommodations and recreation in the summer months.
That was not all. Temple Camp was to be a school where scouting might be taught (Oh, he was going to do the right thing, was old John Temple!), and to that end he communicated with somebody who communicated with somebody else, who got in touch with somebody else who went to some ranch or other a hundred miles from nowhere in the woolly west and asked old Jeb Rushmore if he wouldn't come east and look after this big scout camp. How in the world John Temple, in his big leather chair in the Bridgeboro Bank, had ever got wind of Jeb Rushmore no one was able to find out. John Temple was a genius for picking out men and in this case he touched high-water mark.
Jeb Rushmore was furnished with passes over all John Temple's railroads straight through from somewhere or other in Dakota to Catskill Landing, and a funny sight he must have been in his flannel shirt and slouch hat, sprawling his lanky limbs from the platforms of observation cars, drawling out his pithy observations about the civilization which he had never before seen.
There are only two more things necessary to mention in this "side trail" chapter. Tom's father bobbed up after the boy had become a scout. He was a mere shadow of his former self; drink and a wandering life had all but completed his ruin, and although Tom and his companions gave him a home in their pleasant camp it was too late to help him much and he died among them, having seen (if it were any satisfaction for him to see) that scouting had made a splendid boy of his once neglected son.
This brings us to the main trail again and explains why it was that Roy Blakeley had held mysterious conferences with Mary Temple, and suggested to all the three patrols that it would be a good idea to elect Tom to go to Temple Camp to assist in its preparation and management. They had all known that one of their number was to be chosen for this post and Roy had hit on Tom as the one to go because he still lived with Mrs. O'Connor down in Barrel Alley and had not the same pleasant home surroundings as the other boys.
A scout is thoughtful.
PEE-WEE AND MARY TEMPLE
Throughout the previous summer Tom had been in Roy's patrol, the Silver Foxes, but when the new Elk Patrol was formed with Connie Bennett, the Bronson boys and others, he had been chosen its leader.
"I think it's just glorious," said Mary Temple, when Tom told her of his plan and of Roy's noble sacrifice, "and I wish I was a boy."
"Oh, it's great to be a boy," enthused Pee-wee. "Gee, that's one thing I'm glad of anyway—that I'm a boy!"
"Half a boy is better than all girl," taunted Roy.
"You're a model boy," added Westy.
"And mother and father and I are coming up in the touring car in August to visit the camp," said Mary. "Oh, I think it's perfectly lovely you and Tom are going on ahead and that you're going to walk, and you'll have everything ready when the others get there. Good-bye."
Tom and Roy were on their way up to the Blakeley place to set about preparing for the hike, for they meant to start as soon as they could get ready. Pee-wee lingered upon the veranda at Temple Court swinging his legs from the rubble-stone coping—those same legs that had made the scout pace famous.
"Oh, crinkums," he said, "they'll have some time! Cracky, but I'd like to go. You don't believe all this about Roy's making a noble sacrifice, do you?" he added, scornfully.
Mary laughed and said she didn't.
"Because that isn't a good turn," Pee-wee argued, anxious that Mary should not get a mistaken notion of this important phase of scouting. "A good turn is when you do something that helps somebody else. If you do it because you get a lot of fun out of it yourself, then it isn't a good turn at all. Of course, Roy knows that; he's only jollying when he calls it a good turn. You have to be careful with Roy, he's a terrible jollier—and Mr. Ellsworth's pretty near as bad. Oh, cracky, but I'd like to go with them—that's one sure thing. You think it's no fun being a girl and I'll admit I wouldn't want to be one—I got to admit that; but it's pretty near as bad to be small. If you're small they jolly you. And if I asked them to let me go they'd only laugh. Gee, I don't mind being jollied, but I would like to go. That's one thing you ought to be thankful for—you're not small. Of course, maybe girls can't do so many things as boys—I mean scouting-like—but—oh, crinkums," he broke off in an ecstasy of joyous reflection. "Oh, crinkums, that'll be some trip, believe me."
Mary Temple looked at the diminutive figure in khaki trousers which sat before her on the coping. It was one of the good things about Pee-wee Harris that he never dreamed how much people liked him.
"I don't know about that," said Mary. "I mean about a girl not being able to do things—scouting things. Mightn't a girl do a good turn?"
"Oh, sure," Pee-wee conceded.
"But I suppose if it gave her very much pleasure it wouldn't be a good turn."
"Oh, yes, it might," admitted Pee-wee, anxious to explain the science of good turns. "This is the way it is. If you do a good turn it's sure to make you feel good—that you did it—see? But if you do it just for your own pleasure, then it's not a good turn. But Roy puts over a lot of nonsense about good turns. He does it just to make me mad—because I've made a sort of study of them—like."
Mary laughed in spite of herself.
"He says it was a good thing when Tom threw a barrel stave in the Chinese laundry because it led to his being a scout. But that isn't logic. Do you know what logic is?"
Mary thought she had a notion of what it was.
"A thing that's bad can't be good, can it?" Pee-wee persisted. "Suppose you should hit me with a brick——"
"I wouldn't think of doing such a thing!"
"But suppose you did. And suppose the scouts came along and gave me first aid and after that I became a scout. Could you say you did me a good turn by hitting me with a brick because that way I got to be a scout? Roy—you got to be careful with him—you can't always tell when he's jollying."
Mary looked at him intently for a few seconds. "Well, then," said she, "since you've made a study of good turns tell me this. If Roy and Tom were to ask you to go with them on their long hike, would that be a good turn?"
"Sure it would, because it would have a sacrifice in it, don't you see?"
"Because they'd do it just to please me—they wouldn't really want me."
"Well," she laughed, "Roy's good at making sacrifices."
"Je-ru-salem!" said Pee-wee, shaking his head almost incredulously at the idea of such good fortune; "that'll be some trip. But you know what they say, and it's true—I got to admit it's true—that two's a company, three's a crowd."
"It wouldn't be three," laughed Mary; "it would only be two and a half."
She watched the sturdy figure as Pee-wee trudged along the gravel walk and down the street. He seemed even smaller than he had seemed on the veranda. And it was borne in upon her how much jollying he stood for and how many good things he missed just because he was little, and how cheerful and generous-hearted he was withal.
The next morning Roy received a letter which read:
"Dear Roy—I want you and Tom to ask Walter Harris to go with you. Please don't tell him that I asked you. You said you were going to name one of the cabins or one of the boats for me because I took so much interest. I'd rather have you do this. You can call it a good turn if you want to—a real one.
Pee-wee Harris also received an envelope with an enclosure similar to many which he had received of late. He suspected their source. This one read as follows:
If you want to be a scout, You must watch what you're about, And never let a chance for mischief pass. You may win the golden cross If your ball you gayly toss Through the middle of a neighbor's pane of glass.
TOM AND ROY
The letter from Mary Temple fell on Camp Solitaire like a thunderbolt. Camp Solitaire was the name which Roy had given his own cosy little tent on the Blakeley lawn, and here he and Tom were packing duffel bags and sharpening belt axes ready for their long tramp when the note from Grantley Square was scaled to them by the postman as he made a short cut across the lawn.
"What do you know about that?" said Roy, clearly annoyed. "We can't take him; he's too small. Who's going to take the responsibility? This is a team hike."
"You don't suppose he put the idea in her head, do you?" Tom asked.
"Oh, I don't know. You saw yourself how crazy he was about it."
"Pee-wee's all right," said Tom.
"Sure he's all right. He's the best little camp mascot that ever happened. But how are we going to take him along on this hike? And what's he going to do when he gets there?"
"He could help us on the troop cabin—getting it ready," Tom suggested.
Roy threw the letter aside in disgust. "That's a girl all over," he said, as he sulkily packed his duffel bag. "She doesn't think of what it means—she just wants it done, that's all, so she sends her what-d'you-call-it—edict. Pee-wee can't stand for a hundred and forty mile hike. We'd have to get a baby carriage!"
He went on with his packing, thrusting things into the depths of his duffel bag half-heartedly and with but a fraction of his usual skill. "You know as well as I do about team hikes. How can we fix this up for three now? We've got everything ready and made all our plans; now it seems we've got to cart this kid along or be in Dutch up at Temple's. He can't hike twenty miles a day. He's just got a bee in his dome that he'd like——"
"It would be a good turn," interrupted Tom. "I was counting on a team hike myself. I wanted to be off on a trip alone with you a while. I'm disappointed too, but it would be a good turn—it would be a peach of a one, so far as that's concerned."
"No, it wouldn't," contradicted Roy. "It would be a piece of blamed foolishness."
"He'd furnish some fun—he always does."
"He'd furnish a lot of trouble and responsibility! Why can't he wait and come up with the rest? Makes me sick!" Roy added, as he hurled the aluminum coffee-pot out of a chair and sat down disgustedly.
"Now, you see, you dented that," said Tom.
"A lot I care. Gee, I'd like to call the whole thing off—that's what I'd like to do. I'd do it for two cents."
"Well, I've got two cents," said Tom, "but I'm not going to offer it. I say, let's make the best of it. I've seen you holding your sides laughing at Pee-wee. You said yourself he was a five-reel photoplay all by himself."
Roy drew a long breath and said nothing. He was plainly in his very worst humor. He did not want Pee-wee to go. He, too, wanted to be alone with Tom. There were plenty of good turns to be done without bothering with this particular one. Besides, it was not a good turn, he told himself. It would expose Walter Harris to perils—— Oh, Roy was very generous and considerate of Walter Harris——
"If it's a question of good turns," he said, "it would be a better turn to leave him home, where he'll be safe and happy. It's no good turn to him, dragging him up and down mountains till he's so dog-tired he falls all over himself—is it?"
Tom smiled a little, but said nothing.
"Oh, well, if that's the way you feel," said Roy, pulling the cord of his duffel bag so tight that it snapped, "you and Pee-wee had better go and I'll back out."
"It ain't the way I feel," said Tom, in his slow way. "I'd rather go alone with you. Didn't I say so? I guess Pee-wee thinks he's stronger than he is. I think he'd better be at home too and I'd rather he'd stay home, though it's mostly just because I want to be alone with you. Maybe it's selfish, but if it is I can't help it. I think sometimes a feller might do something selfish and make up for it some other way—maybe. But I don't think any feller's got a right to do something selfish and then call it a good turn. I don't believe a long hike would hurt Pee-wee. He's the best scout-pacer in your patrol. But I want to go alone with you and I'd just as soon tell Mary so. I suppose it would be selfish, but we'd just try to make up——"
"Oh, shut up, will you!" snapped Roy. "You get on my nerves, dragging along with your theories and things. I don't care who goes or if anybody goes. And you can go home and sleep for all I care."
"All right," said Tom, rising. "I'd rather do that than stay here and fight. I don't see any use talking about whether it's a good turn to Pee-wee." (Roy ostentatiously busied himself with his packing and pretended not to hear.) "I wasn't thinking about Pee-wee so much anyway. It's Mary Temple that I was thinking of. It would be a good turn to her, you can't deny that. Pee-wee Harris has got nothing to do with it—it's between you and me and Mary Temple."
"You going home?" Roy asked, coldly.
"Well, you and Pee-wee and Mary Temple can fix it up. I'm out of it."
He took a pad and began to write, while Tom lingered in the doorway of the tent, stolid, as he always was.
"Wait and mail this for me, will you," said Roy. He wrote:
"Dear Mary—Since you butted in Tom and I have decided that it would be best for Pee-wee to go with him and I'll stay here. Anyway, that's what I've decided. So you'll get your wish, all right, and I should worry.
Tom took the sealed envelope, but paused irresolutely in the doorway. It was the first time that he and Roy had ever quarrelled.
"What did you say to her?" he asked.
"Never mind what I said," Roy snapped. "You'll get your wish."
"I'd rather go alone with you," said Tom, simply. "I told you that already. I'd rather see Pee-wee stay home. I care more for you," he said, hesitating a little, "than for anyone else. But I vote to take Pee-wee because Mary wants—asks—us to. I wouldn't call it a good turn leaving him home, and you wouldn't either—only you're disappointed, same as I am. I wouldn't even call it much of a good turn taking him. We can never pay back Mary Temple. It would be like giving her a cent when we owed her a thousand. I got to do what I think is right—you—you made me a scout. I—I got to be thankful to you if I can see straight. It's—it's kind of—like a—like a trail—like," he blundered on. "There can be trails in your mind, kind of. Once I chucked stones at Pee-wee and swiped Mary's ball. Now I want to take him along—a little bit for his sake, but mostly for hers. And I want to go alone with you for my own sake, because—because," he hesitated, "because I want to be alone with you. But I got to hit the right trail—you taught me that——"
"Well, go ahead and hit it," said Roy, "it's right outside the door."
Tom looked at him steadily for a few seconds as if he did not understand. You might have seen something out of the ordinary then in that stolid face. After a moment he turned and went down the hill and around the corner of the big bank building, passed Ching Woo's laundry, into which he had once thrown dirty barrel staves, picked his way through the mud of Barrel Alley and entered the door of the tenement where Mrs. O'Connor lived. He had not slept there for three nights. The sound of cats wailing and trucks rattling and babies crying was not much like the soughing of the wind in the elms up on the Blakeley lawn. But if you have hit the right trail and have a good conscience you can sleep, and Tom slept fairly well amid the din and uproar.
FIRST COUP OF THE MASCOT
Anyway, he slept better than Roy slept. All night long the leader of the Silver Foxes was haunted by that letter. The darkness, the breeze, the soothing music of crickets and locusts outside his little tent dissipated his anger, as the voices of nature are pretty sure to do, and made him see straight, to use Tom's phrase.
He thought of Tom making his lonely way back to Barrel Alley and going to bed there amid the very scenes which he had been so anxious to have him forget. He fancied him sitting on the edge of his cot in Mrs. O'Connor's stuffy dining room, reading his Scout Manual. He was always reading his Manual; he had it all marked up like a blazed trail. Roy got small consolation now from the fact that he had procured Tom's election. If Tom had been angry at him, his conscience would be easier now; but Tom seldom got mad.
In imagination he followed that letter to the Temple home. He saw it laid at Mary's place at the dining table. He saw her come dancing in to breakfast and pick it up and wave it gaily. He saw John Temple reading his paper at the head of the table and advising with Mary, who was his partner in the Temple Camp enterprise. He knew it was for her sake quite as much as for the scouts that Mr. Temple had made this splendid gift, and he knew (for he had dined at Grantley Square) just how father and daughter conferred together. Why, who was it but Mary that told John Temple there must be ten thousand wooden plates and goodness knows how many sanitary drinking cups? Mary had it all marked in the catalogues.
Roy pictured her as she opened the letter and read it,—that rude, selfish note. He wondered what she would say. And he wondered what John Temple would think. It would be such a surprise to her that poor little Pee-wee was not wanted.
In the morning Roy arose feeling very wretched after an all but sleepless night. He did not know what he should do that day. He might go up to Grantley Square and apologize, but you cannot, by apology, undo what is done.
While he was cooking his breakfast he thought of Pee-wee—Pee-wee who was always so gay and enthusiastic, who worshipped Roy, and who "did not mind being jollied." He would be ashamed to face Pee-wee even if that redoubtable scout pacer were sublimely innocent of what had taken place.
At about noon he saw Tom coming up the lawn. He looked a little shamefaced as Tom came in and sat down without a word.
"I—I was going to go down to see you," said Roy. "I—I feel different now. I can see straight. I wish I hadn't——"
"I've got a letter for you," said Tom, disinterestedly. "I was told to deliver it."
"You—were you at Temple's?"
"There isn't any answer," said Tom, with his usual exasperating stolidness.
Roy hesitated a moment. Then, as one will take a dose of medicine quickly to have it over, he grasped the envelope, tore it open, and read:
"Dear Mary—Since you butted in Tom and I have decided it would be best for Pee-wee to go with him and I'll stay home. Anyway, that's what I've decided. So you'll get your wish, all right, and I should worry.
He looked up into Tom's almost expressionless countenance. "Who—told—you to deliver it—Tom?"
"I told myself. You said you'd call the whole thing off for two cents. But you ought not to expect me to pay the two cents——"
"Didn't I put a stamp on it?" said Roy, looking at the envelope.
"If you want to put a stamp on it now," said Tom, "I'll go and mail it for you—but I—I didn't feel I cared to trust you for two cents—over night."
Through glistening eyes Roy looked straight at Tom, but found no response in that dogged countenance. But he knew Tom, and knew what to expect from him. "You old grouch," he shouted, running his hand through Tom's already tousled and rebellious hair. "Why don't you laugh? So you wouldn't trust me for two cents, you old Elk skinflint, wouldn't you. Well, then, the letter doesn't get mailed, that's all, for I happen to have only one stamp left and that's going to Pee-wee Harris. Come on, get your wits to work now, and we'll send him the invitation in the form of a verse, what d'you say?"
He gave Tom such a push that even he couldn't help laughing as he staggered against the tent-pole.
"I'm no good at writing verse," said he.
"Oh, but we'll jolly the life out of that kid when we get him away," said Roy.
It is a wise precept that where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise. Pee-wee Harris never dreamed of the discussion that had taken place as to his going, and he accepted the invitation with a glad heart.
On the momentous morning when the trio set forth upon their journey, Mary Temple, as glad as they, stood upon the steps at Grantley Square and waved them a last good-bye.
"Don't forget," she called, "we're coming up in the car in August to visit you and see the camp and that dreadful Jeb or Job or Jib or whatever you call him, who smokes a corn-cob pipe—ugh!"
The last they saw of her was a girlish shrug of disgust at that strange personage out of the West about whom (largely for her benefit) Roy and others had circulated the most outlandish tales. Jeb Rushmore was already ensconced in the unfinished camp, and from the few letters which had come from him it was judged that his excursion east had not spoiled him. One of these missives had been addressed to Mister John Temple and must have been a refreshing variation from the routine mail which awaited Mr. Temple each morning at the big granite bank. It read:
"Thar's a crittur come here to paint names o' animiles on the cabin doors. I told him friendly sich wuzn't wanted, likewise no numbers. He see it were best ter go. Bein' you put up th' money I would say polite and likewise explain ez how the skins uv animiles is propper fur signs an' not numbers bein' ez cabins is not railroad cars."
This is a fair sample of the letters which were received by Mr. Temple, by Mr. Ellsworth, and even at National Scout Headquarters, which Jeb Rushmore called "the main ranch."
The idea of putting the skin of a silver fox, for instance, on the patrol's cabin instead of a painted caricature of that animal, took the boys by storm, and to them at least Jeb Rushmore became a very real character long before they ever met him. They felt that Jeb Rushmore had the right idea and they were thrilled at the tragic possibilities of that ominous sentence, "He see it were best to go."
The whole troop was down at the boathouse to see the boys off. Tom and Roy wore old khaki trousers and faded shirts which had seen service in many a rough hike; their scarred duffel bags bore unmistakable signs of hard usage, but Pee-wee was resplendent in his full regalia, with his monogram burned in a complicated design into the polished leather of his brand new duffel bag. His "trousseau," as the boys called it, was indeed as complete and accurate as was possible. Even the scout smile, which is not the least part of the scout make-up, was carried to a conspicuous extreme; he smiled all over; he was one vast smile.
"Don't fall off any mountains, Pee-wee."
"Be sure to take your smile off when you go to bed."
"If you get tired, you can jump on a train."
"Pee-wee, you look as if you were posing for animal crackers."
These were some of the flippant comments which were hurled at Pee-wee as the three, in Roy's canoe, glided from the float and up the river on the first stage of what was destined to be an adventurous journey.
The river, along whose lower reaches Bridgeboro was situated, had its source within a mile or two of the Hudson in the vicinity of Nyack. From the great city it was navigable by power craft as far as Bridgeboro and even above at full tide, but a mile or two above the boys' home town it narrowed to a mere creek, winding its erratic way through a beautiful country where intertwined and overarching boughs formed dim tunnels through which the canoeist passed with no sound but the swishing of his own paddle. The boys had never before canoed to the river's source, though it was one of the things they had always been meaning to do. It was a happy thought of Tom's to make it a part of their journey now and strike into the roads along the Hudson in that way.
"Oh, crinkums, I'm crazy to see Jeb Rushmore, aren't you?" said Pee-wee. "I never thought I'd have a chance to go like this, I sure didn't! I never thought you'd want me."
"We couldn't do without you, kiddo," said Roy, as he paddled. "We wouldn't have any luck—you're our lucky penny."
"Cracky, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I got that note. At first, I thought you must be jollying me—and even now it doesn't seem real."
The boys laughed. "Well, here you are, kiddo," said Roy, "so you see it's real enough."
"Do you suppose we'll have any adventures?"
"Why, as the little boy said when he spilled the ink on the parlor carpet, 'that remains to be seen.' We won't side-step any, you can be sure of that."
"There may be danger awaiting us," said Pee-wee.
"Well, I only hope it'll wait till we get to it," Roy laughed. "What do you say, kiddo, shall we hit it up for Nyack to-night or camp along the river?"
They decided to paddle leisurely, ending their canoe trip next day. About dusk they made their camp on a steep, wooded shore, and with the flame of their campfire reflected in the rippling water, Roy cooked supper.
Pee-wee was supremely happy. It is doubtful if he had ever before been so happy.
"There's one thing," said Tom, as he held the bacon over the flame. "I'm going to do my first-class stunts before we get there."
"And I'm going to do some tracking," said Roy; "here you go, Pee-wee, here's a bacon sandwich—look out for the juice. This is what Daniel Boone used to eat." He handed Pee-wee a sizzling slice of bacon between two cakes of sweet chocolate!
"Mmmmmmm," said Pee-wee, "that's scrumptious! Gee, I never knew chocolate and bacon went so good together."
"To-morrow for breakfast I'll give you a boiled egg stuffed with caraway seeds," said Roy.
"Give him a Dan Beard omelet," said Tom.
"What's that?" asked Pee-wee, his two hands and his mouth running with greasy chocolate.
"Salt codfish with whipped cream," answered Roy. "Think you'd like it?"
Pee-wee felt sure he would.
"And there's one thing I'm going to do," he said. "Tom's going to finish his first-class stunts and you're going to do tracking. I'm going to——"
"Have another sandwich?" interrupted Roy.
"Sure. And there's one thing I'm going to do. I'm going to test some good turns. Gee, there isn't room enough to test 'em indoors."
"Good for you," said Roy; "but you'd better trot down to the river now and wash your face. You look like the end man in a minstrel show. Then come on back and we'll reel off some campfire yarns."
They sat late into the night, until their fire burned low and Roy realized, as he had never before realized, what good company Pee-wee was. They slept as only those know how to sleep who go camping, and early in the morning continued their journey along the upper and tortuous reaches of the narrowing river.
Early in the spring there had been a serious flood which had done much damage even down in Bridgeboro, and the three boys as they paddled carefully along were surprised at the havoc which had been wrought here on the upper river. Small buildings along the shore lay toppled over, boats were here and there marooned high and dry many yards from the shore, and the river was almost impassable in places from the obstructions of uprooted trees and other debris.
At about noon they reached a point where the stream petered out so that further navigation even by canoe was impossible; but they were already in the outskirts of West Nyack.
"The next number on the program," said Roy, "is to administer first aid to the canoe in the form of a burlap bandage. Pee-wee, you're appointed chairman of the grass committee—pick some grass and let's pad her up."
If you have never administered "first aid" to a canoe and "padded it up" for shipment, let me tell you that the scout way of doing it is to bind burlap loosely around it and to stuff this with grass or hay so that the iron hook which is so gently wielded by the expressman may not damage the hull.
Having thus prepared it for its more prosaic return journey by train, they left the boat on the shore and following a beaten path came presently into the very heart of the thriving metropolis of West Nyack.
"I feel as if we were Lewis and Clarke, or somebody, arriving at an Indian village," said Pee-wee.
At the express office Roy arranged for the shipment of the canoe back to Bridgeboro, and then they started along the road toward Nyack. It was on this part of their journey that something happened which was destined materially to alter their program.
They had come into the main street of the village and were heading for the road which led to the Hudson when they came upon a little group of people looking amusedly up into an elm tree on the lawn of a stately residence. A little girl was standing beneath the tree in evident distress, occasionally wringing her hands as she looked fearfully up into the branches. Whatever was happening there was no joke to her, however funny it might be to the other onlookers.
"What's the matter?" Tom asked.
"Bird up there," briefly answered the nearest bystander.
"She'll never get it," said another.
"Oh, now he's going away," cried the little girl in despair.
The contrast between her anxiety and the amusement of the others was marked. Every time she called to the bird it flitted to another limb, and every time the bird flitted she wrung her hands and cried. An empty cage upon a lawn bench told the story.
"What's the matter?" said Pee-wee, going to the child and seeking his information first-hand.
"Oh, I'll never get him," she sobbed. "He'll fly away in a minute and I'll never see him again."
Pee-wee looked up into the branches and after some difficulty succeeded in locating a little bird somewhat smaller than a robin and as green as the foliage amid which it was so heedlessly disporting.
"I see him," said Pee-wee. "Gee, don't you cry; we'll get him some way. We're scouts, we are, and we'll get him for you."
His reassuring words did not seem to comfort the girl. "Oh, there he goes!" she cried. "Now he's going to fly away!"
He did not fly away but merely flew to another limb and began to preen himself. For so small a bird he was attracting a great deal of notice in the world. Following Pee-wee's lead, others including Tom and Roy ventured upon the lawn, smiling and straining their eyes to follow the tantalizing movements of the little fugitive.
"Of course," said Pee-wee to the girl, "it would be easy enough to shin up that tree—that would be a cinch—anybody could do that—I mean any feller—of course, a girl couldn't; but I'd only frighten him away."
"You'll never get him," said one man.
"What kind of a bird is it?" Tom asked.
"It's a dwarf parrot," the girl sobbed, "and I'll never get him—never!"
"You don't want to get discouraged," said Pee-wee. "Gee, there's always some way."
The spectators evidently did not agree with him. Some of them remained about, smiling; others went away. The diminutive Pee-wee seemed to amuse them quite as much as the diminutive parrot, but all were agreed (as they continually remarked to each other) that the bird was a "goner."
"Is he tame?" Roy asked.
"He was getting tame," the girl sobbed, "and he was learning to say my name. My father would give a hundred dollars—Oh," she broke off, "now he is going away!" She began to cry pitifully.
Pee-wee stood a moment thoughtfully. "Have you got a garden hose?" he presently asked.
"Yes, but you're not going to squirt water at him," said the girl, indignantly.
"If you get the garden hose," said Pee-wee, "I'll bring him down for you."
"What are you going to do, kiddo?" Roy asked.
"You'll see," said Pee-wee.
The other boys looked at each other, puzzled. The girl looked half incredulously at Pee-wee and something in his manner gave her a feeling of hope. Most of the others laughed good-humoredly.
They hauled the nozzle end of a garden hose from where it lay coiled near a faucet in the stone foundation. Pee-wee took the nozzle and began to play the stream against the trunk of the tree, all the while looking up at the parrot. Presently, the bird began to "sit up and take notice," as one might say. It was plainly interested. The bystanders began to "sit up and take notice" too, and they watched the bird intently as it cocked its head and listened. Pee-wee sent the stream a little higher up the trunk and as he did so the bird became greatly excited. It began uttering, in the modulated form consonant with its size, the discordant squawk of the parrot. The little girl watched eagerly.
"Get the cage," ordered Pee-wee.
Roy brought it and laid it at his feet. The stream played a little higher, and the bird chattered furiously and came lower.
"Remind you of home?" Pee-wee asked, looking up and playing the water a little higher. The bystanders watched, in silence. The bird was now upon the lowest branch, chattering like mad and flapping its wings frantically. The little girl, in an ecstasy of fresh hope, called to it and danced up and down.
But Pee-wee, like a true artist, neither saw nor heard his audience. He was playing the bird with this line of water as an angler plays a fish. And never was moth lured by a flame more irresistibly than this little green fugitive was lured by the splashing of that stream.
"Oh, can you catch him? Can you catch him?" pleaded the girl as she clutched Pee-wee's arm.
"Let go a minute," said Pee-wee. "Now, all stand back, here goes!"
He shot the stream suddenly down at the base of the tree, holding the nozzle close so that the plashing was loud and the spray diffused. And as an arrow goes to its mark the bird came swooping down plunk into the middle of the spray and puddle. Still playing the stream with one hand, Pee-wee reached carefully and with his other gently encircled the little drenched body.
"Quite an adventure, wasn't it, Greenie?" he said. "Where'd you think you were? In the tropics?—— If you ever want to take hold of a bird," he added, turning to the girl, "hold it this way; make a ring out of your thumb and first finger, and let his stomach rest on the palm of your hand. Be sure your hand isn't cold, though. Here you are—that's right."
The girl could hardly speak. She stood with her dwarf parrot in her hand, looking at the stream of water which was now shooting silently through the grass and at the puddle which it had made, and she felt that a miracle had been performed before her eyes. Roy, hardly less pleased than she, stepped forward and turned off the water.
"Good work," said a gentleman. "I've seen many a bird brought down, but never in that fashion before."
"We don't use the other fashion," said Tom, with a touch of pride as he put his hand on Pee-wee's shoulder. "Do we, kid?"
"If it was a canary," said Pee-wee, "I might possibly have whistled him down, but not near enough to catch him, I guess. But as soon as I knew that bird came from the tropics, I knew he'd fall for water, 'cause a tropical bird'll go where the sound of water is every time. I guess it's because they have so many showers down there, or something. Then once I heard that it's best to turn on the faucet when you're teaching a parrot to talk. It's the sound of water. Did you get any water on you?" he asked, suddenly turning to the child.
There was no water on her clothing, but there was some in her eyes.
"I—I—think you're wonderful," she said. "I think you are just wonderful!"
"'Twasn't me," said Pee-wee, "it was the water. Gee," he added confidentially, "I often said I hated water, and I do hate a rainy day. And if you get any water in a carburetor—goo-od-night! But I got to admit water's good for some things."
"Oh, I want you please to wait—just a few minutes—I want to go and speak to my father," the girl said, as the boys started to move away. They were the only ones left now. "Please wait just a minute."
"We're on our way to Nyack," said Roy, suspecting her intention, "and I'm afraid we've lost as much time as we dare. We've got to do a little shopping there and our weather prophet here thinks we're going to have a real tropical shower before long."
"But won't you let my father give you each—something? You've been so good and it's—oh—it's just wonderful!"
"Pee-wee, you're the doctor," said Roy.
"I got to do a good turn every day," said the "doctor," "because we're scouts and that's the rule. If we took anything for it, why, then it wouldn't be a good turn. It would spoil all the fun. We're going on a long hike, up the Hudson to our camp. We don't want to go near railroad trains—and things like that. These fellows are taking me with them; that's a good turn, but if somebody paid 'em to do it, it wouldn't be a good turn, would it? I'm thankful to you and your parrot that you gave me the chance. Now I don't have to think of a good turn again till tomorrow. Besides I just happened to know about parrots and water so it's no credit to me."
That was it—he just happened to know! It was one of the dozens of things that he "just happened to know." How he came by the knowledge was a mystery. But perhaps the best thing he knew was that a service is a service and that you knock it in the head as soon as you take payment for it.
The girl watched them, as they jumped the hedge, laughing gaily at Pee-wee's clumsiness and, waving their hats to her, took their belated way along the road.
It was not the most popular way of bringing down a bird, but there was no blood on Pee-wee's hands, and it was a pretty good stunt at that!
"Pee-wee, you're a wonder," said Roy. "You're the only original Boy Scout; how did you get next to that stunt? What do you think of him, Tom?"
"Some wrinkle," said Tom.
"Crinkums!" said Pee-wee. "I'm mighty glad I got him. If it hadn't succeeded I'd have felt cheap, sure; but when you're dealing with a girl, you always want to act as if you're sure of yourself. Do you know why?"
"Can't imagine," said Roy. "Break it to us gently."
"Because girls are never sure of themselves and they'll never take much stock in what you say unless you seem to be sure of yourself. That's one thing I've noticed. I've made a study of girls, kind of—— And you're more apt to succeed if there's a girl watching you—did you ever notice that?"
"It's so," urged Pee-wee. "And there's another thing about girls, too; they're repulsive."
"What?" said Tom.
"What?" said Roy.
"They say the first thing that comes into their heads."
"Impulsive, you mean," laughed Roy.
"Well, they're all right on good turns," said Tom.
"They don't have any good turns in the Camp Fire Girls," said Pee-wee.
"A girl might do a good turn and you'd never know anything about it," said Tom, significantly.
"Cracky," said Pee-wee, "she was tickled to get that bird back."
In a little while they were tramping along the main street of Nyack, heading for the lordly Hudson. It was almost twilight, the shops were shutting their doors, and as they came around the hill which brought them face to face with the river, the first crimson glow of sunset fell upon the rippling current. Across the wide expanse, which seemed the wider for the little winding stream they had so lately followed, the hills were already turning from green to gray and tiny lights were visible upon the rugged heights. A great white steamer with its light already burning was plowing majestically upstream and the little open craft at the shore rocked in the diminishing ripples which it sent across the water, as though bowing in humble obeisance to it.
"Gee, it's lonely, isn't it!" said Pee-wee.
"Not getting homesick, are you, kiddo?"
"No, but it seems kind of lonesome. I'm glad there's three of us. Oh, jiminy, look at those hills."
The scene was indeed such as to make the mightiest man feel insignificant.
The map showed a road which led to Haverstraw, and this the boys decided to follow until they should find a convenient spot in which to bivouac for the night. It followed the Hudson, sometimes running along the very brink with the mighty highlands rising above it and sometimes running between hills which shut the river from their view.
"Hark," said Tom. "What did I tell you! Thunder!"
A low, distant rumble sounded, and as they paused in the gathering darkness, listening, a little fitful gust blew Pee-wee's hat off.
"We're going to get a good dose of it," said Tom. "I've been smelling it for the last hour; look at those trees."
The leaves were blowing this way and that.
"We should worry," said Roy. "Didn't I tell you we might have to get our feet wet? This is a risky bus——"
"Shut up!" said Pee-wee.
They had walked not more than a quarter of a mile more when they came upon a stretch of road which was very muddy, with a piece of lowland bordering it. It was too dark to see clearly, but in the last remnant of daylight the boys could just distinguish a small, peculiar looking structure in the middle of this vast area.
"That's a funny place to build a house," said Roy.
"Maybe it's a fisherman's shack," Tom suggested.
Whatever it was, it was a most isolated and lonesome habitation, standing in the centre of that desert flat, shut in by the precipitous hills.
"It would be a good place for a hermit," said Roy. "You don't suppose anyone lives there, do you?"
"Cracky, wouldn't you like to be a hermit! Do you know what I'd like to have now——"
"An umbrella," interrupted Tom.
The remark, notwithstanding that it shocked Pee-wee's sense of fitness, inasmuch as they were scouting and "roughing it," was not inappropriate, for even as Tom spoke the patter of great drops was heard.
"Maybe it's been raining here this afternoon," observed Tom, "and that's what makes all this mud."
"Well, it's certainly raining here now," said Roy. "Me for that shack!"
The rain suddenly came down in torrents and the boys turned up their collars and made a dash across the marshy land toward the shadowy structure. Roy reached it first and, turning, called: "Hey, fellows, it's a boat!"
The others, drenched, but laughing, followed him, scrambling upon the deck and over the combing into the cockpit of a dilapidated cabin launch.
"What do you know about that!" said Roy. "Strike a light and let's see where we're at. I feel like a wet dish rag."
Presently Pee-wee's flashlight was poking its bright shaft this way and that as they looked curiously about them. They were in a neglected and disheveled, but very cosy, little cabin with sleeping lockers on either side and chintz curtains at the tiny portholes. A two-cylinder engine, so rusted that the wheel wouldn't turn over and otherwise in a dubious condition, was ineffectually covered by a piece of stiff and rotten oil cloth, the floor was cluttered with junk, industrious spiders had woven their webs all about and a frantic scurrying sound told of the hurried departure of some little animal which had evidently made its home in the forsaken hull.
"Oh, but this is great!" enthused Pee-wee. "This is the kind of an adventure you read about; now our adventures have really started."
"It'll be more to the purpose if we can get our supper really started," said Roy.
"How do you suppose it got here?" Pee-wee asked.
"That's easy," said Tom. "I didn't realize it before, but the tide must come up over the road sometimes and flood all this land here. That's what makes the road muddy. There must have been a good high tide some time or other, and it brought the boat right up over the road and here it is, marooned."
"Maybe it was the same flood that did all the damage down our way," Roy said. "Well, here goes; get the things out, Pee-wee, and we'll have some eats. Gee, it's nice in here."
It was nice. The rain pattered down on the low roof and beat against the little ports; the boat swayed a little in the heavier gusts of wind and all the delightful accompaniments of a life on the ocean wave were present—except the peril.
"You get out the cooking things," said Roy, "while I take a squint around and see if I can find something to kindle a fire in."
He did not have to go far. Sliding open the little hatch, he emerged into the cockpit, where the wind and rain smote him mercilessly. The storm had grown into a tempest and Roy wondered how it would be out on the wide river on such a night. In the cockpit was nothing but the shredded remnant of a sun awning and a couple of camp chairs, but a few feet from the boat something on the mushy ground cast a faint glimmer, and on going to it he found it to be a battered five-gallon gasoline can, which he brought back in triumph. By this time Tom and Pee-wee had the camp lamp burning and the supper things laid out. It was a very cosy scene.
"See if there's a Stillson wrench in that locker," said Roy.
Among the rusted tools was a "Stillson," and with this Roy disconnected the exhaust pipe from the engine. He next partly "jabbed" and partly cut a hole in the gasoline can of about the circumference of the pipe. A larger hole in the side of the can sufficed for a door and he squeezed the end of the exhaust pipe into the hole he had made for it, and presto! there was a very serviceable makeshift stove with the exhaust system of the engine converted into a draught and chimney.
"The new patent Silver Fox cooking stove," said Roy. "A scout is resourceful. This beats trying to kindle a fire outside, a night like this. Chuck that piece of wood over here."
There was an old battery box knocking about and this Roy whittled into shavings, while the others with their belt axes completed the ruin of the awning stanchions by chopping them into pieces a few inches long.
"Guess they weren't good for much," observed Tom.
"Oh," said Pee-wee, "I'd just like to live in this boat."
It was no wonder he felt so. With the fire burning brightly in the old can and sending its smoke out through the boat's exhaust, the smell of the bacon cooking, the sight of their outer garments drying in the cheery warmth, while the wind howled outside and the rain beat down upon the low roof the situation was not half bad and an occasional lurch of the old hull gave a peculiar charm to their odd refuge.
"Could you dally with a rice cake, kiddo?" asked Roy, as he deftly stirred up some rice and batter. "Sling me that egg powder, Tom, and give me something to stir with—not that, you gump, that's the fever thermometer!"
"Here's a fountain pen," said Pee-wee; "will that do?"
"This screw-driver will be better," said Roy. "Here, kiddo, make yourself useful and keep turning that in the pan. You're a specialist on good turns."
Pee-wee stirred, while Tom attended to the fire, and Roy to the cooking. And I might mention on the side that if you should happen to be marooned in a disused boat on a blustering night, and are ingenious enough (as Roy was) to contrive the cooking facilities, you cannot do better than flop a few rice cakes, watching carefully that they don't burn. You can flop them with a shoe horn if you've nothing better at hand.
They spread their balloon silk tent in the cockpit, holding fast to the corners until enough water had fallen into it to fill the coffee-pot, and they had three such cups of coffee as you never fancied in your fondest dreams.
For dessert they had "Silver Fox Slump," an invention of Roy's made with chocolate, honey and, I think, horse-radish. It has to be stirred thoroughly. Pee-wee declared that it was such a table d'hote dinner as he had never before tasted. He was always partial to the scout style of cooking and he added, "You know how they have music at table d'hote dinners. Well, this music's got it beat, that's one sure thing. Gee, I'll hate to leave the boat, I sure will."
The boisterous music gave very little prospect of ceasing, and after the three had talked for an hour or so, they settled down for the night, two on the lockers and one on the floor, with the wind still moaning and the rain coming down in torrents.
When they awoke in the morning the wind had died down somewhat, but it still blew fitfully out of the east and the rain had settled down into a steady drizzle. Tom ventured out into the cockpit and looked about him. The hills across the river were gray in the mist and the wide expanse of water was steel color. He could see now that there was another road close under the precipitous cliffs and that the one which divided this lowland from the river was almost awash. Through the mist and drizzle along this higher road came a man. He left the road and started to pick his way across the flat, hailing as he came. The three boys awaited him in the cockpit.
"Don't nobody leave that boat!" he called, "or I'll shoot."
"Dearie me," said Roy. "He seems to be peeved. What are we up against, anyway?"
"Don't shoot, mister," called Tom. "You couldn't drag us out of here with a team of horses."
"Tell him we are Boy Scouts and fear naught," whispered Pee-wee. "Tell him we scorn his—er—what d'you call it?"
"Hey, mister," called Roy. "We are Boy Scouts and fear naught, and we scorn your what-d'you-call it."
"Haouw?" called the man.
"What's that he's got on?" said Tom, "a merit badge?"
"It's a cop's badge," whispered Pee-wee. "Oh, crinkums, we're pinched."
The man approached, dripping and breathing heavily, and placed his hands on the combing.
"Anybody here 'sides you youngsters?" he demanded, at the same time peering inside the cabin.
"A few spiders," said Tom.
"Whatcher doin' here, anyway?"
"We're waiting for the storm to hold up," said Roy; "we beat it from that road when——"
"We sought refuge," Pee-wee prompted him.
"Any port in a storm, you know," Roy smiled. "Are we pinched?"
The man did not vouchsafe an immediate answer to this vital query. Instead he poked his head in, peered about and then said, "Don' know's ye are, not fur's I'm concerned. I'd like to hev ye answer me one question honest, though."
"You'll have to answer one for us first," called Roy, who had disappeared within the little cabin. "Do you take two lumps of sugar in your coffee?"
The man now condescended to smile, as Roy brought out a steaming cup and handed it to him.
"Wall, ye've got all the comforts uv home, ain't ye?"
"Give him a rice cake," whispered Pee-wee in Roy's ear. "He's all right."
"Won't you come in?" said Roy. "I don't know whose boat this is, but you're welcome. I guess we didn't do any damage. We chopped up a couple of broken stanchions, that's all."
"I guess we'll let ye off without more'n ten year uv hard labor," said the man, sipping his coffee. "But I'll give ye a tip. Get away from here as soon's ye can,—hear? Old man Stanton owns this boat an' he's a bear. He'd run ye in fer trespass and choppin' up them stanchions quick as a gun. Ye come oft'n that outer road, ye say? Strangers here?"
"I can see now that road is flooded," said Tom. "Guess it isn't used, is it?"
"This is all river land," said the man. "In extra high tides this here land is flooded an' the only ones usin' that thar road is the fishes. This rain keeps up another couple of days an' we get a full moon on top o' that the old hulk'll float, by gol! Ye didn't see no men around here last night now, did ye?"
"Not a soul," said Roy.
"'Cause there was a prisoner escaped up yonder last night an' when I see the smoke comin' out o' yer flue contraption here I thought like enough he hit this shelter."
"Up yonder?" Tom queried.
"You're strangers, hey?" the man repeated.
"We're on a hike," said Tom. "We're on our way to Haverstraw and——"
"Thence," prompted Pee-wee.
"Thence to Catskill Landing, and thence to Leeds and thence to Black Lake," mocked Roy.
"Well, thar's a big prison up yonder," said the man.
"Oh, Sing Sing?" Roy asked. "I never thought of that."
"Feller scaled the wall last night an' made off in a boat."
The boys were silent. They had not realized how close they were to Ossining, and the thought of the great prison whose name they had often heard mentioned sobered them a little; the mere suggestion of one of its inmates scaling its frowning wall on such a night and setting forth in an open boat, perhaps lurking near their very shelter, cast a shadow over them.
"Are you—are you sure you didn't see a—a crouching shadow when you went out and got that gasoline can last night?" Pee-wee stammered.
"I'm sorry," said Roy, "but I didn't see one crouching shadow."
"His boat might have upset in the storm," Tom suggested. "The wind even shook this boat; it must have been pretty rough out on the river."
"Like enough," said the man. "Des'pret characters'll take des'pret chances."
"What did he do?" Pee-wee asked, his imagination thoroughly aroused.
"Dunno," said the man. "Burglary, like enough. Well now, you youngsters have had yer shelter'n the wust o' the storm's over. It's goin' ter keep right on steady like this till after full moon, an' the ole shebang'll be floppin' roun' the marsh like enough on full moon tide. My advice to you is to git along. Not that you done no damage or what I'd call damage—but it won't do no good fer yer to run amuck o' Ole Man Stanton. 'Cause he's a reg'lar grizzly, as the feller says."
The boys were silent a moment. Perhaps the thought of that desperate convict stealing forth amid the wind and rain still gripped them; but it began to dawn upon them also that they had been trespassing and that they had taken great liberties with this ramshackle boat.
That the owner could object to their use of it seemed preposterous. That he could take advantage of the technical "damage" done was quite unsupposable. But no one knows better than a boy how many "grouchy" men there are in the world, and these very boys had once been ordered out of John Temple's lot with threat and menace.
"Does everybody call him 'Old Man' Stanton?" Pee-wee asked. "Because if they do that's pretty bad. Whenever somebody is known as 'Old Man' it sounds pretty bad for him. They used to say 'Old Man Temple'—he's a man we know that owns a lot of railroads and things; of course, he's reformed now—he's a magnet——"
"Magnate," corrected Roy.
"But they used to call him 'Old Man Temple'—everybody did. And it's a sure sign—you can always tell," Pee-wee concluded.
"Wall, they call me 'Ole Man Flint,'" said the visitor, "so I guess——"
"Oh, of course," said Pee-wee, hastily, "I don't say it's always so, and besides you're a—a——"
"Sheriff," Mr. Flint volunteered.
"So you got to be kind of strict—and—and grouchy—like."
The sheriff handed his empty cup to Roy and smiled good-naturedly.
"Where does Old Man Stanton live?" asked Tom, who had been silent while the others were talking.
"'Long the Nyack road, but he has his office in Nyack—he's a lawyer," said the visitor, as he drew his rubber hat down over his ears.
"Can we get back to Nyack by that other road?"
"Whatcher goin' to do?"
"We'll have to go and see Old Man Stanton," Tom said, "then if we don't get pinched we'll start north."
Mr. Flint looked at him in astonishment.
"I wouldn't say we've done any damage," said Tom in his stolid way, "and I believe in that about any port in a storm. But if he's the kind of a man who would think different, then we've got to go and tell him, that's all. We can pay him for the stanchions we chopped up."
"Wall, you're a crazy youngster, that's all, but if yer sot on huntin' fer trouble, yer got only yerself to blame. Ye'll go before a justice uv the peace, the whole three uv year, and be fined ten dollars apiece, likely as not, an' I don't believe ye've got twenty-five dollars between the lot uv yer."
"Right you are," said Roy. "We are poor but honest, and we spurn—don't we, Pee-wee?"
"Sure we do," agreed Pee-wee.
"Poverty is no disgrace," said Roy dramatically.
The man, though not overburdened with a sense of humor, could not help smiling at Roy and he went away laughing, but scarcely crediting their purpose to venture into the den of "Old Man Stanton." "They're a queer lot," he said to himself.
Within a few minutes the boys had gathered up their belongings, repacked their duffel bags and were picking their way across the marsh toward the drier road.
"We're likely to land in jail," said Pee-wee, mildly protesting.
"It isn't a question of whether we land in jail or not," said Tom, stolidly; "it's just a question of what we ought to do."
"We should worry," said Roy.
THE "GOOD TURN"
It was a draggled and exceedingly dubious-looking trio that made their way up the main street of Nyack. They had no difficulty in finding the office of "Old Man Stanton," which bore a conspicuous sign:
WILMOUTH STANTON COUNSELLOR AT LAW
"He'd—he'd have to get out a warrant for us first, wouldn't he?" Pee-wee asked, apprehensively.
"That'll be easy," said Roy. "If all goes well, I don't see why we shouldn't be in Sing Sing by three o'clock."
"We're big fools to do this," said Pee-wee. "A scout is supposed to be—cautious." But he followed the others up the stairs and stepped bravely in when Tom opened the door.
They found themselves in the lion's den with the lion in close proximity glaring upon them. He sat at a desk opening mail and looked frowningly at them over his spectacles. He was thin and wiry, his gray hair was rumpled in a way which suggested perpetual perplexity or annoyance, and his general aspect could not be said to be either conciliatory or inviting.
"Well, sir," he said, crisply.
"Are you Mr. Stanton?" Tom asked. "We are Scouts," he added, as the gentleman nodded perfunctorily, "and we came from Bridgeboro. We're on our way to camp. Last night we got caught in the rain and we ran——"
"Took refuge," whispered Pee-wee.
"For that old boat on the marsh. This morning we heard it was yours, so we came to tell you that we camped in it last night. We made a fire in a can, but I don't think we did any harm, except we chopped up a couple of old stanchions. We thought they were no good, but, of course, we shouldn't have taken them without leave."
Mr. Stanton stared at him with an ominous frown. "Built a fire in a can?" said he. "Do you mean in the boat?"
"We used the exhaust for a draught," said Roy.
"Oh—and what brings you here?"
"To tell you," said Tom, doggedly. "A man came and told us you owned the boat. He said you might have us arrested, so we came to let you know about what we did."
"We didn't come because we wanted to be arrested," put in Pee-wee.
"I see," said Mr. Stanton, with the faintest suggestion of a smile. "Isn't it something new," he added, "running into the jaws of death? Boys generally run the other way and don't go hunting for trouble."
"Well, I'll tell you how it is," said Pee-wee, making the conversation his own, somewhat to Roy's amusement. "Of course, a scout has got to be cautious—but he's got to be fearless too. I was kind of scared when I heard you were a lawyer——"
Mr. Stanton's grim visage relaxed into an unwilling, but unmistakable, smile.
"And another thing I heard scared me, but——"
Tom, seeing where Pee-wee was drifting, tried to stop him, but Roy, knowing that Pee-wee always managed to land on top, and seeing the smile on Mr. Stanton's forbidding countenance, encouraged him to go on, and presently the mascot of the Silver Foxes was holding the floor.
"A scout has to deduce—that's one of the things we learn, and if you heard somebody called 'Old Man Something-or-other,' why, you'd deduce something from it, wouldn't you? And you'd be kind of scared-like. But even if you deduce that a man is going to be mad and gruff, kind of, even still you got to remember that you're a scout and if you damaged his property you got to go and tell him, anyway. You got to go and tell him even if you go to jail. Don't you see? Maybe you don't know much about the scouts——"
"No," said Mr. Stanton, "I'm afraid I don't. But I'm glad to know that I am honored by a nickname—even so dubious a one. Do you think you were correct in your deductions?" he added.
"Well, I don't know," began Pee-wee. "I can see—well, anyway there's another good thing about a scout—he's got to admit it if he's wrong."
Mr. Stanton laughed outright. It was a rusty sort of laugh, for he did not laugh often—but he laughed.
"The only things I know about Boy Scouts," said he, "I have learned in the last twenty-four hours. You tell me that they can convert an exhaust pipe into a stove flue, and I have learned they can bring a bird down out of a tree without so much as a bullet or a stone (I have to believe what my little daughter tells me), and that they take the road where they think trouble awaits them on account of a principle—that they walk up to the cannon's mouth, as it were—I am a very busy man and no doubt a very hard and disagreeable one, but I can afford to know a little more about these scouts, I believe."
"I'll tell you all about them," said Pee-wee, sociably. "Jiminys, I never dreamed you were that girl's father."
Mr. Stanton swung around in his chair and looked at him sharply. "Who are you boys?"
"We came from Bridgeboro in New Jersey," spoke up Roy, "and we're going up the river roads as far as Catskill Landing. Then we're going to hit inland for our summer camp."
Mr. Stanton was silent for a few moments, looking keenly at them while they stood in some suspense.
"Well," he said, soberly, "I see but one way out of the difficulty. The stanchions you destroyed were a part of the boat. The boat is of no use to me without them. I suggest, therefore, that you take the boat along with you. It belonged to my son and it has been where it now lies ever since the storm in which his life was lost. I have not seen the inside of it since—I do not want to see the inside of it," he added brusquely, moving a paperweight about on his desk. "It is only three years old," he went on after a moment's uncomfortable pause, "and like some people it is not as bad as it looks."
The boys winced a little at this thrust. Mr. Stanton was silent for a few moments and Pee-wee was tempted to ask him something about his son, but did not quite dare to venture.
"I think the boat can very easily be removed to the river with a little of the ingenuity which you scouts seem to have, and you may continue your journey in her, if you care to. You may consider it a—a present from my daughter, whom you made so happy yesterday."
For a moment the boys hardly realized the meaning of his words. Then Tom spoke.
"We have a rule, Mr. Stanton, that a scout cannot accept anything for a service. If he does, it spoils it all. It's great, your offering us the boat and it seems silly not to take it, but——"
"Very well," said Mr. Stanton, proceeding to open his letters, "if you prefer to go to jail for destroying my stanchions, very well. Remember you are dealing with a lawyer." Roy fancied he was chuckling a little inwardly.
"That's right," said Pee-wee in Tom's ear. "There's no use trying to get the best of a lawyer—a scout ought to be—to be modest; we better take it, Tom."
"There's a difference between payment for a service and a token of gratitude," said Mr. Stanton, looking at Tom. "But we will waive all that. I cannot allow the Boy Scouts to be laying down the law for me. By your own confession you have destroyed my stanchions and as a citizen it is my duty to take action. But if I were to give you a paper dated yesterday, assigning the boat to you, then it would appear that you had simply trespassed and burglariously entered your own property and destroyed your own stanchions and I would not have a leg to stand upon. My advice to you as a lawyer is to accept such a transfer of title and avoid trouble."
He began ostentatiously to read one of his letters.
"He's right, Tom," whispered Pee-wee, "It's what you call a teckinality. Gee, we better take the boat. There's no use trying to beat a lawyer. He's got the right on his side."
"I don't know," said Tom, doubtfully. He, too, fancied that Mr. Stanton was laughing inwardly, but he was not good at repartee and the lawyer was too much for him. It was Roy who took the situation in hand.
"It seems ungrateful, Mr. Stanton, even to talk about whether we'll take such a peach of a gift. Tom here is always thinking about the law—our law—and Pee-wee—we call this kid Pee-wee—he's our specialist on doing good turns. They're both cranks in different ways. I know there's a difference, as you say, between just a present and a reward. And it seems silly to say thank you for such a present, just as if it was a penknife or something like that. But we do thank you and we'll take the boat. I just happened to think of a good name for it while you were talking. It was the good turn Pee-wee did yesterday—about the bird, I mean—that made you offer it to us and your giving it to us is a good turn besides, so I guess we'll call it the 'Good Turn.'"
"You might call it the 'Teckinality,'" suggested Mr. Stanton with a glance at Pee-wee.
"All right," he added, "I'll send one of my men down later in the day to see about getting her in the water. I've an idea a block and falls will do the trick. But you'd better caulk her up with lampwick and give her a coat of paint in the meantime."
He went to the door with them and as they turned at the foot of the stairs and called back another "Thank you," Roy noticed something in his face which had not been there before.