TOM SLADE'S DOUBLE DARE
BY PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH
Author of TOM SLADE, BOY SCOUT, TOM SLADE AT BLACK LAKE, ROY BLAKELEY, ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY R. EMMETT OWEN
Published with the approval of THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA
GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS :: NEW YORK
Made in the United States of America
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY GROSSET & DUNLAP
The life of a scout is bold, so bold, His adventures have never been told, been told. His legs they are bare, And he won't take a dare, The life of a scout is bold.
CHAPTER PAGE I THE LIGHT GOES OUT 1 II THE BRIDGE 10 III AN IMPORTANT MISSION 14 IV THE TREE 21 V WIN OR LOSE 26 VI SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT 33 VII THE LIGHT THAT FAILED 37 VIII ALMOST 44 IX THE HERO 51 X PROVEN A SCOUT 57 XI THE NEW SCOUT 63 XII THE GRAY ROADSTER 68 XIII THE UNKNOWN TRAIL 74 XIV ON THE SUMMIT 80 XV A SCOUT IS THOROUGH 85 XVI THE WANDERING MINSTREL 90 XVII TOM'S INTEREST AROUSED 97 XVIII TRIUMPH AND—— 101 XIX HERVEY SHOWS HIS COLORS 104 XX TOM ADVISES GOLIATH 116 XXI WORDS 123 XXII ACTION 130 XXIII THE MONSTER 133 XXIV GILBERT'S DISCOVERY 140 XXV A VOICE IN THE DARK 145 XXVI LOVE ME, LOVE MY DOG 151 XXVII TOM LEARNS SOMETHING 157 XXVIII THE BLACK SHEEP 164 XXIX STUNTS AND STUNTS 169 XXX THE DOUBLE DARE 173 XXXI THE COURT IN SESSION 181 XXXII OVER THE TOP 187 XXXIII QUESTIONS 198 XXXIV THE MESSAGE 205 XXXV THE HERO 209 XXXVI HARLOWE'S STORY 213
TOM SLADE'S DOUBLE DARE
THE LIGHT GOES OUT
If it were not for the very remarkable part played by the scouts in this strange business, perhaps it would have been just as well if the whole matter had been allowed to die when the newspaper excitement subsided. Singularly enough, that part of the curious drama which unfolded itself at Temple Camp is the very part which was never material for glaring headlines.
The main occurrence is familiar enough to the inhabitants of the neighborhood about the scout camp, but the sequel has never been told, for scouts do not seek notoriety, and the quiet woodland community in its sequestered hills is as remote from the turmoil and gossip of the world as if it were located at the North Pole.
But I know the story of Aaron Harlowe from beginning to end, and the part that Tom Slade played in it, and all the latter history of Goliath, as they called him. And I purpose to set all these matters down for your entertainment, for I think that first and last they make a pretty good camp-fire yarn.
* * * * *
For a week it had been raining at Temple Camp, and the ground was soggy from the continuous downpour. The thatched roofs of the more primitive type of cabins looked bedrabbled, like the hair of a bather emerging from the lake, and the more substantial shelters were crowded with the overflow from these and from tents deserted by troops and patrols that had been almost drowned out.
The grub boards out under the elm trees had been removed to the main pavilion. The diving springboard was submerged by the swollen lake, the rowboats rocked logily, half full of water, and the woods across the lake looked weird and dim through the incessant stream of rain, rain, rain.
The spring which supplied the camp and for years had been content to bubble in its modest abode among the rocks, burst forth from its shady and sequestered prison and came tumbling, roaring down out of the woods, like some boisterous marauder, and rushed headlong into the lake.
Being no respecter of persons, the invader swept straight through the cabin of the Silver Fox Patrol, and the Silver Fox Patrol took up their belongings and went over to the pavilion where they sat along the deep veranda with others, their chairs tilted back, watching the gloomy scene across the lake.
"This is good weather for the race," said Roy Blakeley.
"What race?" demanded Pee-wee Harris.
"The human race. No sooner said than stung. It's good weather to study monotony."
"All we can do is eat," said Pee-wee.
"Right the first time," Roy responded. "There's only one thing you don't like about meals and that's the time between them."
"What are we going to do for two hours, waiting for supper?" a scout asked.
"Search me," said Roy; "tell riddles, I guess. If we had some ham we'd have some ham and eggs, if we only had some eggs. We should worry. It's going to rain for forty-eight hours and three months more. That's what that scout from Walla-Walla told me."
"That's a dickens of a name for a city," said Westy Martin of Roy's patrol.
"It's a nice place, they liked it so much they named it twice," Roy said.
"There's a troop here all the way from Salt Lake," said Dorry Benton.
"They ought to have plenty of pep," said Roy.
"There's a troop came from Hoboken, too," Will Dawson observed.
"I don't blame them," Roy said. "There's a troop coming from Kingston next week. They've got an Eagle Scout, I understand."
"Don't you suppose I know that?" Pee-wee shouted. "Uncle Jeb had a letter from them yesterday; I saw it."
"Was it in their own handwriting?"
"What do you mean?" Pee-wee demanded disgustedly. "How can a troop have a handwriting?"
"They must be very ignorant," Roy said. "Can you send an animal by mail?"
"Sure you can't!" Pee-wee shouted.
"That's where you're wrong," said Roy. "I got a letter with a seal on it."
"Can you unscramble eggs?" Pee-wee demanded.
"There you go, talking about eats again. Can't you wait two hours?"
There was nothing to do but wait, and watch the drops as they pattered down on the lake.
"This is the longest rain in history except the reign of Queen Elizabeth," Roy said. "If I ever meet Saint Swithin——"
This sort of talk was a sample of life at Temple Camp for seven days past. Those who were not given to jollying and banter had fallen back on checkers and dominos and other wild sports. A few of the more adventurous and reckless made birchbark ornaments, while those who were in utter despair for something to do wrote letters home.
Several dauntless spirits had braved the rain to catch some fish, but the fish, themselves disgusted, stayed down at the bottom of the lake, out of the wet, as Roy said. It was so wet that even the turtles wouldn't come out without umbrellas.
Rain, rain, rain. It flowed off the pavilion roof like a waterfall. It shrunk tent canvas which pulled on the ropes and lifted the pegs out of the soggy ground. It buried the roads in mud. Hour in and hour out the scouts sat along the back of the deep veranda, beguiling their enforced leisure with banter and riddles and camp gossip.
On Friday afternoon a brisk wind arose and blew the rain sideways so that most of the scouts withdrew from their last entrenchment and went inside. You have to take off your hat to a rain which can drive a scout in out of the open.
It began blowing in across the veranda in fitful little gusts and within an hour the wind had lashed itself into a gale. A few of the hardier spirits, including Roy, held their ground on the veranda, squeezing back against the shingled side whenever an unusually severe gust assailed them.
There is no such thing as twilight in such weather, but the sodden sky grew darker, and the mountainside across the lake became gloomier and more forbidding as the night drew on apace.
The few remaining stragglers on the veranda watched this darkening scene with a kind of idle half interest, ducking the occasional gusts.
"How would you like to be out on the lake now?" one asked.
The question directed their gaze out upon the churning, black sheet of water before them. The lake, lying amid those frowning, wooded hills, was somber enough at all times, and a quiet gloom pervaded it which imparted a rare charm. But now, in the grip of the rain and wind, the enshrouding night made the lake seem like a place haunted, and the enclosing mountains desolate and forlorn.
"I'll swim across with anybody," said Hervey Willetts.
He belonged in a troop from western New York and reveled in stunts which bespoke a kind of blithe daring. No one took him up and silence reigned for a few minutes more.
"There's the little light on the top of the mountain," said Will Dawson of Roy's patrol. "If there's anybody up there, I hope he has an umbrella."
But of course there was no one up there. For weeks the tiny light away up on the summit of that mountain wilderness had puzzled the scouts of camp. They had not, indeed, been able to determine that it was a light; it seemed rather a tiny patch of brightness which was always brighter when the moon shone. This had led to the belief that it was caused by some kind of natural phenomena.
The scouts fixed their gaze upon it, watching it curiously for a few moments.
"It isn't a reflection, that's sure," said Roy, "or we wouldn't see it on a night like this."
"It's a phosphate," said Pee-wee.
"It's a chocolate soda," said Roy.
"You're crazy!" Pee-wee vociferated. "Phosphate is something that shines in the dark."
"You mean phosphorus," said Westy Martin.
That seemed a not unlikely explanation. But the consensus of opinion in camp was that the bright patch was the reflection of some powerful light in the low country on the opposite side of the mountain.
"It's a mystery," said Pee-wee, "that's what it is."
Suddenly, while they gazed, it went out. They watched but it did not come again. And the frowning, jungle-covered, storm beaten summit was enshrouded again in ghostly darkness. And the increasing gale beat the lake, and the driven rain assailed the few stragglers on the veranda with lashing fury. And across the black water, in that ghoul-haunted, trackless wilderness, could be heard the sound of timber being rent in splinters and of great trees crashing down the mountainside.
Suddenly a word from Westy Martin aroused them all like a cannon shot.
"Look!" he shouted, "Look! Look at the springboard!"
Every one of them looked, speechless, astonished, aghast, at the sight which they beheld before their very eyes.
There, just below them was the springboard an inch or two above the surface of the lake. Ordinarily it projected from the shore nearly a yard above the water, but lately the swollen lake had risen above it. Now, however, it was visible again just above the surface.
This meant that the water had receded more in an hour than it had risen in a whole week. The strong wind was blowing toward the pavilion and would naturally force the water up along that shore. But in spite of the wind the water in the lake was receding at an alarming rate. Something was wrong. The little trickle from the spring up behind the camp had grown into a torrent and was pouring into the lake. Yet the water in the lake was receding.
Down out of the mountain wilderness across the water came weird noises, caused no doubt by the tumult of the wind in the intricate fastnesses and by the falling of great trees, but the sounds struck upon the ears of the besieged listeners like voices wild and unearthly. The banging of the big shutters of the pavilion was heard in echo as the furious gale bore the sounds back from the mountain and the familiar, homely noise was conjured into a kind of ghostly clamor.
"There goes Pee-wee's signal tower," a scout remarked, and just as he spoke, the little rustic edifice which had been the handiwork and pride of the tenderfoots went crashing to the ground while out of the woods across the water came sounds as of merry laughter at its downfall.
"Something's wrong over on the other side," said Westy Martin of Roy's patrol; "the lake's breaking through over there."
Scarcely had he uttered the words when all the scouts of the little group were at the railing craning their necks and straining their eyes trying to see across the water. But the wind and rain beat in their faces and the driving downpour formed an impenetrable mist.
As they withdrew again into the comparative shelter of the porch they saw a young fellow standing with his bare arm upraised against the door-jam, watching and listening. This was the young camp assistant, Tom Slade. He had evidently come out to fasten the noisy shutters and had paused to contemplate the tempest.
"Some storm, hey, Tomasso?" said Roy.
"I think the water's going out through the cove," said Tom. "It must have washed away the land over there."
"Let it go, we can't stop it," said Roy.
"If it's running out into the valley, it's good-night to Berry's garage, and the bridge too," said Tom.
The young assistant was popular with the boys at camp, and struck by this suggestion of imminent catastrophe, they clustered about him, listening eagerly. So loud was the noise of the storm, so deafening the sound of rending timber on that gale-swept height before them, that Tom had to raise his voice to make himself heard. The danger to human life which he had been the first to think of, gave the storm new terror to these young watchers. It needed only this touch of mortal peril in that panorama of dreadfulness to arouse them, good scouts that they were, to the chances of adventure and the possibility of service.
"We can't do anything, can we?" one asked. "It's too late now, isn't it?"
"It's either too late or it isn't," said Tom Slade; "and it's for us to see. I was thinking of Berry's place, and I was thinking of the crowd that's coming up tonight on the bus. If the water has broken through across the lake and is pouring into the valley, it'll wash away the bridge. The bus ought to be here now. There are two troops from the four-twenty train at Catskill. Maybe the train is late on account of the weather. If the bridge is down...."
"Call up Berry's place and find out," said Westy Martin.
"That's just what has me worrying," said Tom; "Berry's doesn't answer."
AN IMPORTANT MISSION
Temple Camp was situated on a gentle slope close to the east shore of the lake. Save for this small area of habitable land the lake was entirely surrounded by mountains. And it was the inverted forms of these mountains reflected in the water which gave it the somber hue whence the lake derived its name. On sunless days and in the twilight, the water seemed as black as night.
Directly across the water from the camp, the most forbidding of those surrounding heights reared its deeply wooded summit three thousand feet above the sea level. A wilderness of tangled underbrush, like barbed wire entanglements, baffled the hardiest adventurer. No scout had penetrated those dismal fastnesses which the legend of camp reputed to be haunted.
Beside the rocky base of this mountain was a tiny cove, a dim, romantic little place, where the water was as still as in a pool. Its two sides were the lower reaches of the great mountain and its neighbor, and all that prevented the cove from being an outlet was a little hubble of land which separated this secluded nook from a narrow valley, or gully, beyond.
Sometimes, indeed, after a rainy spell the water in the cove overflowed this little hubble of land enough to trickle through into the gully, and then you could pick fish up with your hands where they flopped about marooned in the channel below. Probably this gully was an old dried-up stream bed.
About a mile from the lake it became wider and was intersected by a road. Here it was that the bridge spanned the hollow. And here it was, right in the hollow near the bridge, that Ebon Berry had his rural garage. Along this road the old bus lumbered daily, bringing new arrivals to camp and touching at villages beyond.
If, indeed, the swollen lake had washed away the inner shore of the cove, the sequel would be serious if not tragic at that quiet road crossing. The question was, had this happened, and if so, had the bus reached the fatal spot? All that the boys knew was that the bus was long overdue and that Berry's "did not answer." And that the fury of the storm was rising with every minute.
Tom Slade spoke calmly as was his wont. No storm could arouse him out of his stolid, thoughtful habit.
"A couple of scoutmasters have started along the road," he said, "to see what they can find out. How about you, Hervey? Are you game to skirt the lake? How about you, Roy? There may be danger over there."
"Believe me, I hope it'll wait till we get there," said Hervey Willetts.
"I'll go!" shouted Pee-wee.
"You'll go—in and get supper," said Tom. "I want just three fellows; I'm not going to overload a boat in this kind of weather. I'll take Roy and Hervey and Westy, if you fellows are game to go. You go in and get a lantern, Pee-wee."
"And don't forget to leave some pie for those two troops that are coming on the bus," added Roy.
Pee-wee did better than bring a lantern; he brought also three oilskin jackets and hats which the younger boys donned. He must also have advertised the adventurous expedition during his errand indoors, for a couple of dozen envious scouts followed him out and watched the little party depart.
The four made their way against a blown rain which all but blinded them and streamed from their hats and rendered their storm jackets quite useless. Tom wore khaki trousers and a pongee shirt which clung to him like wet tissue paper. If one cannot be thoroughly dry the next best thing is to be thoroughly wet.
They chose the widest and heaviest of the boats, a stout old tub with two pairs of oarlocks. Each of the four manned an oar and pulled with both hands. It was almost impossible to get started against the wind, and when at last their steady, even pulling overcame the deterring power of the gale they were able to move at but a snail's pace. They followed the shoreline, keeping as close in as they could, preferring the circuitous route to the more perilous row across the lake.
As their roundabout voyage brought them to the opposite shore, their progress became easier, for the mountain rising sheer above them protected them from the wind.
"Let her drift a minute," said Tom, panting; "lift your oars."
It was the first word that any of them had spoken, so intense had been their exertions.
"She's going straight ahead," said Westy.
"What's that?" said Roy suddenly. "Look out!"
He spoke just in time to enable them to get out of the path of a floating tree which was drifting rapidly in the same direction as the boat. Its great mass of muddy roots brushed against them.
"It's just as I thought," Tom said; "the water must be pouring out through the cove. We're caught in it. Let's try to get a little off shore; we'll have one of those trees come tumbling down on our heads the first thing we know."
"Not so easy," said Hervey, as they tried to backwater and at the same time get out from under the mountain.
"Put her in reverse," said Roy, who never failed to get the funny squint on a situation.
But there was no use, the rushing water had them in its grip and they were borne along pell-mell, with trees and broken limbs which had fallen down the mountainside.
They were directly opposite the camp now, and cheerful lights could be seen in the pavilion where the whole camp community was congregated, safe from the storm. The noises which had seemed weird enough at camp were appalling now, as out of that havoc far above them, great bowlders came tumbling down into the lake with loud splashes.
Tom realized, all too late, the cause of the dreadful peril they were in. Out on the body of the lake and toward the camp shore the wind was blowing a gale from the mountains and, as it were, forcing the water back. But directly under the mountain there was no wind, and their position was as that of a person who is under the curve of a waterfall. And here, because there was no wind to counteract it, the water was rushing toward what was left of the cove. It was like a rapid river flowing close to the shore and bearing upon its hurrying water the debris which had crashed down from that lonesome, storm-torn height.
The boat was caught in this rushing water and the danger was increased by its closeness to the shore where every missile of rock or tree, cast by that frowning monster, might at any minute dash the craft to splinters.
The little flickering lights which shone through the spray and fine blown rain across that black water seemed very cheerful and inviting now.
"We're in a bad fix," said Tom; "let's try to make a landing and see if we can scramble along shore to the cove."
It is doubtful whether they could have scrambled along that precipitous bank, but in any case, so great was the impetus of the rushing water that even making a landing was impossible. The boat was borne along with a force that all their exertions could not counteract, headlong for the cove.
"What can we do?" Roy asked.
"The only thing that I know of," said Tom, "is to get within reach of the shore in the cove. If we can do that we might get to safety even if we have to jump."
Presently the boat went careening into the cove; an appalling sound of scraping, then of tearing, was heard beneath it, it reared up forward, spilling its occupants into the whirling water and, settling sideways, remained stationary.
The boys found themselves clinging to the branches of a broken tree which was wedged crossways in the cove, its trunk entirely submerged. It formed a sort of makeshift dam and the boat, caught in its branches, added to the obstruction.
If it had not been for this tree the boat would have been borne upon the flood, with what tragic sequel who shall say?
"All right," said Tom, "we're lucky; keep hold of the branches, it's only a few feet to shore; careful how you step. If you let go it's all over. We could never swim in this torrent."
"Where do you suppose this tree came from?" Roy asked.
"From the top of the mountain for all I know," Tom answered. "Watch your step and follow me. We're in luck."
"You don't call this luck, do you?" Westy asked.
"Watch me, I can go scout-pace on the trunk," said Hervey, handing himself along.
"Never mind any of those stunts," said Tom; "you watch what you're doing and follow me."
"The pleasure is mine," said Hervey; "a scout is always—whoa! There's where I nearly dipped the dip. Watch me swing over this branch. I bet you can't hang by your knees—like this."
There are some people who think that trees were made to bear fruit and to afford shade, and to supply timber. But that is a mistake; they were made for Hervey Willetts. They were the scenes of his gayest stunts. He had even been known to dive under the water and shimmy up a tree that was reflected there. He even claimed that he got a splinter in his hand, so doing! Upside down or wedged across a channel under water, trees were all the same to Hervey Willetts. He lived in trees. He knew nothing whatever about the different kinds of trees and he could not tell spruce from walnut. But he could hang by one leg from a rotten branch, the while playing a harmonica. He was for the boy scout movement, because he was for movement generally. As long as the scouts kept moving, he was with them. He had a lot of merit badges but he did not know how many. "He should worry," as Roy said of him.
"Here's a good one—known as the jazzy-jump," he exclaimed. "Put your left foot...."
"You put your left foot on the trunk and don't let go the branches and follow me," said Tom, soberly. "Do you think this is a picnic we're on?"
"After you, my dear Tomasso," said Hervey, blithely. "I guess we're not going to be killed after all, hey?"
"I'm afraid not," said Tom.
"I wish I had an ice cream soda, I know that," said Roy.
"Careful how you step ashore now," Tom said.
"Terra cotta at last," said Roy; "I mean terra firma."
"Jump it," called Hervey, who was behind Roy.
Thus, emerging from a peril, which none but Tom had fully realized, they found themselves on the comparatively low shore of the cove. The tree, itself a victim of the storm, poked its branches up out of the black water like specters, which seemed the more grewsome as they swayed in the wind. These had guided the little party to shore.
So it was that that once stately denizen of the lofty forest had paused here to make a last stand against the storm which had uprooted it. So it was that this fallen monarch, friend of the scouts, had contrived to check somewhat the mad rush of water out of their beloved lake, and had guided four of them to safety.
WIN OR LOSE
The dying mission of that noble tree suggested a thought to Tom. The water from the lake was pouring over it, though checked somewhat by the tree and the boat. If this tree, firmly wedged in place, could be made the nucleus of a mass of wreckage, the flood might be effectually checked, temporarily, at least. One thing, a moment's glance at the condition of the cove showed all too certainly what must have happened at the road-crossing. That the little rustic bridge there could have withstood the first overwhelming rush of the flood was quite unthinkable. Berry's garage too, perched on the edge of the hollow, must have been swept away.
And where was the lumbering old bus? That was the question now. If it had been a motor bus its lights might have foretold the danger. But it was one of those old-fashioned horse-drawn stages which are still seen in mountain districts.
In all that tumult of storm, Tom Slade paused to think. All about them was Bedlam. Down the precipitous mountainside hard by, were crashing the torn and uprooted trophies of the storm high in those dizzy recesses above, where eagles, undisturbed by any human presence, made their homes upon the crags. The rending and crashing up there was conjured by the distance into a hundred weird and uncanny voices which now and again seemed like the wailing of human souls.
The rush of water, gathering force in the narrow confines of the cove, became a torrent and threw a white spray in the faces of the boys as it beat against the fallen tree. It seemed strange that they could be so close to this paroxysm of the elements, in the very center of it as one might say, and yet be safe. Nature was in a mad turmoil all about them, yet by a lucky chance they stood upon a little oasis of temporary refuge.
"There are two things that have to be done—quick," said Tom. "Somebody has got to pick his way down the west shore back to camp. It's through the mountains and maybe two of you had better go. Here, take my compass," he added, handing it to Westy. "Have you got some matches?"
"I've got my flashlight," said Roy.
So it fell out that Westy and Roy were the ones to make the journey back to camp.
"Keep as close to the shore as you can, it's easier going and shorter," Tom said. "Anyway, use the compass and keep going straight south till you see the lights at camp, then turn east. You ought to be able to do it in an hour. Tell everybody to get busy and throw everything in the water that'll help plug up the passage. Chuck in the logs from the woodshed."
"How about the remains of Pee-wee's signal tower?"
"Good, chuck that in. Throw in everything that can be spared. Most of it will drift over here and get caught in the rush. If the wind dies it will all come over. Hurry up! I'll stay here and try to get in place anything more that comes in in the meantime. There are a lot of broken limbs and things around here. Hurry up now, beat it! And don't stop till you get there.... Don't let anybody try to start over in a boat," he called after them.
Scarcely had they set off when he turned to Hervey Willetts, placing both his hands on the boy's shoulders. The rain was streaming down from Hervey's streaked hair. The funny little rimless hat cut full of holes which he wore on the side of his head and which was the pride of his life had collapsed by reason of being utterly soaked, for he had very early discarded the oilskin "roof" in preference for this old love. One of his stockings was falling down and he hoisted this up as Tom spoke to him.
"Hervey, I'm glad you're going alone, because you won't have to do any stunts for anybody's benefit. You're going to keep your mind on just one thing. Understand?"
"I can think of nine things at once," said Hervey, blithely, "and sing Over There and eat a banana at the same time. How's that?"
"That's fine. Now listen—just two seconds. You're to hit right straight up through this country—north. You notice I gave the compass to Roy? That's because I know you can't get rattled when you're alone and when you put your mind on a thing. You're to go straight north till you reach the road. I'll have to keep the lantern here, but you won't need it. You've got about a quarter of a mile of rough country and then easy going. Straight north beyond the road is Crows Nest Mountain. Turn around, that's right. Shut your eyes. One—two—three—four—five. Now open them suddenly. You see that black bulk. That's Crows Nest. Now you know how to see a dark thing in the dark...."
"Do you know how to tell time with a clothespin?"
"Never mind that. About every ten minutes stop and shut your eyes and old Crows Nest will guide you. Don't get rattled. When you get to the road wait for the bus and stop it. If it has passed by now, we can't help it. I'm afraid it has. But if it hasn't, there are two troops in it and their lives depend on you. Now get out of here—quick!"
"What was that?" Hervey said, pausing and clutching Tom's arm.
"What was what?"
"That sound—away off. Hear it?"
Amid the wild clamor of the tempest, the dashing of the impeded water close by, and the ghostly voices up in that mountain wilderness, there sounded, far off, subdued and steady, a low melodious call, spent and thin from the distance, and blended with the myriad sounds of the raging storm.
"It's the train," said Tom.
Still Hervey did not move, only clutched his companion's arm. One second—two seconds—three, four, five, six. The sound died away in the uproar of wind and rain.... Still the two paused for just a moment more, as if held by a spell.
"A mile and a half—four miles," said Tom. "Four miles of road. A mile and a half of hills and swamps. They're at the station now. You can't do it, kid. But you'd better fail trying than not try at all. What do you say?"
There was no answer, for Hervey Willetts had already plunged into the torrent, by which hazardous act ten minutes might be saved. Or everything lost. Tom caught a glimpse of that funny perforated hat bobbing in the rushing water of the cove, pulled tight down over its young owner's ears. Sober as his thoughts were in the face of harrowing peril, he could not repress a smile that Hervey should toss his life so blithely into the enterprise and yet be careful to save that precious hat. He was more proud of it than of all his deeds of reckless valor.
Tom knew there was no restraining him, or advising him. He knew no more of discipline than a skylark does. He was either the best scout in the world or no scout at all, as you choose to look at it. He was going upon this business in reckless haste, without forethought or caution. He would stake his life to save twenty yards of distance. There was no discretion in his valor. Blithe young gambler that he was, he would do the thing in his own way. No one could tell him. Tom knew the utter futility of shouting any last warnings or instructions to him.
For Hervey Willetts was like a shot out of a rifle. With him it was a case of hit or miss. He had no rules....
SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT
One thing Hervey did bear in mind, and that was what Tom had told him about how to distinguish a dark object in the dark. He would not remember this twenty-four hours hence, but he remembered it then, and that is saying much for him. He tried to improve upon the formula by experimenting with his eyes cross-eyed, but it didn't work. Skirting the lower western reach of the mountain and beyond, in the comparatively flat country, he kept squinting away at old Crows Nest and its shadowy, black mass guided him. "Slady's got the right dope on mountains," he said to himself.
The race was about as Tom had said; four miles for the horses, against a mile and a half for Hervey. Both routes were bad, Hervey's the worse of the two. All things considered, hills, muddy roads, trackless woodland, swampy areas, it should take the heavily loaded team a little over an hour to reach the bridge. By Tom's calculation it must take Hervey at least an hour and a half.
So there you are.
Going straight north, Hervey would have that dim black mass, hovering on the verge of invisibility, to guide him. Traveling a little west of north he might have reached the road at a nearer point. But here the traveling was bad and the danger of getting lost greater. Tom had weighed one thing against another and told Hervey to go straight north.
Hervey found the first half hour of his journey very difficult, picking his way around the base of the mountain. Beyond the country was flat and comparatively open, being mostly sparse woodland. The wind was very keen here, since there was no mountain to break its force and the rain blew in his face, almost blinding him.
Again and again he wiped his dripping face with his sleeve and plodded on, picking out his beacon now and again in the darkness. It was surprising how easy it was for him to do this by the little trick of which Tom had told him. His eyes would just catch the mountain for a second, then it would evaporate in the surrounding blackness, like breath on a pane of glass.
Suddenly, something happened which quite unnerved him. He was hurrying through a patch of woodland when, not more than ten feet ahead of him, he was certain that he saw something dark glide from one tree to another.
He stopped short, his heart in his mouth. The minutes, he knew, were precious, but he could not move. The wind in the trees moaned like some lost soul, and in his stark fear the beating of the drops on the leafy carpet startled him. He heard these because he was standing still, and the ceasing of his own footfalls emphasized the steady patter. Somewhere, in all that stormy solitude and desolation, an uncanny owl hooted its dismal song.
Hervey did not move.
It was not till he bethought him of those horses lumbering along the road ever nearer and nearer to that trap of death that he got control of himself and started off.
It was just the gloom of those dark woods, the play of some freakish and deceptive shadow conjuring itself into a human presence, that he had seen.... Who would be out in that lonely wood on such a night?
With a sudden, desperate impulse to challenge his fear and have done with it, he stepped briskly toward the tree to glance about it and dispel his illusion. If it was just some branch broken by the wind and hanging loose....
He approached the trunk and edged around it. As he did so a form moved around the trunk also. Hervey paused. The pounding of his heart seemed louder than the noises of the storm. In his throat was a queer burning sensation. He could not speak. He could not stir. The dark form moved again, ever so little....
THE LIGHT THAT FAILED
The suspense was worse than any outcome could be, and Hervey, in another impulse of desperation, took a step to the right, then quickly another to the left. This ruse brought the two face to face. And in a flash Hervey realized that he had little to fear from one who had tried so desperately to escape his notice.
The figure was that of a young man, his raiment torn and disordered and utterly drenched. He wore a plaid cap, which being pulled down over his ears by reason of the wind, gave him an appearance of toughness which his first words belied.
"You needn't be afraid," he said.
"I'm not afraid," said Hervey. "Who are you?"
"Did you hear some one scream?" the stranger asked.
"Scream? No. It was the wind, I guess. Are you lost, or what?"
"I want to get out of here, that's all," the young man said. "This place is full of children screaming. Did you ever kill anybody?"
"No," said Hervey, somewhat agitated.
The stranger placed a trembling hand on Hervey's shoulder. "Do you know a person can scream after he's dead?" he said.
"I don't know," said Hervey, somewhat alarmed and not knowing what to say. "Anyway, I have to hurry; it's up to me to save some people's lives. There's a bridge washed away along the road."
He did not wait longer to talk with this singular stranger, but thoughts of the encounter lingered in his mind, particularly the young fellow's speech about dead people and children screaming. As he hurried on, Hervey concluded that the stranger was demented and had probably wandered away from some village in the neighborhood. He had reason later to recall this encounter, but he soon forgot it in the more urgent matter of reaching the road.
He had now about half a mile of level country to traverse, consisting of fields separated by stone walls. The land was soggy, and here and there in the lower places were areas of water. These he would not take the time to go around, but plunged through them, often going knee deep into the marshy bottom. It was sometimes with difficulty that he was able to extricate his leg from these soggy entanglements.
But he no longer needed the uncertain outline of that black mass amid the surrounding blackness to guide him, for now the cheerful lights of an isolated house upon the road shone in the distance. There was the road, sure enough, though he could not see it.
"That's what Slady calls deduction," he panted, as he trudged on, running when he could, and dragging his heavy, mud-bedraggled feet out of the mire every dozen steps or so. Over a stone wall he went and scrambled to his feet and hastened on.
The lights in the house cheered and guided him and he made straight for this indubitable beacon. "Mountains are all—all right," he panted, "but kerosene lamps—for—for—mine. I hope that—bunch—doesn't go to—bed." His heart was pounding and he had a cruel stitch in his side from running, which pained him excruciatingly when he ran fast. He tried scout pace but it didn't work; he was not much of a hand for that kind of thing. "It's—it's—all—right when—you're running through—the—handbook," he said, "but—but...."
Over another stone wall he went, tearing a great gash in his trousers, exposing the limb to rain and wind. The ground was better for a space and he ran desperately. Every breath he drew pained him, now and again he staggered slightly, but he kept his feet and plunged frantically on.
Then one of the lights in the house went out. Then another. There was only one now. "That's—that's—what—it means for—for—people to—to go to—to bed early," he panted with difficulty. "I—I always—said——" He had not the breath to finish, but it is undoubtedly true that he had always been a staunch advocate of remaining up all night.
He fixed his eyes upon the one remaining light and ran with utter desperation. His breathing was spasmodic, he reeled, pulled himself together by sheer will, and stumbled on. On the next stone wall he made a momentary concession to his exhaustion and paused just a moment, holding his aching side.
Then he was off again, running like mad. The single little light seemed twinkling and hazy and he brushed his streaming face with his sleeve so that he might see it the more clearly. But it looked dull, more like a little patch of brightness than a shining light. Either it was failing, or he was.
He had to hold his stinging side and gulp for every breath he drew, but he ran with all his might and main. He was too spent and dizzy to keep his direction without that distant light, and he knew it. He was not Tom Slade to be sure of himself in complete darkness. He was giddy—on the verge of collapse. The bee-line of his course loosened and became erratic. But if his legs were weakening his will was strong, and he staggered, reeled, ran.
On, on, on, he sped, falling forward now, rather than running, but keeping his feet by the sheer power of his will. His heart seemed up in his mouth and choking him. With one hand he grasped the flying shred of his torn trousers and tried to wipe the blood from the cut in his leg. Thus for just a second his progress was impeded.
That was the last straw. The trifling movement lost him his balance, his exhausted and convulsed body went round like a top and he lay breathing in little jerks on the swampy ground.
One second. Two seconds. Three seconds. In another five seconds he would rise. He raised himself on one trembling arm and looked about. He brushed his soaking hair back from his eyes and looked again.
"Where—what—where—is—it—anyway?" he panted. He did not know which direction was north or south or east or west. He only knew that a dagger was sticking in his side and that he could not rise....
Yes, he could. He pulled himself together, rested a moment on his knees, staggered to his feet and looked around.
"Where—where—th—the dickens—is north?"
He turned and looked around. He looked around the other way. Nothing but desolation and darkness. He thought of what Tom had told him and, closing his eyes, opened them suddenly. The mountain must have been too near to show in outline now; it had probably melted into the general landscape. There was just an even, solid blackness all about him. The wind moaned, and somewhere, high and far off, he heard the screech of an eagle. But at least the rain did not assail him as it had done. This, however, was small comfort. He had lost, failed, and he knew it.
In pitiable despair, in the anguish of defeat, he looked about him again in every direction, as if to beseech the angry night to give him back his one little beacon, and let him only save those people if he died for it.
But there was no light anywhere. It had gone out.
Well, he would not go back. They should find him right there, his body marking the very last foot he had been able to go. He would die as those brother scouts of his would have to die. He would not go back.
That good rule of the scouts to stop and think was not in Hervey's line. But he would do the next best thing—a thing very characteristic of Hervey Willetts. He would take a chance and start running. Yes, that would be better. There would be just one chance in four of his going in the right direction. But he had taken bigger chances than that before. Anyway, the rain was ceasing. And he soon overcame the sentimental notion of just lying there.
The momentary rest had restored some measure of his strength. The aching in his side was not so acute. The land was not so muddy where he was and he took off his jacket and washed some of the heavy mud from his shoes.
Then he started off pell-mell. Who shall say what good angel prompted him to look behind? Perhaps it was the little god Billikins of whom you are to know more in these pages. But look behind Hervey Willetts did. And there in the distance, very tiny but very clear, was a spark bobbing in the darkness.
He paused and watched it over his shoulder. It moved along slowly, very slowly. It disappeared. Then appeared again. And now it moved a little faster. A little faster still. Now it moved along at an even, steady rate. The long, hard pull up Cheery Hill was over, and the horses were jogging along the road. Oh, how well Hervey knew that lantern which hung under the rear step of the clumsy, lumbering old bus.
Then it had not passed.
Hervey Willetts was himself now. Tearing a loose shred from his tattered trousers, he soaked it in a little puddle, then stuffed it in his mouth. He clasped his jack-knife in one fist and a twig in the other. He drew up his belt. He took that precious hat off and stuffed it in his pocket, campaign buttons and all. Ah, no, he did not throw it away. He ripped off another rag and tied it fast around his neck and he bound his scarf around his forehead. He knew all these little tricks of the runner. It was not thought, but action now.
But, oh, Hervey, Hervey! What sort of a scout are you? Did you not know that the shriek of the eagle must have been from the mountain in the north? Did you not know that eagles live on mountain crags? Why did you not face into the wind and you would have headed north? When the rain did not blow in your face or against either cheek, that was because you were facing south. It had not stopped raining. It was raining and blowing for your sake and you did not know it. You were hunting for a kerosene lamp!
But there are scouts and scouts.
Bareheaded, half naked, he sped through the darkness like a ghostly specter of the night. He headed for a point some fifty yards ahead of the bus. He knew that coming from behind he could not catch it in time. He was running to intercept it, not to overtake it. He was running at right angles to it and for a point ahead of it. Therein lay his only chance, and not a very good chance. By all the rules there was no chance. By the divine law which gives power to desperation, there was—a little.
He ran in utter abandonment, in frenzy. Some power outside of himself bore him on. What else? Like a fiend, with arms swinging and head swathed in a crazy rag, he moved through wind and storm, invincible, indomitable! His head throbbed, his mouth was thick, his side ached, but he seemed beyond the power of these things now. Over the fences he went, leaving shreds of clothing blowing in the gale, and tearing his flesh on stone walls. In the madness of despair, and in the insane resolve that despair begets, he sped on, on, on....
The bus was now almost even with his course. He changed his course to keep ahead of it. The lumbering old rattle-trap gave out a human note now, which cheered the runner. He could hear the voices within it. Very faint, but still he could hear them. He knew he could not make himself heard because the wind was the other way. Besides which, he had not the voice to call. His whole frame was trembling; he could not have spoken even.
On, on, on. The trees passed him like trees seen from a train window. He turned the wet rag in his mouth to draw a little more moisture from it. He clutched his sweating hands tighter around the knife and twig. He shook the blowing, dripping hair from his eyes. Forward, forward! If he slackened his speed now he would fall—collapse. Like a top, his speed kept him up.
Running straight ahead he would about run into the bus, which meant that it was gaining on him. Again he bent his course to a point ahead of it. Each maneuver of this kind narrowed the angle between himself and the bus until soon he would be pursuing it. The angle would be no more. He would be running after the bus and losing ground.
By a supreme, final spurt, he had now a fair chance to make the road and intercept the bus before it reached the broad, level stretch to the bridge. Should it reach that point his last chance would have vanished.
In this desperate pass he tried to shout, but found, as the spent runner usually does, that he was almost voiceless. A feeble call was all he could manage, and on the contrary wind and noise of the storm, this was quite inadequate. He could only stumble on, borne up by his indomitable will. He was weakening and he knew it.
Yet the light of the bus so near him gave him fresh hope, and with it fresh strength. It seemed a kind of perversity of fate that he should have reached a point ordinarily within earshot, and yet could not make his approach known.
Just as the bus was passing his course, and when it was perhaps three or four hundred feet distant, Hervey, putting all his strength into a final spurt, sped forward in a blind frenzy like one possessed. He saw the bus go by; heard the voices within it. Throwing his jack-knife from him in a kind of frantic, maniacal desperation, he tried to scream, and finding that he could not, that his voice was dead while yet his limbs lived, and that his panting throat was clogged up and his nerves jangled and uncontrollable, he bounded forward in a kind of delirium of concentrated effort.
Then, suddenly, his foot sank into a hole. Perhaps with a little calmness and patience he could have released it. But in his wild hurry he tried to wrench it out. A sudden, sharp pain rewarded this insane effort. He lost his balance and went sprawling to the ground, another quick, excruciating twinge accompanying his fall, and lay there on the soggy ground like a woodchuck in a trap.
The old bus went lumbering by.
The best account of this business was given by Darby Curren, the bus driver, or Curry, as the boys called him.
"We was jes' comin' onter the good road, we was, and I was jes' about goin' ter give Lefty a taste o' the whip ter let 'er know ter wake up. Them kids inside was a hollerin', 'Hit 'er up!" 'Step on 'er!' 'Give 'er the gas!' and all sech nonsense. Well, by gorry, I never seed sech a night since Noah sailed away in the ark, I didn't. So ye'll understand I was'n' fer bein' surprised at nuthin' I see. Ghosts nor nuthin'.
"Well, all of a sudden Lefty begins to jump and rear step sideways and was like to drag us all in the ditch when what do I see but that there thing, like a ghost or somethin' it was, hangin' onter her bridle. It was makin' some kind of a noise, I dunno what. First off I thought plum certain it was a ghost. Then I thought it was Hasbrooks' boy, that's what I thought, on account o' him havin' them fits and maybe bein' buried alive. It was me that druv the hearse fer 'im only a week back. And I says then to Corby that was sittin' with me, I says, no son o' mine that ever had them fits would be buried in three days, not if I knowed it. Safety first, I said, dead or livin'.
"Well, I hollered to him what he wanted there and I didn't get no answer so I got down. And all the rest o' that howlin' pack got out, and the two men. I guess they thought we was held up, Jesse James like. Only the little codger stayed inside.
"Well, there he was, all tore and bloody and not enough duds left to stop up a rat-hole. And we hed ter force his hand open, he was hangin' onter the bridle that hard."
Well, that was about all there was to it; the rest was told by many mouths. They forced open his grip on the horse's bridle and he collapsed and lay unconscious on the ground. They lifted him and carried him gently into the bus, and laid him on one of the long seats. His left foot was shoeless and lacerated.
There were a couple of first aid scouts in the party, and they did what they could for him, bathing his face and trying to restore some measure of repose to his jangled nerves. They washed his torn foot with antiseptic while one kept a cautious hold upon his fluttering pulse. They administered a heart stimulant out of their kit, and waited. He did not speak nor open his eyes, save momentarily at intervals, when he stared vacantly. But the stout heart which had served him in his superhuman effort, would not desert him now, and in a little while the brother scout who held his wrist laid it gently down and, in a kind of freakish impulse, made the full scout salute to the unconscious figure. That seemed odd, too, because at camp he was not thought to be a really A-1 scout....
The two scoutmasters of the arriving troops remained in the bus with the first aid scouts and a queer little codger who seemed to be lame; the others walked. Hervey Willetts had ridden on top of that bus (contrary to orders), but he had never before lain quietly on the seat of it and been watched by two scoutmasters. He was always being watched by scoutmasters, but never in just this way....
So the old bus lumbered on. Soon he opened his eyes and mumbled something.
"Yes, my boy," said one of the scoutmasters; "what is it?"
"S—sma—smashed—br—," he said incoherently.
"Yes, we'll have a doctor as soon as we reach camp," the scoutmaster said soothingly. "Try to bear it. Don't move it and perhaps it won't pain so."
Hervey shook his head petulantly as if it were not his foot he spoke of. "Br—oken—the—br—look out——" And again he seemed to faint away.
The scoutmaster was puzzled.
In a few moments he spoke again, his eyes closed. But the word he spoke was clear.
"Ahead," he whispered.
The scoutmaster was still puzzled but he opened the bus door and called, "Gilbert, suppose you and a couple of the boys go on ahead and watch your step." Then to the other scoutmaster he said, "I think he's a bit delirious."
So it happened that it was Gilbert Tyson of the troop from Hillsburgh, forty or fifty miles down the line, who shouted to Darby Curren to stop, that the bridge had been washed away.
A funny part of the whole business was that the little duffer in the bus, who was attached to that troop, thought that Tyson was the hero of the occasion. He was strong on troop loyalty if on nothing else. So far as he was concerned (and he was very much concerned) Tyson had saved the lives of every scout in those two troops. Subsequent circumstances favored this delusion of his. For one thing, Hervey Willetts cared nothing at all about glory. You could not fit the mantle of heroism on him to save your life. He never talked about the affair, he was seldom at camp, except to sleep, and he did not know how he had managed the last few yards of his triumphal errand. For another thing, the Hillsburgh troop kept to themselves more or less, occupying one of the isolated "hill cabins." As for Tom Slade, he seldom talked much. He had seen too many stunts to lose his head over a new one, and he was a poor sort of publicity agent for Hervey.
Thus Goliath, as the little codger came to be known, had the field all to himself, and he turned out to be a mighty "hero maker."
PROVEN A SCOUT
The bus came to a stop a hundred feet or so from the ruined bridge and its passengers, going forward cautiously, looked down shudderingly into the yawning chasm. For a few seconds the very thought of what might have happened filled them with silent awe.
Goliath was the first to speak. "It's good Tyson saved our lives, isn't it?" he piped up. "We'd all be dead, 'wouldn't we?"
"Very dead," said one of the scouts; "so dead we probably wouldn't know it."
"Wouldn't know it?" asked Goliath, puzzled.
For answer the scout gave him a bantering push and tousled his hair for him. The little fellow took refuge with one of the scoutmasters.
"Will we get to that camp soon?" he asked.
"Pretty soon, I hope. Perhaps some one will come down and show us the way."
"Are we lost?"
"No, we're saved."
"I'm glad we're in Tyson's troop, aren't you?"
The scoutmaster laughed. "You bet," he said.
"Are there wild animals in that camp?"
"Scouts are all wild animals," the scoutmaster laughed again.
"Am I a wild animal?"
"Surest thing you know."
"Is that fellow that's inside lying on the seat—is he dead?"
"No—not dead. But you mustn't go in and bother him."
The scene about the bridge was one of utter ruin. No vestige of the rustic structure was left; it had probably been carried away in the first overwhelming rush of water. The flood had subsided by now, and only a trickle of water passed through the gully. In this, and upon the sloping banks and the wreckage which had been Ebon Berry's garage, the scouts climbed about and explored the scene of devastation.
After a while a scoutmaster and several boys arrived from camp by way of the road. They had fought their way through mud and storm, bringing stretchers and a first aid kit, in expectation of finding disaster.
"This is not a very cheerful welcome to camp," one of the scoutmasters said. "The lake broke through up yonder. The boys have checked the flood with a kind of makeshift dam. We were afraid you had met with disaster. All safe and sound, are you?"
"Oh, yes, several of our boys went ahead and one of them shouted for us to stop——"
"That's the one right there," piped up the little fellow. "Maybe he'll get a reward, hey? Maybe he'll get a prize."
"I guess we're all safe and sound," said the other arriving scoutmaster; "but wet and hungry——"
"Especially hungry," one of the scouts said.
"That's a common failing here," said the man from camp.
"There's a funny fellow inside; want to see him?" piped up Goliath. "He hasn't got any clothes hardly, and he don't know what he's talking about; he hasn't got any conscience——"
"He means he's unconscious," said the scoutmaster. "We ran into him on the road. He really hasn't spoken yet, so we don't know anything about him. He seems a kind of victim of the storm—crazed. I think it just possible he intended—Come inside, won't you? I think we'll have to take him with us on a stretcher. I suppose he belongs in the countryside hereabouts."
Thus it was that Hervey's own scoutmaster looked down upon the unconscious form of his most troublesome and unruly scout. It was no wonder that the others had not thought him a scout. He looked more like a juvenile hobo. But sticking out of his soaking pocket was that one indubitable sign of identification, his rimless hat cut full of holes and decorated with its variety of badge buttons. Ruefully, Mr. Denny lifted this dripping masterpiece of original handiwork, and held it between his thumb and forefinger.
"This is one of our choicest youngsters," he said. "He is in my own troop. The last time I saw him, I explicitly told him not to leave camp without my permission. I suppose he has been on some escapade or other. I think he's about due for dismissal——"
"I don't think he's seriously injured, sir."
"Oh, no, he has a charmed life. Nine lives like a cat, in fact. Well, we'll cart him back."
"He doesn't look like a scout fellow," Goliath said.
"Well, he isn't what you would call a very good scout fellow, my boy," Mr. Denny said. "Good scout fellows usually know the law and obey it, if anybody should ask you."
"If they ask me, that's what I'll tell 'em," said Goliath, "hey?"
"You can't go far wrong if you tell them that," Mr. Denny said.
"And they have to save lives too, don't they?" the little codger piped up.
"Why, yes, you seem to have it all down pat," Mr. Denny said.
"We've got one of them in our troop," the little fellow said; "he's a hero."
"Well, I hope he reads the handbook and obeys the scout laws," said Mr. Denny significantly.
"I'm always going to have good luck," the little fellow said, rather irrelevantly. "I got a charm, too. Want to see it?"
"I think we'd better see if we can get to camp and find some hot stew," said Mr. Denny.
"That's the kind of a charm for me," said one of the scouts.
So it fell out that on this occasion, as on most others, Goliath was not permitted to dig down into the remote recess of his pocket to show that wonderful charm.
THE NEW SCOUT
"Well," laughed Mr. Baxton, scoutmaster of the troop to which that little brownie of a boy belonged; "since we have a hero, we may as well use him. Suppose you stay here, Gilbert, and stop any vehicles that happen along."
"I think one of our boys from camp ought to do that," said one of the other scoutmasters. "How about you, Roy?"
The boy addressed was of a compact, natty build, with brown curly hair, and with the kind of smile which was positively guaranteed not to wash out in a storm. On his nose, which was of the aggressive and impudent type, were five freckles, set like the stars which form the big dipper, and his even teeth, which were constantly in evidence, were as white as snow. Across the bridge of his nose was a mark such as is seen upon the noses of persons who wear spectacles. But he wore no spectacles, though the imprint between his laughing, dancing eyes was said to have been caused by glasses—soda water glasses which were continually tipped up against his nose in obedience to the dictum that a scout shall be thorough.
"We'll both stay," he said; "if a Ford comes along we'll carry it across."
"Well, don't leave the spot, that's all," said Mr. Denny.
"Far be it from such," said Roy. "If we go away we'll take it with us. We should worry our young lives about a spot. Only save some stew for us. This night has been full of snap so far, it reminds me of a ginger-snap. We'll sit in one of those old cars, hey?"
Gilbert Tyson stared at Roy. He thought it wouldn't be half bad to stay here with this sprightly scout. The rest of the party, guided by Mr. Denny, started picking their way along the road to camp, carrying Hervey on a stretcher. Darby Curren, the stage-driver, doubtless tempted by the mention of hot stew, unharnessed his team and leaving the horses to graze in the adjacent field, accompanied the party. Roy and Gilbert Tyson watched the departing cavalcade till it was swallowed in darkness.
The rain had ceased now, and the wind was dying. In the sky was a little silvery break, and by its light flaky clouds were seen hurrying away, all in one direction like a flock of birds. It seemed as if they might be fleeing quietly from the wreck which they had caused.
"If one of the lights on those cars is working, we might use it for a signal," Roy said.
The cars of which he spoke were in the wreckage of Berry's garage. It had not been much of a garage, hardly more than a shack, in fact, and the two cars which now stood more or less damaged and exposed to the weather, had been its only contents, save for a work-bench and a few tools. Mr. Berry's flivver was quite beyond repair, having been overturned and carried some yards and apparently dashed against the bridge. There is no wreck in the world like the wreck of a Ford.
The heavier car had evidently withstood the first onrush of water and had made a stand against the flood, its wheels deep in the mud. This car was a roadster. Its side curtains were up, completely enclosing the single seat. It had evidently been used since the rainy weather started. It was not altogether free from damage, one of the fenders was bent, the bumper in front almost touched the ground on one side, an ornamental figurehead had been broken off the radiator cap, and the face of the radiator was dented. This car was equipped with a searchlight fastened on one end of the windshield, and as Gilbert Tyson handled this it lighted, sending a penetrating shaft of brightness into the night.
"It's funny the battery works after the soaking it got," said Roy. "Let's keep playing that light on the road. Anybody could see it half a mile off."
"Spell danger with it," Gilbert said.
"Sure, but I don't think anybody from camp will be along."
"You never can tell who knows the Morse Code and who doesn't," Gilbert said. "Keep playing it on the road, anyway."
The position of the car was such that this searchlight could be shown upon the road for perhaps the space of a quarter of a mile. It would have been quite sufficient to give pause to any approaching wagon or machine. Roy and Gilbert climbed into the car and sat upon the seat in the cosy enclosure formed by the curtains. It was quite pleasant in there. Since it was more agreeable to be fooling with the light than to let it shine steadily, Roy amused himself by spelling the word DANGER again and again.
Pretty soon one of the curtains opened and a voice said, "What's all the danger about?"
THE GRAY ROADSTER
It was Tom Slade. With him was one of the best all-around scouts in camp, patrol leader of the Royal Bengal Tigers, Eagle Scout and winner of the Gold Cross, Bert Winton.
"What's this? The annual electrical show?" he asked. "What's the matter with you kids? Lost, strayed or stolen? Who's this fellow?"
"Look at the bridge, it's gone!" said Roy. "Don't bother to look at it. It isn't there anyway. We're a couple of pickets—I mean sentinels."
"Well, you guided us through the woods, anyway," said Tom.
"The pleasure is ours," said Roy. "We can sit in a car and guide people through the woods; we're real heroes. What's the news?"
"Do you know anything about the stage?" Tom asked.
"We know all about it. It's right over there. This fellow comes from Hillsburgh. He got out and walked ahead and stopped it. Didn't you? Hervey Willetts blew in from somewhere or other and they're carrying him to camp. Nothing serious. Got any candy?"
"The crowd from the bus is all right then?"
"He's used up another one of his lives, he's only got three left now. He must have hit the trail after Westy and I left the cove. He's going to get called down to-morrow. He should worry, he's used to that."
"Where did they run into him?" Tom asked.
"They found him hanging onto one of the horses. Curry thought he was a ghost, that's all I know. This fellow went ahead and shouted back that the bridge had sneaked off. Didn't you, Gilly?" It was characteristic of Roy that he had already found a nickname for Gilbert Tyson.
"Hervey say anything?"
"Mumbled something, I don't know what."
Tom pondered a few moments. "Humph," said he, "that's all right."
He was satisfied about Hervey. The other phases of the episode did not interest him. What scoutmasters said and thought did not greatly concern him. He did not give two thoughts to the fact that Hervey was to be "called down." He had known scouts to be called down before. He had known credit and glory to miscarry. Hervey had done this thing and that was all that the young camp assistant cared about. It would not hurt Hervey to be called down.
The picturesque young assistant, the very spirit and embodiment of adventure and romance, made a good deal of allowance for visiting scoutmasters and handbook scouts. He was broad and kind as the trees are broad and kind; exacting about big things, careless about little things. They knew all about scouting. He was the true scout. They had their manuals and handbooks. The great spirit of the woods was his. Hervey had made good. Why bother more about that?
So he just said, "Not hurt much, huh? Well, if you kids want to go up to camp, we'll take care of this job."
"Whose car is this, anyway?" asked Bert Winton. "I never saw it before. It's got bunged up a little, hey?"
Tom looked at the roadster rather interestedly, whistling to himself.
"It's gray," said Bert; "I never saw it before."
"It wasn't damaged in the flood," said Tom.
"Why wasn't it?" Roy demanded.
"Because it's facing down stream. Anything that hit it would have hit it in the back. I don't know whose it is, but it came here damaged, if you want to know."
"Sherlock Nobody Holmes, the boy detective," vociferated Roy. "We're not going to let it worry our innocent young lives, anyway, are we, Gilly? Oh, here comes somebody along the road! The plot grows thicker!"
Tom and Winton had cut through the woods, direct from the cove where they had been assisting in throwing together the makeshift dam. Fortunately the searchlight had made their journey easy. The figure which now approached along the road turned out to be Ebon Berry, owner of the wrecked garage, who had ventured forth from his home as soon as the storm had abated.
"Well, 'tain't no use cryin' over spilled milk, as the feller says," he observed as he contemplated the ruin all about him.
"You're about cleaned out, Mr. Berry," said Winton. "Whose car is this? I never saw it before."
"That? Well, now, that belongs to a feller that left it here, oh, I dunno, mebbe close onto a week ago. I ain't seed him since. Said he'd be back for it nex' day. I ain't seed nothin' of 'im. I guess that's what you'd call a racer, now, hain't it?"
"What are you going to do about it?" Tom asked. "It was damaged when it came here, wasn't it?"
"Yes, it were. Well, now, I don't jes' know what I'd auter do. Jes' nothin', I guess."
"'Tisn't going to do it any good buried here in the mud," Tom said.
"Well, 'tain't my loss, ony six dollars storage."
"Let's give it the once over," Tom said, in a way of half interest. The efforts of the night had been so strenuous that his casual interest in the car was something in the form of relaxation. It interested him as whittling a stick might have interested him. "Take a squint into that pocket there, Roy."
There was nothing but a piece of cotton waste in the flap pocket of the door nearest Roy, but Gilbert Tyson's ransacking of the other one revealed some miscellaneous paraphernalia; there was a pair of motorist's gloves, a road map, a newspaper, and two letters.
"Here, I'll give you the light," said Roy, as Tyson handed these things to Tom.
"You keep the light on the road," said Tom. "Let's have your flashlight."
"Now we're going to find out where the buried treasure lays hid—I mean hidden," said Roy. "We're going to unravel the mystery, as Pee-wee would say. 'Twas on a dark and stormy night——"
"Let's have your flashlight," said Tom, dryly.
THE UNKNOWN TRAIL
Gilbert Tyson and Roy sat in the car. Tyson had removed one curtain and Tom, standing close by, examined the papers in the glare of the flashlight which Tyson held. Bert Winton and Mr. Berry peered curiously over Tom's shoulder.
The map was of the usual folding sort, and on a rather large scale, showing the country for about forty or fifty miles roundabout.
"There's my little old home town," said Tyson, putting his finger on Hillsburgh, "home, sweet home."
"And here's little old Black Lake—before the flood," said Roy. "There's the camp, right there," he added, indicating the spot to Tyson; "there's where we eat, right there."
"And here's a trail up the mountain," said Tom. "See that lead pencil mark? You go up the back way. See?"
So there then was indeed a way up that frowning mountain opposite the camp. It was up the less precipitous slope, the slope which did not face the lake. The pencil marking had been made to emphasize the fainter printed line.
"Humph," said Tom, interested. "There's always some way up a mountain.... Maybe the light we saw up there ... let's have a squint at that letter, will you?"
"Have we got a right to read it?" Winton asked.
"We may be able to save a life by it," said Tom. "Sure."
But the letter did not reveal anything of interest. It was, in fact, only the last page of a letter which had been preserved on account of some trifling memorandums on the back of the sheet. What there was of the letter read as follows:
hope you will come back to England some time or other. I suppose America seems strange after all these years. You'll have to be content with shooting Indians and buffaloes now. But we'll save a fox or two for you. And don't forget how to ride horseback and we'll try not to forget about the rattle wagons.
"That's very kind of Reggy," said Roy. "Indians and buffaloes! Poor Indians. If he ever comes here, we'll teach him to shoot the shutes. If he's a good shot maybe we'll let him shoot the rapids."
"They all think America is full of Indians," said Winton.
"Indian pudding," said Roy; "mmm, mmm!"
"Well, let's see the newspaper," said Tom. "I don't suppose there's anything particular in that. Somebody that lived in England has been trying to go up the mountain—maybe. That's about all we know. We don't know that, even. But anyway, he hasn't come back."
"Maybe he's up there shooting Indians and buffaloes," said Roy. "We should worry."
"When was it he came here?" Tom asked.
"'Bout several days ago, I reckon," said Mr. Berry.
"That light's been up there all summer," Winton said.
"Until to-night," Tom added.
For a few moments no one spoke.
"Well, let's see the paper," said Tom, as he took it and began looking it over. He had not glanced at many of the headings when one attracted his attention. Following it was an article which he read carefully.
AUTOIST KILLS CHILD
Negligence and Reckless Driving Responsible for Accident
An accident which will probably prove fatal occurred on the road above Hillsburgh yesterday when a car described as a gray roadster ran down and probably mortally injured Willy Corbett, the eight-year-old son of Thomas Corbett of that place.
Two laborers in a nearby field, who saw the accident, say that the machine was running on the left side of the road where the child was playing and that but for this reckless violation of the traffic law, the little fellow would not have been run down. The driver was apparently holding to the left of the road, because the running was better there.
Exactly what happened no one seems to know. The autoist stopped, and started again, and when the two laborers had reached the spot where the child lay, the machine was going at the rate of at least forty miles an hour.
All efforts of town and county authorities to locate the gray roadster have failed.
"That's only about ten miles from where I live," said Gilbert Tyson.
Tom seemed to be thinking. "Let's look at that letter again," said he. "Humph," he added and handed it back to Roy.
"What?" Roy asked.
"Nothing," said Tom. "I guess this is the car all right."
"I don't see it," said Winton. "Just because it's a gray roadster——"
"Well, there may be other little things about it, too," said Tom.
"About the car or the letter or what?" Winton asked.
"Answered in the affirmative," said Roy.
"Well, anyway," Tom said, "it looked as if the owner of the car might have gone up the mountain. And he hasn't come down. At least he hasn't come after his car. I'd like to get a look at him. I'm going to follow that trail up a ways——"
"When did you suppose? Next week? I'd like to find out where the trail goes. I'm not saying any more. The bright spot we saw from camp went out to-night. And here's a trail on the other side of the mountain that I never knew of. Here's a man that had a map of it and he went away and hasn't come back. I'm not asking anybody to go with me."
"And I'm not asking you to let me," said Roy. "I'll go just for spite. You don't think you're afraid of me, am I, quoth he. Now that we're here, we might as well be all separated together. What do you say, Gilly? Yes, kind sir, said he. We'll all go, what do you say? Indeed we will, they answered joyously——"
"Well, come ahead then," said Tom, "and stop your nonsense."
"Says you," Roy answered.
ON THE SUMMIT
The two facts uppermost in Tom's mind were these: Some one had marked the trail up that mountain, and the patch of brightness on the top of the mountain which had lately been familiar to the boys in camp had that very night disappeared.
The owner of the gray roadster had not come back for it. He might be the fugitive of the newspaper article, and he might not. If Tom had any particular reason for thinking that he was, he did not say so. There are a good many gray roadsters. One thing which puzzled Tom was this: the car had been in storage at Berry's for a few days at the very most, but the bright patch on the mountain had been visible for a month or more. So if the owner of this machine had gone up the mountain, at least he was not the originator of the bright patch there. But perhaps, after all, the bright patch was just some reflection.
"Let's have another look at that letter," said Tom.
He read it again with an interest and satisfaction which certainly were not justified by the simple wording of the missive.
"Come ahead," he said; "we can't get much wetter than we are already. We might as well finish the night's work. I guess Mr. Berry'll take care of the searchlight."
Mr. Berry had no intention of leaving the scene of his ruined possessions to the mercy of vandals. Moreover, it seemed likely that with the abatement of the storm the neighboring village would turn out to view the devastation.
Once the end of the trail was located, the ascent of the mountain was not difficult, and the four explorers made their way up the comparatively easy slope, hindered only by trees which had fallen across the path. The old mountain which frowned so forbiddingly down upon the camp across the lake was very docile when taken from behind. It was just a big bully.
As Tom and the three scouts approached the summit, the devastation caused by the storm became more and more appalling. Great trees had been torn up as if they had been no more than house plants. These had fallen, some to the ground and some against other trees, their spreading roots dislodging big rocks which had gone crashing down against other trees. Some of these rocks remained poised where the least agitation would release them.
Nature cannot be disturbed like this without suffering convulsions afterwards, and the continual low noises of dripping roots and of trees and branches sinking and settling and falling from temporary supports, gave a kind of voice of suffering and anguish to the wilderness.
These strange sounds were on every hand and they made the wrecked and drenched woods to seem haunted. Now and again a sound almost human would startle the cautious wayfarers as they picked their way amid the sodden chaos. In places it seemed as if the merest footfall would dislodge some threatening bowlder which would blot their lives out in a second. And the ragged, gaping chasms left by roots made the soggy ground uncertain support for yards about.
Toward the summit the path was quite obliterated under the jumble of the wreckage, and the party clambered over and threaded their way amid this debris until the tiny but cheering lights of Temple Camp were visible far down across the lake. There the two arriving troops were about finishing their hot stew! Far down and nearer than the camp was a moving speck of light; some one was on the lake. The boys did not venture too near that precipitous descent.
Suddenly Roy, who had been walking along a fallen tree trunk, called, "Look here! Here's a board!"
He had hauled it out from under the trunk, and the others, approaching, looked at it with interest. In all that wild desolation there was something very human about a fragment of board. Somehow it connected that unknown wilderness with the world of men.
"That didn't come up here by itself," said Tom.
"You're right, it didn't," said Tyson.
"Here's a rusty nail in it," Roy added.
The board, unpainted and weather beaten as it was, seemed singularly out of place in that remote forest.
Suddenly Roy grasped Tom's arm; his hand trembled; his whole form was agitated.
"Look!" he whispered hoarsely. "Look—down there—right there. See? Do you see it? Right under.... Oh, boy, it's awful...."
A SCOUT IS THOROUGH
Scout though he was, Roy's hand trembled as he passed his flashlight to Tom. He could not, for his life, point that flashlight himself at the grewsome object which he had seen in the darkness.
Lying crossways underneath the trunk was the body of a man, his face looking straight up into the sky with a fixed stare, and a soulless grin upon his ashen face. Somewhere nearby, mud was dripping from an exposed root, and the earth laden drops as they fell one by one into the ragged cavity gave a sound which simulated a kind of unfeeling laughter. It seemed as if that stark, staring thing might be chuckling through its rigid, grinning mouth. Roy's weight and movement on the trunk communicated a slight stir to the ghastly figure and its head moved ever so little....
"No," said Tom, anticipating Winton's question; "he's dead. Get off the log, Roy."
"Well, I wish that dripping would stop, anyway," said Winton.
Tom approached the figure, the others following and standing about in silence as he examined it. They all avoided the log, the slightest movement of which had an effect which made them shudder.
Raising one cold, muddy hand, Tom felt the wrist, laying it gently down again. There was not even a faint, departing vestige of life in the trapped, crushed body.
"Is it him?" Gilbert Tyson asked in a subdued tone.
"Guess so," said Tom, kneeling.
The others stood back in a kind of fearful respect, watching, waiting.... Now and then a leaf or twig fell. And once, some broken tree limb crackled as it adjusted itself in its fallen estate. And all the while the mud kept dripping, dripping, dripping....
Lying on the dead man's open coat, as if they had fallen from his pocket, were two cards and a letter. These Tom picked up and glanced at, using Roy's flashlight. One of the cards was an automobile registration card. The other was a driver's license card. They were both of the State of New Jersey and issued to Aaron Harlowe. The letter had been stamped but not mailed. It was addressed to Thomas Corbett, North Hillsburgh, New York. This name tallied with the name of the child's father in the newspaper.
Here was pretty good proof that the man who had met death here upon this wild, lonely mountain was none other than the owner of the gray roadster, the coward who had fled from the consequences of his negligence, and turned it into a black crime!
"Are you going to open it?" Bert Winton asked.
"I guess no one has a right to do that but the coroner," Tom said. "We have no right to move the body even."
"Well," said Bert Winton, his awe at the sight of death somewhat subsiding at thought of the victim's cowardice, "there's an end of Aaron Harlowe who ran over Willie Corbett with a gray roadster and——"
"And was going to send a letter to the kid's father," concluded Tom. "And here's his footprint, too. I'd like to take his shoe off and fit it into this footprint," Tom said.
"What for?" Roy asked.
"Just to make sure."
But Tom soon dismissed that thought and the others did not relish it. Moreover, Tom knew that the law prohibited him from doing such a thing.
With the mystery, as it seemed, cleared up, there remained nothing to do but explore the immediate vicinity for the sake of scout thoroughness. Their search revealed other loose boards, a few cooking utensils and finally the utter wreck of what must have been a very primitive and tiny shack. This was perhaps a couple of hundred feet from the body and below the highest point of the mountain. It was conceivable that a fire here might have shown in a faint glare down at camp. The blaze could not have been seen. Amid the ruin of the shack were a few rough cooking utensils. The soaking land and the darkness effectually concealed the charred remnants of any fire.
"Well, he'll never shoot any buffaloes and wild Indians," said Roy.
Tom replaced the cards and letter, or rather put them in the dead man's pocket for fear the wind might blow them away, though being under the lee of the trunk they had been somewhat protected. Then the party retraced their path down the mountain and, circling its lower reaches, found themselves at last upon the lake shore.
Thus ended the work of that fretful night, a night ever memorable at Temple Camp, a night of death and devastation. The mighty wind which smote the forest and drove the ruinous waters before it, died in the moment of its triumph. The sodden, sullen heaven which had cast its gloom and poured its unceasing rain, rain, rain, upon the camp for two full weeks, cleared and the edges of the departing clouds were bathed in the silver moonlight. And the next morning the bright, merry sun arose and smiled down upon Temple Camp and particularly on Goliath who sat swinging his legs from the springboard.
THE WANDERING MINSTREL
He was defying, single handed, half a dozen or more scouts who were flopping about in rowboats under and about the springboard. They had just rowed across after an inspection of the washed-out cove, and were resting on their oars, jollying the little fellow whose legs dangled above them.
"Where did that big feller go?" he asked.
"To the village."
"He found a dead man last night, didn't he?"
"That's what he did."
"I know his name, it's Slade."
"Right the first time. You're a smart fellow."
"I like that big feller. He says Gilbert Tyson is all right; I asked him. I bet Gilbert Tyson can beat any of you fellers. He's in my troop, he is. I bet you were never in a hospital."
"I bet you were never in prison," a scout ventured.
"I bet you never got hanged," Goliath piped up.
"I bet I did," another scout said.
"To-morrow afternoon isn't here yet," Goliath said, triumphantly.
"Sure it is, this is to-morrow afternoon. Somebody told me yesterday. If it was to-morrow afternoon yesterday it must be to-day."
"Posolutely," said Roy Blakeley. "What was true yesterday is true to-day, because the truth is always the same—only different."
"Sure," concurred another scout, "to-morrow, to-day will be yesterday. It's as clear as mud."
Goliath thought for a few moments and then made a flank attack.
"Gilbert Tyson is a hero," he said; "he saved the lives of everybody in that bus—he did."
"That's where he was wrong," said Roy Blakeley; "a scout is supposed to be generous. He mustn't be all the time saving."
"Isn't it good to save lives?" Goliath demanded.
"Sure, but not too many. A scout that's all the time saving gets to be stingy."
Goliath pondered a moment.
"Gilly is all right but he's not a first-class scout," said Roy.
"A first-class scout," said Westy Martin, "is not supposed to turn back. Gilbert turned back. Then he shouted 'stop.' Law three says that a scout is courteous. He should have said 'please stop.' Law ten says that a scout must face danger, but he turned his back to it. He wasn't thinking about the danger, all he was thinking about was the bus. All he was thinking about was being thrifty—saving lives. I've known fellows like that before. It's just like striking an average; a scout that strikes an average is a coward."
"You mean if the average is small?" said Roy.
"Because it all depends," Roy continued; "a scout isn't supposed to fight, is he? But he can strike an attitude. The same as he can hit a trail. Suppose he hits a poor, little thin trail——"
"Then he's a coward," said Connie Bennett.
"Not necessarily," said Westy, "because——"
"A scout has to be obedient! You can't deny that!" Goliath nearly fell off the springboard in his excitement. "That other feller is going to get sent away because I heard a man say so!"
This was not exactly an answer to the well-reasoned arguments of Roy and his friends, but it had the effect of making them serious. Moreover, just at that juncture, Mr. Carroll, scoutmaster of the Hillsburgh troop, appeared and very gently ordered Goliath from his throne upon the springboard. The little fellow's mind had been somewhat unsettled by the skillful reasoning of his new friends. He trotted off in obedience to Mr. Carroll's injunction that he go in and take off his wet shoes.
"Boys," said the new scoutmaster, in a pleasant, confidential tone which won all, "I want to say a word to you about the little brownie we have with us. You'll find him an odd little duck. I'm hoping to make a scout of him some time or other. Meanwhile, we have to be careful not to get him excited. It's a rule of our troop to take with us camping each summer, some little needy inmate of an orphan home or hospital or some place of the sort, and give him the benefit of the country air. This little fellow is our charge this year. You won't talk to him about his past, because we want him to forget that. We want to take him home well and strong and I look to you for help. Make friends with him and get him interested in things about camp. His heart isn't strong; be careful."
Good scouts that they were, they needed no more than these few words. Temple Camp usually took new boys as it found them, anyway, concerning itself with their actions and not with the history of their lives. Half the scouts in the big summer community didn't know where the other half came from, and cared less. From every corner of the land they came and all they knew or cared about each other was limited to their intercourse at camp.
"You don't suppose that's true, do you?" one of them asked when Mr. Carroll had gone.
"What? About Willetts?"
"Dare say. He's about due for the G. B., I guess. But if you want to cook a fish you've got to catch him first."
"Where is he, anyway?" one asked. "I thought his foot was so bad."
"I saw him limping off this morning, that's all I know," another said.
"It would take more than a lame ankle to keep him at camp," said Dorry Benton of Roy's patrol. "Did you see that crazy stick he was using for a cane?"
"The wandering minstrel," another scout commented.
"He stands pat with Slady, all right."
"Gee, you can't help liking the fellow."
"I have to laugh at him," Westy said.
"You can't pal with him, that's one thing," another observed.
"That's because you can't keep up with him; even Mr. Denny has a sneaky liking for him."
"Do you know what one of his troop told me? He told me he always wears that crazy hat to school when he's home. Some nut!"
"Reckless, happy-go-lucky, that's what he is."
"Come on over and let's look on the bulletin board."
They all strolled, half idly, to the bulletin board which stood outside the main pavilion. It was a rule of camp that every scout should read the announcements there each afternoon. Then there would be no excuse for ignorance of important matters pertaining to camp plans. Upon the board were tacked several announcements, a hike for the morrow, letters uncalled for, etc. Conspicuous among these was the following:
Hervey Willetts will report immediately to his scoutmaster at troop's cabin, upon his arrival at camp. WM. C. DENNY.
TOM'S INTEREST AROUSED
On that same day a solemn little procession picked its way carefully down the trail from the storm-wrecked summit of the mountain. Four of the county officials bore a stretcher over which was tied a white sheet. With the party was Tom Slade who had guided the authorities to the grewsome discovery of the previous night. In this work, and in the subsequent assistance which he rendered, he was absent from camp throughout the day. This unpleasant business had not been advertised in camp.
Of the tragic end of Aaron Harlowe nothing more was known. Several days previously he had come to the neighborhood in his gray roadster, a fugitive, with the stigma of cowardice upon his conscience. He had tried to compromise with his conscience, as it appeared, by enclosing a sum of money in an envelope and addressing it to the father of the child he had run down. But his death had prevented the mailing of this. The telltale finger of accusation was pointed at him from the newspaper which was in his car.
His identity was established to the satisfaction of the authorities by the name upon the license and registration cards found with his body. Why he had ascended the mountain and remained there several days only to be crushed to death in the storm, no one could guess. The conclusion of the authorities was that he was crazed by fear and remorse. This seemed not improbable, for his weak attempt to make amends with money showed him to be not altogether bad.
With the taking of the body by the authorities, Tom's participation in the tragic business ended. Yet there were one or two things which stuck in his mind and puzzled him. There had been a light on the mountain before ever this Harlowe had gone up there. There had been a crude shack near the summit. The light had disappeared amid the storm. The boys, watching the storm from the pavilion, had seen the light disappear. Did Harlowe, therefore, climb the mountain to escape man or to seek man? Harlowe's life went out in that same tempestuous hour when the light went out. But how came the light there? And where was the originator of it?