Percy K. Fitzhugh
Part 3 out of 3
So he pictured a dugout drawn up on the shore of the river which he was
approaching; and he pictured a group of howling Zulus on the farther
shore. He heard ikes and the splashing of water, and it fitted well
with his heroic scheme to imagine these sounds were made by the howling
Zulus, though in reality he knew, or thought he knew, that they came
from farther up the river near the scouts' camp.
He was within a few yards of the river now and pushing through the
thick growth which bordered it.
His imagination was working like machinery, and had all the features
and details of his daring act, pat.
"'I am a boy scout,'" he repeated, "'and can handle----'"
He raised his rifle and, aiming with dramatic gesture at nothing in
particular, pulled the trigger, then dashed forward in a perfect frenzy
of adventurous delight to the shore.
On the other side of the river the O'Connor boy was leaning back in the
arms of one of a group of people, the boys in the boat were mending
their efforts to get to shore; someone said, "There he is!" and then
all eyes were upon him and Connover Bennett dropped the gun, reeled
against a tree and stood staring as he realized that he was nearer to
being the real Dan Dreadnought than he had dreamed.
A cold sweat broke out upon his brow, his first impulse was to run with
all his might and main; but he could not stir.
THE REAL THING
It happened that same afternoon that Tom and Roy went up to Salmon
River Village to purchase some provisions for camp. The two boys were
on their way back from the village and were discussing an interesting
discovery which they had made while there. This was a wireless
apparatus which the storekeeper had shown them with great pride for he
was one of that numerous class of wireless amateurs whose a‰rials may
be seen stretching from tree-tops to house-tops these days, and since
it was his pleasure to sit into the wee hours of the morning with his
head receivers on, eavesdropping on the whole world, the two scouts had
agreed to exchange messages with him.
"Every man you meet seems to take some interest in the scouts," said
Tom, in allusion to the cordial storekeeper.
"Sure, even Mr. Temple's got a light case of it."
"Not much!" said Tom.
"Oh, yes he has; he's got what Doc Carson calls a passive case. Doesn't
it beat all how Doc gets onto this medical talk? Did you hear that one
he sprang the other night about a 'superficial abrasion'? Cracky, it
nearly knocked me over!"
"And 'septic,' too," said Tom.
"Yes, 'septic's' his star word now. Mr. Temple's case is likely to
become acute any time," Roy added as he jogged along, jumping from one
subject to another according to his fashion. "You know you can have a
thing and not know it. Then something happens, you get a bad cold, for
instance, and that brings the whole thing out. That's the way it is
with Mr. Temple--he's just beginning to get the bug; he doesn't know it
yet. You ought to have heard him buzz me about tracking.
"Then he wanted to know how I knew one golf stick was hickory and
another one maple. 'Scout,' said I. Oh, I've got him started-wait
till he picks up a little momentum and you'll see things fly."
"You'll never land him," said Tom.
"I landed you, didn't I?"
"I bet I land him before the Chief lands Mrs. Bennett."
They walked along a little while in silence. "What-what-did Mary say?"
Tom asked. He had asked the question half a dozen times before, but it
pleased him to imagine that he had forgotten the answer. Roy
"She wanted to know why you didn't bring the pin yourself."
"What'd you tell her?"
"Oh, I told her you were too busy to bother."
"I told her you had no time for girls. She said it was just lovely. I
don't know whether she meant you or the pin. She said the tracking was
"She don't know who--"
"No, her father's not going to tell her. I've got him cinched. I
wouldn't be surprised if I was cashier in his bank in another six
months-but don't mention it at camp fire, will you?"
Tom laughed. "What did she say?" he repeated.
"I told you's teen-eleven times."
"Well, I forget."
"You ought to have gone yourself, anyway," said Roy, "then you'd have
heard what she said."
He pretended not to have any sympathy with Tom in this matter.
"What was that other thing she said?"
"What's that shouting?" said Roy.
"What was that other thing she said?"
"What other thing?"
"I guess that picnic bunch is flopping around on the river from the
Silence for a few minutes.
"What was that other thing she said?"
"Oh, yes," said Roy, "let's see--I forget."
"Go on--stop your fooling! What was it?"
"Do you have to know?"
"What was it?"
"She said she was going to recip--Oh, listen!"
"Pay you back."
"I wouldn't take a cent. I wouldn't take anything from her," said Tom.
"I'm a sco--"
"Now don't spring that! You better wait and see what she offers you
"Would you take anything for a service?"
"Depends on what it was," said Roy cautiously.
"I wouldn't take anything for a service."
"I wouldn't take anything from her."
But he did just the same.
They had left the road and were jogging scout-pace along the beaten
path through the woods which led down to the river. As they neared it,
a confusion of sounds and voices greeted their ears and when they
presently emerged upon the shore they found a scene of pandemonium.
In mid-stream was their own boat, two-thirds full of water, and
clinging to it were Tom's erstwhile Bridgeboro friends and a frantic,
shrieking creature whose streaming hair was plastered over his face and
who was in a perfect panic of fright as every moment the gunwale of the
loggy boat gave with his weight and lowered his head into the water.
On the farther shore one little group called futilely to the hapless
crew, bidding them cling to the gunwale and hold still; sensible enough
advice, except that no advice is of any use to a person in peril of
drowning. The bedraggled creature in particular would have prevented
any such orderly and rational conduct by his terror-stricken clutchings
and cries of "Save me!" as if he were the only one in trouble. Another
little group on the opposite shore was gathered about a figure which
Tom and Roy could not see.
"Have you got a rope over there?" called Roy, kicking off his sneakers.
"No, we haven't--"
"Got a shawl or a blanket?"
"Get it quick!"
"They always have camels'-hair shawls," he said hastily to Tom. Then
raising his voice, "Someone drowned over there?"
"Shin up that tree and see if you can get camp with your whistle," he
ordered to Tom, throwing off his shirt the while. "Whistle 'Help' by
Morse--if they don't answer, try semaphore with your shirt; if that
don't get them you'll have to hoof it. Get Doc, whatever you do. Shut
up, will you?"' he shouted to the frantic boy who was making all the
noise. "Keep your mouth shut and you'll be all right!"
All this took but a few seconds and presently the shrieking boy in the
water grasped frantically at Roy.
That was all he knew. Something struck him, and when he recovered from
his daze he was lying on shore with several persons about him.
The new Dan Dreadnought was a pitiable figure. The boy whom he
had shot sat near him, ashen white, his arm bleeding despite all
efforts to stay the flow of blood, and he himself, his voice husky from
his futile shrieking, the red mark of Roy's prompt but necessary blow
standing out in bold relief on his white face, lay, half dead with
fright and shock, and watched those about him as though in a trance. It
was a sad and inglorious end to his adventurous career!
It took Roy but a few minutes to tear a couple of shawls and a blanket
into strips and tying these together he took an end in his mouth and
swam out for the boat. Tying it to the painter-ring, he called to the
people on shore to pull easily and, himself guiding and holding up the
loggy, half-submerged boat, as best he could, it was finally hauled out
of deep water and its hapless crew helped ashore.
Just as Roy helped that redoubtable leader, Sweet Caporal, to scramble
up the abrupt shore, a welcome shout came from a tree top across the
Roy did not know whether it had been done by Morse whistling or by
semaphore. Tom had done it, that was enough, and while he scrambled
down from the tree and swam across the river Roy rearranged the
clumsily made tourniquet which the picnickers had placed about the arm
of the wounded boy, and tightened it with the leverage of a stick which
successfully stayed the flow of blood.
"Some wrinkle, hey?" he said, smiling down into the white face of the
boy. "You could lift the earth by leverage if you only had some floor
for your lever; ever hear that?"
No, the O'Connor boy had never heard that, but he looked up into the
cheery, brown eyes of Roy, whom he knew slightly, and smiled himself.
The real scout and the burlesque scout who lay near by presented a
striking contrast. All the mock heroics of the Eureka Patrol of
Captain Dauntless seemed cheap enough now, even to the frightened
Connover as he languidly watched this quiet exhibition of efficiency.
Never had he admired Dan Dreadnought as he now admired Roy
Blakeley, this cheerful, clean-cut fellow who knew what to do and just
how to do it; and the gang, with all their bravado gone, watched him
too, feeling strange after the first bath they had had in many a day.
"Do you know what I'm going to do with you?" said Roy, as he leaned
over the O'Connor boy and bathed his face. "I'm going to give you to
Mr. Ellsworth for a birthday present; our troop's two years old next
It was not many minutes before the welcome sound of voices was heard in
the wood and presently a half-dozen scouts appeared with a canvas
stretcher. Mr. Ellsworth was with them and by his side was Doc Carson,
or "Highbrow Doc," with his neat little first-aid case. Doc was one of
the ancient and honorable Ravens who were not unconscious of their
dignity, and he had had the first-aid bee from the start.
It took him but a moment to determine that no fatalities were going to
result from the affair, and that all Connover needed was a little
reassuring that he would not be sent to jail.
While he was putting an antiseptic dressing on the O'Connor boy's arm
(the bullet had gone in and out again through the fleshy part), Roy and
Tom heard for the first time the circumstances of the whole affair, as
they were related to Mr. Ellsworth.
It seemed that upon the appearance of Connover with his gun he had been
forbidden to go away and had obeyed, probably because he was too
frightened and helpless to have any will of his own. His pitiable lack
of command throughout the whole affair was not the least significant
thing in his day's work, and showed how far he was from the real scout
The occupants of the boat, spurred by the emergency, had managed to get
the frightened Connover aboard and it was in their clumsy progress
across the river that one of the gunwales of the already loggy boat had
gone under, shipping more water than the craft could carry besides its
The O'Connor boy needed only prompt and efficient treatment and the
only peril he was in was that of blood-poisoning. Doc dressed his wound
antiseptically and though he was not unable to walk, they bore him to
camp on the stretcher, for his loss of blood had weakened him and the
shock had unnerved him.
Just as they started Connover broke down completely, clinging pitifully
to Mr. Ellsworth and refusing to go home. His fear of arrest on the one
hand and his fear of his parents on the other, made him go to pieces
entirely now that the first excitement was over. His behaviour formed a
ludicrous anti-climax for all the Dan Dreadnought bombast and
bravado, and if it was not borne in upon him then how harmful the books
were, he at least began to see how ridiculous they were. Indeed, the
redoubtable Dan had begun to lose prestige with Connover the
moment he had shot that robin.
At the sight of this childish display, Mr. Ellsworth shook his head
ruefully and said to Roy, "We got away with it in Tom's case, but I'm
afraid Connie's a pretty big contract. What do you think?"
"He'll come across," said Roy. "He didn't hurt Charlie O'Connor so very
much, but I'll bet he's killed Dan Dreadnought all right."
"Well, Connie," said the scoutmaster, in a half-indulgent tone that was
not altogether complimentary, "you'd better come along with us to
"Will you--will you--see my mother?"
"He--he won't die--will he?"
"After forty or fifty years he might," said the scoutmaster. "Here,
walk along with me, and tell me how you came to shoot that rifle."
MRS. BENNETT COMES ACROSS
Connover told him the whole story. In his extremity he felt drawn to
Mr. Ellsworth though he showed it in a more effeminate way than Tom had
shown it, and the readiness with which he made the scoutmaster a refuge
rather jarred upon Mr. Ellsworth. Tom, at least, had never gone to
pieces like this.
But the scout movement draws its recruits from every direction, and Mr.
Ellsworth was the ideal scoutmaster.
"Well, then you think you wouldn't like to kill Zulus, after all, hey?"
"Too bad we had to sacrifice an innocent robin to find that out, wasn't
The maid at the Bennett bungalow had one good scout quality; she was
observant and the fleeting glimpse which she had of Master Connover
departing with the rifle was promptly communicated to Mrs. Bennett upon
At the appalling picture of her son trudging across the road into the
woods with a fire-arm over his shoulder, the good lady all but
collapsed. Her first thought was, of course, that he would shoot
himself, which seemed likely enough, and her fear for his safety
entirely obliterated her amazement at his shameless disobedience. It
was the day of Mrs. Bennett's Waterloo.
Out she went, and even in her haste and excitement she picked up the
Dan Dreadnought volume which sprawled on the veranda, and tossed
it into the swinging seat, then hurried across the road and into the
woods. The worst thing she had against Captain Dauntless was that he
littered her tidy porch.
She followed the same beaten path to the river which Connover had
followed and when she reached the bank a few belated stragglers of the
picnic party were gathering up their belongings on the opposite side.
One of them came over for her in the boat and told her briefly of what
"Is he alive or dead?" she demanded, hysterically. "Tell me the worst!"
Her inquiry was for Connover, of course, and upon being told that his
only trouble was a case of utter fright, she said, "Oh, my poor boy!"
She followed the trail to Camp Ellsworth, hurrying along the beaten
path which the scouts had made, until glimpses of their homelike little
settlement were visible through the trees.
As she approached it she noticed, even in her anxiety, wide bands of
bright red high up on the tree-trunks at intervals. She learned later
that these were to indicate the path as well as might be, for a
distance on either side of it so that no arrow or missile of any sort
should be shot across it. It was one of several precautions to guard
against the breaking of this inviolable rule. The path was sacred
Mrs. Bennett was now within the outskirts of the camp and could smell
the savory odor of cooking. She passed the tree where the Silver Foxes
had spiked a piece of birch-bark with S. F. chalked upon it to indicate
that the boys of that patrol were watching the industrious activities
of a certain squirrel which patronized that particular tree. Another
trunk bore a similar card with R. on it, showing that the Ravens were
spying on the private affairs of an oriole which nested above. Little
that oriole knew that seven photographs of him were pasted in the Troop
At camp a Red Cross flag had been raised above Mr. Ellsworth's own tent
and except for the quiet comings and going of the scoutmaster himself
and Doc Carson, all was quiet here. Mrs. Bennett had expected to find
the camp a scene of commotion.
"Good evening, Mrs. Bennett," said the scoutmaster, in a tone of
pleasant surprise. The spider was in his web at last, but he concealed
his feeling of elation. "You are just in time to grace the festive
board. We're going to have corn wiggles; did you ever eat a corn
wiggle, Mrs. Bennett?"
"Where is my boy?" she demanded.
"Sit down, won't you? He's over there learning how to tell a mushroom
from a toadstool--something every boy ought to know."
"And this other boy?" she added, glancing inside the tent.
"Fine-doing fine. One of our boys hiked it to town for a doctor, and I
thought you were he when the sentinel told me someone was coming."
"You saw me coming?"
[Illustration: MRS. BENNETT "COMES ACROSS"]
"No, we heard you long before we saw you. I wish now that Connover's
sense of hearing were a little more acute. Then he'd have been able to
distinguish the locality of a human voice. But there's no use crying
over spilled milk."
Mrs. Bennett listened breathlessly while he repeated the story of the
afternoon's occurrences. While he was talking a scout approached,
removed his hat, saluted Mr. Ellsworth, and handed him a paper. It was
a memorandum of the temperature of the river water, an amateur forecast
of the weather for the next day, and a "stunt" proposition for O. K.
The scoutmaster asked one or two questions and dismissed the messenger.
Mrs. Bennett was a little surprised to notice that the questions seemed
to bear with practical sense and foresight upon the physical welfare of
"Do you give your approval to everything?" she asked.
"No--not always," he laughed.
"And what then? You can't watch them all."
"Oh, dear, no; I just give my veto and forget it."
"You take the temperature of the river?"
"Yes, and test it for impurities twice a week. Doc attends to that.
Come inside, Mrs. Bennett."
She greeted the reclining O'Connor boy and smoothed his forehead
"Have his parents been notified?"
"No, I'm going to town myself this evening," said Mr. Ellsworth. "I'll
tell them. My idea is to have him remain with us."
"And who will care for him while you are gone?"
Mr. Ellsworth laughed. "Oh, Doc will be glad to get rid of me," said
he. "I'll be back tomorrow."
"You bathed it with carbolic, did you?"
"No, Doc tells me carbolic is a little out of date. How about that,
Doc assented and there was something so eloquently suggestive of
efficiency about Doc that, although Mrs. Bennett sniffed audibly, she
did not venture to ask what antiseptic had been used. She had supposed
that antiseptics of all kinds would be quite unheard of in a camp of
boys, and here out in the woods she was being told by a quiet,
respectful young fellow in a khaki suit that her favorite antiseptic
was "out of date."
She received the blow with fortitude.
At a little distance from the tent several boys were engaged in the
preparation of supper and the setting of the long board under the
trees. Others were busy with various forms of house-keeping, or rather
camp-keeping, and her domestic instinct prompted her to cast an
occasional shrewd look at the systematic and apparently routine work
which was going on. What she could not help noticing was the general
aspect of orderliness which the camp displayed. Not a paper box nor a
tin can was to be seen. She had always associated camping with a sort
of rough-and-tumble life and with carelessness in everything pertaining
to one's physical welfare. Cleanliness was, to her notion, quite
incompatible with life in tents and cooking out of doors.
Her casual discovery of the practice of testing the river water at
stated intervals was in the nature of a knock-out blow. She felt a
little bewildered as she watched the comings and goings of the troop
members. She did not altogether like the realization that the water
which had never been tested for her own son's bathing was regularly
tested for this "Wild West crew."
"What is that?" she asked.
"That's our bulletin-board. Let me show you about the camp, Mrs.
Bennett. You see, you are not our only visitor; we have a delegation
from Barrel Alley, as well."
A little way from the roaring fire, whence emanated a most savory odor,
the gallant representatives of Bridgeboro's East End were watching the
preparations for supper. They had proved faithless to the excursionists
and Mr. Ellsworth had invited them to dine at camp, supplementing the
invitation with an offer to pay their way home by train, they having
come gratuitously on a "freight." Mr. Ellsworth looked far into the
future, but just at that moment Mrs. Bennett was his game.
"Here, you see, is one of the patrol tents and over here is the other.
We're hoping for still a third. Here's our wireless apparatus. The boys
have just discovered that Mr. Berry, the storekeeper over in the
village, has an outfit, so they're in high hopes of having a little
chat with him. Here, you see, are the drain ditches, so that the camp
is free from dampness and stagnant water. We'll be lowering the colors
presently. Dorry, my boy, bring the Troop Book over so Mrs. Bennett can
see it--and the Troop Album also. Ah, here's Connie now."
From among the group about the fire Connover came guiltily forward.
Mrs. Bennett put her arm about him although she said nothing and seemed
not altogether pleased. The recollection of his disobedience was now
beginning to supplant her fear and anxiety. A little group of scouts,
all on the alert for service, and anxious to advertise the details and
features of their camp life, accompanied the trio about.
"What are those?" Mrs. Bennett asked.
"Spears," said Roy.
"Do you throw them at animals?"
"No, indeed," laughed another boy. "We spear papers with them, like
this." He speared a fallen leaf to show her.
"Camp is cleared every morning," said Mr. Ellsworth, "and here is our
first aid outfit--our special pride," he added as they re-entered his
own little tent. "We have better facilities for the care of an injured
person than are to be had in the village."
"What were those signs I saw on the trees as I came?"
"Just stalking notes; we study and photograph the wild life."
There was a moment's pause. "It is certainly nice to encourage a
feeling of friendship for the forest life," she conceded.
"It is not so much a feeling of friendship as of kinship, Mrs.
She turned about and looked sharply at one of the scouts who stood near
by. "You are not the Slade boy?" she said.
"I hardly knew you."
Mrs. Bennett's housewifely instincts would not permit her to give any
sign of surrender until she had proof of the cooking. But away down in
her mother's heart was an uncomfortable feeling which she could not
overcome; a feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction with her own
son. She had too much pride to show it, but Connover felt in some vague
way that she was not well pleased. She was a mother of high ideals and
she was not undiscerning. Aside from her son's disobedience, which had
been a shock to her, what an inglorious afternoon had been his! It
seemed that every one about her had done something worthy that
afternoon except her own son. There lay his victim, the O'Connor boy,
bearing his suffering in silence. She noticed that the boys seemed
somehow to make allowance for Connover, and it touched her pride.
While the last few touches for this special meal were preparing, she
and Mr. Ellsworth wandered a little way out of camp. He spoke kindly,
almost indulgently, she thought, but as one who knew his business and
was qualified to speak. He had stormed Mrs. Bennett's fortress too many
times to mince matters now.
"I don't know that you're really to blame, Mrs. Bennett--except
"I blame Dan Dreadnought."
"I never approved of Captain Dauntless' books," she said. "It
was a compromise."
"Look up there, Mrs. Bennett--see that nest? Would you believe it, the
boys got a photograph of the young birds in that nest and the old bird
never knew it."
They walked along, he swinging a stick whick he had broken from a tree.
"There is no such man as Captain Dauntless, you know. Captains in the
army have other work to do than to write stories for boys. Captain
Dauntless is a myth."
"It is so hard to know what boys should read," she sighed.
"It is not as hard as it used to be. Remind me to give you a paper
before you go. You see, if Connie had been a scout,--well now, let's
begin at the beginning. If he had been a scout he wouldn't have read
those books in the first place; they're really not books at all,
they're infernal machines. Then if he had been a scout, of course, he
wouldn't have disobeyed you; he wouldn't have sneaked off----"
Mrs. Bennett set her lips rather tight at that word, but she did not
contest the point.
"If he had been a scout he wouldn't have killed a robin--but if he
had killed a robin, it would have been by skill and not by a
silly, dangerous random shot--and he wouldn't have been afraid of the
presence of death or the sight of blood. If he had been a scout he
could have determined unerringly the locality of sounds and human
voices, and Charlie O'Connor wouldn't----"
Mrs. Bennett winced.
"If he had been a scout he would have known how to swim; there isn't a
member of my troop that can't swim. And if he had been a scout he
wouldn't have been afraid to go home. Connie has the best home in the
world, Mrs. Bennett----"
"I have done everything for Connover----"
"But you see, he was afraid to go to it--and so he came here with us."
The cheerful call of the bugle told that supper was ready. Through the
trees they could see the scouts assembling until each stood at his
place at the long board under trees whose foliage had begun to dim in
the fading light.
"It's a pretty sight," she said, pausing and raising her lorgnette to
her eyes. "What are they all standing for?"
"Till you have taken your seat."
Smilingly she started toward them with all the cultured affability of a
true guest. She knew how to do this thing, and she was quite at home
now. Mr. Ellsworth knew that her manner covered a sense of humiliation,
but she carried it off well and so together they came out of the woods
into the clearing.
"I was saying that he came here and--and we want him to stay here. Will
you let him join us, Mrs. Bennett?"
"Would he have two blankets over him at night?" she asked after a
moment's dismayed pause.
The question was not a surrender; it was a flag of truce, meaning that
she would discuss terms.
The surrender came after supper.
FIRST AID BY WIRELESS
IT never rains but it pours, and the conversion of Mrs. Bennett to
scouting was shortly followed by the greatest catch of the season.
Charlie O'Connor came into the troop on the same wave which brought
Connover, and East End contingent, though it did not surrender as yet,
retired to the sweltering and almost deserted Bridgeboro, and tried to
kindle a fire in Temple's lot after the Camp Ellsworth fashion. The
effort was not very successful.
The next day Jakie Mattenburg, on the strength of talk he had overheard
in camp, tried his hand, or rather, his foot, at stalking, and was
surprised to find that it was rather more interesting to watch the
movements of a sparrow than to throw stones at it.
It could hardly be said that this band of seasoned hoodlums made much
immediate progress toward scouting, but they remembered their rescue
from the river at Roy's hands, and they accorded him thereafter a
grudging measure of consideration which, in the fullness of time,
blossomed into genuine friendship. They were, in fact, the future Elk
Patrol in its chrysalis form; but their career as scouts is part of
A few days after the events of the preceding chapter the troop's
birthday was celebrated in camp and Connover and Charlie O'Connor
submitted themselves to Roy, who tied a pink ribbon about the right arm
of each. From Connover's ribbon depended a card reading,
With Many Happy Returns from
The Silver Foxes
while Charlie O'Connor was presented as the gift of the Ravens.
The presentations were made at supper and the two tenderfeet were led
(with rather sheepish faces) to Mr. Ellsworth at the head of the table
and tendered to him in true birthday fashion amid much laughter.
Roy made a characteristic speech. "These two valuable gifts are
presented to our beloved scoutmaster with twelve profit-sharing
coupons. When you get one hundred of these coupons take them to
Temple's lot in Bridgeboro and receive a new scout.
"Honorable Charles O'Connor has always had brothers enough, but now he
has a few hundred thousand more, so he ought to be satisfied. This
priceless gift" (grabbing Connover by his pink ribbon) "was very
difficult to procure; it is what you have always wanted. If it
doesn't fit you can exchange it. Honorable Bennover Connett is the only
survivor, ladies and gentlemen--the only survivor of the extinct
Eureka Patrol! The Eureka Patrol was a part of the only original Cock
and Bull Troop of Nowhere-in-Particular. The records of this troop,
known as the Dan Dreadnought Series, are donated to Camp
Ellsworth for fuel in case the kindling wood runs short. Full and
implicit directions go with each gift."
It was a gala occasion in camp and the troop sat late about the roaring
fire that night.
They were just raking up the last embers preparatory to turning in when
they were startled by the sound of running footsteps, and out of the
darkness emerged a dark-cloaked figure with streaming hair and glints
of white under the heavy garment which she wore.
"I--lost the path," she gasped, "and--and then I saw your--light--and-oh,
Mr. Ellsworth--the house--was robbed and James--is shot and-there's
another man shot--and it was all planned for they've cut the
wires--and we have to get help--a doctor----"
It was Mary Temple who gasped this shocking news and then all but
collapsed from fear and haste and excitement. An automobile coat had
been donned over her nightdress. For a few moments she was utterly
unable to give a coherent account of what had happened at Five Oaks.
The few minutes during which she had been lost in the woods, together
with the appalling events at home, had quite unnerved her and she clung
to Mr. Ellsworth, looking affrightedly about her as if she were being
He did not wait to get at the details. Something had happened and
medical aid was needed. That was apparent.
"Did they send you?" he asked.
"No--I just came--I know scouts can do anything."
"Yes," he said concurrently.
"Of course, we can't get a real doctor, but--"
"We can try," said a voice.
She looked up startled, and in the last dying glow of the fire she saw
the stolid face of Tom Slade. It was the first time she had seen him
since her mother's mishap and their visit at camp, though she knew from
Roy of his tracking feat and recovery of her pin. She knew too of his
night in the lock-up, but no knowledge of his father's connection with
the affair had come to her.
"I meant--I was coming to thank you--Tom; truly, I was----"
But Tom had turned away and presently she saw an agile figure spring
"Are you going to try for it, Tom?" said Roy. "It's after one o'clock."
"He sometimes stays there till two--he told me--he'll be there."
"How do you know?"
"Because I want him to be." "Mary thinks you snubbed her, Tom; why
didn't you speak to her?"
"I wish I had her ball to toss back," said Tom.
It was odd that he should think of that now.
In the lean-to Roy lit the lantern and presently the whole troop was
divided into two groups; one was getting ready the stretcher and
helping Doc Carson, and the other stood about the lean-to watching Tom,
who sat on the rickety grocery box before the wireless apparatus. Roy
stood anxiously at his shoulder; the others waited, speaking to each
other in an undertone occasionally, but never to Tom. By common consent
they seemed to leave this thing for him to do, and there was about him
a certain detachment from the others which suggested slightly his
manner that day when he had been arrested.
Boys came and went, Mr. Ellsworth and others departed hastily with Doc,
the little group in the lean-to watched and waited while Tom,
apparently unconscious of all about him, sat there adjusting his spark
gap. Occasionally he spoke in an undertone to Roy, but seemed oblivious
of all else.
"R. V., isn't it?" he asked.
"Yes," said Roy.
"Better look and make sure."
Roy consulted a note book. "R. V. is right," said he.
Tom laid his hand upon the key and adjusted his head receivers. Then up
into the darkness and out into the vast trackless sky went the call for
It was then the boys noticed the cloaked figure of the girl standing in
the background watching. "I thought you went with Doc and Mr.
Ellsworth," someone said.
"He said I might stay," she answered timidly.
Tom glanced around and saw her, but showed no interest. Roy sat on the
edge of the instrument table, anxiously waiting.
"They can't cut this kind of wires," he said cheerily to Mary as if to
make up for Tom's silence.
Eagerly she watched Tom. She seemed fascinated with his absorption and
with every slight move of his hand.
"Nothing doing?" said Roy with a note of discouragement.
Tom made no answer, only adjusted the sending instrument to a different
"Too late, Tommy boy," Roy said.
Tom paid no attention, only in dogged silence adjusted the sending
instrument to another wavelength and readjusted the tuning-coil.
[Illustration: AFTER SENDING THE WIRELESS MESSAGE, TOM FINDS HIMSELF A
Mary watched him anxiously. She too seemed all by herself--a strange,
wide-eyed figure, standing apart with the great auto cloak about her,
silently watching and not daring to ask a question.
"Who did you say was hurt?" Tom asked at length, without turning.
"A burglar and James--our chauffeur, you know--they were both shot."
"Have you got him?" asked Roy excitedly.
He adjusted the tuning coil again and waited patiently.
"Too late, Tom."
No answer. Then suddenly Tom's hand flew to the sending key, and as the
letters of the Morse Code clicked away into the night a slight smile
crept over his face. There was no member of the troop who could use the
Morse alphabet with such rapidity as Tom, and he often thought (but
seldom spoke) of that first message he and Roy had flashed together
from the little tower on Blakeley's Hill.
"Up?" asked Roy.
"Sure he's up; wait till I get his O. K."
Back through the night and down to this boy at the rough table and to
the tense little group of watchers came the "O. K." which assured them
that the message was understood.
Tom rose and Mary Temple impulsively made a step toward him, then
She actually stood a little in awe of Tom Slade, of Barrel Alley, who
had cheated her and stolen her ball. And Tom Slade, Scout, who was sure
of himself and afraid of nothing, was very much in awe of this young
girl. And Roy Blakeley, his chum, understood and took the timid,
admiring girl into his own charge and so the little party made its way
out of the dark woods and across the bridge to Five Oaks.
Mary Temple felt very much as Tom had felt the day after his own first
essay at signalling. She knew it was a wireless apparatus he had used
(she would have asked questions of him if she had dared), and she
supposed that he was calling a doctor. She had experienced a thrill of
admiration at the quiet, stolid exhibition of skill, and his apparent
aloofness had only deepened her admiration into awe. But as Tom himself
had felt so long ago, she wanted to see the tangible result of this
work which was such a mystery to her.
Tom hurried stolidly along with Pee-wee and Charlie O'Connor, with that
clumsy gait which he had never entirely overcome, and which, ever so
faintly, suggested the old shuffle. Whether there was any foreboding in
his mind none of his companions knew for he was never talkative, but
in the light of what soon happened, it occurred to them afterward that
he had known all along what was before him, that he knew what he should
see at Five Oaks, and that, like the good scout, he was
On the way Roy gleaned from Mary more of what had taken place. It
appeared that Mr. Temple, hearing sounds in the rooms below, had rung
for the gardener who, with the chauffeur, had come from the garage and
entered a back door, letting themselves in by means of the chauffeur's
key. They were just passing through the foyer when three masked men
rushed out of the breakfast room. One got away carrying some loot, not,
however, before he had shot and seriously wounded James, the chauffeur,
who had dropped in the hall with a bullet in his thigh.
Neither of Mr. Temple's men recalled what became of the second man more
than that he disappeared, they thought, empty-handed. The third had
made for an open window and was just climbing out when the gardener
shot him and he fell to the ground outside, where he still lay when the
The gardener insisted that the man had drawn a revolver, but no
revolver could be found about him.
It was then discovered that the burglary was a well-planned affair, for
the telephone wires had been severed, and it was upon discovery of this
fact that Mary had hurried to Camp Ellsworth.
Doc Carson was busy with James, who had been lifted to a couch in the
hall, when Mary saw the tangible result of Tom's message in the form of
two dazzling acetylene headlights coming under the porte
cochère, and the doctor stepping briskly into the house.
"Oh, Tom," she exclaimed, with as much delight as the occasion would
permit, and with gratitude in every note of her voice. "He came, just
as you----Oh, where is he?" she broke off suddenly, as she noticed
that Tom was not there.
It was then and not until then that a quick thought flashed upon Roy
and he hurried out and around the house.
There, under the bay-window, lay a motionless form. Tom was bending
over it and Roy could hear his quick, short breaths as he tried to
control his emotion.
"Is he dead, Tom?" Roy asked softly.
"It's--it's my father."
"Yes, I know. Is he dead?"
"Get the doctor--I'm glad it was me sent the message for him."
It was another culmination of another triumph.
"I'm glad too, Tom."
"They'll have to see him--they'll have to know now. You tell the
doctor. I got to be loyal. Tell Mr.--Mr. Ellsworth he's got to remember
what he said, that there wasn't no First Bridgeboro Troop when he was a
boy--you heard him say that."
"He will remember it, Tom."
"Get the doctor--quick!"
Tom bent lower over the motionless form of his father as if he were
asking a question.
TOM TOSSES IT BACK
When they brought the doctor around they found him still in that
position and had to lift him gently away. The announcement that the
wound was not fatal did not seem to move his stolidness in the least.
"I want to see Mr. Temple," he said doggedly.
"What is it, Tom?" said Mr. Ellsworth putting his arm over the boy's
"I want to see him before he has him arrested--then if the wires are
cut I'll send a wireless for the constable--only I want to see Mr.
Temple first. I'm not afraid of him now."
"He couldn't be arrested to-night, Tom, he--"
"I want to see Mr. Temple--you tell him," he added, turning
suddenly upon Mary, almost with an air of command. "I did something for
The girl was sobbing and seemed to hesitate as if not knowing whether
to say something to Tom or to do his bidding. "Yes, I'll get him," she
It was not the scout fashion to order a young girl upon an errand, and
it was certainly not the scout fashion, nor anyone else's fashion to
summon John Temple thus peremptorily. But Tom was a sort of law unto
himself and even Mr. Ellsworth did not interfere.
The master of Five Oaks came around the house with his daughter
clinging to him. And Tom Slade, who had knocked his hat off, stood up
and faced him. It was not always easy to get Tom's meaning; he often
used pronouns instead of names and his dogged, stolid temperament
showed in his phraseology.
"He told me when I joined the troop that I had to be loyal, and that's
the reason I'm doing it and not because I believe in being a burglar."
The naïveness of this announcement might have seemed ludicrous if Tom's
voice had not trembled with earnestness. "And he said there wasn't no
scouts when he was a boy--that's my father there. And that's what
you got to remember too. I tracked him before and I got the pin
and gave him my five dollars that I'd saved."
Someone tittered: John Temple frowned and shook his head impatiently
and there was no more tittering.
"I guess you know about that, and that I didn't bring it to her 'cause
I was scared, and I couldn't help him coming here to-night. Only you
got to remember there wasn't any troop when he was a boy--you got to
remember that. I'd 'a' been a burglar myself, that's sure, only for
him" (indicating Mr. Ellsworth) "and the troop--and Roy. And he's sick--
that's most what's the matter with him and I'd like to have him
brought to our camp and have Doc take care of him till he gets well
enough so's Mr. Ellsworth can talk to him, 'cause Mr. Ellsworth, he
never fails--he's never failed once. But if you won't do that--if you
won't leave him--let him--go like that--then you got to remember that
there wasn't any troop when he was a boy-'cause I'm rememberin' it--
"He will remember it," said Mary, weeping. "Oh, he does remember
it, Tom, he does."
Mr. Temple drew her to him. "Go on, my boy," he said. "I'm listening."
"If you want me to send a wireless for the constable, I'll do it,
'cause I got to do a service--only you got to remember--that's only
fair. And I got something else to say while I'm not scared of you-'tain't
because I got any reason to be scared of you either--but I'm
sorry I threw that stone at you. That was what started him for
the bad--when he went away and left me--but it started me for the good
anyhow--so that's something."
For a moment no one spoke. Mr. Ellsworth would not spoil the effect of
Tom's words by uttering so much as a single word himself. It was John
Temple who broke the silence, quieting his daughter who seemed about to
break forth again.
"I will do more than remember," said he. "Come here, my boy. There will
be no charge made against your father, so there will be no need of a
service unless it is a service of my own. It has been borne in upon me
lately that your good scoutmaster is a wonder-worker, and what you have
just said strengthens that growing conviction. I have been thinking,
too, how I might further the movement so well represented by him, and
the story of your experience with your father has quite decided me. For
every one of those five precious dollars that you were sensible enough
to save and noble enough to give away, there shall be given a thousand
to the cause whose precepts and principles you represent.
"Let this poor man be taken to your camp in the woods if you like, and
let your doctor take care of him, and see that he does his duty. I will
visit your camp myself to-morrow if I may."
Mr. Ellsworth assured him that he might, and as for Doc, a half dozen
chimed forth that he was the only ever, etc., etc.
Tom said nothing. He had never been much of a scout missionary, and the
unexpected and altogether amazing conversion of John Temple quite
overwhelmed him. He did not realize that he himself had done it, in his
own stolid, crude way.
But would his hope be borne out? Would the Wizard Ellsworth indeed "get
away with it," and make a new man of poor, wretched Bill Slade? I
should hesitate to affirm it; but I wouldn't dare to deny it--not
before the boys. So let us rest in the hope born of Tom's own words
that Mr. Ellsworth had never yet failed. Let us believe that the woods
and the camp-fire yarns and the company of these boys may be a helping
hand to the broken wretch who had no First Bridgeboro Troop to look to
when he was a boy.
As they bore the stretcher over the bridge toward the woods beyond, Tom
heard the sound of footfalls a little distance behind them, and paused.
It proved to be Mary Temple.
"Tom, is that you?" she said.
"I want to thank you, Tom. I was coming to your camp to-morrow, but I
couldn't wait. I-want to thank you, Tom."
"Oh, for everything. You don't realize the things you do and that's the
best part of it." "I didn't do noth--anything."
"You got me back my pin. Oh, Tom, you don't suppose five thousand
dollars is all my father will give--he'll give ten times that!"
Tom said nothing, and for a moment they stood there near the bridge,
hearing the river rippling below.
Then, impulsively, she leaned forward and kissed him. "There," she
said, "that's how much I thank you! And I'm coming to your camp again.
I'm coming with my father," she said, as she turned and ran toward
Still Tom said nothing. He could not handle a situation like this at
A little way down the road she turned and waved her hand, and he
realized that if he were going to make any acknowledgment it would have
to be done now. So he mastered his embarrassment as best he could,
raised his hand awkwardly to his lips and threw a kiss to Mary Temple!
He had scarcely turned and started after the little cavalcade when he
stumbled into Roy.
"I was just coming to see where you were."
"Well, you took it, didn't you?" Roy added, as they walked along together.
"Something for a service."
"I--I couldn't help myself," said Tom.
For answer Roy gave him a shove and laughed outright. "So your Uncle
Dudley was right and you broke the scout law after all--ya-a-ah-a!"
They walked a little way in silence.
"Well, anyway," Roy said, "you can say you tossed it back, can't you?"
"'Twasn't her ball."
"It was much better than a ball."
"How do you know what I took and what I tossed back?"
"A scout is observant," said Roy.
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