Title: The Boy Scout Pathfinders; Or, Jack Danby's Best Adventure
Author: Robert Maitland
Release date: April 14, 2021 [eBook #65084]
E-text prepared by Juliet Sutherland, Susan Carr,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
Boy Scout Series Volume 6
Jack Danby’s Best Adventure
Major Robert Maitland
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
CHICAGO AKRON, OHIO NEW YORK
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING CO.
|I||HO! FOR THE ADIRONDACKS||3|
|II||THE LOGGING CAMP||12|
|III||THE OLD SNAKE HUNTER||26|
|V||THE BEAR’S SURPRISE PARTY||42|
|VII||TRAPPED IN THE CAVE||58|
|VIII||THE BOY SCOUTS TO THE FORE||66|
|IX||DICK CRAWFORD GIVES WARNING||77|
|X||“BUSY AS BEAVERS”||87|
|XII||OLD SAM TO THE RESCUE||108|
|XIII||THE BROKEN TRESTLE||117|
|XIV||THE SAVING OF THE TRAIN||124|
|XV||A STRANGE DUEL||132|
|XVII||JACK’S RUN FOR LIFE||148|
|XVIII||BALKED OF THEIR PREY||154|
The Boy Scout
“Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong! Ding-dong!” clashed the great bell on the locomotive, and with much creaking and clanking and letting off of steam, with iron scraping on iron and one last, long drawn whistle of the air-brakes, the train came slowly to a stop.
As if vying with the locomotive to see which could make the greater noise, a score or more of khaki-clad boys came tumbling to the platform of the little mountain station, amid whoops and cat-calls and shouts of, “Here we are!” “Hurrah for the Adirondacks!” “Say, fellows, this is the backwoods and no mistake!”
And then in rapid succession came the further inquiries:
“Which way do we go? Up this road?”
“See that big rock away down there? I’ll race you to it!”
The big collie Don, not to be behindhand when there was any noise or capering to be done, and more glad than anyone else to be released from the many hours of close confinement in that awful baggage car, ran wildly about, darting in and out between the boys’ feet, at the imminent danger of upsetting the whole procession, and added his joyful bark to the general noise and confusion.
A couple of boys did go down, but were at once on their feet and after Don, who—knowing and wise dog that he was!—understood well that his pursuers were his loyal friends, as he was theirs, and felt no fear, but ran and doubled, and ran on again, treating it all as the very best kind of a joke.
A half hour of racing and tearing to given points and back again, and impromptu games of leapfrog and follow my leader gave vent to the bubbling spirits held in check during the long journey and the Scouts, once more looking like self-controlled boys instead of cavorting wild Indians, settled down to a walk.
This was the opportunity for which Mr. Durland had been waiting to discuss plans for the season’s camp.
The call to camp had been sent out so late that most of the Scouts knew little beside the location and duration of the camp; and now Scout-Master Durland proceeded to enlighten them.
Late in the autumn of the previous year Mr. Scott, a very wealthy gentleman, had purchased a large section of land in the Adirondacks—many, many acres of ground, nearly a whole county, in fact.
As it was late in the season, he had been forced to postpone the inspection and surveying of the tract until the next year, but in order to be ready early in the summer, he had had a stout log house erected, to serve as a shelter for whomever should be sent out for the survey, and after that as a temporary hunting lodge until a larger and more elaborate one should be built.
Mr. Scott and the Scout-Master were warm friends, and knowing the proposed plans for the new lands, Mr. Durland had suggested making the work the object of the Boy Scouts’ summer camp. Mr. Scott, a firm believer and warm advocate of the Boy Scout movement, had readily consented.
Because there was more or less danger in this region of encountering a bear, or even a wildcat, and as a rattlesnake was not altogether an impossibility, it was thought advisable to use the lodge as sleeping quarters instead of the usual tents or lean-tos. A large shack would have to be built for a mess tent, and a place to store provisions.
This tract of newly purchased land was in a section uninhabited for a distance of many miles around, as far as had been ascertained. The county town was twelve miles away—not too far for an occasional trip for provisions, but as the mountain roads were steep and rough, making the going very difficult, an unusual amount and variety of provisions had been sent with the Troop. One or possibly two trips during the season would be all that would be necessary to keep the camp well stocked.
So much for the camp-building and welfare. Now for an explanation of the work laid out for the Scouts by Mr. Scott.
They were to be pathfinders in this hitherto almost totally unexplored region. They were to locate springs, brooks, streams, lakes, perhaps rivers; note the kinds of fish to be found in these waters and in what numbers; make lists of the different trees, birds and animals to be found upon it, and to group and classify them. They were to ascertain the nature of the soil in different sections, explore by-paths, and outline the best and safest and shortest routes to the section where any desired water or soil or bird or animal was to be found.
Beside all this, they were to become so familiar with the country for five miles around the camp as to be able to guide any person at any time, day or night.
A great work, surely, and one which, if well and satisfactorily handled, might well cause any boy’s heart to leap with pride.
The Scouts, sober enough now, had listened with absorbed interest to all that Mr. Durland had said. At the mention of bears and bobcats, every boy had felt his heart thrill. Was there a possibility of a real encounter with one of these animals which, when seen even in the zoo, had been terrifyingly fierce? Mr. Durland had said that the possibility was so small that it was hardly worth considering, but that there was even the faintest chance was enough to make your heart beat faster.
However, when he spoke so earnestly of the great work outlined for them, and showed the eager Scouts what splendid opportunities for mental growth it would open to them, and what a part this knowledge they were sure to gain would play in their future success in life, each Scout determined to do his very best and to make the most of every opportunity.
So, at last, just at high noon, they came to the place where they were to pitch their new camp, and again the excitement broke out.
Catching sight of the log house or lodge, with one accord they made for it, and in a great deal less time than it takes to tell it, every nook and corner of that house was explored.
They saw with satisfaction that the building was very strong, and that the many windows, beside being set with very thick glass, were provided with perforated shutters of inch-thick solid oak wood, closing from the inside. Ben Hoover expressed the general sentiment when he said, “Those shutters certainly look good to me!”
Mr. Durland’s voice reminded them that if everything was to be made shipshape in the new camp before nightfall, there was no time now to play, and from that moment the camp was a busy scene.
The two Scouts who were detailed as cooks were soon busy making a small fireplace on which to cook their dinner. Placing three stones together, they laid between them some whittled shavings for kindlings, applied a match and, as the fire commenced to burn, they placed over it some twigs and dry wood, quantities of which lay scattered about, and soon had a fine fire over which to place their frying-pan.
In the meantime the hamper was opened and when, in shorter time than you could have thought possible, the call to dinner was sounded, everyone came running. No one needed a second call, and the way that bacon and crisp fried potatoes and cornbread disappeared was a marvel.
Dinner over, one small squad was detailed to unpack, while all the rest were pressed into service to build the mess shack. This was finished by five o’clock, and then each Scout gathered branches of the fragrant balsam and hemlock for his bed. Over these he spread his rubber blanket, and over that his sleeping blanket, and he had a bed soft and springy and comfortable enough for a king.
Everything being in first-class order at last, and ready for the night, a tired, hungry lot of boys gathered around the supper table. As they ate they talked of their impressions of the new camp site, eagerly discussed the probable adventures they would have, and then someone asked Scout-Master Durland what kind of animals they would be likely to find here.
Mr. Durland smiled and said he would rather they would find that out for themselves.
“Well,” said Jack Danby, “from what I have read, I am dead sure there is one little animal who lives up here whose acquaintance I shall be very glad to make.”
“What is that?” eagerly asked Bob Hart.
“The otter,” replied Jack.
“Oh,” said Bob, disappointedly, “there’s nothing so very interesting about an otter!”
“Perhaps,” said Jack, smiling, “after you have had a chance to see him in his home and at work, you will change your mind. I know you will, for he is one of the most interesting of animals. In certain parts of England, especially near rivers, there used to be a great many otters, and some of the fishermen trained them to catch fish for them.”
“Say, Jack, you really don’t believe that, do you?” said incredulous Bob.
“I have to believe it if it is true,” said Jack.
“How can they be trained to do that?” asked Tom Binns.
“Well,” explained Jack, “it is something like this. A string was tied about the otter’s neck in a sort of slip-knot that could be lightened when the trainer wished. Then the trainer would say, ‘Come here!’ and pull on the string, so that the otter would be drawn toward him.
“This was done several times, until the otter connected the action with the words, and then the string was dropped and he came obediently without it at the words of command.
“Next a small, artificial fish was made and placed on the ground before the otter, the string pulled until he opened his mouth, when the fish was placed in it, while at the same moment the words, ‘Take it!’ were uttered. It would be a long time before he would learn to do this, but when he did, the string was again used while he had the fish in his mouth and the command, ‘Drop it!’ was given.
“At last he learned to obey these two commands without the use of the string. Then he was taken to the edge of the water and a small, dead fish thrown in and the command given him to take it. He at once seized it, and at the word, ‘Drop it!’ yielded it to his master.
“Next live fishes were thrown in, and when he had brought them, the heads were given to him as his reward, and the little fisherman was always ready for his work. In fact, one entire family was supplied with food for a long time in this way.”
The result of this story was to make all the Scouts wish that they might have a chance to make Mr. Otter’s acquaintance.
As everybody was very tired, it was decided to make no camp-fire that night, so after the roll-call all were glad to throw themselves upon their beds of fragrant balsam. They found them deliciously comfortable, and many a tired New York millionaire, tossing sleeplessly on his luxurious couch, might have envied these sturdy Scouts as they sank at once into the sleep that is the reward of a healthy body, a clear conscience, and muscles tired with honest effort.
Once in the night Mr. Durland was aroused by a sleep-bound voice asking, “Are those shutters closed? There might be a bear!” But no bear more formidable than Ursa Major peeped through the holes of the shutters, and sweet, restful sleep held the tired Scouts in her embrace.
The Scouts arose early the next day, in order to be able to march during the cool morning hours, and so escape the torrid middle part of the day, which is especially hot during the short northern summer.
But although hot after the sun is up, the nights seem all the colder by contrast. Fortunately, the Scout-Master had foreseen this and had provided for it by insisting that each Scout carry a warm woolen blanket. To many of the boys this had seemed a waste of energy at the time. Who on earth could want a blanket at that time of the year, they argued.
The first night in camp, however, proved the wisdom of Mr. Durland’s course, and they were glad enough to wrap their blankets around and around them and lie close to each other for the sake of warmth.
Ben Hoover expressed the general feeling when he said, “We must all be crazy with the heat, I think. By this time we ought to realize that Mr. Durland knows what he is talking about.”
It had been arranged that today they would make a visit to a logging camp which lay about five miles in a westerly direction from their camp.
All the Scouts were eager to see the lumber camp, and so stepped off smartly at the word of command from Scout-Master Durland. If left to themselves, most boys would probably have run the first part of the way, but these Scouts knew that five miles through the woods on such a day as this promised to be was not any laughing matter, so they went along slowly.
This did not suit Don, but he submitted with good grace, like the Scout and gentleman he was. He usually traveled about three miles to every one that the boys made, anyway, darting off on his own doggish errands and returning with a wise look on his face. Whatever anyone else thought, he evidently considered his expeditions of the utmost importance.
Today, however, he restrained his exuberant feelings, and walked along sedately with the rest of his Troop, his magnificent brush waving slowly from side to side. Even when a squirrel darted across the path, he curbed his ardent desire to chase it, and Jack petted him lovingly on the head.
“You’re just as good a Scout as any of us, aren’t you, old boy?” he asked. “Even if you haven’t taken the Scout oath, I know well enough that you would if you could. When it comes right down to having good principles, I guess you are as good as any of us!”
“Perhaps you’re right,” said Mr. Durland, who had overheard the last part of his remark. “If every man had as good and upright instincts as that dog, the world would be a better place than it is now.”
Jack saluted, and said respectfully, “Yes, sir, I guess it would.”
It seemed no time after that until they were surprised to come suddenly upon an opening in the woods, and Mr. Durland said, smiling, “Well, Scouts, we have arrived! While you are here, I want you to keep your eyes and ears open, and learn all you can about logging. Everything you see will be interesting, so I have no doubt you will have a good time. Remember, we are to make a report on what we see, so we want to be on the job. Now, forward, march!”
The Scouts defiled out into the open, and started down the rough path toward the camp. This was situated at the bottom of a hollow, where it was sheltered somewhat from the wintry blasts.
As the Scouts approached, they saw that it was composed of two rough log buildings, one considerably larger than the other. The larger structure was the bunk house, where the lumberjacks ate and slept, and the smaller one was the cook house, or kitchen.
As the boys came nearer, they could see the cook’s helper, or cookee, as he was called, standing outside the door, washing an immense pile of dishes. He was engaged in a hot argument with the cook, who was a peppery little French Canadian.
“What you tink, by gar?” the latter was shouting as they got within hearing distance. “You tink I am goin’ to cook for dees here bunch of hungry pigs, an’ den help you wash dishes, also? Mon Dieu! What you take me for—what you call zee easy mark?”
“There, there, Frenchy, keep your hair on!” replied the cookee, a red-headed lad about the same age as the Scouts, and then added, with an exasperating grin, “If I couldn’t cook anything better than the sour dough biscuits and the sinkers you turn out, I’d be ashamed to take the boss’s good money! Why don’t you get a job in New York driving an ash cart? You’d look nifty in one of them white uniforms, and then you wouldn’t have a chance to kill off any more poor lumbermen with your bum grub! That’s what I’d do if I was you!”
This seemed to drive the excitable Frenchman nearly frantic.
“Pig! Dog! Vile one!” he screamed. “Is it zat you would mock me, child of ze gutter?”
The grinning boy appeared to take pleasure in teasing the peppery cook, and finally the latter seemed to go quite mad with rage. He grasped a huge wooden spoon from a table beside the door, and made a clumsy rush at his assistant. The nimble boy easily eluded him, however, but once or twice let the cook get so near him that the little man felt encouraged to keep up the chase in the hope of finally catching him. At last his breath gave out, and he came to a standstill and shook his fist wildly in futile rage.
“That’s right, Frenchy, fan the air all you please,” shouted the evidently delighted youngster. “It does you good, and doesn’t hurt me, so we’re both happy.”
“Wait, wait, zat is all!” gurgled the cook, his face purple. “Soon ze boss, he will come back, and zen you will see, little devil! He will—what you call it? Make ze punching bag of you! Who will be happy zen? I will laugh at you, so, ha-ha!”
“Go ahead, laugh, old boy, it will ease your mind!” said the boy, whom the cook had so aptly described. “It may save you from having apoplexy and croaking. Fat old guys like you often go off just like that!” and he grinned and snapped his fingers.
The outraged cook could think of nothing to say to this crowning insult, and retired into his shack, muttering a string of variegated profanity. After a short interval the boy returned to his dish-washing, but kept a wary eye on the door, prepared to cut and run at the first sign of danger.
The Boy Scouts had been interested spectators of this scene, and now Mr. Durland stepped up to the boy who had been the cause of all the trouble, and said, “Can you tell me, my lad, where I can find the foreman, if he is in camp?”
“The boss is away just now,” replied the boy, civilly enough. “Wot’s yer business with him? Shall I tell him you were here?”
“That depends on when he will be back,” replied Mr. Durland. “Do you think he will be here soon? If so, we will wait for him.”
“I guess he will, if you want to see him bad enough to wait,” answered the boy. He seemed willing enough to oblige, and Mr. Durland felt sure that he was not a really bad boy, although it is safe to say that the cook would not have agreed with him.
“Who’s them guys with you?” asked the boy, but with a note of respect in his voice that was seldom heard there.
“That is a Troop of three Patrols of Boy Scouts,” explained Mr. Durland.
“Boy Scouts?” echoed the boy. “I knew a feller once who was a Boy Scout, and he said it was nifty to be one. He said I could be one, too, if I wanted to, and I did, but I thought he was just kidding me. How is a guy like me, what can’t even talk straight, goin’ to be a Boy Scout?”
“There’s no reason on earth why you shouldn’t be one, if you really desire it,” said Mr. Durland, kindly. “You can soon learn to ‘talk straight,’ as you call it, and once you have taken the Scout oath, everything else will come of itself.”
The Scout-Master then went on to explain just what being a Boy Scout meant, and the boy listened attentively. When he spoke about the Scout oath, the boy inquired:
“Just what is the oath, mister?”
“It is the oath that every boy desiring to become a Scout must take, and once having done so, he must stick to it through thick and thin,” explained Mr. Durland.
“Well, I know now that I will want to join, but could I have a little time to think it over?” inquired Harry, for so his name proved to be.
“Why, surely!” replied Mr. Durland, cordially. “We wouldn’t hurry you in your decision for a moment. We will be in the camp off and on quite a while, and you can let me know of your decision at any time that suits you best. Just take your time, my boy, and think it over.”
“I will, sir,” replied Harry, gratefully, and turned again to his seemingly endless task.
The Scout-Master rejoined the boys, and they all started on an inspection of the camp. As they walked, Mr. Durland told Jack and Dick Crawford about what the red-haired boy had said, and they were as pleased as he over the prospect of gaining a new Scout, when in this part of the country nothing had been further from their thoughts.
The clearing in which the logging camp was situated covered several acres, and was hemmed in closely by giant trees. Some of these had already been nicked by the woodcutter’s axe, which marked them as the next victims to the demands of advancing civilization.
Not far from the camp ran a river, or at least what was a river at certain seasons of the year, though now it was little more than a large brook. The boys could hear it murmuring through the trees, and suddenly Tom Binns said:
“Say, fellows, I wonder if there’s any place around here that we could take a swim? It’s getting pretty hot, and I for one feel as if a good swim would do me all sorts of good.”
There was a general shout of approval, and the Scout-Master said, “Why don’t you see if you can discover a pool of some kind?”
This was no sooner said than done, and the boys, accompanied by Don, were plunging pell-mell through the underbrush in the direction of the river. Soon they emerged on the bank of the stream, and after their hot run the thought of a plunge in the cool, shady river was pleasant indeed.
Running along the bank, they discovered a place where a fallen forest giant had formed a natural dam, and the water was several feet deep. It was not two minutes before every Scout was in the pool, and oh, how grateful the cool, clear water felt! They splashed around, and in one place the better swimmers found it deep enough for diving.
“Say, isn’t this a bully place?” shouted Jack.
“Bet your sweet life it is!” shouted one.
“I just guess yes!” agreed another.
Mr. Durland remained on the bank with Don beside him. He could see that the dog wanted to jump in with the boys, but felt that he ought not to leave the Scout-Master alone. So Mr. Durland picked up a dry stick and, showing it to Don, said, “Here, boy, fetch it back!” and threw it into the stream.
In three bounds Don had reached the brink of the pool and dashed in, covering the boys with spray. In less time than it takes to tell, he had grasped the stick in his strong, white teeth, and clambered up the bank.
Pausing only long enough to give himself a shake, which sent a miniature shower into the air, he ran proudly up to the Scout-Master and dropped the stick at his feet. Mr. Durland patted his wet head approvingly, and this performance was repeated several times, much to the delight of both boys and dog. When it came to swimming, Don could beat any of them, and the water seemed almost to be his natural element.
But time was passing, and at last the boys had to climb out reluctantly and dress.
“Gee,” said Bob Hart, “we’ll have to try to get down here as often as we can,” and this sentiment was heartily echoed by the others.
They now proceeded to the camp, and when they reached there found that the foreman, Mr. Flannigan, had arrived a few minutes before.
Mr. Durland introduced himself, and handed the foreman a letter from Mr. Scott. With many grimaces and mutterings Mr. Flannigan finally deciphered the letter and, looking up, remarked:
“Shure, an’ Mr. Scott says as how yer all right, an’ by the same token, whativer Mr. Scott says goes around here, him bein’ the boss. What kin I be doin’ fur ye, sir?”
“Why, nothing very much,” answered Mr. Durland with a smile. “We are commissioned by Mr. Scott, as he no doubt tells you in his letter, to get the lay of the land around here and make a report to him. While we were about it, I thought it would be a good chance to give my Troop some idea of what a logging camp is like.”
“Shure, an’ it’s glad I’ll be to do what I kin fur yez,” said Flannigan, scratching his head. “But, bedad, it’s a poor time o’ the year to see a loggin’ camp. Most of the brave b’ys is in town or scattered around further north. At this time o’ the year ’tis little we do besides nickin’ the trees for the fall cut. Howiver, if I’m not mistaken, here come the b’ys now fur supper, an’ if ye don’t mind rough table manners, we’ll soon have a bite to eat. Here, cook!” as that individual bustled past, “set up an extra table in the bunk house for the b’ys here. More’s the pity, it’s not much we’ve got to offer ye, but such as it is, there’s never any lack, and I guess ye kin make out.”
By this time the lumbermen had arrived at the house, and the boys thought they had never seen a stronger or more healthy set of men. The sun had tanned their bearded faces to a deep brown hue, and as they dropped their heavy axes into a corner, it was easy to see that each one was as strong as two ordinary men.
They all muttered a “How d’ye do” to Mr. Durland, and took their seats around the rough table in silence.
Obedient to instructions, the cook had stretched a wide plank between two barrels, and this served Mr. Durland and his Troop as a table. The boys were not in a mood to be critical, and so long as they got something to eat, did not care much what kind of a table it was served on.
Harry, the red-headed cookee, now entered, bearing a huge platter of steaming beans. This was followed by other dishes of biscuits, doughnuts and great cups of black coffee.
The lumbermen fell to with a rush, and it was wonderful to see the way in which the eatables vanished. They ate like famished wolves, and the Scouts, hungry as they were, almost forgot to eat, and could only stare at the spectacle and wonder how the men ever did it.
However, you may be sure that their own hunger soon asserted itself, and, as Ben Hoover expressed it, they began to “feed their faces.”
The food was very good in its way, and the boys made a hearty meal. The lumberjacks, however, were through almost before the Scouts had begun, and had gone outside, there to smoke their pipes and swap yarns of perils by wood and water.
Soon the boys followed them, and ranged themselves on the grass, listening to the whoppers that the inventive men told. It must be admitted that most of the yarns had some foundation of truth, but on this had been reared an elaborate structure of events that had happened only in the imagination of the man telling the story.
After a while they started singing a rough lumberman’s song, and some of the boys joined in the chorus. Tom’s clear, piercing voice rang out above the thunderous bass of the men like foam on the crest of the wave, and when they had finished, the men gazed at him admiringly.
“That there kid,” said one great, bearded fellow, who at one time had been a cowboy on the western plains, “is sure goin’ to be some shakes as a singer when he grows up. I bet he’ll be in opry some o’ these days. I knew a feller on the Panhandle as could sing like that oncet, but he would borrow hosses as didn’t belong to him, and so we all strung him up one fine mornin’. It sure seemed a shame to strangle that voice of his’n, but it had to be did.”
He gazed meditatively out over the tops of the trees, and a big fellow called Pete said:
“Say, boy, why don’t you bane give us a song?”
Tom was about to refuse, when Mr. Durland said, “Go ahead, Tom. Sing My Old Kentucky Home, won’t you?”
Thus encouraged, Tom drew a deep breath and started the Southern song.
In the hush of the great north woods, his wonderful voice floated out in liquid melody, and the men sat entranced. Visions of childhood days, when they had sat at some distant fireside, came up before them, and more than one hardened “scrapper” felt a lump rise in his throat and his eyes grow moist.
As the song was finished there was a short silence, and then someone said in a husky voice: “Say, kid, that was great! I’ll bet your father is proud of you. I would be, if I was your dad! Sing some more, will yuh?”
Tom sang song after song, until it was almost dark, and the Scouts were forced to leave.
All the men followed the boys to the edge of the clearing, and here they parted.
“Youse b’ys has given us an iligant evenin’, bedad, and it’s us that thanks ye, although we can’t do it in none of them flowin’ speeches like the poetry fellers does. All we kin say is as how we hope ye’ll come early and often, and stay late.”
There was a hearty chorus of, “We sure will!” and “Much obliged, Mr. Flannigan!” from the boys, and as Mr. Durland shook hands with the boss of the camp, he said:
“We certainly have been royally entertained, Mr. Flannigan, and want to thank you for it.”
“Shure, an’ it’s yourselves that has done the entertainin’,” responded the foreman, with a comical grin.
“Well, good-night, everybody!” shouted the Scouts in chorus, and were answered by a good-natured mumble from the deep-chested woodmen.
“Forward, march!” called Scout-Master Durland, and the Boy Scouts started on their return journey.
The boys—Jack, Tom and Bob—set off one morning at the Scout-Master’s direction for the bluestone quarries situated about a mile from the lodge. Don rushed joyfully ahead, barking at squirrels, who looked at him tantalizingly from safe retreats in the trees, chasing rabbits into their burrows, and making himself altogether disagreeable to the astonished inhabitants of the forest.
The way to the quarries was not an easy one. The boys had to climb over great rocks, descend the steep sides of mountains, slipping and sliding most of the way; they had to make a path through stout vines that reached from tree to tree and seemed determined not to let them pass. Still they went steadily forward, for what Scout would ever think of complaining or, worse yet, of turning back with a task half done?
Finally they saw before them through the trees a small hut before which an old man of strange appearance was standing. He wore an old brown hunting suit, so old and threadbare, in fact, that the boys wondered how it ever managed to hold together; his leather leggings were strapped securely just below the knee. In his hand he held an implement that looked like a pitchfork, but which had only two prongs, and in his mouth was a huge pipe that sent up a cloud of smoke at every puff. And although his face was all criss-crossed with wrinkles, the few people who knew him forgot all about that when they caught the kindly gleam of his dark eyes, which were just as keen and bright at sixty as they had been at twenty.
Don trotted up and down and regarded the old man, with one paw raised and his head cocked inquiringly on one side, confident of welcome.
“Waal, I’ll be durned!” said the old fellow scratching his head in perplexity. “If that dog ain’t the image of my Rover what got drowned down in the river yonder a year ago come Monday! Seems like he might almost be Rover’s sperret; that is, ef I was to believe in sech things. Come here, doggie, an’ ’splain yerself! One minnit ye ain’t there an’ next minnit ye air! Whar be ye from?” and he laid his hand gently on the big dog’s head.
Just then the boys came into the cleared space in front of the cabin and saluted the old man courteously.
“Waal, you be pow’ful fine youngsters,” he said, fairly beaming with delight at the unexpected visit. “Be this your doggie?”
“You bet your life he is!” Bob asserted, proudly. “Jack here is his real owner, but we all have a part interest in him. We come from the Boy Scouts’ camp about a mile back,” he went on to explain, “and we’re bound for the bluestone quarries.”
“Waal, I’ll be durned!” again said the old man, knocking the ashes out of his pipe. “Seems to me I heerd somethin’ ’bout a boys’ camp t’other day when I was down in town. Layin’ out that new ’state or whatever you call it, beant you?”
“Yes, we’re locating lakes and brooks and different kinds of trees, and we’re getting great fun out of it, too,” Jack replied; then added, “I’m afraid we’ll have to get along, fellows. We’ve got quite a way to go yet.”
“What’s your hurry, boys? ’Tain’t so often Old Sam has company drop in to see him that he’s glad to see ’em go. Why can’t ye stay and hev a bite o’ somethin’ to eat with me? I am bound for the quarries myself to get the ile from any o’ them pesky snakes what are fools enough to let me ketch ’em. I kin show you a durn sight better road there than any you know of.”
The boys, who had brought some lunch with them, were only too glad to accept Old Sam’s kind invitation. Don, who had felt a lively regard for the old man from the first minute he looked at him, trotted contentedly into the cabin with the rest.
The old man was so happy to have someone to talk to that he kept up a continual chatter as he put the frying-pan on the stove and sliced some bacon.
“You see,” he was saying, “it was like this, boys. We had had a turrible late spring same’s we’ve had this year an’ the river was pow’ful swollen an’ angry like, along o’ the snow meltin’ an’ comin’ down from the mountains. Waal, my Rover an’ me, we wuz walkin’ along when all o’ a sudden we heerd a child screamin’. Sez I to Rover, sez I, ‘It’s ’bout time, my boy, that we wuz findin’ out the meanin’ o’ that there scream.’
“Rover seemed like he wuz o’ the same opinion, cuz before I had time to git the words out o’ my mouth, away he went like a streak. When I got to the river, I see my Rover gather hisself together and spring into the river, makin’ straight fer a little patch o’ white that I took fer a child’s dress. It didn’t take long fer me to git my coat off and foller him, let me tell ye!”
The boys, deeply interested, waited impatiently while Old Sam turned a slice of bacon, and then continued, reminiscently:
“Waal, by the time I had fit my way as fur as from this stove to the door, I see Rover comin’ back with a little piece o’ white in his mouth. He swum much slower and feebler than he done at fust, and I could see that the strain was tellin’ on him turr’ble. I swum as fast as I could to meet him. Purty soon up he come, stickin’ on to that piece o’ white like he would sooner give up his own life than let go, but when he looked up at me so pitiful like I—I——” Here the old man choked and drew his hand hastily over his eyes, stealing a glance at the boys to see if they had noticed his weakness, but finding them all looking in the other direction, then, putting the bacon on the table, he went on:
“Waal, I put out my hand to take hold o’ the little child, an’ Rover, he let go jest too soon and the little one went under. I dove down, and soon felt the dress in my hand. When I got to the top, I jest nat’ally looked to see whar my Rover wuz, but I couldn’t see him nowhere. It hurt me turr’ble to go in without findin’ him, but I knowed my strength wouldn’t hold out much longer, so I had to use it while there wuz any left. Waal, I never could remember how I swum the rest o’ the way to shore, but I got thar some way, an’ found a crowd o’ people thar, glad enough to take the child after I had saved it. They told me how brave I wuz, too, but I turned on ’em, kind of fierce like, an’ said:
“‘It wuzn’t me as done it! It was my Rover, and he’s dead now. Dead, d’ye hear that?’ an’ then I jest walked away with my heart gone clean out o’ me. Ye see, my Rover wasn’t a water dog. He jest nat’ally hated the water, but the big, brave heart o’ him——” Here the old man’s voice grew husky, while Don, wistfully watchful, nestled close to him, looking up into his face with a great longing to comfort expressed in his beautiful eyes.
“Aye, lad,” and the voice was still unsteady, “aye, lad, ye have the look o’ my Rover!”
More than one of the boys dashed his hand across his eyes as he looked at the lonely old man with his arms around their Don’s neck.
In a moment Old Sam had pulled himself together, and called to the boys to “fall to,” upon which the boys brought forth their baskets and promptly carried out Old Sam’s suggestion. They avoided further mention of Rover, but their thoughts were often drawn back to the tragedy and in their hearts was a very tender spot for Rover’s master.
After dinner they all set out for the quarries. Sam, as he insisted upon the boys calling him, was as good as his word, showing them a much shorter road than the one they had intended to follow. In a short time they reached the quarry, and found they were in time to see some of the blasting done.
“Ye see,” Old Sam said, “owin’ to the late spring, all the snakes hasn’t left their snug bedding places in the rocks, but when the men comes around with their blastin’ the durned reptiles thinks it’s ’bout time fer them to be movin’. Ye wouldn’t believe it,” he went on, “but some o’ them critters curls up in a great big bunch durin’ the winter so’s they kin keep warm, and when they gits their walkin’ papers, it’s as easy as rollin’ off a log to ketch ’em, they take so long to get untangled.”
“But how do you catch them?” Jack had asked eagerly. “Isn’t there great danger of your being bitten?”
“Not much; ye have to be pow’ful keerful, that’s all. Ye see, I gets behind one o’ them snakes and sticks the two ends o’ this here pole in the ground, one on one side o’ his neck jest below the head, an’ the other on t’other side. Then I stoops over and picks him up by the neck, and drops him head first into this here leather bag. Then when I gets him home, I kills him and gets the ile.”
This interested the boys intensely, and they could not wait to see it done. They stood awhile watching the blasting when they had reached the quarry, and then Old Sam suddenly cried out: “See that? Look over there by them rocks! No, this way! That’s right! Now d’ye see that reptile? Come along, and I’ll show you how I kin ketch ’em.”
Excitedly the boys followed Sam across the rocks until he said, “Stay there! Don’t come a step further. Now jest watch yer Uncle Sam!”
So saying, Old Sam was off down the rocks, climbing as nimbly as a boy. With breathless interest the boys watched as he drew near a snake that lay basking in the sun. Without an instant’s hesitation, he slipped up behind it, plunged his pronged stick hard on the ground on either side of its neck and, stooping over, picked it up quickly just behind the head and threw it bodily into his bag. Then, closing the bag tight, he clambered up once more beside the admiring group of Scouts.
“You sure are a wonder!” said Tom, and the praise came from the bottom of his heart.
“I don’t think I’d have the nerve to try that,” said Tom Binns, who always had had a fear of snakes.
“Waal, ’twan’t much to do,” Old Sam protested, pleased beyond measure, nevertheless, by the boys’ hearty and open admiration.
After they had examined the quarries thoroughly, the party started out once more. When they reached Sam’s cabin, he urged them to come and see him often, to which the boys agreed eagerly, and exacted a promise from him in return that he would come and spend a day with them in camp soon.
So, with a last gentle pat on Don’s head, Old Sam watched the boys out of sight among the trees, and then turned with a happy sigh to enter his cabin.
“Them boys sure are fine lads, an’ the dog—waal, he did have the looks o’ my Rover!”
The boys went happily along, talking about the interesting events of the day, full of wonder at Old Sam’s courage and skill.
That evening around the camp-fire, they told an interested group of boys about the old snake hunter. Tom Binns, who had been especially interested in the story of Rover’s death, turned to Don where he lay in his usual place beside Jack, and whispered softly: “Don’t you go and get drowned like poor old Rover, boy, ’cause if you do, we sure would have to break camp! We can’t get along without our mascot, old fellow!”
As is usually the case with men who live close to nature, the lumberjacks in Mr. Scott’s logging camp possessed many rough virtues, and, it must be confessed, some equally strong vices.
Among these might be numbered an inordinate love of fighting. And fighting among these elemental natures was not the honorable stand-up-and-fight-and-don’t-hit-a-man-when-he’s-down style of combat that our Scouts were used to considering it.
On the contrary, the one thing that the lumberman desired was to put his opponent out of the running, either by fair means or foul. And, indeed, the tactics employed were considered all right by their comrades, so in a way it could not be said that they fought by underhand methods. They knew what they had to expect, and so it was “up to them” not to be taken unawares.
“Everything went,” no matter what it was. A man might kick, bite, or gouge his adversary, and if he tripped, might even jump on the fallen man, without being criticized by his companions. Just to win, in any way, was their one great aim and object.
But if they had been allowed to follow their tendencies unchecked there would have been little work done around the camp, as a large part of the working force would have been disabled a good part of the time.
To prevent this, the foreman, Flannigan, had issued strict orders against fighting of any kind.
“The first one of yez that Oi catch at it, Oi’ll lick meself, begorra, and fire him afterward,” had been his ultimatum and the men, knowing him for a famous “scrapper” and a man of his word, had kept the peace up to today.
But there had always been a smouldering animosity between two of the men and this morning it threatened to burst forth into a “real knock-down rumpus,” as the lumbermen described it.
The two lumberjacks in question were named respectively Larry O’Brien and Jacques Lavine. As may be inferred from the names, the former was a strapping red-headed Irishman, with a big bull neck and small, twinkling, blue eyes.
The Canadian, on the other hand, at first glance seemed to be much the physical inferior of the two. He was a lighter man and more slenderly built, but from constant outdoor work his muscles had become like steel wires. So that if the men should at any time come to blows, as now seemed very probable, they would be a pretty evenly matched pair.
It was unusually hot weather, and that may have had something to do with the ill-temper in which the men found themselves. For another thing, work had been slack recently, and that is always bad for men who are not used to it. Indeed, the same thing may be said in regard to all of us. The man who does not have to work reasonably hard is to be pitied.
To cap the climax, the foreman was away on a trip to the distant town for supplies, and this fact further relaxed the reins of discipline.
If either of the two men had been called on to give a reason for their hatred toward each other, the chances are that they would have been hard put to it to give an adequate reply.
Their feud had started in some little slighting allusion to the other’s nationality, and small things had led to larger, until now they both felt that they must settle the question of supremacy once for all.
As is commonly the case with those who are of such an irritable and trouble-seeking nature, they were really the two most worthless men in the camp. They both drank heavily whenever they got the chance, and were continually shirking their work and picking quarrels.
It is safe to say that if they had put half as much energy and time into their work as they did into grumbling and quarreling, they would have been valuable men.
Both were strong and skillful in the handling of axes, and could bring a forest giant to the ground as soon or sooner than anyone else in the camp. It is too bad that in this world of ours there is so much misdirected energy, which if deflected into the proper channels would do so much valuable work.
As has been said, on this particular morning the men all felt out of sorts, and, to make things worse, the cook had burned the biscuits.
“It’s always the way,” grumbled O’Brien, who was usually called “Red,” both because of the color of his hair, and also on account of his red-hot temper, “them French cooks never is no good, nohow! I for one never heard of a—— frog-eater who ever was any good, anyhow,” he continued, casting a meaning glance in Lavine’s direction.
Lavine rose slowly from his seat, an ominous scowl on his dark face.
“You mean to say, den, Irishman, zat you tink no Frenchman be any good? Is zat what you say?”
“Ye guessed right foist time, Frenchy,” replied O’Brien, recklessly. “Now, what ye gonna do about it, hey?”
“Dog!” hissed the Frenchman, his eyes flashing and his dark face livid with rage. “I will show you who ees your master!” and he leaped across the rough table and struck O’Brien a tremendous blow on the jaw.
Any ordinary man would have dropped like a log, but the hardy Irishman only reeled a little from the terrific buffet.
“So that’s how ye feel, is ut?” he grunted, and they fell to belaboring each other in good earnest.
The rest of the men were delighted at this turn of affairs and quickly formed a ring around the combatants.
Neither man was very popular in the camp, so the men could enjoy the fight without having to worry about which one conquered. All they cared for was to see a rousing fight, and their desires seemed in a fair way to be gratified.
Both men were in the pink of condition, and for a long time neither seemed to gain any advantage over the other.
They swayed backward and forward, exchanging terrific blows that echoed on their chests like the beating of a drum. No sound was heard save their labored breathing and an occasional encouraging cry from one of the men. It seemed as though no man could live through such punishment, and finally both were forced to rest through sheer lack of wind.
Then they fell to again, and this time employed all the rough-house tactics that they knew. Lavine suddenly brought his spiked shoe down on the Irishman’s foot with all the force at his command, and the latter gave a bellow of pain and rage. He retaliated by lowering his head and butting it into the pit of Lavine’s stomach. The Frenchman gave a gasp and reeled for a moment, but quickly recovered and returned to the attack with tiger-like ferocity.
There is no telling how the fight would have ended, for here there was a diversion. Flannigan, the foreman, had returned to the camp after his trip to town, and with one quick glance realized what was going on.
With a yell he charged the group of men, who made a path for him with rather sheepish looks on their faces. He grabbed one by each shoulder and threw them apart.
“Pfwat the Dickens do ye mean by this, ye shpalpeens?” he shouted, angrily. “Didn’t Oi say that Oi’d have no fighting in my camp? If yez want to scrap, go and do it in some other camp. Yez can’t do it here! Ye’re fired, both of yez! Pick up yer duds and vamoose! Beat it now, before Oi lick the two of yez! Get!”
The two men were entirely taken back by this, for, as is usual with men of their type, they had an exaggerated idea of their own importance and had not believed that Flannigan would really discharge them. When they realized that such was actually the case, however, their first astonishment changed to rage and resentment. Their common plight caused them to forget their recent quarrel and they were drawn together by their natural grudge against Flannigan. They regarded him with black scowls and then entered the bunk house to get their things.
“Who’d have thought the old cuss would take it that way?” growled O’Brien.
“He’ll live long enough to regret it, by gar,” snapped Lavine, grinding his teeth, “but not much longer. No man can fire me, Jacques Lavine, in dat way and live to boast about it. No, sar!”
“We’ll get hunk on him, all right,” muttered “Red.” “We’ll show him that he can’t get away with anythin’ like that! Yes, by thunder, we will!”
“Sure ting!” assented the Frenchman, and the look in his eyes was not good to see. He was the kind of man that would not stop at anything, and it is safe to say that O’Brien would not be far behind him in anything he might undertake.
The two worthies packed their blankets and, after drawing the money due them, set out from the camp. As they reached the edge of the clearing they both looked back, and Lavine shook his fist at the rough log houses.
“We’ll get square wiz ze whole bunch,” he said, with a furious oath, “old Scott and all of zem! Wait, dat’s all!”
“Right you are, Frenchy,” growled O’Brien. “Shake on that,” and with black thoughts in their hearts they entered the forest.
What plots they laid and how they failed to take Jack Danby into the reckoning will be seen a little later on.
“And bang! bing! bang! went Billy’s gun, and that was the end of that bear.”
The words came clearly, distinctly to Dick Crawford swinging along through the cool, green, glorious forest; but as he looked wonderingly around, not a trace of the speaker could he see.
The words had been uttered in a clear, boyish voice, but if a boy had been there, he must have vanished into a hole in the ground, or been spirited away by the woodland brownies, for no sign of a boy could he see anywhere.
Dick stood perfectly still and listened with all his might, but not a human sound could he hear. Other sounds there were in plenty. The soft gurgling of the little brook that wound down the mountain side, and at its deepest part the quick splash of an otter, as, his small head glistening in the light, he swam rapidly across. There was the low murmuring of countless insects, the soft rustle of leaves as a frightened jack-rabbit scurried to his burrow. In the branches of a tree near by he could hear the twitter of a mother bird as she fed her nestlings, and directly over his head, in the spreading branches of a giant oak, two squirrels scolded noisily, very noisily, too noisily it all at once seemed to Dick, and, looking up keenly into the branches over him, he said quietly:
“A very good imitation of a squirrel, fellows! The only fault with it is that it is too good, too awfully good! Come down out of that, and give an account of yourselves.”
At this there was a great commotion overhead, and with, “Ain’t he smart?” “Too smart!” “Altogether too smart for us,” a little group of noisy Scouts slid recklessly down the scraggy trunk of the old oak, and Dick was surrounded.
“We were some tired,” a Scout said to him, “so we thought we would wait for you in the tree. Just as you came in sight Bob was finishing a most exciting bear story.”
“It’s fine and dandy up in that tree,” said Tom. “Let’s go up again for a while.”
Dick looked doubtful, for their time was not their own, and they must give an account of it to the Scout-Master; but Jack told him that they had really been working very hard for two hours, and he thought a twenty minutes’ rest was what the fellows needed. So as Dick gave the word, five boys scrambled and climbed back like monkeys into that tree before you could have said “Jack Robinson!”
Comfortably settled, the talk went back to the all-absorbing topic they were discussing when Dick arrived, and one of the fellows asked Jack what he would do if he should stumble upon a bear.
“If I were well armed,” said Jack, “and knowing, as I do, how to shoot, I would face him and defend myself. If I should meet him to-day, I should race for the nearest hut or cave or anything I could get behind or into, and thank fortune that I was lucky enough to find such a place.”
Some of the Scouts were inclined to think that would be rather cowardly and were for taking their chance of fighting with a club or anything they could lay their hands upon. Jack gave them a gentle reminder of Bruin’s by no means gentle claws and his ferocious nature by running his finger nails energetically down a Scout’s leggings and uttering a most savage growl. At the same moment Dick threw his arms around the nearest fellow and gave him a genuine bear’s hug till he begged for mercy.
After this demonstration, there was a general coming round to Jack’s view. Some of the Scouts hoped they would see a bear, and some hoped they would not; but even those who hoped they would felt way down in the bottom of their hearts that they could manage to live without it. After all, they hadn’t “lost any bear.”
Time was up now, so the Scouts slid nimbly back to solid ground, and they were off to locate and make a list of the different trees. Already that list was a creditable one, but they had an hour yet to work before starting back to camp, and they were anxious to make it long enough to show to the Scout-Master with pride.
Aside from this desire, the trees themselves—the great, noble, splendid trees—appealed to them, and made the study of them an ever-increasing delight.
They had located, marked and listed great sturdy oaks towering seventy, eighty feet toward the sky, and one old giant measured one hundred and twenty feet in height. The Scouts felt very small as they looked up with awe at the towering branches of this monster tree.
Then there were beech trees, with their smooth, ashy gray bark, about the same height as the oaks, but not to be compared with them in usefulness, although as firewood they are perfect, as are the hickory trees. They (the hickory) and the chestnut trees need no description. What boy does not claim a close acquaintance with them?
Here rose a colony of butternut trees, not so tall, but with large, beautiful leaves measuring from fifteen to thirty inches in length, and the air was redolent with the fragrance of pine and balsam and hemlock.
From group to group of trees the Scouts went, examining, studying, listing, so happily and thoroughly interested in this delightful work that everyone started at a sudden cry of alarm in Tom’s voice.
All turned, and at that moment saw the little fellow run out from a clump of low bushes and fairly flying toward them, call out bravely—not “Help me!” but “Run, boys, run, run! There is a bear coming!” and from the bushes lumbered a bear, really of medium size, but looking to the startled boys at that moment as big as an elephant, and loped along only a few rods behind Tom.
“The nearest tree and up it!” was their first instinct, and Bob Hart and Harry French, who were nearest to Tom, seized him by an arm on either side and pushed and pulled him up with them into the tree. The whole thing had been so sudden and the scare so great that there had been no time for sober thought, but only the blind instinct to seek the first place of refuge. But just as they were settling themselves in the spreading branches, a thought occurred to Jack that made his face whiten and his heart beat faster.
“Say, Dick,” he said, “we all forgot that a bear could climb. We’ve done just exactly what he wanted us to do!”
All the boys were seized with panic. Sure enough, they were trapped. They were only boys, after all, and face to face with a peril that might well have struck terror to grown men; it is no wonder that for a moment they were smitten with panic.
The bear himself soon dispelled any doubt as to his intentions and, swinging along heavily to the foot of the tree, reared on his hind paws and began to climb. There were no weapons in the party, unless you could apply that term to the small, light hatchets that they carried in their belts. Even these were only toys against such an enemy. One or two of the boys snatched at them frantically and threw, but the branches of the tree interfered with their aim and it was only Dick’s hatchet that struck with its blunt end the nose of the bear. Beyond a slight shake of the head, he gave no sign of it hurting him, and steadily kept on climbing.
The boys had pushed their way out along the branches as far from the trunk as possible, and just at this moment the branch on which Harry French was moving suddenly cracked, broke, and he found himself lying face down full length on the ground about twenty feet from the foot of the tree. The bear heard the crash and, seeing one of his enemies thus delivered into his hands, scrambled hastily back down the tree and started toward Harry. There was only one thing for the boy to do, and, being a Scout, he did it; he lay perfectly still.
The bear, surprised at the quiet of the motionless figure, hesitated just a moment, but that was long enough for Jack Danby, who was perched on a branch just overhead, to decide what to do.
His plan was only a forlorn hope and he knew if it failed it probably meant the loss of his life as well as Harry’s, but what could he do? “A Scout is brave.” And he simply could not stay there and see Harry, dear old Harry, attacked without an effort at least being made to save him.
It was a time for desperate measures. With a silent prayer for help, he jumped quickly and landed, as he had schemed to do, squarely upon the bear’s back. Now Jack was no featherweight. Nearly nineteen years old, he was tall and well developed, weighing much more than an ordinary young fellow of his age.
The effect upon the bear was startling. When this weight came crashing down upon him like a thunderbolt, he was seized with consternation, and, forgetting everything else in his panic, he rushed away as fast as his legs could carry him, and that was very fast, for, though a bear’s movements give an impression of clumsiness, he can move like a streak, as many a one has learned to his cost when trying to escape. Jack, who had rolled over and over, jumped up quickly and ran to where Harry still lay, not daring to move. His fall had shaken him badly, but no bones were broken, although now that the danger was over the terrific strain made him tremble like a leaf.
The Scouts had joyfully watched the bear out of sight and, fearing that he might recover from his fright and return, slid down the tree and all started off thankfully for the camp.
Their path led along a natural hedge of high-growing bushes, and suddenly they heard gruff voices on the other side. They caught the name of Flannigan, the foreman, coupled with an oath. The words that followed halted them in their tracks and they stood like statues.
“Zen we shall knife heem—we shall keel heem!” came over the hedge in accents undeniably French.
“Naw!” was the reply, in a heavy brogue. “We won’t kill him—that would be too aisy fur him! He’ll sweat more if yer let him live. We’ll do fur him! We’ll fix him so that it’ll be many and many a long day before he’ll set foot to the ground, and thin, begorra, mayhap wan foot will be farther from the ground than the ither!”
The boys had no choice but to listen. Bob, who was nearest the hedge, could look through a small opening and plainly see the two ruffians seated on the ground with heads close together in deep and dark converse with each other.
They were an ill-assorted pair. Their different nationality made them totally unlike in outward appearance—one a great, ruddy, burly Irishman, the other a slight, dark, wiry Frenchman. Utterly opposed to each other by nature, their common desire for vengeance had drawn them together and, for the time being, made them pals.
At first, their one thought and desire was vengeance. They had room in their angry hearts for nothing else. Both were naturally cruel, and on the day of their discharge they had shaken angry fists at the camp, and through the days of idleness that had followed they had thought only of the punishment they would wreak on their enemy, the foreman.
To waylay him in the woods, to get their eager hands upon him, to beat him into pulp, and in the end perhaps to take his life—this had been their one object and aim.
But now a new element entered into their desire for vengeance. For days after their discharge they had roamed the woods. At first they had made a visit to the county town, and there with the reckless improvidence of their kind, had feasted and drunk and gambled away every dollar of their pay, drawn on that last day in camp, and then had taken to the woods.
Since then they had lived on berries and roots, and an occasional bird which they had managed to snare. With a bent pin and a line made of twisted fibers of long grass, and with worms for bait, they had caught some fish, but their living was scanty and poor.
Accustomed to the plain, but well cooked and abundant food of the camp, days of this meagre diet had told upon the two. Especially was it felt by O’Brien, for his great, muscular frame needed nourishing food, and food in plenty.
While their tobacco lasted, it had not been so bad, but as their hunger grew, their ferocity grew, and, added to their desire to punish the man they considered their enemy (it never occurred to them that they were their own worst enemies) came a determination to obtain money, no matter how.
Why should other people be sitting down three times a day to tables loaded with things good to eat and drink—the very thought made their mouths water!—and lie down every night on soft, comfortable beds, while they nearly starved and slept on the hard ground at night?
The thought of Flannigan having plenty of food and tobacco and all other needed comforts filled them with ferocious rage and hate.
Money they would have, and mighty quick, too! And a plan to obtain it had come to both men at almost the same moment—Flannigan and the payroll!
It was the custom of the foreman to take a trip to the Junction, a station on the railroad about ten miles from the logging camp, where the station agent always had ready an express package containing several thousand dollars, to be used to pay off the men, and to defray the expenses of the camp.
This trip was always taken on the last day of the month, and now that was only five days away!
What a thought! What fools they had been not to think of it before! To be able to get revenge and at the same time secure what was to them a fortune, to revel and drink and gamble to their heart’s desire!
“Be gobs!” said Larry, “that’s the finest scheme that iver came down the pike!”
“It sure ees!” said the little Frenchman; and then they fell to work in good earnest to arrange their wicked plot.
“There’s only wan road back to camp, as yez well know, Jacques, me mon,” said Larry, joyfully. “An’ do yez moind the sharp turn in the road about six miles this side o’ the Junction?”
“Oui, I know heem!” said Jacques.
“Well, that’s the spot to do the job,” said Larry. “If he wuz on foot, he might take the short cut back to camp, but with the buggy, he can’t hilp himself goin’ round by the road.”
“Dat ees goot; dat ees bien goot!” said the little Frenchman. “Before he can say one petit word, we will have heem by ze t’roat, and zen—” Here Jacques, in an excess of fiendish exultation at the thought of having his enemy at last in his power, rolled over and over in the grass, and then, springing to his feet, executed a series of clumsy steps and only stopped when, his limbs failing him, he dropped breathlessly to the ground, while Larry sat grinning at his pal, fully sympathizing with him in his delight at so soon realizing the success of their scheme.
Again Jacques’ greed for the money gave place to his hatred of Flannigan, and with darkening face and cruel eyes, he raged:
“Chien! Pig! Dat he should tink to fire me, me, Lavine, a son of ze great French republic, and nevaire hear notink again!”
Larry waited a minute for him to calm down a little, and then went on:
“Whin we have done fur him, we’ll divide the long green aiven, and thin make thracks fur Canada. Once in there, Jacques, me b’y, we’re outside the United States, and they’ll not be able to find us.
“Whin Flannigan comes around the turn of the road, you go fur the horse’s head, and I’ll tackle Flannigan. In wan minnit, before he knows what’s happenin’, I’ll——”
Just what more O’Brien might have said was never known, for just then Don—blundering old Don, seeing a jack-rabbit poke his head out from behind the roots of a great tree, found the temptation too strong to resist, gave chase and raced the rabbit across the grass in full sight of the plotters.
The Scouts, who all this time had been standing motionless, their hearts beating faster and faster as the details of the plot were made plain to them, and with faces on which horror was clearly written, were filled with consternation at this unexpected move of the dog. They now quickly skirted the bushes and, slipping among some thickly growing trees, found a little bypath and ran rapidly along it, on their way back to camp.
As the big dog bounded after the rabbit and into the bushes, within ten feet of them, the plotters sprang to their feet, filled with alarm.
“Someone ees list’ning to our talk,” said Jacques. “What ees eet that we shall do?”
“Look around and find them,” Larry replied. “You look in the trees on that side, and Oi’ll go over to that short cut thim Scout spalpeens take to their camp.”
The two searched all around on both sides of the hedge, but finding no trace of anything human, returned to the scene of their conspiracy.
“But certainly there ees somebody has been here, and he have hear what we have say,” said Jacques, uneasily.
“If it was anybody, it, was thim B’y Scouts, bad cess to thim!” grumbled Larry; and then, as if thinking aloud, he went on:
“If it was thim measly Scouts, they’ll blab from a ‘sinse of juty,’ as I heard wan of thim say oncet, just as soon as they reach camp, and the nixt thing they’ll do ‘from a sinse of juty’ will be to warn Flannigan. But let thim thry it! Jist let thim thry it!” he sputtered, full of rage at the thought that the Boy Scouts, whom he despised, might, by warning the logging camp, be the means of bringing to naught their carefully thought out plans.
“But zey shall not,” said Jacques. “We—you, Larry O’Brien, and I, Jacques Lavine—we will stop zem! Eet ees that we shall find a way.”
“We will that!” the Irishman said. “And Oi’ll tell yez how we’ll do it. From the first minnit the Scouts are out in the mornin’ till they are in camp agin at noight, we’ll lie along the road to the loggin’ camp and watch, and the first Scout spalpeen that shows his face anint it, we grab him. Oncet we git our hands upon him, Oi’ll bet yez any amount yez want that he’ll wish he’d niver been born! His own mither won’t know him when she sees him!”
“Varmint!” said the “son of the great French republic.” “Zat makes me ver’ glad—ver’ happy! Zat ees what we shall do!”
So they talked; and, having arranged all to their wicked satisfaction, went their way.
As soon as the Scouts reached camp, they made a full report to the Scout-Master of their adventures. When he heard the details of their encounter with the bear, his hearty words of praise for Jack’s heroic act found an echo in the heart of every Scout in camp.
Jack modestly insisted that it was no more than any Scout would have done if he had been given the same opportunity. While the boys tried to tell themselves that this was true, they admired Jack none the less. They might have done it, but Jack had done it, and that made all the difference in the world.
At the recital of the details of the plot against Mr. Flannigan, the Scout-Master looked very grave indeed. Knowing how unrestrained the passions of the class of men employed at the logging camp were, and how brutal and cruel they could be, he fully realized Mr. Flannigan’s danger.
Of course, there was only one thing to do. He must at once send a Scout to the logging camp with a letter to the foreman, giving him full particulars of the plot and warning him of his danger.
So, intending to send Jack Danby and Tom Binns immediately after breakfast the next morning, he went to his tent to write the letter.
Don opened his eyes, yawned, and then got up from his comfortable bed, shaking himself and stretching to his heart’s content. Trotting over to Jack’s cot, he stood regarding his master, doubtful whether or not to wake him. Finally deciding that it must be time to get up, he stuck his cold nose into Jack’s hand, and uttered his low, good-morning bark, as Jack sleepily opened his eyes.
“Time to get up, old fellow, is it?” he said, pulling Don’s front paws up on his cot, while Don’s plumy tail waved vigorously. “Well, I’m not specially stuck on it, but ‘needs must when the—— ’”; then, turning to Don, he said, reprovingly, “You mustn’t say things like that, Don; it’s not nice.”
Here Tom chimed in, saying with a stifled yawn, “What time is it, anyway? It seems to me as if I had just gone to bed, and here you are talking about getting up!”
“Blame it on Don,” said Jack, cheerily. “He woke me up, and he says it’s about time for us lazy humans to be getting a move on.”
“Well, of course, what Don says goes,” Tom responded, caressingly pulling Don’s ear as the dog went over to him, for Tom came second in the big collie’s regard.
“Say, that was a narrow escape we had yesterday, wasn’t it?” asked Tom, reverting to the overheard plot of the day before. “There’s no telling what those fellows would have done if they had found out that we knew all about their plans of revenge.”
“Whom do you suppose Mr. Durland will pick out to go to the lumber camp to-day?”
“I haven’t the least idea,” Jack replied. “I’d like nothing better than to go myself. After I’d warned Mr. Flannigan of his danger, perhaps he would show me around the camp. It would be great fun, for I’ve always wanted to go over one thoroughly, but have never had the chance. We only got a glimpse of it the other day.”
“If you went, you could count on me to go, too, and old Don, here—he’d never consent to being left behind, would you, boy?” To which Don promptly gave a decided negative.
Although the boys had been talking in whispers, it was just enough to arouse the rest of the Scouts, and in a twinkling the lodge was filled with sleepy boys’ voices.
“I don’t want to get up,” complained one.
“I don’t, either! Nothing would suit me better than to stay just where I am for a couple of hours!”
“I wish I could take a dip and lie in the sun until I was dry, the way Don does. He never has to bother with clothes.”
However, a Scout’s sense of duty is always stronger than his love of ease, so in a few minutes the boys all filed out to take their morning plunge. It was only a few minutes until each Scout, refreshed by a dip in the cold water, and filled with the joy of living, rushed to the mess tent and began his day in a way approved from the beginning of time.
After the bedding had been aired and the cots made up, the boys were called together by the Scout-Master’s shrill whistle. They were then divided into squads, and each squad was assigned some special work for the day that was always play to the wood-loving boys.
“I think,” Mr. Durland said, “that since Jack knows the woods so thoroughly, he had better be the one to warn Mr. Flannigan of the plot. I suppose,” he added, turning to Jack, “that you want Tom to go with you, as usual, and of course Don couldn’t be kept in camp while you were out of it. If I were you, boys, I’d start right away, so that you can get back to camp early.”
With that the boys saluted, and with eager haste went into the lodge to get their things ready for the hike.
“Come on, Tom! Come on, Don!” Jack shouted a minute later as he led the way through the woods. “Let’s see how quickly we can get to the lumber camp. Sure, we’ll break the record. Ouch!” he exclaimed after a minute, turning to look frowningly at the plant that had pricked him.
“What do you suppose that is, Jack?” he asked. “I don’t remember ever studying a plant like that.”
“Guess you don’t! That’s one of the plants that grow near a bog—I forget the name of it now. We’d better look out, though, if we’re anywhere near a bog. I’m not over-anxious to take a mud bath,” Jack replied.
“We’d be mighty lucky if we got off with nothing worse than a mud bath. If we once got mired in one of those swamps, the chances would be two to one that we would never get out alive,” said Tom, and then added suddenly: “Where’s Don?”
“Blessed if I know!” said Jack, while his face began to take on a worried expression. “He can’t be very far off, though. He was here just a minute ago. Here, Don; here, Don—where are you, old fellow?” he called, but no joyous bark answered the well-known voice.
Then Tom put two fingers between his teeth and sent forth a shrill whistle that echoed and re-echoed through the trees. This time, to their great relief, they were answered, and in a moment more Don himself came bounding up to them. His relief showed in his voice as Jack patted his favorite on the head and said, “We thought you might be stuck in the swamp, Don. Don’t go away like that again, will you, old fellow?” And Don readily promised.
They started on again, this time with much greater caution than before. Whenever they came to ground that looked the least bit suspicious, they skirted it very carefully. Don had kept close to his master’s side as he had promised, although at times it was very hard for him to keep from chasing the squirrels and rabbits that looked at him in such an aggravating way. Finally one reckless little chipmunk scurried along almost under Don’s nose, and it was more than dog nature could stand. With a bound he was off after the little fellow, who, frightened by the sudden onslaught, fairly flew to the shelter of his hole and left Don to bark away his vexation.
Suddenly he stopped barking and trotted forward a few paces, then, with ears bent forward and front paw raised, seemed to be listening intently. Suddenly he burst into a chorus of wild barks and then crouched down, growling savagely, with his eyes fixed on a clump of bushes.
The boys, who were just rounding a rock and could not see Don on ahead, started forward eagerly to find the cause of his uneasiness, but stopped abruptly as two men armed with heavy clubs sprang out from the shelter of the bushes with the evident intention of doing for the dog then and there. In a flash it came to Jack that these were the two men whose plot they had overheard. Suppose they had seen the Scouts the day before and, taking it for granted they would warn Flannigan, had lain in wait for them here in this lonely spot?
As the boys were unarmed, discretion was the better part of valor, so, calling to Don, they doubled behind a couple of huge rocks and made for a cave that they had come across on one of their scouting expeditions a few days before.
Meanwhile Don had sprung at the man nearest him, who happened to be Lavine, and had caught him by the leg. Lifting his cudgel high in the air, the man would have felled him if he had not heard Jack’s command to the dog to “come along.” Quickly the dog dodged and started off in the direction his master had taken. By that time the second ex-lumberjack, O’Brien, had caught sight of the boys and had started off hotly in pursuit. Don knew that the boys’ safety depended on the time they had to get away, so he raced off after O’Brien. When he reached him, he snapped at his legs and hands, while the man, cursing and swearing horribly, aimed blow after blow at his tormentor’s head. Dodging the blows easily, Don watched the boys until they disappeared through the trees.
As Lavine came running up—Don’s teeth had only gone through his trousers—the faithful dog thought it was about time he left, so he made off as fast as his legs could carry him in the direction of the camp.
The cave that the boys were bound for had all the characteristics of some wild animal’s home. When the Scouts had come across it first they had been impressed by the fetid odor that filled it and the bones of small creatures that were strewn all over the floor. Now, as the boys rushed along, their one thought was whether or not the animal would be there.
Running, slipping, sliding and stumbling, they made their way down the steep ravine, dodged behind a boulder and came in sight of the bushes that hid the entrance to the cave.
“Quick!” Jack hissed, pulling aside the bushes. “I don’t think there’s anything in there, but if there is, we’ll have to take our chance!”
In less time than it takes to tell, the boys were inside and the bushes were once more in place. With hearts threatening to jump out of their mouths, they listened for the sound of footsteps outside the cave. Pretty soon they came. Heavy, ponderous footsteps they were, and they seemed to be nearing the mouth of the cave.
“I don’t see where the young deevils could have gone,” they heard the Frenchman say, “yet zey have disappear as if ze earth is open an’ swallow zem up.”
“I wish it had!” the Irishman replied, grimly. “More be taken if Oi could oncet get ahold of the spalpeens it wouldn’t be so very long before they’d be kivered with airth.”
The boys shuddered as they thought of the murderous attack they had so narrowly escaped, and it was with a long sigh of relief that they finally realized that their pursuers knew nothing of their hiding-place. After a short time spent in fruitless search, Lavine and O’Brien started off, grumbling and cursing, to scour the surrounding woods.
The boys had been in as much apprehension because of the possible return of the occupant of the cave as they had been because of the presence of the men. So now, when one danger was removed, they had time to think of the other. As soon as they thought the men were far enough away for them to venture out, Tom, who was nearest the opening, looked out to see if the way were really clear.
He sprang back in alarm as a great pile of dirt and stones came hurtling down the mountain side with a roar like thunder and with a force that made the ground tremble. The great mass was piled high before the opening of the cave, shutting out every vestige of light and air.
“Jack, Jack, where are you?” Tom called wildly, groping around in the inky blackness for his friend.
“Here, old man!” Jack replied from his corner. “I thought from the roar a lion had come to interview us. What has happened, anyway?”
“What has happened? Why, man, it seems as if the whole mountain has slid down to cover the cave. It’s shut out all the air, and we can’t breathe very long with the little we have in here. Why, Jack, do you realize that unless someone finds us in a hurry we will die in this horrible smelling hole like rats in a trap?”
“It sure is some tight place, old fellow, but what we’ve got to do now is to brace up and think of some way to get out.”
“Oh, yes, that sounds all right, but how are we going to do it? Can we dig our way through rocks and dirt with our fingers? Can we change into moles and burrow our way out underground? I tell you, Jack, we’re goners unless somebody discovers us within the next hour at the most.”
“Tom, Tom, don’t talk like that! Brace up and be a man! If we’ve got to face Death, let’s meet him bravely, as a true Scout should. Besides,” he added after a moment’s thought, “don’t you remember the bones that we saw scattered around here the other day? Let’s hunt around and see if we can find some. They might possibly help us to dig our way out.”
The boys searched desperately for a bone big enough to be of service to them. Finally they found a couple that they thought might serve and they set to work fearfully to see what they could do.
Slowly but surely they dug through the mass of dirt and stones and they were just beginning to hope that they might succeed when they received an unexpected check. They had cleared away a good part of the debris, but when they started again after a moment’s rest they found that they could go no farther, for the bones struck upon a solid rock.
Mad with disappointment and rage, the boys threw themselves upon the rock, tore at it with their nails and struck at it with their bare hands until they were all raw and bleeding. Finally, exhausted and weakened by the lack of air, they threw themselves, panting, on the ground where they lay unable to move for a few minutes.
Jack was the first to recover himself and, sitting up, he put his hand to his head, which seemed to be whirling around dizzily, and said sharply:
“Come, this will never do! Here when we need what little brains we have, we use them by acting like fools. If I could only think! If I could—only—think,” he muttered, while his head dropped wearily to his knee.
“Jack, Jack!” Tom cried, springing to his feet. “I can’t stand it! I’ll go mad if I have to stay here much longer! Can’t you hear the birds singing out there? Can’t you hear the murmuring of the brook? Can’t you smell the air sweet with the glorious sunshine filtering through the leaves and touching all the flowers with gold? Why, man, the world’s alive out there, while in here the darkness—awful darkness is bearing me down, crushing me—” and with a shuddering sob he sank down and buried his face in his hands, trying to shut out that impenetrable wall that seemed to be closing in upon him on all sides.
“Listen a minute, Tom, old friend, old comrade!” Jack said gently, soothingly, reaching over to put an arm about Tom’s shoulders. “We forgot all about Don,—our Don who has never failed any of us in a tight place. He must have escaped from those lumbermen all right or they would have said something about having done for him when they came to look for us here. Well, now, suppose he has escaped, what would he naturally do first? Why, he’d go straight to the camp of course and get the fellows here to help us. If he did that, we may expect them any time now. All we have to do is to wait.”
At Jack’s calm, matter-of-fact tone, Tom gathered himself together and said frankly, “Jack, you make me heartily ashamed of myself! From now on I’ll try to act like a man and a Scout!”
So the boys, encouraged by the faint ray of hope, sat side by side to wait for whatever might be in store for them. Only once, as the air got thicker and they found it harder to breathe, Tom muttered, “I only hope they come soon!” And with that they fell into a sort of stupor from which they aroused themselves with great difficulty from time to time.
Meanwhile Don’s one thought and aim had been to reach camp and bring help to his friends. At first he had trouble in striking the trail and had to go way back to the scene of the attack before he finally found it. Then with nose to the ground and with eyes that turned neither to the right nor to the left, he trotted steadily along. There was no rabbit in that whole wide expanse of forest that could have tempted him to leave the trail that day, for the well-being, perhaps the lives, of his two best friends were at stake.
Once he lost the trail and for a few terrible seconds ran about wildly in vain search of it. Finally he picked it up again on the other side of the brook and started on, faster than before to make up for lost time.
Another time a thorn stuck into his foot and, although it hurt him cruelly, he never once faltered or stopped, but only limped on unflinchingly.
Ay, Don, Old Sam spoke very truly when he said, “Ye have the look o’ my Rover,” and he might have added, “an’ the good, brave heart o’ him, too!”
Although it seemed ages to the tired, lame dog, it was in reality only a very short time before he reached the camp. Luckily the boys had come back from their scouting and were talking over their various experiences. As the dog limped painfully up to them Harry exclaimed, “Say, fellows, what’s the matter with Don?”
“Looks as if he had something in his foot,” Dick commented. “Come here, old fellow, and let me see what’s the matter.”
Don came up willingly and held up his paw to be examined. Impatiently he waited while Dick, with many expressions of sympathy, took out the long thorn and gently bound up the injured paw.
“Poor old boy!” one of the Scouts said, as he patted the dog’s shaggy head, “it must have pained you terribly! But where are Jack and Tom? It’s not like Jack to leave Don to come on alone especially when he knew he was hurt,” he added, turning to the boys.
At this Don, who had been waiting impatiently while his foot was being doctored, ran to the edge of the woods and stood there looking back at the Scouts pleadingly.
“What does he want?” asked a Tenderfoot Scout, who did not know Don as well as the rest.
“He wants us to follow him. I’m afraid, fellows, that something’s happened to Jack and Tom. And I, for one, mean to find out what it is and mighty quick, too!” said Pete Stubbs.
“We’re with you!” came a chorus of hearty voices.
By this time Mr. Durland had come up and asked the cause of the excitement. He listened to the recital of their fears with a very grave face. In a moment the boys were flying around everywhere to carry out his directions.
“Some of you boys go and get anything that you can find in the lodge or out of it,” he said, “to dig with. There are three or four old shovels there that may come in handy and a lot of trowels that we use for digging up specimens of flowers. Hurry, boys!”
In a short time the Scouts were ready to start, and Don, forgetting all about his sore foot, led them rapidly along the trail.
Dick turned to Mr. Durland and asked him how he meant to use the shovels.
“There is great danger in this part of the country on account of the landslides that frequently occur,” the Scout-Master explained. “Of course, they are not usually on a very large scale. They are very often caused by a loose rock starting to fall from the top of a mountain and so loosening masses of stones and dirt.”
“But do you suppose that the boys could possibly be caught in one of them?” Dick asked, while his face grew white at the very thought.
“There is a chance, of course,” Mr. Durland replied anxiously, “and because of that chance, I thought it was best to bring the shovels along.”
“Be prepared!” Dick murmured, and felt a curious tightening of his heartstrings as he thought of his comrades in distress.
Finally Don brought them to the clump of bushes behind which O’Brien and Levine had been hidden. The boys noticed how the ground had been trampled down and the bushes torn aside, and at once it flashed through their minds that the boys might have been attacked. Here Don seemed to lose the trail, but the Scouts now readily picked it up, trained for trailing as they were, and they started on again with redoubled speed.
A dozen wild conjectures chased each other through the boys’ bewildered heads. Suppose the two lumbermen had learned of the boys’ intention to warn Flannigan! Suppose they had waylaid Jack and Tom! Would the boys stand up to them? If they did, would they win? If they had been attacked on their way to the lumber camp, every Scout felt sure that the boys would do their best to avoid the plotters and deliver their message. On the other hand, if they had been coming back, it was more than likely that the boys would stand up to the two ruffians. If this last were so, what had been the outcome? As nobody was able to answer this, all they could do was to follow Don, now plunging on far ahead.
As they neared the cave some of the boys recognized their surroundings. Then a new fear came to torment them. What if the boys had run to the cave for shelter and had found the unknown inhabitants there?
In another minute they had scrambled down the ravine, rounded the rocks and had come into full view of the place where the cave had been. At the sight that met their eyes they stopped short and fairly gasped with astonishment and dismay.
They all looked to Mr. Durland for an explanation of this state of affairs.
“Boys,” said the Scout-Master in a strained, unnatural voice, “you say that there was a cave in the side of that mountain?”
“Yes, sir,” said Bob. “We examined it thoroughly the other day.”
“Then I am afraid that you will all have a chance to test every ounce of courage and fortitude you possess to-day. Boys,” he said, and his voice shook a little in spite of himself, “our Tom and Jack are almost certainly in that cave and are suffering—perhaps dying—for lack of air! Are you ready, now, to get them out?”
The boys’ answer was a deafening shout, and, snatching up their shovels and trowels, set to work with a grim do-it-or-die expression on their young faces that did Mr. Durland’s heart good. In earnest they applied themselves to their heart-breaking task, opening their lips for nothing except to call the boys’ names from time to time.
What was that voice? It seemed so far away—as if someone were calling from a great distance. What was it they were saying? Was it “Jack?” No, it was “Tom.” Why were they calling them? Where were they? What was that strange feeling in his head, that dizzy sensation, that made him feel as if he were spinning around and around? Had the lumbermen caught them after all? No, that could not be it. Now he had it! They were smothering to death in this loathsome hole! So, by painful degrees, Jack drew himself back from the dark abyss of oblivion and came to a full realization of his whereabouts.
“Tom, Tom,” he cried, shaking his friend fiercely, “they’ve come, they’ve come! Do you hear them?” and he called out in as loud a voice as he could again and again.
When Tom came to himself, he added his shouts to Jack’s and they finally succeeded in making themselves heard by the straining workers outside. With glad cries of encouragement, the Scouts went to work once more with redoubled energy. In five minutes, that seemed like five ages to the gasping boys inside, a tiny place was cleared before the entrance of the cave, letting in a breath of cool, fresh air. In another half hour the cave mouth was entirely free and the two half-smothered boys were helped out by their anxious friends. With a sharp cry Tom clapped his hands over his eyes to keep out the dazzling light.
The Scouts crowded eagerly about the two boys, scarcely able to restrain their delight. They patted them all over to see if there were any broken bones, shook their hands and overwhelmed them with questions.
Then it was Don’s turn. Limping from the wound in his foot, he came slowly over the pile of dirt and stones and looked wistfully up into his master’s face.
“Don, darling old Don!” Jack cried, hiding his face in the dog’s rough coat. “Then they didn’t hurt you, beauty, did they?”
Then the boys learned all that Don had done for them, and if they had loved him before, they idolized him now.
Of course Jack and Tom were too exhausted by their nerve-racking experience to continue their journey to the lumber camp, so Mr. Durland chose Dick in their place, and with the good wishes of the boys, he started off through the trees.
On the way home, the boys could not hold their wild spirits in check. They chased rabbits and squirrels, shouted to each other, played leapfrog and sang rollicking college songs. Only Don walked soberly along beside Jack, too happy to leave his master’s side, and his eyes alone told a story more eloquent than words.
It was an ideal summer day, and Dick Crawford, going through the woods toward the logging camp, could not help thinking what a lucky fellow he was.
“It’s worth a million,” he thought, “just to be a Boy Scout, and to be alive on a day like this.”
Dick was no poet, but if he had been, he could have written an ode to the wonderful, mystic forest. The narrow path he traversed was closely hemmed in by giant trees, covered with moss and, at times, he could see the glistening of a waxy bunch of mistletoe high up on some old oak.
Finally his mind came around to all the exciting events of the last few days, and he became sober.
When would the miscreants be brought to book? It did not seem possible that they could long remain at large, but then the North Woods are very extensive, and offer thousands of hiding places to experienced woodsmen like the discharged lumberjacks.
At this thought his heart sank, but Dick was not one to worry much about things he could not help, nor to cross a bridge until he came to it.
So he dismissed all forebodings from his mind and set up a shrill whistle that caused the forest to echo and the squirrels to sit up in front of the entrances to their homes and chatter angrily.
He looked upward toward the sun, which he could at times glimpse through the thick foliage, and, judging from its position that it must be growing late, hurried his footsteps. He was soon in sight of the camp, but could see no sign of life about it. As he drew nearer the rough log houses, he shouted, “Hello, there! Hello! Hello!”
“Hello, yourself!” responded a voice from the cook’s house, and a moment later the tangled red head belonging to the owner of the voice was stuck out of the doorway.
“Oh, it’s you, is it, Dick?” he continued in a more friendly voice, as he recognized the Assistant Scout-Master. “Well, what can I do you for?”
Dick smiled at this characteristic question, and replied, “Why, I wanted to see the foreman, Mr. Flannigan. Where is he, do you know?”
“Search me!” replied Harry, with a careless shrug of his shoulders. “But say, wait a minute!” he exclaimed. “He did say something about it, too. I remember now. He has gone about fifty miles up north to look over a piece of uncut timber land there, and I remember he said he would be back before the last of this month. But what did you want him for, anyway?” inquisitively.
Dick thought a minute, and then decided to tell Harry all about the happenings of the last few days. He knew that Harry was friendly to the Scouts, and would help them all he could in bringing the outlaws to justice.
Another thing that he did not know, but which was an important factor in the chase later on, was that Harry disliked the outlaws heartily. They had often plagued him, and made his hard life even harder, and he had often wanted to get even with them. So it is possible that Dick could not have taken a wiser course than that which he now decided to pursue.
Accordingly he proceeded to detail the happenings of the last few days to the attentive cookee, who could not help interrupting him at times with expressions of surprise and indignation.
“Well, what do you know about that?” he asked at the conclusion of Dick’s recital. “Ain’t them two about the most underhanded crooks goin’? I only hope I can do somethin’ to help put them in jail,” and here the expression of his eyes boded no good to the outlaws.
Dick perceived that he had gained an ally worth having, and was pleased accordingly.
“I know that the others will be as pleased as I am to know that you are going to help all you can,” Dick replied cordially to the other’s outburst. “Now, Harry, you know from what I have told you that both Lavine and O’Brien will go to any lengths to get even with Flannigan, and also with us, whom they now suspect to be their enemies.
“We have reason to believe that they will do all they can to waylay the foreman, steal the money that he will have on his person, and either kill or seriously injure him.
“Now, what we want you to do is to notify us at our camp if the foreman is not back before the last day of the month. Will you do that?”
“Will I?” said Harry, his eyes sparkling as he thought of the trust that was being placed in him. “Well, I should smile! Just give me a chance, that is all I ask. You can count on me, Dick, as much as you can on yourself.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” responded Dick, heartily. “We’ll consider that settled, then. And another thing, Harry, why on earth don’t you join the Boy Scouts? You’d have no end of fun, and we’d all be glad to have you.”
“Dick, all you fellers are bricks fur askin’ me, but how can I? There ain’t anything I want as much as to be a Scout, but I have no chance to do what you fellers do. I got to work here from the first streak of daylight, and quit when my work’s done, which is about ten o’clock every night of the week. I am what you call a ‘kin and can’t’ worker; I work as soon as I can see and quit when it is so dark I can’t see.”
Here the boy tried to laugh, but the laugh sounded strained somehow. It is very possible that he felt more like crying than laughing, but he would not have had Dick know it for anything.
Dick, however, knew boy nature pretty well, and he guessed from Harry’s tone just about how he actually felt. So he joined in the latter’s laugh, and then said, “Now you see here, Harry, old top, if you really want to be a Boy Scout, there’s nothing on earth can stop you, and we’re going to help you all we know how. I was speaking to Mr. Durland about you the other day or, rather, he was speaking to me, and he said that he knew of a place that is open in Mr. Scott’s saw-mill that he was sure he could get for you. That would give you more money than you are making now, I guess, and you’ll have a whole lot more time to yourself. What do you say; would you like to have that job?”
Harry’s eyes had filled in spite of himself while Dick was talking, and now he said in a queer, husky voice, “Say, Dick, would a duck swim? All I can say is that you Scouts and your Scout-Master are about the squarest, whitest bunch that I ever run up against! I’ll beat it right along with you when you go back, and this job can go to the dickens for all I care!”
“Hold on a bit,” exclaimed Dick, smiling at the boy’s impulsiveness. “You can do us a whole lot more good by sticking right here than you could by being with us just now. We need you here to tell us in case Flannigan doesn’t get back on time.”
“Gee, I’d clean forgotten all about that,” said Harry, ruefully. “But you’re dead right, and no mistake! I’d be willing to stay here the next ten years if it would help to catch them guys. They’re pretty slick articles, though, don’t fool yourself about that,” he added.
“Oh, I realize that we will have our work cut out for us,” responded Dick, seriously, “but I think we can get them finally, just the same.”
“You bet your sweet life we can!” responded Harry, enthusiastically. He had great confidence in his new friends and felt that if anybody could, they would be the ones to break up the plot. But he was better acquainted with the rascals than any of the Scouts, and knew that they were resourceful and desperate men.
He was immensely proud of the trust placed in him by Dick and the others, and resolved then and there to show himself worthy of it. He had always had a hard time of it, and had never known what it meant to have a father or a mother. He had earned his own living as long as he could remember and that in a great city meant constant and hard work. Then he had drifted north in search of better paying work, and had finally landed the job of cookee to the lumber camp. There was more money in this than he had ever made, although it was little enough, in all conscience, but the work was terribly hard and exacting.
He was supposed to be the first one up in the camp every morning, and on him devolved the responsibility of arousing the sleeping men and getting a good share of the breakfast. Then, after each meal, there was the immense pile of dishes to wash—a task which he hated with all his heart. His work was ended only after everyone else was asleep and he had rounded out the last of his duties by setting the huge pot of beans in the pit dug for it, there to simmer all night.
And it was not only the wearing work and long hours that worried him and made him wish more than once that he had never been born. He lacked the comradeship of other boys of his own age. He had always been too busy earning a living in the city to mingle much with others, and now, since coming to the lumber camp, there had not been another boy within many miles of him until the advent of the Scouts.
So is it any wonder that at the thought of easier and more congenial work and more especially at the prospect of having that companionship that his very soul craved, his heart went out in gratitude to those responsible for the change in his fortunes?
He felt that no sacrifice would have been too great to make for them, and would willingly have risked his life if he thought their welfare demanded such a sacrifice.
So now when Dick held out his hand, and said, “Well, so long, old man, until I see you again!” his heart was running over with gratitude.
“So long!” responded Harry, shaking the proffered hand fervently. “You can count on me to the last gasp.”
“I’m sure of it, Harry,” and so with a last word of farewell, Dick started on his homeward journey.
He was very well satisfied with the result of his mission, and was convinced that he had gained a recruit worth having. In addition to this he had formed a real liking for the cookee, and was glad for his sake that things were to be better for him in the future.
He felt, as many others have done, the force of the fact that there is always a greater and nobler pleasure in giving happiness to anyone else than there is in securing it for oneself.
He swung along at a good gait, his mind busy with these thoughts, and was somewhat startled when, at a short turn in the path, he almost ran into Bob Hart.
“Gee, you gave me a scare!” he exclaimed, after they had exchanged salutes. “What on earth are you doing here, Bob?”
“Why, it’s this way,” explained Bob. “You know that we overheard what the outlaws said, and after you had gone, Mr. Durland thought that we had better patrol this path so that in case either of them tried to stop you from going to or coming from the logging camp, we could wig-wag signals back to our camp, and so let them know there what was going on. That is the solution of the reason we are here.”
“I wish we could solve the mystery of why those fellows aren’t in jail just as easily,” remarked Dick.
“So do I!” returned Bob, soberly. “We seem to be as far as ever from catching them, don’t we?”
“Here, here, young fellow! That kind of talk won’t do at all,” laughed Dick. “This isn’t a case of where we want to catch them. It’s a case of where we’ve simply got to. That’s the only way to look at it.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right, Dick,” said Bob, his confidence somewhat restored. “What did Harry say? Is he going to join?”
“Surest thing you know!” responded Dick, cheerfully. “That boy is going to help us more than a little, too. He knows a good deal about the surrounding country, and he knows the habits of these rascals. He can figure out better than we can, perhaps, just what they would be likely to do under given conditions.”
As they had been holding this conversation, the boys had been walking rapidly along, and now they came up to one boy after another, all posted as relays for wig-wagging.
Before very long they reached the camp itself, and soon Dick was making his report to Scout-Master Durland.
“So you see, sir,” he concluded, “Harry will be a help to us, and we can help him, so it is a sort of mutual benefit arrangement all around.”
“Which is just what the Boy Scouts are for,” said Mr. Durland, smiling.
After a pause, he continued thoughtfully, “Well, Dick, I guess we have done all we can for the present, and now all we can do is to keep a sharp lookout and see how events shape themselves. Do you think of anything else?”
“No, sir, I can’t say I do. Not before Flannigan gets back, anyway,” answered Dick respectfully, and so matters were left, and the Scouts settled down to a short spell of “having a good time, doing nothing in particular,” as Ben Hoover expressed it.
“Come on, fellows,” said Jack, “let’s go and take a swim.”
Dinner was over and the Scouts lay in various attitudes on the grass a little distance from the mess tent. The day had been unbearably hot. Usually there was a breeze that somewhat tempered the fierceness of the sun, and at night, indeed, it was so cool that their blankets felt mighty good.
This was the first really hot day that they had had since they had pitched camp. They had started out on a game of Mountain Scouting during the morning, but Mr. Durland, who feared the effects of the sun combined with violent exercise, had limited the range of their run and they had come home earlier than usual. Now nearly an hour had elapsed since their dinner had been eaten—or shall we say “gorged”? because with appetites like theirs that was the most fitting term,—and sufficient time had passed to make the proposed swim a matter of no danger.
The boys greeted Jack’s suggestion with a shout, and after obtaining Mr. Durland’s permission, started off, running and leaping, kicking up their heels like young colts, for the swimming place a little way from camp.
It was an ideal spot. The brook, starting from a point high up in the mountains and cold as ice at the beginning, was gradually tempered as it flowed under the sunlight into the lower levels and in the meantime also widened its course. At the point that the boys had chosen, it had spread out into a small pond or lake perhaps three hundred feet in width. Its course had also been checked by the level nature of the bottom at that point, so that it lay, with scarcely a perceptible movement, gleaming in the sun, which warmed it sufficiently to make swimming a delight. In places it was only three or four feet deep, but toward the southern end there was a depth of eight or ten feet that made it suitable for diving. The younger boys and those whose skill as swimmers was not very great, chose the upper part where, under the direction of Dick Crawford, the Assistant Scout-Master, those unable to swim rapidly learned, while those who simply knew the breast stroke were taught one by one the more scientific crawl and over-hand stroke that are the envy and despair of the small boy when he sees them put in practice by his larger companions. Tom and Pete and Bob were down with Jack at the southern end of the pool and as all were expert swimmers and the bank was within easy reach, to say nothing of the assistance that would be instantly rendered by any of their companions, should ill luck befall, were left to do as they liked.
They had found a heavy plank a few yards distant from the bank and had placed it over the log of a fallen tree so that it rose at a gradual angle until, where it overhung the stream, it was about ten feet from the water. The end that rested on the ground was firmly wedged between heavy rocks that the boys had gathered, capped by a section of tree trunk, so that, no matter what might be the strain at the other end, it was impossible for it to slip or yield. It made a capital springboard and the Scouts had a glorious time playing follow my leader. The slope of the plank was so gradual that they got a good running start, and, reaching the end of the plank, with hands upraised over their heads, were flung out in a graceful curve coming down head foremost, straight as an arrow, and seeing how far they could swim under water before the need of breath compelled them to come to the surface.
Jack’s familiarity with woodcraft and the lonely life of his early boyhood when he was left so largely to his own devices and to what enjoyment he could procure unaided from nature had made him a splendid swimmer. He could dive forward and backward. He could sit at the end of the springboard and from a sitting position leap to his feet on the edge of the board and dive into the water with just one motion. Once in the water, he swam like a fish. He could float and on occasion had done so for an hour at a time without changing his position. His action in swimming was grace itself. Now after the boys were tired of sporting in the water, he pressed his hands close against his side and swam from one end of the pool to the other, using simply his feet.
“Gee,” said Tom, who had never seen Jack swim this way before, “where did you learn that stroke, Jack?”
“Oh,” said Jack carelessly, “I got that from the beavers.”
“Beavers?” said Pete, with interest. “Do they swim that way?
“Sure!” said Jack. “Their front paws are very small and they have to rely entirely upon the back ones. These are webbed like those of a duck up to the root of the nails, and it’s one of the prettiest things you ever saw to see a beaver swim. There is scarcely a ripple. The front feet are perfectly motionless, pressed close up against its side, while its head, with its shining fur and its keen, bright eyes that seem to look in every direction at once, moves in a perfectly straight line toward the front door of his house.”
“House?” said Tom, incredulously. “What do you mean by that?”
“Just exactly what I say,” said Jack. “Haven’t you ever heard of beavers’ houses? Why, there isn’t a more intelligent builder among all the animals I know about, and I’ve watched almost every one of them! It’s not only a big house, but a well-made one. The beaver is never satisfied with anything but perfection. It has a lot of rooms in it and these are carpeted with leaves and moss and grass. The upper rooms are sometimes six or eight feet above the surface of the water so as to be perfectly dry. The wise old rascal knows that sometimes there is a freshet that raises the level of the stream and he makes his plan accordingly. There isn’t a thing about carpentering or mason work that he doesn’t know. And he has to make his house strong, too, because he has a good many enemies. The wolves and wolverines are after him all the time and unless he had something that they could not bite through or claw through, it would be all up with Mr. Beaver.”
By this time all the boys had become interested in Jack’s description and had gathered around him.
“You’re a lucky dog, Jack,” said Bob. “You’ve seen a whole lot of things that us city fellows don’t know anything about.”
“Well,” said Jack, “there is no reason why you shouldn’t find out all about the beaver, because I know for a fact that there are some not far from camp. Just the other day I caught sight of a beaver dam about three miles the other side of the logging camp. I was going to speak to you fellows about it at the time, but Don just then started up a woodchuck and we all got so excited that I forgot. What do you say to dressing and going over there now? It won’t be so much of a hike and as the camp is on our way, we will drop in and ask Mr. Durland about it so that he won’t be worried if we don’t get back until just before supper time. There is nothing else on hand for this afternoon and I am mighty sure that he will let us go. Wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he wanted to come along with us!”
The plan was greeted enthusiastically and after the fellows at the other end of the pool had been told about it, they rushed out and dressed quite as quickly as the rest. Then they hiked back to camp and put the matter before the Scout-Master, who readily assented to the trip, and, as Jack had foreseen, was very glad to go along. After a little more than an hour’s tramp Jack held up his hand in caution.
“You’ve got to be careful now, Scouts,” he said. “They’re wary old fellows and the least thing disturbs them. If they once suspect that we are anywhere near, it’s good-night with us. Those big, bright eyes will see us all right but we won’t catch a glimpse of them. Now’s the time for you Scouts to show what you know of woodcraft and follow me as silently as a band of Indians.”
Thus cautioned, the boys fell in behind Jack and, carefully avoiding stepping upon twigs or speaking above a whisper, soon reached the dam. They were on the banks of a mountain stream that wound its way through the woods until at the point where they stood it was perhaps a hundred feet in width. Just below them the progress of the stream had been checked by what seemed at first sight a narrow bridge extending from one bank to the other. This was about three feet wide and perfectly smooth.
As Jack whispered to Dick, who was the nearest, this was made just wide enough so that the beavers in going to and fro could pass each other in comfort.
It evidently grew a great deal thicker as it approached the surface of the water and at the lowest part was probably ten or twelve feet thick. As the current was not especially strong, this served effectually to make an almost unrippled pond such as the beavers love. It was not exactly straight across but bent in slightly on the side that pointed up stream so that at the center it was decidedly curved.
This, as Jack further whispered, was to break the force of the current and shunt it off gradually to each side of the dam.
It was the same principle that in a racing automobile gives the cigar-like point to the machine so as to act as a wedge going into the wind and lessening by that much its resistance. The base of the dam was formed by young saplings and branches of trees that had been cut by the beavers’ teeth and planted as piles. Between these they had woven blades of grass and strips of bark so as to hold the branches straight and form a foundation for the mason work that was coming next. For the wise little creatures knew perfectly well the force of the current, and were determined to make a good job while they were at it. They had made mortar from the gravel and clay on the bank of the stream, using their broad, flat tails as a trowel for mixing. They must have had to travel to and fro thousands of times before they completed the work and built around their temporary outlines of plaited branches the solid wall of masonry. They knew enough also not to make it top-heavy, and so gradually sloped it from the bottom to the top, making it more compact by slapping it with their tails until at last it stood almost like a wall of granite. They watched over the dam day and night. No Hollander was ever more careful to prevent a leak in the dikes than they were to keep their dam perfectly solid. They knew that a little carelessness at the start might spoil the work of years.
While the boys were looking open-eyed at this specimen of the beavers’ work, Jack suddenly whispered, “’Sh, here they come! Now keep perfectly still, boys, and you will see something worth while.”
From one of the mound-like houses up the stream a large beaver came out, slowly looking around him with infinite caution before he left the safety of his home. He was about two feet long in addition to a flat oval tail that made his total length nearly three feet. His nose was blunt, his ears small, and his eyes wonderfully soft and intelligent. He carefully scanned the banks and the surface of the stream, and, satisfied at length, paddled slowly toward the dam. Something in its appearance must have alarmed him, for suddenly he lifted his tail and struck it several times against the side of the dam. At the sound, as though it were a signal, two or three other beavers emerged from their houses and rapidly joined him. They swam toward a point on the farther side, where the boys, now that their attention was attracted to it, could see that a little stream was trickling through and falling to the lower level of the creek beyond.
In an instant all was activity, although there was no confusion. They acted as though they were perfectly disciplined and each knew just what he had to do. Two of them swam to the farther bank, climbed up and began to tear with their sharp teeth at some slender saplings. It was astonishing to see how quickly they had gnawed their way through and how adroitly they moved to one side when it fell. These they dragged to the edge of the bank, plunged into the water, holding an end in their teeth, and swam quickly toward the threatened point. Then two or three of them got together and pushed the young branches in among the others. One of them in the meantime had taken up his position on the bank and was rapidly making mortar, doing it as skillfully as the most experienced mason, pounding the clay and mud and stones together until it reached an even consistency and at times flirting water upon it with his tail. Then gathering up as much as he could carry between his two front paws and chin and with head held well out of the water he swam to the others, just as Jack had said, using his hind feet alone. There he dropped his load and returned for another.
By this time the others had done whatever work was necessary with the branches, and all devoted themselves to the mortar, working with incredible rapidity and never stopping for a moment. How long it would have taken to complete the repairs the boys never knew, for at that moment Tom, who in his eagerness had bent forward, lost his balance and fell with a crash to the ground. The wary creatures heard him instantly and like a flash turned and made for their homes. A moment after the surface of the water was as smooth as a mill-pond and none would have dreamed of the life and activity of a moment before.
“Well,” said Bob Hart, angrily, “of all the bone-heads!”
“Bone-head yourself!” said Tom. “How could I help it? Do you suppose I fell on purpose?”
“Come, come, boys!” said Mr. Durland. “We all know it was an accident and nobody is more sorry than Tom himself. But I guess there is no use waiting here any longer. You can be perfectly sure that there will be nothing doing now for the rest of the day.”
He rose to his feet and the others followed toward the camp, so full of wonder and excitement at what they had seen that it completely overshadowed their chagrin at Tom’s carelessness, and he got off more easily than he had expected.
All that evening when supper was over and cleared away the boys were so full of the events of the afternoon that they could hardly think of anything else.
“My,” said Bob, “did you see that beaver’s teeth? I’d hate to have him bite me!”
“Well,” said Jack, “they wouldn’t bite you unless they were cornered and had to. Then it would be a pretty healthy thing to keep out of reach of their teeth. They are as sharp as a chisel. As a matter of fact, the Indians use them to carve out their ornaments of bone. The beavers use them so much that Nature has to keep hustling to supply new material. There is an outside row that projects toward the front and an inner row that furnishes the material to keep the outer ones strong and keen. Sometimes a beaver loses a tooth on either the upper or lower jaw and then the one directly opposite this keeps growing so fast that after a while it prevents the beaver from closing his mouth. He can’t eat and soon starves to death.”
“I wonder,” said Dick, “if that was a whole family that we saw this afternoon.”
“I think very likely,” returned Jack, “because if there had been more they certainly would have been on the job. The beaver is a sociable animal and never cares to live alone. Usually there are four or five found together, but sometimes as many as thirty or forty will gather in a little village of their own. Each family has a separate house and each member of the family has his own individual room, which he keeps jealously for himself, and there is always a scrap if any one else tries to bunk in there with him.”
“I suppose you find them almost everywhere,” said Bob Hart.
“No, you don’t,” said Jack. “They used to be very plentiful, but their fur is in such great demand that hunters and trappers are after them all the time. In Europe, where they used to be abundant, there are hardly any left except in the zoos as curiosities. You don’t find so many of them in America either now, except where it’s cool, as it is up here, and over the line in Canada.”
“Well,” yawned Tom, as they finally got ready to go to bed, “I’d hate to have to work as they do. Did you see how they pitched in this afternoon? It makes me tired even to think of it.”
“Yes,” said Jack. “I guess we all know better than ever before what it means to be as ‘busy as a beaver.’”
“‘Where are you going, my pretty maid?’
“‘I’m going a-milking, sir, she said,’” chanted Pete as Ben Hoover emerged from the mess tent with the largest tin pail the camp boasted swinging from one hand, and the next largest one from the other.
“Gentlemen,” said Ben, with mock dignity, “I’m not in the humor even to resent the insult your words imply further than to say that you will be sorry for those cruel words when you learn my mission.
“I am about to sacrifice myself on the altar of friendship! I am about to separate myself from human society for the space of two endless hours! I am to spend those two hours in gathering material for raspberry dumplings”—here a general shout of delight greeted him—“with which to brighten the lives of many friends.”
This speech was highly applauded by the “many friends,” and Ben, bowing solemnly, picked up his two pails and walked off, followed by cries of:
“Hurrah for friendship!”
“Bully for you!”
“Go in and win!”
“We won’t do a thing to those raspberries!”
“Wait till you get them,” Ben called back, as he disappeared down the hill.
Whistling gaily, Ben swung along till he came to the spot he had noticed the afternoon before, where the raspberry bushes glowed red with the luscious fruit.
By the time he had filled one pail, the berries were getting more scarce, and he wandered on in search of the best filled bushes.
He did not notice that the ground was growing soft and springy under his feet. He only thought of getting that other pail filled and hiking back to camp in time for the cook to use the berries for those promised dumplings.
“Ah, there is the dandiest one yet!” he said to himself, as a bush fairly loaded with the red berries met his sight. He set down his pail and reached for the berries. At that moment a sensation came over him as if the ground were giving way beneath his feet, and without a moment’s warning he found himself ankle deep in soft, sticky mud.
Not in the least alarmed, he tried to spring to firmer ground, but instead sank deeper into the mud than before.
More vexed than frightened, he made a more determined effort to draw one foot out, but found that he only sank deeper. In sudden anger, he struggled fiercely. What a sight he would be to return to camp with his clothes all covered with mud! And such mud! How he loathed it! He must, he would get out, and again he tried, leaning from side to side, tugging first at one foot, then at the other, but to no avail.
Thoroughly frightened now, and filled with panic, he threw himself first backward, then forward, to left, to right. Desperately, wildly, he strove to draw himself from that awful bog. It seemed as if some terrible monster with countless hands were dragging him down, deeper, deeper into that awful mire. The more he struggled, the deeper he sank.
All at once he realized this and ceased to struggle. He tried to think. Was it possible that there was no way to get out of this all-enveloping mud? Could it be that he was to die here, all alone? And such a terrible death!
The thought sent a shudder through him, and for a few moments he felt faint and ill. But no, it could not be! Why, his life was just begun! What about all those plans to make the most of every ounce of ability God had given him, to make a successful man of himself, to help others, to make this old world some better because he had lived? Why, he could not die, he could not! He had too much work to do first!
He thought of the merry words that had passed between him and his fellow Scouts only a short hour before. How full of life he had been! Why, he was as full of life now! Nothing had changed! The sun shone warm upon his upturned face, the air was sweet with the smell of growing things. A brilliant butterfly settled for a brief moment on his motionless hand, fluttered, and flew away. A bird rose from a tree, and, spreading light wings, was soon lost to sight.
How he envied that bird! It was free, while he, worth countless birds, was held here, where, if help did not come to him soon, he must die. His boy heart was filled with despair.
But no, he would not despair! He must think of some way to help himself. There must be some way! Some of the Scouts must be near.
He called again and again, but no answer came back to his straining ears. He kept his face toward the sky, for he did not dare look down at that terrible mud, but yet he knew that he was sinking, slowly, steadily. He could feel that the muck was half way between his knees and his waist.
If he could only get someone to help him! If he could only make someone hear! If he only had something—ah, a sudden thought sent such a thrill of hope through his heart that it fairly hurt.
His whistle—his Scout’s whistle! Why could he not signal with it? He, like all other Boy Scouts, was familiar with the American Morse telegraph alphabet. He would try and, placing the whistle to his lips, he sent out in shrill notes his call for help.
Bob Hart, like Ben Hoover, was on the commissary staff that day, and was fishing for a mess of trout for dinner in the brook about a quarter of a mile from the bog.
Pausing to take breath, after a particularly fine fish had been landed, he wondered what that queer whistle was that came faintly, yet insistently to his ears. Was it some bird he had never seen or heard until then? Well, it was a queer, jerky note, anyway.
All at once there was something in that whistle that made him drop pole and line, and stand listening not only with all his ears, but with all his heart.
There was something familiar about it. What was it? Ah, now he knew! It was a signal—a message in the Morse alphabet, and again he listened intently.
Two short, sharp whistles—that was I. One long-drawn, and then a short whistle—that was in. Then in quick succession the other letters of the message, In the bog. Help me. Hurry.
Every nerve in Bob’s alert young body responded to that pitiful call. He ran—he raced—he flew, while always came that cry, “Hurry! Hurry!” faint at first, but louder as he neared the bog. It seemed as if his feet were held down with leaden weights. Why could he not go faster? In his eager heart the wish was repeated again and again, Oh, if he only had wings!
On, on he sped, and nearer and more insistently came the call, “Hurry! Hurry!”
Now perhaps he was near enough to call and, raising his clear voice, he shouted, “Courage! I’m coming! I’m coming!” and sweeter than angel music the words sounded to Ben Hoover, sunken now to his waist.
A moment more, and Bob was there, encouraging him and promising to have him out in a jiffy, but this was far more easily said than done. To find something he could throw to Ben that would serve to keep him from sinking farther—that was the first thing. After that he would think of something to do to draw him out.
He pulled some bushes up by the roots and, as he threw them, told Ben to push them close up against him and rest his arms upon them. He felt sure they would keep Ben from sinking deeper. They did help, and for a moment both Scouts thought their problem solved and they chatted hopefully of the help that Bob was to bring. Vain hope! Suddenly the bushes sank from view, and in the suction they caused poor Ben sank lower.
Quickly Bob ran back and forth, searching desperately for something to throw to his unfortunate comrade. A sapling! A board! Oh, if he had a board! And as if a miracle, he caught sight of a long one lying among the trees. How it came there he did not know or care. That it was there was enough. He ran to it, snatched it up and, running to the edge of the bog, slid it carefully along until it was within Ben’s reach.
Carefully, wise now to the fact that the slightest movement made him sink deeper, Ben drew the board in front of him.
“Don’t bear your full weight upon it,” counselled Bob. “If you just press upon it lightly with your hands, perhaps it will hold you.”
Poor Ben, eager to do every slightest thing to help himself, obeyed and, as the board did not seem to sink, again hope sprang up in their hearts.
Bob wanted to go at once for the desperately needed help, but Ben, terrified at the thought of being left alone, begged him to wait a few minutes until they were sure the board would hold him up until Bob could go and return.
“Keep up your courage, old man,” said Bob. “If that board holds—and I feel sure it will—we’ll be all right. I’ll do a regular Marathon up to camp. Harry and Pete are cooks this week, you know. They will come back with me, and we’ll bring everything we can lay our hands on to help. It will be mighty strange if we three husky fellows can’t get one boy out of a fix! So you just be gay thinking about it, old fellow. We’ll have you out before you know it.”
As he finished speaking, Bob arose and with a last wave of encouragement to poor Ben, he started on a run for camp. But that Marathon was never run.
Hardly had Bob gone a hundred yards from the bog than he heard Ben’s imploring voice calling, “Come back, Bob! Come back! The board is beginning to sink!”
Bob came tearing back in answer to that pitiful summons to find that in truth the board was sinking a little in the mud. Beginning at the heavier end, it slowly sank out of sight, and as it disappeared drew the boy a little farther down.
He had now sunk halfway between the waist and shoulders. Now, indeed, did both Scouts begin to despair. Half-crazed, Bob ran wildly up and down, whistling shrilly, frantically searching for something with which to aid his comrade.
There was nothing! He could do no more!
He stood, outwardly calm, but with his heart dying within him as he watched Ben’s efforts to be brave as his last hope vanished.
“That’s right, dear old fellow,” said Bob, “keep up a brave heart! I’m sure that help will come! I’m sure! Oh, Ben, if we only had a rope!”
As Bob stood there, desperately casting about in his mind for some way to help poor Ben, now up to his armpits in the black mud, he heard, or fancied he heard, a twig snap in the forest. Did that sound exist only in his imagination, or had he really heard it? While he was still in doubt, the underbrush parted, and he saw the best sight in the world for him just then. There, framed by the bushes, was the picturesque figure of Old Sam, the snake hunter, and in his hand he held his two-pronged snake pole.
At a glance he took in the situation and, springing forward lightly, extended the pole to Ben.
“Ketch a hold o’ the pole, an’ hang on to it, lad, an’ I’ll pull ye out! Got a good grip? That’s right—now steady! Never mind! Ye’ll keep it next time,” as the pole slipped from Ben’s nerveless fingers, and let him down a little deeper in the muck.
“Here, lad,” he said to Bob, “ketch on to this here and help me pull!” Then encouragingly to Ben, “Now ye got it? Hang on tight this time! Good boy! Now once more—steady—steady! Ye’re comin’, boy, ye’re comin’! Hang on another minnit and ye’ll be on solid groun’! Steady! Now—steady! There ye be!” he cried, exultingly, as they landed poor Ben, mud from head to foot, on the soft, dry grass, where he lay exhausted.
“It’s durn good I happened ’long jest as I did,” Old Sam hurried on to keep the boys from thanking him. “I nearly turned down t’other road for the village, but I sez to myself, ‘Sam, old boy, p’raps ye may meet some o’ them camp boys if ye goes by this here road,’ and so jest on the chanct o’ meetin’ ye, I come this way. I never reckoned I’d meet ye the way I done, though,” he added, chuckling to himself.
Here Ben, who had been trying desperately during this monologue to get a word in, thanked the old man heartily for the great service he had done him.
“I surely would have gone under in another minute if you hadn’t come along!” he said. “I never was so glad of anything in my life as I was to see you standing there with your long pole. I really don’t know how to thank you!”
“Tut, tut,” said old Sam, who always hated to be thanked for his kind deeds. “’Twan’t nothin’ ’t all! No more’n any Christian would hev done ef he’d found a friend o’ his’n in a tight place. I reckon ye must feel durned sticky with that there mud all over ye, lad,” he added, to change the subject. “S’pose ye come up to my cabin—’taint so very far from here, and scrape some o’ it off.”
The boys readily consented, for they had learned to think a lot of this quaint old man of the woods. Therefore, as soon as Ben had recovered his strength and felt rested enough, the three started out for Sam’s cabin. In a very short time they came upon the little place nestling in the very heart of the forest.
Sam told Bob to make himself comfortable while he took Ben around to a brook that ran back of the cabin and told him that if he wanted to take a plunge, he (Sam) would scrape the muck off his suit. And soon Ben, wonderfully refreshed by his dip in the cold water, and wearing his khaki suit, from which Old Sam had scraped the worst of the mud, came around the corner of the cabin and joined Bob.
The two Scouts were in a very subdued mood. The terrible experience they had just passed through brought with it a reaction. There was something very restful and soothing in sitting on the grass, with their backs against a log, while Old Sam moved cheerily around inside the little cabin, frying bacon and eggs.
When everything was ready, Sam called them and seated them in two very comfortable chairs of his own making.
“Aye,” said the old man, as he began serving the simple meal, “there’s been many footsteps leadin’ up to them bogs as has never come out o’ them. I remember once, when I was only a young feller, how two o’ the ugliest villains I ever see got their deserts. Ye see, these here rascals was tryin’ to steal some pow’ful val’ble trees here’bouts. They had it all fixed up fine how they were goin’ to git away with ’em. Wall, they wuz hard to work one night loadin’ the logs on a wagon so’s they could get ’em away before mornin’, when all a sudden they hears a voice and, lookin’ up, sees two great big, green eyes a glarin’ right at ’em. With a yell they runs off through the woods as fast as their legs could carry ’em, and never stops to look where they’s goin’. All a sudden, the first man slips an’ falls, ketchin’ hold o’ t’other and draggin’ him with him. With a blood-curdlin’ cry, they found they was bein’ pulled under. In a little while there was nothin’ to show they’d been there, ’ceptin’ their footprints leadin’ up to the edge o’ the bog. Me and a friend o’ mine was jest in time to see the last o’ ’em disappear.”
The boys had listened in horrified silence to this story and, as Old Sam stopped, Bob broke in breathlessly to ask, “But where did the green eyes come from?”
“Why, seems them belonged to a bobcat,” Old Sam began, but was again interrupted, this time by Ben.
“A bobcat?” he exclaimed. “I’ve heard there are some around here, but I haven’t seen any yet.”
“Waal, ye will! They ain’t so pow’ful plentiful, but once in a while ye ketch sight o’ one. Me an’ me friend, after we seen the finish o’ the rascals, we went back to see what mischief they’d been up to, and then, all o’ a sudden, my friend sez, sez he, ‘Look a-there, Sam, I reckon that’s what skeered them durned thieves!’
“I looked where he wuz pintin’ an’ I see them terr’ble glarin’ eyes. I tell ye, lads, they made my hair jest raise itself right up on my head, an’ I hadn’t no guilty conscience, nuther! Wall, quick as a flash my friend, he up with his rifle an’ popped that there pesky crittur right through the eyes!”
Just then a menacing rattle came from one corner of the cabin that made the boys jump from their seats in alarm.
“Don’t be skeered!” Old Sam chuckled. “That there is one o’ my rattlers as is waitin’ fur the man to come an’ take ’em to the museem. If ye like, I’ll show ye my c’lection.”
On the boys expressing an earnest desire to see the collection, Old Sam led the way to a couple of glass-covered boxes that stood in a corner of the cabin. In each box were two snakes; in one two rattlers were writhing and twisting, and in the other two unusually large and beautifully marked copperheads were lodged.
As the boys pressed forward eagerly to examine them, one of the rattlesnakes coiled itself and gave forth an ominous warning. Instinctively the boys drew back with a shudder of repulsion.
“They’re awfully treacherous creatures—those snakes!” Bob remarked.
“Wall, yes, they be!” Old Sam drawled, “but they has one thing to recommend ’em, anyway. They always gives warnin’ afore they strikes, so ye kin get out o’ the way.”
“That’s so,” Ben agreed, then added, “Haven’t you ever been bitten, Sam?”
“Not yet,” he replied. “Come pretty nigh it, sometimes, though. Many a time I’ve found the critters hangin’ on to my boots. I had a cat once what used to ketch a pow’ful lot o’ snakes fur me. He could do it a durned sight better’n I could myself!”
“I never knew that cats could catch snakes,” said Bob, incredulously.
“Wall, that there one o’ mine could. Every day he used to go with me when I hunted the critters.”
“Tell us how he did it,” the two boys said in the same breath, and Sam, delighted by the interest they showed, willingly complied.
“Wall, it wuz this way,” he began. “Tommy—that wuz what I called him—would hunt around till he found a good big rattler. Then he’d creep on him on them soft paws o’ his’n, then all a sudden, when he wuz just in front o’ him, he’d make a little noise and hold up his paw. At the noise the snake would coil hisself up into a ball and rattle somethin’ turr’ble. But Tommy, he’d never stir an inch. That would make the reptile awful mad, and he’d strike out at that raised paw o’ Tommy’s with all the strength he had in him. That’s just what the cat had been countin’ on, an’ when the rattler struck, he would jump aside quick as lightnin’. Then when the snake would go past him, Tommy, he’d jump and land right on the critter’s neck, just below his head. Yes, he wuz great on ketchin’ snakes, old Tommy wuz!”
“What became of the cat?” Ben asked, eagerly.
“Why, he lived to be sixteen years old, Tommy did, and at the end o’ that time passed off quiet and peaceful like. He lived a happy life and a durn useful one, too, which is more’n you kin say fur most cats,” he added.
Although the boys would gladly have stayed longer with this old man who knew so many interesting tales, they knew Scout-Master Durland would be anxious about them. They urged Old Sam to go with them back to camp and stay to dinner, but he refused on the plea that the “museem man” was coming to take away “them durned reptiles,” and he had to be on hand to receive him.
“I’ll go with ye a little ways through the woods, though,” he said, “and see that ye don’t get stuck in no more bogs.”
So they started merrily for the camp. Old Sam’s bacon and strange stories had had a good effect on the two boys and they felt themselves again.
The snake hunter gave all the bogs a wide berth, and beguiled the way so pleasantly with his interesting talk that before they knew it they were almost on top of the camp.
Bob and Ben tried their best then to persuade Old Sam to go in with them, if only for a few minutes, but again he begged off, saying, “Ef I once git in there, lads, I couldn’t pull myself away, an’ then what would the poor museem man say?”
The boys didn’t know and didn’t care, but as they saw he could not be moved from his determination, they reluctantly let him go. Before they parted, however, the boys overwhelmed him with thanks and gratitude.
“Tut, tut!” he said, for the second time that day. “’Twan’t no more’n any Christian would hev done.”
But although this was true to some extent, the boys looked after his disappearing figure with no lessening of their respect and love. With a sigh they finally turned away and started toward camp once more.
In a few minutes they found themselves surrounded by the Scouts, who were greatly relieved to have the two runaways with them again.
“Where are those raspberries, Ben, that you were going to bring for the dumplings?” Dick cried.
Then Ben told the excited boys all about this mishap and how loyally Bob had come to his rescue. When he spoke of the snake hunter’s timely arrival and how he and Bob together had pulled him out of the bog, the Scouts sent up three cheers that set Don barking.
Reserving the snake hunter’s stories to tell around the campfire that night, Ben concluded: “I’m sorry, fellows, that I wasn’t able to get you those raspberries! My intentions were good, I assure you, but I was prevented by ‘circumstances over which I had no control,’ as contracts say.”
“Don’t you worry about that, Ben,” said Jack, “you look better to us than all the raspberry dumplings going!” and that he voiced the general feeling was shown by the boys’ hearty, “You bet your life!”
Never had a day dawned more brightly, never had the skies been bluer than on the morning of a day a week or so later, to which the Scouts had looked forward with so much pleasure; and yet it proved to be a day of disaster.
The unfortunate happenings had begun with an accident to Mr. Durland. He had stepped carelessly upon a loose stone, and, his foot slipping, he had been thrown from his balance, and had rolled and slid down the steep mountain side. He had grasped at some stout bushes and so managed to stay his fall until help could reach him. His Troop had all been thankful enough when at last they had him at the top again and had found no bones were broken, and that there was apparently no more serious injury done than some severe bruises.
Thankful as they were, the accident had affected them all, for there was not a boy in that Adirondack camp who did not love Mr. Durland. He had been their Scout-Master ever since the formation of the Thirty-ninth Troop, and in all that time they had spent together the Scouts had found nothing in him that the most critical would have cared to change if he could. His never-failing cheerfulness, his quick sympathy and full understanding of boy nature, his hearty praise for work well done or any act that proved the doer a worthy Scout; the quiet reproof, when reproof could no longer be withheld—all these traits had endeared their Scout-Master to the members of the Thirty-ninth.
So it had been with thankful hearts but subdued spirits that they had again taken up the trail.
Then venturesome Tom Binns had foolishly wandered away, and it had taken an hour of searching before they had located him.
They had gone on quietly without any other unpleasant incident and had covered several miles of their hike where there had come literally “lightning out of a clear sky.”
One moment the sky had been of clearest blue, the sun shining brightly. The next the air had been filled with a lurid yellow light. It had thundered and lightened and, by sheer good fortune, just in the nick of time, the boys had stumbled upon a refuge formed by three great rocks piled one against the other. Against and between these they managed to crowd, but it had offered only meagre protection from the fury of the storm. Such a storm had never been witnessed before by any of them. It was preceded by a terrific wind which bent the saplings to the ground, wrenched up great trees by their roots, casting them aside like a giant’s discarded playthings. This it had made the boys’ hearts ache to see, for they had come to love the trees, and regard them almost as friends.
Then came the rain, in driving sheets that hid even nearby objects. It seemed as if the very floodgates of heaven were opened, and that it poured in “floods that came and came again,” until in every depression there was a small lake and wherever the ground sloped downward small rivers ran.
Not a living thing was to be seen, for every wild creature had taken refuge from the fury of the storm in its deepest woodland shelter and nestled there quivering, while still the thunder rolled, the lightning flashed and the rain came down in torrents.
Suddenly there was a peculiarly vivid flash, and then a crash that seemed as if the heavens themselves must be falling, and a tall oak directly opposite the Scouts’ shelter was riven by lightning. Straight through the center of the tree the blue fire ran, from topmost leaf to roots, and the giant parted and fell crashing to the ground.
At last, after what seemed a never-ending wait, the deluge was over, and the Scouts came out of their refuge, stretching their limbs, and again took up the trail.
At first their progress was slow, for in every hollow the water lay so deep that they were forced to abandon the trail and skirt around it. In more than one place a great tree lay across the trail and they must either go around or push through the fallen branches. All this took time and effort, and the boys were tired when they reached a part of the trail that led outside the woods, where they found the going much easier.
Then they reached the river, along whose banks the trail led to within a mile of the county town, for to purchase some much needed stores in the village had been the object of this hike.
Long before they reached the river they could hear its rushing waters and so were prepared to see it swollen, but the sight which now met their eyes was beyond anything they had imagined.
The raging volume of water that came tearing down the river course was more like some great, swirling cataract than a river. They remembered how it had looked on the day they came to camp as, crossing on the trestle which spanned it, they had looked down upon it from the train, and admired its quiet beauty. Then the blue sky was mirrored in its quiet depths, now a great mass of whirling, muddy water, sweeping all before it.
Recovering a little from their amazement at the sight of the rushing current, they went on down the trail until the trestle came in sight. At the first glance they stood as if turned to stone. For several minutes the Scouts gazed into the faces of one another, and, though no word was spoken, whole volumes were read in eyes full of alarm and faces which, despite the stout hearts back of them, were blanched with fear.
It had needed only one glance to see it all. On its course down the valley, the swollen river, overflowing its banks at many places, had loosened the earth from the roots of many trees growing along its edge and had borne them along. Several of these had been wedged against the foundation supports of the trestle and on the farther side had loosened several of them. This had caused the frame to sag away from the track, leaving the rails loosened and out of place for many feet at that end of the trestle, and—appalling thought! the afternoon express was due in little more than an hour. Is it any wonder that the thought left the Scouts white and speechless?
In order to give the alarm to the on-coming train it would be necessary to cross the river. Ordinarily this would be easy enough, for here the river had neither great depth nor strong current, but one glance now at the raging, boiling torrent that had taken the place of the usually placid river showed that to be dangerous, if not impossible.
As the Troop stood there hesitating, trying to decide on the best thing to do, there was constantly before each one a picture of the train speeding out on that broken trestle, then falling, its cars piling up one upon the other, the shrieks and groans of the injured—Ah, but they must not think of these things! It would make them unable to plan. That they must do something to save the train went without saying. No true Scout could stand or had ever stood by when there was disaster to be prevented or life to be saved.
“Now, Scouts,” said Mr. Durland in a resolute voice, “here is an emergency that will test all your training. We must act quickly, or it will be too late.”
As he spoke a new thought flashed into his mind and now, looking into the earnest faces of the Scouts, he saw the thought that was in his own mind grow in theirs.
The trestle! But to run along that trestle over the mass of seething, angry water, when the slightest misstep meant death, to warn the on-coming train—could he ask or expect such a heroic deed from these Scouts, the oldest of whom was scarcely more than a boy? He must consider.
The wind that had risen to a hurricane before the storm had broken now began to rise again, and he knew that this would increase the peril fourfold. What was his duty to these boys? Should he teach them at this crisis that their first duty was to themselves, or that it was their great privilege to risk their own lives to save others?
His decision was made, and, raising his head, he quickly called for a volunteer.
Every Scout, to the last man, stood ready!
Strong man as he was, Mr. Durland felt the tears rush to his eyes, and he could not speak for a moment for the choking in his throat. Then he said, “Well, Scouts, I’m proud of every one of you, but you see you cannot all go.” Then glancing keenly about, he continued: “I will let you choose your own man. Whom do you think best fitted, not by courage, for you are all that, but by physical strength and steadiness of head to undertake this task?”
And there was but one word spoken, as with but one voice, “Jack!”
Without a word Jack threw off his Scout’s pack and prepared for his task, but turned to ask what he should do for something with which to flag the train. Harry French whipped out a large red silk handkerchief and quickly passed it over. Without a moment’s delay Jack swung off, with Mr. Durland’s “Take care of yourself, Jack,” and the good-bye shouts of his fellow Scouts ringing in his ears.
His companions held their breath as he swung out over the rushing water. Until now they had failed to notice in the excitement that the sky had again darkened and that there was every sign of another downpour. The darkness increased, and again came that terrible rain in such sheets that, strain their eyes as they would, they could not see a trace of Jack.
And now Jack, brave Jack, was all alone in his struggle. Blinded by the wind and the pouring rain, he could scarcely see one iron girder of the trestle. Standing with difficulty and swaying dizzily, he waited until a flash of lightning showed the way before him for one blinding second. In that second he calculated the distance between the girders and now crept on from girder to girder over those hungry waters that seemed to leap at him in an attempt to drag him down into their raging depths.
Once he slipped and fell between the girders and for an instant thought that he was lost, but with cat-like agility he caught at a projecting beam, and, though the angry waters dashed over him and sought to break his hold, they could not, and he pulled himself slowly back to the trestle.
No standing up now! He had learned the danger of that. On hands and knees, drenched by rain and river, buffeted by the terrible wind that tore at him like some living enemy determined on his destruction, he crawled painfully along inch by inch and foot by foot.
His hands, torn and bleeding from his desperate attempts to hold onto the rough iron, almost refused to obey his will. The cold wind and rain chilled him to the marrow and it was only his strong, determined will and dauntless heart that held him to his task.
It seemed to him that he was going so slowly, so terribly slowly, when there was such need of haste. He must hurry! He told himself that the short hour before the train was due must already be gone.
At any moment now he might hear that dreaded whistle and see the monster train bearing down upon him. What if it should come while he was still on the trestle?
For a moment he stopped overwhelmed, controlled only by that physical fear of death that is common to us all. The thought of going down into that swirling flood and yielding his young life to those merciless waves was more than he could bear. Only for a moment did this thought sway him. Almost instantly the realization that upon him depended other lives, and that he must hurry if he would hope to save them restored his courage and banished every thought of self. Again he crept on, trying to hurry and constantly beaten and held back by wind and rain.
On, on, he crept, with bleeding fingers, toward the end of the trestle. Would he never reach it? The downpour of rain lessened, and it grew lighter. He strained his eyes, and, yes! there before him, only a few yards distant now, was the end of the bridge and beyond it, wet rails glistening, the track stretched away.
Rising to his feet, Jack looked eagerly, searchingly along that track. Nothing in sight, he told himself exultingly. He was going to be in time!
The storm was over now, and in the clearer light he hurried along, his bleeding hands and bruised knees forgotten in the joyful thought that he was going to succeed—but at this moment there was a terrible crash and noise of breaking and splintering wood, and he stood transfixed at the sight before him.
The end of the trestle the entire width across had given way and fallen with a crash and now lay, a broken mass of wreckage, half on land and half in water. An open space about six feet wide yawned between Jack and the bank.
Not very much space, you think, for an agile Boy Scout trained in all sorts of athletics to cover; and, ordinarily, that would have been so. But now the ground under and beside the tracks was soft and yielding from the rain and, to make the task of jumping still more difficult, the mass of wreckage served as a dam and the water flowed out over the roadbed, making it impossible to calculate the leap.
Our Scout stood there for a long minute trying to decide what to do. If it had been only his own life that he had to consider, he would not have hesitated a second, but he had to reflect that if lost there would be no one to warn the express, which must now be very close at hand.
Whatever he did he must do quickly. He glanced around keenly, but could see nothing to aid him. Desperate, he looked again. Ah, yes! There, a foot or so beneath where he was standing, he saw a beam of wood projecting from the water. Jack could only see a few feet of it, for the rest of it was under water, but it was his only chance and he took it unhesitatingly. Drawing off his shoes that his feet might get a better grip, he stepped down upon it and felt his way cautiously along until he came to the broken end of the beam. Knowing that he had gained several feet, he now leaped out over the flood. As he jumped, he leaned far forward, and it was well he did, for as his feet touched the soft earth, it slid from under them and it was only by grasping at the rails that he kept himself from slipping backward into the water.
Hurrah! he was on firm ground at last, and all else was forgotten in the triumph.
Toot! Toot! T-o-o-t! It was the whistle of the express. He was just in time. He dashed up the track toward the on-coming train with the speed of an arrow. He had sore need now of all his athletic training and ran as he had never run before. There around the bend, about a fourth of a mile away, appeared the express, ten minutes behindhand, and in consequence putting on extra speed.
Jack planted himself firmly in the middle of the track and waved the red danger signal to and fro, his heart singing with joy. He expected to see the express slow down, but to his amazement it did nothing of the kind. They did not seem to see him!
What should he do? The train, with the broken trestle ahead of it, must not be allowed to take that awful plunge. He must stop it!
He waved the red flag more frantically than before, but still the train, unheeding, came on. Two minutes more and it would be upon him. Now came the supreme test of his Scout training. Would he fail?
Lightning quick he thought and decided. Springing from the track, he caught up a rock, and, as the train came abreast of him, hurled it through the window of the cab. Then, well nigh exhausted as he was, he ran along by the side of the track.
As the train sped by him he heard startled exclamations and shouted oaths mingled with the sound of the breaking glass. He caught a glimpse of the engineer face thrust from the cab window, and once more he frantically waved the red flag.
At last, at last, he heard the grinding and whistling of the air-brakes as the express began to slow down. So great had been its speed that its momentum carried it on even when all steam had been shut off and the air-brakes applied.
The engineer and fireman, now fully aware of some terrible danger, feared the train could not be stopped in time. With bated breath they waited, while nearer and nearer crept that awful gap. On, on, went the great locomotive until within two scant feet of the broken trestle when, with whistling brakes and grinding wheels, it came to a full stop.
From cab and car people poured, gathering around Jack, whose white face, bleeding hands and clothing torn almost in shreds told their own story of the terrible ordeal through which he had just passed.
As it happened, there were several wealthy mine owners on the train going up into the Adirondacks to verify a report of a rich vein in that locality. With them was the superintendent of the road, likewise interested in the mining project. His family, consisting of his wife, his married daughter and her husband and their two young children, were also of the party. It was for their accommodation that a most luxuriously furnished private car had been added to the regular train, and very soon Jack, quite restored, found himself sitting in a wonderfully comfortable chair, and the center of attraction.
With keenest interest all listened to his account of the storm in the mountains and as, in answer to their many questions, they drew from him the story of the crossing of the trestle, their hearts glowed with gratitude to the brave Boy Scout who had done so much for them. They quickly made up a purse, and the superintendent of the road presented it to Jack, saying, “This is from the passengers, for they recognize the great debt you have placed upon them, and I can say for the road itself that it will be quick to recognize in a substantial way the service you have rendered it.”
Jack drew back, and firmly refused to accept the reward, first of all because he did not wish it, and second because it is against Scout rules to accept a reward for any such service. When the passengers saw how determined he was in the matter, their admiration knew no bounds, and if Jack had not been as strong minded as we know him to be, it is to be feared that he would have grown conceited.
The superintendent soon gave orders to the engineer to make best speed in backing the train to the county town, only a mile or two away, and there Jack alighted, and after a short wait was joined by the rest of the Troop, who had gained the town by means of a bridge which had withstood the storm some miles down the river.
Lounging in all sorts of careless attitudes around the campfire that evening, the boys were playing with Don. That exuberant animal was an unfailing source of delight. No matter how much he had tramped through the day, he was always ready for a frolic with the boys. All of them were fond of him and since he had led the Scouts to the cave and saved the lives of Jack and Tom just when the situation seemed most desperate, he had become the idol of the camp. He was constantly learning new tricks and perfecting those he had. Now he rolled over and over, turned somersaults, stood on his hind legs and marched as a soldier, stretched himself out and played dead and went through all his extensive stock of tricks. Nor did he do it as a matter of obedience to the shout of a command, but took as much delight in it as did the boys themselves. It was easily seen that he thought himself as important as any Scout in camp and there were times, it must be said, when the boys agreed with him.
Now as he barked joyfully and leaped and ran from one to another, Ben remarked, “Well, there’s no use talking, there’s something wrong with a man who doesn’t love a good dog!”
“Right you are!” said Tom, who, since Don had saved his life, had redoubled his affection for the dog. “They’re the finest animals in the world.”
“Yes,” said Jack, while Don squatted on his haunches and looked in his eyes adoringly, “they’re the most faithful and affectionate beasts on earth. They’ll never go back on you, no matter what happens. You’re just the same to them whether you have a dollar or a million; whether you’re a helpless outcast or the President of the United States. There aren’t many human friends that will stick by you everywhere in foul weather as well as fair weather, but a dog always will. He will trot along with you; he’ll fight for you; he’ll forgive all your impatience and ill-treatment, and he wouldn’t hesitate a moment to give up his life to save yours. They’re noble fellows, sure enough, aren’t they, old dog?” as he fondled the shaggy head caressingly.
“And they’re so intelligent,” said Pete. “They’ll follow a trail anywhere. You may try to cover up your tracks by all sorts of tricks, by walking backward in your footsteps, by running along fences or jumping from rock to rock, but although you may confuse them, they’ll stick to it until soon or late they pick up the trail again. The only way to fool them utterly is to take to the water and wade through it, but even then you have got to head for land sooner or later and the chances are they’ll get you. You know how hard it used to be in the old slave-holding days for a runaway to escape. I’ve heard that in some of the places of Europe—Belgium I think—trained dogs are a regular part of the police force and a most important part too, if you believe all that is told about them.”
“Well,” said Dick Crawford, who, after discharging some of the routine duties of the camp, had joined the group, “I know of a famous case that shows both those qualities of the dog, his affection and his intelligence. It all happened four hundred years ago and yet it is so interesting and remarkable that the story has lived all this time.”
The boys clamored to hear it and Dick went on:
“There was a young man in Paris, we’ll call him Aubrey for short, of good birth and breeding and moving in the gay world of fashion. He had a large circle of friends and owned a magnificent greyhound. It was a splendid brute, whom people turned about to watch as he followed his master through the streets.
“One day there was a great tournament in Paris, a very gay and splendid occasion, and his friends were surprised to see that Aubrey wasn’t there. They thought this was strange because he had counted very much on this coming event and had shown the greatest interest in it. Still they thought that something had detained him, but when on the second and third days he was also absent, they began to be worried about him.
“On the fourth morning a great friend of Aubrey, whom we’ll call De Narsac, heard a scratching at his door. He arose and found there his friend’s greyhound. The poor brute was wounded and had evidently been without food for days, so that his ribs almost showed through his flesh. De Narsac gave him food that he ate as famished. The appearance of the dog in such a condition deepened his suspicions that harm had come to his friend. The dog kept running about the apartment, whining and looking at him imploringly and plainly asking him to follow. Convinced now that something was wrong, he hastily dressed and followed him through the streets of Paris. The dog led him without a moment’s hesitation several miles out into the country through a forest that had a bad reputation as a resort for thieves and outlaws. Coming to some freshly disturbed earth under a great oak tree, he fell upon it and began scratching and whining pitifully. De Narsac and some friends he had brought with him began to dig and soon uncovered the murdered body of Aubrey.
“On their return to the city, they met a group of young men on one of the main streets. As soon as the dog caught sight of one of them he growled furiously, crouching and then leaped at the man’s throat. The courtier, whom we’ll call Macaire, beat off the dog with the help of his friends, but the greyhound made unavailing efforts to renew the attack.
“The sudden fury of the dog aroused suspicion and a little quiet investigation showed that sometime before there had been a bitter quarrel between Aubrey and Macaire.
“The matter came to the ears of the King, who determined to sift the matter to the bottom. He gave a great function in the royal palace and so managed that Macaire with a dozen other courtiers stood in a group at the right hand of the throne. By previous arrangement, De Narsac entered, accompanied by the greyhound, who, the instant his eye caught sight of Macaire, made a tremendous bound and bore him to the floor. It seemed to the King and all present that Providence had pointed out Aubrey’s murderer. Macaire denied it violently but, in accordance with the ideas of the time, it was arranged that the matter should be left to the judgment of heaven. In other words, the dog and the man were to fight a duel. It was supposed that eternal justice and wisdom would select the winner. If the dog won, the murderer of Aubrey stood revealed. If, on the other hand, Macaire came out victor, he was to be adjudged innocent.
“A duel between a man and a dog!” exclaimed Ben who, with the other boys, had listened breathlessly to Dick’s story. “That doesn’t seem fair. How could they fix it so that each would have an even show?”
“Well,” said Dick, “perhaps it wouldn’t be possible to make a thing of that kind exactly fair and even between a man and a dog, but they figured it out and made it as fair as they could. The man was armed with a heavy club and the dog had to rely upon his teeth and claws. A barrel was provided for him, in which he could take refuge when too hard pressed and get ready to renew the attack.
“The affair came off before a tremendous crowd. All the leading people of Paris and the court were present. The instant the dog was brought in he tugged at the leash and being freed, leaped at his enemy. Macaire fought with the fury of despair; but the consciousness of guilt unnerved him and most of his blows beat the air. The dog returned again and again to the attack and, finally, leaping through Macaire’s guard, caught him by the throat and threw him to the ground. He shrieked for help and confessed his guilt. Justice was keen and quick in those days, and that very night Macaire was led out to execution. The dog had avenged his master.”
The Scouts drew a long breath as Dick finished his exciting story and Pete ejaculated, “Well, that certainly was some dog!”
“They thought so at the time,” said Dick, “and put up a monument to him that can be seen even now.”
“Well,” said Jack, turning to Don, “you’re not so big and strong as that great greyhound, old fellow, but I bet you know as much, and no matter what happened to any of us, you would stand by us to the very end. Wouldn’t you, Don?” and Don, looking eloquently into his master’s eyes, wig-wagged, “Yes!”
The morning of the last day of the month dawned bright and clear.
The day before, Harry, as he had promised Crawford he would do, had come over to the Boy Scout camp and had a long talk with Mr. Durland. Flannigan had not come back from his prospecting trip nor had they heard from him in any way. The only conjecture was that he had been delayed longer than he had expected, but had probably planned his return so as to stop at the junction point to receive the express package that always arrived for him on the last day of the month in order to meet the payroll, and from there would drive over to the logging camp.
It was absolutely necessary that somebody should reach there before the arrival of the train in order to give him ample warning, and let him make his arrangements accordingly. Jack was selected as best fitted for that important duty and immediately after breakfast he started off for the Junction.
He gave himself plenty of time. It would not do to take any risk when theft was in the air and when possibly a life also depended upon his getting there before the train. The distance from the Boy Scout camp to the Junction was about five miles as the crow flies. If he had been able to go by the road, he could easily have made it in a little over an hour. The path, however, lay chiefly through the woods and there were brooks to be crossed and occasional hills to be climbed and for all this Jack had to make allowances. Thanks to the efforts of the Boy Scout Pathfinders, the district had been thoroughly surveyed and rough paths indicated, and as Jack himself had been in the thick of this exploring, he had a perfectly clear idea of the shortest and easiest way to get there.
The train was due at the Junction at ten thirty-five. Usually it was behind time. It ran on a little spur jutting off from the main road. It was a single narrow-gauge track, with only one train each way every day. It carried both freight and passengers and stopped, as its patrons sometimes grumbled, at “every dog kennel” on the way. The chances were that it would be late, but then again on this one occasion it might happen to be on time and Jack could take no risks. He figured that, with all the roughness of the road, he could make the distance easily in two hours. He gave himself an extra hour and a half, however, to allow for any possible hindrance and left camp at about seven o’clock.
It was a splendid morning. A slight haze tempered the heat of the sun and made walking a delight. As Jack swung into his stride, the charm of the morning took possession of him. The full tide of youth and strength ran through his brain. The balsam of the woods filled his nostrils. The woods were full of life. Birds sang in the trees overhead. He caught glimpses of chipmunks and squirrels gliding through the bushes and occasionally crossing the path. It was good to be alive, and it seemed scarcely possible that on such a day robbers and murderers were abroad and the possibility of a crime near at hand.
As this last thought came to him his step quickened. He didn’t anticipate any danger in his mission, and yet his blood was stirred by the possibilities that lurked in the day’s work. He had no idea that he himself would be concerned in it or come face to face with the robbers.
What he had to do after all was perfectly simple. He only had to warn Flannigan and he knew enough of that individual to have perfect confidence in him. He was sure that the big, burly Irishman could easily hold his own if it came to a tussle. But there would be no tussle. He was sure of that. All the foreman had to do was to take no chances in going by the main road, but to take a less traveled path, rough, to be sure, but over which a horse could be driven, and thus reach the camp. It was a much longer road, but in this case at least the old proverb was true that “the longest way around is the shortest way home.”
He had no doubt that Flannigan would be at the station. No matter how important his business might have been, he would never let pay-day go by without turning up in camp. That was the one unwritten law of the logging camps that was like the laws of the Medes and the Persians and could not be broken. The rough characters that Flannigan had to deal with in their hard-worked and narrow lives looked forward all through the month to that one day of the pay envelope. To be sure, the money didn’t last long when they got it. A big spree in the county town usually followed and, after a day or two of gambling and drunkenness, the men stumbled back to the camp and began to work for another month, and dream of the next pay-day. They were quick tempered at the best, would listen to no argument or explanation and only the sight of the money would appease them. If Flannigan did not turn up at the camp that day, there would be a riot, and nobody knew this better than Flannigan himself. Therefore he was sure to be on hand.
While Jack was thus pressing steadily forward, two men lay in a clump of bushes alongside the road about half way between the Junction and the logging camp. They had chosen another place than that on which they had first determined. They felt a vague uneasiness regarding the Boy Scouts. While the sudden appearance of Don had given rise to some misgivings, they had not been sure that they had been overheard. They had missed Dick on his trip to the logging camp to give warning and though after that day they had kept a sharp lookout, they had seen no proof of any communication from the Boy Scouts to the lumber camp. As a matter of fact, on the strict injunction of Mr. Durland, the Scouts had kept carefully away from that section since that day. Still on the mere chance they had thought to “make assurance doubly sure,” and had picked upon a new location where, squatting in the bushes, they waited the coming of Flannigan.
The intervening days spent in wandering about the woods and brooding over their plot had not improved their appearance. They were unshaven and unkempt, and their clothes hung on them in tatters. But if their appearance was bad, their tempers were still worse. Their rankling bitterness and hatred of all society had turned them into wild beasts.
“Curse him!” growled Red, as O’Brien was called, “we’ll settle his hash this time!”
“Yes,” returned Lavine. “By gar, I get even with zat man to-day if I swing for it!”
“We’ve got to be pretty keerful,” said Red. “He’s a moighty handy man with his fists, begorra!”
“His feests I fear not,” replied Lavine. “What are his feests against zis knife?” and he ran his hand significantly across the razor edge on an evil-looking hunting knife. “Do you zink he weel hev a pistol?”
“No fear uv that,” said Red. “He’s too cock-sure of himself.”
Just at the turning of the road they had felled a tree and with true woodmen’s skill had arranged it so that some of the heavier branches lay across the road. They thought that Flannigan, on reaching the obstruction, would be forced to get down from the wagon in order to remove it and clear a path. While he was bending over, they planned to spring upon him from behind with their clubs. Taken by surprise, they figured that he would be helpless in their hands. The knives they held as a last resort. Their thought of vengeance went no further than to give the prostrate man a terrible beating and perhaps maim him for life. It would be safer than actually murdering him and the pursuit was likely to be less keen than if they had killed their man. Yet their knives were there and in a pinch neither one would have flinched from using them should it come to that.
“He’ll soon be here now,” said Red, looking at the sun.
Lavine responded with a growl and an oath, and the two outlaws drew their belts tighter and waited for the coming of their prey.
In the meanwhile Jack had caught sight of the Junction from the brow of the last hill. His watch told him that he had an hour and a half to spare and he knew that he could easily make the distance in fifteen minutes, leaving plenty of time. He stepped out briskly and came to the edge of a little brook. It was only about a foot deep and there were stepping-stones leading from one bank to the other. As he neared the farther bank, a round stone slipped from under him and he plunged forward, striking his head against a tree stump on the edge of the brook. The world swam around him and then his senses left him.
How long he lay there he never knew. When he opened his eyes he looked around bewildered. His legs were wet to the waist where he had lain in the brook. He carried his hand to his forehead that ached horribly and when he withdrew it, found it covered with blood. Where was he? What had happened?
As he staggered to his feet the thought of his mission came to him. How late was it? He looked at the sun. It seemed much higher in the heavens. Could it be possible that he was too late for the train? He glanced at his watch. It was no longer going. The force with which he had fallen had stopped it and the hands marked nine thirteen. He remembered that a few minutes before his fall it had been nine eight. How long had he lain there?
Suddenly a thrill ran through his veins. Over the hill came the shrill whistle of a locomotive. It must be the train that Flannigan was to meet. There wasn’t any other that morning. Could he possibly be in time? He knew that it would take him at least fifteen minutes, doing his best, to get there. The train would get to the station in less than five,—might be there now. Even yet, he told himself, he might be in time! Perhaps there would be a car to be shifted on a siding. Even after the train had gone, Flannigan might stop for a chat and gossip with the station agent. There might be some delay in signing for the express package. A dozen things might happen to help him. At least he might get near enough to wave his arms and attract attention.
While these thoughts rushed through his mind, now clearing from the effects of the fall, he had struggled to his feet and started dizzily on his way. At first he staggered, but with every step he felt himself getting stronger. Only a little part of the remaining distance was up a slight ascent but after that it would be easy sailing. All the way from that to the station would be down hill.
A groan passed from his lips as he reached the brow of the hill, half a mile from the Junction. The train had reached the station, let off a single passenger and, grunting and groaning, was just pulling out. Alongside the platform was a buckboard drawn by an old white horse. Holding the reins was a thick-set, sturdy figure, whom he recognized as Flannigan. Jack shouted but they could not hear him at that distance. He blew his Scout’s whistle but still there was no sign. He ran on, waving his hands wildly. Their backs were to him and no one saw him. A solitary passenger stepped into the buckboard, Flannigan gathered up the reins, the old white horse started off and disappeared around a turn of the road just as Jack rushed up to the station.
He was too late!
Too late! The horrible truth flashed across him as he flung himself on the platform, unable to speak and almost unable to breathe. He had failed! He had been entrusted with that mission and he had failed. A life, perhaps two lives now, could have been saved by a word from him and he had failed! The picture of the men jogging quietly along the road on that beautiful morning without a thought or dream of danger, going to a certain robbery and perhaps to death came before him. He put his hands over his eyes and groaned aloud.
What would Mr. Durland say? What would the Scouts say? Above all, what would his own conscience say to the last day of his life? He had never yet fallen short in any important mission and now on this day of all days he had come miserably short, and he felt that he could never forgive himself as long as he lived.
How bitterly he blamed his carelessness in crossing the brook! Of course it was an accident, and after it had happened he had done his best to remedy it. But why had the accident happened? Why had he not been more careful? Why had he trusted that treacherous stone in crossing the brook? His heart swelled up in bitter self-reproach. But what was the use of that now? That wouldn’t save a life. He was too late!
But was he too late? The thought came to him like an electric shock and roused him from his despair. How did he know but what he might yet save them? While there was life, there was hope. Was he, Jack Danby, to lie there like a coward and give up supinely while lives hung in the balance? No, a thousand times no! He sprang to his feet, pushed through the door and rushed into the little office.
The station agent, a long, lanky native of the woods, was sitting with his back to him, looking over the orders left him by the conductor. His back was to Jack, but at his tumultuous entrance he sprang to his feet in alarm. Jack’s appearance was not prepossessing. His forehead was still covered with clotted blood, his hat was gone, his eyes were blazing. Less than that might have startled the agent, used to the slow and quiet ways of that isolated spot. For one brief moment he thought of a hold-up. In a moment he had slammed the cash drawer shut and reached for a pistol that lay on his desk. A second glance, however, showed him that it was no robbery he had to fear.
“Tell me,” gasped Jack, “can I get a horse around here anywhere?”
“Why, no, son,” replied the agent. “There isn’t anything less than a mile from here and that old plug ain’t no good. He’s too lazy even to switch the flies off him. What do you want him for?”
In quick, broken sentences Jack told him the danger. The station agent became grave and frightened. “And Mr. Scott is with him too,” he said. “That was him as got off the train and drove off with Flannigan. He has come up to look over affairs at the logging camp. He ain’t very husky, and I don’t know what would happen to him if it came to a scrap. Flannigan’s all right, but ’tain’t at all likely he can beat off two men if they take him by surprise. There ain’t no telegraph station down here and there ain’t no telephone, either, in these woods. What on earth are we going to do?”
Jack thought quickly. His brain never worked more swiftly than when in the midst of danger. There was nothing to hope for from the station agent. He put his head in his hands and tried to think.
Suddenly he remembered.
The road was hilly and roundabout, the horse was old and staid and would probably go along just at a jog trot. He had noticed that they had driven away slowly. Mr. Scott would have a lot to talk about on matters connected with the camp, and they would be so engrossed in talking that the old horse could jog along at his own gait. Could he not intercept them?
A great deal of work had been done near the station by the young pathfinders. Among other things, they had made a rough survey of a proposed path that, starting near the Junction, had led almost in a straight line to a point five miles distant, where it struck the road along which Flannigan was driving. At intervals of half a mile they had set up stakes with fluttering cloths tied to them, to mark the most easily traveled path between the two points. He happened to know that the work had been done well. He himself had led the squad that planted the stakes and remembered clearly the general directions. If he could only run across country and get to the main road, he might beat Flannigan to it despite the heavy handicap. In all the games of hares and hounds he had been easily the central figure. When with the hares he had rarely been captured; when with the hounds he had always brought a hare back captive. Now was the time to show his speed. If he could do this much in games merely, what ought he to do when lives were at stake?
An instant later the astonished station agent saw Jack bolt out of the station, running like a frightened rabbit. The ground flew away under him; the wind sang in his ears; his heart was beating like a trip hammer. Lives hung on his speed that day, and he would win or die trying.
The terrific pace at which he started soon began to tell and now that he was fairly on his way, he had time to think. He was going the pace that kills, and he realized that he must husband his speed. There was no use throwing the game away at the very start. At the rate he was now going, he would be blown before he had made a mile, and five good miles lay before him. So while his instinct pushed him on at top speed, his judgment began to get the upper hand. He must hold himself in, he must watch the path, he must save his strength. He fell into a swift lope that carried him over the ground with great rapidity, but still left him strength in reserve. He must keep that reserve until the last minute.
One pole marking a half mile flew by, then two, three, four. Two miles already covered! Only three yet to go. His legs began to tire, but his wind was good. Another pole and still another. Three miles now! He began to pant. His chest was straining, his breath was labored. He knew that he had reached the end of his first spurt, but he also knew that this was only temporary.
Another half mile and he had gotten his second wind. Now he felt as though he could run all day. He threw off his coat, his kit, his hatchet. Everything that could possibly hinder him he shed as he went along. He wasn’t going to carry an extra ounce. Another pole went by. He dashed through a brook and dipped his head under for a moment; then, refreshed and dripping, he ran on. Oh, if he were only in time!
His clean life and strong vitality were helping him. If he had spent his strength in excesses, he would have been absolutely helpless in this great emergency, but young, untainted life surged in him. He called on all his resources and they responded.
Four miles now! Another pole and only a half mile more! The main road was in sight. On and on he flew. Now he was within a few rods. He caught a glimpse of a white horse, with Mr. Scott holding the reins and Flannigan getting down to remove the branches of a tree that blocked the path. The next instant he dashed into the road just in time to see Red O’Brien fling himself upon Flannigan who was bending over the tree, while Jacques Lavine with uplifted cudgel rushed toward Mr. Scott.
Though taken by surprise, Flannigan was a man of ready resource and tremendous strength. His life had been spent among the rough men of the woods, where muscle and courage were constantly called into play. Again and again he had come to hand grips with some of the wild characters of the district and he had always come out with flying colors. He had a reputation throughout the North Woods as a rough-and-tumble fighter. His heart was as stout as his arms, as many a lumberjack filled with drink and ferocity had found to his cost.
At this supreme moment his long experience stood him in good stead. The warning shout of Mr. Scott, as the robbers rushed forth from the thicket, told him of instant danger, and he turned so swiftly that Red, instead of leaping upon his back, as he had intended, met him face to face. Before he could swing his cudgel, the hairy arms of Flannigan closed around him.
Back and forth the giants struggled, their eyes glaring, each trying to get at the other’s throat. Sheer strength and courage must decide that battle. They surged back and forth, their muscles stretched to the utmost. At first the result hung in the balance. Neither gained a decided advantage. All their passions were unleashed. Red fought for his liberty and Flannigan for his life. Neither one thought of giving in. Neither intended to give any quarter. They were more like wild beasts than men.
As Lavine lifted his cudgel to strike Mr. Scott, the latter dropped the reins and, snatching the whip from the socket, swung the heavy butt on the robber’s shoulder. With a savage curse Lavine dropped his cudgel, and at that instant Jack hurled himself upon him and bore him to the ground.
They rolled over and over like a pair of wild-cats. Lavine was the stronger, but Jack the quicker. The ruffian tried to get his great, gnarled hands on Jack’s throat, but his agile adversary eluded his attempt at a strangle hold. With muttered oaths Lavine tried again and again, but suddenly finding this unavailing, his hand went down to his belt and Jack knew he was feeling for his knife. Now indeed it was a fight for life. If the maddened wretch could get that knife out of its sheath, all would be over. Jack redoubled his efforts, but the tremendous strain was beginning to tell. Had he been fresh, he might have had an even chance and his agility might have proved a match for the Frenchman’s strength. Slowly but surely he felt the knife being drawn up inch by inch. He grasped the knife hand and twisted it with all his might. Into that twist he put all the power of his young and well trained strength. With a howl of pain and rage, Lavine shifted his knife to his other hand. Jack felt the wrist he was twisting snap, then the knife in the other hand gleamed before his eyes and the knife fell once, twice. Jack felt a keen pain like a red-hot iron flash through his shoulder. He heard the yell of the Scouts as Dick and Tom rushed through the bushes and flung themselves upon Lavine. His grasp relaxed, his head was strangely light, the trees danced around him, he felt that he was sinking, sinking ten thousand fathoms deep, and then for the second time that day he lost consciousness.
When he came to himself, he was lying on a litter that the Scouts had hastily constructed. His shoulder had been deftly bandaged and, as he opened his eyes, they fell upon Mr. Durland, Mr. Scott, Dick and the other Scouts crowding around him. At a little distance were the two robbers waiting for the wagon that Flannigan had sent for to the camp to carry them to the county jail. All the fight had gone out of them. Dick and Tom, together with Mr. Scott, had disarmed and overpowered Lavine, and he now sat nursing his wounded wrist and cursing horribly. Red was lying on the ground, bruised and dazed, where Flannigan with one mighty twist had thrown him and, falling upon him, choked him until he begged for mercy.
“Thank God!” said Mr. Durland, his voice broken with emotion. “He’s coming around all right!”
“Yes,” murmured Jack, smiling faintly, “I guess I’m worth a dozen dead men yet.”
“Sure yez are,” said Flannigan, his massive frame yet panting with his exertions. “It’s a broth of a b’y yez are, and ’tis glad and proud I’d be if I had a son like yez! Sure, ’tis a fighter yez are, by the powers! It takes no baby to tackle Jacques Lavine. And don’t yez be worrying about that knife play,” he said, turning to the group. “There’s nothing bad’ll come of that. ’Twill keep him in bed a day or two perhaps, but nothing worse than that.”
Mr. Scott came forward and put his hand on Jack’s forehead. “My boy,” he said, “I don’t know how to thank you. You saved my money to-day but that was a little thing. You saved my life as well, and I shall never forget it. If ever you need a friend or help of any kind, call on me! You’ve put me in your debt for life.”
“Oh, that was nothing,” said Jack, “I only did my duty. It was only a little thing after all. Anybody else would have done as much.”
He tried to lift himself as he spoke, but Mr. Durland stopped him instantly.
“No, you don’t,” he said, with a smile. “You’re not going to stand on your feet to-day or for several days. You’re going right over to the camp. Mr. Scott has sent to the county town for a doctor and he will be there before evening. You’re going to ride in state to-day, Jack, as befits a hero. Who’ll volunteer,” he said, turning to the Scouts, “to carry this litter?”
Who would volunteer? The boys almost fought for the honor. They crowded around him in wild excitement. They had always admired him, but to-day they fairly idolized him. Mr. Durland had to settle the matter by arranging for relays, so that all might have a chance to carry him, and the boys picked out for the first relay were the object of envy to the other fellows.
It was a joyful, if rather subdued, party that carried Jack back to the camp that day. They took the utmost care to avoid the rough places, so that there might be no shock to the wounded shoulder. When they got him there, the first bandages were removed, the wound was carefully washed and dressed and Jack was put to bed. Toward evening the doctor arrived and his examination confirmed the opinion of Flannigan. The knife had missed any vital spot, had touched no arteries and, with the good care and nursing that Jack was sure to get, he would be all right again in two or three days.
“You see, old boy,” said Dick Crawford as he sat by Jack’s bedside the following day, “it was like this. We knew the place that those fellows had fixed on to waylay Flannigan, from what we overheard in the woods. Although we felt sure that you would get to the train in time, we thought it better to take no chances and made up our minds to be on hand. We could not go too close for fear of being seen, and so we lay behind some bushes a little way off. Of course we didn’t know that they had changed their plans, so when the real rumpus came, we were farther off than we expected to be. We ran—how we ran! I never made such time in my life before. If we had only got there a minute sooner, you wouldn’t be lying on your bed to-day.”
“That’s all right, old fellow,” said Jack. “I know how gladly any one of you fellows would have risked your lives to save mine. But all’s well that ends well, and I’m mighty glad I’m alive.”
“And so are we!” came with a shout from outside the tent where the boys were gathered, fearing to disobey the doctor’s orders to keep Jack quiet, if they had crowded in as they had wanted to. “Three cheers for Jack!” and they gave them with a will.
The next few days came and went quickly. The time had come for breaking camp and most of the boys had been compelled reluctantly to go back to town. The life-giving air of the woods, combined with the careful nursing of Dick and Tom, who had remained behind to take care of him, had worked wonders for Jack. His splendid vitality and will power had assisted nature, and the morning came when, strong and well, he too bade farewell to the Adirondack camp.
“I tell you what, fellows,” he said, as they stood upon the station waiting for their train, “I never had such a delightful as well as exciting time as I’ve had this summer and I don’t believe I will ever have anything in the future that comes up to it.”
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OTHER FAIRY PLAYS
By GRACE RICHARDSON
Finding there is a wide demand for plays which commend themselves to amateurs and to casts comprised largely of children, Miss Richardson, already well and widely known, has here given four plays which are unusually clever and fill this need. They call for but little stage setting, and that of the simplest kind, are suited to presentation the year around, and can be effectively produced by amateurs without difficulty.
PUCK IN PETTICOATS
By GRACE RICHARDSON
Five plays about children, for children to play—Hansel and Gretel, The Wishing Well, The Ring of Salt, The Moon Dream, and Puck in Petticoats. Each is accompanied by stage directions, property plots and other helpful suggestions for acting. Some of the plays take but twenty minutes, others as long as an hour to produce, and every one of the five are clever.
HANDY BOOK OF PLAYS
By DOROTHY CLEATHER
Not one of the six sparkling plays between these covers calls for a male character, being designed for the use of casts of girls only. They are easily, effectively staged—just the sort that girls like to play and that enthusiastic audiences heartily enjoy.
THE BRADEN BOOKS
FAR PAST THE FRONTIER
By JAMES A. BRADEN
The sub-title “Two Boy Pioneers” indicates the nature of this Story—that it has to do with the days when the Ohio Valley and the Northwest country were sparsely settled. Such a topic is an unfailing fund of interest to boys, especially when involving a couple of stalwart young men who leave the East to make their fortunes and to incur untold dangers.
“Strong, vigorous, healthy, manly.”—Seattle Times.
CONNECTICUT BOYS IN
THE WESTERN RESERVE
By JAMES A. BRADEN
The author once more sends his heroes toward the setting sun. “In all the glowing enthusiasm of youth, the youngsters seek their fortunes in the great, fertile wilderness of northern Ohio, and eventually achieve fair success, though their progress is hindered and sometimes halted by adventures innumerable. It is a lively, wholesome tale, never dull, and absorbing in interest for boys who love the fabled life of the frontier.”—Chicago Tribune.
THE TRAIL of THE SENECA
By JAMES A. BRADEN
In which we follow the romantic careers of John Jerome and Return Kingdom a little farther.
These two self-reliant boys are living peaceably in their cabin on the Cuyahoga when an Indian warrior is found dead in the woods nearby. The Seneca accuses John of witchcraft. This means death at the stake if he is captured. They decide that the Seneca’s charge is made to shield himself, and set out to prove it. Mad Anthony, then on the Ohio, comes to their aid, but all their efforts prove futile and the lone cabin is found in ashes on their return.
By JAMES A. BRADEN
A tale of frontier life, and how three children—two boys and a girl—attempt to reach the settlements in a canoe, but are captured by the Indians. A common enough occurrence in the days of our great-grandfathers has been woven into a thrilling story.
BOUND IN CLOTHETTE, with frontispiece
and colored jacket, postpaid each— $0.60
The Saalfield Publishing Co.
MARY A. BYRNE’S BOOKS
THE FAIRY CHASER
“Telling of two boys who go into the vegetable and flower-raising business instead of humdrum commercial pursuits. The characters and situations are realistic.”
LITTLE DAME TROT
One of the most pleasing of juveniles, made pathetic by the strength with which the author pictures the central figure, a little girl made miserable by her mother’s strict adherence to a pet “method” of training.
THE LITTLE WOMAN IN THE SPOUT
“This pleasing story may have been developed from real life, from real children, so true a picture does it portray of girlish life and sports.”
—GRAND RAPIDS HERALD
ROY AND ROSYROCKS
A glowing Christmas tale, fresh and natural in situations, that will interest both boys and girls.
It tells how two poor children anticipate the joys of the holiday, and how heartily they enter into doing their part to make the day merry for themselves and others.
Each of the above bound in Boards, 12mo— $0.60
The chronicles of the Happy-Go-Luckys, a crowd of girls who did not depend upon riches for good times. This club was very stretchible as to membership, so they elected Peggy-Alone from pity of her loneliness. Freed from governess, nurse and solicitous mother, she has the jolliest summer of her life.
CLOTH, 12mo, illustrated by Anna B. Craig— $1.00
BOOKS SENT PREPAID ON RECEIPT OF PRICE
The Saalfield Publishing Co.
The young child asks of the parent explanations of the most simple phenomena and of the most profound problems. And in too many cases the parent is unable to answer. This work will overcome that difficulty. It tells “the reason why” simply, plainly and fully so the child may understand.
IT IS A VERITABLE ENCYCLOPEDIA, ANSWERING QUESTIONS THAT ARISE DAILY IN THE HOME.
do we dream?
What is thunder?
What makes the rainbow?
Why do sea-shells “roar”?
Why is the sea salt?
Why are the lips red?
Why have fish
“Armed with this little manual, which is admirably indexed and profusely illustrated, one could face the most inquisitive stranger or even his infant son with perfect equanimity.”—San Francisco Chronicle
BOUND IN CLOTH, POSTPAID PRICE 25c
BOUND IN LEATHER, POSTPAID PRICE 50c
The SAALFIELD PUBLISHING CO
A Tale of the Buckeye State
DR. JAMES BALL NAYLOR
Author of “THE SIGN OF THE PROPHET”
“There is an atmosphere about the story of RALPH MARLOWE—the picturesque atmosphere of quiet, rustic southeastern Ohio, and there is an equal measure of delicious humor and delicate pathos about it also.
Get this novel and read it—The time will be well spent.”
—North American, Philadelphia.
“Dr. Naylor has constructed a very readable story. He has been remarkably successful in transferring to the canvas of fiction Ohio farmers and village folk, and the story is worthy to take its place beside the best of those written in recent years which take as their particular task the picturing of life in rural districts.”
American Monthly Reviews of Reviews.
Handsomely bound in bright red cloth, gold lettered, emblematic cover design in white and gold. 12 mo. 75cts.
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING
COMPANY * * * Akron, Ohio
FICTION FOR GIRLS
BETTY, The SCRIBE
By LILIAN TURNER
Drawings by Katharine Hayward Greenland
Betty is a brilliant, talented, impulsive seventeen-year-old girl, who is suddenly required to fill her mother’s place at the head of a household, with a literary, impractical father to manage.
Betty writes, too, and every time she mounts her Pegasus disaster follows for home duties are neglected. Learning of one of these lapses, her elder sister comes home. Betty storms and refuses to share the honors until she remembers that this means long hours free to devote to her beloved pen. She finally moves to the city to begin her career in earnest, and then—well, then comes the story.
“Miss Turner is Miss Alcott’s true successor. The same healthy, spirited tone is visible which boys and girls recognized in LITTLE MEN and LITTLE WOMEN.”—The Bookman
CLOTH, 12mo, illustrated— $1.00
at Exeter Hall
By JEAN K. BAIRD
Illustrated by R. G. Vosburgh
A spirited story of every-day boarding-school life that girls like to read. Full of good times and girlish fun.
Elizabeth enters the school and loses no time in becoming one of the leading spirits. She entertains at a midnight spread, which is recklessly conducted under the very nose of the preceptress, who is “scalped” in order to be harmless, for every one knows she would never venture out minus her front hair; she champions an ostracized student; and leads in a daring plan to put to rout the Seniors’ program for class day.
CLOTH, 12mo, illustrated— $1.00
Books sent postpaid on receipt of price.
The Saalfield Publishing Co.,
Billy Whiskers Series
FRANCES TREGO MONTGOMERY
Billy Whiskers—frolicsome, mischief-making, adventure-loving Billy Whiskers—is the friend of every boy and girl the country over, and the things that happen to this wonderful goat and his numerous animal friends make the best sort of reading for them.
As one reviewer aptly puts it, these stories are “just full of fun and good times,” for Mrs. Montgomery, the author of them, has the happy faculty of knowing what the small boy and his sister like in the way of fiction.
|BILLY WHISKERS||BILLY WHISKERS’ GRANDCHILDREN|
|BILLY WHISKERS’ KIDS||BILLY WHISKERS’ VACATION|
|BILLY WHISKERS, JR.||BILLY WHISKERS KIDNAPED|
|BILLY WHISKERS’ TRAVELS||BILLY WHISKERS’ TWINS|
|BILLY WHISKERS AT THE CIRCUS||BILLY WHISKERS IN AN AEROPLANE|
|BILLY WHISKERS AT THE FAIR||BILLY WHISKERS IN TOWN|
|BILLY WHISKERS’ FRIENDS||BILLY WHISKERS IN PANAMA|
|BILLY WHISKERS, JR. AND HIS CHUMS|
Each Volume a Quarto, Bound in Boards, Cover and Six
Full Page Drawings in Colors, Postpaid Price $1.50
The Saalfield Publishing Co., Akron, Ohio
The Table of Contents at the beginning of the book was created by the transcriber.
Inconsistencies in hyphenation such as “camp-fire”/“campfire” have been maintained.
Minor punctuation and spelling errors have been silently corrected and all misspellings in the text, especially in dialogue, and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained.