The Project Gutenberg EBook of Woodcraft, by Alan Douglas

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Title: Woodcraft
       or, How a Patrol Leader Made Good

Author: Alan Douglas

Illustrator: E. C. Caswell

Release Date: August 23, 2011 [EBook #37167]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Rod Crawford, Dave Morgan,
Emmy and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


The Hickory Ridge Boy Scouts
Which, in addition to the interesting boy scout stories by CAPTAIN ALAN DOUGLAS, Scoutmaster, contain articles on nature lore, native animals and a fund of other information pertaining to out-of-door life, that will appeal to the boy's love of the open.
I. The Campfires of the Wolf Patrol

Their first camping experience affords the scouts splendid opportunities to use their recently acquired knowledge in a practical way. Elmer Chenowith, a lad from the northwest woods, astonishes everyone by his familiarity with camp life. A clean, wholesome story every boy should read.

II. Woodcraft; or, How a Patrol Leader Made Good

This tale presents many stirring situations in which some of the boys are called upon to exercise all their ingenuity and unselfishness. A story filled with healthful excitement.

III. Pathfinder; or, The Missing Tenderfoot

Some mysteries are cleared up in a most unexpected way, greatly to the credit of our young friends. A variety of incidents follow fast, one after the other.

IV. Fast Nine; or, a Challenge From Fairfield
They show the same team-work here as when in camp. The description of the final game with the team of a rival town, and the outcome thereof, form a stirring narrative. One of the best baseball stories of recent years.

V. Great Hike; or, The Pride of The Khaki Troop
After weeks of preparation the scouts start out on their greatest undertaking. Their march takes them far from home, and the good-natured rivalry of the different patrols furnishes many interesting and amusing situations.

VI. Endurance Test; or, How Clear Grit Won the Day
Few stories "get" us more than illustrations of pluck in the face of apparent failure. Our heroes show the stuff they are made of and surprise their most ardent admirers. One of the best stories Captain Douglas has written.
Boy Scout Nature Lore to be Found in The Hickory Ridge
Boy Scout Series

Wild Animals of the United States—Tracking—in Number I.
Trees and Wild Flowers of the United States in Number II.
Reptiles of the United States in Number III.
Fishes of the United States in Number IV.
Insects of the United States in Number V.
Birds of the United States in Number VI.
Cloth Binding               Cover Illustrations in Four Colors               40c. Per Volume
147 FOURTH AVENUE (near 14th St.) NEW YORK

How a Patrol Leader Made Good



MR. RODERIC GARRABRANT, Scout Master ============
Elmer Chenowith, Patrol Leader, and also Assistant Scout Master
Mark Cummings
Ted (Theodore) Burgoyne
Toby (Tobias) Ellsworth Jones
"Lil Artha" (Arthur) Stansbury
Chatz (Charles) Maxfield
Phil (Philip) Dale
George Robbins

Matty (Matthew) Eggleston, Patrol Leader
"Red" (Oscar) Huggins
Ty (Tyrus) Collins
Jasper Merriweather
Tom Cropsey
Larry (Lawrence) Billings
Hen (Henry) Condit
Landy (Philander) Smith

Jack Armitage, Patrol Leader
Nat (Nathan) Scott


They had gone possibly another mile when Elmer came to a halt. They had gone possibly another mile when Elmer came to a halt.


How a Patrol Leader Made Good





I.—Two Scouts in a Storm17
II.—A Lesson in Woodcraft25
III.—More Rumblings of Coming Trouble34
IV.—First Aid to the Injured40
V.—The Meeting in the Old Wagon Shop48
VI.—The Little Red Button56
VII.—A Job for the Boy Scouts to Do62
VIII.—Following a Trail72
IX.—Reasoning that Looked like Magic80
X.—Giving Matt Tubbs a Chance90
XI.—At McGraw's Lumber Yard97
XII.—A Rebellion Nipped in the Bud105
XIII.—Red Plans the Part of the Crafty Fox113
XIV.—Taken by Surprise121
XV.—Elmer Thinks It Pays129
XVI.—Lending a Helping Hand137






Crashes of thunder, sounding like the roll of heavy artillery in battle, echoed through the forest some miles above the town of Hickory Ridge on an August day.

Overhead, black, sullen clouds had covered the heavens, and at any moment now the ominous stillness of the woods might give way to the rushing sound of the wild wind, together with a downpour of rain.

Two half-grown lads, dressed in the usual khaki costume recognized as the official uniform of the Boy Scouts of America, were standing there in the midst of the heavy growth, casting uneasy looks around them.

It is one thing to watch the coming of a furious storm from the windows of one's home, and quite another to be caught napping, miles away from shelter. And the smaller of the comrades had a frightened look on his face.

"My goodness! hear that, will you, Larry?" exclaimed this rather timid fellow, as he instinctively caught hold of his more sturdy comrade's sleeve, when a particularly fierce flash of lightning was succeeded by a terrific crash. "Ain't you going to find a hollow tree somewhere, and climb in? Why, we'll get soaked to the skin if we don't look out, I tell you!"[18]

"I reckon you're about right there, Jasper," replied the other, Larry Billings by name; and he made a wry face while speaking. "But then, you see, there are some things worse than getting wet, and being struck by lightning happens to be one of the same. Excuse me, if you please; I'll take my medicine the best I can, but you remember, Jasper, among a lot of other things we learned when we joined the scouts, we were warned never under any circumstances to get under a tree during a thunderstorm."

"But that meant out in the open, where there might be only one tree," remonstrated Jasper, whose last name happened to be Merriweather. "Here in the woods it's a heap different, I should think. Among so many big trees you don't think now for a minute that freak lightning's going to pick out the very one we're in, to knock it to flinders, do you, Larry?"

"I don't know, and what's more I ain't going to try to find out," went on the stockier built lad, with resolution in his manner. "You and me came away up here just to see how much we had learned about woodcraft, and it wouldn't look right if we shied at one of the rules the first chance. Besides," he went on, with a broad grin, for Larry was a good-natured fellow ordinarily, "if the experiment proved to be a dead failure, we wouldn't be given a chance to try it over again, you see. Lightning don't often knock at the same door twice."

"Ugh! you make me shiver, Larry!" exclaimed the smaller lad. "But what in the wide world can we just do to keep dry?"

"Oh! that's the least thing that bothers me," replied the other. "Being wet ain't anything much-a-much. I've tumbled in mill races, and been yanked out of ponds ever since I was knee high to a duck. But the worst is yet to come, Jasper."[19]

"Now you're just trying to scare me, Larry, and you ought to be ashamed to do it. You know I used to be the most timid fellow ever, and that it was only after I joined the scouts, and went on that trip up the Sweetwater to Lake Solitude that I began to outgrow that failing. Now it's beginning to get a grip on me again. But tell me, whatever do you mean by saying the worst is something more than getting our new uniforms soaked through?"

"Why, you see, Jasper, we're lost, that's what!" remarked Larry, although the fact did not seem to frighten him very much, for he was chuckling while speaking as though it looked like a big joke to him.

But with poor Jasper the case was entirely different.

"Well, that beats the Dutch!" he cried with genuine disgust. "The two of us felt so dead sure we knew it all, that nothing would do for us but to come away up here five miles or so from home, just to show everybody that we could take care of ourselves. And now you deliberately tell me we've gone and got lost, like the poor little babes in the woods, and with a terrible storm going to pounce down on us right away."

"Oh! brace up, Jasper!" exclaimed Larry, seeing the lower lip of his comrade quivering, and his face showing signs of becoming pallid. "This may be the making of us as scouts, you see. No fellow's worth beans until he's proved that he can take the rough jolts as well as the smooth things of life. Just put your teeth together, and say you're going to grin and bear it, no matter what comes."

"Ain't I trying to, Larry," pleaded the smaller chap, "but it seems like my teeth keep on rattling all the while. I'm shivering, and yet it can't be with the cold. I wish I had some of Elmer Chenowith's nerve just now."[20]

"Shucks! I reckon now that you can have your share of nerve, Jasper," declared Larry, impatiently, "if only you make up your mind to take it. Didn't Mr. Garrabrant, our fine scout-master, tell us only the other night that was so? Just shut your teeth hard, and say over and over again that you ain't goin' to let anything feaze you. You'll be surprised at the feeling it gives you."

"I wonder now, did Elmer really mean to keep tabs on what we were doing?" remarked Jasper, after another tremendous peal of thunder had seemed to almost split the heavens open. "You know, we thought he looked at us kind of funny when he asked us what we meant to do this morning, hiking out of Hickory Ridge, with our sticks in our hands and some grub in our haversacks."

"Oh! I don't think Elmer would bother following all this way," replied Larry, though at the same time he might have been seen to cast an anxious, eager glance around, as though indulging in a faint hope himself that something of the sort had happened.

"Well, he's the best fellow ever, you know, Larry," the smaller boy went on, "and he's sure taken a heap of interest in my trying to make a man of myself. He even took the trouble to come and see me twice, and go over a lot of things with me that he said a true scout ought to know."

"Sure Elmer is worth his weight in gold," Larry affirmed. "And now's the time to show him his faith in you wasn't wasted, Jasper. Buck up, and just make up your mind neither of us happens to be made of salt, so a little juice ain't going to hurt us. As for that lightning, well, perhaps we might find some hole to climb in, because it wouldn't hunt us out underground."

"Oh! if we only could!" gasped Jasper, as another flash came that fairly dazzled both boys; to be succeeded by a[21] sudden report that sounded as though something had exploded near by.

"Listen! what's that?" demanded the smaller boy, again clutching his comrade by the sleeve.

"Reckon she's hiking along right fast now," answered Larry, grimly. "Come, let's walk over this way. Who knows but we might run on some sort of shelter. And when we're up against such a snag, I tell you flat that beggars ain't goin' to be choosers if the chance comes our way."

"That must be rain we hear away off there," suggested Jasper, shuddering.

"Rain and wind together; and sounds to me like it might turn out to be something of a howler. Hope the trees don't go dropping around us. We might have some trouble dodging 'em if they came too fast."

Jasper shot a quick look at his companion's face, as if to see whether Larry could mean what he said. Then he bit his lower lip until it actually bled. But for the time being not another expression of dismay did he utter. Fear of ridicule had conquered over the genuine article.

They hurried forward, both of them eagerly looking for some hollow log, or overturned tree, that might give some promise of shelter against the deluge that would soon be upon them.

"You keep tabs on the right, and I'll cover the left!" remarked Larry, but he had to raise his voice to almost a shout now, because of the increasing roaring sound that was sweeping down upon their rear.

"It's getting night in the woods!" cried Jasper, as the gloom increased.

"Rats!" scoffed his comrade, derisively. "You know it ain't more'n two o'clock. After it's all over the bully old sun will be shining again, all right."[22]

"Oh! do you really think so, Larry?" asked the other, grasping at the slightest gleam of hope, just as a drowning person might at a floating straw.

"Well, it'll be shining, all right," asserted Larry, positively, "and I reckon we'll be on deck to see it, too. Hi! what's this here, Jasper?"

"Have you struck a place for us to crawl in, Larry? Oh! I hope so, I'm sure! Why, it's a hollow log, and with a hole plenty big enough to let a fellow creep inside!"

"That's right," called the other, cheerfully. "And now suppose you get down on your knees, and push in, feet first. Then if you should get stuck, you could crawl out again, see?"

"But looky here, Larry," cried Jasper suddenly and suspiciously. "It's such an awfully short log, I don't believe both of us can ever get in it."

"No more we can, Jasper, and all the more reason for you to crawl in right away now," and Larry began to urge his comrade to flatten himself out on the ground, with both feet in touch with the hollow log.

"But how about you, Larry?" expostulated Jasper.

"Shucks! didn't I tell you I wasn't made of sugar or salt? Rain won't ever hurt Larry Billings. Get a move on you now, and squeeze in. That wet old rain is mighty near here now. I thought I felt a drop right then. Crawl, you slow tortoise! Here, let me give you a shove along."

Jasper turned a white face upward.

"You ain't going to run away, and leave me here, are you, Larry?" he asked.

"What! me?" shouted the other, indignantly. "What d'ye take me for, Jasper? A true scout would never act that way to a chum. Not much. I'm just goin' to snuggle down alongside the log here, and wait till the storm blows itself out. Get a good grip on yourself now, and nothing[23] ain't goin' to hurt you. Give you my word on it, Jasper," and he again started to energetically push the smaller lad into the gaping hole that had offered such an asylum in time of need.

"And the lightning won't strike this log, either, will it?" the boy who was accepting the wooden jacket asked.

"Never in the world. That's what Mr. Garrabrant told us—hunt out a hollow log if you can, but never a tree that's standing upright. Nor a barn either, for that matter. In you go, Jasper; why, man alive, you're going to be as snug as a bug in a rug, don't you know."

"But Larry, won't you please knock on the side every little while," asked the timid one, eagerly. "It'll be so comforting to me to just know you're still there, even if I can't see you."

"Course I will, and right hearty, too," jollied Larry, who realized now that the boy was pretty badly rattled by the terrific roar of the storm, as well as by the strange gloom that had fallen on the great woods, and in thus trying to comfort his weaker companion Larry quite forgot any natural fear he might have himself otherwise experienced.

"I guess I'm fixed all right now," came in half muffled tones from inside the log, and then suddenly Jasper gave a shrill cry. "Oh! there's something biting at my feet! Larry, pull me out, quick! There's a bear or a wildcat in here, and it'll chew my feet up! Hurry, hurry! get me out!"

So there seemed nothing for it but that Larry should catch hold, and help the panic-stricken one out of the hollow log again. When this had been done, they just stood there in the gathering gloom and looked at each other.

"Reckon you'll just have to take your ducking the same as me, then," grumbled Larry, with the resigned air of[24] a martyr who had done his best for a friend, and could not be blamed for whatever happened.

"Then I will, Larry," said Jasper, trying to be brave, though still shuddering. "Let's both run over there, and see if we can find shelter behind the roots of that fallen tree! Oh! wait, wait, I surely saw something moving there! Yes, look Larry, there it is again! Why, it's a man—no, a boy! that's what it is!"

"Sure it is," laughed Larry, with the greatest relief possible in his voice; "and no other than Elmer Chenowith, our scout leader. He did follow us all the way up here, and it's a mighty good thing for us that happened. It's all right now, Jasper. He'll know what to do!"




"Hello! hello! come this way, quick, both of you!" shouted the sturdy-looking young fellow who had appeared so opportunely on the scene, and whose coming seemed to inspire both Larry and Jasper with renewed confidence.

He beckoned as he gave utterance to these words, and catching hold of his companion's arm Larry hastened to obey.

There was indeed need of hurrying. Already the drops had begun to come pattering down, like shot rattling through the thick leaves overhead. And that furious combination of howling wind and descending rain was almost upon them.

Stumbling along, the two boys reached the spot where stood Elmer Chenowith, who was the assistant scout-master to the Hickory Ridge Boy Scout troop.

"Here, get back of this upturned mass of roots!" cried the other, as he pushed both the scouts ahead of him.

The tree in falling, years back, had lifted a great mass of earth with its roots. This formed a bulwark at least seven feet in height. And as luck would have it, the hole in the ground was just on the other side from the direction where that wind howled now. This proved that the previous storm, by which the king of the forest had been bowled over, must have come from exactly opposite that quarter from whence the present gale was springing.

Neither Larry nor Jasper thought anything about such[26] a thing just then, their one anxiety being to gain such shelter as the barricade promised to afford. But Elmer was always on the watch for curious facts in connection with the woodcraft he studied at every opportunity, and this matter was of considerable importance in his eyes.

So the three lads cowered there, trying to make themselves as small as possible.

"We're bound to get soaked, all right," called Elmer, as the rain commenced to come down heavier and heavier; "but then, that doesn't cut any figure in the case. So long as we keep from being carried away by the hurricane wind, or have a tree squash down on top of us, we hadn't ought to complain."

"That's what," answered Larry; "and I tell you we're both as glad as can be to run across you up here, Elmer. This storm came on us just when we had to admit we'd lost our grip of all the boasted woodcraft we knew, and were at sea."

"Don't try to talk any more just now, fellows!" called Elmer. "The old storm's making too much racket. Wait till the worst goes by."

Jasper was still shaking some. True, this shelter promised to be comforting, but he found reason to fear, from words Elmer had let fall, that the worst was yet to come, and that the storm would increase. Otherwise, why should the scout leader, who was so well versed in everything pertaining to outdoors, speak of it as a hurricane wind?

So poor Jasper held on to some projection of the fallen tree, and drew his breath in little gasps. The uplifted mass of roots protected them in some measure from the rain, and altogether from the driving wind, but by degrees little rivers of water commenced to descend from the trees overhead, and these soon completed the job of soaking the trio of scouts.[27]

The minutes passed, and nothing very serious happened. True, once or twice Jasper believed he heard a crash as some weak tree yielded to the strain, and went over. But this did not come to pass very near them, so they did not incur any particular danger.

"Seems to be letting up a bit!" finally remarked Larry, raising his voice in order to be heard, for the racket was still tremendous.

"Oh! do you really think so?" cried Jasper, excitedly.

"There's no doubt of it," declared Elmer, with a reassuring nod, for he understood the nervous nature of the smaller boy, and in times past had made it his particular business to build up Jasper's courage and determination, always wabbly.

The crashes of thunder as a rule sounded further away, though now and then one would break that seemed to outdo all the rest, as though the storm might be trying to linger in the vicinity of the upturned tree.

Then the rain slackened.

"Not that it matters much," said Elmer, laughing; "because we're all like drowned rats right now. But wait till it stops; then we'll build a jolly big fire, and dry off."

"But how about matches—Larry forgot to bring any, and I lost mine?" sighed Jasper, dolefully.

"Oh! that's all right," the scout leader went on. "I've got some safe and sound in my pocket right now."

"But if you're soaked through to the skin, won't the matches be done for?" asked the smaller lad, who was beginning to feel better already, now that the storm had broken, and a rift appeared in the dark clouds overhead.

"I could stay in the water ten minutes, and still have matches to burn," laughed Elmer, "because, you see, I make it a point to carry them in a water-proof safe that has been tested, and found all right. Besides, I know how[28] to make a fire without a solitary match, and have done it again and again."

"Oh! yes, to be sure, I saw you do it once!" cried Larry.

"You mean by use of a little bow, and a stick that turns around in a notch of some wood, don't you, Elmer?" asked Jasper, interested.

"Just that," replied the scout leader. "I might try it now, to show you fellows how it's done; only it generally takes a lot of time, you know; and the sooner we have a warm blaze after this rain stops, the better. So we'll stick to the matches this round."

He was thinking of Jasper, who had never been very stout or strong, and whom he could feel trembling whenever he chanced to touch the boy. Excitement, and the wetting, might cause trouble, unless he found means for warming the boy up ere long.

By degrees the wind died away completely, while the rain hardly amounted to much—in fact, what water fell was now the drippings from the trees overhead.

"Come, let's get a move on us," said Elmer, as he started to climb out of the depression behind the upturned roots of the fallen oak.

"Wow! I'm standing in water half way to my knees!" laughed Larry, to whom the affair was something like a picnic—now that they had run across one who knew how to find a way out of the labyrinth, dry their clothes, and generally create an atmosphere of cheer.

"Wait till I take a look in at this tree," observed Elmer, hurrying around to where the broken pieces of the trunk lay.

"Whatever is he doing now?" asked Jasper, as he saw the scout leader clawing at the heart of the fallen forest monarch.[29]

"Well, I rather think he's getting some dry wood out of that log," replied the other. "I've seen him make a fire in a rain before, and that was the way he got hold of some tinder for a start. Yes, there he picks up a lot, and is coming this way with it. We'll soon have a bully blaze started, and once she gets going why there's oceans of wood lying around loose here that will burn."

"Yes, I guess there are oceans of it; anyhow there's been enough water turned loose on it to swamp things. Elmer, is there anything we can do to help?" asked Jasper, eagerly.

"Sure there is, both of you," replied the other, readily. "Get busy breaking up some of those dead limbs there. We'll need a lot soon, and besides, it's going to help warm you up. Jump around, and slap your arms across your chest, Jasper, just like you would do on a winter's day, if cold. Here goes for a start," and as he spoke Elmer applied a match to the little pile of loose dry tinder he had heaped up.

A flash, and up sprang the flame, for the boy had made his preparations carefully so as not to waste a single match. One of the first tests a tenderfoot scout is put to, is to make a fire in the woods without paper, and possessing only three matches. The careless new beginner learns how to husband his resources, after he has been shown how priceless even so common a thing as a match may become, under certain conditions.

When the fire had taken a good hold, other fuel was added, dry so long as it could be obtained, and then some of the wet stuff, which readily dried off and burned fiercely.

"If I had only had a camp hatchet along," said Elmer, as he made Jasper disrobe, so as to get his clothes hanging near the blaze, "I could have done this affair up in[30] better style; but I reckon none of us have any reason to growl at the way things are going, eh, fellows?"

"Well, I should say not," laughed Larry, who had followed the example of the others, and was hanging his garments on convenient roots of the fallen tree, where the heat would reach them by degrees. "We're lucky all the way through, and that's a fact. It was mighty good of you to track us away up here, Elmer. Whatever made you do it?"

"Oh! I happened to have nothing to do, and while neither of you had the politeness to ask me to go along, why, I thought I'd like to know just how you made out. So I kept out of sight, and yet near enough to hear what you said lots of times. And on the whole you did pretty well, fellows. You can't expect to learn everything about woodcraft at once, you know; and the time I was up in the Canada bush gave me a long start over the rest of the bunch."

He did not want to confess that he had been a little worried lest the two ambitious scouts get lost in those great woods lying northwest of Hickory Ridge; but such was really the case. And as subsequent events proved, his fears had after all not been groundless.

While their clothes were steaming and drying the boys jumped around, and managed between thus exercising themselves, and keeping fairly near the blaze, to ward off any chilliness; for after the storm the air had become remarkably cool.

"There's the blooming old sun peeking out!" declared Larry, presently.

"For goodness' sake don't scare it off," said Jasper, who was now busily engaged getting inside his clothes. "Oh! say, look here, somebody's changed with me."

"What's the matter?" asked Elmer; although he gave[31] Larry a wink as he spoke, as if he knew very well what ailed the other.

"Why, I've got the wrong trousers, that's what! They look like they'd been made for my younger brother," complained Jasper; then seeing Larry smiling he continued: "Now, what are you grinning at, Larry? Trying to play a joke on me, are you?"

"Well, since both of us are a heap bigger than you, whose clothes d'ye think you've got hold of anyway, eh?" demanded Larry. "Fact is, they've shrunk, that's all. Had 'em too near the fire, after being wet. They'll stretch again in time, Jasper. Mine are in the same fix, you see."

Amid considerable merriment then, the three scouts finished dressing.

"I'll never forget this, never," declared Jasper, after he had completed this operation in the best way possible.

"And just think what a fix we'd still be in if Elmer here hadn't taken a notion to look us up!" observed Larry. "It's a fine thing to have a scout leader, who feels a personal interest in his men. Because, honest Injun, I don't yet know in just which way home lies. That's about west over there, because the sun is heading yonder; but where's Hickory Ridge?"

"Give it up," said Jasper, shaking his head as though the problem were too much for him. "I'm like you, Larry; I know the cardinal points of the compass only because the sun happens to be shining now. When it was dark I couldn't have told north from south."

"Well, you must get over that failing," declared Elmer, positively. "Now, just take a good look at all these forest trees; you notice that nearly every one has a certain amount of green moss, as we call it, on one side, and also that it decorates the same side of every tree!"

"Sure enough it is, Elmer; and if a fellow only knew[32] which side, he could always find out how he stood," cried Jasper.

"In nine cases out of ten that moss is on the north side of the tree. If it varies at all, it will be found on the northwest bark. Remember that, fellows, and you need never want for a compass when in the woods," suggested Elmer.

"Well, now," remarked Larry, chuckling, "what a couple of silly geese we were after all, Jasper, to think of coming away up here in the woods, and never carry even a compass."

"That's a fact," replied the one addressed, with a sickly grin; "but the trouble with us, Larry, was our being so dead sure we knew all about it. After this I'm going to buy a neat little trick of a compass, and carry it along with me. Honest, now, I never knew it was so easy to get twisted around. Some day I'll turn up missing on my way to school."

"Here's a compass, all right; I seldom go without one," remarked Elmer; "though it's mighty seldom a fellow, who is wide awake, would ever need such a thing where the trees grow. Now, out on those tremendous prairies where hundreds of miles of open country surround you on every side, and one section looks exactly like another, it's a different question."

"I've heard it said that a fellow can use his watch, if he's got one, for a compass; how about that, Elmer?" asked Larry.

"It's a fact," replied the scout leader, "though I don't ever remember of being put to that test. Still, I can explain just how it's done, though we haven't time right now to take the matter up. I reckon we'd better be heading toward home."

"That suits me to a dot," declared Jasper, cheerfully.[33]

He was feeling quite chipper after the recent terrifying experience. In a great measure it had done the boy good. His confidence had been strengthened, and in many ways Jasper saw how necessary it was in times of emergency to retain both determination and assurance.

They were soon walking briskly through the woods, with Elmer promising that in a short time he would surely take his comrades to the road over which they could make their way to Hickory Ridge.

"I've got a little news for both of you," said the scout leader of the Wolf Patrol, as they journeyed on, chattering like so many jackdaws.

"I hope it ain't bad news then?" remarked Jasper.

"That remains to be proven," Elmer continued, gravely. "It may turn out good or bad, as happens to enter the active mind of one Matt Tubbs."

"Oh! the bully of Fairfield—the fellow who did more to break up the baseball games with our rival town than all other causes bunched together. Now, what under the sun has Fighting Matt gone and done, Elmer?" demanded Larry, eagerly.

"Well," replied the scout leader, calmly, "what do you expect, but get in line, and organize a new and rival troop of Boy Scouts!"




"Whew! you don't say!" exclaimed Larry, frowning.

"Takes my breath away, that's what!" gasped Jasper.

"Seems to me that both of you look on the event in the light of what my chum, Mark Cummings, would term a catastrophe!" chuckled Elmer.

"Well, I know that Matt pretty well," grumbled Larry. "To tell the truth, him and me have had more'n a few battles inside the last five years. And I owe more'n one black eye to his way of carrying his fists. If Matt Tubbs has gone and organized a gang of scouts it spells trouble with a big, big T for our fellows. Huh!"

"See here, why do you call the new troop a 'gang'? Is that respectful, and the way to treat fellow scouts?" laughed Elmer.

"You know just as well as I do, Elmer," went on the indignant Larry, "that with such a bully as Matt Tubbs at the head of it, no collection of scouts could ever get a charter from Headquarters. Why, the tough crowd he trains with couldn't begin to subscribe to the twelve cardinal laws of the organization."

"Well, it makes me smile," said Jasper, though in reality he looked disgusted. "Think of Matt Tubbs, the bully who uses more hard words than any fellow I ever ran across, promising these things: To be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient to authority, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and last of all but hardest for Matt, reverent! Oh! my, the world will come to an end before[35] Tough Matt can hold up his hand in a scout salute, and solemnly say that he believes in that list."

"It does seem next to impossible," remarked Elmer; "and yet sometimes miracles happen even in these days, fellows. Who knows but what we Hickory Ridge scouts may be given the chance, and the privilege as well, to open the eyes of Matt Tubbs?"

"That would sure be a miracle!" scoffed Larry, who believed that he ought to know the subject of their talk better than Elmer, since the latter had not been living in the neighborhood more than a year or so, having come with his father from Canada, where Mr. Chenowith had had charge of a great ranch and farm.

"All right, we'll wait and see," Elmer went on, evenly. "Anyhow, I've had the news straight that they have two patrols enlisted, of eight fellows each. That is doing better than the Hickory Ridge scouts; because up to now our patrols are not completed, there being but six in each."

"Say, that's always been a puzzle to me, why Jack Armitage and Nat Scott were left out to start a new patrol to be called the Eagle," remarked Jasper.

"I thought you knew about it," replied Elmer. "But you must have been absent at the time it was talked over. You see, it's hardest to find fellows qualified to be scout leaders, and assistant leaders. Plenty of raw recruits can be enlisted on the other hand. Myself and Mark happened to be selected for the first patrol, and Matty Eggleston, with Red Huggins, came along and qualified for the second. That gave us just six members for each patrol, you see."

"Yes, I'm following you, Elmer; please go on," said Jasper, eagerly.

"It just happened that the next two boys to enlist were Jack and Nat, both of whom knew considerable about woodcraft, and were ambitious to learn more. When Mr. Garrabrant[36] and myself talked it over—for I was a duly appointed assistant scout-master by that time, you know—we concluded that it would be wise to start a third patrol, with those two fellows at the head, and after that fill up our three patrols to the limit of eight each."

"Thank you, Elmer; I get on to it now," Jasper remarked.

"And I understand that several good fellows have applied for membership in our troop?" observed Larry.

"Yes, their names will be proposed at the next meeting, which by the way comes this very night. Hope neither of you will be so leg tired that you stay away. Before Fall comes around the church improvements will be finished, and then we'll have a meeting room worth while. Just now that old wheelwright's shop at the crossroads must serve our purpose."

"Oh! there, that's too bad!" suddenly ejaculated Jasper, coming to a halt.

"What ails him now?" Larry remarked, surveying his companion queerly.

"I went and forgot something; how silly of me," Jasper went on.

"Oh! we'll agree with you, all right," grinned Larry; "but suppose you tell us what it was? If you left anything back there where we hung our clothes on a hickory limb, until it looked like a regular Irish washday, why, the chances are you're out that much, because I for one decline to cover all that ground again."

"And I wanted to know so much!" grumbled Jasper, as he raised one of his feet and rubbed his shoe regretfully.

Elmer watched his actions and smiled. Evidently he had guessed what was on the other's mind.

"Perhaps I might tell you what it was, Jasper," he said, quietly.[37]

"I wish you would, Elmer," cried the other. "Did you peek in, and see him? And was it a great big black bear, or a savage bobcat?"

"Neither, I think," came the answer. "You would be pretty safe to call it a 'coon, and let it go at that."

"What, only a pesky little raccoon, and to pitch in for me like that?" cried the other. "Why, I thought he was going to chew me all to pieces, and I was sure it must be a wildcat at least."

"That may have been because you were excited," the scout leader pursued; "and I've no doubt but what the rascal clawed at you, and used his sharp teeth pretty freely, because he was badly frightened and concerned. Even a rat will fight when at bay. And he thought you were coming in to get him."

"But how do you know it was a raccoon?" demanded Jasper.

"I saw his tracks near the log, in a spot where the rain hadn't washed them out," Elmer went on.

"Oh!" Jasper laughed, "I forgot that you showed us how different the tracks of wildcats, raccoons, mink, possums, and muskrats were. I saw it at the time, but just now they're all alike 'coons to me. But Elmer, I'm going to study up on that subject. It seems to grip me more'n anything else about the scout business, except p'raps that Injun picture writing. I liked that; and me to be an artist. I can draw, if I can't excel in other things."

"But when you get to drawing remember that every picture has got to tell a story, so plain and simple that a child can read it. That's the beauty of Indian picture writing. But look, fellows, what's ahead!"

Elmer pointed as he spoke, and the other scouts gave a hearty cheer.

"The road!" cried Larry.[38]

"Now things look promising," Jasper observed; "and the walking will be easier. But speaking of shoes, I suppose those scratches on mine will prove my little yarn about the hollow log, when I tell it to the bunch. If they try to make out I'm stretching things, you fellows have just got to back me up."

"So long as you stick to facts we will," remarked Larry; "but take care you don't go to calling it a bobcat, or a tiger. I'll throw up my hands at that."

"A scout is truthful, even if it doesn't say anything about that in the twelve articles we subscribe to," remarked Jasper, solemnly.

"Yes," Elmer broke in, "and now that Jasper knows it was only a 'coon that had its den in that hollow log, he will never try to say it was a wildcat; though if he wants he can declare he thought at the time he was being attacked by a panther."

"I somehow can't help thinking of that Matt Tubbs," Larry observed, after they had been tramping along the road for half an hour or more, and had covered nearly two miles of the five separating them from Hickory Ridge.

"Yes," Elmer admitted, "I suppose there'll be more or less talk about him to-night at the meeting. Now, if his crowd only went into this thing the right way, what great times we could have competing with the Fairfield troop! But as it is, as they find themselves debarred from becoming affiliated with the regular Boy Scout organization, I'm afraid Matt and his cronies will try to take it out on us, by giving us all the trouble they can."

"Why, I wouldn't put anything past that mean chap," declared Jasper.

"It does seem as though Matt didn't have any redeeming qualities about him," remarked Elmer, thoughtfully; "and yet, fellows, do you remember that just one year ago when[39] a house burned over at Fairfield, who was it dashed recklessly into the building, when even the regular fire laddies held back, and pulled an old woman out alive? Seems to me that was Matt Tubbs, queer though it sounds."

"Right you are, Elmer," admitted Larry. "We all wondered about it at the time, and were beginning to think Matt might be turning over a new leaf, but the next time we met him he was just the same nasty scrapper as ever."

"And you know," went on Jasper, "it turned out that the old woman was his grandmother, and not a stranger."

"All the better," said Elmer, stoutly. "It proves that Matt must have had some human feeling in that tough heart of his, to risk his life for an old and infirm woman. But listen, fellows, I thought I heard somebody shouting!"

The three scouts stood still, and strained their ears.

"Oh! help! help! won't somebody come to help us?" came a wailing cry, in what seemed to be a woman's voice.

"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed Jasper, "somebody's in a peck of trouble right around that bend in the road there!"

"Yes, and I remember there was a house along here somewhere," Larry cried, as the three of them started on a sprint along the road.

When presently they turned the bend they came upon a scene that gave them a severe shock. And even Jasper forgot all his recent thrilling experiences in the warm impulse of his boyish heart to prove of some assistance to those who seemed in such dire need of aid.




Apparently the storm that had so lately passed over this section had played particular havoc with the farm buildings. Perhaps, with the queer, jumping movements known to cyclones, it had dipped down in this one quarter much more severely than anywhere else near by.

At any rate, it had succeeded in partly demolishing a barn, scattered several tons of fine hay—that year's crop—and upset things generally.

The first thing the scouts noticed after that one glance around at the damage done by the gale, was that a little group of persons seemed to be hovering over a certain spot.

"Somebody hurt by the storm!" Elmer called over his shoulder, for, being a good runner, he had easily taken the lead—Jasper was not so very strong, while Larry happened to be built much too stockily for a sprinter.

Then the boys received another shock. One of those bending over had straightened up, and proved to be a stout-looking boy, with a bold, resolute face.

Perhaps Jasper may have been reminded of the old saying he had heard quoted in his home many times: "Speak of an angel, and you'll feel his wings;" only no one who knew Matt Tubbs would ever dream of comparing that quarrelsome youth with a celestial visitor; in fact, their thoughts would be more apt to go out in the other direction.

Two women were wringing their hands, and crying. A[41] man lay upon the ground, and his groans told that he was suffering considerable bodily pain.

"Don't I wish Ted Burgoyne was along!" exclaimed Elmer involuntarily, as he hurried toward the group.

The boy mentioned belonged to the Wolf Patrol. He seemed to possess a natural fancy for surgery, and had long ago been dubbed Dr. Ted by his mates. And in numerous instances had he proved that their confidence in him was not misplaced.

That was why Elmer now felt keen regret because of a lost opportunity for the young Boy Scout medicine man to show his skill at setting broken bones, or binding up other injuries almost as well as any experienced physician could have done.

Elmer himself had made it a point to know something about such things. He had in the past lived a wild life out in the great Canada wilderness, where men, and boys, too, find it necessary to depend upon themselves in great emergencies.

Although he feared he might be somewhat clumsy, and certainly lacked the natural talent Ted Burgoyne had always shown, the scout leader was only too willing to do whatever lay in his power to alleviate suffering.

In another moment he was leaning over the stricken man, whom he now recognized as a middle-aged farmer, Simon Kent by name. The women, wife and daughter of the farmer, had looked up eagerly as Matt seemed to speak of the coming of others on the scene. Then their faces grew blank again with despair. For what could a trio of mere boys do, when a doctor was needed so badly?

"Oh! Matt, find the horse if you can, and hurry to town for Dr. Cooper! He couldn't have run very far away!" the older woman was saying, doubtless referring[42] to the horse, and not the well-known Hickory Ridge physician.

"Please wait just a minute or so, and let me take a look at Mr. Kent," said Elmer, modestly. "I happen to know a little about these things, you see, ma'am; and I've set more than one broken limb."

The women stopped wailing for a time, and watched the confident boy as he carefully examined the groaning farmer.

"How did it happen?" asked Larry of Matt Tubbs, who apparently must be some relative of the Kents, as the woman seemed to know him very well.

"Storm blew the roof off'n the barn, and he got caught. Any feller with peepers in his head ought tuh see that," replied young Tubbs, between whom and Larry there had always been bad blood.

Elmer looked up and smiled in the faces of the two frightened women. He knew they needed encouragement, and that he could not do them a greater benefit than to allay their fears.

"He has a broken arm," he said, reassuringly, "and I think a couple of his ribs are fractured, Mrs. Kent; but besides that there are only a few bruises, and they do not amount to much. Nothing very serious, understand. Mr. Kent isn't going to die. But I guess he'd better have the doctor here as soon as Matt can ride to town. I'll do what I can in the meantime, ma'am."

Matt Tubbs had been watching what he did with apparently the greatest curiosity. He was utterly ignorant himself about everything that pertained to first aid to the injured, and perhaps never before had felt so utterly insignificant as when he saw Elmer Chenowith go about the duties of a doctor with such calm assurance.

Jasper had run off in obedience to a request from the[43] scout leader, and now returned with some cold water. When Elmer had dashed a little of this in the face of the farmer, the injured man came to his senses. His groans ceased, though they could see from the expression on his rugged face that he was suffering severely.

"It's all right, Mr. Kent," Elmer hastened to say in that convincing way of his, as the farmer looked at him inquiringly. "You've got a broken arm, and perhaps a couple of your ribs are out of the running for a while, but you'll pull through all to the good. I'm going to do what I can while Matt rides off for Dr. Cooper."

"Oh! it's you, Elmer, is it?" said the man, faintly. "But how d'ye know I ain't got my death in that wreck of my barn? I feel like I'd been through a threshing machine; on'y my left arm is numb."

"I've had some experience with these things, Mr. Kent, up in Canada. Besides, sir, we belong to the Boy Scouts movement, and one of the things taught there is what we call 'first aid to the injured.' I could set your arm all right, but since the doctor can get here soon, I'd better leave it for him. He mightn't like my meddling too much with his practice. Will you ask Matt to please find the horse, and start for town?"

"Oh! I'm agoin', all right," said that worthy, arousing himself; for he had been staring at Elmer all this while, and listening to what he said about the obligations of the scouts in time of need, as though he might be hearing something that astonished him.

He glanced back several times as he walked away to look for the horse, that was doubtless in some corner of the lot beyond the demolished barns.

"Got something to think over, I reckon," grunted Larry, who had closed up like a clam when Matt answered his civil question so roughly.[44]

Shortly afterward they heard a shout. Then Matt dashed past, riding bareback on the horse, and using the halter to guide him along the road. He went flying toward town, and they knew he would send the doctor before a great while.

"Here, fellows, Mr. Kent ought to be carried into the house," said Elmer, turning to his chums. "We've got to make a litter to lay him on. Come over here with me, and we'll knock one together in a jiffy."

"Sure we will!" declared Larry, who had a warm heart, even though a bit inclined to quarrel at times, being quick-tempered.

There was plenty of material lying around; the storm had seen to that when it tore things loose on the Kent farm. And presently the scouts came back with some boards forming a very fair litter. Elmer had covered it with several horse blankets he discovered in the partly demolished barn.

But the farmer was getting back his strength again. He shook his head at sight of the litter, and a slight smile appeared on his face, much to the joy of his sadly frightened wife and daughter.

"I reckon I ain't so bad off as to need that, Elmer," he remarked. "Now, if so be ye boys draw around, and take care not to handle that left arm too rough, p'raps I could manage to get up. Arter that, with some help, I'll hobble to the house. Don't ye look so peaked, wife; I'm better'n ten dead men yet."

They helped him to rise, and then, leaning on Elmer, with the others following close behind, eager to assist, they made their way slowly to the farm building.

"Oh! what would we have done only for the coming of you boys?" exclaimed Mrs. Kent, after they had managed[45] to get the wounded farmer seated fairly comfortably in a big sleepy hollow chair.

Elmer was making a sling in which the broken arm could be held, to ease the pain and the strain until Dr. Cooper's arrival.

"Does this scouting teach you boys how to do that sort of thing?" asked the grown daughter, who had been watching these actions of the boys curiously.

"It is one of the things we have to learn before we can hope to become first-class scouts," the boy replied. "You see, no one can ever tell when a scout may be called on to help bring back a person to life who has been nearly drowned, or to keep another from bleeding to death after being cut with an ax in camp; then besides, sometimes boys have to be rescued when they get a cramp while in swimming. And when a fellow knows how to go about these things, he may be able to help save a human life. We think it worth while."

"I should say it was!" exclaimed Miss Kent, enthusiastically. "After this I'm going to take more interest in boys than I have. I always thought they were as much alike as peas in a pod; and perhaps I oughtn't to say it, because he's in our family, but you see, I somehow judged all boys by my Cousin Matt."

Elmer smiled.

"Well," he said, nodding, "I hope that when you come to look into this a little closer, Miss Julia, you'll understand that it stands for big things. My father says it's the greatest movement for the uplifting of American boys that ever happened, barring none. And I'm going to send you some printed matter that will tell you just what the Boy Scouts aim to do. When you know that, I just guess you'll find reason to change your opinion of boys."[46]

Even the injured farmer had listened to what was said with a show of interest.

"Sho! Elmer," he remarked, "I've heard a heap of this thing, and didn't take much stock in it. Thought it meant the boys was goin' to be made into soldiers, and as I'm a man of peace I couldn't stand for that. On'y yesterday the dominie was tellin' me it ain't got a blessed thing to do with military tactics. And arter the able way you handled yourself to-day, blessed if I ain't agoin' to read the stuff you send Julie. If I had a boy I'd like him to jine the scouts. And that's as far as I've got. But if it makes the lads clean, manly, and ekal to emergencies, like you seem to be, it's a boss thing."

And Elmer felt his heart glow with satisfaction, for his whole interest was by now bound up in the success of the Hickory Ridge troop of scouts; and anything that went to make them new friends appealed to him strongly.

When half an hour had gone the sound of an automobile horn was heard out on the road.

"There comes Dr. Cooper!" called Jasper, who had been on the lookout.

When the physician came bustling in he looked questioningly at the three boys. Possibly Matt may have told him the scouts were meddling with things, and his professional instincts were shocked. But when he saw what Elmer had done, and made an examination himself, he declared that the extent of Mr. Kent's injuries were just as the boy had stated.

"And I want to say, Elmer," he added, as the boys were about to hurry away, "I believe in the first-aid-to-the-injured principle which you boys try to live up to. If more people only kept their senses about them in cases of accident, it would make easier work for the doctors, and save lots of lives. Good luck to you, boys!"[47]

"And we shall never be able to tell you how thankful we all are for your coming, Elmer. The first time I meet your mother, I'm going to let her know what a fine son she has," declared Miss Julia, as she and her relieved mother shook hands with the three scouts at the door.

"I had two comrades, please remember, Miss Julia," said Elmer, significantly; and taking the hint she repeated the words while bidding Jasper and Larry good-by.

"Well," remarked Elmer, as he and his chums once more tramped along the road, "I notice that you two fellows have your badges turned upside down still, to remind you that so far to-day you've found no opportunity to do anybody a good turn. As your scout master, I want to say that you can't get them changed any too soon; for you've just been of the greatest help to the Kent family!"

And both Larry and Jasper, making the usual scout salute, with the thumb holding back the little finger of the right hand, proceeded to unfasten their badges, and replace them right side up.

They had earned the privilege to wear them so for the balance of that eventful day!




"About time to begin business, don't you think, Mark?" asked Elmer Chenowith.

"Just about on the minute; and I've been counting noses, Mr. Scout-master; there are eighteen fellows present—not a single gap in the line," answered his chum.

"That's fine. We'll get our four new members through to-night, and have two complete patrols, with a third well started. Suppose you sound the assembly, Mark, and we'll close the doors. While the Hickory Ridge Troop of Boy Scouts doesn't pretend to be a secret society, there's no reason why we should have every Tom, Dick, and Harry gaping in at us, and listening to all we say."

Elmer and his closest chum, Mark Cummings, were standing inside the old abandoned wagon-maker's shop that for long years had been a landmark at the crossroads just outside the town of Hickory Ridge.

Half a dozen and more lighted lanterns hanging from beams or the low rafters dissipated the darkness of the cobwebby interior; for the once busy shop had been deserted some years now.

A bustling, laughing, chattering crowd of half-grown boys occupied the place; and all but four of them were clad in the customary olive drab khaki uniform of the scouts, met with in every part of this wide country, between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and from the Great Lakes of the north to the Mexican Gulf on the south.[49]

Mark carried a bugle at his side, and was quite a genius as a musician. Indeed, there were few musical instruments he could not play; and when in camp the boys looked to him to enliven the evenings around their fire with bugle, banjo, or mandolin.

Another member of the troop was the official drummer; but as yet he had not secured an instrument on which to sound the long roll. But they lived in hopes of soon supplying this need, as there was good money in the treasury.

When the sweet, clear notes of the bugle sounded the assembly call, the chattering ceased. Obedience is one of the first principles inculcated in the breast of a scout; and Elmer, as the president of the association, had always insisted upon the meeting being conducted with a fair amount of decorum.

First came the roll call, when it was found that every member was present, showing that the meeting was deemed an especially important one.

True, several of the boys looked a bit tired, notably Jasper, who had hardly been able to get out of his chair after supper, and was obliged to exert more than the ordinary amount of will power before he could reach the place of meeting.

A little routine program was first of all gone through with, such as marked each meeting of the troop—a song that was patriotic in its character sung, with considerable vim, for there were some really good voices present; after which the commendable trait of patriotism was further carried along by a salute to the flag which stood at one end of the dingy old wheelwright's shop, where all eyes could fall upon its starry blue field and warm red stripes.

"I'm sorry to state," said Elmer, in opening the meeting, "that our capable scout-master was unable to be with us to-night, as a sudden business call took him to New York[50] last night. So we'll have to conduct the exercises without him. And as the most important part of our meeting is the initiation of four new members who have lately expressed a desire to unite with the Hickory Ridge Troop of Boy Scouts, it would be in order for a motion that we proceed immediately to complete that function."

"I move, Mr. President, we go about that business," suggested "Lil Artha" Stansbury, who had curled his long legs under him, and managed to sit down on a low stool he had found somewhere; the balance of the boys being disposed of in all sorts of ways, some on worn wooden "horses," others on blocks of wood, makeshift benches, and even on the bare ground.

"Thecond the motion!" cried Ted Burgoyne, who often lisped, though he could never be convinced of the fact, and would everlastingly and vehemently deny it when accused.

Of course it was quickly carried; and the usual ceremonies having been gone through with, the four applicants were declared fairly elected members of the organization. Phil Dale became Number Five and George Robbins Number Six of the Wolf Patrol; while Henry Condit and "Landy" Smith filled the vacant numbers of the Beaver Patrol.

"This makes our two patrols complete," remarked Elmer. "It also increases our membership to eighteen. We need several more fellows of the right sort, and if any of you happen to know of any candidates, bring their names before the committee between now and the next regular meeting. But they must be boys of good moral character, who promise to make scouts worthy of the name."

"Hear! hear!" called out "Red" Huggins, grinning, as though he took this as a personal compliment.

"We can now proceed with the regular business before[51] us. The new members will consult with Comrade Merriweather about their suits. But of course they understand that every cent must have been earned before they can wear the new clothes. That is one of the things we stand for—a scout must be independent, and able to do things for himself. It tends to make him manly and reliant."

"Mr. President," said the secretary, who was no other than the tall "Lil Artha," "I would like to inform the members of Hickory Ridge Troop that I have with me a collection of finished pictures, taken on our recent camping trip at Lake Solitude. Some of them are rather interesting, and will serve to revive pleasant, or unpleasant, memories. They can be seen after the meeting closes. Please excuse me for not rising, Mr. President. Fact is, I don't believe I could without help, for it seems as if my lower extremities had become locked."

There were numerous snickers at this, for it was a failing of the good-natured "Lil Artha" to get his long legs twisted in a knot; though, when he once started running, he could cover the ground at an amazing pace.

"I understand," remarked Matty Eggleston, the leader of the Beaver Patrol, getting up so suddenly from the swaying bench upon which he had been seated that it tilted the remaining three scouts backward, and deposited them on the ground, to the amusement of the assemblage—"I understand," he went on, not disturbed by the tragic occurrence, as the boys scrambled up, and began to brush themselves off, "that several of our number met with an interesting experience to-day while off on a hike. The rest of us would like very much to hear an account of what happened."

"Yes! yes! tell us the story, Mr. President! We all want to know!" came from a dozen of the lads, in one breath.[52]

Elmer smiled encouragingly.

"If some one puts that in the form of a motion, and it is carried, perhaps between Comrades Larry, Jasper, and myself we might be able to spin the little yarn," he remarked.

Needless to say the motion was carried unanimously.

"Mr. President," said Larry, who was Number Six of the Beavers, "I suggest that you give your version of the little adventure. If necessary, Jasper and myself can dip in, and add some touches to it from time to time."

Nothing loath, for he had an object in letting the new recruits see what splendid chances there were for doing things in the scout organization, both for themselves and others, the acting scout-master started to tell how Larry and Jasper had conceived a laudable ambition to test their knowledge of woodcraft, and started out with the idea of putting it to the trial.

He pointed out their mistakes, and showed where they could have avoided them. He commended their pluck, and as he described the storm in the big timber more than a few of the listening boys fairly quivered with excitement. In imagination they could almost hear the terrific thunder, and see the giant trees swaying in the howling wind.

After Elmer had brought out a number of points that would serve as a valuable lesson to the tenderfoot scouts, and which he wanted to sink into their minds, he presently carried the story to the final stage by telling about their arrival at the farmhouse, where they found the family in great distress, and in need of help.

He made a particular point of telling how helpless Matt Tubbs had seemed, simply because he had never been instructed in the principles of "first aid to the injured"; and went on to show how very important it was for every[53] true scout to know what to do in an emergency where human life was in peril.

When, finally, Elmer finished, there was a hearty cheer from the assembled lads. A number of questions were asked, which either the acting scout-master or one of his mates answered.

"But perhaps another time, comrades, Matt Tubbs may not feel so helpless as he did to-day," Elmer went on to say. "The fever has reached Fairfield, and we hear they are trying to organize a troop of scouts there, with Matt at the head. Let us hope, fellows, that when the Fairfield Troop becomes a fact, there may be a chance for the Hickory Ridge boys to renew their old-time rivalry with the neighboring town. For the rowdy spirit will have to give way to order and decency before Matt Tubbs and his cronies ever find themselves accepted as Boy Scouts."

"They never will do it!" cried Ty Collins, who had been the chief cook of the troop while in camp, and was known as one of the best athletes in Hickory Ridge.

"That's what I was saying to Elmer," echoed Larry Billings.

"Oh! well, you never can tell," laughed the leader. "I sometimes think none of us know just what Matt Tubbs might do, if once he took a notion to turn over a new leaf."

"Oh! he's just a regular bully, and that's all there is about it!" cried Nat Scott.

"I hope you won't say that again, Nat," remarked Elmer. "I know on the face of things people around Hickory Ridge think that, because Matt always started trouble when the two towns used to be rivals on the gridiron and the diamond. But over in Fairfield, fellows, they're not quite so sure about it. Perhaps all of you don't know that when a house burned down, and the firemen were afraid to rush in to save an old and infirm woman who was known[54] to be inside, Matt Tubbs took his life in his hands and got her out! It was his own grandmother, but that makes no difference. I say that the fellow who would do that can't be all wrong; that he must have a spark, and a pretty big one, too, of decency in his make-up. Those are just the kind of fellows this scout movement can help. And I believe that if once they change about and face the other way, they're bound to make the best of scouts. Let's give Matt Tubbs a fair and square chance to make good!"

Considerable talk followed. Some of the boys were farsighted enough to grasp what Elmer believed so firmly. Others shook their heads in doubt. They fancied they knew Matt Tubbs like a book. He was no coward, they admitted such a fact, but as for him ever being able to subscribe to the twelve cardinal principles of a scout, why it was absurd; impossible!

"Water will run up-hill before that miracle ever happens!" declared Toby Jones, the boy who was forever dreaming about doing wonderful stunts with a flying machine which he expected some day to invent.

"I have no particular use foh the gentleman, suh!" remarked Chatz Maxfield, whose manners and ways of expressing himself easily betrayed his Southern birth.

So the meeting progressed, and was finally brought to a conclusion. Then there was considerable merriment as the scouts clustered about "Lil Artha," the official photographer, as he passed around some scores of splendidly executed prints. Quite a number of these were gems of art, and represented natural scenery around the mountain lake where the camp had been located. Others elicited roars of laughter, for Arthur had snapped off some pictures that perpetuated scenes of a comical nature.

The boys were enjoying the treat heartily, laughing, bandying remarks, poking fun at the victims who were now[55] held up to public view, and mingling with perfect freedom, as the meeting had been adjourned, when something certainly not down on the bills came to pass.

It was as unexpected as a bolt of lightning from a clear sky. The photographer of the troop was gathering his pictures together, and those members who had kindly furnished the lanterns so that their temporary meeting-place might be illuminated in a seemly manner, were starting to secure their property, when, without any warning, there sounded a tremendous crash.

"What's that?" cried half a dozen of the scouts, as they looked at one another in dismay.

"I know!" shouted Jack Armitage, whose father owned the old smithy; "we've been spied on by some sneak; and he fell down off that rotten loft yonder. There he goes, fellows! After the spy!"




A scene of commotion immediately followed these startling words of Jack Armitage. There was a rush for the exit, and in the confusion, just as might have been expected, the scouts became wedged in the doorway, so that there was a brief delay in gaining the open air.

Shouts outside presently told that some of the wiser ones had avoided this combined rush, and sought the open air by the same means taken by the unknown. They had just glimpsed some dim figure amid the cloud of dust that followed the breaking down of the frail floor of the little platform at the rear of the shop. It had vanished through some hole; possibly a board or two had been previously loosened with the idea of a hasty flight in case of discovery, to avoid unpleasant consequences.

Elmer and his chum, Mark Cummings, had not taken part in either the crush at the door, or the swift passage through the rear opening.

"Well, what d'ye think of that?" demanded Mark, turning to his chum, as the last of the jam at the door was broken, allowing the struggling scouts a chance to get through.

Elmer was laughing.

"Some of those fellows will feel a little sore after that football rush," he remarked; "you noticed that the wise ones chased after 'Lil Artha.' He was quick to see that there would be a crush at the door, and he went after the[57] fellow, who lit out by the way of the back part of the shop. Here, let's take a look and see."

Picking up a lantern, he led the way to where they discovered a hole in the board wall of the place. Two of the shrunken boards had been lately wrenched loose; a very easy task indeed, for the old place was pretty near the point of ruin.

"Looks like he might have fixed it for use in case he wanted to vamoose in a big hurry," said Mark, after they had examined the boards.

"Perhaps he did," Elmer remarked. "Did you get a look at the chap, Mark? It just happened that some one stood between me and this part of the shop, and I couldn't see much more'n a lot of dust."

"Same here," laughed the other. "My! what a lot of dust he did stir up. I feel like I'm going to sneeze right now," which he proceeded to do with great vigor, to the amusement of his friend.

"Listen to the racket the boys are making out there," he observed, as shouts came floating in to them.

"Sounds like they were chasing after something," Mark went on, after listening. "Wonder if they can grab the fellow."

"Perhaps you'd better call them back with your bugle. No use breaking up in such a disorderly way. And if he's given them the slip up to now, they won't be able to find him in the dark. Step outside and sound the recall, Mark."

So the bugler hastened to obey orders, and the clear, penetrating notes of the signal floated near and far in the night air.

"Anybody could hear that a mile away, I guess," remarked the one who had sent forth the recall. "I suppose every scout will know what it means and come back?"

"Well, that would be queer if they didn't," declared[58] Elmer. "Here comes a bunch right now, talking and arguing over the mysterious happening. All sorts of ideas will be given, and we ought to try and find out the truth."

"What do you think?" asked Mark, pointedly. "Was it a hobo who had been sleeping here in the old shop? I've heard Jack say his father threatened to burn the shanty down because complaints came in about it being a lodging place for tramps."

"Yes," replied Elmer, who looked serious, "I've heard the same thing. But between you and me, Mark, I've got my suspicions that it couldn't have been just a common hobo."

"What makes you think that?" asked his chum.

"Oh! several things. I don't see why a tramp would go to all the bother to climb up on that old shelf or loft, when he could just as well stay right here on the ground, and make a fire in the regular place, so as to cook his supper. Then no tramp would have lain there all that time without making a sound. Besides, you remember we made up our minds that the boards had been loosened in the back of the shop, so they could be knocked off with a single kick. That would point to strategy—making ready for a sudden get-away."

"Elmer, you're right, I do believe, as you nearly always are," said Mark, as if what his comrade said had sunk with conviction into his mind. "But here come the boys. Let's find out what they think about it."

"Yes," continued the acting scout-master, "perhaps they've sighted the fellow, and can tell us who he was."

But this proved not to be the case. Those who had followed "Lil Artha" through the opening in the rear of the shop declared that the fugitive must have had the wings of the wind, for though they had chased after him, he managed to give them the slip. Possibly the long-legged Arthur[59] might have been more successful, had he been given daylight to enable him to see where he was going; but at the time the bugle sounded the retreat they had not been able to cut down the other's lead.

Nor could they tell what he looked like.

"Some stray Wandering Willie, sure as you're born," declared Toby Jones, who was panting at a great rate after his chase.

"And if we'd only been able to come up with him, wouldn't he have got it?" remarked Red Huggins, ferociously.

"Alas! I was cheated out of a thlick job, that's what, fellowth," lamented Dr. Ted, whose sole ambition it was to run across "opportunities" to experiment with his knowledge of medicine, or attempt simple surgical operations.

"See here, you're only guessing when you say it was a hobo; what proof is there of such a thing?" demanded Elmer.

"Hey, what's that?" exclaimed "Lil Artha," staring at the acting scout-master.

"That's exactly what I was saying to Chatz as we were prancing along back here," Larry Billings remarked, nodding his head as if he agreed with Elmer.

"Some think it was a tramp, and the rest say it was a spy. Now, how are we going to prove it?" asked Tom Cropsey.

"Let Elmer tell what he thinks, fellows," Mark observed. "He convinced me right off the reel, and perhaps he can the rest of the bunch."

"Yes, Elmer, it's up to you to make good. Tell us what you know. We're wanting to learn all the tricks of a scout who keeps his eyes always open, and sees the little things that count. Please tell us!"[60]

So, beset from every side, Elmer had to bow to the popular will. After he had explained how several strong points seemed to dispose of the theory of a tramp having been hidden in the loft of the deserted wheelwright's shop, he saw that he had carried pretty much all his audience with him. The scouts hung on his every word, for they understood that Elmer had passed through considerable experience while out on that big Canada ranch and farm with his father, and knew how to read signs as well as any Indian ever could have done.

"I've just been up there and discovered how the rotten timbers gave way under the fellow," spoke up Nat Scott, who was known to be of a very investigating turn, and would let nothing continue to puzzle him long, if he could help it.

"Yes, we saw you drop down through the same hole he made," laughed Ty Collins.

"You're covered with dust, too, Nat," remarked Tom Cropsey.

"That's a fact," grinned the investigator.

Elmer had his eye on him. He judged that Nat must have made some sort of discovery, for he looked pleased. He also noted the fact that the other kept one hand behind him as he stood there.

"You found something, didn't you, Nat?" he asked, quietly.

"Well, sure thing," remarked the other; though he looked somewhat surprised at Elmer being able to discover this fact so readily.

"Which you're hiding behind you right now, I opine," continued the scout-master.

"That's what he is, Elmer!" declared several of the other scouts.[61]

"Did you find it on the ground among those broken pieces of flooring?" asked Elmer, pointedly.

Nat nodded his head rigorously, but he made no effort to bring his right hand out from behind his back.

"Perhaps now," continued the other slowly, but with a positive ring to his voice, "it might happen to be a hat or a cap you picked up?"

"That's right, it's a cap," broke in Jasper Merriweather, who had slipped behind Nat, and glimpsed at what he was trying to keep hidden.

"Wait, I'm going to turn my back on you, Nat, while you hold it up so all the rest can see. Now, out with it. Take a good look, fellows. Jasper said it was a cap. Does it belong to anybody here?"

"Why, we've all got our regular scout hats, except the four new members, and every one of them has a cap on his head right now!" declared Jack Armitage.

"Just so," Elmer continued. "That settles one thing; this cap you picked up must belong to the fellow who ran away, after listening to all we did at our meeting! Take a good look at that cap, Nat. Is it a sort of mixed gray in color and pretty well worn?"

"Say, that's what it just is now, Elmer," replied the other in surprise.

"And has it got a red button fastened in front just over the peak?"

"Hey, listen to him tell, will you, fellows. Here's the red button all right."

"Then the mystery is solved," laughed Elmer; "for that cap belongs to a certain boy we happen to know right well; and his name is Matt Tubbs!"




"What makes you so sure about that, Elmer?" asked Ty Collins, after the scouts had expressed their wonder that the leader should be able to speak so positively when as yet he had not even looked at the tell-tale cap.

"Listen, fellows," began Elmer; "all of you older scouts know that one of the things impressed upon a new beginner is the power of observation. Members of the organization are given tests at memorizing things they see in a store window, after looking in for just three minutes, and then writing out a list afterward. In that way they find it second nature to note everything they see, so that if asked about it afterward they are able to give a pretty good description even of little details. I'm saying this more for the benefit of the new members than anything else, you understand?"

"Sure we do, Elmer; go right along, please," remarked Ty.

"All right," continued the leader, impressively; "but it seems that every one of the scouts doesn't happen to apply those principles of observation and memory as much as he might. Now, to make my point plain, there were two of you with me to-day when we came on the Kent house, where we found things upset by the storm. And I suppose both of those scouts had just as many chances to look Matt Tubbs over as I did; yet it seems that neither Larry nor Jasper noticed that he wore a pair of worn tan shoes, had[63] on brown trousers that had been patched in the seat; sported a new flannel shirt made of some rather flashy material that carried a good deal of red in it; wore a sporty tie of the same color; and had a gray cap on his head, with a little red button just over the peak!"

Exclamations of surprise broke out all around the speaker.

"Say, do you mean to tell us you noticed all those details, and right while we were all excited over the injuries of the farmer?" gasped Larry.

"I always said there was only one Elmer Chenowith," murmured Jasper, throwing up both hands, as though convinced.

"Why, there was nothing queer about that," laughed the acting scout-master. "As I told you just now, it grows to be second nature, after you've practiced the thing for a while. But did I prove my point, fellows?"

"You certainly did!" declared Jack Armitage.

"And do any of you still have any doubt about who it was hiding away on that rotten old shelf up there, and listening to all we did?" continued Elmer.

"I don't think you'd find any scout here willing to say a contrary word, after the way you clinched things," remarked Matty Eggleston.

"And you believe that was our old enemy, Matt Tubbs?" Elmer went on.

"No other fellow could have made so quick a get-away," remarked Red Huggins, as he shook his fiery head in a convincing way. "Mebbe I haven't seen him spin down from first base many a time, and get there at second long ahead of the ball. He can run some, that Matt Tubbs can. Even Lil Artha will admit that."

"But whatever made him hide here?" queried Chatz Maxfield.[64]

"Why, that's as plain as the nose on your face, Chatz," broke out Larry.

"I'd thank you, suh, to make no personal allusions to my features," the hot-tempered Southern lad broke in.

"Oh! I didn't mean anything by that," laughed Larry. "But what else would tempt Matt Tubbs to hide in here, except that he was aching to watch our meeting, and find out how we did things. He reckoned we wouldn't be so obliging as to ask him to be present, and as he's starting a troop over in Fairfield, he wants to know how to run things, so he can have the track greased."

"Well, he heard some straight-out talk, then, that ought to do him a heap of good," remarked Matty.

"Aw! nothing would ever do that chump good; he's a bad egg all over. Like as not he was just itching to do something to give us a big scare. Say, perhaps he smashed that loft down on purpose to frighten us!"

It was Tom Cropsey who offered this rather startling suggestion; but the balance of the scouts were disposed to make light of his idea.

"I don't think," jeered Red. "Matt Tubbs is tricky and bold, but no one ever called him a fool, and that's what he would be if he broke that loft down on purpose, and took that tumble. Why, he might have broken his neck!"

"Never!" exclaimed Toby. "When a feller is born to be hung he could drop from the top of the highest tree, and never feaze his neck."

"Toby knows, fellows," sang out Red. "Believe him, he's a living example of the truth of that old saying. You remember, some of you, how he fell off the roof of the church that night, a year ago, when we were trying to get in the belfry to ring the bell? Some fellows would have had half a dozen of their slats caved in, even if they saved their neck. What happened to Toby? Why, he dropped[65] into that big bunch of cedars and only had a few scratches to show for it. Yes, stake your faith on Toby; he knows what he's talking about."

Of course shouts told that the boys appreciated getting this one on Toby, who contented himself with shaking his fist at Red, and grinning.

"But perhaps we don't all believe the same way," Elmer remarked, after the clamor had died away, and all eyes were turned again on him.

"Tell us what you think, Elmer?" asked several.

"Let us take it for granted then," said the scout-master, "that the spy was Matt, and that he deliberately hid in the old shop for the purpose of watching what we did; how do we know that he had any real mean object in view? At the best it has been only guess work, founded on his bad reputation."

"That counts for a heap, I've found, to my cost," declared Red, who for years had been unusually fond of practical jokes and pranks, and several times floundered in hot water because of this failing.

"Well, all I can say is this," Elmer continued; "if Matt Tubbs, or any other of the Fairfield boys, took the trouble to walk all the way over from his home this evening, four miles and more, just to get a chance to hide here, and see what we did, he must be head over ears in earnest in what he's got afoot. And, fellows, we happen to know that means the new troop Fairfield is trying to organize."

Some nodded, as if he had carried them with him; a few shook their heads, meaning to imply that their distrust of the bully of Fairfield was so deep-seated that they would have to be given stronger evidence than this if they were expected to come around to Elmer's way of thinking.

"Well," the leader went on, "we may never know the facts, but this I say, that if Matt Tubbs is trying to make[66] a start along the right lines, we ought to do anything in our power to help him. And if the chance opens, I promise you I'm going to do that same thing, and not throw sticks in his way."

"Hear! hear! that's the kind of talk that tells, Elmer!" cried Mark.

Elmer had managed to secure possession of the cap that had been found. He showed no manifestation of giving it back again, and from the way he presently thrust the thing in one of the pockets of his khaki coat, it was evident that he had use for it.

None of the boys who noted this act thought it strange. Elmer frequently did things that might not seem clear to them on the surface, but they knew him well enough by this time to feel confident that there was a motive worth while back of the act, and which in good time would be made plain.

The meeting soon broke up, the scouts heading toward the town of Hickory Ridge, in regular formation of twos, with Elmer and his closest chum, Mark, heading the line.

By degrees their number lessened as a boy would drop out here, and another there, when the nearest point to their several homes was reached.

"We had a fine meeting, eh, Mark?" said Elmer, as the two stood for a few minutes on a corner ere separating.

"A dandy meeting," was the reply, given enthusiastically, and with boyish vim.

"The addition of the four new recruits," Elmer went on, "fills out our two patrols to their limit, and now we can begin to drum up new names for the Eagle. By Fall we ought to have six more good fellows come around, and finish that patrol."

"Mr. Garrabrant will be pleased when he comes back and[67] learns what we've done," Mark chuckled, as if he himself were greatly overjoyed.

"That's so, because he's got the good of the troop at heart," said the leader of the Wolf Patrol, earnestly. "We're lucky to have such a wide-awake scout-master as Mr. Garrabrant. A whole lot depends on what kind of a man is in charge of the troop. They say, you know, Mark, 'as the twig's inclined the tree is bent'; and in most cases you can judge the kind of troop by the caliber of the scout-master. If he's weak there can be no order kept up. If he's too severe the boys will rebel. I reckon it takes a mighty smart man to handle twenty or thirty lively boys, and get out the best they have in them."

"I've often thought of that, Elmer. I like to study people, you remember. And I think all of our boys like Mr. Garrabrant the best kind. Going to bed now? Well, good night. See you to-morrow, if we get together, a dozen of us, for that little hike."

And separating, the two chums headed for their several homes.

On the following day Elmer, upon arriving at a place of meeting in the morning, somewhere in the neighborhood of nine o'clock, found a group of his fellow scouts anxiously awaiting his coming. Most of them had come direct from home, and each carried the staff that was supposed to be of more or less help to the owner while on the road. This was just six feet in length, stout, and in some instances made of bamboo, and in others of clear ash; marked off in feet and inches so that it could be used also for measuring distances, being two meters in length, and with a grip for the hand midway between the ends.

"Just ten here," remarked Elmer, after he had counted the khaki-clad boys. "All who volunteered for the hike[68] but one, and he, Red Huggins, usually as prompt a fellow as there is in the troop, but behind time for once."

"Going to wait for him?" demanded one of the others, impatient to be off.

"We'll give him the usual ten minutes allowance," replied Elmer. "If he doesn't show up then, I suppose we'll have to go without him."

He had noted one thing, and this was that neither of his comrades of the preceding day had shown up. But then Elmer had not expected they would. Practice had made him almost immune to fatigue, after a ten mile walk, but the same could not be said of Larry, and especially in the case of little Jasper Merriweather.

On the whole, considering what excitement the boys had endured on the previous day, Elmer thought they had done very well. They must be feeling more or less stiff this morning, and would need a lay-off. Besides, they had not promised to get around to start on this walk.

Impatient Chatz took out a nickel watch, and began to keep tabs on the passing of those ten minutes. The rest chattered like magpies, and seemed to be pleased at the idea of having a few hours with Elmer abroad. For the young leader knew so many of the secrets of the great out-doors, and was so ready to impart information to his chums, that it was really a treat to be with him.

"Five minutes gone, and no sign of him yet, suh!" announced the timekeeper, after a short interval, during which all eyes were turned down the road, to the corner around which it was expected the absent member would come, should he show up at all.

"Oh! well, there are enough of us without Red; though he's always good company on a hike," remarked Lil Artha, who had really given up an anticipated trip in an automobile over fifty miles of territory, just to accompany[69] Elmer in his hike, so great a fascination did the new life have for the tall boy.

"I thought I thaw him right then, fellows!" exclaimed Dr. Ted, pointing to a place where there was a gap in the trees and fences.

Elmer nodded encouragingly.

"Good for you, Ted," he said. "I was wondering whether anybody would notice that the road could be seen through that little opening, and anyone coming discovered some time before he reached the corner. That was Red, I do believe; for I had a glimpse of him as he passed."

Ted Burgoyne looked satisfied. In fact, the boys had reached a point by now when words of praise from the assistant scout-master meant a whole lot to them, for it always signified that something worth while had been done.

Nothing more was said about it, but there was a heap of thinking done; and no doubt every fellow present was making up his mind to be more vigilant, so that he might be the next to deserve favorable notice from the leader.

"You were right, Ted, for there he comes now," remarked Toby, as a figure came around the corner.

It was Red Huggins, sure enough; and he seemed to be hurrying.

"Knows he's late, and expects to be hauled over the coals," chuckled Ty Collins.

Elmer said nothing. But he was watching the coming of the late scout with an expression of rising curiosity on his face. Truth to tell, he noted something that none of the others had. Red Huggins looked more than "peeved" because he was arriving late at the meeting-place, when a scout is supposed to be always punctual to the minute. He was worried, worked up over something or other!

"Hurry up here, old molasses in Winter!" called Lil Artha. "Why, we were just going to leave you in the[70] lurch. What sort of an excuse can you give for holding eleven comrades nearly ten minutes each? That means more'n an hour wasted. It's a crying shame, that's what!"

Red had by now reached them. He was panting a little, as though he might have run some distance, in order to make up for lost time.

"Wasn't altogether my fault, fellows," he started to explain.

"Oh! come now, no excuses are going to pass here!" broke in Toby.

"Give him a chance to say what he wants to, boys," remarked Elmer; and the late comer darted him a look of thanks.

"I was just going to start out," Red began, "when father came home. He had been out trying a new horse he bought; and at first I thought he might have had a runaway, he looked that excited. But one of our neighbors came hurrying in, saying he had just heard the news over the telephone, and asking father what it meant."

"News! What's that? Something happened since we left home?" and the scouts began to look at each other, while several grew a little white.

"Yes," Red went on, rapidly; "it happened that my father was one of those who brought the news to town. I got so stuck on what they were saying that I clean forgot everything else; and that made me late. Then father saw me in my scout uniform, and he said he wondered if Elmer Chenowith, who was so smart about following a trail, could lend a hand—that it seemed a job for the scouts, if ever there was one!"

"Oh! speak out, and tell us what's happened!" cried Toby, catching hold of Red by his sleeve and shaking him a little.

"Well, you know Mrs. Gruber, the woman who lives in[71] that little house half a mile or so up the Jericho Road—she's got just one child, a little girl, with the sunniest smile and the prettiest golden hair you ever saw. Well, seems like she separated from her husband, Dolph Gruber, because of his bad habits. Father says Dolph came home last night, made no end of a row, struck his wife, and went away with little Ruth, saying her mother would never see her again. And that's what he meant, fellows, when he said it was a job for the scouts. Elmer, do you dare tackle it, and try to get back that little girl again for her nearly crazy mother?"




A dead silence followed these startling words of Red Huggins.

The party of scouts looked at one another, as though their very breath might have been taken away by the stunning news brought by the late comer.

Elmer was the first one to recover his wits; perhaps because his nature proved to be a bit stronger than any of the others; and then again it may have been through the fact that he had had much more experience in grappling with just such situations as the present.

"That father of yours was quite right, Red," he said. "The chances are this is a job just suited to the scouts. For what is the use of learning all those things about tracking through the woods, if you can't make use of them when an occasion comes along."

"Do we go, Elmer?" demanded Lil Artha, eagerly, his face lighting up.

"Say yes, Elmer!" cried the impulsive Red. "Oh! father declares that poor woman is nearly out of her mind with fear of what her bad husband may do with the little girl. You know it isn't his child at all, really; he is her second husband. Her name used to be Tubbs."

"What? I didn't know that before!" exclaimed Elmer, staring at the speaker.

"But that won't make any difference, will it, because she happens to be some relation to Matt?" asked Toby.[73] "I know the girl, Ruth; and as Red says, she's a little fairy, an angel. Let's go, fellows!"

"Of course we'll go, and try to do the best we can to get back the child," Elmer remarked, as he shut his teeth hard. "I've heard a good deal about this Dolph Gruber; and every one says he's a hard nut. But there are a dozen of us, fellows, and I reckon we ought to be a match for one coward. I call him that because none but a miserable drunkard and a coward would act as he has done, striking his wife, and carrying off her child, with such a horrible threat."

"Then let's be off right away," said Red, in his impatient way.

"Fall in, and we'll go on the double-quick, up the Jericho Road," called Elmer.

Mark was along, bugle and all, even though this hike which they had planned was not looked upon as a troop affair, and no one was under any compulsion to enter for the long walk.

Circumstances entirely unexpected had suddenly caused an entire change in their program; but accustomed to meeting emergencies as they arose, Elmer was just as ready to take up the new scheme.

No doubt he was more or less thrilled with pleasure to think that Mr. Huggins, who was quite an important man in the affairs of Hickory Ridge, should consider him able to grapple with this situation.

Others might start to scouring the surrounding country, in hopes of cutting the scoundrel off, and effecting his arrest. But if Dolph Gruber were as keen-witted as he was given credit for being, he would likely avoid beaten paths, and keep to the timber, thus preventing these searchers from getting in touch with him.

Of course Elmer could hardly believe the man was bad[74] enough to think of really injuring little Ruth. He probably meant to punish his wife for refusing to longer hand over to him some of the money she received from relatives, by carrying her child away, and keeping the little girl concealed, until the mother promised to come to terms, and pay a ransom.

But at the same time his act was that of a fiend; and Elmer's boyish heart was filled with indignation as he in imagination could see the poor mother weeping because her little one was gone, leaving her to fear all sorts of terrible things.

Yes, this was surely a case for the scouts. If ever their knowledge of woodcraft promised to be of value it must be now. Dolph could not go very far without leaving some sort of a trail behind him. And as he was apt to shun the roads and beaten paths through the woods, they could the easier follow him. Half a mile is a very short distance when boys are in a hurry.

"There's the house right now!" called out one sharp-eyed scout, suddenly.

"Yes, and there's a crowd of people around, too!" declared another. "Must have got the news around mighty quick. Say, there comes a wagon racing along from over Fairfield way; and I just bet you it's got Matt and his dad in it, too."

"Just what it has, fellows," declared Ty. "Looks like we were just bound to run across that Matt everywhere we went, don't it? And here comes a car from Hickory Ridge, with a lot of people in it. Looky there, some of 'em are the officers. Yep, here they come right after us. Make way, fellows, if you don't want to get run over!"

A few minutes later, and they brought up at the cottage which had so suddenly become such a center of interest. The phone had been used from Hickory Ridge to inform[75] Mr. Tubbs, who was a big contractor in Fairfield. Others had come from various neighboring homes, for it is amazing how such news flies on the wings of the wind.

The boys moved around among the people for a short time. Elmer made his way inside the cottage, to where he could hear the bereaved mother crying, and between sobs trying the best she could to tell just how it had happened.

"If we only knew which way Dolph went, we might manage to head him off," declared the police head, after a while.

"Oh! if you only could, how happy I would be!" Mrs. Gruber cried, stopping her crying to wring her hands entreatingly. "He is a bad man when he drinks; and he was in a terrible temper because I said I couldn't get him any more money—that my folks wouldn't allow me to turn over another cent to him. Please start right away; and if you bring back my Ruth unharmed I will pray for you every night of my whole life!"

"But how are we to know which way he went?" questioned the officer. "You say he struck you, ma'am, and that you fell down almost insensible. But can you not give us some sort of clue as to which direction he took?"

"Yes, sir, I can," came the eager reply. "Please come outside with me. You see, I seemed to recover after a little, and being almost crazy to know what he had done with my darling Ruth, I managed to crawl out of the door here, though I was so dizzy I could hardly keep from falling. Then I saw him carrying my child in his arms, and just disappearing in the woods over there, close to where you see that dark hemlock, under which," with another choking sob, "she used to play so often."

"Sure of that, are you, ma'am?" asked the man in uniform, quickly.

"Yes, yes, I assure you it is the exact truth, sir. Under[76] that hemlock I saw them disappear," the distracted mother cried.

"I understand what he had in his mind," broke in a man. "That's a short cut to the other road that leads over to Cramertown. Dolph used to live there once. So of course he's heading that way."

To be sure it seemed most reasonable, and not one of the men appeared to doubt the accuracy of the guess in the least. But Elmer was not so sure. He knew that when a man becomes by some act of his own a fugitive from the law, he changes his ways. Cramertown, then, would be one of the last places to which Dolph Gruber would think of fleeing, because he was well known there.

"Then, seems like the best thing we could do, gents," declared the officer, with a show of cunning in his manner, "would be to jump aboard the car again, and make around the road for Cramertown. If he ain't there yet, perhaps he'll be along before a great while; and we can lay a trap for Dolph. Jump aboard, those that are going. Cramertown it is, boys. And we'll bring back the little gal, sure as you're born."

The car was speedily filled with eager hunters, and went spinning down the road headed for the forks some two miles away, where they could change their course, and reach the object of their ambition.

Some of the scouts had looked as though they wanted to accompany the party in the car, but Elmer made no movement in that quarter, and so of course the others would not think of taking matters in their own hands. Besides, they were anxious to see what their leader meant to do.

Waiting until the car and its load had vanished in a cloud of dust, Elmer made a swift movement with his arm to his followers. Then the entire dozen hurried off, heading exactly toward the hemlock which Mrs. Gruber had[77] twice stated was the point where she had had the last glimpse of the kidnaper.

"Now we'll see whether scout tactics are worth anything," observed Lil Artha, to Landy Smith and Phil Dale, the two new members who had come along to begin their experiences as scouts; although neither of them was in the regulation uniform as yet, because the tailor, Jasper's father, had not been able to commence their suits of khaki.

Of course these two boys were watching everything that occurred, with eyes round with wonder. They were of the observing kind, and would doubtless quickly grasp the fact that a scout must keep eyes and ears on the alert, if he hoped to accomplish anything.

"Well, here's the hemlock, all right," observed Toby, "and now, fellows, stand back till Elmer has a chance to look over the ground. So many feet might tramp out the trail Dolph must have left."

They watched Elmer as he bent over. He moved this way and that, as his eyes scanned the ground in the most likely places. Twice he seemed to turn over some twigs, or fallen foliage that had turned brown.

"He sees it!" exclaimed Lil Artha; and Matt echoed the words, for he, too, had noticed that Elmer was now actually moving on.

"Want us to tag along after you, Elmer?" called Mark, eagerly.

By a movement of his arm the leader announced that he did.

"Go slow now, fellows," warned Mark. "Don't anybody overrun him, and cut across the trail. Leave it to Elmer just now. If he wants us to help him he'll sing out all in good time."

"That goes, Mark," echoed Red; and in this way then the dozen scouts began to move along through the woods,[78] losing sight of the road, and the cottage where the mourning mother continued to weep and pray.

Presently they saw that Elmer had changed his course. He was no longer heading directly into the west as at first, but had sheered more into the northwest.

"Begins to look like Elmer was right, and the police head wrong," remarked Matty.

"In what way?" asked Landy Smith, filled with curiosity as to what it meant.

"Why," Matt went on, "you remember that the man said he believed Dolph was heading for the road that would take him to Cramertown. Now, Elmer, he believed just the opposite, and that pretty soon Dolph would turn off to go deeper into the timber. And that's just what he seems to be doing, the slick skunk."

"Say, this thing keeps growing more exciting, the further you dip into it," declared Landy. "Already I'm dead sure I'm going to get heaps of fun out of the scout business. And after a while, perhaps we'll even run this fellow Dolph down."

"Sure thing," asserted Toby, confidently. "Just stake your faith on Elmer to do the little job. Yes, sir, we expect that to happen, sooner or later."

"And when you do, there's going to be some sort of a mix-up," continued Landy.

"Wouldn't be surprised," replied Toby, glancing at the new member queerly, for he saw Landy was excited.

"Hark to me, Toby," said the other, almost in a whisper; "if that thing does come around, perhaps you'll all be glad I brought this little machine along," and he exhibited a revolver to the astonished gaze of the other.

"Hold on here," said Toby. "You ought to know that it's against the rules of the scouts, and our troop in particular, to carry a pistol. Nobody but the scout-master has[79] that privilege. And to save you from trouble you'd better tell Elmer right off."

Others of the boys had seen what Landy held, and of course their exclamations reached the ears of the leader, who turned back.

"Against the rules, Landy," he said, smiling; "but since you're a new member, I won't throw it away. Here, let me empty out all the cartridges. You haven't any more with you, I suppose? Well, an empty revolver can't do any great harm. But be sure not to bring it again."

"But it might have come in handy right now, in case Dolph Gruber turned out to be ugly," protested Landy, regretfully replacing the shiny thing in his pocket, with a shame-faced air.

"Oh! well," said Elmer, as he started off again on the trail, "if twelve husky scouts can't manage one man, they'd better call themselves squaws, and put on skirts; that's all. Come on, fellows!"




The two new scouts, Landy Smith and Phil Dale, watched every action of Elmer with wonder and the deepest interest.

"I never knew before there was so much in this business," the former kept declaring to Matty, who chanced to keep near him. "Why, he doesn't seem to have any great trouble finding where Dolph went along, and yet for the life of me I can't see a blessed sign of a footprint."

"Well," laughed Matty, "for that matter neither can some of the rest of us, but we're keen to learn; and I know I'm picking up new points all the time. You see Elmer lived away out in the Canadian Great West, where he mixed up with cowboys, hunters and all such chaps. That's where he learned lots of things that just fit in the scouting line like pie."

"What's he going to do now?" demanded Landy, seeing their leader coming to a sudden halt, and waving for the others to approach.

"He wants to show us something," replied Matty. "You see, Elmer is anxious that every member of the troop, whether he belongs to the Wolf Patrol, the Beaver, or the new Eagle that is being formed, shall be as well posted in woodcraft as he is himself. So even while we're following up this trail, bent on business, he finds interesting things now and then to explain to us."[81]

As the entire group of scouts gathered around where the leader bent over the ground, Elmer pointed downward, saying:

"Here's something, fellows, that I thought you ought to take note of. It may be of considerable benefit to you at some time or other, when perhaps you're passing through a test of trail following. I suppose every one of you can see this plain track of Dolph's shoe here?"

"Sure!" replied a number of the boys, readily enough; for evidently Elmer had picked out a particularly prominent impression when starting in to paint his little lesson.

"I'm going to hazard the declaration that this track was made about seven this morning; that at the time Dolph was carrying the little girl in his arms, and probably holding his hand over her mouth in order to prevent her crying out loud so as to attract attention."

"Well, I declare, that's a whole heap to say, Elmer," remarked Toby; although the expression on his face was rather that of eagerness to hear more, than doubt concerning the ability of Elmer to make good his assertion.

As for the two new scouts, they were beyond saying anything, but could only gasp and exchange looks.

"Now, you are wondering how I know those three things," Elmer went on. "And perhaps some of you are thinking that I asked Mrs. Gruber what time it was when Dolph came home, and acted like a brute. But I didn't; and only know, like the rest of you, that it was some time this morning. But I happened to remember that there was a queer little shower early this morning. It stopped as suddenly as it began. All the way up to here I could see signs of water in the tracks, but you notice there are none in these footprints now. That shower quit at five minutes to seven in Hickory Ridge. Making allowance for[82] the difference in distance, I reckon Dolph was right here when it let up, say at even seven."

"Gee! that's going some!" muttered Landy, who was listening with rapt attention.

"Now, about his carrying the girl—that's easy. The soil is so soft right here, that it would show even the small print of her shoes. I saw them just back yonder, where we passed the big oak tree, but there's never a sign here. It stands to reason Dolph wouldn't turn the child loose; and so he must have picked her up."

"Because she was getting worn out, do you think, Elmer?" asked Mark.

"Well, that may have been the cause; and yet, perhaps, he had another reason, which brings me to the third statement I made. He was holding his hand over her mouth! I'm only making a bold stab at that, fellows, and if you pay attention I'll try to explain on what I base my views."

"Sure we will, Elmer; you've got us all tuned up to top notch," remarked Red.

"And as for me," said Landy, helplessly, "I'm in a fog, drifting about, and not knowing where I'll land. For the life of me I can't see how you figure out such wonderful things, Elmer."

"Listen, then," went on the acting scout master, "up to near here the trail led along in a direct track. I could see that Dolph was following some line he had no doubt marked out for himself. Then suddenly he had darted aside. That was where he grabbed up the child, if the tracks stood for anything. Do you see where he began to move along so as to keep this fringe of bushes in front? All right. Mark, you walk over to that big clump, and tell me if there isn't plain marks there showing where Dolph knelt down. You can't mistake the impression of his[83] knees, and where the toes of his shoes dug into the soil two feet below."

Mark thereupon hastened to obey, while the balance of the scouts awaited his report with mingled feelings of anxiety and hope.

They saw him bend over as though keenly observing.

Then Mark straightened up. His face was smiling, as he called out triumphantly:

"By all that's wonderful they're here, just as you said they would be, Elmer. I know a man knelt down as well as if I saw him. And wait, here's the tracks of little shoes again, just beside him."

"I supposed you would find her trail there," resumed Elmer, quietly, "because it stood to reason that as Dolph crouched down behind the bushes he would drop her on the ground; all the while, remember, possibly holding his hand over Ruth's little mouth to keep her from betraying him."

"If that don't beat the Dutch!" ejaculated Landy. "Do you mean to tell me you read all that just from the signs? After this I'll believe anything. Why, a fellow'd think you'd been right on the spot, and actually watched Dolph."

"But see here, Elmer," spoke up Red Huggins, perhaps thinking to get the leader in a hole, or else honestly seeking further enlightenment; "what ever made Dolph act in that silly way? Do you think he was going out of his head, and believin' the police were hot on his trail?"

Elmer smiled.

"I've been thinking of that, Red," he remarked, "and come to this conclusion. He must have heard voices, or else caught the sound of wheels over in that direction, for[84] you see that he dropped down behind the bushes on the east side, showing the danger must have been to the west!"

All of the boys turned and stared in that quarter.

"Matty," said Elmer, "while the rest of us stay right here, suppose you start off directly west of this. Don't go out of sight; and unless my theory is all wrong you won't have to. Because I'll be mighty much surprised if you don't run across a road pretty quick!"

Of course Matty Eggleston made the utmost haste to comply with the directions of his chief. As leader of the Beaver Patrol he was decidedly interested in everything that pertained to woodcraft, and the way in which Elmer was showing the wonders of the forest trailer's art captivated him.

The rest of the scouts stood there, all eyes following the form of their companion as he made his way between the trees, avoiding such bushes as impeded his forward movements.

Would he find that the supposition of the trail follower was correct? Was there a road so close to them, hidden by the thick undergrowth?

Suddenly Matty whirled around. He made a gesture that told of delight almost beyond his ability to express. And then they heard his shout.

"Here's your old road, Elmer, I declare if it ain't, just as you said!"

"Bully for Elmer!" exclaimed the impulsive Red.

"Say, you've been up in this region before, haven't you, Elmer?" asked Phil Dale, who seemed to be the "Doubting Thomas" of the little flock; for these were things so remarkable he must believe the scout-master knew beforehand, or else was playing a practical joke on his comrades.

"Never in all my life," replied Elmer, and Phil believed[85] him; then elevating his voice the leader called out: "Go on, and get to the road, Matty. I want you to take a look, and tell me if you can see the marks of rubber tires there in the mud or dust."

A minute later and the other shouted back:

"Just as sure as you live, fellows, I've found the marks where a car rushed past. Must have gone at a pretty sharp clip, too, because it sent the mud flying from this little depression here."

"Let's get over there with Matty," remarked Elmer. "We can come back here afterward and take up the trail again."

Two minutes later and the scouts stood on the road. It was only a country road, and not a general thoroughfare. Few vehicles passed during the day, and apparently it must be a sort of connecting link between turnpikes that ran parallel.

"The car was going in the same direction we are headed," announced Elmer, after looking at the marks.

"Well, I'll be blessed if I can see how you found that out," declared Phil, as he shook his head and looked puzzled.

"Oh! nothing could be more simple," declared Elmer. "In a case of this kind all a scout has to do is to keep his wits about him, and look sharp. Now, just as Matty guessed that this car was hitting up a pretty good pace when it went past, because it threw the soft mud to some little distance when it dashed through this puddle, so I examine some of the splashes on the leaves here by the roadside. And as you see, fellows, they are, without a single exception, all on this one side of leaves and the trunks of these close-by trees. Do you get on now, Phil?"

"Well, I declare, you are a wonder, Elmer Chenowith!"[86] exclaimed the other, as his face lighted up. "I used to think it was only guesswork, this reading tracks; but now I can see that it's all figured out just like you'd get an algebra problem in school. Given one thing, and the other must follow dead sure. Of course that car was going north! It couldn't be anything else, because these mud splashes are every one on the south side of the leaves and trees."

"Well, this has been an eye-opener to me, fellows!" declared Landy, earnestly. "And I give you fair notice right now that I'm going to know a heap more about this fine business before I've been long in the Beaver Patrol."

"I say, Elmer, do you mean to tell us this car which Dolph heard coming, and hid to escape being seen—that it was the one we saw start out for Cramertown?" asked Red.

"No, it couldn't have been, for a good many reasons. That car didn't leave the cottage of Mrs. Gruber till just before we did, and that was plumb nine. You remember, I think I proved by the rain token, that Dolph was here at seven. So it must have been another car entirely—perhaps some people going to Rockaway or Hickory Ridge, and in a hurry. But Dolph, hearing them coming, and being afraid by reason of his guilt, hid behind the bushes, and, I imagine, must have clapped a hand over little Ruth's mouth. If the men in the machine heard a child's cry they might want to jump out and investigate, and Dolph wasn't going to take any chances."

"All this is mighty interesting, Elmer," said Mark; "and we think you've proved every point you made. What comes next on the program?"

"Back to the trail, and keep right along. Sooner or later I expect we're going to run this scoundrel to earth and make a prisoner of him. But he's got several hours'[87] start of us yet," Elmer replied, leaving the road that had told them so much, and aiming once more for the clump of bushes where the impression of Dolph's two knees could be so plainly seen.

"But unless he's a regular trotter he ain't going to keep on the go long," remarked Lil Artha, confidently.

"Not much," declared Ted Burgoyne. "You thee, he's got that little girl along, and it thtands to reason Ruth ith about played out right here. Tho, fellows, the chances are Dolph he'll have to just pick her up and carry her. And with thuch a load why he'll thoon get tired and camp. That's where we'll have the hunch on him."

"Yes," Elmer went on, "I quite agree with Ted there, and expect that before another hour at least we'll run on our game."

Once more, then, he led the way, with an interested and enthusiastic bunch of scouts trailing close at his heels.

Frequently there would arise little problems that had to be solved. Now it was an apparent absence of marks, showing that the ground had grown more rocky, and no footprint appeared. Then again, Dolph followed a worn trail, so that it was necessary to make sure he stuck to this.

Elmer was equal to each and every demand upon his knowledge. When none of the other boys could discover a sign of tracks, he pointed out to where a stone had been overturned since the little shower had passed; or it might be calling their attention to a broken twig, a bruised leaf that had been trodden on, or in various other ways proved his point, as was made clear when a little later they would again run upon the footprints left by Dolph.

They had now come quite some distance, and a few of[88] the fellows were showing signs of wishing to rest up for a brief interval. Elmer himself could stand any amount of fatigue without giving way, but there were untrained muscles among the scouts; and after all it was not so vital that they rush things.

"Here, let's rest for ten minutes or so, fellows," he remarked, as they came to a little bluff about fifteen or twenty feet in height, at the foot of which the trail seemed to run.

The boys threw themselves down on the ground, some of them glad of the chance to recuperate without having to show the white feather. It was very thoughtful of the leader, to be sure, displaying this regard for their natural pride.

"He sure can't be a great ways from here, Elmer?" remarked Matty. "Seems to me the trail has been growing fresher lately."

"That's right, it has," replied the other, nodding his head. "One place I found where Dolph had rested, I don't know how long, but perhaps half an hour; for the child walked again after they started, as if refreshed by the stop."

"Then we're apt to run on them any old time now?" suggested Toby, eagerly.

"Just what we are," Elmer answered, as he kept his face turned upward toward the top of the little bluff overhead.

"What you looking at, Elmer?" demanded Red Huggins, half starting up.

"Just cast your eyes up where that clump of grass grows, fellows," the leader said, pointing his finger; "I thought I saw something moving there, and——"[89]

What he meant to say remained unspoken, for just then a slice of the edge of the bluff suddenly gave way, and amid a mass of earth a human figure came rolling down the sharp incline!




"Whoop! it's that Dolph, fellows!" cried Red, jumping to his feet, and showing signs of being prepared to fight if necessary; though scouts are supposed to resort to such methods only in cases of absolute necessity, and then generally in defense of some one weaker than themselves.

"Look at him turning somersaults, would you?" shouted Landy.

"Oh! my stars, what a header! He'll break his neck, sure!" exclaimed Toby.

The tumbling figure, with arms and legs flying every which way, landed in a heap close beside the bunch of startled scouts, every one of whom was now erect, and observing the dusty intruder with staring eyes.

"Wow! look at him, fellows! We've sure seen that gent before!" said Red, as the unfortunate spy sat up, and dug his knuckles into his eyes as if to clear them of the dust.

His nose was bleeding more or less, and he showed other signs of rough treatment; but apparently he had not been seriously hurt by his fall.

"It's Matt Tubbs!" remarked Elmer, with a smile, as though after all he was not so very much astonished at the phenomenon.

"Say, however did that chump get here?" demanded Toby.

"Yes, it's me, all right," remarked the object of their[91] attention, with rather a sickly grin, as he started to get out a handkerchief to apply to his bleeding nose; "anyhow, it's what's left of me after that nasty tumble."

"Are you hurt bad, Matt?" demanded Dr. Ted, scenting an opportunity to practice his arts of healing; "because if you feel that you've broken a leg, or your collar bone, call on me for help. Won't charge you a cent either. Glad to cut off a limb or do any little favor. Don't be bashful, now; just thspeak up."

"Oh! rats, I ain't hurt so bad as that! I reckon I kin get up all right," and as he spoke Matt proceeded to prove the truth of his assertion by scrambling to his feet, though he winced a little as he did so.

"Where'd you ever come from?" demanded Matty. "We felt sure you'd gone off in that car with your father and the police, headed for Cramertown. Say, are they near here; and did they turn back?"

"Naw," grunted Matt. "I jumped out after I got to thinkin' about it. Seemed to me after what I saw Elmer Chenowith do yesterday up at the place of my aunt, that he'd be more apt to find that pesky Dolph Gruber than a pack of noisy cops. So I just follered the bunch, that's all."

And strange to say, Elmer felt more pride over hearing one who had been an enemy speak these words of praise than he would have been had his chums gone into ecstasies over his work as a trailer. He believed he knew what was going on in that mind of Matt. And he was not at all sorry for it, either. It might mean great things in the near future for both the Fairfield boys, and those of the Hickory Ridge troop.

"D'ye mean to tell us, Matt, you've been dodging after us right along, and none of us saw you?" demanded Red.[92]

The Fairfield bully grinned; and as his broad face was by this time pretty well smeared with traces of blood, he presented a queer appearance while so doing.

"All the same, that's just what I done, Red," he declared. "Sometimes I was that clost I heard every word you fellers said. Then agin I dropped back, when the cover got thinner. An' right here let me say I was huggin' the ground all the time Elmer, he says such great things about the trail, an' the ottermobile on that road. Never knowed there could be so much diskivered by just peekin' at footprints. Gosh! 'twas great, that's what."

"Well, where are you going?" asked Toby, between whom and the Fairfield bully there was a long standing grudge.

"Same as you fellers, I reckon," grinned Matt.

"He means he wants to stick along with us, boys," remarked Red.

"Just like his impudence!" snarled Chatz, unable to bring himself to believe there was an atom of good in this hulking Fairfield leader, who had many a time started a fight when the boys of the rival towns tried to compete on the diamond, the gridiron, or at hockey on the ice of the Sweetwater River.

Matt heard these remarks, which were none too complimentary. He seemed to have made up his mind not to pay any attention to them, much as they must have set his fighting blood to coursing hotly through his veins.

His eyes were fastened on Elmer alone, as though he recognized the fact of his leadership, and that what he said was apt to go.

Elmer made up his mind immediately. He considered that this was too good an opportunity to be lost. Matt, the rough and ready fighter of the neighboring town, was at[93] the crossroads. A very little thing would turn him one way or the other. He might be said to be groping in the dark. And what scout worthy of the name would forget his vows, and turn a cold shoulder upon a seeker after light?

So he turned toward Matt a face that was filled with encouragement; and even before the leader of the Wolf Patrol had spoken a single word Matt realized that his case was as good as won.

"Would you mind telling us, Matt," said Elmer, pleasantly, "just why you want to go along with us now?"

"Sure not," came the ready answer. "I said, didn't I, that when I saw what blundering fools them jay cops were, I believed there was a heap more chance of Elmer trackin' Dolph Gruber? Well, that's one reason why I want to go along; 'cause I reckon you're just goin' to get that critter, while the police are waitin' for him to show up in Cramertown, where he never meant to go at all."

"But, Matt, there is another reason?" persisted Elmer.

"There be," replied the bully, with one of his grins.

"Tell us what it is," asked Mark.

"Well, you fellers know we're startin' a troop over in Fairfield, don't you?" Matt replied. "I've heard a lot 'bout what this here Elmer Chenowith knowed concernin' woodcraft an' such things. When I seen him take holt of my uncle yest'day, and fix him up just like a reg'lar doctor might, when I didn't know the fust blamed thing to do, says I to myself, says I, 'It's time you was findin' out all 'bout what this here scout business means; 'cause thar's a heap more connected with it than fightin'.' An' I want to be along to see what else Elmer kin show us, when the trail she grows dim. There seems to be somethin' in here," and he clapped a hand on his breast, "that just wants to[94] larn 'bout these things. Never felt just this way afore, give you my word I ain't. Kin I go, Elmer?"

The scout leader gave a quick glance at his chums. Several nodded, hardly knowing themselves why they did it, save that somehow they had been affected by what the bully of Fairfield had just said.

"I don't think a single scout will raise any objection to your keeping along with us, Matt," Elmer said, seriously. "Only for the time being you must promise to be bound by the same rules that the rest are."

"Promise anything, Elmer, so's you let me go 'long," declared the other. "Now what d'ye want of me?"

"Only that you agree to obey orders," Elmer said.

"Whose orders?" demanded Matt, quickly.

"I happen to represent our scout-master, Mr. Garrabrant," answered the leader of the Wolf Patrol; "and in his absence the members of the troop look to me to command."

Matt grinned some more, and nodded cheerfully.

"Sure I'll do whatever you say while I'm along, Elmer," he declared. "And when we ketch up with that coward Dolph, I hope you set me on him. I'm just boiling over for a fight; and he'll get his medicine or else my name is Mud."

"That's just it, Matt," remarked Elmer. "We hope not to have to fight at all, if we can manage to get the child away from her stepfather. But one thing I will promise you, Matt—if there should be any need of strong-arm action, I'll call on you to do your share. You'll be on the firing line."

"All right, Elmer; and now forget I'm along, and just go on like you would if I hadn't come tumbling down[95] that pesky slope like a bag of oats. Wow! my elbows must be skinned to beat the band."

And Elmer knew full well that after that his every movement would be watched by Matt with the utmost eagerness. A new world was opening up to this rough boy of Fairfield; through the open door he was beginning to catch enticing glimpses of things he had never dreamed existed on this earth. And Elmer could not find it in his heart to close that door that was ajar.

So they started again.

Whenever there came a brief halt, as the trailer found a temporary hitch in his work, Matt Tubbs invariably pressed to the front, and had eyes and ears only for the one whom he had begun to take as his pattern. And knowing his utter ignorance along the line of reading signs, Elmer took especial pains to explain just why he did this thing or that.

It was an object lesson that was apt to prove invaluable to every fellow who clustered around "the boy who knew." Besides the information they thus picked up, the fascination of the thing appealed strongly to their inquiring minds; and as a consequence, every fellow would make it a point to study the gentle arts of woodcraft more and more, as opportunities for doing so arose.

They had gone possibly another mile when Elmer came to a halt, and raised his hand in a way that told his companions he wanted them to stop.

"No noise, please, now, fellows," he said, in a low tone; and the manner of his saying this struck most of the scouts as highly significant.

"Thay, are we near him now?" asked Ted, in a hoarse whisper—he had been keeping close to Matt all the while, from time to time suggesting something in the way of relief from the aches and pains the Fairfield boy was suffering,[96] even to the extent of promising to bind up his skinned elbows at the first chance.

"I believe we are," replied the leader, in the same cautious voice; "in fact, he may right now be within a hundred yards of where we are standing!"




No one said anything immediately.

Although every scout had been showing more or less signs of impatience, and was wishing that they would soon come upon the fugitive who had kidnaped the sweet child of Mrs. Gruber, now that the critical moment seemed near at hand they found themselves attacked with a queer little case of shivers.

Had Elmer's opinion been asked as to what this meant, he might have compared it to the "buck fever" that usually assails a greenhorn on the occasion of his getting his first chance to shoot a deer. It was sheer nervousness, that was all.

All eyes were turned upon the leader as though they looked to him to say just what was next on their program.

"I want you to settle down here and wait for me," he remarked, quietly.

"Does that mean you're going to creep forward and try and glimpse the camp of the enemy?" asked Mark, regretfully; for he would have liked to share this duty with his chum, if possible.

"Yes," replied the other. "From signs I've been noticing along the way lately, I've got a hunch that we're close to that old logging camp I've heard tell of ever since I came to Hickory Ridge. You know it's been deserted now for some ten years because all the big timber was cut that could be moved to the river. Most of this around here is[98] second growth, though a few big trees were left as being crooked or something else."

"You must mean McGraw's Camp!" remarked Mark.

"That was what they used to call it in the old days; and in those times these woods saw some lively goings-on, I understand," Elmer continued.

"I should just say they did," remarked Red. "I've heard my father tell of the awful fights that used to happen every winter up here."

"Say, I was up at McGraw's Camp once about three years ago," broke in Toby. "My folks were out driving and we got lost, bringin' up in the camp. Why, we even had to spend a whole night there, gettin' out the next day. Whee! wasn't ma scared, though? She thought we was all going to be devoured by panthers and bears. Dad, he had to sit up all night in the shanty, keep a fire goin' and guard the door. Every little while she'd pop up and look 'round, like she'd been dreamin' a whole army of wildcats and other varmints had come down the chimbly flue."

"Perhaps your knowledge of the camp may come in handy for us, if we have to use strategy to capture Dolph," suggested Elmer; and immediately Toby swelled out his chest as though he felt that he must henceforth assume great importance in the carrying out of the plan of campaign.

"Now, don't anybody move while I'm gone, remember," said Elmer, in a general way, but with his eye fixed particularly upon Matt Tubbs.

"Nixy for me, Elmer," remarked that worthy, in a low, husky tone. "I'm goin' to lay right here and wait till you come back; that's me."

"And perhaps it might be ath well, Matt, if you allowed me to thee those elbows of yours while we're waiting," said Dr. Ted, officiously edging closer to his prospective patient.[99] "It happens, you thee, that I've got thome excellent thalve along with me. Brought it, not knowing what might happen on a hike. It'll be a good thing, and take thome of the pain out; besides, it's just great to thstart wounds to healing."

"Get busy then, Doc," grinned Matt, peeling off his torn coat, and rolling up both his sleeves.

The act disclosed the badly lacerated elbows; indeed so painful did they appear that some of the scouts could not keep from uttering exclamations of dismay; but Matt was made of stern stuff, and at least affected to look at his wounds with indifference.

Dr. Ted started to work and made considerable of an impression on the rough bully of Fairfield, while he was softly rubbing the ointment on, and then insisting on wrapping a piece of linen, which he pulled out from one of his pockets, around each elbow to keep the wound clean, he said, though Matt declared he wanted his arms free for immediate service.

"There, don't that feel much better?" demanded Ted, when he had completed his job; and Matt drew the sleeves of his torn shirt down again.

"Right you are, Ted; and I'm 'bliged to you. Ain't nawthin' that bothers a feller more'n a skinned elbow, I reckon; and I've had lots of 'em."

"I've heard of one thing that beats a skinned elbow," declared Red.

"I'd like to know," remarked Matt, looking up from under his heavy brows inquiringly at the speaker.

"Why, two skinned elbows, I guess!" chuckled Red, at which the other only grinned as if able to take a joke.

Meanwhile Elmer had made his way cautiously along in the direction of where he believed, from certain signs, he would come upon the deserted old lumber camp.[100]

Although he had not mentioned the fact to his comrades, Elmer was positive that he had smelled wood smoke in the air; and as the gentle breeze happened to be blowing directly in their faces, he knew from this that there must be some kind of fire near by.

This had been the principal thing that caused him to bring the expedition to a halt, while he skirmished ahead, to see what lay there.

Inside of five minutes after quitting the company of his fellow scouts, Elmer had his first glimpse of the old collection of shanties known by the name of McGraw's Camp.

After that he became even more cautious in advancing closer. Not that he fancied Dolph Gruber would be apt to be very much on the alert; for he did not look upon the man as versed to any extent in the ways of the woods, but just on general principles.

He was within sixty feet of the largest building, which had doubtless served as a lodging place for the dozen rough loggers employed here long ago, during several winters, when all at once Elmer froze in his tracks.

A man had come out of the building and proceeded toward a fire that was smouldering close by. Fortunately he did not happen to notice the boy, though Elmer saw him sweep his eyes around in a careless way.

Although the boy had no acquaintance with Dolph Gruber, he had heard the man described so often that he knew immediately this could not be the same party. Gruber was tall and rather thin, whereas this fellow was both short and fat.

"A hobo, or a yeggman," was what flashed though the mind of the lad, as he dropped flat behind some friendly bushes where he could conceal himself, and at the same time observe all that went on.

The fellow had all the ear-marks of a genuine tramp.[101] Moreover, he looked ugly, as if he might prove a hard customer, should he be assailed by the scouts.

"Getting breakfast," thought Elmer, as he noted how the man started the fire up again; and then after it was blazing cheerily began to put on a frying pan which must contain some sort of meat.

"Hello! another of the same breed!" the boy whispered to himself a short time later, as a second fellow shambled from the long log cabin, and carrying in his hand some sort of tomato can which might contain coffee.

"They keep late hours, all right," chuckled Elmer, noting these preparations for a meal; "or else they're getting this stuff ready for Dolph. That sounds more likely; and it looks as if he knew these fellows were here when he headed this way."

The presence of these two "Weary Willies" on the scene promised to complicate things more than a little. Three husky looking men instead of only one meant that the scouts would have to be pretty smart if they hoped to outwit the trio.

Still, Elmer had little fear of the result. He knew that with a baker's dozen of good fellows at his back, he ought to be able to come out ahead. But then, if his partly formed plans came out decently there would be no need of a rumpus, for the rescue of little Ruth might be effected through strategy, just as he had told the warlike Matt Tubbs.

Now and then he would glance toward the big cabin. Doubtless Dolph and the girl were inside that; and he wished he could find a way to creep up, so as to peep in through one of the openings. If he were absolutely sure that the two tramps would remain where they were, and not come prowling around to the rear, Elmer might have taken the chances of such a move.[102]

But there was really no need. Whatever it was the men were cooking over the fire, it seemed to take but a short time; for the fat tramp presently waddled off to the door of the cabin, thrust his head inside, and bawled out something.

And presently a man came out. He was leading a little girl with golden hair, undoubtedly Ruth Tubbs. Elmer saw immediately that she had been sobbing, for she put her small hands to her face as if to rub away the tears. And he gritted his teeth when he saw the man shake her savagely, heard him growl some sort of a threat as to what he would do if she didn't stop crying.

He made her sit down near the fire on a log. Then he gave her something to eat on a piece of birch bark, which one of the tramps had stripped, fresh and clean, from a near-by tree.

At first the girl did not seem to want to eat, but upon being threatened again by the brute, she made a pretense of doing so, though it could be plainly seen that grief for her mother was taking away any appetite she might have had.

Elmer had seen enough from that side of the camp. If he could only withdraw now, he wanted to move around so as to come upon the place from the opposite side, and after that he could shape his plans of action.

But was it safe to try and creep away while those three fellows were so close to him? Should some movement on his part attract the attention of either one of the ugly looking tramps, who often looked that way, an investigation would be next in order. And while Elmer did not much doubt but that he could easily give them the slip, as he was a good runner, his presence there, acting in such a suspicious manner, would alarm the trio of tough characters, so that they would be put on their guard and flee, or else[103] shut themselves up in the log cabin and laugh at all the puny efforts of the scouts to get at them.

So he was very cautious as he began to slowly push back. Inch at a time he moved, save when very sure of his cover. All the while he kept a vigilant watch over the parties in the open spot.

Once Elmer's heart seemed to be almost in his mouth. This was when the fatter one of the two suddenly craned his neck in an attitude of scrutiny, as though he fancied he had seen something moving off there in the underbrush.

Of course, if he made the first move as though bent on an investigation, Elmer meant to spring boldly to his feet and run for it, possibly in a direction away from the spot where he had left his comrades.

But the man did not even get up from his seat. Judging from his looks, Elmer decided that he must be a lazy sort of fellow. And then again, why should the tramp entertain the least suspicion that any human being could be loitering around the old McGraw Camp, so far removed from the railroad, and even the dirt roads leading to main thoroughfares?

When things seemed all quiet again, Elmer continued his wriggling movements, and presently arrived at a point where he could make better progress, as the cover was heavier.

At length he made a detour, approached the cabin again, and scanned its immediate surroundings. Satisfied with what he had learned, he proceeded to find the impatient scouts, from whom he had been absent now almost an hour.

They were in a state of mind approaching insurrection. Of course all manner of dreadful things were suggested under their breath, as the boys huddled together. Every slight sound made them start and look hurriedly around. When a gray squirrel dropped a nut it seemed as though a[104] gun had gone off; and later on when he himself frisked around a neighboring tree butt in search of a further supply, Landy Smith could hardly keep from crying out, his nerves being all on edge with the strain.

Chatz had looked at his watch for the twentieth time, and murmurs were beginning to rise all along the line, when suddenly keen-eyed Mark exclaimed:

"I saw something move right then, fellows; there it is again. It's Elmer, all right; and he looks as though he might have discovered something of importance!"

"Bully! bully!" chuckled Ty Collins; "now we'll get into action, I guess!"




"Did you find 'em, Elmer?"

"What's the use asking such silly questions, when you can see right now from the grin on his face that he did."

"Huh! don't you be so sure, Red Huggins; perhaps he's laughing at the way the sun reflects on your hair!"

"Tell us what you saw, Elmer; we've passed an awful hour," said Mark, sighing.

"Worst ever; thought it was five times as long!" complained Toby.

They listened attentively as the returned scout related his adventures while taking a survey of the old logging camp at close quarters.

"Three of 'em—three husky tramps all in a bunch! Say, that's going some, now, fellows!" remarked Ty.

"Ain't gettin' cold feet, I hope, so soon?" scoffed Red.

"When I do, you'll never know it, 'cause why—you'll be about fifty miles away, scootin' for all you're worth toward home, sweet home," declared Ty, aggressively.

"Yes, you see!" remarked Phil Dale, wagging his head significantly.

"Now he's thinking of that popgun of his, Elmer, and thinks you'll be sorry because you emptied all the cartridges out," said Tom Cropsey.

"Oh! I'm not bothering my head a bit over that," declared the leader. "Fact is, I'd be afraid to have that gun around if it was loaded. We're not going to need such[106] things to capture these fellows. Perhaps there may be plenty of other ways to scare them into giving up."

"But say, if it comes to a show-down, Elmer, you don't mind if I just point my cannon at 'em, do you, and threaten to blow the whole blooming lot into the next county if they don't up with their little hands?" Phil asked.

"Not a bit," replied the other. "Make as much use of an empty pistol as you want, but be sure the time is ripe. Only as a last resort pull it on the men. And now, draw in a little closer and we'll talk this thing over. Thirteen heads ought to be some better than one."

Every one had a chance to make suggestions. Elmer invited them to exchange views on the subject. He could pick up a clever idea once in a while by this means, for all boys do not think alike, and where he might overlook something, one of the others would be sure to strike it.

"First of all, remember that we are not up here to capture these tramps, though, of course, it may come to that before we're through with the thing. To get possession of little Ruth, that's our main idea," Elmer said more than once.

"But even if we do, won't they follow after us, and try to get the girl back again?" asked Red, who, it could be plainly seen, was just spoiling for action.

"Perhaps they will if they know where to look for us!" replied the leader.

"Oh! I begin to see; you expect to blind the trail; or send 'em off on a false scent! Ain't you the cute one, though, Elmer? I take off my hat to you every time," chimed in "Lil Artha," who had been strangely quiet during most of this discussion, though he was doing a heap of thinking.

Matt Tubbs had listened to what Elmer had said. His face had grown dark with one of his passionate uprisings.[107]

"See here," he broke out with at this point, "why don't we just walk right into McGraw Camp, and up to that coward, Dolph Gruber? What's the use knuckling down in this way, I'd like to know? Thirteen of us ought to be enough to turn them three old maids down right smart. Let's just rush the place, and give 'em the lesson all kidnapers ought to get! Who's with me?"

He looked straight at Red, first of all, as if aware of his hasty temper. Indeed, that impulsive individual did make a little move as though tempted to step over to the side of Matt. Fighting had always come easy to Red in the old days before he joined the scouts, and it was mighty hard work conquering the spirit that had such a strong grip on his nature.

Then some magnet caused him to twist to one side, and send an appealing look toward Elmer, who shook his head in the negative. Upon which Red fell back again with a grunt. He had declined the plain invitation to rebel, which the stranger in the camp had thrown at his feet.

No one else stirred. They even frowned, as though astonished at the audacity of this one who had tried to raise the standard of rebellion among the scouts.

"Huh! afraid to risk it, hey?" sneered Matt. "Don't like the idea, of running up against a hard fist, is that it, fellows? Say, is that the sort of milksops this here scout business makes of boys? If it is, I reckon I ain't got much use for it in mine."

"Hold on!"

It was Elmer who spoke just those two words, and the bully of Fairfield turned to look in the face of the Wolf Patrol leader. He stopped sneering, and even dropped his eyes before the accusing ones of Elmer Chenowith.

"You forget yourself, Matt," said Elmer, quietly. "I always thought you were a fellow of your word; that you[108] prided yourself on doing what you said you would. But I see I'm mistaken. You promised me that if we allowed you to come along you would obey orders. We scouts have subscribed to the rules of an organization that makes obedience to superior officers a thing of prime importance. These fellows believe in me, trust in me. They know I will not fail them purposely. And yet you have tried to get them to rebel, and do something I've positively forbidden."

Matt looked very uneasy.

"I reckon I was away off, Elmer; excuse me," he muttered; and that was more of an apology than any other boy had even heard Matt Tubbs utter.

"All right; but you must learn to look at things in another light," Elmer went on, severely. "Now, you know that there are boys here who have been accustomed to rough-house tactics almost as much as you yourself. A little while ago it wouldn't have needed a second invitation to coax Red, and Toby, and several others to trot along at your heels, and pitch into those tramps like hot cakes. But they have turned over a new leaf. Not that they can't fight, and fight hard, if necessary; but they are no longer looking for trouble."

Matt scratched his head, and tried to appear as though he understood; but it was slow to penetrate his brain; all his life he had written only on one side of the slate; in fact, until lately he did not know there was another side.

"Obedience is a true scout's glory," Elmer continued, with a purpose in view. "That man is best fitted to command who has learned to obey. So you see, although tempted to join you, not a single one of the boys did so. I do not think you will ever look at things the same way again, or try to create a rebellion in camp where you have been received only on probation."

"That's right; I knows it, Elmer. I was dead wrong.[109] And I'm goin' to do just whatever you say," declared Matt, looking grimly around, as though challenging any boy to dare throw up to him the fact that in doing this he must be showing signs of weakness.

"Then we'll forget all about the incident. Now, let's get back to where we were, and see if we can hit on some plan to get little Ruth away." Elmer went on as pleasantly as though nothing had occurred to ruffle his temper.

"I was wondering," said Chatz, "if given a little time, they mightn't do all the capturing themselves, suh."

"How is that, Chatz?" demanded Toby; "I know my skull is thick, but somehow I just don't seem to grab that idea on the jump."

"Yes, explain what you've got in mind, please," remarked Elmer.

"Well, I remembered that when you were telling all you had seen, suh, that you said the fat tramp and the tall thin one were taking a swig every few minutes out of a couple of big whisky flasks they carried in their pockets, and which you guessed Dolph must have fetched along for them."

"Oh! yes, now I begin to see," remarked Elmer.

"Supposing now, suh, they are allowed to drain those same flasks, do you believe they would be knocked out; and if we entered the camp it would be to find both of them fast asleep, and dead to the world?"

"That's an idea worth considering," Elmer declared. "But we shouldn't depend entirely upon it."

"If there was only some way of getting those two men away from the camp it would make it easy sailing for us," suggested Mark.

"They act as though they expected to stay around here for some time," Elmer answered. "In fact, from a few words I happened to hear them let fall, I wouldn't be surprised[110] if they had done something or other that made them afraid that the police might be having an eye out for two fellows of their description. And that's the main reason they are sticking so close to this lonesome lumber camp."

"Suppose you outline your scheme, Elmer," Red said, humbly; "we'll fall in line, and endorse it, no matter what it is."

"Well, it's getting on toward the middle of the day right now, and since some of us had our breakfasts right early, suppose we take a snack before tackling this job," Matty suggested.

When the question of eating comes up among a party of hungry boys it is certain to take precedence, just as a motion to adjourn is said to be always in order.

"That gets me where I live," declared Red, nodding his head vigorously.

"All in favor hold up your right hands," said the acting scout-master; and immediately eleven hands shot into the air.

Every one present had voted in favor of the motion save the leader and Matt Tubbs. And even the latter looked happier than before, when, taking a good sized roll from his haversack, Elmer divided it in half and offered one portion to the uninvited guest.

Perhaps, after all, it was the part of wisdom for the scouts to partake of lunch before entering upon any more strenuous work. Boys never feel quite so venturesome on an empty as a full stomach. At least, after the long hike, they needed refreshments, every one thought.

"Look at Ted, will you; he's the disappointed one," whispered Mark in the ear of the scout master.

Indeed, Ted did continue to frown as if he had met with a severe loss; and yet as a rule he had never been known as a fighter.[111]

"Don't you see what it is," answered Elmer, amused. "He was just beginning to believe there would be a rumpus and lots of bruises to be taken care of. Ted is getting more and more earnest in his liking for the profession of a surgeon."

"Huh!" grunted Toby, who chanced to be standing close enough to hear what passed between the two chums; "he's getting more and more cracked, that's what. Unless he curls that disposition of his, I'm afraid he'll get bounced from the scouts before long."

"Why, what's his desire to be a doctor and a surgeon got to do with it?" asked Mark, curiously.

"Well, I'm getting afraid of that fellow, for a fact. He just keeps thinking of those old operations he's been reading about, all the blessed time. Plague take it, fellows, I'm suspecting that unless Ted finds a subject to work on when the fit takes him, he'll make one! Anyhow, I'm going to be mighty careful how I let myself go out alone with him after dark."

Elmer and Mark looked at Toby to see if he might not be joking, but if so, he certainly managed to keep a straight face through it all.

"Oh! I guess there isn't any danger of that," said the patrol leader, soothingly; "and all of us have to admit that Ted certainly knows his business very well. He can dress a wound splendidly, and I'd be willing to trust him to set my arm if ever I was unlucky enough to get it broken. Don't worry about Ted, Toby; he's all to the good, and I suspect that pretty much all of that ferocious spirit is put on for effect. He can be as gentle as a woman when he's dressing a wound, for I've watched him."

As all the scouts were now through "feeding," as some of them called the process of eating their "snacks" carried along for the purpose, the plan of campaign proposed[112] by Elmer was gone over carefully, so that every fellow might be sure he understood the part he was expected to play in the round-up.

"All ready, suh!" announced Chatz Maxfield, finally.

"Then we'll begin to advance, and this time we will do without the bugle, Mark. Remember your patrol calls, and keep your ears open for my signal. The whistle might arouse suspicions here, so I'll give the harsh cry of the bluejay three times. Then act! Now, be off, all of you; and Matt, you come with me!"




When the acting scout-master thus asked the recognized bully of Fairfield to accompany him, he had several good reasons for the step, strange as it might seem to Mark and the others, who fancied that possibly Matt should be posted at some distance where he was likely to do no harm.

But Elmer preferred to have him under his own eye. Moreover, the scheme upon which he was embarked was tinged with more or less danger; and Matt was a husky chap, capable of giving a good account of himself.

But then Matt Tubbs was not the only one who accompanied the leader. Elmer had chosen to take with him Ted, Lil Artha, Toby, Mark, Landy and Tom Cropsey. This left five others, and they were also divided into two detachments, one consisting of Matty, Phil, Chatz, Ty; while Red Huggins made up the other all by himself.

As to the plan of campaign, it might be well to explain what Elmer had fashioned in his mind, as justifying their efforts.

He had noticed, when spying around the further end of the long log cabin, an odd tunnel underneath the walls. This, no doubt, had been made by some woodchuck or other animal, desirous of finding a snug winter home.

Elmer fully believed that the passage was amply large enough to allow a boy to crawl through. And as it was apparently situated at that end of the building least likely to be used by the tramps, he expected that he and his mates would be able to creep in without being discovered.

Supposing his expectations were fulfilled; then the second[114] detachment was to hide as near the door of the cabin as they could. Finally, Red, at some little distance, was to play his part in the game.

Red had always been known as a most adroit "fox" in the games the lads of Hickory Ridge played. Once he started out to elude those hounds set upon his track, none had ever been successful in overtaking him. His methods of dodging and doubling on his track were famous throughout all the region, and in selecting him for the part of fox Elmer knew just what to expect.

Red was to "toll" the tramps out of the cabin and lose them somewhere in the depths of the woods. Meanwhile, with perhaps a clear field before them, Elmer and his scouts could easily accomplish the balance of the affair.

Of course there was always the question as to whether it would work.

Following the lead of the scout master, the little squad of boys slipped around so as to come upon the long cabin from the rear. Everything seemed peaceful. No one was in sight, the men having apparently stepped inside again after Dolph and little Ruth had been fed.

This was as it should be, and Elmer had indeed figured on it when laying his plans. In single file they approached as near as was deemed safe; then, at a signal from the leader, the scouts dropped flat behind some bushes. From this point on, their progress must be much slower, since they would have to do considerable crawling.

Before making a move, however, Elmer gave the signal that was to start the other detachments. This, as agreed on, consisted of the harsh cry of the bluejay, and which in the still air of the woods could be easily heard for a long distance.

After that things were to happen in regulation order. Elmer had calculated just how long it might take his band[115] to obtain entrance to the cabin; also for the other detachment to find a hiding place near by. Red was scheduled to commence operations just half an hour after he heard the bluejay cry three times. And to make sure, he carried the nickel watch of Chatz with him.

"Come on, fellows, and be careful, every one," was the low whisper which Elmer allowed to float back over his shoulder.

Having been over the ground once before, and with his customary sagacity memorized every little point that could be used to advantage, Elmer was not in the least dismayed at certain obstacles that from time to time had to be surmounted.

Ten minutes after the signal had been given he led his line of creeping scouts up to the further end of the long, low cabin. And so far as they knew no hostile eye had taken note of their coming.

The tunnel was close at hand. Its smooth walls told of the many times the animal responsible for its presence had crept in and out. And Elmer noted with considerable satisfaction that his former conception of its capacity had not been amiss. Yes, even the stoutest of the scouts could pass through, with a little assistance.

Even here the shrewdness of the young scout-master showed itself. He had arranged his schedule so that this individual, who chanced to be Landy, always known as a fat youth, though fond of all outdoor sports, should come last. This, it may be noted in passing, was done so that in case he did stick in the tunnel he might not block the passage of others whose presence was vital to the success of the plan.

Elmer never forgot anything he heard or read, and it happened that not so very long before he had been interested in an account of the escape from Libby Prison of a[116] large number of Union prisoners during the dark days of the Civil War, and vividly remembered how there might have been many more follow the same route only that an ambitious fat man closed the passage, since he could neither go on nor return.

Of course it was the intention of the scout-master himself to lead the way. He could not think of delegating that important function to any one else. And Lil Artha was to follow at his heels, to be succeeded by others, Matt Tubbs coming just before Landy, on account of his size.

Lying on his back, Elmer started in head first. This he did because the tunnel performed a quick curve upward, after once passing under the lower log; and as most boys are not as supple as gymnasts and contortionists, and cannot bend backward the same as forward, he knew this was the only way of passing through.

Using his heels to help propel his body forward, and being gently assisted by little pushes from his mates, Elmer readily went through the ceremony of imitating the woodchuck that had used the hole during the past winter.

As he raised his head above the level of the earthen floor he took a quick observation. The boys outside gave an inclination of continuing the pushing movement, so that it became necessary for him to kick in a way they would understand meant a temporary halt.

It was not very light inside the long cabin, because there were only a few openings that had served as windows, and even some of these had become clogged with stray rubbish in the years that elapsed since the logging camp knew life and bustle.

After a brief interval, however, Elmer was able to see fairly well. Just as he had anticipated, those who now occupied the place were down near the door at the other end.[117]

First of all he made out that the three men and one little girl comprised the entire list of occupants. This pleased him, because as yet he had not been positive on this point; and if it proved that there were half a dozen tough characters assembled under the roof of the log bunk-cabin, the work which the scouts had laid out for themselves must have been considerably extended.

Ruth was by herself. She had eaten at the command of her stepfather, but not with any heart in the matter, and now she was huddled in a little bunch, possibly crying under her breath, for she did not dare do anything more to anger the man she feared.

The three men were sprawled out in some of the old bunks. A bundle of dried grass made a fair mattress for fellows unused to anything better, and they seemed quite satisfied with their surroundings.

Elmer knew that he must not linger too long. Behind him were seven impatient fellows, all anxious to do that great crawling stunt. So he once more got in motion and wriggled himself into the cabin.

Luckily the tall, thin tramp whom Elmer mentally called Skinny, even as Fatty covered the stout, happy-go-lucky chap, had a voice like a fog-horn; and a laugh that was as raspy as a file; so that when he got going there was little chance of any slight sound from the end of the long cabin being noticed.

And as the squirrels ran haphazard all over the roof of the building, any such sound would of necessity be attributed to them, for such a thing as a hostile force penetrating this far into the timber would never strike any of the men as possible.

A touch on the arm presently warned Elmer that the first of his followers had wormed his way through that crooked passage. Trust the angular Lil Artha for being able to[118] navigate a zigzag tunnel with greatest ease. No doubt he slipped in and out with almost the handiness with which one might crack a whip.

Then came Toby, Mark and Tom. After that there was a slight hitch, as though perhaps Matt Tubbs might be having a little difficulty; but they could hear faint scratching sounds from the tunnel that proved he was coming along. As for Landy, it did not matter materially whether he arrived or not, so long as he did nothing to alarm the enemy.

Everything was apparently working just as Elmer, like a wise general, had figured on. The three men still continued to talk and argue, being worked up over some sort of proposition that Dolph seemed to be putting before the others.

Several words that came to the ears of Elmer from time to time convinced him that Dolph Gruber was fully as bad a man as he had suspected, for there could be no doubt but that he was now actually planning to lead his reckless companions on a raid of some sort, looking to robbery as a reward of their enterprise.

It must be getting on toward the time appointed when Red was expected to take up his part of the game.

Landy had not yet arrived, but he was heroically endeavoring to join his comrades. Indeed, during a temporary lull in the conversation of the trio of men at the other end of the cabin, Elmer could hear a gasping sound from the tunnel that alarmed him not a little, lest it attract the attention of the plotters, and lead to a search calculated to upset all their well-laid plans.

So he immediately pushed down into the mouth of the tunnel, and groping around until he came in contact with the clawing hands of the stout boy, began to gently but firmly drag him through.

It was a tight fit, but luckily Landy made it, though[119] only for the assistance Elmer gave him he must have stuck there ingloriously until the end of the affair, and thus been unable to assume his proper share in the rescue of little Ruth.

All were now on hand, Landy panting in a way that made Lil Artha dig his elbow into his ribs as a warning that he was making altogether too much noise.

"Why don't Red start his bazoo?" whispered that long-legged worthy in Elmer's ear, as he lay flattened out on the ground in the gloomy far-end part of the loggers' bunk-house.

"Never fear, you can count on Red to do his part," was what the scout master managed to convey in the same sort of careful whisper; and fearful lest Arthur, who was known to be rather talkative, get fairly started, when it was most unwise to indulge in any conversation with those enemies so close by, Elmer gave a gentle "'sh!" to signify that silence just then was golden.

The impatient ones were counting the seconds, and wondering how they could ever hold out much longer. Elmer kept watching the three men, knowing that through their actions at least he could readily tell when the expected break had come.

Ruth still had her face hidden in her dress, and was doubtless filled with grief because of this cruel enforced separation from her own mother.

And as he thus waited, his heart beating faster than its wont, Elmer caught a faint cry. It came from some distance off, and seemed to be filled with the utmost distress.

"Help! oh! help!"

The time limit having expired, that was Red getting in his work as the crafty fox attempting to coax the hounds on a false scent.

The three men had started up. They were looking at[120] each other, as though hardly knowing what to make of it. To hear a call for assistance in this lonely vicinity was certainly enough to bewilder, yes, and perhaps to alarm anyone; especially men whose past had been so very shady that they suspected everything which they could not fully understand.




"Hey! what's that?"

The tall, thin tramp had jumped up from the bunk as he cried out in this fashion. His fat companion was also hastily scrambling out of his comfortable lodgings. Both of them looked alarmed, but Elmer noted with more or less satisfaction that the very one who might have been expected to be anxious showed the least sign of consternation. Indeed, a crafty look had come over Dolph's face, as though something pleasant might have struck him.

"What's the matter with you?" demanded Dolph, who, while he deserted his bunk, did so in a leisurely manner, as if to show his indifference.

"Didn't yuh hear that yell?" exclaimed the lean hobo.

"Sure I did; think I ain't got ears?" replied Dolph, sneeringly. "But what ails the two of ye? Look like ye wanted to skip out, and make tracks."

"But who'd be comin' away up here, 'cept they wanted tuh git us? Sense that leetle job over in Janesville a month back, me an' Pete don't feel jest as safe as we'd like!" went on the thin tramp.

"Aw! go chase yourself, Simsy," scoffed Dolph. "Listen again, would ye? D'ye mark what the cove's ayellin'? He sez he wants help as plain as can be. D'ye think if they was any cop around they'd be tellin' us about it? Wouldn't they rather creep up on us sly like, and nail us before we could run? Rats! jest use yer brains and figger it out!"

"But what is it, then?" demanded the fellow called[122] Simsy; "if so be yuh know, tell us, Dolph? I ain't no coward, but I ain't no fool neither. An' if it comes tuh hangin' around, an' lettin' these jay cops git a strangle hold on me jest tuh show my grit, I tell yuh I ain't in it."

"Say, don't ye know the old loggin' road leads up here from the main line? I heard afore now o' fellers in cars mistakin' the way, or thinkin' they could cut off a heap of distance by startin' in on the side. All right, then; a fool is born every second, they say; an' one of 'em has just gone and got into trouble tryin' to foller that old loggin' road."

The tall tramp looked at his fat companion; and then both turned their eyes on Dolph as he finished speaking. Apparently his logic struck them as sound, for the expression of fear had already begun to vanish from their unwashed faces.

"D'ye really an' truly reckon that's what it be, Dolph?" asked the hobo who had answered to the name of Pete.

"'Cause we don't wanter take any chances, yuh see," added the tall one, shaking his little head to add emphasis to his remark.

"'Course it is," affirmed Dolph, with a laugh of scorn that did more to convince his mates than all his talking. "I tell ye that's some fool feller in a car. He's run into a tree, or some fool play like that, an' p'raps got hurted bad. Looky here, you two, how d'ye know this ain't jest the luckiest thing for us three coves that ever came down the pike?"

"What way?" growled Simsy.

"Yes, speak up an' tell us, Dolph," echoed the other. "Allers sed as how yuh had the brains o' the bunch. Me an' Pete likes the red licker too much. Right now we ain't all we orter be. How's it goin' tuh be lucky for us three?"[123]

"Why," continued Dolph, with vehemence, "don't ye see, if so be this happens to be a rich guy what has got hurted, we can tote him in here, an' keep him along till he coughs up a nice little pile to his life savers. And if ye know a good thing when ye run across it, why both o' ye ought to put out to find him, and bring him back as quick as ye can."

At that Pete and Simsy again exchanged looks. The love of gain was rapidly overcoming their first fears; just as the artful Dolph had known it would.

"How 'bout you, ole feller; don't you jine us in this game?" asked the thin tramp, a little suspiciously.

"Sure I do," returned Dolph, with ready assurance; "but there ain't no need of the whole three of us goin' out to carry one feller here. 'Sides, you remember I got a mighty sore heel after my long walk."

"But—yuh ain't agoin' tuh clear out an' leave us?" questioned the tall hobo.

"Well, what sort of crazy questions are ye askin'? I'll stay right here, an' wait for ye to fetch the feller back. Then leave it to me to work him for the stuff. I'm some good at that sort o' thing, I reckon," and Dolph grinned in their faces.

"So yuh are, Dolph, so yuh are," replied Simsy. "What say, Pete, do we start out to do the great rescuin' act, and bring the poor bubble wagon fool here to get bleeded?"

"Ho! I'm willin' if yuh say so, Simsy," replied the fat tramp, promptly, the prospect of gain acting as a lure in his eyes that outweighed all other considerations.

Elmer had listened to all this with the utmost eagerness. One minute he fancied that the lovely little trap he had baited so cleverly was about to work; and then again he found himself beset with fears that it had been all for[124] naught; and that if the alarmed tramps made up their minds to flee, Dolph would decide to accompany them, which in turn meant that little Ruth must be spirited away, and another long chase follow.

But, after all, it seemed now that things were moving along nicely. Dolph could be thanked for greasing the ways, though of course the fellow never dreamed how he was riding to a fall in doing so.

"Come along then, Pete; we'll take a look in at thet squaller, an' see how bad he's hurted."

The tall tramp made for the near-by door of the log cabin while speaking, and his fat mate trotted at his heels, for all the world like a little dog—but an ugly bulldog at that, for he had the face of a ruffian, did Pete.

Thus they passed out, stopping at the door to listen once more, while Dolph urged them to lose no further time.

Meanwhile Red had been duly busy. Every minute the sound of his voice, filled with wild entreaty, came on the breeze.

"Help! oh! won't somebody come and help me! This way! Oh! what a terrible fix I'm in! Help! help!" he would shout in the most dismal tone imaginable.

Of course Red was so situated that he could see the door of the cabin from a distance. Thus he would know when anyone sallied forth to try and rescue the one supposed to be in a peck of trouble. And once that occurred, the crafty "fox" was due to exercise his wonderful ingenuity by slipping away, and later on lifting up his wail for assistance in a new quarter.

Thus he would coax the two tramps hither and thither, arousing their hopes only to dash them to the ground by a new appeal from another section. In the end, of course, such fellows would begin to believe they were being hoodwinked—that there must be something uncanny about the[125] mysterious calls, and they would be seized with a small panic that must wind up the hunting game.

But meanwhile ten, perhaps fifteen, minutes might have elapsed; and surely that space of time would be enough for Elmer and his fellow scouts to accomplish the end they had in view.

The young scout leader always did his work with more or less system. He had decided that they ought to let at least three minutes elapse after the departure of the men, before attempting any move. This would take them far enough away from the bunk-house so that any ordinary outcry from within would hardly reach their ears. Having no other way of determining upon the passage of time, Elmer began to count under his breath as soon as the bulky figure of Pete had vanished from the open door of the building.

Three minutes does not seem a long time under ordinary conditions; indeed, in many instances it just slips past like magic. And yet try counting the seconds contained within that short space of time—one hundred and eighty of them, all told—why, it seems enormous. But steadily Elmer was putting them over, determined not to change his plans, and give way to his natural impatience, since he had in the beginning figured on that three-minute leeway.

He could feel the uneasy movements of his impatient chums. Lil Artha even went so far as to nudge him in the ribs, as though he had begun to suspect that their cautious leader might have gone to sleep. But Elmer gave back an answering dig that convinced the other of his being on the alert.

When he had finally reached the end of the probation, Elmer himself began to make a forward movement. All the while he counted those passing seconds he had been closely watching the figure of Dolph, so as to be ready[126] for action. That was the motto of the scouts, "Be prepared," and he certainly believed in living up to it.

Dolph had come back into the cabin. He appeared to be listening from time to time, as though a little anxious himself concerning the nature of that strange call for assistance; for all he had pretended to treat it so lightly when his allies were present.

Dolph had dropped down upon a block of wood, and was examining something which he had taken from his pocket. Elmer was not able to get a good look at this article, but, knowing the desperate character of the man who sat there, and how he had now burned his bridges behind him when he kidnaped the child of the woman he had married and tortured, the boy could easily guess its nature.

It was what Lil Artha would call a "gun," otherwise a revolver of the bulldog type, dangerous enough in the hands of a reckless scoundrel who feared arrest.

Elmer was conscious of a new little thrill, but he mentally scorned the thought of this being any indication of fear. Indeed, to thoroughly disprove such a silly thing he even increased the pace with which he was creeping across the earthen floor of the cabin.

Dolph still sat there, his head bent low over the tool he was fondling, as he listened for any change in the cries from outside. If he would only kindly continue to hold that attitude for another full minute, Elmer believed he might be in a position to make an aggressive move.

Just then the scout leader became aware of something that gave him a momentary spasm of acute alarm. Ruth no longer had her face buried in her dress. Something had caused her to stop her silent weeping, and look up. Perhaps she, too, had been attracted by those wails for help which the Boy Scout fox was using as a means for "tolling" the two dangerous tramps away from the cabin.[127]

But in raising her head Ruth had been made aware of some strange movement back of the bent-over figure of her stepfather. She was now staring with round-eyed wonder at the string of crawling figures that extended from the rear wall of the cabin.

Elmer raised his hand, and held up a warning finger. He hoped by this means to convince the girl that they were friends, and nothing was to be feared. But he also hoped that Matt Tubbs, whom he knew to be close at his side, might be doing something of the same kind; and that little Ruth would recognize her cousin.

Whether the child could have given utterance to some low bubbling cry of fear or joy, which reached the ears of the man, or he just happened to look up, and noticed how she was staring past him, no one ever knew.

Elmer became suddenly aware that Dolph had whirled around on his stool, and was looking in sheer amazement at the peculiar spectacle of eight figures worming their way across the earthen floor of the bunk-house and headed straight for the spot where he himself was seated.

He certainly could not mistake the danger that accompanied the presence of all these strangers. And, given just three seconds in which to collect his wits, the desperate fugitive and kidnaper would of course do something looking toward one thing or the other—flight or resistance.

Elmer did not mean to allow of either. He had been nerving himself for just this crisis, and his muscles were ready primed for a quick leap.

But, prepared as he was for the action that meant so much toward the carrying out of his plans, there was one ahead of Elmer. This was Matt Tubbs, who, crouching there like a tiger beside the leader of the Wolf Patrol, had reached the limit of his endurance and submission to orders.[128]

Even as Elmer started to throw himself forward, meaning to clasp his arms about the man before he could rise, or do any damage with his weapon, a figure shot past him. Then he saw Matt Tubbs hurl himself bodily upon Dolph Gruber. At the same time the pistol fell to the ground, struck on a stone, and was discharged!




Such a scene of wild confusion as followed.

Six other eager lads besides Elmer and Matt Tubbs strove to get a chance to have "a finger in the pie," as Lil Artha called it. They even pushed among themselves, in their eagerness to land somewhere upon the squirming figure of the struggling victim.

Nor was this all. Four other fellows had been hiding without, screened by some friendly bushes from the sight of Pete and Simsy when they issued forth in search of the unfortunate who was so beseechingly calling for help. These chaps, hearing the beginning of the racket within the bunk-house, looked upon it as a signal for their advance.

Through the open door they came in a confused bunch, ready to lend any assistance in their power. But just at that moment it looked as if there were already quite enough hands clustering around the astonished and disgusted Dolph Gruber to attend to his case. And as Lil Artha said, "Too many cooks sometimes spoil the broth."

Dolph possibly as yet did not understand what it all meant. He had had a glimpse of khaki uniforms, and may have suspected that the authorities had summoned a company of the militia from some neighboring city to search for the kidnaper and the missing child.

He struggled desperately; but when some six or eight pretty husky boys hurl their united weight on one person that individual has a slim chance of throwing off the burden.[130] And so Dolph had to take it out in wriggling and grunting.

Lil Artha had made preparations looking to this condition of affairs. Indeed, had he been a duly elected sheriff of the county he could hardly have been more in readiness to secure a prisoner.

"Hold him steady, fellows, while I tie his hands behind his back!" he exclaimed; "there, turn him over a little more; and Matt, twist that left arm further back. That's the ticket, boys. Watch me fix him up in a jiffy, will you?"

He started to wrap some stout twine around and around the wrists of the prisoner. By this time Dolph seemed to become aware of the fact that these mysterious fellows, who had crept in through some back entrance, and pounced upon him with such scant ceremony, were a pack of half-grown boys. He started to roar threats at them, filled with rage at the thought of such an indignity as being so rudely handled by mere lads. But despite his worst efforts he could not break loose from the grip they had upon his person.

"Whoop! that's the way to do it, fellows!" Lil Artha continued to declare, as he completed his job. "Talk to me about your football tackle, this takes the cake, sure! Now for another little splice around his legs. Sit on him, some of you! No matter if he does object; what right has a kidnaper got we're bound to respect? Let him bawl till he gets hoarse. We've got him, and we're going to hold him till he's shut up in the cooler at Hickory Ridge!"

Elmer meanwhile had not forgotten that Dolph had comrades. Doubtless his angry shouts must have reached the ears of the two tramps, who could not have gotten entirely beyond range of a loud voice.

"Here, you fellows," he called to the four boys who[131] had come darting through the entrance of the cabin, "shut that door, and find some way to barricade it! We may have the other men attacking us yet; and you remember how we arranged our plans in case that happens. Quick, let's get ready for a siege!"

"Hurrah! that's the ticket!" cried Chatz Maxfield. "Lend a hand here, fellows, and we'll do the thing up in style. Yes, suh, we-all have armed ourselves with the nicest clubs you evah saw, and hope to find a chance to use them, dusting the garments of those two hoboes."

Every one of the quartette, besides Elmer himself, became as busy as the proverbial bee. The door was swung shut, even though it required more or less muscular persuasion to bring about this result, because of long disuse. Then every description of weighty article upon which they could lay hands was hastily piled up against the said door, until almost in a minute it was barricaded so sturdily that a battering ram would be needed in order to smash it in.

"Don't stop there!" cried Elmer. "The hole at the end of the place must be filled up and guarded. Then a couple of fellows must stand at each of these open windows, ready to give those tramps a warm reception if they try to force their company on us."

"Let some of the rest of us have a chance to help!" called Lil Artha, as he scrambled to his feet. "Oh! don't bother about Dolph; he's laced up as tight as any old yellow pigskin ball could be at the beginning of a game on the gridiron. This way, Toby, Mark, and Landy—bring some of those blocks along. Everybody get busy, and prepare to resist boarders. Reckon these are a different kind of boarders than the ones that used to eat their grub here winters. Whoop! we can do it, and not half try!"

Elmer believed that he had by this time managed to get[132] things in as decent shape as lay within his power. Supposing the shouts had reached the ears of those two tramps—would they dare turn back and make for the cabin at their best speed?

He thought not. What he had seen and heard concerning both Pete and the tall hobo caused him to suspect that their first thought would be in connection with their own safety. They had shown this before when desirous of running, and only giving heed to Dolph's suggestion that there might be some pecuniary profit for them in trying to find the unfortunate who called for assistance.

And now, after being "tolled" from place to place by that strange voice, until their suspicions were once more aroused, should they hear the dreadful clamor accompanying the capture of their companion, the possibility of their taking chances in making a bolt back to the bunk-house were small indeed.

Elmer was more inclined to believe that both tramps must be in full flight at that very moment.

But he had looked ahead for even the worst that could happen. Red Huggins had his orders. Should the two men return to the camp, and attempt to break in, bent on doing the boys serious hurt, his was to be the duty of seeking help—of managing to reach some town, and bringing the officers to the old logging camp.

"The tunnel is filled up, Elmer; even a rat couldn't crawl through that hole right now!" reported Mark, presently.

Elmer was looking out through one of the small openings. If he felt any anxiety concerning the possible coming of the two tramps his face failed to show it as he turned upon his best chum, saying:

"Are all the windows guarded, and do the boys understand what they are to do if anybody tries to get in?"[133]

"Well, I should smile," laughed Mark, a little hysterically, for he was filled with the excitement of the occasion. "Just let one of those rascals try to poke his nose in here, and he's going to meet up with the surprise of his life. Look at Lil Artha taking a fresh grip on that long wagon-tongue of his; I bet you he's just trying to imagine himself at bat, with two out, two men on bases, and a couple of runs needed to tie the score. Yes, siree, he means to send the ball out of the lot for a homer, and don't you forget it. Oh! don't I pity Pete if ever he comes tapping at that window with Lil Artha standing guard."

"I don't see or hear anything of the men, which looks good," remarked Elmer, as he once more turned to glance outside, to where the trees and the scrub adjoining the deserted lumber camp could be observed.

"But say, Elmer, didn't you tell Red something about letting us know what the men were doing? Wasn't he to send a signal of some sort?" Mark went on.

"Yes, that's so," replied the young scout leader of the Wolf Patrol; "but then, perhaps he hasn't been able to make sure yet. You see, he had to keep skipping around pretty lively in order to give them the slip. But all the same, I reckon it's about time we heard something from Red."


Even as Mark uttered this one word, there came floating to their ears from some little distance away a strange sound. One who was unacquainted with the woods might have believed that it was an odd mixture between a dog howling and a baby squalling.

Elmer chuckled as if amused.

"Red hasn't got it down quite pat yet," he remarked, "but then, he wants practice. I've heard coyotes and big[134] gray wolves howl lots of times, but that's a new one on me. Still, Red means well, and what he signals tells us the two men have lit out for all they're worth."

"Bully!" cried Lil Artha, who heard what Elmer had said. "We hold the fort, and the enemy has skipped out! Now, I opine that I'm some disappointed, because I did hope to try that nice club; but it's all right. I'm a peaceful chap, when I can have my own way. And we've got what we came for, fellows. Here, let's give a big three cheers for the Hickory Ridge Boy Scouts."

They were given with a vim and a volume of sound that must have been heard fully a mile away. Doubtless it quickened the pace of the fleeing tramps, who might suspect that they were being hunted by a whole regiment of citizens, stirred to indignation by the stealing of little Ruth.

This made Elmer suddenly remember the girl. She had been watching the actions of the scouts, at first with wonder and awe, but by degrees even smiling. Perhaps the fact that they had made a prisoner of her tormentor, Dolph Gruber, may have had more or less influence along this line. Then again, she had of course seen Matt Tubbs by now, and knew the newcomers must be friends.

Elmer stepped over to the child. The smile on his face was enough to convince little Ruth that, with the coming of these boys in their drab-colored suits, her troubles were ended; and if she were possessed of any lurking doubts they must have taken flight with the first words he spoke.

"We've come to take you back to your mother, Ruth, and I hope you won't be afraid of us. Here's your Cousin Matt along, too; you know him, don't you? It's all right now, Ruth; nobody can hurt you while the Boy Scouts are here," was the way Elmer spoke; and when he held[135] out his hand the child readily put her own little quivering one within it, showing her utter confidence.

Then Matt Tubbs came up, his face wreathed in smiles. Matt was tickled to realize that he had been along when the rescue of the kidnaped child had been effected. More than this, Matt had seen a lot of things that would give him occasion for much serious thought later on—things that must have a bearing on his whole future. He had been given a practical object lesson concerning the other side of life, the decent side, which, up to now, had been pretty much of a sealed book to this pronounced bully of Fairfield.

Elmer, looking at the gentle way Matt was fondling the little girl, nodded his head and seemed well pleased.

"I guess I didn't make any mistake when I said there was some good in that big hulk of a fellow," was what he said aside to Mark, who was also watching Matt.

"Well," replied the other, "I kind of had my doubts when you said all that, but the way things look now, I'm beginning to believe there may be a heap of truth in your theory. But then, everybody can't see as far as you can, Elmer. That's the truth of it. Most of us just skim along the surface, but seems like you dig down deep. I hope it turns out that way. If Matt Tubbs changed his nature, and began to do the right thing, it'd be the best job ever for the boys of Fairfield, because you know he's the big boss over there. And say, wouldn't it make our chance for a warm session of baseball a little later on look pretty good?"

"That's a fact," declared Lil Artha, who had joined them in time to catch what was being said. "That Matt Tubbs sure is a crack-a-jack when it comes to playing ball, and the nine he had last year was as stiff a proposition as the Hickory Ridge fellows ever tackled. Yes, siree, I certain[136] hope he'll be on the square after this; because it'd mean a lot for us."

Matt himself must have heard what they were saying, for at this juncture he turned and grinned as he remarked:

"Just you wait and see what comes out o' this, Lil Artha. I've got a hunch it's time the Fairfield fellers get busy and ketch up with your crowd. And mark my words, once we get started, you've got to do your level best to climb up out of our reach, for we c'n go some, we Fairfield fellers. I got a few idees since hitchin' up with this crowd. There's goin' to be some changes right away, and Hickory Ridge has got to look out, if she don't want to be beat at her own game. Yes, sir, this ain't goin' to be the only troop of scouts around here. There's another town on the map—and they call her Fairfield!"




"There comes Red, now," said Mark, about ten minutes later, and presently the party mentioned came hurrying up to the door of the log cabin, on which he beat a loud tattoo.

"Open up here, fellows!" he called. "Danger's passed. Both those tramps are just legging it out of this section to beat the band. Reckon they're more'n a mile off right now. My! but they're scared. Won't stop runnin' for the next hour. It was as good as a circus to see 'em talkin', when they just couldn't find me out. Must 'a' begun to think it was one of Chatz's ghosts right out of the graveyard."

"Now, just you drop that subject, Red," remarked the Southern lad, aggressively. "It's nobody's business what I believe in, suh, and I'd thank you to keep your opinions to yourself. I reckon now that everyone has his failings, and if mine happen to be a belief in spirits that's my affair, suh. That's all foh you, Red."

"What're we going to do next, Elmer?" demanded Toby.

"Head for home," replied the leader, promptly.

"Yes," added Matt Tubbs, "Ruth's ma will be countin' the minutes till we get there, I reckon. If she's tuckered out, the little gal I mean, fellers, just let me carry her."

"Oh! we all can take a turn at that," remarked Lil Artha. "She's only a featherweight, and there ain't one[138] of us but what would want to have a hand in toting her back. Let's be starting, boys!"

"Say, what d'ye mean to do with me?" called Dolph, who, lying there on the hard earthen floor of the bunk-house, had been listening to all the talk, and wondering what he had better do to further his own interests.

Elmer, followed by several of the scouts, sauntered over to him.

"I was just trying to make up my mind," he said, "whether we had better take you along with us and hand you over to the police, or leave you here, and send them after you."

"What's the use doin' either?" remarked the man, eagerly. "Turn me loose and see me skip out of this section like a scared rabbit."

But Elmer was not in the least inclined to take that view of the matter. Dolph had a hard face. He had proven himself a cruel rascal. Elmer remembered the way he had shaken little Ruth, and all sense of pity for the man's condition was banished from his heart.

"That would suit you, I suppose, from the ground up," he remarked; "but it would be a bad job for other people. Besides, I promised the police that if we were lucky enough to get our hands on you we'd hold you. Here, that'll do now, Dolph Gruber; if you keep up that kind of talk we'll muzzle you. I've seen men gagged before now, and know how it's done. And I give you my word it doesn't feel the finest thing in the world, either. Not another word or you get it!"

The prisoner had formed an opinion of the young scout master. He believed that it would be silly in the extreme to anger him, and so, grumbling, and gritting his teeth, he allowed them to do what they wished.[139]

His ankles having been unfastened, Dolph was told to get up, one of the scouts assisting him at the same time.

"Here, Lil Artha," said the commander, "pick out three other fellows who have clubs as good as that one you carry. Form around the prisoner, and act as his escort. If he tries to escape you know what to do without my telling."

"Say, just let him give us the least excuse for treating him to a dose, that's all. I saw him cuff that little girl, and it showed what a big brute he is. Don't I just hope he'll try to break away!"

Dolph gave the speaker, no other than Ty Collins, a dark scowl, but he did not dare express what was passing in his mind.

So they left the logging camp. Lil Artha, who was recognized as the official photographer of the troop, managed to snap off several views that at future times would recall the picture of that memorable occasion, and doubtless give them the greatest of pleasure.

And Mark, who was really the grandson of a famous artist, and himself a genius with a brush and crayons, would, when the humor seized him, dash off some faithful sketches showing the passage of the eight boys through that woodchuck tunnel, and the surprise of Dolph at discovering them trailing across the floor of the shanty.

At first little Ruth walked bravely along, holding the hand of her cousin. But presently she disclosed signs of being weary, and Matt hastened to pick her up in his stout arms.

When half a mile had been passed over he showed that the burden was telling on him, for the way was rough. Thereupon one of the others insisted on having a chance to do the carrying.[140]

By this time Ruth had become firmly convinced that all these boys were her best of friends, and she did not hesitate to clasp her chubby arms around the neck of Ty Collins, Matty Eggleston, Red Huggins, and even Lil Artha, as in succession they took charge of her.

The march was along the old dirt road that in the end must bring them to one where the walking would be better. Elmer conducted the campaign. He knew just how the land lay, for he had made it a part of his business to draw a map of the entire country around Hickory Ridge, from such sources as he could get hold of; and hence there was not the slightest danger of their getting lost in the timber.

He also sent out several of the boys to act in the capacity of skirmishers. They were to keep a bright lookout for any signs of the enemy, meaning the two tramps, and should they discover them, certain signals—the scream of the eagle, or the odd little bark of the beaver perhaps—would convey the intelligence to the main company, placing them on their guard.

But there was no such alarm. Evidently, just as the sagacious and observing Red had declared, Pete and his tall ally had hastened to get away with all speed, and for aught the boys knew might be running yet.

So in good time the expedition finally came to where the old logging road joined another, that seemed to lead toward the home town.

"How much further do we have to go now?" asked Toby, seeing Elmer examining his home-made map.

"A good five miles before us, but all over decent roads," smiled the leader.

"Oh, well, that ain't so much for scouts as seasoned as we are," remarked Toby, who had been limping for a little while, though he declared it was simply on account of[141] having struck his toe against a root, and not because he was tired a single bit. "But if I had them wings of mine here now, p'raps I could take a little flap or two that'd help along. Reckon they're goin' to work, fellers. Anyhow, my parachute, she's just a hummer. I'm goin' to try her out right soon; might climb up on top the church steeple and jump, if they'll let me."

"Say, boys," remarked Red, just then, "it sure was a great shame the people that owned the old balloon we picked up when we were camping up on Lake Solitary claimed the gas bag, and insisted on paying us twenty-five dollars for saving their property. I'd like to wager that by now our inventive comrade here, Toby Ellsworth Jones, would have coaxed his ma to pay for having it filled with gas, and gone sailing off to the land of the moon, or somewhere."

"Oh! I had that all laid out," grinned Toby, "and I wasn't goin' to beg a single cent from my ma, either. Could 'a' caught all the hot air I needed by just grabbin' what was goin' to waste in this bunch when they got to disputin'. But I ain't cast down a bit, fellers. Plenty more chances for a really bright genius to make his mark in the world of science. If I live, the name of Jones will go thundering down the ages. Since the days of John Paul in Revolutionary times, not a single Jones has done anything worth mentionin'. But the time's near at hand when you'll hear somethin' drop!"

"Huh! that'll be you, then, Toby," chuckled Red, "if you try to jump off a church steeple with your old wings on. And I reckon there'll be something of a splash, too! Better go slow, that's what."

Talking in this vein, and joking with one another, the scouts managed to put the long miles behind them. Nearly[142] every fellow had had a chance to carry little Ruth more or less, and seemed only too proud of the opportunity.

"I c'n see the church spire!" shouted Phil Dale, finally.

"He's right, boys," remarked Elmer, who had seen the same thing, off and on, for the last five minutes, though waiting to discover whether any of the others would pick it up. "We're going to be home soon now. Here comes a car after us, and as sure as anything, it's got the Hickory Ridge police force in it! Line up along the road, boys, and watch how they stare."

When those in the car saw little Ruth among the scouts, and also noted that they had the kidnaper, Dolph, in custody, they gave the boys a hearty cheer. Some of them wanted to take the child in the car, but Elmer declined to allow it.

"We've done all the work, and we ought to be on hand when the girl is given over to her mother," he said. "That's all the reward we want for our day's labor, and say, we've had just a dandy time, haven't we, fellows?"

A roar answered him, every scout taking off his hat, and waving it as he gave vent to three lusty cheers. Seeing the justice of this claim, those in the car declared they would fall in behind. It was known that Mrs. Gruber had remained in her little cottage home, so toward that quarter the procession started.

And when they saw the great joy that filled that poor mother's heart as she clasped her darling girl in her arms, every scout felt amply repaid for what fatigue he had endured that day. It was well worth the labor. And besides, had they not learned many things in the way of woodcraft that were apt to be useful, and make them better scouts?

Elmer was a proud boy when the mother of little Ruth[143] took his hand and squeezed it between both of her own, while she poured out thanks for what he had done. He quickly assured her that every one of those with him deserved just as much praise, and then laughed to see how confused some of the fellows looked when the happy and grateful mother went the rounds, actually kissing every fellow, just as if they might be her own boys!

Matt Tubbs came over to him just as the scouts were drawing together, with the idea of returning to town, having had all the hike they desired for that one particular day.

"Oh! by the way, Matt," said Elmer with a twinkle in his eye, "the first time you're in Hickory Ridge, just stop off at my house, won't you? I think I've got a cap of yours, a gray one, with a little red button in the front."

Matt turned slightly red himself, and then laughed.

"Say, I acknowledge the corn, Elmer," he remarked. "I was in that old shop, all right, listenin' to what you fellers said. Just wanted to know how you ran things so's I could foller suit. Picked up a heap, too, you bet. But the blamed old loft was so rotten she just went through, and let me down with a whoop. Some of your scouts nigh got a grip on me when I run away. But they ain't goin' to ketch Matt Tubbs asleep any more'n they will a weasel. No harm done, Elmer, was there?"

"Not a bit, Matt," replied the young scout master, heartily. "Glad you heard all you did, and if we can help you organize a troop over in Fairfield, just you call on the Hickory Ridge scouts. Hear that, Matt?"

The bully of Fairfield looked steadily at the leader of the Wolf Patrol; then he laughed a little as he replied:

"Mebbe I will, Elmer, for you've sure got me guessing some; mebbe I will!"[144]

That Matt Tubbs was as good as his word about getting up a troop of scouts in Fairfield, and what interesting events were bound to occur in the natural rivalry between the two organizations, will be recorded in the future volumes of this series, the next one of which will be called "The Hickory Ridge Boy Scouts Pathfinder."







Wild Animals of the United States} in Number I.
The Campfires of the Wolf Patrol.

Trees and Wild Flowers of the United States in Number II.
Woodcraft, or How a Patrol Leader Made Good.

Reptiles of the United States in Number III.
Pathfinder, or the Missing Tenderfoot.

Fishes of the United States in Number IV.
Fast Nine, or a Challenge from Fairfield.

Insects of the United States in Number V.
Great Hike, or the Pride of the Khaki Troop.

Birds of the United States in Number VI.
Endurance Test, or How Clear Grit Won the Day.



The Witch Hazel Family.

The Witch Hazel is a little tree or shrub of striking growth that, when all its neighbors are getting ready for their long winter nap, bursts out in full bloom with clusters of stringy yellow flowers, at the same time bearing the ripened seed pods of last year's blossoms. The seeds have a peculiar way of popping from the pods. Take some home with you in the late fall and see what happens. As soon as the pods feel the warmth of the room they burst and shoot out the seeds. It is said that the Indians used the bark of the witch hazel in treating inflammation, and it is still popularly believed to contain healing virtue.

The Sweetgum or Liquidambar is a tree that grows widely over the United States. Its leaves are star-shaped and not unlike the leaves of the maple. The coloring of the Liquidambar in the fall is very beautiful. Its fruit is a peculiar little spiny ball. The gum was used by the Indians to sweeten their smoking mixtures. In some sections it is called the Alligator Tree because of the peculiarity of the bark.

The Dogwood Family.

The Flowering Dogwood is the most beautiful sight of our May woodlands. The wood of this tree is very hard. Nobody seems to know how it received its common name.[150] It is covered with clusters of red berries in the fall and at that time its leaves turn a bright red.

The Olive Family.

To this family belong the Ash trees, so called on account of the appearance of the under-surface of their leaves. There is a superstition that the ash tree is peculiarly likely to be struck by lightning. Its wood is largely used because of its lightness and elasticity; such articles as the handles of tools, oars, and carriage shafts are made of ash wood. White ash sometimes grows very tall; the black ash favors rivers and swamp-land and is not of such a sturdy growth as the white. The fruit of both form in clusters.

The Bignonia Family.

The Catalpa in June or July is covered with white blossoms mottled with yellow and purple. It is often called "The Bean Tree" because its fruit is like a long bean in form. These beans hang on a tree nearly all winter.

The Oak Family.

This is one of the handsomest of our tree families. The common white oak grows to a height of eighty to one hundred feet, the trunk often reaching a diameter of four feet. The leaves of the chestnut oak and those of the yellow oak resemble the leaves of the chestnut tree. The acorns of the red oak are very large, but the kernels are so bitter that the squirrels leave them untouched upon[151] the ground. The leaves of the scarlet oak are very finely cut and assume brilliant colors in the late fall. There are many other varieties of oaks: straggling little scrub oaks, laurel oaks with laurel-like leaves, and the willow oaks of the Southwestern states.



The Beech Family.

The Indians believed that the beech tree was lightning-proof, and many farmers seem to favor this belief. The Chestnut, which belongs in this group, does not flower until the middle of the summer. Unfortunately for the latter tree, a disease is spreading through certain districts that, if not checked, bids fair to exterminate these trees. Already in certain parts of the country where chestnuts formerly abounded hardly a living specimen is to be found, or if alive, is in a dying condition.



The Elm Family.

This is a family of beautiful trees, widely distributed. The white elm is one of the first trees to respond to spring's first warm days. Its tiny flower buds burst their scales and shed them to the ground. It is without question one of the most beautifully shaped trees, and many reach vast proportions. The Slippery Elm is similar in appearance to the white elm. The bark of the latter tree is soaked in water and drunk for throat affections. The leaves of the elms turn yellow in the fall. Their wood is largely used for carriage shafts or wherever wood that does not readily split is needed. It is durable under water, and is, therefore, used for docks and piles.

The Linden Family.

These are known in this country as basswood or white-wood; in Europe they are called Lime Trees. Their leaves are heart-shaped and the lower surface is downy. The bees are attracted to these trees when they are in bloom. They can easily be recognized in winter by their red buds. The first leaves of spring are a bright green which contrast beautifully with these buds. The wood is used for cabinet work, woodenware and paper pulp. It does not easily warp.

The Magnolia Family.

This is a group of trees whose flowers are usually large and white, green, or pink in color. Some of this family are cultivated as ornamental trees on lawns. The Swamp Magnolia, or Sweet Bay, grows in swampy and damp places. Although specially a southern tree, it is found as far north as Massachusetts. It blooms in June, having a cream-color[154] fragrant flower, and these blossoms are sold by florists and street pedlars.



Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar is a large tree of this family that blooms especially abundantly upon the southern shores of Lake Erie. It has greenish-yellow, tulip-shaped flowers. The Indians made their dugout canoes from these trees.

The Maple Family.

There are more than one hundred species of this family. Maples are especially abundant in North America. The Sugar Maple grows in eastern North America. From its sap is manufactured maple sugar. The method of making this sugar was learned by the American colonists from the Indians. In the early spring, when this sap begins to flow, and while it is flowing, the trees are tapped, the sap gathered and boiled down. Certain varieties of maple-wood have beautifully spotted grain known as Bird's-eye Maple. This grain, it is claimed, is produced by wounds made by woodpeckers. This wood is prized for the manufacture of furniture. The Red Maple is found growing along the edges of streams. It is covered in the spring with tufts of crimson flowers and its foliage is a brilliant red in the autumn. The leaves of the Silver Maple show no reds in the fall, but are a uniform yellow. The Canadians have adopted the maple leaf as their national emblem.

The Horse Chestnut Family.

The Horse Chestnut is a native of Asia. In May or June it is covered with upright spikes of white blossoms. The Buck-eye is the native Horse Chestnut. The leaves of the Buck-eye are five-fingered, while those of the tree commonly called the Horse Chestnut are seven-fingered.[156] Ohio is called the "Buck-eye" state and is named after this tree.

The Mulberry Family.

The leaves of the mulberry are broad, the flowers small. The leaves of the white mulberry are the food of silkworms. The Indian women used the fiber of the mulberry to make garments, baskets, and matting; the Japanese and Chinese manufactured paper from its bark. The red mulberry is quite common and grows in over two-thirds of the United States. The fruit is similar in appearance to the blackberry; the white mulberry is less widely distributed. The osage orange, or bow-wood, which is a member of this family, grows in Arkansas, Texas, and Indian Territory. Its fruit resembles the orange in shape and size; its leaves are shiny and it is close and spiny in growth.

The Plane Tree Family.

The common Plane is another tree from the Orient; the flowers are green, the fruit are yellow balls which hang on the tree over winter. It grows in rich, moist lands; the wood, which is ruddy in color, is used extensively in the manufacture of cigar boxes. It is also called the sycamore or buttonwood, and is easily distinguished by its bark, which it sheds as it does the leaves; the bark drops off in large irregular pieces, giving the tree a mottled appearance.

The Walnut Family.

The Black Walnut is abundant in the Mississippi Valley states, especially the Middle states. The White Walnut is[157] the Butternut; the covering of the nut is sticky and gummy.


The Hickory, which belongs to this family, is an American tree; none of the hickories are found abroad. The[158] Bitternut, or Swamp Hickory, has a kernel which is very bitter. The bark of the Shell-bark Hickory separates and gives the trunk of the tree a very shaggy, unkempt appearance. The Pignut is a Hickory, but is worthless as food. The wood of the walnut was formerly much used for the manufacture of furniture.

The Birch Family.

This is an interesting family of graceful trees. The white birch, which is the least common, is short-lived. It grows from the St. Lawrence southward to Delaware. The leaves have a peculiar trembling characteristic. The Paper Birch is also called the white birch or canoe birch. It is fond of moist places. Its bark is white outside and composed of thin layers easily separated; these layers vary in color from a cream to a bright orange-yellow. The Indians used the bark of this tree for their canoes and to write their messages on. The red birches are great lovers of water, particularly delighting to hang their boughs over running streams. The alders and ironwoods belong here.

The Willow Family.

This is a large tree family; the black willow may be found growing upon the banks of streams and lakes. In the early spring days we gather pussy willows. They are really the flower buds. Put them in water and watch the catkins, as the flowers are called, develop. The Weeping Willow is a native of Asia; it grew near ancient Babylon. You will remember that the Bible tells us that the people of Israel hung their harps upon the willow tree by the waters of Babylon. They are trees of rapid[159] growth, as are also the aspens and cottonwoods. The last-named trees derive their name from the peculiarity of the seed, which is surrounded by cotton-like fiber. The leaves of the aspen tremble even on calm days and have given rise to the saying, "trembling like an aspen leaf." An old tradition says that the leaves of this tree are never at rest because aspen wood was used in making the cross.

The Sumach Family.

One of this family is poisonous and is known as poison sumach. It grows throughout the Northern states and can be distinguished from the harmless sumach by its white fruit, the color of the fruit of other sumachs being red, and the fact that it likes wet ground, while its harmless cousins like dry places. To some persons the action of the sumach poison is virulent, causing painful itching eruptions similar to those caused by poison ivy.

The Pea Family.

The Locust is a tall tree, native to this country, flowering profusely in May and June, being at that time nearly covered with long, hanging clusters of fragrant white blossoms. A small tree, called the Red Bud, or Judas Tree, belongs to this family. It is often used as ornamental trees in parks and on lawns. In Arkansas it grows in native abundance. The flowers, which are a deep rose color, appear in April or May, about the time that the young leaves are putting in an appearance. They are borne all over the tree, even on the trunk itself. The Honey Locust has large, finer foliage than the common locust and it is armored and protected by a multitude of sharp thorns. The locust wood is much used in ship-building[160] and fence posts because it resists decay in contact with moisture. It is very strong, hard, and takes a high polish. These trees are now preyed upon by boring insects and are not as popular as they were formerly.

The Rose Family.

What boy of the New England or the Middle states does not know the Choke Cherry or Wild Cherry and its fruit that he gathers and eats, although it puckers his mouth? Did you know that these, as well as our cultivated cherries, apples, pears, quinces, and plums, all belong to the same flower family that gives us our roses? The Mountain Ash also belongs to this family. Red Ash Berries help to brighten up the autumn and winter; in fact, these trees are so attractive when in fruit that they are being largely used for decorative purposes. In Europe they are called the Rowan Trees, and many peculiar tales and superstitions have gathered around them.

The Pine Family.

The pines of the United States include many species, most of which are valuable for their timber. The White Pine, which attains a great height and favors sandy soil, heads the list. Its bark is smoother than any other pine and its cones are long and slender. Its wood is soft, compact, and valuable. The wood of the Yellow Pine is hard and heavy, darker in tone, and much favored for flooring. It does not grow to such a height as the white pine; it is found throughout the Southern states. The Red Pine, or Norway Pine, favors Canada more than our country. The Pitch Pine grows in sandy and rocky soil or in the cold,[161] swampy lands. The Jersey, or Scrub Pine, grows on sandy soil.

The Spruces have brighter leaves than the pines and the leaves are not grouped like the pine leaves. The leaves are borne on drooping branches; the cones are pendent; the white spruce grows higher than any other spruce. The cones of the red spruce are large; the resin of both the red and black spruces are used as chewing gum.

The Hemlock is one of the most graceful of cone-bearing trees. The hemlocks grow rapidly and become very rugged and picturesque. Hemlock wood warps when exposed; its bark is used in tanning. The leaves of the balsam are a bright green color above and a silver green color below. They are dried and made into pillows because of their fragrance. Arborvitæ, or White Hemlock, is cultivated as an ornamental tree. It is much used for hedges.[163]



The Spring FlowersWhite.

Go into the woods some day early in April and you will find, pushing up through the last summer's litter, a curled-up[166] leaf. Open this leaf and nestling within will be a white flower bud. Even when in bloom the leaf surrounds the flower stem as though to protect it. As you pick the flower a red juice oozes out of the stem and stains your hands. This is the blood root and the Indians used its juice to stain their faces. Just beyond it, bending and nodding in the wind, is the dainty little anemone; there is sometimes a hint of pink or lavender in its white flowers.


Among the rocks you will find, swinging, the little Dutchman's Breeches, with their peculiar little flowers that look like pairs of trousers hung on a line. Growing with it will be the saxifrage, whose name means that it breaks rocks. This name was probably given to it because it is usually found growing in the clefts of rocks. As spring advances, the woods are dotted with bright little star flowers and the unpleasantly odorous May apple and the white Trillium with its three long petals. The feathery baneberry is in flower when the columbine blooms and when the green-and-brown Jacks-in-the-Pulpit are preaching in the woods. The Jack-in-the-Pulpit in shape is not unlike a calla lily.


Other white flowers of spring are the shad bush that blooms "when the shad run." Its red berries ripen in June.

Pyxie or Flowering Moss—sandy woods.

Crinkle Root—May woods.

The Spring FlowersYellow.

If you will go down into the swampy meadowland you will find the bright, sturdy marsh marigolds, and in the wet woods adjoining the spice bushes glowing with their fussy little yellow blossoms, and alongside the brook the[168][167] dog-toothed violet or yellow adder's tongue, rearing their mottled leaves and nodding their yellow blossoms. These are not violets at all, by the way, but lilies. In the May woods are the red and yellow flowers of the Wood Betony and the bell-shaped flowers of Solomon's Seal. Pull up the Solomon's Seal root and see the marks on it that look like the impression of a seal. That is how it received its[169] name, although why "Solomon's Seal" we are unable to answer. Bellwort is a little yellowish lily common in the May woods.


Other yellow spring flowers:

Coltsfoot—Stream banks in May.

Celandine Poppy—Woods and hills.

Corydalis—Dry stony woodland.

Moosewood—Wet woods.

The Spring FlowersPink.

In company with the blood root and dog-toothed violets and the dainty anemones are the pretty little pink-veined Spring Beauties, with their slender leaves and graceful stems. Lucky are you if you chance to live where the trailing arbutus grows, with its deliciously perfumed waxy flowers under last summer's dead leaves. The New Englanders call it the May Flower. The attractive blossoms of the Rhodora brighten the woods with their splendor. This is a wild Rhododendron and belongs to the same family as the wild honeysuckle that blossoms in the moist places in May.

Other pink spring flowers:

Showy Orchis—May woods.

Wild Pink—Rocky edges of woods.

The Spring FlowersRed.

Heading this list comes the Columbine, and if you will gather this flower you must be prepared to climb, for it is fond of nooks and crannies difficult to reach. Starting up from three broad leaves the little flower of the Wake Robin thrusts itself upon our attention; it is not shy or[171][170] retiring like the arbutus or the timid little blushing Spring Beauty.


The Spring FlowersBlue and Purple.

First of the blues comes the fuzzy-stemmed and fuzzy-budded hepatica, which is known also by the ugly name of "liverwort." Sometimes the flowers fade to a white, sometimes to a pinkish lavender. The one symbol of springtime is the violet. When the violet comes we know that winter has gone for good. The wild geranium or cranebill grows and blossoms sturdily when the anemones and Spring Beauties are getting scarce.

Other blue and purple spring flowers:

Bluets or Quaker Ladies—Meadows and roadsides.

Larkspur—Not found east of Pennsylvania.

Cancer Root—Wet woods.

Early Summer FlowersWhite.

Early in June you will see in the woods and fields a shrub that looks like a young maple tree blooming abundantly with clusters of white flowers. It is the Dockmackie, or the Maple-leaved Viburnum. If you live on the hills of the Hudson or Pennsylvania you will have the opportunity yearly of seeing the Mountain Laurel in flower, a shrub that is cultivated and highly esteemed in England. The stamens of the flowers are caught in little pockets, and as the insect alights on these they are loosened and fly upward, shaking the pollen on to the body of the insect.

Blooming in the same location may be found the Wild Rhododendron, which belongs to the same family as the Mountain Laurel.[172]

Another member of this family is the Swamp Honeysuckle or the Clammy Azalea; both of these are shrubs. The latter is usually found among the swampy coast lands.

Still another member of this heath family, to which the Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron belong, is the Little Shin Leaf, with its Lily-of-the-Valley-like flowers. Growing alongside of it you are very likely to find the Pipsissewa, with its beautiful perfume and ever-green leaves. June is the month when the meadows are whitened by the daisies.

Other early summer white flowers:

Wood Sorrel—June woods.

Sweet Cicely—Sweet-tasting root.

Marsh Andromeda—Swampy places.

Staggerbush—Low dry places.

Early Summer FlowersYellow.

In May or June hunt for the Yellow Lady Slipper or Whip-poor-Will's Shoe, a pretty little yellow Orchid. Mr. Baldwin, writing of orchids of New England, says: "Its preference is for maples, beeches, and particularly butternuts, and for sloping or hilly ground, and I always look with glad suspicion at a knoll covered with ferns, cohoshes, and trilliums, expecting to see a clump of this plant among them. Its sentinel-like habit of choosing 'sightly places' leads it to venture well up on mountain-sides."

The straggly flower heads of the Hawk Weed, or Rattlesnake Weed, that looks like little Dandelions, will be found in the dry pine woods at this time of the year. Its leaves are veined with purple and thought to resemble the markings of the rattlesnake. This has given it its name.[173]

We need no introduction to the common dandelion that carpets our lawns with a cloth of gold, much to the disgust of the gardener, who roots them out as weeds.

Another flower of the waste places is a pretty little toad flax, or butter-and-eggs. It is probably called "butter-and-eggs" because of the two shades of yellow. Its juice, mixed with milk, makes a good fly poison.

In the same localities may be found the St. John's Wort, with its numerous little flowers, and both the moth mullein and common mullein. The old Romans used to dip the dry stalk of the common mullein in fat and use it as a torch. The moth mullein is tenderer than the common mullein. The flowers are tipped with red and purple.

Other early summer yellow flowers:

Cinquefoil—Fields and roadsides.

Bush Honeysuckle—Hillsides.

Four-leaved Loosestrife—Roadsides.

Yellow Loosestrife—Wet places.

Early Summer FlowersPink.

The Pink Lady Slipper, like the Yellow, is another orchid. Baldwin, to whom we have referred before, tells us where he usually found them; he says: "The finest specimens I ever saw sprang out of a cushion of crisp reindeer moss high up among the rocks of the exposed hillside, and again I have found it growing vigorously in hills upon swamps, but nearly colorless from excessive moisture." He further says that "A lady who has found it in the Adirondacks says she found it to have a great fondness for decaying wood and often saw a whole row perched like birds along a crumbling log."

A smaller laurel with dark pink flowers blooms in June.[174] It is called "Lamb-killer," because of the belief that it is poisonous to sheep.

Corydalis—Rocky woods.

Adder's Mouth—Swamps.

Early Summer FlowersRed.

Thoreau writes: "The Painted Cup is in its prime. It reddens the meadow, painted cup meadow. It is a splendid show of brilliant scarlet, the color of the cardinal flower and surpasses it in mass and profusion. I do not like the name; it does not remind me of a cup, rather of a flame when it first appears. It might be called 'flame flower' or 'scarlet tip.' Here is a large meadow full of it, and very few in the town have ever seen it. It is startling to see a leaf thus brilliantly painted, as if its tip were dipped into some scarlet mixture, surpassing most flowers in intensity of color."

Early Summer FlowersBlue and Purple.

The Blue-eye Grass, which belongs to the same family as the Blue Flag, carpets the moist meadows at this season of the year. The Blue Flag and Fleur-de-lis is the flower of France; the name "Fleur-de-lis," the flower of Louis, King Louis VII having chosen it as his particular badge. Look for it in damp meadow grounds in June.

Early in June the wild lupine blooms, painting the hillside blue.


If you go into the woods where the evergreens grow in July you will find the Little Wintergreen in bloom.[175] Later in the year you will find the little red Wintergreen berries. Along the roadside you will find the daisy-like flowers of the Chamomile or May Weed. From the leaves of this plant our grandmothers used to make Chamomile tea.

A shrub that you will find in bloom in the July woods is the New Jersey Tea, with its clusters of feathery flowers. At the time of the American Revolution our forefathers used its leaves to make a substitute for the imported tea on which Great Britain imposed a tax.

Another flower of the summer woods and hillsides is the Cohosh, with a stem from three to eight feet high. Its odor is supposed to be distasteful to insects. The Elders are a mass of white blossoms at this time of the year, and later crowned with purplish berries from which elderberry wine is made.

A common plant of the July roadsides is the Pokeweed. Its flowers are less conspicuous than its fruit. It has long clusters of dark berries. Country boys make "ink" from the juice of these berries.

The Boneset is another wayside flower. Our grandmothers made boneset tea from its leaves when we were in danger of colds or malaria. Its flowers are dull white; it belongs to the same family as the Golden-rod.

Other summer white flowers:

Thimbleweed—Woods and meadows.

White Avens—Edges of woods.

Wild Cucumber—Along river banks.


No article on wild flowers of the United States would be complete without mention of "Queen Anne's Lace," while some call it "Bird's Nest," from the habit of the curling up of the old flowers into a nest-like shape.[176]


One of the most conspicuous yellow flowers is the Meadow Lily, or the Wild Yellow Lily.

The St. John's Wort is a common flower of this season of the year. It seems to flourish in the waste places, while both the moth mullein and the common mullein are close companions.

When the white daisies are beginning to wane, the yellow daisies or Black-eyed Susans begin to bloom. The Jewel Weed is also called by some "Touch-me-Not," on account of the few seed pods, which burst when touched, showing the seeds.

At twilight and in the early morning the Evening Primrose opens its dull yellow blossoms. During the middle of the day the flowers are closed.

Other summer yellow flowers:

Yellow Clover—Fields and roadsides.

Bladderwort—Ponds and streams.

Partridge Pea—Sandy Soil.


Probably the foremost among these is the Common Milkweed, with its dull pink clustered flowers that later turn into a pod filled with silky fibers, which the children love to break open and set afloat in the wind. It is called "Milkweed" on account of the white sticky fluid which it exhumes from the broken stems.

Along the roadside and meadows purplish-pink flowers of the Fireweed are in bloom.


One of the most beautiful of the pink midsummer[178][177] flowers is the Mallow that makes lively our swamps with its large pale pink flowers.

Other summer pink flowers:

Steeplebush—Low places.

Purple Loosestrife—Marshes.

Meadow Beauty—Sandy soil.

Tick Trefoil—Midsummer woods.


Two lilies of midsummer are the Wild Lily and the Turk's Cap Lily; the Turk's Cap Lily, with its drooping flowers, and the Wild Lily, with its upright flowers, that grow in our meadows, the Wild Lily in the shady woods.

Here and there in the midsummer fields is a patch of the bright flame-color orange-red Butterfly Weed. This belongs to the Milkweed family. They present to the eye some of the most vivid patches of color of the summer fields.

SummerBlue and Purple.

Growing in the waste places from June until September are the closed heads of the "Self Heal," with its bluish-purple flowers and the spikes of the dainty little vervain.

Blooming in midsummer is the aromatic little Pennyroyal, one of the mint family.

Late Summer and AutumnYellow.

Without doubt the one flower that holds the foremost rank of the late summer and autumn flowers is the Golden-rod.[179]

The Wild Sunflower and the Bur Marigold, or "Stick-tight," belong to the same family as the Golden-rod, the Composite Family.

Witch-hazel Shrubs are now coming into bloom, blooming when everything else is getting ready for the winter nap.

Other late summer yellow flowers:

False Foxgloves—Dry woodland.

Yellow Thistle—Sandy coast soil.

Late Summer and AutumnWhite.

The Rattlesnake Plantain has peculiar leaves veined with white. The Indians believed that application of the leaves of this plant would cure a snake bite.

One of the shrubs that blooms at this season of the year is the Sweet Pepperbush, which is becoming popular as a cultivated shrub in our gardens and lawns. It seems to bloom best in those localities where there is considerable moisture in the atmosphere.

The dry fields are now thickly covered with the white asters.

Other late summer white flowers:

Ladies' Tresses—Wet places in autumn.

Pearly Everlasting—Woods and fields.

Late Summer and AutumnPink.

A common roadside flower is the Pink Knotweed, with its branching stems and groups of bright pink flowers.[180]


The Bouncing Bet is now growing sturdily, with its pinkish-white flowers, and close to the Butterfly Weed blooms the "Joe Pye Weed," with its dusky purplish-pink clusters, while the Golden-rod and Asters are in flower.[181]

Other late summer pink flowers:

Purple Gerardia—Low dry ground.

False Dragon Head—Wet fields.

Late Summer and AutumnRed.

In the late summer, along the edges of ponds and streams and in the midst of swamps, gleam the bright, ragged flowers of the Cardinal flower, the brightest red flower of early autumn.

Late Summer and AutumnBlue and Purple.

The Blue Chicory or Succory brightens up our roadsides in late summer when the fields are full of blue and purple Asters. There are over one hundred different species of wild Asters, all belonging to the Composite Family, the same family that the Golden-rod, Daisies, and Sunflowers are members of. The Composite Family, in fact, is in majority at this season of the year.

Both the closed and fringed Gentian come to us in late September, with their beautiful blue flowers—blue of a beautiful shade.

Other late summer flowers—blue and purple:

Blazing Star—Marsh land.

Iron Weed—Roadsides and fields.[183]



Adder's Mouth, 174

Alder, 158

Alligator Tree, 149

Anemones, 166, 169, 171

Apples, 160

Arborvitæ, 161

Arbutus, 169, 171

Ash, 150
Mountain Black, 160
White, 150

Aspen, 159

Asters, 179, 180, 181

Avens, White, 175

Azaleas, Clammy, 172

Balsam, 161

Baneberry, 166

Basswood, 153

Bay, Sweet, 153

Beech, 152

Betony, Wood, 168

Bellwort, 169

Bignonia Family, 150

Birch, 158
Paper, 158
Red, 158
White, 158

Bird's Nest, 175

Bitternut, 158

Black-eyed Susans, 176

Black Ash, 150

Black Spruce, 161

Black Walnut, 156

Black Willow, 158

Bladderwort, 176

Blazing Star, 181

Bloodroot, 165

Blue-eyed Grass, 174

Blue Flag, 174

Bluets, 171

Boneset, 175

Bouncing Bet, 180

Bow-wood, 156

Buck-eye, 155

Bur Marigold, 179

Bush Honeysuckle, 173

Butter-and-Eggs, 173

Butterfly Weed, 178, 180

Butternut, 157

Buttonwood, 156

Cancer Root, 171

Cardinal Flower, 174, 181

Catalpa, 150

Celandine Poppy, 169

Chamomile, 175

Cherry, Choke, 160
Wild, 160

Chestnut, 152
Horse, 155

Chestnut Oak, 150

[184]Chicory, 181

Chokecherry, 160

Cinquefoil, 173

Clammy Azaleas, 172

Closed Gentian, 181

Clover, Yellow, 176

Cohosh, 175

Coltsfoot, 169

Columbine, 166, 169, 170

Corydalis, 169, 174

Cottonwood, 159

Cranebill, 171

Crinkle Root, 166

Daisies, 176
Yellow, 176

Dandelion, 172, 173

Dockmackie, 171

Dog-Tooth Violets, 168, 169

Dogwood, 149

Dutchman's Breeches, 166

Elderberries, 175

Elm, 152, 153
Slippery, 153
White, 153

Evening Primrose, 176

False Dragon Head, 181

False Foxgloves, 179

Fireweed, 176

Flag, Blue, 174

Fleur-de-lis, 174

Flowering Moss, 166

Four-Leaved Loosestrife, 173

Foxgloves, False, 179

Fringed Gentian, 181

Gentian, 181
Closed, 181
Fringed, 181

Geranium, Wild, 171

Gerardia, 181

Golden-rod, 175, 178, 180

Hawk Weed, 172

Hemlock, 161
White, 161

Hepatica, 171

Hickory, 157
Shell-bark, 157, 158
Swamp, 158

Honey Locust, 159

Honeysuckle, Bush, 173
Swamp, 172
Wild, 169

Horse Chestnuts, 155

Iron Weed, 181

Ironwood, 158

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, 166

Jewel Weed, 176

Joe-Pye Weed, 180

Judas Tree, 159

Knotweed, 179, 180

Ladies' Tresses, 179

Lady's Slipper, Pink, 173
Yellow, 172, 173

Lamb-killer, 174

Larkspur, 171

Laurel Oaks, 151

Laurel, Mountain, 171, 172

Lily, Meadow, 176, 177

Lily, Turk's Cap, 178

Lily, Wild, 178
Wild Yellow, 176

Lime Tree, 153

[185]Linden, 153

Liquidambar, 149

Liverwort, 171

Locust, 159
Honey, 159

Loosestrife, Four-Leaved, 173
Purple, 178
Yellow, 173

Lupine, 174
Wild, 174

Magnolia, 153
Swamp, 153

Mallow, 178

Maple, 154, 155
Red, 155
Silver, 155
Sugar, 155

Maple-Leaved Viburnum, 171

Marigold, Bur, 179

Marigolds, Marsh, 166

Marsh Andromeda, 172

Marsh Marigolds, 166

May Apple, 166

May Flower, 169

May Weed, 175

Meadow Beauty, 178

Meadow Lily, 176, 177

Milkweed, 176, 178

Moosewood, 169

Moth Mullein, 173, 176

Mountain Ash, 160

Mountain Laurel, 171, 172

Mulberry, Red, 156
White, 156

Mullein, Common, 173, 176
Moth, 173, 176

New Jersey Tea, 175

Norway Pine, 160

Oak, 150
Chestnut, 150
Laurel, 151
Red, 150
Scarlet, 151
Scrub, 151
White, 150, 151
Willow, 151
Yellow, 150

Olive, 150

Orchis, Showy, 169

Osage Orange, 156

Painted Cup, 174

Paper Birch, 158

Partridge Pea, 176

Pea Family, 159

Pearly Everlasting, 179

Pears, 160

Pennyroyal, 178

Pignut, 158

Pine, 160
Norway, 160
Pitch, 160
Red, 160
Scrub, 161
White, 160
Yellow, 160

Pink Knotweed, 179, 180
Wild, 169

Pink Lady's Slipper, 173

Pipsissewa, 172

Pitch Pine, 160

Plane Tree Family, 156

Plantain, Rattlesnake, 179

Plums, 160

Poison Sumach, 159

Pokeweed, 175

[186]Poplar, Yellow, 155

Poplar Tree, 155

Poppy, Celandine, 169

Primrose, Evening, 176

Purple Loosestrife, 178

Pussy Willow, 158

Pyxie, 166

Quaker Ladies, 171

Queen Anne's Lace, 175

Rattlesnake Plantain, 179

Rattlesnake Weed, 172

Red Birch, 158

Red Bud, 159

Red Maple, 155

Red Mulberry, 156

Red Oak, 150

Red Pine, 160

Red Spruce, 161

Rhododendron, 169, 172
Wild, 169, 171

Rhodora, 169

Rose Family, 160

Rowan Trees, 160

St John's Wort, 173, 176

Saxifrage, 166

Scarlet Oak, 151

Scrub Oak, 151

Scrub Pine, 161

Self Heal, 178

Shad Bush, 166

Shell-bark Hickory, 157, 158

Shin Leaf, 172

Showy Orchis, 169

Silver Maple, 155

Slippery Elm, 153

Solomon's Seal, 168

Sorrel, Wood, 172

Spice Bush, 166

Spring Beauty, 169, 171

Spruce, 161
Black, 161
Red, 161
White, 161

Staggerbush, 172

Star Flowers, 166

Steeplebush, 178

Stick-tight, 179

Succory, 181

Sugar Maple, 155

Sumach, 159
Poison, 159

Sunflower, Wild, 179

Swamp Hickory, 158
Honeysuckle, 172
Magnolia, 153

Sweet Bay, 153

Sweet Cicely, 172

Sweetgum, 149

Sweet Pepperbush, 179

Sycamore, 156

Thimble Weed, 175

Thistle, Yellow, 179

Tick Trefoil, 178

Toad Flax, 173

Touch-me-Not, 176

Trees of the United States, 149

Trilliums, 166, 167

Tulip Tree, 155

Turk's Cap Lily, 178

Viburnum, Maple-Leaved, 171

Violet, 168, 169, 171
[187]Dog-tooth, 168, 169

Wake Robin, 169

Walnut, 156, 158
Black, 156
White, 156

Weeping Willow, 158

Whip-poor-Will's Shoe, 172

White Ash, 150

White Avens, 175

White Birch, 158

White Elm, 153

White Hemlock, 161

White Mulberry, 156

White Oak, 150, 151

White Pine, 160

White Spruce, 161

White Walnut, 156

White-wood, 153

Wild Cherry, 160

Wild Cucumber, 175

Wild Flowers of the United States, 165

Wild Geranium, 171

Wild Honeysuckle, 169

Wild Lily, 178

Wild Lupine, 174

Wild Pink, 169

Wild Rhododendron, 169, 171

Wild Sunflower, 179

Wild Yellow Lily, 176

Willow, 158
Black, 158
Pussy, 158
Weeping, 158

Willow Oak, 151

Witch-hazel Family, 149, 179

Wintergreen, 174

Wood Betony, 168

Wood Sorrel, 172

Yarrow, 175

Yellow Adder's Tongue, 168

Yellow Clover, 176

Yellow Daisies, 176

Yellow Lady's Slipper, 172, 173

Yellow Loosestrife, 173

Yellow Oak, 150

Yellow Pine, 160

Yellow Poplar, 155

Yellow Thistle, 179


Campfire and Trail Series


1. In Camp on the Big Sunflower.
2. The Rivals of the Trail.
3. The Strange Cabin on Catamount Island.
4. Lost in the Great Dismal Swamp.
5. With Trapper Jim in the North Woods.
6. Caught in a Forest Fire.

A series of wholesome stories for boys told in an interesting way and appealing to their love of the open.

Each, 12mo.               Cloth.               40 cents per volume


Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Text uses both scout master and scout-master.

The remaining corrections made are indicated by dotted lines under the corrections. Scroll the mouse over the word and the original text will appear.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Woodcraft, by Alan Douglas


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