My Dear Boys:
Knowing that ninety-nine lads out of every hundred love outdoor life above all else, I have taken it upon myself to give you a series of what I hope will prove to be clean, wide-awake, up-to-date stories, founded upon a subject that is interesting our whole nation—the Boy Scouts of America. You know what a hold this movement has taken upon the rising generation of our broad land. There never was anything like it before—there never may be again.
At first many people made the mistake of believing that it was simply a new military order, and that boys who joined were to be taught the duties of soldiers, and learned how to fight. They know better now. It is really the greatest movement for Peace ever started. Not only that, but the lads who belong to this vast organization are taught how to be manly, self reliant, brave, courteous, kindly and steadfast.
When you examine the roster of the officers who have loaned their names to help along the good cause you will find such honored signatures as those of President William Howard Taft, ex-President Theodore Roosevelt, and many others dear to the hearts of our boys.
This glorious field opens up a very tempting opportunity for a series of stirring stories concerning the fortunes of real Boy Scouts, who have gone into the movement heart and soul, with a desire to excel in all they undertake; and at the same time enjoy themselves hugely. I only hope and trust that you may be pleased with what you read in this book, about the doings of the Red Fox Patrol, of Stanhope Troop, and that the story will do you much good.
George A. Warren.
A MEETING IN THE BARN
“All here now, Paul!”
“Call the roll, somebody, won’t you?”
“Keep quiet, fellows, please!”
“Shall I strike a match, Paul?”
“Not on your life, Bobolink. That crowd of Ted Slavin’s is out, looking for us. Somebody must have leaked, or else Ted was tipped off. We’ve got to be mighty cautious, I tell you, if we want to give them the slip.”
“S-s-say, d-d-don’t you k-k-know we’ve got a fi-fine b-b-barn on our p-p-place, fellows?”
“For goodness sake; won’t somebody please pound Bluff Shipley on the back, and make him bite his twisted tongue, so he can talk straight?” cried a pleading voice.
There must have been a streak of authority in the tone used by Paul Morrison when he spoke this last word; every one of the other six boys crouched there, craning his neck, and listening to catch the unusual sound that had apparently reached the trained ears of their leader.
The woods surrounded the boys on all sides, gloomy, and full of mystifying noises.
Yet Paul knew full well just what every one of the sounds meant. An owl called mournfully to its mate from a hollow tree. Katydids and merry crickets added their shrill music to the chorus of that late summer night. Even a colony of tree frogs solemnly chanted their appeal for “more rain.”
During the day just ended six fellows in the thriving town of Stanhope had received urgent telephone calls from Paul, who was an only son of the leading doctor in the place.
And each boy had promised to meet him at the Three Oaks by the time the clock in the church steeple had struck eight.
It was even now booming out the hour.
When the last stroke died away, the most impatient among the gathered boys moved restlessly.
“Follow me, fellows,” said Paul, in a low, thrilling tone.
“Where are we heading for?” queried one, who had as yet failed to express his feelings in the matter.
This was Wallace Carberry, the sober member of the pair known far and wide as the Carberry Twins; his mate, William, being his exact counterpart in every particular, when he chose to repress the good-natured grin that usually marked his fate.
“To the Shipley barn; single file; and silence is the watchword!”
Paul Morrison had long enjoyed the confidence of his comrades in most matters pertaining to outdoor sports. A healthy lad, both in mind and body, he was never so happy as when studying the secrets of Nature in wood and meadow; or in playing any of the various strenuous games to which all boys with red blood in their veins are addicted.
And when he sent out his mysterious request that some of his most intimate friends meet him on this night, as he had a communication of importance to put up to them, the greatest curiosity made itself manifest.
Paul never suggested ordinary things. More than once he had engineered some game that brought honor and glory to the boys of Stanhope; and remembering these satisfactory “stunts” of old, it was no wonder these fellows had come to the place of meeting without a single exception.
With Bluff Shipley close upon the heels of the leader, and Robert Oliver Link, whose name had long since been corrupted into Bobolink, bringing up the rear, the seven lads trailed through the woods, following some path with which they were evidently more or less familiar.
Several times Paul gave a recognized signal that caused every one of the bunch to stop short, and turn his head on one side in the endeavor to discover whether hostile footsteps could be heard in their rear.
But although there were doubtless many rustling sounds, the boys laid these to the bright-eyed little denizens of that strip of woodland. Too often had they watched the chipmunks and red squirrels hunting for nuts under the already falling leaves, not to know that the forest was peopled with these harmless animals.
After five minutes more there loomed up before them the dark outlines of a huge barn that seemed rather out of place here on the border of the woods.
This belonged to the father of Bluff, who, being a prosperous tobacco grower in this valley, used the place to cure the product of his broad fields, after it had been harvested in the fall.
Paul had been carrying some sort of package in his hand, and the boys for some time amused themselves in guessing its nature. When he took off the paper it stood revealed as a lantern, ready for lighting.
“Show us the way inside, Bluff. Then we’ll have a little light on the subject,” remarked the leader, with a last anxious searching look around; as though he still entertained suspicions that their march to the old barn might have been observed by some of the hostile Slavin crowd.
Ted Slavin had long been known as the bully of Stanhope; for it seems that there never yet existed a village or town without some big chap exercising that privilege. He was a fighter, too, and able to hold his own against the best. Besides, Ted had shown some of the qualities that indicate a natural leader; though he held the allegiance of those who trailed after him mostly through fear, rather than any respect for his manly qualities.
His leading crony for the past year had been Ward Kenwood, son of the wealthy banker who was also a leading real estate owner in the place. Once upon a time Ward would have scorned the thought of associating with Slavin and his crowd; but an occasion had arisen whereby he had need of a strong arm to even up a score, and once he found himself indebted to Ted he kept on in the bully’s company.
His rivalry in many fields with Paul had much to do with his throwing his fortunes in with the other fellows. And nothing pleased him more than to be able to upset any calculations the latter entertained. That explained why Paul was anxious to avoid a meeting with the Slavin crowd on this particular night, when he was brimming over with a great idea.
Once the boys had entered the barn, Bluff secured the door, after which a match was quickly lighted.
“Now, here we are, safe and sound, and not an enemy around. Suppose you open up, Paul, and get this load off our minds,” said Albert Cypher, who seldom heard his own name among his friends, but was known far and wide as Nuthin’.
But what else could a lad expect who was so unfortunate as to find himself afflicted with such a name as A. Cypher?
“Yes, what’s it all mean, Paul? You haven’t even taken me in, you know, and I’m as much in the dark as the next fellow,” remarked Jack Stormways, reproachfully; for being Paul’s closest chum he might have expected to share his confidence.
“Wait a bit. We might as well make ourselves comfortable while we’re about it. I’ll sit down on this box, and the rest of you gather around on the floor. I’ve got a big proposition to make, and you want to listen carefully.”
“T-t-take c-c-care of the lantern, f-f-fellows; my d-d-dad’s w-w-wanting this old barn f-f-for his t-t-tobacco crop, and he’d b-b-be some put out if it b-b-burned just now!” came from Bluff.
Finding perches on various low piles of waste left over after the shipment of the last crop, the six lads gathered around Paul, eagerness stamped on every beaming face.
“Now, what’s the idea that struck you this time, Paul?” demanded Bobolink.
“I’ll tell you without any beating around the bush, fellows. The thought came to me that Stanhope was away behind the times. Other towns not nearly so big, have one or more troops of Boy Scouts. Why shouldn’t we get up one here?” and Paul waited to hear what the response would be.
The six who sat in a ring looked at each other as though stunned by the proposal. It was strange, indeed, that no one had up to this time taken a lead in advancing such a thing.
“Bully idea, Paul!” ejaculated Jack, slapping a hand on his knee enthusiastically, as though it appealed to him most decidedly.
“Well, I declare, to think that nobody ever mentioned such a grand movement before. Count me in right from the start!” said Wallace Carberry—sober Wallace, who usually measured his words as though they were golden.
“And me too,” observed Bobolink.
“Ditto for William!” called out the other Carberry Twin, grinning with delight.
“G-g-guess I’d make a bully good t-t-tenderfoot!”
“That’s the best thing you ever thought up, old chap,” came from Nuthin’.
“Hurrah! every county heard from, and not one contrary word. It looks as if there might be something doing right soon around this region,” declared Paul, naturally pleased because his proposition had met with such unanimous satisfaction.
“Tell us more about it, please. I’ve read about the Boy Scouts; but my mother would take a fit if she thought I was practicing to become a soldier. You see, I had an older brother, who enlisted to go out with some of the boys when we had our little fuss about Cuba and the Philippines; and poor Frank died in camp of typhoid fever. I’ll have a hard time winning her over, and the dad, too,” remarked Bobolink, sadly.
“Well, that’s where you make a big mistake, Bobolink. Over in England, where the Boy Scout movement started, it has some connection with the army, because there, you see, every fellow expects at some time to serve his country as a soldier, or on board a naval vessel. But here in America, the movement is one for peace.”
“Then what’s all the doings about?” asked Nuthin’, as if puzzled.
“I know, and Paul is right about it,” came from Wallace Carberry, always quite a reader of newspapers and magazines.
“Let him tell then. I’m for the game, no matter what it means,” cried Bobolink.
“And I think Bluff knows something about it, for he said he would do for the lowest grade of scout, which is the tenderfoot. But I don’t think any of you are qualified to take even that degree; for a tenderfoot must first be familiar with scout law, sign, salute, and know what his badge means; he must know about our national flag, and the usual forms of salute due to it; and be able to tie some seven or eight common knots. How about that, Bluff?”
“N-n-not guilty!” promptly answered the one addressed.
“Say, that sounds interesting any way. Tell us some more about this, Paul!” exclaimed William, always eager to hear of anything that smacked of novelty.
“Well, there are two more degrees a fellow can climb up to, a second-class scout, and a first-class scout, full fledged. After that, if he wants to keep right on there are merit badges to be won for excelling in angling, athletics, camping, cooking at the campfire, taxidermy, first aid to the injured, handicraft, life saving, path-finding, and a lot more.”
“Now you’ve got me stuck on this new game,” cried Bobolink, excitedly. “The more you explain the better I like the idea. Me for the Boy Scouts, fellows!”
“Hear! Hear! Paul, the idea is yours, and we vote unanimously that you occupy the exalted position of scout master—I know that every troop has to have such a head, and you’re better fitted for the job than any fellow in town!”
“Yes,” laughed Paul, “but unfortunately, I believe a scout master has to be over twenty-one years of age.”
“Who knows the ways of the open like our Paul? He’s the right man in the right place. Say, are there any books on the subject, that we can get, and learn more about this thing?” asked Wallace, who seemed to be particularly well pleased.
“I’ve already sent for a manual, and expect it by to-morrow; when we can find out all about it. But wishing to be posted when I put the question I went over the river to Aldine to-day, and saw some of the boys there who belong to the Scouts. They made me more anxious than ever to start a patrol in our home town.”
“But I’ve seen something about a troop?” remarked Jack Stormways, who, Paul thought, seemed unusually sober for a boy ordinarily light-hearted.
“Yes, a troop takes in say, three local posts called patrols, each of which has eight members. It is known by a number, as Troop One of Boston; and each minor organization takes a name of some animal, such as wildcat or fox. If it is called Fox, every boy belonging to it is supposed to be able to bark like a fox, so as to be able to signal a comrade while scouting in the woods.”
“Ginger! but that does sound interesting,” declared William.
“It’s j-j-just immense, that’s w-w-what!” was Bluff’s opinion.
“Listen! I heard a laugh as sure as anything!” exclaimed Paul, lifting a hand to indicate silence; and every one of the group assumed an attitude of expectancy.
As they waited there suddenly came a tremendous crash, as some object landed forcibly against the wooden side of the old barn. It was instantly followed by a second bang, and others came quick and fast, until the noise might be likened to a bombardment from a hostile battery.
“It’s the Slavin crowd!” called Bobolink, excitedly jumping to his feet. “They followed us here after all, and have been listening to every word!”
“All hands to repel boarders!” shouted Paul; and with a cheer the seven boys rushed over to the door, out of which they sprang, bent on retaliating on their tormentors.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A BOY SCOUT
“Where are the stone throwers?” shouted the merry member of the Carberry Twins, as he danced up and down, eagerly trying to discover some moving object in the surrounding darkness.
“Gone like smoke, I guess,” laughed Paul, who had really expected something of this sort, judging from past experiences with these same tormentors.
“Look there, I can see something moving yonder. Get ready to give a volley!” cried Nuthin’, pointing as he spoke.
“H-h-hold on, f-f-fellows, d-d-don’t fire yet! It’s only our old d-d-dun cow!” gasped Bluff, excitedly; as he waved his arms up and down after the manner of a cheer captain at a college football game.
“They’ve lit out, that’s what,” grumbled William, who felt as though cheated.
“All right, then. It’s just as well, for a fight would be a mighty poor way of preparing to join the scout movement. You’ll learn what I mean later on when you hear the twelve points of the law that every fellow must subscribe to,” observed Paul, seriously.
“What d’ye mean, Paul?” demanded Bobolink, quickly.
“Yes, tell us right now what the twelve rules are,” said William.
“I know, for I read all about them a few days ago,” remarked Wallace, readily.
“All right, then, suppose you call them off. What does a scout promise to be if allowed to wear the uniform, Wallace?” asked the leader.
“To be trustworthy, loyal, helpful to others, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient to his superiors, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”
“Why, it doesn’t say a single word about fighting!” ejaculated William.
“Because a scout must never fight save as a last resort, and then only to save some weak one from punishment. He must be brave to face danger, to stop a runaway horse; or jump in and keep another from drowning. Do you get on to the meaning of this movement, fellows?” asked Paul, eagerly. The more he read about it the greater became his desire to have a hand in organizing a Stanhope troop that might compete with those of Aldine and Manchester, two rival towns, both on the opposite side of the Bushkill River, the former a few miles up-stream, and the latter the same distance down.
“We do, and I tell you I like it better and better the more I hear of it,” said Jack, earnestly. “Why, I just had an idea it meant being junior soldiers, and drilling so as to be ready to invade Canada, or repel the yellow peril when the little Japs swarmed across the Pacific. Count me in, Paul.”
“If I can pass the examination I’m going with you, sure,” observed William.
“All right, but if they take you in just remember that you’ve got to quit your playing tricks on everybody, William,” declared the other Carberry Twin.
“Listen to him, will you? He’s feeling hard on me just because dad gave him a touch of the cane last night, thinking it was me. As if I was to blame for looking like my brother,” the other said, plaintively, though chuckling at the same time.
“You know you fixed it so he’d pounce on me. I’m always in hot water because you must have your fun. ‘Taint fair, and I’d have to be an angel not to kick. Oh! I hope you get to be a scout, because then I’ll have some peace,” declared Wallace; but all the others knew very well what a deep and abiding affection there really lay between the Carberry Twins.
“Let’s go home now. No use staying any longer out here, with Ted Slavin and his cronies hanging around, ready to bombard us again. Besides, I guess Paul wants to wait till he gets his book before telling us any more about the game.”
“Right you are, Nuthin’. I only wanted to see how the land lay, and if you took to the idea. I’m satisfied already that it’s going to make a hit, if we can get a few more fellows to join in with us,” said Paul.
“I know one good recruit I can drum up—Tom Bates,” spoke up Albert.
“And a good addition to the seven now here. That would make our first patrol,” echoed the leader, quickly.
“How about inviting some of the Slavin crowd to join us?” asked Bobolink.
“Well, perhaps we might pick a couple there; but I think you’ll have to be getting up early in the morning to manage it,” replied Paul, meaningly.
“What’s that?” asked William.
“Just this. Ted Slavin has heard our plans. You know that he never likes to see anybody else pull down the plums. What will he do right away, fellows?”
“Go and see his shadow, Ward Kenwood, and get him to put up the money to start the ball rolling. My word for it that inside of a week there’ll be two rival Boy Scout troops in little old Stanhope,” remarked Jack Stormways.
“Say, that would be great, if the other crowd only acted on the square,” ventured William. “We could have all sorts of contests between us. But I know Ted Slavin too well to believe he’ll ever subscribe to the twelve rules Wallace mentioned. Why, he’d have to be made all over again to do that.”
“Look here, Paul, if a fellow has to live up to the rules, however could the members of Ted’s company be taken into a troop of Boy Scouts?” asked Bobolink, who always sought information.
“I don’t believe they ever could. Still, there’s no law in the land to prevent any lot of boys from forming a patrol, and calling themselves scouts. That’s my way of looking at it,” was the answer the leader gave.
The lads were now on their way home, the lantern having been secured, and extinguished, lest it invite another bombardment on the part of their tormentors, doubtless still hovering somewhere nearby.
No further attack came, however, for which some of them were possibly sorry, particularly William and Bluff, who delighted in strenuous action at all times.
On the border of the town the seven separated into three groups, the twins going off arm in arm, Bluff, Bobolink and A. Cypher forming another; while Paul and his particular chum made up the third.
“Well,” said Paul, as they headed for the house of his comrade, which chanced to come before his own, “what do you think of my scheme, Jack?”
“Immense, that’s what. I’m only astonished that nobody else took up with the idea before. Poor old Stanhope seems to be away behind the times, Paul.”
“Well, I don’t know. We’ve had lots going on this summer to take up our time; and then most of us were away during part of the vacation. There are other towns just as slow to catch on,” returned the other, loyal to the place of his birth.
“But now that the ball has been started rolling, just watch how fast it gathers force. I know how you go at these things. And of all the fellows I ever met, you are the one best fitted to lead in this thing, if I understand the game right. Why, it’s just going to fit in with the things you’ve preached and practiced for years.”
“That’s why it appealed so strongly to me, after I really understood what the many duties of a scout were supposed to be. But what’s the matter with you, Jack?”
“Eh? With me? Oh, nothing much, Paul.”
But the other knew better, for he had noticed a frown come over Jack’s usually smiling countenance more than once that evening, when the other thought he was not observed; and from this Paul felt positive his chum was worrying about something.
“Of course, if you think it best not to take me in on it, I’m the last one to bother you, old chap,” he went on, when Jack interrupted him.
“It wasn’t that, Paul, not in the least. To tell the truth I’ve been thinking it over, and just about made up my mind that I must tell some one, or I’d never sleep easy. And of all my friends you’re the one closest to me. Yes, I’m going to confess that there is something that puzzles me, and fills me with alarm.”
“Say, is it as bad as that, Jack? But how is it you don’t want to go to your own folks? You’ve got one of the best dads I ever knew, and your mother, well, few are in the same class with her.”
“That’s just it, Paul. I’d hate to have either of them know anything about this trouble.”
Paul swung his friend around so that he could see into his face; for they were just passing a street lamp at the time.
“Oh! I can look you in the eyes, old fellow. It isn’t anything disgraceful I’ve been doing, not at all. But you see,” and again that frown darkened Jack’s brow as unpleasant things presented themselves before his mind’s eye, “it’s a family affair, I’m afraid, and must be kept quiet.”
“Now you have got me to guessing good and hard. Suppose you tell me what it’s all about. I hope your brother, Karl—” and there Paul stopped, for by instinct he seemed to feel that he had guessed the truth the first shot.
Jack had given a huge sigh that seemed to well up from his heart.
“Yes, it’s about Karl, only I do hope that it will prove a false alarm, because I just can’t believe he’d do such a rotten thing,” the other went on, slowly.
“But he’s only a little fellow after all, Jack?”
“That’s so, but old enough to know better. You shall hear it all, and then perhaps you’ll advise me what to do,” went on Paul’s chum, with a vein of relief in his voice, as though he felt better already, after deciding to share his trouble with another.
“That’s right, and you know that it goes no further, Jack.”
“Karl got into some mischief a week ago, and to punish him father cut off his allowance of spending money for a whole month. Now, Karl belongs to a boys’ club, and I heard that at their last meeting the other day he paid up his dues, and seemed to have plenty of money. The question that is bothering me is, where did he get it?”
“Oh! is that all? Why, you forget that your brother is a bright chap; and I imagine you’ll find he’s been earning it some way or other; or perhaps his mother gave it to him. But see here, there’s more back of this than you’ve told me?” declared Paul, suddenly.
“There is,” replied his chum. “Listen now, and for goodness sake I hope you can cheer me up some, by explaining a mystery that’s bothering me. It’s about those old coins Uncle Reuben sent to me two years ago. There are some twenty-one in the lot. They’re copper coins, you know and I don’t suppose worth much. I’ve always kept them in a little open cedar box on my table up in the den; you’ve spoken about them more than once.”
“Sure, I remember all about them; but you don’t mean to say—” and there Paul stopped, almost afraid to voice the thought that flashed before his mind.
“Yes, a bunch of them have gone in a mighty queer way. Why this morning there were just fourteen left; but to tell the truth I was afraid to go up there at supper time when I came in after our last game of ball on the lot, to see if any more had disappeared.”
“Say it plainly, Jack. Some one is taking your old coins, sent by your uncle, and you’re just afraid it’s Karl, tempted to get some money in that way. But where could he sell them, do you think?”
“There’s old Doc. Thomes, who keeps stamps and curios for sale. I’ve seen some coins in his window often. He would know the value of these, and perhaps be willing to pay something for them. Oh! it’s just awful even to suspect my brother of being guilty of such a mean thing. I hate myself for allowing it, and have made up my mind just to hide the rest away, and never say a word.”
“No, I wouldn’t do that, Paul. In the first place it isn’t fair to Karl.”
“Fair? What can you mean? I wouldn’t ever say a word to him, never!”
“That’s just it, but you would think it always; and if he is innocent, why you see what a shame that would be. No, you ought to learn the truth, even though determined to keep your mouth shut afterward. In justice to Karl, you must know!”
“I believe you are right, old fellow. And I’m going to be guided by what you say. Come in with me, won’t you?” pleaded Jack.
“Yes,” answered Paul, promptly. “On condition that you take me up to your den, where we can talk without being disturbed.”
“You have an object in saying that. I believe you want to see for yourself if any more of my coins have disappeared?” declared the other.
“I acknowledge the corn, for that is just what I wanted to learn, Jack.”
“I suppose the sooner I take the bull by the horns, the quicker we can learn the truth; so come on in,” and taking his chum by the arm Jack led the way boldly up to the door of the Stormways’ house.
They managed to pass upstairs to the third floor without attracting any attention, the family being gathered around a table in the living room, reading.
No sooner had the lamp been lighted, after the door was closed, than Paul stepped over to the table desk which he knew so well.
Just as Jack had said, there was a little cedar box standing in plain view, and the coins it held attracted his eye.
Slowly and deliberately he proceeded to count them, while his chum awaited the result with abated breath, and his eyes turned in another direction.
“Well?” said Jack, hoarsely, when he saw that the other had dropped all of the coins back, one by one.
“You said there were fourteen left this morning, didn’t you, Jack?”
“Yes, and now?”
“I find just eight here, that’s all!” came the answer that caused the wretched brother of young Karl Stormways to shiver and sigh dismally.
THE DISAPPEARING COINS
“Just thirteen gone now,” said Jack, as he bent over to look for himself.
“Of course you know what they were, those that are missing?” suggested Paul.
“I have a list of the bunch somewhere; made it out one day just for fun. Yes, I think I could tell them again; but I never would have the heart to accuse old Doc. Thomes of buying stolen coins; and the thief—never!”
“I didn’t mean that, Jack; you mistook me. Suppose I had that list, and rooting over all the little boxes he keeps his coins in for sale, found every one of the missing ones there?”
“Yes, and then what?” asked the other, greatly affected, though watching his chum’s face eagerly, as though something seemed to tell him Paul would find a way out of the difficulty, such was his faith in the other.
“Why, perhaps you might buy the whole lot back, for almost a song, and never say a word.”
A hand crept out and squeezed Paul’s warmly; and there were tears in the eyes of Jack Stormways as he made answer.
“Just like you, old fellow, to cheer me up like that. Here, let me hunt up the list for you. But promise that you won’t whisper one little hint to a living soul. Oh! Karl, how could you?”
“Hold on, don’t judge him before you know. Believe him innocent until you find proof otherwise. I guess you’ll learn that one of the first things a scout has to do is to believe in his brothers and friends through thick and thin, until the proof has become positive, or the guilty one confesses. And another thing, Jack, in case the worst comes true, it’s up to us to make sure that such a miserable thing never happens again. We must save the one in error, save him through kindness and sympathy. How old is Karl?”
“A little over ten.”
“Too young to join the troop then, for all boys have to be twelve or over, according to the rules, I was told. But they have younger fellows in the bunch over at Aldine, I’m sure. One I saw strutting around in a uniform looked like a kid of eight or nine. Never mind; I believe it’ll all come out right yet. Perhaps some servant may have taken them?” said Paul, wishing to buoy up his chum’s spirits.
“We only have one, and she’s been with us ever since I was born. No use thinking Maggie would touch a single thing,” declared Jack, quickly, with a shake of his head.
Paul sauntered about the room for a few minutes. Apparently he was glancing at the numerous college pennants and other things that were upon the walls; but in reality he found himself wrestling with the strange puzzle that was giving his chum so much concern.
Presently he stood by the window, which was partly open.
“Who owns the Dempsey house now, Jack?” he asked, indicating the building next door.
“Oh! it is still for sale,” replied the other. “They don’t want to rent it again, you know, and ever since that last party moved out of town and left things looking so bad, Mr. Dempsey has kept it closed up.”
“When he lived here, you and Scissors used to be something of chums, didn’t you?” Paul went on.
“Well, yes,” the other admitted, “when we were smaller. But ever since Scissors started going with the Slavin crowd I’ve cut him dead.”
“I wish I lived as close to you as this,” Paul observed. “Why, we could nearly shake hands across the gap. I don’t suppose Scissors ever drops in to see you nowadays?”
“I should say not,” laughed Jack; “why, we’ve been at swords points now for a year and more, and never even speak as we pass each other.”
“Oh! well, of course then it would be silly to think of suspecting him,” remarked Paul as he sat down again.
But nevertheless, many times his eyes seemed to turn toward that partly opened window, and then in the direction of the low desk where the box of coins stood.
“Scissors” Dempsey had come by his nickname because of a peculiar trick he had of keeping his knees stiff when walking. Long ago one boy had likened his long legs to a pair of scissors, and quick to take up a humorous name like this, his mates had called him nothing else in years.
“Well, it’s a mighty funny thing where that bunch of old copper coins has gone to!” remarked Jack, presently, unable, it seemed, to think of anything else just then.
“I believe this den of yours is hardly ever locked,” remarked Paul, presently, “and all persons can come up here whenever they choose. I’ve even often found your dog Carlo sleeping here. Why, if any friend calls to see you, and wants to wait till you come home, he just meanders up here as he pleases, and amuses himself looking over your books and magazines. Isn’t that so, Jack?”
“Sure. My mother says this is Liberty Hall, judging from the way all my chums go and come. But what’s got you now? Do you think some other chap may have fallen into the nasty habit of helping himself to my coins, either to swell out his own collection, or to sell them to Doc. Thomes?”
“Oh! hardly that, although it seems possible. But don’t worry too much about it, Jack. I’m sure we’ll discover the truth sooner or later.”
“Anyhow I’ll have eight to hide away; part of a loaf is better than no bread,” remarked the other, dejectedly.
“Oh! I wouldn’t put them away, not just yet, anyhow, Jack.”
“But, my goodness, perhaps I’ll lose all of my coins if I leave them around like this any longer on my desk!”
“That’s so, but don’t you see if you hide them, it shuts us off from ever learning who is taking them.”
“Oh! I see. You mean to catch him at it some time; is that the idea, Paul?”
“Nothing less. I’ll drop in at the old dealer in curios to-morrow, and find out if he has any that are on this list. Listen, there’s somebody at the door!”
“It’s only Carlo, scratching to get in. Open the door, please, Paul.”
As the other did so a large Newfoundland dog stalked solemnly in, paid little heed to either of the occupants of the den, but snuggled down in a corner, where there was an old cushion, evidently placed there for his especial use.
“My! he’s getting fatter than ever,” remarked Paul, surveying the bulging sides of the shaggy canine, as he curled himself up as if to sleep.
“I believe he is, the scamp. I see it when I put him through his paces with all the tricks I taught him. He’s getting too logy, and has to be told three times before he’ll do a blessed thing. But about this wretched matter, Paul—you won’t say anything to your folks, will you?”
“Not for the world. It’s your secret, and I’d never leak a word without your permission. But I must be off now. Leave things just as you always have done; and don’t shut or lock the door here any more than before. I’ve got to do some studying over this Boy Scout affair when I get back. Whitson loaned me some pamphlets, but I didn’t have time to read them through.”
Jack accompanied his friend down to the front door. Here Karl, having heard them descending the stairs, joined them; and so far as Paul could see there was no change in the boy’s manner. If he had done wrong he must be clever enough to hide the guilt that lay in his heart, and put on a bold face.
“Remember!” was all Paul said as he squeezed Jack’s quivering hand, before jumping down the steps, boy fashion.
It was enough to encourage the sorely distressed lad, for he had the greatest faith in Paul Morrison, the doctor’s son, that any boy could ever place in a comrade; nor had the other ever failed to equal his expectations.
“I really believe Paul will do it,” he was muttering to himself as he slowly went upstairs again to the den, with its decorations of college flags, and pictures of camping, canoeing, outdoor sports such as baseball and football struggles, and kindred things so dear to the heart of almost every growing lad; “yes, I believe he will if anybody can. But I wish he had let me hide the rest of them away. It seems like putting temptation in the way of a weak brother. But he told me I wasn’t even to believe Karl took the coins, and I won’t!”
Nevertheless, Jack Stormways must have passed a miserable night; for the anxious eyes of his mother noticed his distressed looks when he came down to breakfast on the following morning.
“You don’t look well, son,” she observed, as she passed her cool hand across his fevered brow; “I think you ought to step in and see Doctor Morrison some time this morning, and let him give you something.”
“All right, mother; but it’s only a little headache,” he protested, for like all boys he disliked the thought of being considered sick.
Her eyes turned solicitously toward him many times during the meal, for she saw that Jack was unusually dull, and took little part in the conversation.
But it seemed that Karl made up for his brother’s lack of energy, for he was more than ordinarily inclined to be merry, and told numerous jokes he had heard from his fellows in the boys’ club he had joined.
Jack mentioned that they were about to organize a Boy Scout patrol; and very naturally his mother looked a bit serious at this news, until he explained some of the really excellent points connected with such an association; when her face cleared at once.
“If that is what the movement means then the sooner a patrol is organized in Stanhope the better. There are a lot of boys who would be vastly benefitted by such uplifting resolutions,” she declared, with some show of enthusiasm.
“Yes, mother, you are right,” said Mr. Stormways, just then. “Things have been going from bad to worse in our town of late, and the fathers are beginning to wonder where it will end. Only yesterday I met old Peleg Growdy. You remember the old fellow, for we stopped at his place when we were out riding, and had a drink at his well.”
“Yes, and a most singular old man he was. I really couldn’t say that I was much impressed with his looks or conversation,” replied the lady, as she poured another cup of coffee for her husband.
“All very true; but he minds his own business if let alone; and after all I find that he is a well educated man, up in most questions of the day. But the boys, or some of them at least, have for a long time considered old Peleg a fit subject for practical jokes. They change the lines on his team, given half a chance, and annoy him in every way possible. Really, I don’t wonder he is bitter about it.”
“But you had something in mind, father, when you said that you met him?”
Mr. Stormways looked at Jack.
“That is true, my son; and do you know, the first thought that came to me was one of pleasure to feel absolutely sure no boy of mine would disgrace himself in plaguing an old man who had never harmed him.”
Jack felt a glow in the region of his heart at this show of confidence; and resolved that more than ever would he merit it; but somehow he could not help looking out of the tail of his eye toward Karl, to find that the color had mounted to his forehead, and that he seemed embarrassed.
Was he thinking just then of the coins; or did he have some knowledge of the practical joke that had been played on old Peleg Growdy?
“Now, tell us what it was, Alan,” said Mrs. Stormways, encouragingly.
“Well, perhaps in one way it may have been looked upon as something humorous, but it annoyed the old man very much. Last Sunday he went out to let his pigs run loose in the lot, as is his habit. When he pulled the rope that opened the little door in the back of the pen, he was astonished to see the queerest lot of porkers dash away that human eyes had ever beheld.”
Karl was snickering by now, showing that he must have some knowledge of what was to come.
“No two pigs looked alike. The boys had crept into the pen in the night, with a lantern, and some pots of paint taken from Mr. Rabow’s shop, and painted the whole drove in every color imaginable. One, he said, looked like the American flag. Another had four legs of different hues; a third was striped yellow and green, and so it went. Imagine the old man’s amazement as he saw them kicking up their legs, and tearing around like mad; for the sun had reached the turpentine in the paint, and made it burn tremendously.”
Karl gave a shout, and even Mrs. Stormways could not repress a smile, though she felt that it was wrong.
“I heard about it from one of the boys, father; I don’t want to tell his name, you see, because it might get him into a scrape,” said Karl, as he managed to get his breath again.
Jack breathed easier, since he knew now that his brother had not been concerned in the adventure; still, there was that other thing—but he had promised Paul not to believe, or even suspect, anything so early in the game.
“I admit that it does seem ludicrous; and no doubt if I had been there I must have been strongly tempted to laugh at the comical spectacle those six pigs must have presented. But it is the spirit of the thing that looks so bad. Growdy never harmed a boy in his life, he says, and only wants to be let alone; but they went out of their way to play a malicious trick on the old man. It took him the whole of Sunday to scrape that paint off the hides of his pigs; which I consider a pretty hard proposition. And I repeat what I said before, that I’m pleased to know a son of mine would not be guilty of so mean a trick.”
Karl left the table just then, and his brother fancied that he looked a bit confused, as though his conscience were troubling him, but then Jack hoped he might be mistaken.
THE FIRST SCOUT LEADER
Paul had said that he would be away the greater part of the day, his father having asked him to go to the city on an important errand.
Consequently there was no opportunity for the two chums to confer upon any of the matters that were interesting then.
But all the boys had agreed to meet at the house of Nuthin’ that evening, to plunge deeper into the subject of organizing at least one scout patrol in Stanhope.