Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: The Boy Scouts' First Camp Fire - or, Scouting with the Silver Fox Patrol
Author: Carter, Herbert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy Scouts' First Camp Fire - or, Scouting with the Silver Fox Patrol" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



The Boy Scouts'
First Camp Fire

OR

Scouting with the Silver Fox Patrol.

BY HERBERT CARTER

          Author of "The Boy Scouts In the Blue Ridge," "The Boy
          Scouts On the Trail," "The Boy Scouts In the Maine
          Woods," "The Boy Scouts Through the
          Big Timber," "The Boy Scouts
          In the Rockies."


[Illustration: A. L. BURT COMPANY

NEW YORK]

Copyright 1913

BY A. L. BURT COMPANY

       *       *       *       *       *

THE BOY SCOUTS' FIRST CAMP FIRE.


[Illustration: The announcement of the bear by Davy Jones was succeeded
by a mad scramble of every boy to reach a place of safety. Page 48.

_The Boy Scouts' First Camp Fire._]



THE BOY SCOUTS'
FIRST CAMP-FIRE.



CHAPTER I.

A HALT BY THE ROADSIDE.


"Tara--tara!"

Loud and clear sounded the notes of a bugle, blown by a very stout lad,
clad in a new suit of khaki; and who was one of a bunch of Boy Scouts
tramping wearily along a dusty road.

"Good for you, Bumpus! Can't he just make that horn talk, though?" cried
one.

"Sounds as sweet as the church bell at home, fellows!" declared a
second.

"Say, Mr. Scout-Master, does that mean a halt for grub?" a third called
out.

"Sure, Giraffe. Brace up old fellow. You'll have your jaws working right
soon, now. And here's a dandy little spring, right among the trees! How
shady and cool it looks, Thad."

"That's why we kept on for an hour after noon," remarked the boy called
Thad, and who seemed to be a person of some authority; "when all you
scouts wanted to stop and rest. You see Davy, Allan here, and myself
made a note of that same spring the other day, when we came along on
horseback, spying out the lay of the land."

"Well, now," remarked the boy called Davy, as he threw himself down to
stretch; "that's what our instruction book says,--a true scout always
has his eyes and ears open to see and hear everything. The more things
you can remember in a store window, after only a minute to look, the
further up you are, see?"

The boy called Thad not only wore a rather seedy and faded scout khaki
uniform; while those of all his comrades were almost brand new; but he
had several merit badges fastened on the left side of his soft shirt.

These things would indicate that Thad Brewster must have been connected
with some patrol, or troop of Boy Scouts, in the town where he formerly
lived before his father, dying, left him in charge of the queer old
bachelor uncle who was known far and wide among the boys of Scranton as
plain "Daddy Brewster"--nobody ever understood why, save that he just
loved all manner of young people.

In fact, it was a memory of the good times which he had enjoyed in the
past that influenced Thad to start the ball rolling for a troop of
scouts in Scranton. In this endeavor he had found energetic backing;
and the Silver Fox Patrol of the troop was now starting out upon its
first hike, to be gone several days.

Several of the eight boys forming this patrol were lagging more or less
along the dusty road; for the brisk walk on this summer day had tired
them considerably.

At the cheery notes of the bugle, blown by "Bumpus" Hawtree, the stray
ones in uniform quickened their pace, so as to close up. Of course the
stout youth had another name, and a very good one too, having been
christened Cornelius Jasper. But his chums had long ago almost forgotten
it, and as Bumpus he was known far and wide.

He was a good-natured chap, clumsy in his way, but always willing to
oblige, and exceedingly curious. Indeed, his mates in the patrol
declared Bumpus ought to have been born a girl, as he always wanted to
"poke his nose into anything queer that happened to attract his
attention." And this failing, of course, was going to get Bumpus into a
lot of trouble, sooner or later.

His one best quality was a genuine love for music. He could play any
sort of instrument; and had besides a wonderfully sweet high soprano
voice, which he was always ready to use for the pleasure of his friends.
That promised many a happy night around the camp-fire, when once the
Silver Fox Patrol had become fully established.

And this love of music which the fat boy possessed had made the
selection of a bugler for Cranford Troop the easiest thing possible. He
actually had no competitor.

Presently the entire eight lads had thrown themselves down in such
positions as seemed to appeal to them. Some lay flat on their stomachs,
and drank from the overflow of the fine little spring; while others
scooped up the water in the cup formed by the palms of their hands.

One rather tall boy, with flaxen hair, and light dreamy blue eyes, took
out his handkerchief, carefully dusted the ground where he meant to sit,
then having deposited himself in a satisfactory manner, he opened the
haversack he had been carrying, taking out some of the contents very
carefully.

"My! but they're packed smartly, all right, Smithy," remarked the fellow
who had responded to the name of Davy Jones; "you certainly take a heap
of trouble to have things just so. My duds were just tossed in as they
came. Threatened to jump on 'em so as to crowd the bunch in tighter.
What are you looking for now?"

"Why, my drinking cup, to be sure," replied the other, lifting his
eyebrows in surprise, as if he could not understand why any one would be
so silly as to lie down and drink--just like an animal, when nice little
aluminum collapsible cups could be procured so cheaply.

And having presently found what he wanted, he deliberately returned each
article to its proper place in the carryall before he allowed himself
the pleasure of a cooling drink. But at least he had one satisfaction;
being the possessor of a cup allowed him the privilege of dipping
directly into the fountain head, the limpid spring itself.

They called him just plain "Smithy," but of course such an elegant
fellow had a handle to the latter part of his name. It was Edmund
Maurice Travers Smith; but you could never expect a parcel of American
boys to bother with such a tremendous tongue-twisting name as that.
Hence the Smithy.

While the whole patrol, taking out the lunch that had been provided, and
which one of them, evidently from the South from the soft tones of his
voice, called a "snack," were eating we might as well be making the
acquaintance of the rest.

The Southern lad was named Robert Quail White. A few of his chums
addressed him as plain Bob; but the oddity of the combination appealed
irresistibly to their sense of humor, and "Bob White" it became from
that time on. Sometimes they called to him with the well-known whistle
of a quail; and he always responded.

There was a very tall fellow, with a remarkably long neck. "Giraffe" he
had become when years younger, and the name was likely to stick to him
even after he got into college. When his attention was called to
anything, Conrad Stedman usually stretched his neck in a way that gave
him a great advantage over his fellows. He was sometimes a little
touchy; but gave promise of proving himself a good scout, being willing
to learn, faithful, and obliging.

Another of the patrol had a rather melancholy look. This was Stephen
Bingham. He might have gone to the end of the chapter as plain Steve;
but when a little fellow at school, upon being asked his name, he had
pronounced it as if a compound word; and ever since he was known as
Step-hen Bingham. Whenever he felt like sending his companions into fits
of laughter Step-hen would show the whites of his eyes, and look
frightened. He could never find his things, and was forever appealing to
the others to know whether they had seen some article he had misplaced.
Step-hen evidently had much to learn before he could qualify for the
degree of a first-class scout.

The one who seemed to be second in Command of the little detachment was
a quiet looking boy. Allan Hollister had been raised after a fashion
that as he said "gave him the bumps of experience." Part of his life had
been spent in the Adirondacks and in Maine; so that he really knew by
actual participation in the work what the other lads were learning from
the books they read.

He lived with his mother, said to be a widow. They seemed to have
plenty of money; but Allan was often sighing, as though somehow his
thoughts turned back to former scenes, and he longed to return to Maine
again.

Here then was the complete roster of the Silver Fox Patrol of Cranford
Troop, as called by the secretary, Bob White, at each and every meeting.

1. Thad Brewster, Patrol Leader, and Assistant Scout-Master.

2. Allan Hollister, upon whom the responsibility rested after Thad.

3. Cornelius Hawtree.

4. Robert Quail White.

5. Edmund Maurice Travers Smith.

6. Conrad Stedman.

7. Davy Jones.

8. Stephen Bingham.

Of course, as the rules of the organization provided, there was a
genuine scout-master to accompany the boys when possible, and look after
their moral welfare; as well as act as a brake upon the natural
exuberance of their spirits. This was a young man who was studying
medicine with Dr. Calkins in the town of Cranford. Frequently the clever
young M.D. could not keep his appointments with his boys; at such times
he had to delegate to Thad his duties. And to tell the truth when they
learned that as the elder doctor was sick himself, their scout-master
would be unable to accompany them on this, their first real hike and
outing, none of the scouts felt very sorry.

"Pretty near time we started again for the lake, isn't it, Thad?"
demanded Step-hen, something like an hour after they had stopped to
break the march with a bite and a cool drink.

"Oh! please let me finish this little grub," called out Giraffe, who was
tremendously fond of eating; "it's a shame to waste it. You stopped me
from making a fire you know, Thad; and I fell behind the rest of you
that way."

"I never saw such a fellow, always crazy to set fire to things,"
remarked Davy Jones. "He'll burn the whole world up some day."

"I expect to set the river on fire when I get in business," grinned
Giraffe.

"Give the signal to fall in, Mr. Bugler--but I say, where _is_ Bumpus
anyway?" asked the acting scout-master, looking around.

"Oh! he went wandering away some time ago," remarked Davy. "But here's
his horn; let's see if I can blow the old thing."

He put the shining instrument to his lips, puffed out his cheeks, and
emitted a frightful groaning sound. The rest of the scouts had just
started to laugh when there came a strange, rattling noise from the
woods near by, as though a landslide might be in progress. And
accompanying the racket they heard a feeble voice that must belong to
Bumpus, though no one recognized it, calling out:

"Help! help! Oh, somebody come quick, and save me!"

With that call every member of the scout patrol leaped erect, staring at
one another in dismay.



CHAPTER II.

THE PRISONER OF THE TREE STUMP.


"Oh! perhaps a wolf has got poor Bumpus!" exclaimed Smithy, who had
never had any real experience in the woods, and was therefore a genuine
"greenhorn" scout.

"Or a bear!" suggested Step-hen.

Thad was not the one to stand and speculate, when a comrade appeared to
be in deep trouble, so he immediately cried out:

"Get your staves, and come along, everybody; no; you stay with our
knapsacks, to guard them, Bob White. This may be some trick of Brose
Griffin and his cronies to steal our stuff. This way, the rest of you,
boys!"

"Hurrah!" shouted Step-hen, showing great animation; but cautiously
falling in the rear of the procession that went rushing into the depths
of the woods.

"Which way did it come from, Thad?" asked Smithy; who, despite his
girl-like neatness of person and belongings, and dainty ways, was close
to the leader, his face whiter than usual, but his eyes flashing with
unaccustomed fire.

"I think over in this direction," said Davy Jones, before the leader
could reply.

"Listen!" commanded Thad, as he held up his hand, bringing them all to a
halt. Straining their ears, each scout tried to catch some sound that
would give him the privilege of being the first to point to the spot
where Bumpus was in sore need of assistance.

"I think I heard a groan!" remarked Step-hen, in an awe-struck voice,
that trembled in spite of his effort to seem brave.

"So did I," declared Allan; "and it was over yonder to the left."

Accordingly the six boys went helter-skelter into the underbrush, making
all the noise an elephant might in pushing through the woods. Perhaps it
was only the result of their eagerness to reach the companion, who
seemed to be in trouble; and then again, a racket like that might
frighten away any wild beast that had attempted to carry their stout
bugler away.

"Stop again, and listen," said Thad, half a minute later. "We must be
near the place where that groan came from. Hear it again, anybody?"

"Help! oh, help! they're eating me alive!" came in a muffled voice from
some unknown place near by.

Thrilled by the words, and half expecting to see some savage monster
struggling with their fellow scout, the six boys stared about them in
dismay. Not the first sign could they see of either Bumpus or the
attacking beast.

"Where under the sun can he be?" exclaimed Giraffe.

"Perhaps it was a big eagle, or a hawk; and it's carried him up into a
tree!" suggested Step-hen; and strange to say, no one even laughed at
the silly idea.

"Allan has guessed it!" cried Smithy, who had chanced to see a little
smile chase across the face of the boy from Maine.

"Where is he, then?" asked Thad, wheeling on his second in command.

"I think if you move over to that big old tree-trunk yonder, you'll find
Bumpus, sir," replied Allan, making the scout salute; for he believed in
carrying out the rules of the organization when on duty, as at present.

"But we can see the whole thing from top to bottom, and never a sign of
Bumpus anywhere?" remarked Step-hen, doubtfully.

"And he ain't such a little chap that he could hide under the bark of a
dead tree either," remarked Davy, scornfully.

Thad was already advancing upon the stump in question. Perhaps he had
caught the hidden meaning to Allan's words; and could give a pretty good
guess as to why the other smiled.

"Surround the stump, scouts!" he ordered; and the boys immediately
started to obey, holding their stout staves in readiness to resist an
attack, if so be some unseen wild beast made a sudden leap.

"Say, it's all a mistake; there ain't a blessed thing here!" grumbled
Step-hen, when, after reaching a point on the other side of the immense
stump, he could see the entire surface of its trunk, some three feet
through, possibly more.

"Yes there is; and I want to get out the worst kind! Ouch! they're
biting me like hot cakes! I'm getting poisoned, I know I am! Oh! dear!"
came the muffled voice that they knew belonged to Bumpus.

"Whoop! he's _in_ the old stump!" shouted Davy Jones, starting to grin
broadly.

"That's right," replied the unseen Bumpus; "but please don't stand
there, and guy a poor feller, boys. Do something for me before I'm a
goner. Oh! how they are going for me though! I'm beginning to swell up
like anything! Be quick, Thad, Allan, and the rest of you!"

"But what's biting him, do you think?" said Step-hen, looking serious
again. "Can it be rattlesnakes, Thad, or bumble-bees?"

"Hardly," replied the other, readily; "I'd expect rather that it was
ants. What do you say, Allan?"

"No doubt of it," came from the boy who had practical experience in the
ways of the woods. "They like to make their nests in old dead trees.
But ask Bumpus."

Evidently the boy who was imprisoned inside the stump of the forest
monarch must have heard every word spoken by his mates, without, for he
instantly called aloud:

"Yes, that's what it is, ants, and they are fierce, I tell you. I'm
covered all over right now with lumps as big as hickory nuts. Be quick,
boys, and get me out!"

"How under the sun d'ye think he ever got inside that stump; for the
life of me I can't see any hole down here?" Davy asked, wonderingly.

"He must have fallen in through the top," replied Allan, casting a quick
glance up toward the place in question. "The old thing's hollow, and it
gave way under Bumpus."

"Sure, that's the way!" called out the unseen sufferer, eagerly. "Get a
move on you, fellers. I want to breathe some fresh air, and take some
stuff for all these poisonous bites."

"But what were you doing up that stump?" demanded Step-hen; while Thad
and Allan were examining the remains of the once proud tree, as if to
decide what ought to be done, in order to rescue the unlucky scout.

"I know what ails Bumpus," cried Davy; "his old curiosity bump was
working overtime, and coaxed him to climb up there."

"Well, how'd I know the old thing'd give in with me like that?"
protested the other, faintly. "I saw a bee going in a hole up there; and
you know I'm just crazy to find a wild bees' nest in a hollow tree,
because I dote on honey. But I was mistaken about that; it's ants biting
me; because I caught one on my cheek after he'd taken a nibble. Oh!
ain't they making me a sight, though? Where's Thad? I hope you don't
just go on, and leave me here to die, boys. Please get busy!"

"Just hold up a little, Bumpus," called Thad, cheerily. "We haven't any
rope to pull you up again; and besides, Allan says the top of the rotten
stump would like as not give way, if anybody tried to stand on it. But
I've sent Giraffe back to the spring after the ax we carried. We'll just
have to cut a hole, and let you climb out that way."

"But be careful not to give me a jab, won't you, please, Thad?" asked
the other, between his groans. "I'm bad enough off as it is, without
losing a leg."

"Don't be afraid," replied the scout-master; "we're going to let Allan
do the job, and few fellows know how to handle an ax as well as he does.
And here's the tool right now; Giraffe made pretty quick time."

"But what do you want me to do?" asked the prisoner of the stump,
piteously.

"Why, here's a hole already, big enough for me to stick my hand in; feel
that, do you, Bumpus?" and Thad inserted his hand, to clutch the leg of
the other.

"Oh! how you scared me at first, Thad; I sure thought it was a wildcat,
or something, that had grabbed me. I'm trembling all over, what with the
bites, the tumble, and the excitement."

"Now keep as far back from this side as you can," continued the other.
"Is the hollow big enough to allow that, Bumpus?"

"It surely is, Thad," replied the other, somewhat more cheerfully, as if
the confident manner in which Thad went about his business reassured
him. "Guess there must be nearly a foot of space between."

"That's fine," Thad went on to say; "now keep back, and leave it all to
Allan. He's going to commence chopping."

Immediately there sounded the stroke of the descending ax.

"Huh! went all the way through, that time," said Step-hen, who was
watching the operation closely; "reckon the old tree must be as rotten
as punk."

"Make a dandy blaze, all right," ventured Giraffe, whose mind was bent
on fires, so that he never lost a chance for making one; and who loved
to sit and watch it burn, much as the old fire worshippers might have
done in long-ago times.

"Take care, Allan," remarked Thad; "don't strike so hard next time. Why,
you'll knock a hole in that stump in a jiffy. It's only a shell."

"I could drop the whole thing in fifteen minutes, believe me," answered
the boy who wielded the ax so cleverly, having learned the trick from
the native woodsmen up in Maine, his native State.

Again the sharp-edged tool descended; and the hole grew considerably
larger. The prisoner kept urging them to make more haste, and exclaim
that he was swelling up so fast as a result of his bites, that he'd soon
be unable to crawl out, even if half the tree trunk were chopped away.

But Allan was a methodical chap, and could not be urged into
carelessness when making use of such a dangerous tool as a keen-edged
ax. He chopped close to the imaginary line he had drawn; and as large
chips fell in a shower the aperture increased in size until they could
see the lower limbs of the prisoner.

"Can't you drop down on your hands and knees, Bumpus?" called Thad. "I
should think the hole was big enough now to let you get out."

"Oh! I'll try," wailed the other; "I'm willing to do anything you say,
Thad, if only you can patch me up, and keep me from bursting. There, I
did manage to squeeze down on my knees; but I don't believe I can ever
get through."

"We're willing to help you, old fellow," remarked Davy, as he seized
hold of a hand; while Step-hen took the other; and between them they
pulled, while Bumpus used his legs to kick backward; and finally he was
dragged triumphantly out of his strange prison.

But when the boys saw his swollen face they stopped their loud laughing;
for although the fat boy tried to grin good-naturedly, he was such a
sight that pity took the place of merriment in the hearts of his chums.

The vicious ants had really bitten his cheeks so that they were swollen
up very much, and Bumpus looked like a boy with the mumps.



CHAPTER III.

THE ACCUSATION MADE BY STEP-HEN.


"Am I going to swell up any more, Thad; and will you just have to put
hoops on me to keep me from bursting?" asked Bumpus, earnestly.

The other fellows wanted to laugh, but to their credit be it said that
they restrained this feeling. It would be heartless, with poor Bumpus
looking so badly.

"Oh! don't get that notion into your head," said the young leader; for
as assistant scout-master, in the absence of Dr. Philander, Thad was
supposed to take charge of the troop, and assume all his duties; "here,
fellows, bring him along back to the spring. I've got something in my
haversack the doctor gave me, that ought to help Bumpus."

"Was it meant for ant bites, Thad, do you know?" asked the victim, as he
allowed his comrades to urge him along slowly; while he rubbed, first
one part of his person, and then another, as the various swellings stung
in succession.

"Well, he really said it was to be used in case any of us got scratched
by a wild animal, and there was danger of poisoning; but it strikes me
it would be a good antiseptic, he called it, in this case."

Having reached the spot where Bob White still faithfully stood guard
over their few belongings, Thad hurriedly threw open his bundle, and
took out a little package carefully wrapped up. It contained rolls of
soft white linen to be used for bandages in case of need; adhesive
plaster, also in small rolls; and a few common remedies such as camphor,
arnica, and the like, intended for ailments boys may invite when
overeating, or partaking too freely of green apples.

"Here it is," he remarked, holding up a small bottle.

"How purple it looks," observed Davy Jones, curiously; "and what's this
on the label, here. 'Permaganate of Potash, No. 6; to be painted on the
scratch; and used several times if necessary.' That's Doc. Philander's
writing, sure."

"It looks pretty tough," commented Giraffe.

"The remedy is sometimes worse than the disease, they say," remarked
Smithy.

"You don't think it'll hurt much, do you, Thad?" asked the victim,
trying to smile, but unable, on account of his swollen cheeks.

"Not a bit, I understand," came the reassuring reply. "Besides, I should
think that you wouldn't hold back, even if it did, Bumpus. You're in a
bad way, and I've just got to counteract that poison before your eyes
close up."

"Go on, use the whole bottle if you want to," urged the alarmed boy.

"The only bad thing about it is that this stuff stains like fun, and
you'll be apt to look like a wild Indian for a day or two," Thad
observed, as he started to apply the potash with a small camel's hair
brush brought for the purpose.

"Little I care about that, so long as it does the business," replied
Bumpus; and so the amateur doctor continued to dab each bite with the
lavender-colored fluid until the patient looked as though he might be
some strange freak intended for a dime museum.

Of course that was too much for the other boys. They snickered behind
their hands, and presently broke out into a yell that awoke the echoes.
Bumpus only nodded his head at them, for he was a very good-natured
fellow.

"Laugh away and welcome, boys," he remarked, grimly. "Feels better
already, Thad, and if the stuff will only do the business I don't care
what happens. Besides, the fellows must have their fun. But they
wouldn't think it a joke if any of them had climbed up, looking for a
honey pot, and dropped through the rotten stuff that covered the hole in
the top of that stump."

"Well," said Step-hen, "if it had been our monkey, now. He'd have had a
great time climbing out; but Davy could have done it; he's more at home
in a tree than on the ground."

He said this because the Jones boy was as nimble as an ape when he found
an opportunity to show off his gymnastics; he dearly loved to hang from
a limb by his toes, and carry on like a circus athlete or trapeze
performer.

"Do we make a start now?" asked Bob White; "exactly fifteen minutes
spent, suh, in rescuing our comrade in distress."

"Are you able to walk with us, Bumpus?" asked Thad.

"Oh! I guess I can amble along somehow," responded the fat boy; "but
please detail a couple of scouts to keep near me, in case I begin to
swell again. I'm sorry we haven't got a rope along; because I'd feel
safer if I had one wrapped around me right now."

"Where's my campaign hat?" burst out Step-hen just then; "anybody seen
it layin' around loose? I declare to goodness it's queer how _my_ things
always seem to disappear. I often think there must be some magic about
it."

"Huh! the only trouble is you never keep a blessed thing where it
belongs," declared Davy, in scorn. "Now, there's Smithy, who goes to
just the opposite extreme; he's too particular, and wastes time, which a
true scout should never do. The rest of us try to be half-way decent;
and you notice we seldom lose anything. There's your old hat right now,
just where you flung it when we dropped down here."

"Oh! thank you, Davy; perhaps I am just a little careless, as you say;
but all the same it's funny how _my_ things always go. Hope, now, I
don't lose that splendid little aluminum compass I bought the other day,
thinking that it might save me from getting lost in the woods some
time."

"Oh! come along, old slow-poke, we're going to start There's Bumpus
trying to screw his lips into a pucker right now, so he can blow the
bugle. Ain't he got the grit, though, to attend to his business with
that swollen face?"

Presently, after the inspiring notes of the bugle had sounded, the
patrol once more took up its line of march. Each scout had his staff in
his hand, and carried a haversack on his back. Blankets they had none,
for all those necessary things had been entrusted to the care of a
farmer, whose route home from early market took him near the intended
camping place on Lake Omega; a beautiful, if wild looking sheet of water
some miles in length, and situated about ten from Cranford town.

Allan and Thad headed the procession that soon straggled in couples
along the side of the dusty road.

"What made you mention the name of Brose Griffin when you detailed
Number Four to remain at the camp?" asked Allan, who had evidently been
thinking about this same thing.

"Well," replied the scout-master, "it flashed into my mind that these
tough fellows might have dogged us up here, to play some of their tricks
on us when in camp; and that holding Bumpus was meant to draw the rest
off, so they could run away with our haversacks, which they knew must
contain lots of things we couldn't well get on without in camp."

"Smithy couldn't if his hair brush and his little whisk broom were
missing," declared Allan, with a chuckle. "Why, that boy seems to only
live to fight against dirt. He's the most particular fellow I ever
knew."

"Oh! wait and see how he gets over that before he's been a scout two
months," said Thad, also laughing. "Nothing like the rough and ready
life in camp and on the march to cure a boy of being over-clean. He'd
never learn any different at home, you know, because his mother is the
same way, and brought him up pretty much like a girl. But he's reached
the point now where the true boy nature is beginning to get the better
of that false pride."

"But seriously, Thad, do you believe we'll see anything of Brose Griffin
and his two shadows, Bangs and Hop?"

"I certainly hope we won't," replied the other; "but you know what they
are; and I've been told that they went around asking all sorts of
questions about where we intended to make our first camp-fire. It
wouldn't surprise me much if they did try to give us trouble."

"What will we do if it happens that way?" asked Allan.

"Defend ourselves, to be sure," replied the scout-master, promptly, as
he gave a weed a snap with his staff that cut its top off neatly.

"But scouts are not supposed to fight; that is one of the principles of
the organization," Allan remarked.

"In a way you're right," replied the other, slowly; "that is, no true
scout will ever seek a fight; but there may be times when he has to
enter into one in order to defend himself, or save a comrade from being
badly hurt. You know the twelve rules we all subscribed to when we
joined the Silver Fox Patrol, Allan? Suppose you run them over right
now?"

"Oh! that's easy," laughed the second in command. "A scout must be
trustworthy, loyal, helpful to others, friendly, courteous, kind,
obedient to his superiors, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and
reverent."

"Well, in order to be brave, and helpful to others, he may even have to
fight; but he is expected only to resort to such extreme measures when
every other means fail. And if those three roughs come playing their
jokes around our camp we'll try and speak decently with them first.
Then, if that doesn't work, they'd better look out."

The way Thad snapped his teeth shut when saying those last few words
told what he would be apt to do if forced into the last ditch by
circumstances over which he had no control.

"I hope we can coax Giraffe to quit trying to make fires all the time,"
said Allan. "It's a dangerous thing to do in the woods. Why, up in Maine
every hunter has to employ a licensed guide just to make sure he doesn't
leave a camp-fire burning behind him when he breaks camp, which the
rising wind would scatter into the brush, so that valuable timber would
be burned, and heaps of damage done. I've stood my turn as a fire guard
myself in the Fall, and was hired by the State too."

"Listen, would you?" said Thad, just then; "what do you suppose is the
matter between Bumpus and Step-hen now? The chances are he's gone and
lost something again and is accusing poor old Bumpus of taking it. Let's
wait for them here, and settle the trouble."

The two in question brought up the van of the trailing patrol. As they
came along Step-hen was venting his disgust as usual over the "mighty
queer way" _his_ things had of vanishing without anybody ever touching
them.

"What's gone now, Step-hen?" asked Thad, as they came up, still
wrangling.

"Why, just to think," called out Bumpus, "he says I never gave him back
that new compass of his, after he showed me how it worked, before we
started on this hike; and I say I did. As if I'd want to take his silly
compass, when I learned how to tell north from the mossy side of a tree,
and the way the sun hangs out up there."

"Well, I just can't find it on me anywhere," complained Step-hen; "and
as I remembered showing it to Bumpus, I thought he was setting up a game
on me by hiding it somewhere about him. He wouldn't let me look in his
pack, either, you know."

"Course I wouldn't!" cried the fat boy, indignantly; "because that'd
look like I half admitted the charge. Guess I know enough about law to
understand that. Just you think real hard, Step-hen, and p'raps you'll
remember where you put it; but don't throw it up at me, please."

The other grumbled something, but made no further charge. From the
suspicious way in which he looked at Bumpus out of the corners of his
eyes, it was plain that his mind was far from convinced, and that
missing compass would be apt to make trouble during the whole trip.



CHAPTER IV.

WHEN THE FIRE WAS KINDLED.


"How are you feeling now, Bumpus?" asked Thad, some time later, as he
once more stopped to allow all the stragglers pull up; for some of the
boys were beginning to look rather fagged, though they tried to hide the
telltale signs, being too proud to own up to any weakness that ill
became a scout.

"Pretty ragged, to tell the truth," replied the fat boy, who was puffing
as he came along. "It ain't the poison I've absorbed in my system, so
much as a weakness that just makes me shiver all over. And Thad, I've
walked this far before, and never felt like this, either."

"Oh! I expected that you'd have that sort of a spell," remarked the
other. "You see, that tumble, and the shock of feeling something biting
you, that was terrible because you were in the dark, must have given
your nervous system a bad jolt. But keep up if you can, Bumpus. In a
little while now we'll be near the lake, and our first camp."

"And just think of it, boys, what a roaring old fire we'll have
to-night," spoke up Giraffe, craning his long neck to glance around the
circle that had gathered about the leader.

"You'll just leave all that to me, Giraffe," said the patrol leader,
sternly. "Here we are about to get into our first camp, and begin to
take up the duties all scouts ought to learn, so they can take care of
themselves, and be of help to others in the woods. And let me tell you,
the first camp-fire is too serious a thing for you to start it off-hand.
So I positively forbid you to think of using a single match to-night
without permission."

Giraffe shrank back, looking crushed. He had been building high hopes on
having unlimited chances for carrying out his favorite diversion, once
away from the restraints of civilization. But he must learn by degrees,
possibly through sad experience, that a fire is just as terrible in the
wilderness, once it gets beyond control, as in a settled community. It
is a good servant, but a very bad master.

"How far is the lake from here, would you say, Thad?" asked Davy Jones.

"Not over two miles," was the reply. "You notice that the country is
getting wilder the further we go. And around Lake Omega they say it
beats everything, for you can't see a single house."

"How does it come that this lake, lying so close to Cranford, has never
been visited by any of you fellows?" asked Bob White, who, being a
comparative newcomer, like Allan and Thad, could not be supposed to
know as much about things as the rest of the scouts, who had been born
in Cranford, and brought up there.

"Why, you see for a long time all this country up here was owned by a
rich man, who meant to make a game preserve out of it. He even had a
high wire fence built around part of the tract, including the lake, and
kept game keepers here, so nobody could get in to steal a single fish.
But he died before he ever had a chance to finish the job; and his widow
sold the ground to a lumber concern, that never cared a thing for game.
Chances are there'll be some high old hunting around up here this Fall;
and I'm going to get in on it if I can."

It was Davy Jones who gave this information. He had a father who was
said to be a very smart lawyer; and Davy bade fair to follow in his
footsteps. At least, the boy was never asleep when anything was going
on; and he could easily subscribe to that scout injunction which
requires that a boy keep his eyes and ears open, in order to learn
things the ordinary person would never see nor hear.

Once more they took up the march, Bumpus being a little refreshed from
the halt. A couple of the other fellows kept near him from now on, and
even linked arms with the fat boy, who was universally well liked on
account of his disposition being sunny, no matter whether in fair
weather or in storm.

Along about four in the afternoon a shout arose.

"I see water ahead!" yelled Giraffe, who had managed to get in ahead of
the others.

"Well, with that neck you ought to be able to see anything," called out
Bumpus, from further back in the line.

"I guess I could see whether a bee went into a hole in a stump, or just
swung past," retorted the other. "But there's your lake, fellows; and
we're right close up on the same, now. Just look through that opening in
the trees; see the sun shining on the little waves. Say, don't it look
fine, though? Talking about fires--but that'll keep," as he saw the
patrol leader turn his eyes quickly upon him.

Every one felt like quickening his pace, even the weary Bumpus. Step-hen
seemed especially solicitous about the welfare of his stout comrade, for
he kept hovering near him, offering to lend his arm, or do any other
kindly act. Bumpus eyed him a little suspiciously, as though he had an
idea the other might have some dark motive in being so extra kind.

"See here, Step-hen," he declared once, when the other slipped an arm
through his and helped him on his way; "I reckon you're thinking that if
you're good to me I'll own up to taking that beastly little compass of
yours, eh? Well, just get that notion out of your head, won't you?
Because I ain't goin' to confess to something I never did. And don't you
say compass to me again, hear?"

"Oh! never mind," said Step-hen, very sweetly, for him, and with a
curious smile that made the fat boy uneasy; "of course if you say you
didn't keep it, there must be some mistake; only it seems mighty funny
how _my_ things are always disappearing, and the rest of you get off
scot free. But don't bother about it, Bumpus; sure the thing is bound to
turn up somewhere. Only I hope I find it before I go and get lost in the
forest. I always was afraid of that, you know. I'll try and forget all
about compasses. Here, lean on me a little harder if you want to. I
ain't tired a whit, and can stand it."

But Bumpus was able to walk alone. Truth to tell he fancied Step-hen was
trying to frisk him all over, as if endeavoring to locate the position
of some object that might feel like the missing compass.

"There's the stuff the farmer brought, fellows!" said Thad, presently.

It had been dumped alongside the road at a certain place marked by the
two who had come up here on a spying trip beforehand. Each boy took what
he could carry, and in this way the entire equipment was carried down to
a camp site on the shore of the splendid body of water known as Lake
Omega.

"That word Omega means the end, don't it?" said Davy Jones, as they
started to put up one of the two tents, and gather the provisions,
blankets, cooking utensils and such things together.

"I hope it won't be the end of any of us," chuckled Giraffe, who had
been casting furtive looks around, as if searching for an ideal spot on
which he hoped the first camp-fire would be built.

"Well, every fellow who doesn't know how to swim has got to get busy,
and learn the first thing," said the patrol leader, looking toward
Smithy meaningly.

"Oh! I want to know how, Thad, believe me," returned that worthy,
earnestly. "My mother doesn't believe any fellow should go near the
water until he knows how to swim; but how could he ever learn in that
case, I'd like to know?"

"Fix himself up in a tree, and strike out!" suggested Davy, to whom a
tree appealed very frequently as the first way out of any trouble.

"Now, you're away off there, suh," broke in Bob White, smiling; "he
should immediately proceed to get in touch with one of those schools
that teach everything through the mails; and take his dives off the
dining-room table."

It was at least satisfying to see how, under the management of the two
experienced leaders, Thad and Allan, the tents were soon raised. Then
several of the boys were set to work digging around the upper half
outside the canvas.

"What's all this for, Mr. Scout-Master?" asked Smithy, as he laid an old
newspaper on the ground to kneel on, and began digging away with the
hatchet; having actually drawn on a pair of new working gloves made of
canvas, in order to keep his hands from getting soiled.

"Why, in case of a sudden and heavy rain, we'd be in danger of having a
flood rush through the tents if we didn't make this gutter or sluice to
throw it off. Notice that it's on the upper side only. And while you're
finishing here, boys, Allan and myself will make the stone fireplace
where we expect to do pretty much all our cooking. The big camp-fire is
another thing entirely, and we'll let you all have a hand in building
that of logs and brush."

So they constructed a long fireplace of stones easily found along the
shore of the lake; it looked a little like a letter V, in that one end
was wider than the other. And across the smaller end a stone was placed
as a support for the coffee-pot which would occupy a position in that
quarter, the frying-pan needing considerably more room.

Taking pattern from this first fireplace some of the other scouts,
ambitious to try their hand at making such a useful adjunct to camp
life, fashioned a second one close by. For the patrol was to be divided
into two sections, when the matter of cooking was concerned.

The sun was sinking low behind the hills when the matter of supper was
agitated. Giraffe was calling for something to stay the terrible sense
of hunger he declared was making him feel weak. This thing of not being
able to sneak into the home pantry between meals was already giving him
trouble; and evidently Giraffe would have to lay in a greater stock when
the regular chance arose, or else go hungry.

Finally, however, those who did the cooking on this first night, Thad
and Allan they chanced to be, announced that the meal was ready. So, to
carry out the idea of being under rules and regulations, the bugler was
told to sound the assembly call, though every member of the patrol
hovered close by, ready to fall to with the eagerness of half famished
wolves.

Then came the job of making ready for their first camp-fire. That was a
matter of such tremendous importance in the eyes of all that every
fellow had to share in bringing the fuel, and helping to stack it,
according to the directions of Allan.

No one worked with greater eagerness than Giraffe. He was fairly wild to
see the red flames dancing upward, and the sparks sailing off on the
faint night air, as though they carried messages from the camp of the
Boy Scouts to some distant port unseen from that lower world.

And when finally all was ready, the young scout-master after grouping
his followers around the heap, solemnly took a brand from one of the
cooking fires, and with a flourish applied it to the inflammable tinder.
Immediately the crackling flames shot up through the stuff prepared, and
in another minute there arose a brilliant pyramid of fire that caused
the neighboring trees to stand out like red ghosts. And then arose a
shout from eight lusty young throats, as the Silver Fox Patrol danced
around the first camp-fire of their new organization.

That was an event long to be remembered, and to be written down in the
annals of the outing with becoming ceremony.



CHAPTER V.

AN UNINVITED GUEST.


What a truly glorious hour that was, as those eight lads sat around the
splendid camp-fire, chatting, asking questions, and giving information,
as it happened they were able.

Of course Thad and Allan were usually called upon to explain the
thousand and one things connected with woods life, as yet sealed
mysteries to those of the patrol who were experiencing their very first
camping out.

Some of the other six had doubtless made fires in the woods after a
fashion, and possibly tried to cook fish over the same, with poor
success. Bob White admitted that he had often been in the mountains with
some of the men who worked on his father's place, and had spent lots of
nights afoot in the Blue Ridge; so that he could not really be called a
"tenderfoot scout."

But Bumpus and Smithy were very green; Davy Jones knew but little more;
and as for Step-hen and Giraffe, they would not commit themselves,
watching every move the leaders made, as though hoping to pick up
information in this way that could be used at another time, and which
would stamp them as real woodsmen.

To all appearances Bumpus had entirely forgotten all about his
suspicions toward Step-hen. Malice he could not harbor any great length
of time toward any one, his nature being too broad and forgiving.

But in the midst of an earnest discussion between several of the scouts
on the subject of Indian picture writing, which it is recommended all
scouts should learn as a very useful and interesting means for
communicating with companions who may be late on the road, Bumpus gave
out a roar.

"Hey! guess you think my eyes got closed up by that swelling, didn't
you, Step-hen Bingham? Now, whatever are you sneaking my knapsack off
like that, for? Want to search it, perhaps, to see if that old compass
you left behind could a got in there? Well, you put it back right away;
and keep your hands off my property, or I'll complain to the
scout-master, see if I don't. What would I want your compass for, tell
me that?"

"I thought you might have hid it just to tease me, Bumpus," grumbled the
detected one, as he hastened to hang the bag back where he had found it.

"All right," returned Bumpus, falling back lazily, again; "you don't
choose to accept my word for it when I say I ain't got it; and so you
can take it out any old way you want. But don't you bother me again
about that compass, hear?"

Some of the boys began in due time to yawn, at first slily; and then as
they saw others openly gaping, they forgot to hide it behind their hand.

"Pretty near time we thought of making up our beds, ain't it?" inquired
Giraffe; who secretly wondered how he was ever going to tear himself
away from sitting there, his hands clasped around his shins, and
admiring that magnificent sight of the fire eating up the dry fuel that
was fed to it in liberal doses.

"Yes, after I've gone the rounds, to see how well our stock of
provisions has been protected," replied the scout-master, getting upon
his feet.

"We've got it stowed pretty much in the two tents, suh," remarked Bob
White, to whom this particular duty had been detailed.

"Think any wild animal might try and raid the camp, and get away with
some of our grub?" asked Bumpus, a little uneasily.

"Oh! hardly that," laughed Thad; "but one of the duties of a scout is
never to just take things for granted. He must be wise enough to make
provision against any ordinary happening that might come about. In other
words he insures his stock of provisions like a sensible merchant does
his goods. He doesn't expect to have a fire, you know; but he wants to
be sure he won't be ruined if one does come."

"Huh! he'd have to pay a pretty big premium on insurance if it was known
that Step-hen Bingham was around, then," remarked Davy, meaningly.

"I'm going to tell you more about that picture writing another time,
fellows," Allan remarked, as he proceeded to get his blanket out of the
pile, and fold it double, just as he wanted it. "You'll say it's a fine
thing too. Perhaps we can get a chance to try it out at the time we send
a good swimmer over to the island in the lake, to signal with the flags
and looking-glass."

The rest of the boys immediately busied themselves with their blankets
too; for when in camp they are pretty much like a flock of sheep, and
will follow their leader, or bell-wether, without questioning.

Presently a cry arose, and it came from Davy Jones.

"Say, look at that Smithy, would you; bless me if he ain't got some
_white sheets_, and a regular nightgown. Now, what dye think of that,
fellows? Are we going to allow such sissy goings-on in this, our first
camp? He'd hoodoo the whole business, sure. No luck with such baby play.
Use the sheets for towels when we go in swimming; I've got an extra pair
of pajamas along, that I'll lend him, if he promises to be a true scout,
ready to rough and ready it in camp. Next thing he'll be pulling out a
nightcap to keep from getting cold!"

All of them were laughing by now. As for Smithy, he looked as if he
could not understand what all the fuss was about.

"Why, I always sleep this way at home," he stammered, as he glanced
around at his hilarious comrades.

"Perhaps you do," jeered Davy Jones, who could take hard knocks without
any whimper; "but mother's darling boy ain't home right now. A true
scout must learn to sleep in his blanket alone. An old boot will do for
a pillow; and he won't ever want to be rocked to sleep either. The
breeze will be his lullaby, and the blue canopy of heaven his coverlet."

"Hurrah for you, Davy; that's as good a definition of what a Boy Scout
should accustom himself to, as I ever heard. I didn't know you had it in
you to talk like that," said Thad, warmly.

"Oh! I got that out of a book," declared Davy, frankly.

"And Thad, do I have to give up these nice clean sheets; and crawl in
between the folds of a nasty, rough, tickly blanket?" asked Smithy,
pleadingly.

"It will be just as well for you to begin right, Number Five," said the
scout-master, pleasantly but firmly. "Sooner or later, if you stick by
the Silver Fox Patrol, you've got to learn how to rough it. And if you
think enough of your fellow scouts to make this sacrifice, all the
better."

Without a word then, Smithy tossed the offending sheets across to Thad;
and followed with his usual night apparel.

"I'll take those pajamas, Davy; and thank you kindly for offering to
loan them to me;" he said, bravely; but when the faded and somewhat torn
night suit was immediately handed over to him, the particular boy was
seen to shudder, as though they gave him a cold chill.

Still, he proved to be true grit, and was soon donning them, so as to
keep up with the balance of the boys. Thad winked toward Allan, as much
as to say that he felt very much encouraged at the progress being made
in the education of Edmund Maurice Travers Smith, the spoiled darling of
a weak mamma.

"Mark my word for it," he said in a low tone to his second in command;
"with all his pink and white complexion, and girlish ways, there's the
making of a good scout in Smithy. Given a little time for him to get
over the cruel shock these rough ways bring to his orderly system, and
you'll see a different sort of fellow spring up. The seed's there all
right. And mamma's baby boy will turn into as sturdy and hardy a scout
as there is in the troop."

Allan smiled, and nodded. Perhaps he did not have quite as much faith as
the young scout-master, because he may not have been as good a reader
of character; but he realized that what Smithy had just done was as
valiant a thing for one of his nature as attacking a wildcat would be
for another boy, built along different lines. For he was defying what
had threatened to become a part of his own being, and with gritting
teeth trying to show himself a real flesh and blood boy for once.

"When we're all ready, fellows," remarked Thad, presently; "the bugler
will sound taps, and after that, see to it that all lights are out but
the camp-fire. I've fixed that so it will burn several hours; and once
or twice during the night Allan or myself will crawl out, to add some
wood from the pile you heaped up here. Not that we need the heat, you
understand; but there ought to be a lot of sentiment connected with a
first camp-fire; and the Silver Fox Patrol must never forget this one.
All ready now?"

"Hold on!" called some one from inside the near tent; "I can't find part
of my pajamas; and it'd be too cool to sleep with only half on. Now
ain't it funny why it's always _my_ things that get taken? Just like I
was going to be a target for all the fun that's going."

"Of course it's that poor old careless Step-hen again, always throwing
his things around, and forgetting where he put 'em," said Davy, in a
tone of disgust; then he took a peep inside, and burst out into a roar
of laughter, adding: "Well, did I ever see such a crazy thing? Hi!
fellows look here, and see him hunting around like fun for the lower
half of his pajamas, when they are trailing behind him right now,
fastened to the shirt part; and he never got on to it. It's right
killing, I declare."

"How could I see behind me?" grumbled Step-hen, as he hastened to get
into the balance of his night outfit; "my eyes happen to be fixed in
front; but some of you smart set may be able to see both ways. All
ready, Mr. Scout-Master; let her go!"

The eight boys presented a comical appearance as they stood there,
awaiting the sweet notes of the bugle sounding "taps;" for their pajamas
were of all sorts of patterns, from gay stripes to deep solid blues and
reds.

Thad gave one last look around, and picking up a lantern motioned to
Allan to take charge of the other, so that at the last notes they could
"douse the glim."

Then he turned toward the stout bugler, clad in the gayest suit of all,
and looking like "a rolypoly pudding," as one of the other boys
declared.

"Now!" called out the patrol leader, in a tone of authority.

So the official bugler raised the instrument to his swollen lips, game
to do his duty; and started to put his whole soul into the thrilling
score that, heard at a late hour of the night, always brings with it a
feeling of intense admiration.

He had just uttered the first few notes when they saw him suddenly whirl
around in consternation, and at the same time point with the bugle, as
he shrieked:

"Oh! look! look what's coming in on us, fellows!"

"It's a bear!" whooped Davy Jones, making a bee-line for the nearest
tree, just as might have been expected of such a gymnast.

And Thad, with one look, realized that there was no laughing matter
about it; because it was a sure-enough bear that walked into their camp
on his hind feet!



CHAPTER VI.

THE DANCING BEAR.


The excited announcement made by Davy Jones was instantly succeeded by
such a mad scramble as those boys had certainly never witnessed before
in all their lives. Indeed, none of them saw more than a very small
proportion of the queer sights that took place, and for a very good
reason; because every single fellow was more concerned about reaching a
place of safety than anything else.

Davy gained his tree in about five mad leaps, and the way he mounted up
among the convenient branches would have made a monkey turn green with
envy. There was Giraffe also, who had very good luck in picking out a
tree that offered easy stages for climbing, in that the branches began
fairly close to the ground.

Thad and Allan just happened to choose the same resting-place, and met
as they began to mount upward. Still, as they seemed to have forgotten
an important engagement above, they did not stop to enter into any
conversation just then. There was no telling which one of the crowd the
invader might have selected for his victim, and each boy imagined that
he could feel the hot breath of the bear right at his bare heels.

Some were not so fortunate.

For example, poor Bumpus was having a perfectly dreadful time. He had
had the advantage of sighting the bear first; but that did not go very
far toward counteracting his unwieldy heft, and his clumsy way of always
finding something to stumble over.

True to his habits, Bumpus tripped over one of the guy ropes holding a
tent in taut shape. He rolled over with a howl of fright, fancying that
now he was surely bound to become bear's meat; for you see poor Bumpus
had considerable to learn about the woods animals, or he would have
known that as a rule the American black bear lives on roots and nuts and
berries, and bothers his head not at all about feasting on fat boys,
such as a tiger might fancy.

Bumpus, however, did not mean to just lie there, and let himself be
eaten, not if he could do anything whatever to prevent such a vacancy in
the Hawtree family. As he struck the ground he began revolving rapidly.
No doubt it was rather like a barrel rolling, for Bumpus was quite
round.

This sort of thing quickly brought him up against the other tent. He had
not meant to make for it, but as soon as his second or third revolution
brought his clutching hands in contact with the canvas, Bumpus had a
brilliant idea. It was not often that he could boast of such an
inspiration; but then a fellow may even surprise himself when the
necessity is great.

If he could only tear away one or two of the loops that were fastened to
ground stakes, what was to hinder him from pushing his way into the
tent, and possibly hiding under some of the blankets?

Eagerly he jerked at the nearest one; and fortunately it seemed to be a
trifle loose, for it came free in his hands. But try as he would he
failed to budge the next stake, which had taken a firm hold.

In a panic, when he saw the walking bear still drawing nearer, poor
Bumpus managed to push his legs under the lower rim of the tightly
stretched canvas. Only the lower half of him could find admittance; the
balance was of such larger girth that in spite of his frantic labor he
could not push under the tent.

There he lay, one half of him safe, and the other exposed to all the
peril. He dropped his face on the grass. Perhaps it was to shut out the
terrible sight; or it may have been that Bumpus was like the foolish
ostrich, which, upon being hotly chased, will thrust its head into a
tuft of grass, and imagine itself hidden from the foe simply because it
cannot see anything.

The others? Well, the boy from the Blue ridge proved himself no mean
sprinter when a real live bear threatened to embrace him; for he had
managed to clamber up a tree with more or less difficulty, and was even
then astride a limb.

There was Step-hen on the other side of the same friendly oak, breathing
hard, and casting frequent looks aloft, as though considering whether it
might not be a wise thing to mount upward, so as not to attract the
attention of the bear towards himself.

Smithy was perhaps almost as badly frightened as Bumpus, only he did not
meet with the series of mishaps that befell the fat boy.

Like the balance of the covey the "particular" boy made a bee-line for
the tree that happened to catch his eye by the light of the camp-fire.
Had any of his chums thought to observe the movements of Smithy they
would have discovered that for once he did not even think of stopping to
brush his hair, or pick his steps. Barefooted as he was, he dashed over
the intervening ground, and hugged the trunk of his tree with a zeal
that spoke well for his activity.

And now they were all securely seated in various attitudes, breathing
hard, and gazing at the invader with various emotions. Some still had
their hearts going after the fashion of trip-hammers; others were
beginning to see the funny side of the affair, and chuckle a little,
even though confessing that they too had been more or less alarmed at
the unexpected call of Bruin.

Of course Allan and Thad belonged to this latter class, partly because
they were built a little differently from their comrades in the Silver
Fox Patrol; and also on account of previous experiences along this line.

The Maine boy had come from a State where bears are plentiful; perhaps,
now, it may not have been the first time in his life that Allan
Hollister had found himself chased by one of the hairy tribe.

All this, which has taken so long to describe, really happened in a bare
minute of time. When Thad reached a safe perch on a friendly limb, and
looked around at the strange fruit those neighboring trees had suddenly
taken to bearing, it was really little wonder that he felt like
laughing. Some were clad in red, others blue; while a few had the gayest
stripes running in circles or lengthwise throughout their pajamas.

What was this to a hungry bear? Absolutely nothing; and doubtless the
invader of the first camp of the Boy Scouts saw little that appeared
humorous in the situation. He had entered in a friendly way, expecting
to be treated to a supper; and here his intended hosts had fled wildly,
as though they feared lest he meant to make a meal of them.

Strange enough, no doubt Bruin thought, if he was capable of thinking at
all. He still remained standing on his hind feet, and turning his head
from one side to the other, thrusting out his nose in an odd way, as
though he might be sniffing the air in order to locate the place where
the food was kept.

It began to strike Thad as really comical, now that his own little panic
was in the past. He also noticed certain things that had not appealed to
him before, no doubt chiefly because he was too busy at the time to pay
attention.

But fancy the horror of poor Bumpus when, raising his head presently,
consumed by a horrible fascination he could not control, he actually saw
the bear _looking straight at him_! That settled it, and he just knew
that the savage beast had already picked him out as a tender morsel. Oh!
why was he so unlucky as to be born to plumpness? If only he could be
more like the skinny Giraffe, or Step-hen, perhaps this awful beast
would have passed him by.

He let out a roar as he saw the bear start toward him another step,
moving his forepaws as though growing anxious to embrace him.

"Keep away! Just you try to get one of them other fellows! They're the
ones you want, not me, I tell you. Scat! Get out!"

But the bear only advanced still another half hesitating step, and
Bumpus, unable to look longer, wriggled vainly in the endeavor to
withdraw within the shelter of the tent, and then dropped his face to
the earth again.

He believed that his time had come, and he might as well be saying his
prayers before he made a late supper for a wild bear.

About this time a glimmer of the truth began to work in upon Thad's
brain. He realized in the first place that no ordinary bear of the wild
woods would act in this remarkable fashion. No doubt, had it ventured
into the camp at all, it would have come on all four legs, "woofing" its
displeasure that human beings had disturbed the loneliness of its
haunts.

And by the way, as a rule wild bears were not in the habit of going
around dangling chains behind them, which was just what he discovered
this animal did. He had heard the peculiar jangling sound as the beast
first rushed the camp; but at the time was hardly stopping to
investigate its cause.

And perhaps that was why Allan was laughing to himself, rather than
because of the queer looks of the party perched in the surrounding
trees. He had already guessed the truth.

But the situation afforded no comfort to those other boys who stared,
and wondered what under the sun they could do if the creature selected
their tree to climb. Most of them were trying to remember whether bears
really did climb trees or not; and hoping that because this one seemed
different from the common black American bear, he might not be able to
do much in that line.

He still stood there, erect, sniffing to the right and to the left.
Why, now that Thad had guessed the secret, he could see something almost
pitiful in the begging attitude of the poor bear. No doubt the animal
was very hungry, and did not know how to go about finding his own meals,
he had been accustomed to having them brought to him in the shape of
hunks of bread or such things, most of his life.

Thad had a sudden brilliant idea. He saw a chance to have a little fun,
and give his frightened companions an opportunity to further express
their surprise.

When poor Bumpus tried to escape in such a clumsy fashion that he
tripped over the stretched guy rope of a tent, he had let go his beloved
bugle. What was music to a fellow when his existence hung in the
balance. He could get another horn, but never another life.

Thad had by chance discovered the shining bugle even while on his way to
the friendly tree, and had snatched it up; mechanically perhaps, for he
could not have entertained any fear lest the bear would swallow such a
thing.

At any rate he had it in his possession right then, and being able to
play a little, he put it to his lips and trilled a few bars of a ditty
that sounded like a queer sort of a waltz. And to the utter amazement of
his companions the bear immediately started to tread a lively measure
with his two hind feet, extending his shorter forepaws as though
holding a pole.

In future years no doubt the thought of that strange picture would never
appeal to Thad Brewster without exciting his laughter; for it was
certainly one of the most comical things that could be imagined.



CHAPTER VII.

SMITHY DID IT.


"Oh! would you look at him waltzing!" cried Giraffe.

"He's turning around and around, like a real dancing bear!" echoed
Step-hen; and then, still feeling a little malicious toward poor Bumpus,
whom he really believed was hiding his precious compass, just to annoy
him, he could not help adding: "he feels so good, because he sees his
dinner all ready for him under the flap of that tent there."

That brought out another whoop from Bumpus, who felt impelled to raise
his head once more, even though it gave him renewed pain.

"Oh! now I know what it all means!"

It was Smithy who uttered this cry, and drew the attention of all his
chums toward the tree where the boy in the borrowed pajamas sat astride
a limb, just like all the rest, and which he had certainly never stopped
to brush off with his handkerchief before occupying, either.

"Have you seen the beast before, Smithy?" asked the scout-master,
ceasing his little racketty waltz; which caused the bear to once more
stand at attention, waiting for the piece of bread that usually came
after he had performed his little trick; and still sniffing hungrily
around this way and that.

"That's what I have, Thad," replied the other, eagerly. "Why he came
past our house only a few days ago, and gave us quite a performance. I
made friends with him too, and the man let me even give him some bread I
brought out."

"Sure he did, and glad in the bargain to have some fellow help keep his
show bear," Allan remarked, half laughing still.

"Hey, Smithy, suppose you climb down right now then, and renew your
acquaintance with the ugly old pirate!" sang out Davy Jones.

"And there's half a loaf of that stale bread wrapped in a newspaper,
left right where you c'n put your hand on it, inside the tent where
Bumpus is kicking his last. You're welcome to feed it to the bear,
Smithy."

It was Step-hen who made this magnificent announcement; how easy it was
to think up things for some one else to do, while he clung to his safe
anchorage up there among the branches of the beech tree.

"Only half a loaf, remember," put in the cautious and always hungry
Giraffe; "we don't want to run short too early in the game; and there's
a lot of meals to be looked after yet."

"Somebody's got to do something, that's sure," remarked Bob White. "This
night air is some cool to a fellow with my warm Southern blood; and I
give you my word, suh, I'm beginning to shiver right now."

"And if we don't think up some way to coax the beast to get out,"
declared Step-hen, gravely; "why, just as like as not he'll eat up
everything we've got, and then go to sleep in our blankets, with us
hanging around here like a lot of ripe plums."

"Let Davy do it," remarked Thad; for that was an expression often used
among the boys, Davy being such a spry chap, and usually so willing.

But he at once set up a determined protest.

"Now, I would, believe me, boys, if I only knew the gentleman, which I
don't, never having been properly introduced. Must have been out of town
when he gave his little show the other day. So I respectfully but firmly
decline the honor you want to pay me. Now, it's sure up to Smithy to get
busy, and make up with his old chum again. Here's his chance to win
immortal glory, and the thanks of the whole Silver Fox Patrol as well.
Smithy, it's your move."

The delicate boy was pale before, but he turned even whiter now, as he
looked in the direction of Thad.

"Perhaps I _might_ coax him to be good; and get a chance to whip the end
of that long chain around a tree," he said, in a voice he tried in vain
to keep from trembling.

Thad hardly knew what to say. He understood that animals never forget an
enemy, or one who has been good to them. An elephant in captivity has
been known to bear a grudge for several years, until a good chance came
to pay his debt.

Now Smithy said he had fed the traveling bear at the time it danced for
his amusement. Doubtless, then, it might recollect him, and would be
less inclined to show any vicious temper if he approached, than should a
stranger try to take hold of the trailing chain.

"You said you had fed him, didn't you, Smithy?" he asked.

"Yes, with half a loaf of good bread; and I would have gone after more
only just at that minute my mother happened to come to the window, and
became so frightened at seeing me near the bear, she called to me to
come in the house. But I shook hands with him before I went," the last
proudly, as though he wanted the boys to know he was not the milksop
they sometimes had imagined in the past.

"And do you think he would remember you?" continued Thad, only half
convinced that he ought to let the other take the risk; though there
really seemed no other way out of the difficulty that promised one-half
as good chances.

"Oh! I'm sure he would, he acted so very friendly. Please let me try
it, Thad. I really want to; and see, I'm not afraid at all; only I do
wish I had my shoes on, for the hard ground hurts my feet. I never went
barefooted before in all my life."

"Oh! let him try the trick, Thad," called out Davy; "I'm getting cold,
too. This here private box is full of draughts you see; and my attire is
so very airy. Blankets are what I want most right now. Give Smithy a
chance to show what he can do in the wild beast taming line."

"It'll sure be the making of him," echoed Step-hen cheerfully, from his
perch.

"But perhaps a quarter of a loaf would do just as well; I'd try it on
him if I was you, Smithy," suggested Giraffe; who groaned to think of
all that good food being wasted on a miserable traveling show bear that
had strayed into camp.

"All right, if you feel confident, Smithy;" said Thad; "but watch him
close; and if he makes a move as if he wanted to grab you, shin out for
the tree again. We'll all stand by, ready to give a yell, so as to scare
him off."

Bumpus was staring at all this amazing procedure. Slowly the fact had
begun to filter through the rather sluggish brain of the fat boy that
after all fate had not decided to offer him as a tempting bait to whet
the appetite of a bear. He even began to pluck up a little bit of hope
that Smithy might succeed in chaining the ugly old terror to a tree,
and thus saving his, Bumpus' life.

When the delicate boy started to scramble down out of his leafy bower
the others tried to encourage him in various ways.

"Good boy, Smithy!" cooed Step-hen.

"You've certainly got more grit than any fellow in the bunch; and I take
off my hat to you, suh!" cried the Southern boy, making a movement with
his hand as if in salute.

"Try the quarter loaf, Smithy; you'll find it just where Step-hen said,
inside the tent where Bumpus is hanging out," Giraffe called.

"Only half-way out," corrected that party; and then ducked his head as
he saw that his voice had attracted the attention of the bear.

So Smithy dropped to the ground. Thad saw that he was fearfully white
about the face, and was half tempted to recall him; but had an idea
Smithy would refuse to obey, now that he had resolved to prove his
valor, which must have been more or less doubted in the past.

The tall, slim boy started walking toward the tent where Bumpus was
confined, unable to go or come, so tightly had he become wedged under
the canvas.

They saw the bear had become greatly interested. Watching the movements
of the boy in the borrowed pajamas he made some sort of pitiful sound
that was not unlike a groan. Evidently mealtimes had been a long ways
apart lately for Bruin; but he seemed to understand that the boy had
gone to secure him something.

The short forelegs began to beat imaginary time, and the bear started to
again tread that queer measure, turning slowly around and around as he
continued to follow out the line of discipline to which he had been
brought up.

He was really begging for something to stay the pangs of hunger.

Meanwhile Smithy, though doubtless shivering like a leaf, had reached
the open flap of the tent. Passing inside his eyes quickly found the
half loaf of bread wrapped in a newspaper. And seizing it he tore the
cover away, after which he once more appeared in view.

As he now advanced, slowly yet eagerly, in the direction of the dancing
bear, he held out the bait, and began to softly call, just as he had
heard one of the two keepers of the bear do:

"Bumpus! Bumpus, good boy! here supper for Bumpus!"

"Hey, quit calling him by my name," said the fat boy, indignation even
making him forget his recent fear.

But Smithy paid not the least attention to him. He was advancing,
repeating the name over and over; and trying the best he knew how to
speak in tones resembling the thick voice of the man who had held the
chain at the time the animal danced for him.

So he presently came close to the bear, which had now ceased dancing,
and was thrusting out his nose toward the coveted bread, while making a
queer noise. Not a fellow among the scouts moved so much as a little
finger. Every eye was glued on the form of Smithy, and doubtless more
than one of them really wondered while thus holding his breath in
suspense, if the starving beast would actually seize upon the boy who
came offering gifts.

"Oh! he took it!" gasped Step-hen.

"And it was the whole of that half loaf too," added Giraffe, with a sigh
of regret.

"The chain, quick! Smithy; there's a small tree right by you that ought
to hold him! That's the way! Hurrah for you, Smithy; he's done it, boys;
and you can drop down now without being afraid," and Thad followed the
words by allowing himself to leave the branches of his tree, landing
softly on the ground.

Loud shouts attested to the delight of the other prisoners, when the
delicate and pampered boy snatched up the end of the long and strong
chain, bringing it around the tree Thad mentioned, and apparently
locking it securely. After which Smithy staggered away from the spot,
and sank down upon the ground, trembling and weak from the great nervous
strain under which he had been laboring.

The shouts turned into cheers, and Smithy's name was given three and a
tiger; so that the racket made even the hungry bear look wonderingly at
the fantastic group that took hold of hands, and danced around the hero
of the hour.



CHAPTER VIII.

A NIGHT TO BE REMEMBERED.


"Are you sure that chain will hold, Smithy?" asked the still nervous
Step-hen, when some of the noise and enthusiasm had died away, so that
the scouts could act like reasonable human beings again.

They had dodged into the tents, and appeared wrapped in their various
blankets; so that as they walked to and fro they resembled so many
solemn Indian braves.

"No question about it," returned the other, in whose cheeks a splash of
color had come, while his eyes were sparkling with satisfaction over the
receipt of honors such as any Boy Scout should be proud to deserve of
his fellows.

"Hey! ain't you goin' to help me out of this?" called Bumpus just then.

"Well, would you ever, if he ain't sticking there under that tent, too
lazy to help himself crawl out again," remarked Step-hen; possibly
wondering whether this might not be a good opportunity for him to sneak
off with that knapsack belonging to Bumpus, so that he could secure the
compass he was positive the fat boy was hiding from him.

"Yes, I _am_ stuck here, and so tight I just can't hardly breathe,"
complained the prisoner. "Somebody go inside, and give me a shove. If
that don't do the business, then another of these here pegs has got to
be lifted, that's all."

Allan obliged the other with a helping hand, and Bumpus was soon able to
don his blanket like the rest. Sleep had been banished for the time
being, by this remarkable happening. The boys began to speculate as to
what they should do with the bear, now that they had him tied up.

"It's sure a white elephant we've got on our hands," laughed Thad. "We
don't dare let him loose; and if we keep him here long, he'll eat us out
of house and home."

At that Giraffe groaned most dismally. If there was anything he hated to
see it was good food being tossed to the beasts.

"Our first camp-fire brought us bad luck, fellows!" he complained.

"Oh! I don't know," remarked Thad. "It gave us a run for the money; and
chances are, we'll never get over laughing at the funny things that
happened. Then besides think what it did for Smithy! After what he did I
guess there isn't a scout who will ever taunt him about being a coward."

"No, Smithy certainly made good this night; and I pass him up away
ahead of me on the roll. He deserves a merit badge, suh, for his true
grit," was what the generous Southern lad declared firmly.

"Hear! hear! we'll put in an application to Headquarters for a badge to
be given to our comrade Smithy for saving our bacon!" cried Davy Jones.

"Well," declared Giraffe, "it might have been our bacon, in fact;
because I saw him sniffing in the direction of the tent where it happens
to be lying. A fine lot of scouts we'd be, camped away up here, far from
our base of supplies, and to run out of bacon the first thing. What's a
breakfast without coffee and bacon; tell me that?"

But apparently none of the others were so much given to thinking about
the delights of eating as Giraffe, for nobody answered his question.

Thad had pulled Allan aside.

"What did I tell you about that boy?" he whispered, as he watched the
emotions that flitted across the now flushed face of the proud Smithy,
receiving the homage of his fellow scouts.

"Well, you were right, that's all; he did have the pluck as you said,
and he showed it too. I never saw a better piece of grit, never," was
the reply the Maine boy gave to the question.

"His mother and aunts may have done their level best to make a sissy out
of him; and we always believed they had come mighty near doing it too;
but I tell you, Allan, I just feel sure that his father or grandfather
must have been a brave soldier in their day. There's warrior blood in
Smithy's veins, in spite of his pale face, and his girlish ways."

"Oh! it won't take long for him to get rid of all those things," said
the other, confidently. "Already we've seen him accept that tattered old
pair of pajamas from Davy Jones; either of us might have hesitated to
put 'em on, because of the laugh they'd raise. I think Davy only fetched
them along to get a rise from the boys. Smithy is all right, Thad. Given
a few months with us, and his mother won't know her darling angelic
little boy."

"Say, Thad," sang out Step-hen just then; "what d'ye reckon could have
happened to the fellers that own the bear? We've been talking it over,
and no two think alike. Some say they got tired feeding the beast, and
turned him loose on the community, to browse off poor scouts, camping
out for the first time. Then others got the notion that p'raps some
hobos might have stopped the show foreigners, and took their money,
letting the bear shuffle off by himself."

"We'll just have to take it out in guessing, and let it go at that," was
the reply Thad made. "You see, we haven't anything to go by. The bear
wasn't carrying any message fastened to his collar, or anything of the
sort that I could see."

"Now you're joking, Thad; the only message he had about him was a hungry
one, and it showed on his face and in the way he begged," Bob White
remarked.

"But, oh! dear me, don't I hope then that the two foreign chaps are hot
on the trail of their lost performing pet; and will show up here bright
and early to-morrow morning; for just think what an immense stack of
precious grub that bear can put away inside of forty-eight hours."

Nobody but Giraffe could have had a thought along these lines.

"Well, he's tired as all get-out now, it seems," said Step-hen; "for
there he's lying down like he meant to go to sleep in the shadow of that
tree. Makes himself right at home, I must say. I reckon he likes us,
fellows."

"Please don't say that, Step-hen; it makes me nervous," remarked Bumpus,
wrapping his blanket around him after the way an ancient Roman might his
toga, as if, in spite of its warmth, he had started shivering again, as
the significant words of Step-hen awakened unpleasant thoughts in his
now active mind.

"But how about appointing a sentry to stay on guard during the night?"
suggested Giraffe, turning to the scout-master.

"What for?" asked Thad, winking at Allan.

"To watch that he don't get loose, and spread himself at our expense,"
the other explained. "Why, if that bear overfed, and killed himself,
those foreign men'd be just awful mad, fellows. I wouldn't be surprised
now, if they tried to make us pay a big sum for letting the old sinner
feed on our rich truck. Sometimes these educated animals are worth a
heap."

"Oh! you c'n watch all you're a mind to, Giraffe," jeered Step-hen; "the
rest of us want some sleep. Be sure and shoo him away if he does break
loose, and try to wreck our cooking department. I'm going to hunt for a
soft spot right now inside this tent. Don't anybody dare to wake me up
before the sun shows again."

With that he started to crawl under the flap of the tent. His action was
the signal for a general disappearance, as the boys remembered again,
now that the excitement was a thing of the past, that they were both
tired and sleepy.

Thad was the last in sight. He wanted to stroll over in the direction of
the uninvited guest; and if the bear remained quiet, he meant to examine
for himself just how securely Smithy had made the chain.

No one could question his intentions; but then at the time Smithy was
worked up to a degree that might excuse some bungling.

The bear was lying down. He raised his head and made that queer sniffing
sound when Thad approached, as though possibly anticipating another
feed. Thad spoke to the beast in a low, soothing tone, as he used his
fingers to ascertain just how the end of the chain was fastened.

Smithy had done his work in a business-like way, in spite of trembling
hands. There was a little metal bar which was intended to slip through
an extra strong ring, that in turn was connected with one of the links.
This being done the bear would be held securely, unless through some
accident the ring and bar parted company, which might not happen once in
a year's time.

So Thad, quite satisfied, left the shady tree under which the prisoner
had stretched his hairy form, and returned to the vicinity of the fire.
Here he busied himself for a little while, fixing things so that there
would be no necessity for any one attending the camp-fire during several
hours at least; indeed, the big back log would doubtless last until
morning, smouldering hour after hour.

Giving one last look around, and quite satisfied with the arrangement of
this, the first camp of the newly organized Silver Fox Patrol of
Cranford Troop of Boy Scouts, Thad finally followed the example of his
chums, crawling under the flap of the tent, which he left up for
ventilation.

He found three fellows apparently already far gone in sleep, if he could
judge from their steady and heavy breathing.

So Thad, chuckling to himself as some humorous thought flitted through
his mind, settled down to join them in dreamland. He knew no reason why
he should deny himself the rest he sorely needed. There was no danger
hovering over the camp that he was aware of; the bear was securely
fastened, and apparently content to take up regular lodgings again with
human companions; and the fire could not communicate to any dry brush or
grass, so as to cause an alarm.

And on this account Thad gave himself up to the pleasure of securing his
full measure of sleep, intending to awaken inside of, say three hours,
when he could creep softly out, to throw a fresh log on the camp-fire,
without disturbing any one.

The last sounds he remembered hearing consisted of a crackling of the
flames as they seized upon a particularly fine piece of fuel; and the
croaking of some bullfrogs along the shore of the lake. Thad lazily made
up his mind to try and secure the hind legs of a few of these big green
"mossbacks," as he called them; for he knew from experience what a
dainty meal they would make, fried with some salt pork, being equal to
any tender spring chicken he knew of.

Then he slept, perhaps for some hours, Thad could not tell; when he was
aroused by the greatest kind of shouting from somewhere near by. He sat
up instantly, his senses on the alert, listening to locate the
disturbance, and get some sort of line on its nature.



CHAPTER IX.

LUCKY BRUIN.


"Oh! murder! he's broke loose, and remembers about me!" Bumpus was
shouting close to the ear of Thad; and there was a great scurrying in
that quarter, as if the fat boy might be trying to hide himself under
the blankets.

Thad hurried outside as fast as he could; and in this he was closely
imitated by Bob White and Giraffe, who happened to be his other tent
mates.

Already Thad had made a most important as well as surprising discovery.
Those yells did not appear to be given by Allan, Step-hen, Davy Jones or
Smithy. They were fashioned on another key from the well-known voices of
these fellow scouts.

Of course, the first and most natural idea that flashed into Thad's mind
lay in the direction of the two foreigners, whom Smithy seemed to
believe must be Bohemians. Could they have followed the trail of the
escaped bear, and entering the camp of the scouts by stealth, were now
engaged in administering the beating to the poor animal, as they thought
he deserved for leaving them in the lurch?

In one way it sounded like that might be the case, for amidst all the
clamor of shouts Thad could detect something like roars or grunts from
the bear.

But no sooner was he outside the tent than he realized that this could
not be the case at all. The voices were certainly not those of men, but
rather sounded like cries falling from boys' tongues. And instead of
being raised in anger, they were frantic with _fright_!

An old moon had risen while the campers slept, so that it was no longer
dark out on the lake near by.

The first thing Thad did was to look toward the tree where the bear had
been chained at the time Smithy took care of him so neatly. He was
standing on his hind legs, and giving tongue to his feelings in deep
rumbling roars that seemed to almost make the very air tremble.

"Just listen to 'em go, would you?" ejaculated a voice close to Thad's
shoulder, and he turned to find Allan there; while his three tent mates
were close behind, all worked up again over this new and exciting
mystery of the first night in camp.

"Who in the wide world can it be?" asked Bob White.

"Don't know; but I'm sorry for one of them," remarked Thad; "because he
smashed into the trunk of that tree just then; and I rather guess he'll
have the marks to show for it a long while."

"And listen to that splash, boys!" exclaimed Step-hen.

"Just as like as not another of the lot slipped and fell into the lake;"
spoke up Giraffe, "there he goes splashing like fun, and how he does
holler in the bargain!"

"Hark! what is he shouting?" asked Allan.

"Why, he's calling for help, because he thinks the old bear will get him
now, sure. I c'n see him near the shore there, kicking up the water like
an old stern-wheel steamboat. Say, ain't he the worst scared fellow you
ever saw?"

"Don't forget there were a bunch about as bad off as that, a while
back," declared Thad; "but he seems to be calling for some one to come
back and help him."

"I got it then, and it was Brose!" exclaimed Bob White, who had very
acute hearing.

"That explains it all," declared Thad. "Now we know who we have to thank
for making all this racket. Brose Griffin and his two shadows, Hop, and
Eli Bangs were going to pay us a nice little surprise party visit.
Perhaps when we woke up in the morning we'd have found all sorts of
things gone, and have to hike back to town to-morrow. But they didn't
know we had a bear in camp, did they, fellows?"

"Oh! my, and if they didn't stumble right on the beast!" exclaimed
Bumpus, who, not wanting to be left by himself in the tent, had crawled
out, after taking a cautious look first. "What a rich joke on Brose and
his crowd. I can just see 'em scooting for home for all they're worth.
Never catch any of that bunch around our camp again on this trip, that's
sure, boys."

"I hope," Thad went on to say as he stood listening; "the fellow in the
lake don't go under; it must be Hop; because you know he does limp some,
from that broken leg he got last winter."

"Oh! he got out all right," observed Allan.

"Sure thing," added Giraffe; "because I saw him climb up the bank; and
there, if you listen, you can hear the silly right now, going whimpering
along. Say, what a time we are having, eh, fellows?"

"Who'd ever think so much could be crowded inside a few hours?" declared
Smithy; who felt that he would have good reason to look back on this
remarkable experience as the crowning feature of his whole life, because
he had certainly lived more in the last four hours than all the balance
of his years thrown together.

"And boys, don't forget we owe a lot to our guest--what was that you
called him, Smithy--Bumpus?" Thad continued.

"Oh! let's change it to just plain Smith," suggested Bumpus.

"But we do owe the old fellow a whole lot of thanks," remarked Bob
White. "And in the morning, suh, I intend to see to it that he gets a
good filling breakfast, even if I have to cut down my own allowance."

At that Giraffe groaned dismally.

"Oh! say, you don't think of going that far, I hope; and for only a
dancing bear; we ought to be able to feed him on the leavings, don't you
think?" he asked.

"He'd soon kick the bucket, then, Giraffe, if he waited for any leavings
from your platter," observed Davy Jones; "because I notice that you lick
it clean every time."

"Listen, do you hear any more shouting?" asked Thad.

Though they strained their ears no one could catch a single sound.

"Guess they've got beyond earshot," remarked Step-hen.

"But you take it straight from me, suh, they're running yet; and I
wouldn't be afraid to say that they'll keep it up until they fairly
drop," Bob White gave as his opinion; and indeed, all of them agreed
with him there.

Then the funny side of the thing seemed to strike them. First one
commenced to laugh, and then, as the others looked at him they too
started, until the merriment grew, and some of the scouts were holding
each other up in their weakness. Bumpus even solemnly declared the bear
joined in the general hilarity; he did act a bit queerly, and made a
series of sounds that might be construed into bear laughter.

Smithy remarked that the old fellow deserved another feed after such
splendid service in guarding the camp.

"There's that heavy cake Step-hen fetched along; might try him on that;
and if he likes it, we'll be saved more'n one stomach ache," Davy
proposed.

"Why, I didn't think it was so _very_ bad," spoke up Giraffe; and then,
seeing the others frowning at him, he hastened to add; "but if you think
he ought to be fed again, to keep him quiet, why break off a piece,
Smithy."

"A piece!" cried Step-hen, "he gets the whole cake, understand. Talk
about base ingratitude, some persons can never feel anything but the
empty state of their stomach. Why, that bear saved us the whole of our
grub, mebbe, by giving the alarm; and Besides, he scared that bunch so
bad they'll let us alone after this. The bear takes the cake, don't he,
Thad?"

"He certainly does," replied the scout-master, laughing again.

Smithy found that the chained visitor was perfectly agreeable, for the
way he took that heavy cake and devoured, it was a caution.

"Watch him eat, Giraffe," suggested Davy Jones; "he can give you some
valuable pointers on how to stow the grub away. You see, his neck ain't
like yours, and it takes less time to navigate the channel."

"Huh! I only hope it gives him a cramp, and doubles him up," grunted
the other, in more or less disgust.

"Now you're getting one off on me, you think," remarked Davy; for he had
been subject to cramps a long time, and never knew when one would attack
him, making him perfectly helpless for the time being; and the boys were
beginning to notice how accommodating the said "cramps" seemed to be,
visiting Davy just when some hard work loomed up in which the victim was
supposed to have a part.

"And now what?" demanded Step-hen, yawning, and stretching his long
figure.

"Do we go back to our downy couch again, fellows; or is it so near
morning that we'd better stay awake?" asked Davy Jones.

"Do you know what time it is?" asked Thad, who had been inside to
consult the little nickel watch he carried: "just ten minutes after
two!"

"Wow! me to get seven more winks!" exclaimed Giraffe; "and please don't
wake me so suddenly again, boys. My eyelids popped open with a bang. If
they hadn't been fastened on as tight as they were, I'd have lost one,
sure."

"That's the way you wake up, eh?" remarked Step-hen. "Remember the
Irishman who heard the cannon fired when the flag went down, and asked
what it was. When they told him it meant sunset he said----"

"'Sure, the sun niver goes down in ould Ireland wid a bang loike thot!'"
called out Giraffe from the interior of the tent, spoiling the telling
of Step-hen's little story, which no doubt every one of the boys knew.

Soon the camp was wrapped in silence again, even the contented bear
lying down, better satisfied than ever with his new friends. And that
wish of Giraffe's could not have borne fruit, for there was nothing
heard to indicate that the bear suffered the least bit of indigestion
from devouring the whole heavy cake that would have lain like lead in
even a boy's strong stomach.

The rising moon sailed higher in the heavens, and looked down upon the
peaceful camp of the Silver Fox Patrol. The little wavelets washed up on
the shore with a sweet musical tinkle that must have been like a lullaby
to the boys, seeing that even Thad failed to awaken again, while night
lasted; and the smouldering camp-fire had to take care of itself from
the time of that second alarm.

Some of them would very likely have imitated their habits when at home,
and tried to sleep until long after sunrise; only that they were under
military rules while in camp.

And so it was the clear notes of the bugle, blown by the now recovered
Bumpus, as he alone could blow it, that rang out over the water, telling
the sleepers that they must make their appearance for the early morning
dip in the clear lake, after which the various duties of the day could
be taken up, beginning with the first camp breakfast.



CHAPTER X.

LOOKING TO BIG THINGS AHEAD.


"Ain't this fine and dandy, though?" remarked Bumpus, as he stood on the
shore, after a short session in the water, and rubbed his plump form
with part of the fine sheet Smithy had fetched along, foolishly thinking
he would need it for sleeping.

They had splashed, and swam about to their hearts' content, until Thad
timing the bathing period, ordered the last scout from the water.

There was an absence of the frolicsome spirit so often seen among boys
when in swimming. Discipline would not allow Step-hen, for instance,
slapping a lump of mud upon Bumpus just after he had succeeded in drying
himself; though possibly he might have enjoyed doing it first-rate;
since he still felt that the fat boy was playing a joke on him by
concealing his precious compass upon which he depended to show him the
right road, should he ever get astray in the woods.

Breakfast was an easy meal to get. They just had to boil the coffee, and
fry several rashers of bacon for each mess; after which the appointed
cooks, tried their hands at making flapjacks; which, be it mentioned
here, are about the same as the common pancake at home, though never
called by that ordinary name in camp.

These were fairly good, though a bit heavy, not quite enough "rising"
having been put in the flour. The next time, Thad said, they would carry
the self-raising kind of flour along, when they would be sure of having
light bread.

"If there are any left, boys," remarked Thad, "don't forget that we are
honored by the presence of a guest in our camp. He came without
invitation, and is kept here perhaps against his will; but all the same
we owe him a heavy debt of gratitude."

"Yes," spoke up Bumpus, who had not cared very much for the latter end
of his breakfast, as he was a light eater, and rather particular,
"fussy" Step-hen called it, "which we will proceed to cancel by a heavy
dose of dough. Give him my share, boys, and welcome. I've got too much
respect for my poor stomach to cram such prog down into it."

"Hold on," remarked Giraffe, looking up, hungrily; "perhaps everybody
ain't through yet; and Bob, I think those flapjacks you made are simply
delicious."

"Thanks, suh!" returned the cook of his mess, with a pretended bow; "but
I beg to diffah with you; and by the orders of the scout-master I am
handing the balance over to Smithy, from the other mess, who will
proceed to feed it to the prisoner. Our scout-master is afraid that if
you did get sick so early in the outing, he might have to exhaust the
medicine chest befo' your appetite returned."

"Oh! all right, Bob, just as you say; and perhaps I have devoured as
many as I had ought to; but they _were_ good, I don't care what you say.
Come again, Bob."

"Hey! anybody seen my head--" began Step-hen; when Davy interrupted him
to bawl:

"Anybody seen Step's head; he's done gone and lost that, now. Always
said he would have done it long ago, only Nature had it fastened on
tight. But the catastrophe has arrived at last. Step's lost his head,
fellows; not that it matters much. A liberal reward is hereby offered to
the finder. Apply to Step-hen Bingham."

"Think you're smart, don't you?" jeered the lean one, as he kept on
overturning all manner of things. "I was only going to ask if any one
had taken my head gear, otherwise known as my campaign hat? Of course I
know what the answer'll be--nobody's seen a thing of it. It does beat
the Dutch how _my_ things are always going, the funniest way ever. Now I
could declare I hung that hat up on the broken branch of this tree."

"Well, you've been sitting on it all the time you were eating breakfast;
and there it lies, as flat as any pancake that was ever cooked. Now
perhaps you'll learn sometimes just to put things where you c'n find
'em," said Bumpus.

Step-hen turned to shoot an accusing stare at the speaker that made the
fat boy writhe, for he knew what was passing in the mind of the other.

"Didn't, so there!" he snapped, as he turned away; and Step-hen,
looking after him, wagged his head as he muttered:

"Honest Injun now, I really believe he _did_ take it, and the joke's
gone so far he just hates to own up. Oh! all right, Bumpus, I'll get on
to your game sooner or later; and then the laugh will be with you, just
wait and see."

It was the purpose of Thad, in the absence of Dr. Philander Hobbs, the
real scout-master of Cranford Troop, to daily put the scouts through
various interesting exercises connected with the education of a Boy
Scout.

For instance there was the following of a trail in the woods, observing
every little item of interest connected with it, until the properly
educated scout would be able to actually describe the man who had made
the tracks without ever having seen him, telling his height, whether
thin or stout, even the color of his hair, what sort of shoes he wore,
whether new or old, and that he walked with a limp, carried a cane, and
many other interesting facts in connection with the unknown.

Then there was photography in which two of the Silver Fox Patrol were
deeply interested, so that they kept continually in a fever of
expectancy regarding the prospects for pictures that would be out of the
common.

One of the scouts even went so far as to propose that the boys don their
fancy pajamas in the broad daylight, and hunt up the friendly trees, in
whose branches they had sought refuge when the bear first invaded the
camp; so that a snapshot could be taken that would preserve the event
for all time.

Bumpus, however, put his foot down flatly against having anything to do
with such an "idiotic proceeding," as he chose to term it.

"Huh!" he remarked, disdainfully; "all very fine for you fellows,
looking so grand up in your leafy bowers, like a flock of queer parrots;
but what about poor me, pinned there on the ground by that pesky old
tent, that wouldn't let me back in? Think I want to be the butt of the
joke? Count me out. I refuse to join in any such silly game."

Besides there were classes in tying difficult knots, which every scout
in good standing is supposed to know how to do neatly. Then came lessons
in erecting and taking down the tents, so that every fellow might know
just how to go about making camp, and breaking the same.

In the water they played the game of landing the big fish, one of the
boys allowing a stout line to be fastened to him; and then by swimming
and struggling making it as difficult as possible for the angler to reel
him in.

Thad knew considerable about first "aid to the injured", because, as has
been stated, he had belonged to a patrol before he came to Cranford. So
he was able to show the others many things about stopping the flow of
blood in case any one happened to be cut with a knife, or an ax, and
bandaging the wound afterwards.

But the drowning person being brought back to life when it seemed next
to hopeless was what interested Allan most of all. He had seen more than
a few accidents while up in the woods of Maine, and knew of the very
rough means adopted by the native guides looking to resuscitating a
person who has been in the water until life seems extinct.

So he eagerly watched the way Thad placed the supposed patient on his
chest, and kneeling over him, started pressing down on his back while
others worked his arms with a regular motion; the whole endeavor being
to imitate breathing, and in this artificial way induce the muscles to
take on genuine respiration.

"That takes with me, I tell you," said Allan, eagerly. "I saw a man
drowned once, and I believe right now his life could have been saved if
only the guide had known the right way to go about it. I'll never forget
that lesson, Mr. Scout-Master, never."

"It's a splendid thing for any boy to know," said Thad, "and might save
a chum's life at any time. Because, boys are always falling into the
water, in summer while swimming, and in winter skating. I intend to
practice that every day we're here. It's one of those things you may
never want; but in case you do, you want it in a hurry."

"How about the fire building tests?" demanded Giraffe, eagerly.

"Yes, that's where Giraffe feels at home. Give him a chance to start a
blaze, and you'll make him happy," laughed Step-hen.

"You know you're as good as licked, before we begin," replied the other,
derisively.

"I'm going to start on that fun right away," returned Thad. "Some of you
may be thinking that we're spending entirely too much time with these
things; but all the same they go right along with all that a Boy Scout
has got to know. Pretty soon Cranford Troop will be getting its charter
from the organization headquarters, and I'd like to have a few merit
badges come along with it. That isn't all, either."

"I reckon I can give a pretty good guess what you mean by shaking your
wise old head that way, Thad, and looking sorter mysterious-like,"
declared Davy Jones; who seldom showed the proper amount of respect to
the acting scout-master, that by rights he should.

"Then tell us all about it, Davy; because we want to know," demanded
Step-hen.

"That's right, and we _must_ know; so start up the music, Davy," said
Giraffe.

"Why, there's been a whole lot of talk between Thad and Allan here about
the new Silver Fox Patrol taking a trip away from home. It's only a
question of getting the money, and the consent of our parents and
guardians. I guess the money part could be taken care of, all right; but
when it comes to getting permission to really leave Cranford, and go
down to the Blue Ridge mountains, that's another thing. It might be
done; but my father is a lawyer, and hard to convince."

"You're wrong there, Davy," said Thad, with a laugh; "he was the
easiest proposition of the whole lot to fix. There'll be no trouble in
that quarter. What we can do about Smithy's mother is another thing."

"But why the Blue Ridge mountains; whatever put that notion in your
head, Thad?" demanded Giraffe, deeply puzzled.

"I did, suh," announced Bob White, drawing himself up; "you see, I came
from that section, and I've been telling my chums so much about it that
they've become wild to make it a visit. And I invited them to drop in on
my old home there, you understand. It would be very nice for me to have
you all there as my guests; and to tell you the truth, my mother has
been telling me that I ought to go down there right soon now on
particular business. If you all could be with me, I should be mighty
glad of it. And it might be a splendid thing foh me, I confess."

"The Blue Ridge!" repeated Bumpus, as if to see just how it sounded.
"Say, I've read a lot about the Alleghanies, the Big Smokies, and the
Blue Ridge mountains down there in North Carolina, where Bob White came
from; but honest now, I never expected to find myself there, at least
not till I grew up. The Blue Ridge! Well, if so be you can win my folks
over to letting me go along, say, won't I wake up the echoes in them old
mountains with the merry notes of my bugle? But there goes the
scout-master to start the fire building, and water boiling test. Come
along boys and see who can beat Giraffe at his pet game!"



CHAPTER XI.

THE SCOUT WHO USED HIS EYES.


"Hold on," called out Step-hen, "let's start even all around. Has
anybody seen my tin cup? Funny how _my_ things are always the ones to
take to hiding. Now I give you my word, fellows, I laid that cup in a
safe place after we washed up the breakfast dishes this morning. And I
just can't run across it anywhere. If we're all going to take part in
that water-boiling, fire-making test I can't enter unless I have my cup,
can I? So if anybody's trying to play a joke at my expense, call it off,
won't you, please?"

"You put it in a safe place, did you, and then forgot where that place
was?" laughed Thad, who knew the weakness of Step-hen very well by this
time. "Now, what's that hanging from that little broken twig up there?"

"Well, I declare, I do remember putting it there!" cried the other, with
a wide grin, as he unhooked the handle of the tin cup, and took it
proudly down. "And after this, you fellows had better go easy with me.
I'm learning to keep my things where they won't get lost, understand
that?"

"Yes, but write it down each time, Step-hen," laughed Smithy.

Step-hen turned upon this new tormentor.

"Oh! Smithy," he remarked, pleasantly, "you're sure going to get another
new suit of clothes, because there's a measuring worm right now,
crawling up your back, with his tape line working over time."

Smithy writhed, and looked piteously at his nearest neighbor.

"Oh! please knock him off, Bumpus; and do be careful not to mash him,
because you know, it would make a nasty spot. Ugh! I detest worms, and
snakes, and all the things that crawl. Thank you, Bumpus; I'll do the
same for you some day."

Smithy was getting on very well, Thad thought, considering how much he
had to "unlearn" in order to make a good scout. That morning, after the
dip in the lake, the boys had had considerable fun with the tidy one.
They had watched him dress in his fastidious way, and before long
several of them were mocking him. He brushed his clothes with a lovely
brush he had brought along, and which was better fitted for a lady's
dressing table than a boys' camp. Then he adjusted his tie before a
little mirror he produced, spent a long time fixing his flaxen locks to
suit him, with another silver mounted brush; and finally dented in his
campaign hat with the greatest precision.

Then the boys burst out into a roar, and Smithy became aware that he had
been an object of great interest to his campmates for ten minutes. He
turned fiery red, looked confused for a brief time; and finally
snatching off his hat, gave it several careless blows, after which he
thrust it on his head in any old way.

At that a cheer had arisen from the other scouts. They seemed to
understand that in a short time Smithy would have learned his lesson.
The work which had taken his doting mother and maiden aunts years to
accomplish, would be thrown overboard in a week, and a new Smithy arise.

Each fellow having taken his tin cup, they sought an open spot where the
water boiling test could be carried out without one scout interfering
with the work of the others.

Then the acting scout-master mentioned the rules governing the sport.

"I'm going to give each scout just three matches," he remarked, "and he
is put on his honor not to have another one about him. Then you will
line up here, after you have each selected a spot inside the boundaries
where you mean to conduct your experiment in quick-fire making. For five
minutes you can look around, so as to get your mind fixed on just where
you will get your kindling, and water. Then at the word you start. Now,
line up here, and get your supply of fire sticks."

After the time limit had expired the word was given. All of the patrol
save the scout-master started to get busy; and it was a comical sight to
see some of them running around in a haphazard way, having lost their
bearings in the sudden excitement.

Bumpus was early out of the game. He did succeed in getting his cup
filled with water at the lake some little distance away, but of course
in his clumsy fashion he had to stumble, and spill most of it on the way
to his chosen station. And as one of the rules insisted that each cup
should be at least three-quarters full of water, Bumpus gave up the game
in abject despair, contenting himself with watching his more agile
companions, and cheering them on.

Smithy also had his troubles. He took so long to get his cup filled,
actually washing it out because he discovered a few coffee grounds in
the bottom, that the others were building their fires before he awoke to
the fact that again had his love for neatness lost him all chance of
making a favorable showing. So he too threw up the job as hopeless; but
from his determined looks Thad knew Smithy would do better the next
time.

This left but five competitors at work. Step-hen was doing very well,
and Allan knew just how to get tinder with which to start a quick fire;
but even these two could not be said to be in the same class with
Giraffe.

Fires had ever been his hobby, and what he did not know about starting a
blaze could be put in a very small compass. More than that, Thad noticed
that Giraffe certainly had good powers of observation. During that
period of five minutes when those who had entered the contest were given
an opportunity to look around, Giraffe had certainly used his eyes to
advantage.

While the others had hastened to the border of the lake to fill their
cups with water, the shrewd Giraffe had simply stepped over to a tiny
little spring which he had noticed not ten feet away, and there managed
to get all he needed.

And the way he shaved that fine kindling was a caution. Giraffe was a
born Yankee in that he always carried a keen-edged jack-knife, and could
be seen cutting every enticing piece of soft pine he came across. Why,
he had applied his match to the tinder before the others returned from
the lake; and the smoke of his fire blew in their faces most enticingly.

Then he added just the right sort of bits of wood, not too much at a
time, until he had coaxed his fire into doing the very best it knew how.

His four rivals were bending every energy to heat up the water in their
cups, testing it now and then with disappointed grunts, as it failed to
scald their fingers, when a shout from Giraffe announced that he needed
the attention of the judge, as his cup of water had commenced to bubble.

"Giraffe has won, hands down," Thad said, "but the rest of you go right
on, and see how long it takes each one. Then another time you will learn
to use the faculties that every fellow has just as well as Giraffe."

When the last one had finally succeeded in coaxing his fire to get up
sufficient heat to cause the water in the cup to bubble, the competition
was declared closed, with Giraffe an easy winner, and Allan a fair
second.

"Huh!" said Step-hen, "he got the bulge on us right in the beginning by
filling his old cup, at that little spring right here, instead of
running to the lake like all the rest of us did. Don't seem fair to me,
Mr. Scout-Master."

"Why not?" demanded Thad, while the victor smiled serenely, knowing what
was coming. "You all had the same chance to look around that Giraffe was
given. If he was smart enough to notice that he could save time by
filling his cup at the spring rather than run away over to the lake, so
much the more to his credit. A first-class scout will always discover
means for saving time. He will keep his eyes and wits about him to see
and hear things that an ordinary person might pass right by. That's one
of the first things he's got to learn. 'Be prepared' is the slogan of
the Boy Scouts; but in order to get the best out of anything, a fellow
has to keep awake all the time."

"I guess that's so," admitted Step-hen, rather sheepishly. "Giraffe is
smart, and if anybody thinks to get ahead of him he must wake up early
in the morning. Just wait till we try this game a second time, and see."

Thad was more than satisfied. He believed the lesson would not be wasted
on the ambitious scouts. Even Bumpus would use more care in making
haste, and look for treacherous roots that always lay in wait for his
clumsy feet. While Smithy, it might be understood, would either have his
cup thoroughly clean to start with, or let a few innocent grains of
coffee go unnoticed.

"I don't know why," remarked Allan, as they were cooking a little lunch
that noon; "but somehow that island over there looks mighty inviting to
me."

"Do you know," Thad remarked, "I've thought the same myself, and some of
the other fellows have their minds set on it. If we only had some way of
getting over, I might think of changing our camp, and going across. Of
course I could swim over and see what the island is like, but that
wouldn't do us any good without a boat."

"A boat up here is something nobody ever saw, I reckon, suh," said Bob
White.

"It certainly does look cool and fine across the water there; and I
suppose the bear could swim it if we chose to go; unless we made up our
minds to turn the old rascal loose," Step-hen put in.

"Say, I think myself he'd follow us, we've fed him so well since he came
in on us," Giraffe grumbled; for it certainly did provoke him to see a
shaggy beast devouring good food that human beings could make use of.
"Why, I had to get up from breakfast hungry because of him. The island
for mine, if it's going to help us get rid of our star boarder any
quicker."

"Star boarder!" mimicked Step-hen; "well, that's a joke I take it;
because all of us have got our minds made up who fills that bill, all
right."

But Giraffe pretended not to notice what was said. He did not like to
have his comrades pay too much attention to his little weakness in the
food line.

"How about my being rewarded for coming in first in the water boiling
test, Mr. Scout-Master?" he called out. "Wasn't there something held out
as an inducement, a sort of prize, so to speak? Seems to me you said the
feller that won might have the privilege of making the big camp-fire
this evening; and that would be reward enough for me, I tell you."

"That was the offer, Giraffe," replied Thad; "and I'm going to give you
that chance, on one condition only. It is that you promise not to carry
a single match around with you this blessed day."

Giraffe knew only too well what that meant, for he understood how Thad
worried over his propensity for starting fires at any time the notion
came upon him. He gave a big sigh, shook his head, and then handed over
his matchsafe, remarking:

"Well, I reckon I'll just have to comply with the rules; but it's pretty
hard on a feller, not to have just _one_ match along, in case he needs
it right bad. But anyhow, it's me to build that big blaze to-night,
remember, boys, and I'm going to make your eyes shine, the way I do it,
too."



CHAPTER XII.

BUMPUS MAKES A FIND.


"I say, Thad, come over here with me; I've got something to show you,"
remarked Allan, about half an hour after they had finished lunch, and
while most of the boys were lying around, taking it easy.

The young acting scout-master quickly followed his chum, who led the way
back of the tents and into the timber. Here they discovered Giraffe,
bending down, and so industriously engaged with some object he had in
hand that he seemed to pay no attention to anything else.

At first Thad thought the boy was sawing something, for there was a
continuous movement to his right arm, and a sort of low, buzzing sound;
but then he knew they had not brought a saw of any kind along with them,
an ax and a hatchet being the only tools considered necessary in camp.

Presently Giraffe halted, to draw out a red bandana handkerchief with
which to wipe his dripping forehead, while he stared hard at the object
he had before him, and looked dubious enough.

Thad saw now what it was, and he could hardly keep from laughing as the
determined boy once more started sawing away as though his very life
depended on his accomplishing the end he had in view.

The object he had in his right hand was a queer sort of a little bow,
made by fastening a stout cord to a piece of bent hickory. This cord was
doubled around a stick that stood upright, its pointed lower end placed
in a sort of hollow wooden dish where a socket had been scooped out. The
upper was also kept from burning the hand of the aspiring scout by
another bit of wood.

Of course Thad knew what Giraffe was trying to do. Deprived of matches
for the balance of the day, and feeling a gnawing desire to see a fire
sparkling, the scout had started in to try and make a blaze after the
old-fashioned method used by some South Sea islanders. But evidently the
boy did not twirl the stick fast enough to produce sufficient heat to
make the fine tinder smoke, and then take fire. Giraffe's ambition was
commendable, however, and so Thad said nothing; only crept away again,
after touching Allan on the arm, and beckoning.

"What are you going to do about it?" asked the latter, when they had
reached a safe position, where their voices might not be heard by the
object of their attention.

"Why, nothing, I suppose," replied Thad, smiling. "Did you ever see such
a fellow in all your life? He's a regular fire worshipper. I think he
must have come down from the old Aztecs in Mexico. He's never happy
without his little blaze."

"But he might get fire after all?" protested Allan.

"Between you and me, my boy, I don't think he will this time. Evidently
he's never tried that game before; and no fellow ever succeeds at it the
first time. It's harder than it seems. Let Giraffe work away; he'll have
his fingers sore with the business before he gives up."

"But what do you think makes him experiment that way right now, when he
knows you're trying to put a curb on his weakness for building fires?"
the other demanded.

"Well, in the first place, I suppose he feels like starting _something_;
and then again, Allan, it's a part of a boy's nature, you know, to
always want to do that very thing he's been told he musn't do. Now,
Giraffe wants to show me that even keeping matches away from him won't
prevent a really smart scout from making a fire, in case he feels like
it. My praise of this morning must have spurred him on to let us see
just what he can do."

"But if the bow and spindle way turns out bad, there's an easier chance
for him, if he only thinks of it," said the Maine boy.

"What's that?" asked Thad, smiling calmly.

"Why, all he's got to do is to take one of the lens out of the field
glasses we have along with us; and as the sun is hot enough, he could
set fire to some tinder in three shakes of a lamb's tail. Why, I've
started fires that way dozens of times myself, when matches were scare
with us in the pine woods."

Thereupon Thad quietly drew something, from each pocket in his khaki
trousers.

"Well, I declare, you thought of that same thing, didn't you?" exclaimed
the astonished Allan; "and took the trouble to remove both lens, so as
to upset his calculations if he started to try the dodge. Giraffe has to
be pretty cunning to get ahead of you, all right, Thad."

"But I never imagined he'd be trying that saw method," admitted the
scout-master. "There, he's given it up and thrown his bow away. Next
time he'll like as not make some improvement on that outfit. It must
have been faulty, so he just couldn't get enough speed out of it. For
the thing can be done; and I've seen it more than once, though I never
could make fire that way myself."

"Giraffe has one good quality," admitted Allan, "and that's persistance.
Once he makes up his mind to do a thing and he hates the worst kind to
quit."

"Especially around grub time," chuckled the other.

"Oh! that's a little weakness of his. Step-hen says he must have hollow
legs, or how else could he stow away all he does, and never show it. But
just look how the sun shines on the trees over across the water, where
that pretty little island lies in the middle of the lake. I never saw a
nicer camping place, Thad."

"And the same here," admitted the scout-master. "I've about made up my
mind I'd like to investigate that island, even if we can't hope to get
the whole outfit over. You're a good swimmer, Allan, what do you say to
going across?"

"Alone, or with you?" asked the other, quickly.

"Oh! I wouldn't think of sending any one alone," remarked the
scout-master. "You know, some of the boys have already said the island
had a terrible mysterious look, as though it might be concealing some
wonderful secret. The more they talk about it, and speculate that way,
the stronger grows my desire to explore it."

"Then let's call it a go. Think we can leave the rest of the patrol
alone for an hour or two this afternoon?" asked Allan, eagerly, as he
too cast wistful looks across the shimmering water toward the strange
little island that lay nestling there so modestly.

"If they're put on their honor to behave, they'll be all right," replied
Thad. "A scout must never dream of breaking his word, once given. That
is a part of his creed, you know, Allan; and even Bumpus understands
that."

"By the way, where is Bumpus; I haven't noticed him around in camp for
ten minutes or more?" remarked the second in command.

"I suppose he's wandering around somewhere close by," replied Thad.
"Bumpus certainly has got a big bump of curiosity, and is always poking
into everything he can think of. I heard him asking you this very
morning when you would find a bee-tree for him, the way you used to do
up in Maine. He's just bound to get honey, if there's any to be found
around this region."

"Yes, and I said I would try it out while we were up here, if the
chance came. You see, perhaps there mightn't happen to be any wild bees
around, for I haven't noticed 'em working."

"Oh! make up your mind to that," declared Thad. "I've heard several
farmers tell how they lost a fine swarm, no matter how much racket they
kicked up with dishpans and all sorts of tin buckets. There are lots of
bee trees in this region I'd be willing to wager now. And if we could
find one, it would be great. I like honey about as well as the next
fellow, don't you forget it, Allan."

"There goes Giraffe into the tent; and from the sly way he looked
around, I've got an idea he's suddenly remembered the lens in that field
glass, and means to try one of them with the rays of the sun, to make a
little fire."

"Yes, Allan, I saw him; and just as you say, if his manner counts for
anything, that's just what Giraffe has in hand. But won't he be the most
surprised boy in seven counties when he finds that the lens have been
taken from the glass?"

"There he comes out now, and say, don't he look sheepish, though?" Allan
went on to remark. "I can see him peeping out of the corner of his eye
at you; and just make up your mind Giraffe is saying to himself that
it's a mean game to cheat a poor fellow out of a little expected
pleasure that way."

"On the other hand," remarked the scout-master, "I reckon he feels cheap
to know that I'm on to his game, and have made ready to upset his
calculations. But next time I'll put him on his honor not to try and
make a fire in any way, shape or style. Now, I don't fancy going away
with Bumpus absent. He might get into trouble while we were off. Perhaps
I'd better take his bugle, and give a few notes to let him know he's
wanted."

"A fine idea, Thad," observed Allan; "I'll go and get it for you, as I
happen to know just where Bumpus keeps it inside the tent here. He's
just the opposite of Step-hen, and never leaves his things scattered
around."

He had even climbed to his feet, for they were sitting at the time, when
there broke out a sudden clamor that caused Allan to turn quickly, and
give his superior officer a meaning look.

For the voice that made all that racket was only too well known to both
boys; in that it belonged to the very scout about whom they had been
talking.

Bumpus must be in some trouble again, if they could judge from the noise
he was making. Immediately visions of rattlesnakes, and all manner of
dangers connected with the forest trails, flashed into the mind of Thad.
What could the luckless fat boy have stumbled into now? That bump of
curiosity which he was pleased to term his "investigating spirit," must
have led him into some fresh difficulty.

The boys were all on their feet by this time, and several had even
snatched up the stout staves which had proven so useful during their
arduous tramp from home to this far-off region of Lake Omega.

"He's coming this way!" called out Step-hen, excitedly.

"Yes, suh, and on the full gallop, too, believe me!" added Bob White,
actually taking a step forward, as if ready to meet the danger half way,
should there any peril develop.

Thad did not give the order to advance because he had 'ere now
discovered that there was no evidence of fright in the shouts of Bumpus.
Rather could he detect a note triumph, as though the fat boy believed he
had accomplished something worth while, and was deserving of
congratulation.

And now all of them could make out what he was calling as he came
stumbling along.

"Hey! fellers, what d'ye think, I've found--oh! that old vine nearly cut
my neck in two, plague take it--a boat! Yes, a regular boat, hid away in
the brush where I was looking for rabbits' tracks; meanin' to learn how
to follow the same. And better still, it's got a paddle in it, too. Now
we c'n go fishing, and have a bully old time exploring that island out
yonder. Don't you think I ought to get a merit badge, Thad, for being so
smart, hey?"



CHAPTER XIII.

THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND.


Sure enough, when the others followed the proud Bumpus through the woods
for a little distance, and then down close to the edge of the water,
they found that he had really come upon a boat in a dense thicket, where
it had evidently been hidden.

"Must a belonged to some of them game keepers that rich man hired to
watch his property up here," declared Step-hen, as he examined the
craft, while they all crowded around.

"Looky here, got a bully old paddle under the seats too!" called out
Giraffe, holding up the article in question, admiringly, after they had
turned the canoe over.

"Ain't this a great find, though?" declared Bob White, who was
particularly fond of the water, and boats of all kinds.

Bumpus smote himself on the chest, and puffed out his fat cheeks, as he
looked around at his comrades.

"Make fun of that wonderful investigating instinct of mine, will you,
boys?" he remarked; "well, see what a feller gets for being
persevering, and wanting to learn all the while. Now, if I'd been like,
say Step-hen here, and content to lay around after eating, where'd we be
about the boat question? But I wanted to find out why a rabbit makes two
marks with its front paws and only one with the hind legs; and so I
looked around to see if there wasn't a track where we saw that bunny
scoot away yesterday when we got here. I didn't find the tracks, but I
did run across a boat!"

"It was all right, Bumpus," said Thad; "and I'm going to congratulate
you on it. A scout can be a bit curious, and keep on the right side,
too. But Allan, there's no need of our taking that long swim, now."

"And no need of both of us being away at the same time," remarked the
other, who did not feel easy about leaving such careless fellows as
Bumpus and Giraffe behind, since there could be no telling what trouble
might not follow. "Suppose you draft Bob White to do the paddling, Thad;
he just dotes on that sort of thing, you know."

The eyes of the Southern boy gleamed with delight.

"I surely do the same, suh; and if so be you think to take me along on
the exploring expedition I'll be proud to accompany you. Depend on me to
do the work, and glad of the chance. I just love to be in a boat, any
kind of boat from a dugout to a cedar canoe. And this paddle isn't so
bad, even if home-made."

Thad bent down to examine closer. Then he turned to give Allan a little
nod that brought the other quickly to his side. The two leaned over
where they could exchange a few words without the others hearing what
was said.

"Did you notice that the boat was turned upside-down when found?" asked
Thad, first of all.

"Yes, that was done to keep the rain from filling it, I reckoned,"
replied the Maine boy. "They do that up my way too; because you see, if
water stays very long in a boat it rots it. No matter what it's built
of, canvas, cedar, or birch bark, water in a boat is a bad thing."

"Some of the boys think this boat has been lying here since the game
keepers left this part of the country; which, as I understand it, must
have been quite a few months ago?" Thad went on to say.

"Yes, that's what I heard them saying," returned the other.

"And what do you think?" asked the scout-master.

Allan knew that he was on trial. He also understood that there must be
something suspicious about the boat to make Thad speak in this way. So
he instantly scanned it, foot by foot, from one end to the other; after
which his eyes sought the paddle which Giraffe was still handling.

Then he smiled.

"I'm on to what you mean, Thad," he observed. "That paddle has been in
the water not a great many hours ago, for it's still wet. Yes, and
inside the boat I can see signs that point to the same thing."

"Last night, perhaps, while we were sleeping here, this boat was being
used on the lake by some person or persons," Thad continued, earnestly;
while the balance of the scouts disputed among themselves as to who
should be given the privilege of accompanying Bob White and Thad on the
trip to the island.

Thad looked a little serious.

"Kind of queer, any way you take it," he remarked. "Our camp-fire could
have been seen easy enough by any fellow who was landing here, and
hiding his boat. Then tell me why he didn't come into camp, and see who
we were? Seems to me any honest man would have been glad to do that same
thing."

"Say, perhaps he doesn't happen to be honest, Thad?" suggested Allan, in
rather a hushed voice; for there was something a little mysterious about
the finding of this boat that excited his curiosity more or less, and
caused strange ideas to form in his boyish mind.

"Oh! I hardly think it could be as bad as that," Thad hastened to
remark. "Just because he avoided our camp doesn't mean that he's a
thief, or a rascal, I take it. Perhaps he saw we were Boy Scouts; and
most men wouldn't want to bother knowing a parcel of boys in their first
camp."

"But what could he be doing, away up here in this lonely place?" asked
the other.

"Well, of course I don't pretend to know," replied the scout-master;
"but then I might give a guess. Suppose one of the men who used to be
hired to guard these preserves of that rich gentleman who meant to make
a game park here, after the idea was given up, took a notion to come
back up here for some reason. He might be getting ready to trap animals
in the fall; or shoot deer out of season. Then again, perhaps this same
lake was stocked with game fish some years ago, and a couple of smart
fishermen might take out a heap of bass that would net them a lot of
money in the market. Sometimes they use nets too, Allan, when the game
wardens are far away."

"I know," replied the other. "It's just the same up in my country, I'm
sorry to say. But are you going over to take a look at that island just
the same, Thad?"

"Sure thing; and as the boat is large enough, to hold three or four
without crowding, perhaps I'd better pick another to go along. Step-hen,
how would you like to help Bob White, Bumpus and myself look that island
over?"

Step-hen was about to give an affirmative answer, when he just happened
to remember something.

"Guess I'll have to decline the chance this time, Thad," he remarked,
making a wry face. "Thought I felt the signs of one of my fits comin'
on, a while back. I'd sure hate to have anything like that happen in
such a cranky little boat; 'cause it might upset, you know."

"Oh! all right, then just the three of us will go," returned Thad,
carelessly.

But there was one who had heard what Step-hen said, with suspicion in
his heart. Of course this was Bumpus. He looked at the other, and
catching a sly glance cast in his direction, immediately sized up the
situation. So marching directly into the camp, Bumpus plunged into the
tent to which he was assigned, appearing with his haversack in his
hands. And this he deliberately hung on a nail that had been driven into
a tree, in plain sight of all who might happen to be in camp.

Everybody saw the act, and could guess what the motive was that actuated
Bumpus to do this queer thing. Step-hen turned somewhat red in the face,
as he felt the eyes of his comrades turned toward him.

"Huh!" he exclaimed, "think you're funny, don't you, Bumpus? Seems to me
you're mighty careful of that old bag of yours. If you had a lump of
gold in it you couldn't handle it nicer. And sometimes haversacks do
hold all sorts of queer things. I've known lost knives, and medals, yes,
and even _compasses_ to get in 'em. Hung it out to air, did you? Mighty
afraid somebody might _happen_ to peek in it by accident when you was
gone, ain't you?"

But Bumpus never made any reply, only grinned, and looked wise, as
though he felt satisfied at having outgeneraled the cunning Step-hen,
and spiked his guns.

The boat upon being launched was found to be water tight. This fact went
far toward convincing Thad that his suspicions regarding its having
been recently used were based on a good foundation. Had it been lying
there ashore for weeks, and possibly months, it would have been leaky;
and required many hours' soaking before the wood swelled enough to stop
this fault.

Thad took up his position in the bow, while the heavy weight of the
expedition, Bumpus, who had been invited to go because of his discovery
of the boat, occupied the middle. Bob White, paddle in hand, shoved off;
and then squatted in the stern to propel the craft.

They soon saw that he was indeed an adept with the paddle. Even the
Maine boy, standing there on the shore, called out words of commendation
when he saw how cleverly Bob White feathered his paddle, and seemed able
to do almost anything he wished without removing its blade from the
water.

Often when a hunter is creeping up on a feeding deer in the water, this
proves to be a valuable quality, in allowing him to get closer than
would be possible did the water drip from the blade of the paddle every
time it was raised above the surface.

And so they headed straight for the mysterious island. Thad was turned
half-way around in his seat, so that he could observe the shore they
were rapidly approaching. And Bumpus, squatted there amidships like a
big frog, kept his eyes fastened on the same place, with a growing
feeling of uneasiness.

He even wished now that he had not been so greedy to take part in this
exploring expedition. After all, it was much more comfortable ashore,
than in a cranky boat that wobbled every time he chanced to move his
weight from one side to the other. And then again, there was something
rather queer about that same island; the trees and bushes grew so very
dense all over it, and Bumpus wondered if it might not be the home of
wildcats, or even something worse.

One or twice he imagined he could see staring eyes among the bushes, but
was ashamed to mention the fact to his chums.

The boat had arrived at a point within about eighty feet of the shore
when there came to the ears of the three boys a sudden gurgling sound
that sent the blood leaping through their veins much faster than
ordinarily might be the case. Thad turned his head to see what Bumpus
and Bob White might appear to think of that thrilling sound; for it was
not repeated; and although plainly heard, Thad could not at the time
make up his mind whether it was a husky voice calling aloud for help, or
some bird uttering its discordant scream.



CHAPTER XIV.

MAROONED.


"W-w-what d'ye think it was, Thad?" asked Bumpus, presently; and the
fact was very evident that his teeth were rattling at a lively rate,
warm though the afternoon sun was at the time.

Bob White said nothing, only he tried to read the face of their leader.
Bob gave promise of making the finest kind of a Boy Scout. He was next
door to fearless; or at any rate would scorn to allow his natural
feelings to sway him when he believed a sense of duty required his doing
something.

"Well, at first _I_ thought it might be somebody calling for help,"
replied Thad, slowly; "but you notice that it wasn't repeated. And that
makes me think now it must have been some fishhawk screaming. I've known
them to make a queer sort of a sound."

"Just what it must have been," remarked Bob, nodding his head in
approval.

Bumpus, however, did not seem to be wholly satisfied.

"Say, it went right through me," he observed. "I just seemed to have a
cold feeling run up and down my spine, like you'd emptied a cup of
ice-water down my neck. Think we've seen enough of the old island by
now, Thad? Hadn't we better be turning around, and heading back for
camp?"

"Well, I should say not, Bumpus, bless your timid soul," replied Thad,
laughingly. "Why, that only makes Bob here and myself the more anxious
to land, and look the island over. If there's anything queer around, we
ought to find out all about it. Am I right, Bob?"

The answer the Southern lad made was very suggestive. He simply dipped
his paddle into the water again, and with several sturdy movements of
his arms sent the boat forward once more, headed directly for the shore
of the island. Bumpus drew up his plump shoulders, but he made no
protest. It would not have done him much good if he did try to say
anything. No doubt they would have told him that the walking back to
camp was good, and no dust blowing, if he wanted to return.

He simply gripped both sides of the boat, and held on, while keeping his
eyes fastened on the shore they were now fast approaching.

No further sounds were heard, save the water lapping among the rocks,
and giving out a musical gurgling in the rising wind.

"There's a good landing where that little sandy beach runs along," Thad
remarked, as they drew in closer.

"So it is, suh," replied the paddler. "I was just making up my mind to
head foh it when you spoke. Here she goes, now."

Thad was half standing, and as the prow of the boat grated on the sand
he made a flying leap for the shore. Bumpus looked as though he half
expected to see some terrible monster dart out of the brushwood, and
seize upon the scout-master. He heaved a sigh of relief when nothing of
the sort came about; and even condescended to waddle ashore
himself--that is the only word capable of doing justice to the clumsy
actions of Bumpus when in a narrow boat like a canoe.

So the three scouts now stood on the sandy beach. Bumpus scanned the
bushes, but Thad was observing certain marks on the little sandy beach
that told him others had drawn a boat up in that same place before now.
In fact, to judge from the freshness of the signs, it had not been very
long ago since men or boys were here.

Now, there is something in the makeup of certain lads calculated to draw
them on, when there is an element of uncertainty in the air. Thad had
been curious to explore this island before; and now that he had seen
signs of others having landed, he began to feel doubly anxious. Perhaps
it was the "call of the wild" in his composition; or possibly he had
inherited some trait bordering on a love of adventure, handed down from
some remote ancestor who may have roamed the world seeking excitement.

"Are you really going in there, Thad?" asked Bumpus, his face showing
signs of uneasiness as he surveyed the fringe of bushes under the dense
trees that overhung them.

"That's just what we expect to do, Bumpus," replied the scout-master,
firmly. "You may pull the boat up further, and follow after us; or if
you prefer staying by the boat, you can do that, just as you please.
Ready, Bob?"

"Yes, suh, and more than anxious to be on the move," answered the
Southern boy.

They turned their backs on poor Bumpus, who found himself in a quandary,
hardly knowing which course would be the worse for him to pursue, tag at
the heels of these two adventurous comrades, and meet with what danger
they might unearth; or stay there alone with the boat.

He quickly decided that it would be far more risky to separate from his
comrades. If the island _did_ contain savage beasts, which Bumpus really
believed to be the case, they would be sure to select such a nice juicy
morsel as he promised to afford, in preference to one of the other
fellows. And it horrified him to think of being pounced on while all by
himself.

"Hold on, Thad, I'm coming along!" he called out, hurrying as best he
could so as to overtake the other scouts, who were already plunging
boldly into the heavy growth.

Being eager to keep in close touch with the others, Bumpus quickly
overtook them, and panting with the effort, jogged along as close as he
could get. At any rate, if trouble should spring out upon them, there
was always a satisfaction in having loyal comrades along. And Bumpus
noted with considerable satisfaction that both of the others had armed
themselves with stout cudgels, fully three feet in length, with which
they would be able to give a good account of themselves if the occasion
arose when defense would be necessary.

"Oh!" exclaimed the fat boy, when with a sudden whirr a partridge arose
close beside them, and flew away with a rapid motion.

He saw the Southern boy throw his stick to his shoulder, as though
taking aim.

"Oh! what a dandy shot that would have been, Thad, if I had had a gun!"
Bob exclaimed, eagerly. "I could have dropped that beauty like a stone."

"Well," replied the other, "since it's the close season on partridges
perhaps it's just as well you didn't have a gun. But I wouldn't be
surprised if we got up more'n a few of those fellows here. The island
would be a great place for their nests."

"Then I wish they'd let a poor feller know when they meant to scoot
off," remarked Bumpus, wiping his face with his handkerchief; "because
that one nigh scared me to death, he went buzzing off so sudden-like."

"You'll never make a hunter, whatever else you turn out to be, Bumpus,"
Thad remarked, smiling, as he turned to look at the red face of the
perspiring fat boy.

"I don't know," the other said, with a vein of regret in his voice; "I
always wanted to roam the woods, and do all that sort of thing; but then
you see Nature, she wasn't kind to me. I don't seem to be made just
right for tramping. And I must say some things do make my heart jump
like fun. Oh! well, there are other things a scout c'n do,
perhaps,--findin' boats, and lookin' for bee trees mebbe."

"Lots of things, Bumpus," replied Thad. "You can't change your make-up;
and so you'll have to do what suits you best. Shall we head to the left
here, Bob; or take to the right?"

Secretly Thad was keeping his eyes on the ground part of the time as he
pushed on. He had an idea they might find footprints that would lead the
way to some old cabin or hangout, where perhaps the game-keepers used to
live when they were employed to patrol the district, so that no one
hunted or fished against the orders of the rich man who owned the
country around.

"Well," replied the other, after taking a glance about him, "I don't
suppose it matters much which way we turn, since we propose to look over
the entire island one way or another, suh. Say we turn off here to the
left, and circle around. Or if you would rather have it, we might
separate and spread out like a fan."

Bumpus drew in his breath with a half gasp. It looked so very gloomy
around the spot which they had reached that not for worlds would he
drift away from his association with one or the other of his companions.
Besides, they might need him in some way or other; because there were
_some_ things he could do, if he wasn't cut out for an agile fellow
because of his heft.

"No, we'd better all keep together, I think?" Thad answered, much to his
relief. "You see, we're in a strange situation, and even if we put in
half an hour looking this place over, what does it matter? Time isn't so
valuable as all that. The others will wait for us, and take things easy.
Allan has promised to show them some Indian picture writing this
afternoon, and I know he'll amuse the bunch so they won't miss us."

"Now, I'd be sorry to miss that same myself," remarked Bob; "because
he's got me worked up to top notch fever about it, and I wanted to try
and read the sign he left behind him. I've sure heard a heap about that
picture writing, and what fun scouts have trying to make out what it all
means. But there don't seem to be anything out of the way on this same
island, suh. A sure enough pretty place, and would make the finest
camp-site you ever saw."

"Perhaps we may move over here to-morrow," said Thad. "I've several
reasons for thinking that way."

"One of which is that you'd like to get rid of that bear," chuckled Bob.

"Don't be too sure of that," answered the other; "we might want to fetch
him over here with us. He did us one good turn when he frightened that
Brose Griffin crowd away, and who knows but what he might repeat?"

They came out on the other side of the island, and had seen no sign of
any sort of human habitation. On the way back again to the other shore
Thad took a different route, so that he believed they would thus cover
the better part of the territory that went to make up the lake island.

"Sure we're heading right, Thad?" asked Bob, presently.

"Oh! my goodness I hope we don't get lost!" exclaimed Bumpus, in alarm.

"It's all right," replied Thad, with not a trace of uneasiness in his
voice; "we are pretty nearly across now; and unless I've made a bungle
of it, we ought to come out right on that same little sandy stretch
where we landed."

"I can hear the waves beating against the rocks, and they sound right
loud now," remarked Bumpus.

"That must be because the wind has been getting stronger all the time
we've been gone; and even now you notice the trees begin to thin out.
Tell me, isn't that our sandy stretch right ahead there, and am I a good
woodsman or not?"

"You brought us through as straight as a die," said Bob, admiringly;
"and just as you say, Thad, that's the same spot we landed on."

"But tell me," broke in Bumpus, "if that's so, where's our boat,
fellows?"

The others stared, and well they might, for although they easily
recognized the pretty little beach, it was now entirely destitute of any
sign of a boat!



CHAPTER XV.

THE BOY FROM THE BLUE RIDGE.


"I expected this, but not so soon!" quavered Bumpus, dropping in a heap
on the ground, and continuing to mop his heated face with that enormous
bandana.

The other two walked forward.

"We must make sure that this is the same place," remarked Thad.
"Because, you see, there might happen to be two little sandy beaches
very much alike."

"No danger of that, suh!" declared Bob, with conviction in his manner.
"I took right good notice of a heap of things, and they all seem to
tally. This is the same place, I give you my word on that."

"Well, here's all the proof we want," said the scout-master, pointing
down at his feet, as they stood close to where the little waves were
running over most of the sandy stretch. "The water has washed out some
of our footprints; but you can still see where Bumpus tripped at the
edge of the rise here, where that root sticks up a little. Remember
that, don't you Bumpus?"

"That, you're IT," replied the fat boy, getting up to come forward, and
stare at the marks he had made, as though they confirmed his worst
fears. "And now fellers, you see the blessed old island _has_ got people
hidin' on it! They came back here and hooked our boat while we were
poking along through the scrub like a bunch of geese. Now, how are we
going to get back home? We'll just starve to death out here. And
Step-hen he c'n turn my bag inside-out while I'm gone, too!"

That last seemed to worry him more than anything else, Thad noticed,
with a little surprise; because he did not believe for a minute that
Bumpus knew anything about the compass which Step-hen accused him of
hiding.

They looked across the wide stretch of water. The waves were indeed
dancing at quite a lively rate now, showing that a fresh breeze had
started up since they started on their little exploring trip.

Thad suddenly conceived an idea. Perhaps it was the wash of the waves
against the bank that gave it to him.

He turned on Bumpus.

"See here, how far up did you pull that boat?" he asked, suddenly.

The fat boy stared, and scratched his head.

"Do you mean when we first landed; or afterwards when you told me to
come along or stay here, just whichever I liked?" he asked; but it was
only to gain a little time that he said this, because he already knew
what the answer would be.

"When Bob and myself were going into the brush I told you to pull the
boat up, and either stay here, or follow. Did you do it, Bumpus?" Thad
went on.

"Oh! I heard you say it, all right," admitted the fat boy, frankly; "but
when I looked back, it seemed to me that the old boat was far enough up
on the sand; and then you fellers were making off so fast I just thought
you'd leave me alone if I didn't hurry. So I just put after you,
pellmell."

"Well, that's what's the matter," said Thad, with a look of disgust.
"Next time see to it that you obey orders, no matter what you happen to
think."

"Then the boat's drifted away, suh, you think?" Bob remarked, eagerly.

"That's what I imagine," replied Thad. "Notice which way the wind is
coming, and you can see that it throws the water up on this beach, which
is wasn't doing when we left here. Once she was loose and the same
breeze would make her move along past that little wooded point yonder. I
reckon that if we climb out there, we'll see the boat adrift."

"But why haven't some of the boys ashore noticed it, and let out a whoop
to draw our attention?" asked the boy from the Blue Ridge.

"They may have been too busy to look this way," answered Thad; "and
then, besides, the boat would be carried behind the island so they
couldn't see it. Come on, and we'll soon find out."

"But if we don't find it however am I going to get on the main land
again?" complained Bumpus.

"Well, it would serve you right if you did have to stay here alone
awhile," Thad told him, with a sternness in his face which the merry
twinkle in his eyes belied. "After being so shiftless as to let such an
accident happen, you surely deserve to suffer. Isn't that right, Bumpus;
own up now?"

"Oh! I suppose it might be;" the fat boy admitted; "but I hope you won't
think of leaving me out here all alone. I might get a scare, and be
tempted to jump in; and you know what a poor swimmer I am, Thad. Oh!
bully, bully, there she is, Thad, and floating along just as sassy as
anything!"

The boat was not more than a hundred and fifty feet away, though by
degrees moving further off all the while, as the wind and the waves
influenced her movements.

"Now somebody will have to strip and go after her," said Thad. "And if
you were a better swimmer, I'd say it ought to be you, Bumpus."

"You'll have to excuse me this time, Thad," declared the other,
earnestly. "But are you sure it was only the wind that carried her off?"

"You can see for yourself that there's no one in the boat, using the
paddle," the scout-master replied.

"That's so, Thad, but seems as if I c'd see somethin' in the water under
her bow; and it looks like two hands holding on to the gunnel above,
just as if somebody might be swimmin' along and dragging the boat after
him."

Both the others broke out into a laugh at that.

"I see that imagination of yours is working overtime, Bumpus," remarked
Thad; and then turning to the Southern boy he went on: "Shall it be you
or I, Bob?"

"I hope you'll let me go after her, suh," said the other, quickly,
beginning to throw off some of his clothes, as if anticipating a
favorable decision on the part of his superior officer in the Silver Fox
Patrol.

"Go then, if you want to, Bob," suggested Thad, smiling; for he was
being drawn closer to this gallant son of the Sunny South every day; and
constantly found new causes for admiring the other's self sacrificing
disposition.

Inside of three minutes Bob White went in from the headland with a
splash, and swam toward the floating boat like a water spaniel. Reaching
the runaway he was seen to clamber aboard, after which he picked up the
paddle, and started to urge the boat toward the shore again.

Not until then did Bumpus seem to heave a sigh of relief. Evidently the
poor fellow had really expected to see some dreadful enemy clasp Bob
around the neck as he started to slip over the side of the boat.

After Bob had resumed his clothes, they entered the boat, and left the
vicinity of the island. Thad kept looking it over as they gradually
moved further away, as if not satisfied, by any means, with what little
he had seen of the place.

"Yes," he remarked, "I'm pretty much of a mind to put it to the fellows;
and if the majority favors, we'll change our camp to-morrow, for a try
on the island. There's _something_ about that place that seems to draw
me."

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that," declared Bumpus, dolefully; "because I
just know they'll want to ferry over--Allan because he's ready to do
anything you say; Step-hen, for he wants to meet up with all sorts of
adventures, and says he means to get away out in the Rockies some of
these days; Smithy because he's afraid you'll all think him weak and
girlish if he draws back; and Giraffe too when he gets the idea that
mebbe we'll be leaving the bear behind; because it'll mean just so much
more left for him to eat. Huh! if I'm the minority, might as well make
it unanimous, and be done with it. Can't die but once, anyhow, so what
does it matter?"

Of course neither of the others paid much attention to what Bumpus said.
He always liked to hear himself talk; and as his comrades said, his
"bark was worse than his bite." Bumpus often said he wouldn't, and
changed his mind immediately.

When they landed the others were just about starting out to have Allan
show how the long talked-of Indian picture writing was done. They asked
questions, of course but neither Thad nor Bob would gratify their
curiosity.

"We're going to keep all that for around the camp-fire to-night boys,"
declared the scout-master, firmly. "Wouldn't interrupt this arrangement
for anything. And to tell the truth we didn't find anything so serious
as to warrant a recall. So go right along with the game, Allan, and let
the rest of us in on it; because Bob here is as eager to learn as any
of the boys."

Bumpus, however, declared he was that tired he preferred staying in the
camp, to keep the bear company.

"He might get loose and try to clean us out of all our grub," he
suggested, with a broad smile.

"Sure," replied Step-hen, sneeringly; "and I just warrant you've already
got your tree all picked out beforehand, if he does. Much good you'd be
trying to defend our provisions. Now, if it was _me_, I'd fight to the
last gasp before I'd let him make way with a single piece of cheese, or
even a cracker."

"I believe you would, Step-hen," replied Bumpus, calmly; "and by the
way, perhaps my knapsack has aired enough by now, so I'll put it in the
tent again."

Step-hen made a face at him, and hurried away after the rest; but from
the manner in which he looked back a number of times, and continued to
shake his head as he talked to himself, it was plain to be seen that he
still believed the fat boy was hiding something in that same haversack,
which he did not wish any one, particularly a fellow named Step-hen
Bingham, to set eyes on. And what else could that be but the missing
compass, which Bumpus had once so indignantly denied having seen, after
he handed it back to its owner?

Allan did not intend going far, since there was no need of it. He could
illustrate all he wished to in the way of the famous Indian picture
writing, which Boy Scouts in other troops had found so interesting a
study in connection with woodcraft. Even Thad, who had dabbled in it to
some extent in the past, was deeply concerned; because he knew that the
more these boys became interested in observing things that were
happening all around them, the sooner they would climb up the ladder
leading to merit badges, and a right to the name of a first class
scout.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE PICTURES THAT TALKED.


"What's that Allan's got in his hand?" asked Davy Jones, as the little
party reached an open spot, and the Maine boy came to a halt.

"Looks like a strip of fresh birch bark," remarked Giraffe.

"Just what it is," Allan spoke up, "and if you watch me, you'll see how
the poor Indian, not carrying a hammer and nails along, finds a way to
leave his message so that it attracts the attention he wants, just as
well as if he nailed it against the trunk of a tree."

He bent down, broke off a long wand from a bush, and seemed to partly
split one end of this. Into the crotch he inserted the birch bark. The
other end he pushed into the ground.

"There you are, fellows," Allan went on. "When you reach this point
along the trail of your friend, you find that he has left this message
for you. Being an Indian, or a border man used to the ways of the
Indians, you take the strip of bark in your hands, and examine it. To
the eye of the experienced one it is as plain as so many words would be
to all of us. Here, look at what I've written, boys."

"Say, it's a cute little boy's idea of a procession," remarked Step-hen;
"for I take it that all these figures must be meant for men."

"And I can see a fire burning, right here," declared Giraffe, eagerly.

"What's this four-legged critter, a wolf or a dog?" asked Step-hen,
pointing to the object he had in mind.

"What would you say, Thad?" asked Allan, smiling.

"Well, it strikes me that it must be a dog, because you've made it have
a curly tail; and no wolf was ever known to possess such a thing.
Besides, it always appears close to the heels of one of the men, and the
same one too; so I should say it belongs to that fellow."

"Just exactly what I wanted to convey," Allan went on, nodding his head
in approval. "Now, if you'll pay close attention, fellows, I'll show you
how easy it is to write messages this way. Just as Step-hen said, it's
like a boy trying to show his first skill in drawing; but in this case
every little mark has its meaning."

"It's interesting, all right, Allan," observed Davy Jones.

"That's right, it is," echoed Smithy, who had apparently never before
realized what a delightful thing it was to get out in the woods with a
parcel of chums, and discover what strange things can be found there.

"Now, here is what the man in advance is telling the one who comes
after," continued the boy who knew. "He is himself following on the
track of a party of enemies, and has discovered certain facts connected
with their movements, which he wishes to communicate to his comrade
coming after, so as to gave him the trouble of wasting time in
investigating for himself. And here's the way he does it."

He held the birch bark up so all could see. Six pair of eager eyes were
immediately glued upon the marks which he had made on the smooth brown
inside bark, with possibly the point of his knife, just as the real
Indian might.

"First, you see, here are five figures represented," Allan began.

"That means the total number of the enemy, don't it?" asked Davy,
quickly.

"Just what it does, and I'm glad to see how you catch on," continued
Allan. "Now, after telling how many foes they have ahead, the scout
tries to mark each one in some way so they can be distinguished all
through the letter. Here's a fellow who seems to be one-armed, for he
always appears that way. A second is very tall, you notice, while a
third is a dwarf, and a fourth limps a little, for his leg is bent some
in every picture. The fifth wears a hat; and as for the sixth, he must
be feeling the effects of looking into a bottle too many times; because
he wobbles some as he pursues his way. Got all that, fellows?"

"Sure, and it's some interesting, Allan," declared Step-hen.

"Well, they've been in camp here, for you can see the remains of a fire,
but with very little smoke ascending, showing that it is nearly dead.
They have gone due northeast after breaking camp. Here are five marks
like the pickets on a fence, just alongside this cross. Now, what would
you think those meant?"

"Looks to me as if the men had gone five miles up to that cross," Thad
remarked.

"Just what I was going to say," said Davy, disappointed to come in
second.

"Both of you have hit the nail on the head," laughed Allan; "for that is
what the Indian wants to say. And here at the five mile station the
party of hostiles appear to have separated, the tall man and the one who
is groggy, together with the dog, going off toward the east; while the
others keep on straight. And you can see that our friend chooses to
follow the three, for some reason of his own."

"Here's another picket fence," remarked Davy; "this time only four
miles."

"Then what?" asked Allan.

"There's a crooked line running across. Can't be a snake they've struck,
because it's too big for that," mused Davy.

"I know," remarked Smithy. "That must be a river, because here's a boat;
anyhow, it looks like one to me."

"Why, of course," broke in Bob White; "and I must have been blind not to
have glimpsed that before. They've got to a river, and found a boat
there. But what do all these funny marks on the river stand for? Looks
like the three chaps might be in swimming. Is that what it means,
Allan?"

"In one way, yes," replied the other, laughing again, for he found it
great fun to have his comrades guessing at the explanation of his crude
chart. "Here you see them standing up in the boat, and all of them are
holding their hands over their heads. That is the Indian's idea of
showing fright."

"And just beyond, the boat seems to have broken in two; that shows
something happened, I reckon," Davy hastened to remark.

"Well, here the three of them are swimming like ducks, and the boat
doesn't appear again, so something _did_ happen. Go on Allan, this is
just as fine as any illustrated rebus I ever struck," Thad said, himself
deeply interested.

"Perhaps the one who writes this birch bark message was himself
responsible for the sinking of the boat. You failed to notice that just
before the accident happened there was a _dot_ on the water close to the
boat. That may have been his head, and he managed to cut a hole in the
birch bark canoe."

"But see here, a little further on you forgot to mark the whole three
again; I can only see two, all told," Davy declared.

"Well, evidently then the scout wants to convey the impression that
there were only two of the enemy at that time," Allan went on. "He must
have found some means of disposing of one, either in the water, or from
the shore with his gun while they were floundering there."

"I guess the two chaps crawled out here on the bank," said Step-hen,
pointing.

"And plunged into the woods too, for here are trees again, and what
looks like a trail, leading toward the west, which is marked by a
setting sun. An Indian always designates a _setting_ sun by the spurs
that stand up like spokes; while the sun rising is simply a half circle
on the horizon."

"Well," remarked Davy, his eyes round with eagerness; "I declare, this
is mighty interesting; and I must get the hang of this Indian picture
writing as quick as I can. You'll see what stunts I'll do after a little
while. I'll sure have the rest of you guessing at the puzzles I get up."

"You're near the end of the picture, Allan," remarked Thad; "and as I
can see only one figure ahead now, I think something must have happened
to our friend Limpy, because he doesn't appear again."

"I suppose that the scout who follows must have found a chance to cut
down the number of the enemy in advance to one," remarked Allan; "and he
wants to let his friend know he is still on the trail of that fellow.
Here the pursued one must have spent the night, for you can see another
dead fire. Away off here it looks like a village, for there are lodges
and dogs and squaws. He marks that as ten miles off, and evidently
expects to overtake the lone warrior before he reaches the shelter of
the tepees. And so you see he has managed to tell the story of his
adventure, crudely of course, yet just as well as any one of us might
write it out. And once you've got the knack of reading this sort of
talk, you can manage it just as fast as you would hand-writing. That's
all I'm going to tell you about it to-day; but if you feel that way
another time, I'll show you a lot more that is interesting."

Davy Jones declared that he would keep the Maine boy to his promise.
This queer way of communicating a whole story without writing a single
letter seemed to appeal to him especially. And all that evening he was
scribbling away upon a pad of paper he had brought along, drawing all
manner of remarkable figures, which he jumbled up in such a way that he
actually forgot the key to the combinations; and had to get Allan's help
in solving some of them, which the others considered a rich joke.

During the balance of the afternoon the boys amused themselves in
various ways. Several tried the fishing, with the result that there was
a good mess of gamey bass caught for supper.

Thad, Allan and Bob White lay in the shade for a long time, talking. The
Southern boy was eagerly telling his chums various things in connection
with his old home away off in the distant Blue Ridge; and from the way
the others asked questions it was evident that the proposition to have
the Silver Fox Patrol visit the mountain region where Bob had once lived
must have sunk deeply into their minds.

"I know one thing sure," remarked Thad; "if we're lucky enough to go
there, I'm going to carry my shotgun along. A Boy Scout as a rule is
seldom seen bearing arms; but there's nothing in the rules of the
organization that I can find to prevent a member from enjoying a hunt
when he has the chance. Besides, if we camp out, as we expect to, we
must depend on getting game for part of our supplies."

"And as for the money part," remarked Bob, "while a scout is required to
earn the money for his suit and outfit, there's nothing to prevent him
from accepting a railroad ticket from his folks, or any other cash to
provide him with a summer's outing. So far as I can see it, suh, the
whole intention of the organization is to make its members manly,
independent, helpful to others, and thrifty. I hope, suh, all of us are
trying to carry out those rules. And it would please me more than I can
tell you, if you decided to accompany me to that mountain country where
they grow men; because I am compelled to go there for my mother, and
would be the happiest fellow alive if my seven chums went along to keep
me company."

"Don't tell it around, Bob," said Thad, quietly, "but really it's as
good as settled that if we get back from this first little camping trip
in good shape, we're going to get the chance to make a bigger tour," and
then the three exultant scouts shook hands, as they saw a glorious
future prospect opening before them.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE MAKER OF FIRES.


Giraffe spent fully half an hour, if not longer, that afternoon, making
ample preparations for his anticipated building of the camp-fire that
night, after supper had been disposed of.

He had his busy jack-knife at work laying in a store of shavings that
would flare up in a jiffy, and set the next-sized kindling to going;
when by degrees the larger logs would take fire under the fierce heat.
Thad kept an eye on him, and others were a bit worried lest the boy who
just doted on building fires overdo the matter, and set the forest
ablaze.

"Why, you've already got twice too much tinder, Giraffe," remonstrated
Davy Jones, as he saw the boy with the knife start in again to cut more.

"Do for starting the fire in the morning then," replied Giraffe. "Must
be doing something all the time, you know; and I don't enjoy anything
half so much as making whittlings for a blaze. You go along with your
silly pictures, Davy, and let me alone. Thad's keeping an eye on me, all
right. And I haven't got a single match about me, you know."

Supper was finally in preparation. The bass had been neatly cleaned by
those who had caught them, Step-hen and Smithy; and for the first time
in his life no doubt, the pampered son of the rich widow found himself
doing the work of a cook's helper. Whether he fancied it or not,
Step-hen declared that he did his work neatly, and fairly fast; which
compliment made Smithy's light blue eyes shine with real pleasure. He
had entered into a new life, and was evidently resolved to pursue it
further, taking the bitter with the sweet.

But of course the fish did not constitute the only food they had.
Healthy appetites like those possessed by the eight scouts could not
fare on fish alone. Thad, for instance, cared very little for fresh
water bass, though fond of catching them. And he saw to it that a large
can of corned beef was opened, together with one containing succotash,
out of which he constructed a savory dish which he called the canoeists'
stew.

Then besides they had stewed prunes, together with a kettle of boiled
rice, over which those who preferred it could sprinkle sugar, and wet
down with the evaporated cream which was carried in sealed tins.

Given the voracious appetites which healthy boys usually carry along
with them into camp, and it was amazing how this mess vanished. And
Giraffe, as he scraped the kettle that had contained the stew, remarked
that the only mistake made on the trip had been in providing too small
cooking utensils.

"Make your mind easy, Giraffe," said Davy; "next time we'll fetch along
all our mothers' preserving kettles. Fact is, there must be times when
even a wash boiler looks about the regulation size, to you!"

"That's mean of you, Davy," remarked Giraffe, when he could make himself
heard above the roars of laughter. "Just because I happen to have a
better appetite than the rest of you, is no reason you should keep on
joking a feller about it. You eat twice as much as Smithy here, and yet
you think that's nothing. Well, I happen to be able to go a little
further than _you_, that's all. Nothing to be ashamed of, is it, Thad?"

"Oh! the boys must have their fun, Giraffe; and if you're wise you'll
laugh with them," Thad remarked. "When they find it doesn't bother you,
the chances are they'll quit quizzing you on your eating ability. Doctor
Philander said that the only danger lay in your putting to great a
strain on your digestive powers."

"Well, Doctor Philander ain't here, and we seem to be getting along O.
K. without a regular scout-master, too," remarked Davy Jones. "I
wouldn't care if business kept on chaining him to town whenever the
Silver Fox Patrol has a chance to camp out. Thad, here, keeps us subdued
just about right."

The bear had not been forgotten at meal times. Thad saw to it that there
was enough food given to the animal to satisfy its hunger; though
Giraffe always complained that it was just ruinous the way that animal
did eat into their supplies.

"Lucky you laid in an extra amount, Thad," he remarked that same
evening, as he saw the captive make way with all that was placed before
him. "Guess you must have had an idea we'd have company up here."

"Why, no, the boys warned me that the fresh air might sharpen up some of
our appetites," replied Thad; "and I guess it has."

"That's just it," said Giraffe, quickly; "and I can't be held
responsible for what this ozone does, can I, Thad? Why, ever since we
started, I've just got an empty feeling down there, like the bottom had
dropped out. Half an hour after I fill up, I'm hungry again. It's an
awful feeling, let me tell you."

"I was just wondering," said Thad, "if those two foreigners who own this
beast will ever show up to reclaim him."

"My stars! I hope so," remarked the other, looking horrified at the very
thought of keeping Bruin much longer. "But what can we do to let 'em
know we've got their old hairy exhibit eating us out of house and home?"

"Nothing that I know of," laughed Thad, "No use advertising, because
papers don't circulate through the wilderness; and those ignorant
foreigners couldn't read the notice if we put one in. And we can't find
where to stick the message even if we printed one in picture writing, as
Allan had shown us the Indians do. Guess after all we'll just have to
take pot luck, Giraffe."

"That means, I reckon, that we'll just have to keep on stuffing our good
grub down the throat of this silly old bear, until his owners happen
along. Tough luck, Thad! Why, oh! why did the beast ever smell us out in
the beginning?"

"Oh! the odor of our supper cooking must have done that," Thad went on
to say. "If you were almost starved, and got on the track of onions
frying, wouldn't you make a bee-line for that camp-fire, and beg to
share the meal? That's what he did, came walking in, and in his clumsy
way tried to dance himself into our good graces. But the hour was late,
and we all made a break for the branches of the trees. I'll never
remember that without laughing. It was sure the funniest sight ever."

"There's Step-hen," Giraffe had gone on to remark, "always talking about
that uncle of his who lives out somewhere in the wild and woolly west;
he says he expects to pay him a visit some day, and brags about how
he'll have a chance to bag his grizzly bear then; but excuse me, if a
grizzly can eat any more than this tame one; I wouldn't bag him for a
gift."

"Oh! you mistake his meaning," chuckled Thad, "When he speaks of bagging
a bear he means shooting him and bringing him to bag, not capturing one.
The man doesn't live who would try to capture such a monster,
single-handed."

"Have you ever shot one, Thad?"

"Well, hardly, seeing that I've never lived where they grew grizzlies;
but the time might come when I would have the chance. I'd like to be
able to say I had brought such a fierce beast down. But I want to get
back, and keep an eye on that fire you've built. It's sure a wonder,
only I wouldn't throw any more wood on it for a long time. Those flames
shoot up pretty high, right now."

"Oh! it's just glorious!" declared the young fire worshipper; "and I
don't see how I'm ever going to get to sleep to-night for tinkering with
it. When I can attend a fire I seem to thrill all over. Funny, ain't it,
Thad, how it affects me? My folks say they'll have to send me to the
city, and make a fireman out of me."

"Well, if they asked my advice," remarked the other, "I'd say you ought
to be put on a railroad engine to stoke. Inside of a month you'd be so
sick of making fires you'd never want to try it again as long as you
lived."

"Hey! don't you go to putting them up to that dodge, then," remarked
Giraffe, in sudden alarm, "because I don't want to get an overdose of
making fires. Just now it's a passion with me. I love to sit, and stare
into the blaze, because I can see all sorts of things there. Why, Thad,
honest now, they talk to me just like that silly old Injun picture
writin' does to Allan. I read stories in the fires I make."

"Well," remarked Thad, drily; "we'll make sure then, that this camp-fire
dies out before we go to our blankets; because I'm bound to know just
where you are, Giraffe. And now that the bear has finished his supper,
and is begging for more, let's go over to the rest of the boys again."

"Yes, for goodness sake let's get away from here," the other scout said.
"Somehow or other I just know that beast feels a grudge against me.
There's Bumpus, as choice a morsel as you'd like to see; yet it's always
me the bear is watching. I sometimes believe that if he did get loose,
he'd be mean enough to try and make a meal off me."

"Well, if he can understand English, or even the actions of human
beings, you'd admit he's had good cause for disliking you," chuckled
Thad; "because all along you've put up quite a good-sized objection
against our wasting any more food on him. And animals can tell who their
friends are, you understand."

"Is that really so?" Giraffe remarked, uneasily; "then me for a tree if
ever he does break that chain. And I'm going to keep a way open under
the edge of the tent, so I can slide out while he's searching among the
lot for me. If I had a gun along. Thad, we might enjoy bear steak on
this trip yet."

"Pretty tough eating, believe me; and I'm just as well pleased that you
have no rifle," with which Thad threw himself down by the roaring fire,
the heat of which felt good, since with the coming of night the air had
become quite chilly.

Giraffe soon fell back on his shaving occupation again. Allan was
telling stories about the Maine woods, and enthusing his hearers, so
that even Smithy was heard to declare that he hoped they would some day
have a chance to visit that country, to see for themselves if it was as
fine as Allan pictured.

"I hope it will be in the early fall, then," remarked Allan; "because
then you would be in time for the late fishing, and the opening of the
deer season. That's the best time for going up into the Maine woods."

Davy Jones, who had gone down to the edge of the lake to listen to the
bass jumping as they fed upon some smaller species of fish, as
frequently happens at night time, came hurrying back to the fire just
then, his face filled with excitement. Thad saw at once that something
must have occurred to give the scout a shock; and he wondered whether it
could have anything to do with the mystery of the boat, and those
footprints over on the island.

"The ghost walked, fellers!" exclaimed Davy, as he caught his breath
again.

"What's all that silly talk mean, Davy?" demanded the scout-master.

"Well, he's been prowling around with a lantern, all right, lookin' for
something; I give you my word I saw it, Thad," Davy declared, crossing
his heart, boy fashion.

"Where was all this happening?" pursued Thad.

"Why, over there on the island!" answered Davy, positively.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE ALARM.


Davy's words created no end of excitement in the camp of the Boy Scouts.
Every fellow jumped to his feet, and several immediately stepped out so
that they could get a better view of the dark lake. The stars shone
brightly, and gleamed on the tiny wavelets that purled along toward the
beach close by.

Knowing just where the distant island lay, they could manage to locate
it by the inky blur that seemed to settle upon the water at this one
particular spot. But if any one expected to see lanterns moving to and
fro like animated fireflies, they made a sad mistake. It remained as
dark as the inside of a pocket over there.

"Oh! come, what sort of talk were you giving us, Davy?" remarked
Step-hen, in disgust. "I was mighty comfortable lying on my blanket, and
you just thought you'd see how you could stir us up with some fake
news."

"I tell you I _did_ see it!" affirmed Davy, stoutly.

"Say, I know what he glimpsed," remarked Bumpus.

"What was it, then?" asked Step-hen.

"That star hanging low over yonder," the fat boy went on, eagerly; "if a
feller saw it all of a sudden, he might think it moved. And it does look
like a lantern, now, it sure does."

"Think everybody is a booby like,--well, some people, do you, Bumpus?"
demanded Davy, indignantly. "What I saw waved back and forward, just
like I might do, if I wanted to make a signal to somebody over here on
the mainland. Thad, you believe me, don't you?"

Before the scout leader could answer, another took up the argument.

"Boys," said Smithy, "what Davy Jones says is perfectly correct, because
I myself saw some sort of moving light. I just happened to turn my head,
for perhaps Davy said something right then, and it was out there over
the dark water."

"There, what d'ye think of that, Smarty?" demanded Davy, turning on
Step-hen and Bumpus, who were on the same side for once, and about the
only time the others could remember:

"It goes," said Thad, positively. "What Davy told us has now been proven
by a second reliable witness. Then there must have been some sort of
light moving over there on the island. If a light, then a human being,
either boy or man. And that makes me all the more anxious to look that
same island over again. I didn't get to cover all the ground when we
were there last."

"But there wasn't any cabin or hut there?" Bob White declared.

"I don't believe there could be one, and none of us sight it. Still,
it's a rocky island, you remember, and there might be some sort of cave
on it, good enough to be used to keep a man from the rain, or housing
goods, if need be."

"Whew! listen to Thad, would you?" said Step-hen, drawing a big breath,
which betrayed his state of mind, and the excitement that was beginning
to make his pulses thrill. "Whatever do you suppose these unknown men
can be doing around here?"

"You remember what I said before about this country having been stocked
with game, and this lake with thousands of young bass years back?" Thad
continued. "It is possible that some of the late gamekeepers have a neat
little plan to make a pile of money out of their knowledge. And as the
law would punish them if they were caught, perhaps they're hiding while
we're in camp so close by."

"That sounds good enough for me," remarked Giraffe, taking advantage of
Thad's attention being diverted to softly toss another pine knot upon
the fire.

"Perhaps it's worse than that," Step-hen remarked, in a half-awed voice.
"I've been reading a lot lately about some convicts that broke out of a
penitentiary up in the next county. Mebbe now some of 'em have located
here, and are living off the game they snare in the woods, or the fish
they hook."

"That might be, of course, though I doubt it," Thad went on to remark.
"In the first place, if they were convicts they would be wearing heavy
brogans, such as are always used in prisons. One of these men had on a
neat pair of pointed shoes, for I saw the marks clearly. The other's
shoes were pieced. I pointed that out to Bob White, didn't I, Bob?"

"It is just like you say, suh," replied the other, readily; "and you
showed me how I could tell that shoe again any time, and under any
conditions; foh it had a home-made patch on the sole, running crisscross
from side to side," and he made the figure with his finger in the earth
beside him.

Davy Jones had left the fire again, to go back to the lake shore, and so
did not happen to hear this explanation. He seemed to be hoping another
glimpse of the moving lantern would be granted to him. There was
something so weird and fascinating about the mystery that Davy wished it
to keep up.

"How about our moving the camp over on the island to-morrow; have you
changed your mind about that, Mr. Scout-Master?" asked Allan.

"Yes, I was just hanging in the balance, when this new thing happened,
and settled it for me," replied Thad.

"Then we don't go?" asked Step-hen, guessing the way things were moving
from the expression he saw on the other's face.

"It would hardly pay us," answered Thad. "In the first place we're
nicely fixed where we are. Then again, if that island should be a
harboring place for hoboes or some other rough men, we'd soon get into
trouble with them. I don't think many of us would enjoy sound sleep if
we camped over there. It would mean sentry duty every night, just like
we were soldiers."

The boys had voted in one way to go over, and no one would have liked to
show the white feather. But this decision on the part of their
scout-master let them "down easy," as Step-hen afterwards confessed. And
they all seemed to look pleased over the decision, even Davy, who came
in just in time to hear the last words Thad spoke, having seen no
further sign of a lantern.

But perhaps there was one who remained silent, and looked glum when it
was thus decided to remain in the old camp. Giraffe dropped his head, so
that his comrades might not see how disappointed he felt over the change
of plans. For he had hoped that the bear would be set at liberty when
the last scout took passage for the new island camp; and that the beast
would start off hunting food in the woods after the fashion of bears in
general.

Now they faced a panic in the food department, Giraffe feared; for he
seemed to be certain that some night that beast would break loose from
his chain, and devour everything they had in the line of provisions.

"Who goes over with you to-morrow, Thad?" asked Davy, hoping that he
might be the favored one; for Davy loved adventure, and could never get
too much of the same, he believed.

"Well, I hope he don't choose you, for one, Davy," said Step-hen,
jealously.

"Why not?" demanded Davy, showing resentment at once.

"Because you might have one of your fits in the boat, and upset the
whole outfit," Step-hen went on, with a grin; "you know, when we wanted
you to help clean up around the camp yesterday, you said you were afraid
of exerting yourself too much, because you felt the signs that always
came along before you got one of them terrible cramps."

Davy looked a little confused. Deep down in his own heart he knew that
he had been playing a little game of "shirk" about that time, and taking
what was a mean advantage of the good nature of his fellow scouts. And
now it was coming back to make him pay the penalty. So he said not
another word.

"I haven't decided yet who I want to take," remarked Thad, looking
around at the circle of eager faces upon which the light of the glowing
camp-fire shone; "and perhaps the fairest way will be to draw lots, then
the lucky one will not be of my picking; and there can be no bad
feeling."

Bumpus had been sitting there for some time now, taking things easy. He
certainly enjoyed remaining quiet as well as any one in the patrol,
which, considering his weight, was not to be wondered at.

Some thought must have struck him just about that time, for he was
observed to struggle to his knees with many a grunt, and then gaining
his feet vanish within the nearest tent.

Nobody was paying any particular attention to the fat youth, however,
unless it might have been Step-hen, who turned his head to see what was
going on; and even he joined in the laugh when Davy Jones performed one
of his comical antics, jumping up, and hanging from the lower limb of a
tree by his toes, so that he swung to and fro like a big pendulum.

"Better be careful, suh, how you play that trick, if ever you go down
with me into the Blue Ridge country," laughed Bob White.

"Why, would they arrest me for cruelty to animals?" demanded Davy, as he
made a flying leap, turned completely over in the air, and landed ever
so lightly on his feet, as neatly as a circus gymnast might have done.

"No, but if some of the darkies were passing through the woods, suh, and
saw you hanging like that, they'd positively think it was the biggest
'possum that ever was grown in North Car'lina. And you'd hear an ax at
the butt of that tree in a jiffy, believe me."

Just then Bumpus came staggering out of the tent, having tripped as
usual on a guy rope in his hurry. He scrambled to his feet, and although
nearly out of breath, managed to grasp:

"Well, there's thieves broke loose in this same camp, fellows, or else
the place is just bewitched, that's what!"

"You'll have to explain what you mean, Bumpus?" declared Thad; while
Step-hen half started from his seat on a blanket, his face becoming
scarlet as if he expected that every eye would immediately be turned in
his direction.

"I tell you I hung it right on the pole in the middle of the tent, and
now it's clean gone. Yes, I even hunted around on the ground, and
everywhere, but nary a sign did I see. Things have come to a pretty
pass, I think, when a fellow just ain't allowed to leave his haversack
around without somebody running off with the same. Like to know what the
rules'd say to that sort of thing. Thad, is this going to keep up right
along? It's downright robbery, that's my opinion; and I don't care who
knows it. Oh! my goodness gracious! there they come now, walkin' right
in on us!"

From the way Bumpus spoke, one would think he meant the thieves were
descending on the camp to complete its looting; and as the boys
scrambled to their feet, no wonder they were thrilled to see two shadowy
figures of men advancing from the direction of the dense forest!



CHAPTER XIX.

A GOOD RIDDANCE.


Bumpus somehow seemed to keep his senses about him. Frightened as he
was, he never forgot that, as the chosen bugler of Cranford Troop, he
had certain duties devolving upon him which should not be neglected.

So he made a frantic dive for his precious bugle, hanging close by.
Seizing the instrument, he clapped it to his lips, and blew a clarion
call. It was the rallying signal of the scouts, and which they knew full
well.

The bear immediately set up a whimpering, and then merged this into a
roar that echoed from the side of the hill far away. Thad wondered
whether this action on his part was intended to be disgust with the
music produced by the silver-voiced troop bugle; or if the coming of the
two men had anything to do with it.

Immediately he saw that the latter was the case, for one of the men left
the side of his companion, and striding swiftly toward the dancing bear,
began to fondle the beast, while speaking words in some outlandish
tongue.

That told the story. The newcomers then, were the two men whom Smithy
had seen exhibiting the trained beast near his house, and one of whom he
had declared asked him ever so many questions in good English about the
country above, and the people living on the farms there.

But the scouts had had their little scare all right. Under the belief
that the camp was in danger of being raided by a couple of thieving
tramps, who had already picked out the bag of Bumpus as the choicest
prize of the lot, Davy and some of his mates had gained their feet only
to jump for the spot where their stout staves happened to be resting
against various trees.

They really presented quite a warlike front as they began to wave these
sticks in a menacing manner, and ranged on either side of their
scout-master.

"Hold on, boys, there's no need of making such a show as that," Thad
remarked, secretly pleased, however, to see how bold a band he had under
him; "these men are the ones who own the bear; and I rather think
they've come for him at last."

"Hurrah!" shouted Giraffe, ready to dance with happiness over the sudden
prospect of being rid of their "star boarder," while the stock of food
still remained fairly bountiful.

Thad was observing the man who kept on toward them. He was coarsely
dressed, and to all appearances as much of a foreigner as the one who
was caressing the whining dancing bear, and speaking such strange words
to him. At the same time Thad, who was quite an observer, felt that
there was a vast difference between the two men.

This one had clear features, sunburned and begrimed it is true, but with
intelligence in his manner; while his gray eyes were keen and
penetrating.

Just now, as he surveyed the hostile attitude of some of the scouts,
Thad could detect a grim smile passing over the face of the other. He
nodded his head to the boy whom he guessed must be the leader of the
campers.

"We lost the bear by accident, and my companion has been mourning ever
since. You see he brought the beast over the ocean, and cares a heap for
him," he said, as he pointed to where the bear and keeper were actually
hugging each other, so it seemed.

"He walked in on us the other night, just when we were ready to go to
our blankets," Thad went on to explain, "and nearly scared some of the
boys out of their wits. But we happened to have a scout who had fed your
bear, and talked to him. He was brave enough to get down from his tree,
and offer the animal part of a loaf of bread."

"Half a loaf it was too, mister!" broke in Giraffe, determined that the
other should not be left in any doubt as to the immense hole the beast
had made in their provision chest.

"And while the bear was eating, Smithy managed to get the chain fast
around that tree," Thad continued. "We hoped you'd come for him, sooner
or later, because we hadn't laid in stores for a bear when we started
out on this hike. And Giraffe here is anxious to see the last of him,
because he's afraid his rations will have to be cut pretty soon if it
keeps on much longer."

"Thank you, boys, for keeping the bear," the man remarked, in excellent
English, as he smiled, and bowed around the half circle. "If you say so,
we will gladly settle his board bill right now, as we have to be off,
too much time having been lost in this hunt. But he refused to do
anything without his bear, and I had to give in."

"That's kind of you; but I guess we don't want to ask any pay for the
little he ate of our food," Thad hastened to say.

"Little, oh, my!" Giraffe burst out with; and then subsided at a frown
from the scout-master.

"And besides," went on Thad, "he happened to do us a service by
frightening away a lot of boys from town who meant to play some trick on
us, perhaps stealing all our eatables; so you see we feel square. But
perhaps you'd like to have a cup of coffee while you're here? We have
plenty, and can fix you up in short order."

Giraffe could only groan. To his mind it seemed that they must be
keeping open house for all the roving creatures at large in that section
of the country. And besides, who could say what manner of men these two
with the trained bear might turn out to be? For his part, the one who
talked so well, looked very suspicious, to say the least; and why should
an educated man be tramping all over the country in company with an
ignorant foreigner and his dancing bear, if he did not have some sly
game back of it?

"That is very kind of you, boy," remarked the man, with a smile that
made Thad forget his soiled face and rather ragged clothes; "and as the
night is cool, and we've still got a long tramp before us if we expect
to make half the distance to Faversham before morning, I'm going to take
you at your word. But I wish you'd let me pay you something for all this
trouble."

Thad of course shook his head, and gave orders for coffee to be put in
the pot, which might be set close enough to the hot camp-fire to soon
start boiling.

The man sat down and began to talk to Davy Jones, who happened to be
next him. He seemed to be asking a few questions, possibly concerning
the road to the town toward which they were bound, and which was really
a good many miles away.

Thad walked over to where the other was still chattering to his
recovered pet. He found, however, that the man could not speak enough
English to answer any question. If the other man was able to communicate
with this fellow at all then he must be educated enough to speak
Russian; for that was what the foreigner's native country seemed to be,
as far as Thad could make out.

When the coffee was ready, the man by the fire accepted of a cup, and
thanked Step-hen warmly. Davy carried another cup to the bear keeper,
who took it with some strange words, which the boy supposed were meant
to express his gratitude.

And after that, to the immense delight of Giraffe, they prepared to
depart. The bear was made to shake hands with each scout, and in his odd
fashion express his thanks for the attention that had been given him.
But Giraffe declined the honor.

"It's all right for you fellows," he grumbled, when they joked him on
his timidity; "he likes you, and wouldn't do anything to hurt you; but
it's different with me, you see. The old rascal's taken a dislike to me,
and I'd be afraid he'd give me a sneaky bite, or claw me. Just say
good-bye for me, and a good riddance."

Thad was afraid the man who could talk such good English might show some
signs of being offended by these frank expressions of Giraffe's views;
but instead he laughed quite heartily, as though rather tickled.

"A bear can eat a big amount of stuff in a day," he remarked, "and I
don't blame your friend for being afraid he'd clean you out, if he
stayed longer. Good-bye, boys. Hope you enjoy your outing to the limit;
and that the time may come when I can return that favor of a bully cup
of coffee."

With that they were off, the bear growling one minute, as it struggled
with its chain, and looked back; and then whimpering in its joy at
seeing a familiar face again.

"See, he knows he'll miss the good feeds he's had since he dropped in on
us," remarked Davy.

"You're away off there, Davy," declared Giraffe, drawing a big sigh;
"he's ugly just because he can't get a bite at me. He's been waiting all
the time to do that, and he shows how mad he is to be taken away without
a chance. Perhaps I'll sleep easier to-night, boys. It's an awful thing
to lie awake there in a tent, and know a revengeful bear is trying to
break his chain only twenty feet away, meaning to take a nip at you."

But the others only laughed at Giraffe, as the shadowy figures of men
and bear were swallowed up in the dense darkness of the forest.

Still, every one was glad the bear had gone. They might have laughed at
some of his antics; but his little eyes looked treacherous; and Thad had
given orders that nobody should be too familiar with the beast while he
honored them with his company.

"That one man was sure a foreign chap," remarked Allan; "but the other
talked as good English as any of us, perhaps better than some. I saw him
speaking with you, Davy; did he tell you who he was, and all about his
roving life?"

"Well, I guess not," replied the other, "to tell the truth, he was
asking questions about getting to Faversham, and finding a couple of
parties he seems to want to come up with mighty bad. But I couldn't give
him much help, because you see, I've never been as far as that town; and
I sure never met up with the men he described. But I promised him I'd
keep my eyes open, and if so be I ran across 'em, I'd send him word, in
care of a man up in Faversham named Malcolm Hotchkiss."

"Well," broke in Bumpus just then, after his usual impetuous style, "for
my part, I'm believin' that they're the very two rascals Thad spoke
about, hanging out in this region, and taking game out of season. And
perhaps now, one of 'em even sneaked in camp when nobody was around, and
got away with my bag."

He said this in a sneering way, and kept his eye fixed reproachfully on
Step-hen while speaking. The other frowned, and shook his head, in a
combative way.

"Of course you mean it's me that touched your old bag, Bumpus," he
remarked; "but you've got another guess coming. I watched you hunting in
the tent like you'd lost your head. Reckon you have, all right, because
_you took the wrong tent_! Just step in the other one for a change, and
my word for it you'll find your blessed old haversack just where you
hung it!"

And Bumpus, looking rather shame-faced, did go into the second tent; to
appear a moment later carrying the disputed bag in his hand, and with a
rosy blush mantling his fat face.



CHAPTER XX.

DRAWING STRAWS FOR A CHANCE.


At any rate Bumpus was manly enough to do the right thing. He walked
straight up to Step-hen, and held out his hand.

"I was a fool, and that's all there is about it, Step-hen," he said,
frankly. "Will you shake hands with me, and excuse the blunder I made
when I felt sure you had hooked the old bag, just to bother me?"

"Sure I will, Bumpus," said the other, gripping the fat hand extended so
confidingly toward him, and giving it a squeeze that brought tears to
the eyes of poor Bumpus. "And after all, I don't hardly blame you for
thinking I had a hand in gettin' away with the bag; because, you know,
I've wanted to look through it this long time. Don't you think you might
let me have it now, Bumpus?"

"But I tell you I haven't got anything that belongs to you, Step-hen,
and you ought to believe me," protested the fat boy, firmly.

Step-hen looked at him queerly, as though he might be still a little
undecided. Then with a sigh he turned away; and Bumpus knew that he had
not been convinced.

"Here, you c'n tumble out everything I've got in the haversack, if you
want to, Step-hen," added the other, giving in finally.

"Never mind, I take your word it ain't there," said the other, over his
shoulder; but somehow Bumpus knew that the feeling of suspicion was only
"scotched," not killed; and that Step-hen fancied that he, Bumpus, had
only changed the hiding-place of the lost compass.

Thad had considerable to think about as he sat there, looking into the
fire, and listening to the talk that was going the rounds. His mind was
fixed upon the mystery that seemed to be hovering over the island; and
in various ways he found himself trying to connect the coming of the two
men and the bear, with the presence of those tracks across on the wooded
territory beyond the water.

He even got up, and went across to the other side of the fire, to stoop
down and examine the plain footprints left by their late guest. Then he
shook his head as though the result failed to tell him what he sought.

To make absolutely sure, he took a pine knot that had been thrust into
the fire; and using this as a torch, made his way to the tree where the
bear had been chained ever since coming among them.

It was no great task to discover the imprint made by the heavy shoes
worn by the Russian. They were marked all around by hobnails such as are
used by the lower classes across the water, in order to save the leather
soles, for leather costs more money than a few nails.

Apparently Thad found little satisfaction in his labors, for he was
frowning when he returned to the circle.

"Not the same parties, eh, Thad?" asked Davy, who had kept a wondering
eye on the movements of the young scout-master, and could give a shrewd
guess as to the reason for his action, as well as the disappointing
result.

"I'm dead sure of that," replied Thad.

"Different shoes make different trails, eh?" went on Davy.

"Oh!" Thad replied quietly, but conclusively; "that spluttering
foreigner has hobnails in his soles; and I saw none like that over on
the island. And this other man wears a shoe with a square toe; but
pretty good material in it. There was no print like that either."

"Well, then, that proves them innocent, don't it?" asked Smithy. "For my
part now, fellows, I rather took to that man who sat here, and drank his
coffee. He's no hobo, I give you my word. His hands may look soiled, but
under it all they're decent enough to belong to a gentleman."

"Hey! listen to Smithy, would you?" exclaimed Step-hen, as if surprised.
"Now, I never knew he had such a way of figgering out things. If he
keeps on like that, he'll leave us all in the lurch, fellers."

"To tell the truth," admitted the other, smilingly; "time was when I
wouldn't have thought of noticing a single thing about such a man; but
you see, I've been studying up the rules and suggestions our
scout-master loaned me, and it keeps on telling greenhorns and
tenderfeet to always be on the lookout, so as to remember what they see.
And when he sat there, I just thought it would be a fine chance to make
a mental note of anything queer about him I could detect."

"Good for you, Number Five," said Thad, warmly. "I said you were going
to make your mark yet, once you got into the fever of things; and
already you're proving a credit to the Silver Fox Patrol."

"Then you saw the same things, did you, Thad?" asked Smithy, eagerly,
and with a really happy look on his delicate face; because this practice
of "doing things" was a new experience for him, and success made him
feel proud indeed.

"Partly so; though you went me one better when you made out that his
hands were white under the grime," answered the scout-master.

"That sounds like you think he took on all that dirt on purpose?"
remarked Bumpus.

"Perhaps he did," replied Thad; "perhaps the man is playing some sort of
part, for a reason of his own."

"Bunking with an ignorant foreigner just to get a chance to sneak into
camps, and run off with the haversacks that have been carelessly left
lying around loose?" suggested Step-hen, still harping on his wrongs.

"Well, I don't agree with you there, Step-hen," remarked Allan. "Like
Smithy here, I found something about that man that interested me. If
asked me point-blank now, possibly I couldn't tell you what it was that
attracted me--his eyes, his smile, or his whole manner. But I'd be badly
mistaken if he would turn out to be a rascal."

"And I say the same," observed Thad, vigorously.

"Oh! well, you fellows may be right," remarked Giraffe; "but to my mind
there's something mighty suspicious about the way they came snooping
around here. Reckon that party might know more about how certain kinds
of wild game find their way to the New York hotels in the close season,
than he'd like to own up to. And I tell you right now what I mean to
do."

"Go on, we all want to know," urged Thad.

"While I'm up here," Giraffe continued, loftily, "I expect to keep my
eyes open to find evidences of traps and snares set in the woods to
catch partridges, rabbits and the like. And some time, if anybody wants
to paddle for me, I'm agoin' to go all the way around this here lake,
lookin' for nets, set to haul in the game bass."

"You ought to be wearing the badge of a game warden, Giraffe," declared
Davy, with a mock bow in the direction of the speaker; "but they'd have
to watch you right smart now, because some of that game would go to keep
you from starving."

They continued to talk until a late hour, and every boy was given a
chance to air his opinion. Still, no wonderfully new ideas seemed to be
in evidence; and when the patrol sought the blankets, leaving the
camp-fire dying down, they were about evenly divided on the question as
to whether the educated tramp keeping company with the foreign owner of
the bear was a smart man, or just a scamp.

But a night of peace followed all these thrills. The skies above showed
no sign of storm; and from the neighboring forest there issued no more
bears, or any other savage beast, to raid the camp, and produce another
mad scamper of the scouts to places of refuge among the branches of the
friendly trees.

Once or twice Allan came out to take a look around. It seems to be the
habit of all old campers to do this, whenever they happen to awaken; not
that he suspected that there would be any peril hovering around; but
then possibly the fire might have worked its way through a line of dead
grass, and threaten to extend; or it perhaps needed another small log to
keep the blaze going, and ward off the chill of night.

Over the water came a weird cry at the time Allan last performed this
vigil; and the Maine boy smiled as he listened for a repetition; because
it was a familiar sound in his ears, and reminded him of his former home
further north.

"Was that a loon, Allan," asked a quiet voice near him; and turning, the
Maine boy saw the acting scout-master poking his head out from under the
canvas of the second tent.

"Just what it was, Thad," replied the other, when the last speaker
crawled out to join him; "I think he must have just dropped down here,
for I heard a splash before he gave tongue; and we know there wasn't
any such bird around up to sunset. If any of the others wake up and hear
that cry, they'll think it's the ghost of the island, sure."

As it was too cool to sit around with such a scanty amount of clothes
on, both scouts soon vanished again. The fish were jumping as on the
previous night; and in the eastern sky the battered old moon had thrust
her remnant of a circle above the horizon for a little peep at the world
below.

Morning came along in due time, and of course the usual swim was first
in order. Giraffe was apparently in high spirits. The others saw him
taking stock of what stores they had left, and evidently the big eater
found that there would be an abundance to see them through. That sort of
thing always pleased Giraffe. He was gloomy only when he feared for the
worst; and in his mind that consisted of short rations.

After breakfast the question came up as to which one of the other scouts
Thad was to take with him. As he had stated he would do, in order to be
quite fair, and keep the others from feeling that any favoritism had
been shown, Thad took a number of short blades of grass, each of a
different length. These he mixed up in his hand, so that no one could
know which was the long, and which the short ones. Then he invited the
boys with the exception of the second in command, Allan, to draw as they
pleased, the shortest straw to win out.

Of course there was more or less joking as the operation was carried
out; for boys can hardly do so simple a thing as draw lots without a
certain amount of fun being injected into the game.

"Now, the last belongs to Smithy, because he didn't draw," said Thad.
"Hold up the one you got, Bumpus, and see if you go along with me."

Bumpus actually shook a little when he compared his "straw" and finding
that it was longer than the other, he laughed with glee. That island did
not have much drawing power for Bumpus; in fact, he hoped never to set
foot on it again.

Each one tried to show that he had a shorter straw than the one that
fell to Smithy, but without success.

"It's Smithy who goes," observed Thad; and possibly he looked pleased;
for he was beginning to take a great interest in the boy who had been
wrongly raised by his mother and maiden aunts, to be what is known as a
"sissy;" and hoped to see him turn out to be a manly, self-reliant and
brave scout.



CHAPTER XXI.

STEP-HEN'S STRATEGY FAILS.


"Don't throw your straws away yet, fellows;" remarked Allan, after the
drawing had come to a conclusion; "Thad has something more to say."

"Yes," remarked the patrol leader, smiling; "after talking it over with
Allan, who will be left in charge here during our absence, I've
concluded to take a second scout along. Three will be better than two,
in case of any trouble."

"Trouble! Oh! my stars!"

It was Bumpus who said this; and he actually turned pale as he glanced
down at the short stick he held in his hand. What if after all he should
turn out to be the ill-fated one chosen to cross again to the island? He
thought it would be just his luck.

"Now, it's only right that the one who has the next shortest stick
should be the second fellow in the boat with me," Thad went on; "so
let's compare lengths again, boys."

Some came up anxiously, actually hoping they might be the lucky one;
while others were indifferent; because there had been an interesting
programme laid out for that morning's work, and they should hate to
miss the "wigwagging" with signal flags; as well as more of Allan's
trail talks, which were so great.

"Davy Jones, you go!" remarked Thad, after the various "straws" had been
compared, and his was found to be the shortest.

Davy gave a pleased grunt and his face glowed with delight. If there was
one fellow in the patrol whose soul seemed to crave excitement, and the
element of danger, it was the Jones' boy. When everything else failed he
was in the habit of climbing a tree, and ascending to a dizzy height,
perform some of his astonishing gymnastics there. No wonder they called
him "Monkey" at times.

"Me for another chance to hook a three pound bass, if I can get a few
minnows with that little seine made of mosquito net," announced Giraffe,
after they had cleaned up the breakfast dishes, and the camp looked spic
and span as a camp always should look when boys are being taught how to
live in the woods.

"Of course you are; though we've got plenty to eat besides fish,"
remarked Step-hen; "but they sure did taste mighty fine, Giraffe; and
I'll take a turn with you along the shore. We can get on without the
boat, I reckon."

"Count me in that job, if Allan will let me go along," Bumpus declared,
showing considerable interest.

"If you do come, the chances are three to one you'll trip on some vine,
or stone, and take a header into the lake," remarked Giraffe.

"Well, what if I did, I know how to swim, don't I?" burst out Bumpus,
who seemed to be carrying "a chip on his shoulder," these days, as some
of the boys declared.

"Course you do, Bumpus," said Step-hen, coming to the defense of the fat
boy in rather a strange manner, Bumpus thought; "I wouldn't be surprised
if you could give Giraffe a race, and beat him out. He never will be a
first-class scout when it comes to the water tricks; though if you hung
up a whole ham as a price it might make him stir himself some."

Of course Giraffe was indignant.

"Why, I could beat Bumpus with one hand tied behind me!" he declared.

"Oh! you don't say so?" mocked Step-hen, who for some reason seemed
desirous of arousing the feeling of rivalry between these two scouts,
and egged them on as a boy who loved to see dogs fight, would sick one
on the other. "Mebbe, you'd be willing to back up that assertion right
now, and prove your boast?"

"I'm willing, if he says he wants to try it out!" snapped the aroused
Giraffe, who at any rate was not lacking in spunk.

Bumpus, too, seemed to be fully aroused. The other boys crowded around,
with wide grins, because they fancied it would be rather a comical sight
to see a race between the fat boy, who had only recently learned to
swim, and made a tremendous splashing in the water; and Giraffe, who was
a clumsy water dog at best, with one arm tied down to his side.

Just then Bumpus happened to look at Step-hen. He could not help
noticing how unduly the other seemed tickled at the prospect. And then
and there a sudden terrible suspicion gripped hold of Bumpus.

Now, there could be no particular reason why Step-hen should want to see
him enter for this queer water race, unless he had some deep motive
behind it. What could that motive be? Did the artful scout expect to
find a chance for searching his, Bumpus' clothes, while he was in the
lake, engaged in an exciting competition with Giraffe; and all the other
fellows having their attention centered on the race?

"Oh! he believes he can find out something that way; and he's just
pushing me in over my head so I'll leave my clothes on the bank, and he
c'n search 'em!" was what Bumpus was now saying to himself.

Indignation filled his honest soul. Thank goodness he was too smart to
fall into such a silly little trap. Step-hen would have had all his
trouble for his pains.

So Bumpus, looking the other straight in the eyes, went on to say:

"Come to think of it, we'll have to call the race off for to-day. I
promised my folks that I wouldn't go in swimming more'n once each day.
To-morrow morning then, Giraffe, I'll promise to go you just as we said,
you to have one arm working. And I warn you right now you'll have to do
your best, unless you want to be left in the lurch, because I'm learning
fast."

Step-hen certainly looked very much disappointed. There was a sneer, as
well as a shadow on his face, as he remarked scornfully:

"Huh! you take water, eh, Bumpus?"

"Only once a day," replied the fat boy, calmly; and yet the look he gave
Step-hen told the other that his clever scheme had been understood.

Of course the action of Bumpus in calling the race off convinced
Step-hen more than ever that the fat boy did have his precious compass.
If it was not in that old haversack then, he had, as Step-hen suspected,
transferred the same to one of his pockets; and was even then carrying
it around, in defiance of the owner.

Now Step-hen could have ended all this disturbance by appealing straight
to the scout-master, who would have asked Bumpus to tell on his honor if
he had what did not belong to him. But it did not suit the boy to do
this. He was naturally rather obstinate, and had a bulldog nature.

"I started out to recapture that compass on my own account, and I ain't
going to play the baby act now, and ask Thad to get it for me, no siree.
Just you wait, Bumpus Hawtree, and see if I don't find some way to fool
you. It's in one of those pockets of yours that stick out so; and sooner
or later I'll prove it before the rest of the troop."

Step-hen was saying this to himself as he watched the three, who were
to go to the mysterious island, finishing their preparations for the
journey across the lake. But apparently the fat boy had already
forgotten all about the trouble. He had a disposition that could not
harbor resentment any great length of time. Like a little summer storm
it quickly blew over; and Bumpus was then the same smiling, genial
comrade, ready to do anything to oblige his late antagonist.

Thad did not have many preparations to make, however. Most of his time
was spent in talking with Allan, and arranging for the work that was to
be done that morning, in showing the balance of the patrol numerous
interesting things connected with scout life.

"I reckon we'll be back in time for lunch," he remarked, when Davy
called out to say the boat was ready; "but to make sure we won't go
hungry each of us is carrying what Bob calls a 'snack,' along with
us--some ham between crackers."

"Well," said Allan, who secretly wished he might be going along too;
"here's hoping you learn something about the queer men who have been
using that island for some purpose or other."

"I hope so, too," replied Thad; "because, somehow, they've aroused a
sort of curiosity in me. They seem to hide from us, as if they didn't
want anybody to see what kind of fellows they were. Why, all the time
we've been here they must have known about us, and could even see our
flag flying from the pole in front of the tents; yet they've never as
much as said 'good morning' to us."

"Never a peep," Allan went on to say. "And that makes me think there's
sure something crooked about 'em. I wish----"

"Now I know what you're going to say," broke in Thad, with a smile; "you
feel bad because I didn't fetch my double-barrel gun along on this trip.
Well, between you and me, I do, myself. It would have been a whole lot
of comfort right now. But you know, Boy Scouts don't want to look too
much like soldiers. Some of the town people talked a heap about not
wanting their sons to join a military company; and we had trouble
convincing them that the scouts didn't have a thing to do with army
life. That's why we've only been able to organize one patrol up to now.
But the feel of that little twelve bore would be good this morning, even
if game laws stood between me and getting a few partridges."

"Please hurry up your stumps, Thad!" called Davy, who was wild with
eagerness to get moving; for he had envied those who were allowed to go
to the island on the preceding day, and felt anxious to set foot on the
enchanted ground, where mysterious strangers seemed to have their abode,
yet could not be found.

"That's all I wanted to say, Allan," the scout-master concluded; "and as
Davy will have one of his fits soon, if I don't get off, I reckon I'll
start. If we fail to show up at noon, why, don't worry. Nothing is going
to hurt any of us, that I can see."

The rest of the scouts gathered at the water's edge to see them embark
on the exploring expedition; and all sorts of chaffing was indulged in
between Davy and some of his camp mates. Bumpus in particular was so
pleased over not having been drafted to go in the cranky canoe that he
seemed to be just bubbling over with exuberant spirits.

When the boat had gone some fifty yards from the shore he drew out his
bugle, kept hidden up to then, and sent the most mournful notes across
the water after the departing voyagers. It was so like a funeral dirge
that Davy Jones thrust his fingers in his ears; and then shook a fist at
the stout bugler; who however kept on with his sad refrain until Allan
put a stop to it.

And so the scout-master backed, by his two valiant assistants, set out
to learn what the secret of the mysterious island might be; nor did any
of the trio suspect right then in the beginning of the voyage what
strange results would follow this invasion of the haunt of the unknown
prowlers.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE PATCHED SHOE AGAIN.


Those on the shore, after the bugle's sad refrain had been silenced,
gave the departing adventurers a last cheer, and a wave of their
campaign hats. Over the water sounds carry unusually clear; and Thad and
his mates smiled when they distinctly heard Step-hen bawling from the
interior of the tent where he had his sleeping quarters:

"Hey, you fellers, which one of you hid my coat? None of your tricks
now; don't I know that I hung it up all right last night, when I came to
bed; and blessed if I can find it now? Funny how it's always _my_ things
that go wandering around loose. Own up now; and whoever hid it just come
right in here, and show me where it is!"

"The same careless Step-hen," remarked Thad; "always leaving his things
around loose, and then ready to accuse some one else of hiding them. To
hear him talk you'd believe in the bad fairies, and that they just took
their spite out mixing his clothes and things up, while he slept. I
wonder if he can ever be cured of that trick. He'll never pass for a
merit badge till he does, that's sure. Neatness in a scout is one of the
first things to be won."

Davy was handling the paddle. While he did not show the proficiency that
the Maine boy, Allan Hollister, could boast, or Bob White, who loved
everything pertaining to the water, still Davy did manage to keep the
prow of the canoe in a fairly straight line for the island, as he dipped
first on one side and then on the other.

Thinking the chance to show Davy a few points in the art of paddling
ought not be lost, the scout master took the spruce blade, which was a
home-made one, from his hands. By turning the canoe around, and using
the stern as the bow, he was able to illustrate his meaning easily
enough.

"Now, it is not necessary to change from one side to the other as often
as you do, Davy, when you have a breeze blowing like it is now, and
you're heading across it. By holding the blade in the water this way
after a stroke, it serves in place of a rudder and checks the turning of
the canoe under the influence of the push. And another thing, you reach
too far out. That helps to whirl the boat around in a part circle. Dip
deeply, but as close to the side of the canoe as you can."

Davy was a ready observer, and not above picking up points from one who
knew more than he did.

And presently, profiting from these plain hints, he was able to make
easier progress.

"Why," continued Thad, "Allan tells me that among the expert canoemen up
in his State of Maine lots of them wouldn't be guilty of lifting the
paddle out of the water at all, and make swift work of it too. You see,
in creeping up on a deer that is feeding on the lily pads in the shallow
water near the shore, just around a point perhaps, the water dripping
from the paddle when it was raised; or even the gurgle as it came out,
would give warning of danger; and about the only thing they'd know about
that deer would be its whistle as it leaped into the brush. So they
always practice silence in paddling, till it gets to be second nature,
Allan tells me."

"Say, I certainly do hope we get a chance to see that same thing for
ourselves," remarked Davy; "I've heard and read a heap about Maine, and
always wanted to get there. Since Allan's been talking about his life in
the pine woods that feeling's just grown till I dream of it nights, and
imagine myself up there."

"And I'd like to go along too, if my mother could be persuaded to let
me," was what Smithy said, a little doubtfully; for he had been so long
"tied to his mother's apron-strings," as the other boys called it, that
he could not believe she might overcome her fears for his safety enough
to let him go far away.

Nevertheless, Smithy had now had one full breath of what it meant to be
a boy with red blood in his veins; and he was inwardly determined that
never again could he be kept in bonds, while the smiling open air
beckoned, and these splendid chums wanted his company.

All this while good progress had been made, and they were now drawing
close in to the island. It lay there, looking calm and peaceful in the
morning sunlight. A few birds flew up from along the shore, some of them
"teeter" snipe that had been feeding. Davy even pointed with his paddle
to a big gray squirrel that ran along a log in plain view, and sat up on
his haunches as if to curiously observe these approaching human beings
who intended to invade his haunts.

"What's that bird out yonder on the water?" asked Smithy, just then
pointing beyond a spur of the island.

"That's a loon," remarked Thad. "Allan heard him drop in here last
night; and both of us happened to be awake when he gave one of his
cries. You'll be apt to hear him some time or other; and if you think
it's a crazy man laughing, why just remember they named that bird
rightly when they called him a loon."

"I don't see anything moving on shore; anyhow there's no man in sight,"
Davy remarked a minute later, as they drew in still closer.

"Oh! I didn't expect to see a crowd waiting to receive us," laughed
Thad. "We may have all our trouble for our pains; but I just couldn't
rest till I got one more squint at that imprint of a shoe on the
island."

"Oh! yes, I remember that Bob White was telling me about you being taken
up with that track," Davy went on; "but he didn't say just why. Perhaps
you'll show me, now that I'm along on the trip?"

"Sure I will; and tell you a few things I got from him," the
scout-master went on to say, as they pushed in toward the little beach
where the landing had been made on the first occasion of their visiting
the lake island.

"Bob must have been through some stuff in his old home," remarked Davy,
enviously; "from the few little things he's said. Things _happen_ there
in the Blue Ridge mountains, down in the Old Tar Heel state. Up here
it's as dead as a door nail; nothin' goin' on atall to make a feller
keep awake. Don't I just hope you get that deal through, Thad, and take
the whole patrol along, to pay a visit to Bob's home country. I just
know we'd have a scrumptuous time of it. Imagine me up in the real
mountains, when I've never even seen a hill bigger than Scrub-oak
mountain, which I could nearly throw a stone over!"

Then the prow of the canoe ran aground in a few inches of water. Thad
sprang ashore, and holding the painter, drew the boat in closer.
Relieved of his weight in the bow its keel grated on the dry sand, and
the other two were able to step out easily enough.

They drew the boat up good and far on the beach.

"The wind's liable to get even stronger than it is," remarked Thad, "and
we don't want a second experience of having the canoe blown out on the
lake."

"I should say not," observed Smithy, uneasily; for he had only recently
learned how to swim, and the shore seemed a tremendous distance away,
with the flag of the camp floating in the morning breeze, and the tents
showing plainly against the green background.

"Now, this time I'm going to comb the whole island over, and see what's
here," announced Thad, resolutely. "You see, we can make a start, and
keep close to this shore until we strike the other end. Then changing
our base, we'll come back this way, keeping just so far away from our
first trail. After that, it's back again; and in that way we ought to
see all there is."

"Going to be pretty tough climbing, I reckon?" remarked Davy, surveying
the piled-up rocks, of which the island seemed to consist mainly, with
the trees growing from crevices, and in every odd place, so that they
formed a dense canopy indeed.

"That'll make it more interesting, perhaps," said Smithy; and Thad
nodded his head encouragingly; for he liked to see evidences in the
spoiled boy tending to show what his real nature must be, back of the
polish his fond mother and maiden aunts had succeeded in putting upon
his actions in the past.

They reached the other end of the island and began to make the return
trip. As Davy Jones had said, it was strenuous work at times, since the
rocks were piled up in a way to suggest that some convulsion of nature
had heaved this island up from the bottom of the lake.

"Just see the black holes, would you?" Davy declared, again and again.
"Why, lots of 'em'd make the finest kind of fox dens; and I reckon a
wolf wouldn't want a better hiding-place than that big one over there.
Say, Thad, I c'd crawl in easy, myself, and I'd like to do it for a
cooky now, if you said the word."

"Not just yet, Davy," remarked the scout leader; who began to wonder
himself if the men of the island might not be hiding right then in one
of the cavities Davy pointed out. "We want to see what the place is
like, you know. Come along, and in a jiffy we'll be at the end where our
boat lies."

"But what are you keeping on looking so close at the ground, whenever we
strike any soil at all, Thad?" the Jones boy continued. "S'pose now, you
think you might run on that footprint Bob was speakin' about, say?"

"Just what was in my mind, Davy," replied the other, always willing to
give information to those with him. "I wanted you to see what it looked
like, so you and Smithy here could be keeping on the watch. If we found
that it made a regular trail, and led to one of these same black holes,
we'd know more than we do right now. There, I saw a track, but it wasn't
a clear one. Hold on, and let's see what this patch of open ground will
show up."

"This just suits me to a dot," remarked Davy. "Feels quivery-like, you
know, just like something queer was agoin' to happen right soon. Wonder
if there's any wildcats loose over here. I'd like to get a whack at one
with this club; wouldn't I belt him a good crack between the eyes.
Hello! found what you wanted, Thad?"

The scout-master had come to a sudden stop, and was down on his knees,
examining something on the ground. He beckoned the others to drop beside
him, and both boys did so eagerly.

As Davy Jones saw the imprint of the shoe that had a patch on it, he
gave a low exclamation, and his eyes sought those of Thad.

"Well, what d'ye think of that, now, Thad?" he muttered; "the same
patched shoe that feller with the bear man was tellin' me about. Say,
listen, he said that he was lookin' for a man with a shoe just like
that! Yes, siree, he described it to a hair, and asked me if ever I saw
a footprint like that to send word to Malcolm Hotchkiss up at
Faversham!"

Thad felt a thrill at these words, for he realized that they meant there
must be some connection between the supposed hobo who accompanied the
owner of the dancing bear, and the two men who were hiding on the
island!



CHAPTER XXIII.

FIGURING IT OUT.


"That's what he said to you, did he, Davy?" asked the scout-master; and
perhaps unconsciously his voice was lowered a little when he spoke, as
though he felt that peril lurked close by.

"Yes, when we were sitting close together by the fire, and he was
drinkin' his cup of coffee," the other replied, also in hushed tones;
while Smithy hovered as near as he could get to them, his face filled
with apprehension.

"And he told you he wanted to meet up with the man who had a patch on
the sole of his shoe, did he?" Thad continued, thoughtfully.

"Just what he did," Davy answered, cheerfully. "I remember thinkin' that
it was a mighty funny way to describe a feller, by telling how one of
his shoes had been mended in that way. But, Thad, you know Bob didn't
finish tellin' me about this track over here on the old island. If he
had, I'd sure remembered; and then I c'd have spoken about it to you."

"I'm sorry now it didn't happen that way," remarked the scout-master,
"it might have made some difference in my plans, you see, boys."

"You mean you wouldn't a come here, is that it?" demanded Davy; "then
I'm glad you didn't know about it; because this just suits me. Whew!
don't it make a feller have just the nicest cold creepy feelin' run up
and down his back, though? I wouldn't have lost the chance for
anything."

Thad was compelled to smile at the odd way the other had of expressing
his pleasure in the thrill that passed over him, as he contemplated the
possibility of meeting with new adventures.

"Oh! no, I didn't mean that," he replied; "but I'd have asked you a lot
of questions before coming, and perhaps we'd have been better posted.
Then again, I might have brought a couple more scouts along, so we could
feel stronger, in case--" and he suddenly paused, with his head cocked
on one side as though listening.

"In case, what?" pursued Davy, who wanted to know everything.

"I thought I heard a voice somewhere, but it might have been a bird in
the bushes," Thad continued, in a relieved tone. "Why, I was only going
to say in case we had any trouble with these men. But they may not be
here at all now. I've got an idea they own another boat, in which they
could have slipped away last night while it was so dark."

"Then what's the use of our hunting all over the place as we're doing?"
asked Davy, fanning himself with his hat; for the day was turning out
warm, and it began to seem like tiresome work, and all for nothing,
too.

"In the first place," went on Thad, with that steady glow in his gray
eyes that bespoke determination; "I want to see if there really is a
hidden shack or a cave here, where they could be hiding out. Then I'd
like to learn if they're poachers, snaring the wild game, or the bass up
here, and getting it to market on the sly; or some tramps who have been
breaking into a store or a bank and are hiding from the constables."

"A bully good place to hide, all right," remarked Davy, as he glanced
around at the wild character of their surroundings, and heaved another
sigh in contemplation of further scrambling over those sharp-pointed
rocks.

"But Thad," put in Smithy, who had been listening all this time without
saying a single word, "have you changed your mind about what these
strange men may be, since you heard what Davy said about that man at our
camp-fire?"

"Well, yes, I am beginning to, right fast," answered the other, frankly.

"You don't think he was as bad as they are, and meant to join them, do
you?" continued Smithy, taking an unexpected interest in the matter; for
he had observed the party in question closely, as Thad knew, and formed
rather a good opinion of him, somehow.

"No, I don't," replied the scout-master, decisively. "If you asked me
point-blank what my opinion was, I'd say that he might be a game warden
playing a part, or else an officer of the law, looking for yeggmen who
have done something that they knew would send them to prison if caught!"

"Whew! just keep right along talking that way, Thad," muttered Davy. "It
sure does give me the nicest feeling ever to hear you. Yeggmen now is
it, and not just poor game poachers? That's going some, I take it. Say,
perhaps they've been and broke into a rich man's place over in
Faversham. I happen to know that quite a few city people own cottages
there for summer use."

"Have you ever been in Faversham, Davy?" asked Thad, suddenly.

"Well, no, I must say I haven't; but I've heard some about it from a boy
who visited Sim Eckles, and who used to live there. It's a big place,
Thad."

"Oh! size has nothing to do with this matter," remarked the other. "I
was just wondering whether you might not have heard that name before."

"You mean Malcolm Hotchkiss, don't you?" asked the other, eagerly.

"Yes, the name he mentioned to you, when he spoke about the marked
shoe?" the patrol leader went on to say.

"Hold on!" Davy exclaimed, hoarsely; "now, that's queer; I never once
bothered my head to think about it till you asked. Sure I've heard the
name before. The boy over at Sim Eckles' mentioned it more'n once."

"Who is he, then, Davy?"

"Why, Malcolm Hotchkiss, he's just the Chief of Police over at
Faversham, that's what, Thad," replied the other scout, almost
breathless in his renewed excitement.

"Oh; is that so?" remarked Thad. "Well, how does it strike you now,
Davy?"

"Looks bad for these here men, that's what," came the reply.

"You mean they must be worse than game poachers; is that it?" continued
Thad.

"I just reckon they are, Thad. Game wardens are hired by the State; and
seems to me it don't interest the common police if a man chooses to take
a few deer out of season, or net black bass against the law."

"Sounds like good logic, Davy," Thad continued; "and anybody could see
that you're all fixed to follow in the footsteps of your father, when
you get through law school. That settles it, in my mind. After this I
don't expect to run across any nets in the lake, or snares for
partridges in the woods around here."

"You mean there might be something stronger than that to be found, if
only we could run up against the place they use for a hideout; is that
it, Thad?"

"I certainly do; but I wish you could tell me one thing," the other
remarked.

"Try me and see," grinned Davy. "I'm loaded with information, like a gun
is, to the muzzle; and all you have to do is to pull the trigger."

"Try and remember if that boy said anything about this Malcolm
Hotchkiss that would describe him--was he tall or short; did he wear a
beard or had he a smooth face; were his eyes blue or black?"

Davy screwed up his eyebrows as though he might be cudgeling his brain
to remember. Then he grinned again, showing that the result had at least
been satisfactory from his point of view.

"I caught on to it, Thad," he declared with the air of a victor.

"Well, what do you think about it now, Davy?"

"Not the same man. You remember our visitor was a tall feller, don't
you? Well, I heard that boy say how they played a trick on Malcolm, and
they was only able to do it because he happened to be a small man, with
white hands, and looked kinder like a woman dressed up in police
uniform. But then he's smart as chain lightnin', he said at the same
time."

"Well, that proves one thing. Our visitor couldn't have been the
Faversham Head of Police. Perhaps they're in the game together, and he
wanted you to send word that way, knowing that Hotchkiss would be able
to reach him," Thad concluded.

"Looks like you'd got it all figgered out right, Thad," admitted Davy,
in open admiration for the genius of his chum. "And if that's the truth,
I reckon it must be a pretty big game that has made this here feller
take all the trouble to hire that bear man to go 'round the country with
him, just so he could ask questions, and nobody think he was anything
but a common tramp."

"I don't just understand what sort of officer would be doing that," Thad
candidly admitted. "Now, if these men were what Bob White tells us they
have down in his country, moonshiners, I could understand it. But we've
rested enough now; let's go on to the boat. Perhaps after all, we might
decide to leave the island to look after itself from now on."

"I'd sure be sorry to hear you say that, Thad," remarked Davy, his face
showing keen disappointment.

"After all, it's really none of our business," continued Thad; "and now
that you know the man he is looking for everywhere is somewhere around
here, perhaps it'd be best for you to start over to some place where
they have a telephone, and call up Mr. Malcolm Hotchkiss at Faversham."

"Huh! reckon I c'd surprise him a little now," chuckled Davy, falling in
behind the leader, as they continued on down toward the spot where the
boat had been left some time before.

"We've done all that could be expected of a patrol of Boy Scouts, under
the circumstances," said Thad firmly; "and the rest had better be left
to men who are used to such things. Listen to that wind blow, boys? I
hope a storm doesn't come up before we get back to camp again. Careful,
Davy, don't be in such a hurry; we're nearly at the beach, and our
boat."

"That's just it," remarked the Jones boy; "I had a look in at that same
beach under the branches of the trees, Thad; and believe me, I didn't
see a sign of any boat!"

"What's that?" demanded the scout-master, quickly, a sense of gathering
clouds beginning to oppress him; for it would indeed be a serious matter
if they were actually taken prisoners by these unknown parties of the
island, whom they now believed to be worse even than game poachers.

"Look for yourself, Thad; for here you can see the beach end to end,"
Davy went on; and the others stared as though hardly able to believe
their eyes; for it was just as Davy said; there was the little sandy
stretch, without a doubt, where they had left their canoe; but from end
to end it was vacant!

Again had the boat vanished while they were away; and this time it was
utterly impossible that it could have gone without the agency of human
hands, for they had pulled it high up out of the water!



CHAPTER XXIV.

WHAT SMITHY FOUND.


"Here's tough luck, and more of it!" remarked Davy Jones; but while
Smithy was looking excited, and rather white, the Jones boy was
grinning, just as if the new condition of affairs, thrilling in the
extreme, pleased him intensely.

Thad hastened to examine the ground, as a true scout always thinks of
doing when he seeks information concerning the movements of others; for
neither men nor boys can well move around without leaving some traces of
their late presence; and when one knows how to use his eyes to
advantage, it is possible to learn many valuable things after this
fashion.

"Did they take it, Thad?" continued Davy, as the scout leader arose from
his knees again, his face filled with all sorts of wild conjectures as
to the meaning of this new mystery.

"They must have," replied Thad; "because they've been around since we
were. Fact is, as you can see for yourselves, boys; here's where the
imprint of that marked shoe has half covered Smithy's track. And of
course that could mean only one thing."

"You're right, it could," admitted Davy, easily convinced.

Smithy looked around at the undergrowth, out of which they had just
pushed. No doubt his imagination was working at full speed, and he could
see a face leering out from behind every scrub bush. Smithy was at least
a great reader, even if he had until lately never been allowed to
associate with other boys; and likely enough he had spent many hours
over Stevenson's "Treasure Island" and kindred stories of adventure. And
being of a nervous temperament, the consciousness of hovering peril
acted on him to a much greater extent than it did in the cases of his
fellow scouts.

"But where do you think they could have taken the boat, Thad?" Smithy
now asked, as he stared out on the waves that were sweeping past so
merrily, and could see no sign of any craft.

"Perhaps gone around the island, hiding it in some place they know
about; or it might be they've just sunk the canoe out in deep water
there," replied Thad.

"Sunk their own boat!" remarked Smithy, in bewilderment; "now, please
explain to me just why they would want to do so remarkable a thing as
that, Thad?"

"So that we couldn't have the use of it to get back ashore again; and
our comrades over there mightn't be able to come over," was the reply of
the young scout-master.

"Do you mean they've made up their minds to try and keep us prisoners
on this terrible island?" asked the other.

"It looks a little that way to me right now, Smithy; fact is they've got
me guessing good and hard what they do mean by that sort of thing.
Perhaps they want a certain amount of time to make their escape, and
expect to get it by keeping us cooped up here. The question now is,
shall we let them carry that scheme out?"

"Not if we know it, we won't," Davy spoke up, and declared in his
positive way. "Why, I think I could manage to get over to the mainland
somehow, with that log there to help me. The wind and waves would carry
me along, you see, Thad; and I could do my clothes up in a bundle and
keep 'em dry. Seems to me that's the kind of work for a scout to try,
ain't it?"

"A pretty good idea, Davy," admitted the scout-master, readily enough;
"there's only one drawback to it, that I can see."

"And what might that be?" asked the one who had conceived the brilliant
thought, and who seemed to be disappointed because his chief had not
immediately declared it to be a marvel of ingenuity.

"Well, you're not much of a swimmer, and couldn't make any headway
against the wind and the waves. Consequently you'd just have to let them
carry you along with them. That would take a lot of time; and even if
you did get ashore safely it'd be at the far end of the lake. You know
the country is pretty rough between there and the camp. By sticking to
the beach, where there is any, you might make it in a couple of hours;
but altogether it'd be well into afternoon before you got in touch with
Allan and the rest."

"All right, I'm willing to make the try, if only you give the word,
Thad," the Jones boy went on, with a vein of urgency in his voice. "Just
the idea seems to tickle me more'n I c'n tell you. And if I kept on the
other side of the log, why you see, these fellers wouldn't know a thing
about it. They'd think it was just an old log that had drifted around,
and was going wherever the wind wanted."

"Well, such talk would convince anybody, I guess," laughed Thad.

"Then you're goin' to let me try it, I hope?" ventured Davy, joyfully.

"Perhaps I may a little later," the other admitted. "After we've talked
it over some more. And first of all, I think Smithy and myself had
better arm ourselves in the same way you have, with a good stout club.
If the worst comes, it's a jolly good thing to have in your hand."

"Well, I should say, yes," Davy went on; "more'n once I've stood off a
savage dog with a stick like this, and dared him to tackle me. But here,
if I'm going to take that little swim with the log, I won't need my
club. S'pose I hand it over to Smithy?"

There was a method in his madness; and Thad, who could read between the
lines, understood it easily enough. If allowed to give Smithy his
weapon of offense and defense, such permission would really be setting
the seal of approval on his proposition to swim ashore. And Davy was
shrewd enough to figure on that.

"All right, give it to Smithy," said Thad; making up his mind that since
one of them ought to make the effort to get in touch with the balance of
the patrol, it were better to allow Davy to go than that he leave the
two boys on the island; for that might look strange in a leader.

And so the delighted Davy hastened to comply; indeed the manner in which
he thrust the stick into the willing hands of the other seemed to
indicate a fear on his part lest the scout-master alter his mind. And
once the club had changed hands he appeared to believe the thing was
settled beyond recall.

"Do you think they might attack us, Thad?" asked Smithy, who was
somewhat pale, but showing a resolute front in this crisis.

"I don't know any more than you do, Smithy," replied the other; "they
had some scheme in view when they scooped the boat, and hid it from us.
As I said before, I can't make up my mind whether they only want to make
time by cutting off all chances of pursuit; or else mean to come down on
us."

"What do you suppose they'd be apt to do to us for giving them so much
trouble, and taking their boat?" continued Smithy.

"What Paddy gave the drum, perhaps," remarked Davy; "a beating. But if
you two fellers can only manage to keep out of their hands a little
while, I ain't afraid about my being able to reach shore, and the camp.
Then what, Thad?"

"Just what I said--have one of the boys, Giraffe perhaps, because he's a
good runner, start over to Rockford. I think from the rough map a
charcoal burner made of this section of country for me, that town can be
only about seven miles or so across country, though the going might be
pretty rough. Here, take my little compass, in case he is afraid he may
get lost in the woods," and Thad detached the article in question from
his silver watch chain.

"I'm glad you said Giraffe," remarked Davy; "because if it had been
Step-hen, who is also a clever long-distance runner, he'd have been sure
to lose himself, because he says he's going to take the first chance,
just because somebody took his old compass. Then, when he gets to
Rockford you want Giraffe to get Faversham the 'phone; is that it,
Thad?"

"Yes, and tell his story to the Chief--all about the queer things that
have happened to us up here since we made camp,--the coming of the bear;
then our finding the boat; the tracks on the island; how we had a visit
from the bear man, and what his companion told you to do in case you
ever saw the imprint of a shoe that had a crooked patch across the sole.
I reckon Mr. Malcolm Hotchkiss'll know what to do when he gets all these
facts in his head. And then Giraffe can rest up before he tries to come
back to-morrow."

"I got it all just as you stated it, Thad," declared Davy, beginning to
unfasten his shoes, as if anxious to be busy; "now, if you fellers would
just roll that same log into the water while I'm doing up my duds in a
little package that I c'n tie on top, so as to keep 'em dry, I'll be
ready in short order. Then you watch me paddle my own canoe for the
shore. It'll be just more fun than a circus for David, believe me."

So Thad and Smithy took hold, and with the aid of the sticks in their
hands it was found that the log could be readily turned over. Each time
this was done it drew closer to the water's edge, and presently splashed
into the lake.

"See her float just like a duck, will you?" remarked the delighted Davy,
who was by this time making a bundle of his shoes, hat and clothes,
which he expected to secure somehow to the log, or thrust into a
crevice, where the package might not be seen by watchful eyes ashore.

"Well, anyhow, if that boat did have to be captured by the enemy,"
remarked Smithy, just then, as if remembering something; "I'm glad I
found that stuff before it went, that's a fact, boys."

Thad turned on him in some surprise.

"Now you've got us both wondering what you mean, Smithy," he remarked;
"suppose you explain before Davy leaves us."

"Oh! I forgot to say anything about it," declared the other, in more or
less confusion; "the fact of the matter is, Thad, when I found I was
going to be your canoemate on this little adventure, I went down at
once and turned the boat over to see that it was perfectly clean. You
know it's a hobby of mine to want everything just so; and I noticed that
a little washing would improve the looks of our boat. So I took out the
false bottom that keeps heavy shoes from cutting into the thin planking;
and what do you suppose I found in the cracks below?"

He had thrust his fingers into one of his pockets, and now held up
something at which both the others stared in surprise, that gradually
deepened into dismay, on the part of Thad at least.

"Let me look at them, please, Smithy," said the scout-master, quietly;
and in response to his request the other placed in his outstretched hand
two bright new silver half dollars!

A rather queer find, to say the least, to run across under the false
bottom in a little canoe that had been secreted among the bushes
bordering this lonely sheet of water known as Lake Omega!



CHAPTER XXV.

THE SCOUT-MASTER'S SCHEME.


Smithy and the Jones boy watched their patrol leader with something more
than ordinary curiosity, as Thad examined the two shining coins. And
when the other even tried his teeth on each half dollar in turn, Davy
gave an exclamation of delight; while the other scout was in a measure
filled with sudden consternation.

For both of them could understand what this meant, and that Thad felt
more or less suspicious regarding the genuineness of the two coins.

"He thinks they might be counterfeits, Smithy," said Davy, in low but
thrilling tones. "Now wouldn't that be a great joke if we found
ourselves bunking on this old island along with a lot of desperate bogus
money-makers! Oh! say, things are just turning out tremendous, and
that's a fact. But I don't exactly know, whether there'd be more fun
staying here, or taking that little voyage with the log."

"That part of it has already been settled," remarked Thad, with a vein
of authority in his voice; for he wanted Davy to understand that as a
true scout, he must always pay respect to the orders of his superior,
and never try to evade a duty that had been imposed upon him.

"Oh! all right, Thad;" Davy replied; "I'm willin' enough to try the
swim; but say, what if they jump on you fellers while I'm away?"

You would have thought from the patronizing manner of the Jones boy that
upon his presence alone depended the safety of the group of scouts.
Thad, however, knew Davy pretty well by this time, and did not take all
he said seriously.

"We'll have to manage to get on, somehow," he said; "and perhaps, after
all, the danger may not be so very great. If there are places for these
two men to hide, why, seems to me we ought to be able to keep out of
their sight some way or another."

Smithy was not saying much, but it might be understood that he was doing
a whole lot of thinking. This was certainly a novel experience for him.
A short time before, and he had not really known what it was to
associate with any boys save a delicate little cousin away off in a
city, and who was very girlish in all his ways. And here he was now, not
only in the company of seven healthy fellows, fond of fun, and all
outdoor sports; but a genuine scout in the Silver Fox Patrol, and facing
danger with a bravery no one had ever dreamed he could display.

That was why Smithy felt pleased, even while he at the same time
experienced a touch of uneasiness because of the new developments that
were constantly making their situation look more desperate.

As Thad had discovered, under all that gentle exterior there beat a
heart within Smithy that yearned to have its fair share of excitement.
Reading Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island might be all very well; but
acting a part in a little bit of daring seemed much better.

Thad bent down to assist Davy secure his clothes to the log. The Jones
boy had waded in, and upon examining one side of the old tree trunk as
it floated buoyantly on the water, he found that there was just the
nicest hiding-place one could wish for in the shape of a cavity well
above the reach of the water.

"You see, Thad," he explained, "it ain't goin' to be on the side that
the waves beat against, and so my duds won't be apt to get _very_ wet.
The cutest pocket you ever saw; and looks like it might just have been
made specially for a feller that wanted to take a tour of the lake with
his private yacht Now, do I go, Thad? I'm ready, and only waitin' for
orders."

"Then you might as well start, Davy; and if I was you I'd keep out of
sight all I could. If they happened to spy you, and believed you were
going for help, so that they might be captured before night came, it
would go hard with you perhaps."

"I got your meaning, Thad," Davy replied, without showing the least
concern, for he was a fearless chap; "which is, that they've got the
boat, and could chase after me if they thought I was going to get 'em in
a peck of trouble by flitting. Never you fear, I'll keep low down, and
out of sight."

He thereupon proved how easy it would be to lie in a position where he
could guide the floating log, and yet be out of sight from the side that
was toward the island.

"Oh! this is the greatest thing that's come my way for a long time," he
said, as he walked further away from the shore, the water getting deeper
all the time until his body was very nearly all submerged; "and I'm ever
so much obliged to you for giving me the chance, Thad. Don't bother a
thing about me. If some big mud-turtle don't grab me by the toe, and
pull me down, I'll come out swimmingly, see?"

Thad knew that he could depend on the Jones boy. When a fellow can even
think to joke like that when facing danger of any sort, he certainly
could not be feeling in a state of panic.

"Now the breeze strikes me, fellows, and I'm off. I'd like to give a
whoop, I feel so great; but something tells me that would be wrong. So
just consider that's what I'm doing inside, anyhow. Good-bye, boys, and
I hope you pull through O. K."

Thad did not answer, for the simple reason that the log with its boyish
freight was already so far away that he would have to raise his voice to
make Davy hear; and such a thing would be foolish, when they wanted to
keep as quiet as possible, so as not to attract attention.

Standing there, they watched the strange argosy floating away on the
dancing waves. Davy was urging it from the shore of the island as well
as he could by swimming, and without showing any part of his person.

"He's going to make that point, all right," said Thad, knowing that the
Jones boy's one fear had been lest he ground on the bar that put out
there, and be compelled to show himself in order to push off again.

"But you said it would be hours before he could even get to camp, didn't
you, Thad?" asked Smithy.

"The way he's drifting now, he'll surely be at the end of the lake in
half an hour; and given four times as much to make his way round all the
coves, would bring him to camp about noon, I reckon. Then, if Giraffe
starts out at once, and has fair luck traveling he ought to get to
Rockford in two hours, running part of the way, once he strikes the
road."

"That would mean two in the afternoon, then, Thad?"

"About that, if all goes well," the other continued, as though mapping
out the programme, step by step. "Then give him a quarter of an hour to
tell Mr. Hotchkiss the story over the wire; and after that the
Faversham officers would have to come on here. But perhaps they might
get a car to bring them along the road. It's not a first class auto
road, but could be navigated I guess. Say by four o'clock they could be
at our camp, Smithy."

The other sighed.

"That means something more than six hours for us to play hide and seek
here on the island, doesn't it?" he remarked; but Thad saw with relief
that Smithy was certainly showing less signs of alarm than he had
expected, under the best conditions.

"Well, if you were only as good a swimmer as you hope to be one of these
days, Smithy," he remarked, pleasantly, "we might try for the shore. But
as it is, we've got to make the best of a bad bargain, and wait. You've
got good sight, so suppose we try and see if we can tell what the boys
are doing in camp. Two pair of eyes ought to be better than one any
day."

"But honest now, I don't seem to see a blessed fellow there," declared
Smithy, which was just what Thad had himself found out. "I can see the
fire burning lazily, and the flag whipping in that splendid breeze; but
as far as I can make out the whole pack have deserted, and gone
somewhere. Perhaps they're fishing."

"You could see them on the bank, if that were so, Smithy," remarked
Thad. "Try again with another guess; and this time think well before
you answer."

"Well," remarked the new tenderfoot scout presently, after he had stood
there, conjuring up his thoughts; "I remember that you told them
something before we set sail on our trip."

"Just what I did, and tell me if you can remember the nature of the task
they were to handle during our absence?" the scout-master continued.

"Allan was going to show them some more interesting things about
following a trail," Smithy immediately replied; "how to tell what sort
of little animal like a fox, a woodchuck, a mink, a muskrat or an otter
had made the marks; what it was trying to do; and how it was captured by
the men who make a business of collecting skins, or as they call them,
pelts."

"Just so," Thad observed, "only it was to be this afternoon Allan meant
to show them all that. If you think again, now, Smithy, I'm sure you'll
recollect there was another piece of scout business, and a very
important one too, that they were to practice this morning."

"Yes, I remember it all now--wigwagging it was," the tenderfoot went on
to say with eagerness, and not a little satisfaction, because he had
recalled everything that Thad wanted him to. "Allan was to go up to the
top of that little bare hill back of the camp, and two of the other
fellows were to hike over to another about a mile or so away. Then they
would exchange sentences by means of the signal flag, waved up and down
and every which way, according to the alphabet used in the U. S. Signal
Corps. And to-night the result was to be given to you to correct."

"I see your memory is in good working order, Smithy, for that is exactly
what sort of a task I set the boys we left behind. And now, I've just
thought up a dandy scheme that if it can only be carried out, may gain
us just about two hours over Davy's best time, in letting our chums know
what a hole we're in."

Smithy looked interested. Indeed, whatever Thad did always excited his
enthusiasm; for he believed the young scout-master to be the smartest
boy he had ever heard of in all his life.

"It's something to do with this same wigwagging, Thad, I'm sure of
that?" he remarked, drawing a big breath in his new excitement.

"Well, there's no use wasting any more time in beating around the bush,
so I'll tell you right now what the idea is," Thad continued, smiling at
the eagerness of his comrade. "Suppose I could climb to the top of some
tree, and attract the attention of Allan, as he stood on that bald hill,
which is in plain sight from here; don't you understand that by making
use of my handkerchief, and the code, I might be able to tell him what's
happened, and get him to send Giraffe to Rockford so as to call the
Faversham Chief over the 'phone?"

Smith's face was wreathed in a smile of mingled admiration and delight
as he caught the full meaning of the bright thought that had come to the
mind of his companion, the scout-master.



CHAPTER XXVI.

A SIGNAL STATION IN A TREE-TOP.


"Oh! that's the finest thing that ever could happen, Thad;" was the way
the delighted Smithy put his feelings into words. "And just to think
that right here you can make use of scout knowledge to tell Allan what's
happened. Why, without the wigwag telegraph we'd never be able to let
him know one single thing."

"Just what I was thinking myself, Smithy," returned the scout-master.
"And as you get deeper into the splendid things a Boy Scout is supposed
to learn, while he climbs the ladder, you'll find that never a day
passes but what he can help himself, or some other fellow, by what he
knows."

"I'm quite certain about that, Thad," Smithy went on, brimming over with
satisfaction, and wonder at the cleverness of his chum. "Why, I was just
thinking it all over this morning, and what great chances a scout has to
do things that an ordinary boy would never be able to even try, because
he had not learned. Right now I'm positive I know how to best stop a
runaway horse without endangering my life more than is absolutely
necessary."

"That's the kind of talk I like to hear, Smithy; it shows that you
understand what the scout movement stands for; and mean to make the most
of the opportunities."

"Then suppose a chum of mine got in the water, and was taken with a
cramp," Smithy went on hurriedly, his blue eyes sparking with delight;
"why, after what you showed me this morning, I believe that as soon as I
know a little more about swimming, I could get him ashore."

"And when you had done that?" questioned Thad, who was meanwhile keeping
his eyes around him for the purpose of discovering the best tree which
he could use as a signal tower, in the carrying out of his bold plan for
communicating with the balance of the Silver Fox Patrol.

"Why, I wrote down every little thing you did when showing us how to
revive a partly drowned person; and Thad, I practiced on a dummy when
nobody was around to laugh. I'm positive I have it down pat, and could
do the business."

"Laugh!" repeated the pleased scout-master; "I'd just like to see any
scout under my control make fun of a fellow who was so much in earnest
that he devoted some of his spare minutes to practicing the art of
saving a human life. I hope you may never have to put that knowledge to
practical use, Smithy; but if the occasion ever does come along, I
firmly believe you'll be equal to it. I'm more than pleased at the
earnest way you've taken hold of these things."

"Thank you, Thad," replied Smithy, actually with tears in his eyes; "but
if I have, you can lay it partly to the fact that up to now I've been
half starved in respect to all the things that most boys know and do,
and just wild to learn; and also that I've had the finest chum that ever
drew breath to coach me. Oh! yes, there are dozens of other things I've
learned that are bound to widen the horizon of any boy. It was a
fortunate day for _me_ when you coaxed my mother to let me join the Boy
Scouts. Nobody else could have done it but you, Thad."

Smithy was growing more and more excited; and Thad thought best to end
that sort of talk. Besides, the time and place were hardly suited for an
exchange of opinions with respect to the advantages of the scout
movement.

"We'll talk it over another time, Smithy," he said, kindly. "Just now we
ought to bend our minds wholly on finding the right sort of tree for my
wigwag station. Come along, and let's take a look at that tree just up
the bank yonder. Seems to me it ought to answer my purpose."

So he led the way to the tree in question, which happened to be close
by. It was little effort for Thad to climb up into the branches, leaving
Smithy below; with directions to return to the beach when he heard a
whistle from his chief; it being Thad's idea that the presence of some
one below might draw attention to his flag work above, and interrupt the
message.

The higher he climbed the better he was satisfied; for he found that the
tree was dead from a point half-way up, and consequently there was a
stronger chance that he could manage to attract the attention of Allan,
on the hill a mile and a half away.

Finding the perch that seemed to answer his purpose best, Thad broke off
a few small dead branches that threatened to interfere with the free use
of his arm. After that he gave the whistle to let Smithy know the
signalman was fixed, and that he had better go back to the beach to
wait.

As yet he had seen nothing of Allan. The bald top of the hill was in
plain sight from where the scout-master sat, perched aloft, but he
scanned it in vain. Thad would not allow himself to doubt that presently
the second in command of the patrol would show up there. He knew Allan
was a stickler for obeying orders to the very letter, and if his
superior had said that he should reach the crown of that hill at exactly
seven minutes after ten, the chances were fifty to one Allan would make
his appearance on the second; or there would be trouble in the camp.

So, to amuse himself while waiting Thad turned partly around, and
looked after Davy. At first he was astonished not to see the floating
log on the troubled surface of the lake to leeward, where it had been
moving at a pretty fast clip when the scout-messenger left the island.

He experienced a sudden sensation of alarm, but immediately took a fresh
grip on himself. Surely the waves were not so very boisterous now, for
the wind seemed to be diminishing, if anything. And Davy was a pretty
fair swimmer, all things considered.

Thad presently gave expression to a little sigh of relief; for far away,
just under the fringe of trees bordering the extreme end of Lake Omega,
he had discovered a moving object. It was the flash of a breaking wave
over the same that had attracted his attention first; and he now made
out the floating log.

Then Davy must have made much better time than he, Thad, had expected
would be the case. No doubt he had assisted the progress of his novel
craft by swimming, being desirous of reaching land as soon as possible.

So Thad divided his time between the bald top of the signal station
hill, and the log that as he knew concealed the swimming scout.

"There he goes, creeping through the shallow water and heading for the
bank," he presently muttered to himself in a pleased way. "And I can
give a pretty good guess that right now Davy is the happiest fellow in
the county; because he just loves adventure of any kind, and he's sure
getting his fill. There, he pulls himself up on the shore, and ducks
behind that bunch of brush! Good boy, Davy; that ought to count for a
merit mark, all right. Nobody could have done it better, and few as
well."

After that Davy vanished from his sight. He knew that the other was
making for camp at his best speed; but as he had a difficult task, with
the way so rough, it must be a couple of hours at least before he could
expect to bring up at the tents, where the flag floated gaily from the
mast.

Turning wholly, so as to devote his full attention to the signal station
hill, Thad counted the minutes that seemed to drag so heavily.

Once or twice he thought he heard some sort of rustling sound down on
the island somewhere. He hoped that nothing was happening to Smithy; but
of course it was utterly out of the question for him to call aloud, to
inquire whether the tenderfoot scout was safe.

"He ought to be showing up soon now," Thad was muttering as he kept
watch of the smooth hilltop; "Every minute lost counts now. I hope
nothing has happened in camp to disarrange the programme I laid out."

He had hardly spoken when he started, and a pleased look came over his
anxious face; for at last there was a movement on the bald top of the
elevation, as if something might be doing.

Yes, a human figure was climbing steadily upward, now and then stopping
to make some sort of gesture to an unseen comrade at the base of the
hill, either with his arm, or one of the signal flags he carried.

Eagerly Thad watched the ascent of his chum. He knew that Allan was
carrying the precious field glasses, for he saw the sun glint from their
lens when the other stopped to take a survey.

Oh! if he would only look toward the island now; for Thad was already
waving his handkerchief up and down, and ready to make a certain signal
which had often been used as a sign of importance between himself and
this chum from Maine. Once Allan detected it, he would know instantly
that the person waving was the scout-master, and that he had news of
great importance to communicate.

But it seemed as if Allan were devoting all his attention to the other
quarter, where he doubtless anticipated seeing the second signalman
begin to tell him that the station was ready to receive messages.

Still, knowing that three of the patrol had gone that very morning to
the mysterious island, to investigate further into the strange things it
seemed to hide, it would seem that presently Allan _must_ turn his head,
and sweep the shore of the same with his glasses.

Ordinary curiosity should cause him to do that; Thad thought as he
waited; waving his handkerchief and fixing his eyes on the far-away
figure of the khaki-clad scout with the flags.

He even found himself hoping that the one sent to a more distant station
might meet with some unexpected delay on the way; so that, becoming
weary of looking for a sign, Allan would presently amuse himself by
taking a view of other quarters.

Five minutes later, and Thad's heart gave a throb. He could see that his
wish was coming true, for the sun flashed more brightly than ever as it
glanced from the moving lens of the field glass. Allan was now surveying
the landscape around him, and gradually his attention must be drawing
nearer the island.

So Thad began to make the circular movement, followed by a downward
plunge of his handkerchief, that would surprise Allan when he noticed
it, for he was bound to understand what it signified.

A few seconds of suspense, and then Thad breathed with relief.

He had seen the other focus his glasses straight toward the tree, in the
dead upper branches of which, he, Thad, was clinging, and wildly waving
his improvised signal flag.

"He sees me! Good for that!" Thad said to himself; while his heart was
pounding wildly within its prison, because of the excitement that had
seized him in its grip.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE WIGWAG TELEGRAPH.


Thad now devoted himself to the task of communicating all he had to say
to his second in command, and as briefly as possible. Time was a factor
in the affair; and it would not pay to waste more minutes than were
absolutely necessary. The full particulars must be kept, to thrill the
patrol as they sat around the next blazing camp-fire, each one telling
his individual part of the story.

Fortunately Thad and Allan had long been practicing this exchange of
flag signals together; and in this way had become fairly expert in the
use of the little telegraphic code that takes the place of the
dot-and-dash of the wire process. With but his handkerchief to use in
place of the flag, Thad knew he would be hampered more or less; but he
had faith in the ability of his chum to grasp the truth, once he caught
an inkling of the peril that threatened.

And now Allan was signaling that he understood the chief wished to send
an important message, which he was ready to receive.

So Thad commenced by asking:

"Who have you close by to send with a message to Rockford?"

Allan asked him to repeat; and no wonder, for he could not exactly grasp
such an astonishing query; but on its being waved again he replied
promptly:

"Giraffe, Bumpus; other two gone signal station beyond."

"O. K. Send Giraffe at once. Tell him to make it as fast as he can. At
Rockford get Chief Police at Faversham on 'phone; name Malcolm
Hotchkiss. Tell him all that happened to us, about bear men, and that
one of them asked Davy to let chief know if he saw footprint of marked
shoe around. Believe that man on island, and that he is thief wanted by
authorities. How?"

This last was the query they understood between them. It meant that the
sender wished to know if the burden of his message was being fully
sensed by the one at the receiving end.

"O. K. Tremendous! Go on!" came the immediate reply.

Such long messages took more or less time, and would have been
impossible only that in their enthusiasm the two scouts had abbreviated
the code, so that they were able to really exchange sentences in a
short-hand way.

Thad went on to give the other more knowledge, believing that Giraffe
ought to be posted up to a certain point, so that he could urge the
Chief of the Faversham police to hasten his movements; for if night
fell, without the hidden men being captured, they could get away under
cover of darkness.

"Davy gone ashore behind floating log. Just landed at end of lake.
Thought of this scheme after he left. Man with owner of bear we believe
to be officer of law, looking for these rascals. Let Giraffe have your
compass. Give him map I left in tent. Our boat taken, and we can't get
ashore, for Smithy not able to swim. Let all practice for day drop, and
keep in camp, ready to take another message."

Then Thad made the winding-up movement that told Allan he did not wish
to consume more time by further talk. Enough had been sent in this
tedious way to let the other know the main facts of the matter; and they
were surely startling enough in themselves, without the particulars that
would follow later on, when peace had settled over the camp.

He saw that Allan understood the need of haste; for as soon as he had
made that peremptory signal, the second in command commenced going down
the slope of the hill with the bald top, taking great leaps as he went.

Eagerly did Thad watch his progress. Once, in his haste, Allan tripped
and fell headlong; and Thad's heart seemed to be in his mouth with the
suspense; but immediately the other scrambled to his feet again. His
first thought must have been of the chum whose eyes he knew were glued
upon him; for he made a reassuring wave of his arm, and resumed his
downward progress, a trifle more carefully now.

Presently he vanished among the trees that grew about two-thirds of the
way up, and Thad saw only occasional glimpses of him from that moment
onward; as the flying figure flashed across some little gap in the
verdure-clad hillside; never failing to wave his arms reassuringly to
the watcher.

"He must be nearly down at the base now," Thad said to himself, after
some time had elapsed since he saw any sign of the hurrying scout.

Knowing what was apt to follow, he kept his ears on the alert for
welcome sounds which would tell that Allan had given the recall to the
two scouts sent to the distant station, with their relay of flags, in
order to receive and send messages.

A minute, two, three of them glided away. Thad was beginning to feel a
trifle uneasy, not knowing but that some further accident might have
happened to Allan, in his eagerness to reach the foot of the hill.

But his fears proved groundless. Presently there floated distinctly to
his ears, for water carries sounds wonderfully well, the sweet notes of
the bugle which Bumpus Hawtree knew so well how to manipulate. It was
the "assembly" that was sounded, and those distant scouts, upon hearing
the well-known signal, would surely understand its tenor; and that for
some reason the plans of the day had undergone a decided change, so that
they were to return forthwith to the camp.

Sweeter sounds Thad believed he had never heard than those that came
stealing over the troubled surface of Lake Omega that morning, when
affairs were beginning to have such a serious look for the Silver Fox
Patrol.

He gave a sigh of relief. Some of the strain seemed to have departed,
now that his signaling task had apparently been successfully carried
out.

"In a short time, Giraffe will be starting across for the road leading
to Rockford," Thad was saying to himself, as he sat there in his lofty
eyrie, and surveying the whole island that lay bathed in the sunlight
beneath him. "With a fair amount of good luck he ought to get there by
half-past one, perhaps much earlier; for Giraffe is a fast runner, and
has staying powers."

The prospect was of a character to give Thad infinite pleasure. And
somehow he seemed also greatly delighted because he had been able to
hurry matters along in a wonderful manner, thanks to the knowledge he
and Allan possessed of this Signal Corps work.

"Why, it's already paid us ten times over for all the trouble we took
to learn the code," he was saying to himself, between chuckles. "And
besides, it was only fun, learning. Smithy was right when he said this
Boy Scout business was the best thing ever started in this or any other
country to benefit fellows. And I'm glad I had that idea of starting a
troop in sleepy old Cranford, so far behind the times."

Just then he happened to remember that he was not alone on the island.
Smithy would be getting quite anxious about him by now; and Thad
concluded that he ought to hunt the other scout up, so as to relieve his
mind.

He had read enough of the character of the new tenderfoot scout to feel
certain that Smithy would obey orders to the letter. Told to wait on the
little pebbly beach until his superior officer joined him, he would stay
there indefinitely; just as another lad, known to history and fame,
Casibianca, "stood on the burning deck, whence all but him had fled,"
simply because his father had told him to remain there.

So Thad commenced to descend from his lofty perch, meaning to hunt
Smithy up, and not only relieve his natural suspense, but reward him for
his long vigil by relating the result of the exchange of signals.

That the new recruit would be deeply interested, he felt sure; for
everything connected with the scouting business had a fascination for
Smithy; now living an existence he may have dreamed about in former
days, but really never hoped to personally experience.

Just then the loon, floating and diving out on the bosom of the water
somewhere, had to give vent to his idiotic laugh. Possibly he had been
observing the watcher in the dead tree-top, and was announcing his
opinion of such silly antics when he noticed Thad begin to descend.

The sound struck a cold chill to the heart of the boy, though he laughed
at himself immediately afterward for allowing such a feeling to come
over him.

"It's only the loon," he said, as he again slipped from limb to limb,
constantly nearing the base of the tree. "I suppose the thing's been
watching me all the time, and wondering what under the sun a fellow
could be doing, waving his old handkerchief around as though he were
daffy. He looks on me as a lunatic, and I know him to be a loon."

Chuckling at his little joke, Thad presently reached a point where he
could hang from the lower limb by his hands, and then drop lightly to
the ground.

He waited only a minute to recover his breath, for after all the coming
down had been more of a task than the mounting upward. Then he started
for the shore of the lake, and the little beach that had witnessed both
landings of the invading parties of scouts.

Twice now had that same beach afforded a surprise as unwelcome as it was
unexpected, when the boat had vanished so strangely. Thad hoped history
would not feel bound to repeat itself. True, they no longer had a boat
to lose, since it had already disappeared; but then, there was Smithy!

As he drew near the beach, he tried to discover the form of his comrade
somewhere in the open, but without success. Still, Thad knew that the
tenderfoot would doubtless consider it the part of wisdom to hide, while
waiting for his comrade to finish his work aloft, and join him.

Thinking thus, and yet with an uneasiness that he could hardly
understand, Thad kept on, until presently he had broken through the last
line of bushes, and stepped out on the little sandy stretch of beach.

Certainly Smithy was not in sight. He turned in both directions, and
swept the half circle of brush with an anxious gaze.

Then he called in a low tone, but which might easily have been heard by
any one chancing to be hiding behind that fringe of bushes:

"Smithy, hello!"

There was no answer to his summons. The loon laughed again out on the
lake, as though mocking his anxiety; a squirrel ran down a tree, and
frisked about its base; but the tenderfoot scout seemed to have vanished
as utterly as though the earth had opened and swallowed him up.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE TRAIL AMONG THE ROCKS.


Of course the scout-master was given a shock when he realized that
Smithy could not be where he had told him to wait until relieved. All
sorts of dire things commenced to flash through his head.

"Here, this won't do at all," he presently muttered, starting to get a
firm grip on himself; "I've myself alone to depend on, to find out the
truth about Smithy, and to do that I must keep my head level. Now, I
wonder have I made a mistake about the calibre of Smithy, and could he
have wandered off in a careless way?"

Somehow he did not find himself taking any great amount of stock in this
theory. Why, had it been easy-going Bumpus now, or even rather careless
Step-hen, Thad fancied that there might have been more or less truth
back of the suspicion; but unless his study of the tenderfoot had been
wrong, Smithy would not be guilty of disobedience.

"Well, what am I thinking about?" was the way Thad took himself to task
presently; "trying to find the answer to a riddle by bothering my
brains, when it ought to be written here on the sand as plain as print."

Immediately he commenced to move about, looking for signs. Of course
there must be all manner of footprints there, some recent, and others
made on the occasion of the preceding visit of the scouts. But Thad had
studied trail finding more or less under the watchful eye of the Maine
boy, who knew considerable about it; and hence he was able to decide
what were new, and what old footprints.

And he had not been at this task more than half a minute when he
received considerable of a shock.

"Why, here's that footprint with the marked sole!" he whispered, a new
thrill in the region of his heart.

He could guess what that meant, for it was very fresh and new. The man
whom he now believed to be some sort of criminal, had been right there
on the beach since he, Thad, had quitted the spot to climb the tree
selected for his signaling operations!

And since Smithy was supposed to be waiting there, only one inference
could be drawn--the tenderfoot scout had fallen into the enemy's hands!

Evidently matters were approaching a crisis now. The two men who hid on
this island as though they feared their fellows to see them, were
beginning to grow bolder. At first they had only felt annoyed by the
coming of the scouts, and the making of the camp opposite their secret
retreat. Then, by degrees, as the boys began to infringe on their
territory, they had commenced to strike back; first by causing the boat
to disappear; and now by capturing poor Smithy, who must be nearly dead
with fright because of his peril.

Thad suspected the men may have begun to fear that their hiding-place
was known, and that the boys would be trying to either effect their
capture, or communicate their discovery to the authorities in some
neighboring town.

Perhaps they hoped to keep matters boiling at fever heat until night
fell, when they could make use of the recovered boat to slip away; or
else swim from the island retreat.

He looked further, and soon found marks that plainly told the story of a
struggle. It had been brief, however, for evidently Smithy was evidently
taken by surprise, and with his breath immediately cut off by a cruel
grip, must have soon yielded.

Thad looked around him. Would the two desperate characters be coming
back to find the other scout? Did they know that Davy had gone with that
log? Perhaps even at that minute hostile eyes might be upon him!

The very thought caused Thad to take a firmer grip on the stout cudgel
he carried, and resolve that should he be attacked, these rascals would
not have the easy victory they had found with his comrade, Smithy.

But all was quiet and peaceful around him; and by degrees his excited
nerves quieted down. What should he do, now that he knew the worst? Of
course, being such a good swimmer, Thad might easily have stripped, and
made his way over to the mainland, providing the men did not take a
notion to chase after him in the boat. He put the thought aside with
impatience. That would be deserting Smithy, who looked up to him as a
faithful friend and ally; and this Thad would never be guilty of doing.

Should he simply conceal himself somewhere on the island, and wait for
the coming of afternoon, and the expected officers? Suppose, for
instance, Giraffe lost his way while trying to make Rockford, what then
would become of Smithy?

Thad felt that he could never look a scout in the face again if he were
guilty of such small business.

"I'm going to do my best to find Smithy, no matter what happens," he
said to himself, as he shut his teeth hard together, and took a fresh
grip on that comforting cudgel he carried again. "Perhaps they may stick
close to their hiding-place, wherever that is, thinking they've scared
the rest of us nearly to death; and that we'll swim ashore. Here goes,
then, to follow the trail."

He had already discovered where the party had left the sandy stretch,
plunging into the shrubbery, at a point beyond that where he and Smithy
had made use of.

The island, as has been stated before, was so very rocky that Thad, not
being an expert at following a trail under such difficulties, might have
had a hard time of it in places, but for unexpected, but none the less
welcome, assistance.

Here and there, when he came to a small patch of earth, he was surprised
to find plain marks of feet, and several deep furrows, as though some
one had sagged in his walk, and was being half dragged along by those
who had hold of either arm.

This must have been Smithy; and at first Thad was dreadfully worried,
under the belief that his comrade might have been struck on the head,
and injured. But when the same thing kept on repeating itself, and
invariably when there was earth to show the marks, he suddenly grasped
the splendid truth.

"Oh! isn't that boy a dandy, though?" he whispered to himself, in
delight; "as sure as anything now, he's just doing that on purpose,
meaning to leave as broad a trail as he can, so I could follow. Didn't I
say Smithy had it in him to make one of the best scouts in the whole
troop; and don't this prove it? Good for Smithy; he's all right!"

It made Thad feel quite pleased to know that the tenderfoot could be so
smart, with such little training. He continued to follow the tracks
with new ambition. So energetic a chum deserved to be looked after; and
Thad was better satisfied than ever because he had resolved to hunt for
Smithy, rather than lie around, trying to hide from the enemy in case
they were out looking for him.

By degrees he found that he was getting into a section of the island
which did not seem familiar to him in the least. Evidently, then, in
their various trips over the place, the boys had unconsciously avoided
this part; possibly because of its very roughness, and the difficulty of
pushing through the dense vegetation, and over the piled-up rocks.

"No wonder they chose this place to hide," thought Thad, as he climbed
across a barrier that taxed his powers; and wondered at the same time
however poor Smithy was ever able to make it, tied as he must be, or
gripped in the hands of his two captors.

He realized that he must now be getting nearer the den where the two
unknown men used as a hideout. The very solitude of the place affected
him. It was as if a heavy weight had been laid on his back, that
threatened to crush him.

Still, Thad was a very determined lad. Having made up his mind to
accomplish the rescue of his comrade, if it were at all possible, he
would not allow himself to be daunted by trifles such as these. Only
shutting his teeth more firmly together, he kept pushing resolutely on,
eyes and ears constantly on the alert.

Perhaps Giraffe was having just such a difficult job in making his way
across the country between the lake and Rockford; and if so, Thad hoped
he too was pushing resolutely forward, undismayed by no obstacles that
loomed up ahead.

Now and then Thad was at a loss which way to turn, for the rocks left
little or no trace for him to follow. At such times he had to exercise
his knowledge of slight clues to the utmost. Then besides, he could look
around him and judge pretty well how those he was following, foot by
foot, must have gone.

And finally Thad saw something just beyond that told him he had reached
the end of the faint trail. It was a gloomy looking hole among the rocks
that stared him in the face, with the trail leading straight toward it.

If ever there was a bear that had its den on that island, surely this
must have been the spot; for it far excelled anything else that the
scout had seen since he had started to prowl around.

As he crept closer he was astonished to see what a peculiar condition
existed with regard to that open mouth of the bear den. Just above hung
an immense stone that ordinarily several men could never have turned
over, or even moved; yet by some convulsion of nature far back, this
rock had been so delicately poised above the mouth of the cave that
Thad believed even a boy could send it crashing down, if he but hurled
his strength against it.

"And if it _did_ fall," he said to himself, with a sudden shiver of
delight, "I honestly believe it would fill in that hole, so that not
even a rattlesnake could crawl out. Oh! if those men are in there, as I
hope, and I could start that cap-stone rolling, wouldn't they be shut up
as snug as if they were in a bottle, with the cork shoved in?"

But fascinating as that possibility appeared to Thad, he must remember
that the men had Smithy with them as a hostage. They could dictate terms
of surrender so long as they held the tenderfoot scout a prisoner. And
unless he could manage in some clever way to effect the release of
Smithy, he had better go slow about trying to bottle them up in that
bear's den.

He crept still closer, and lying there on his breast, listened
anxiously, his ear close to the black opening. A regular sound came
stealing out that, for a short time, puzzled him; and then Thad decided
that it must be the snoring of a man who was asleep, and lying on his
back.

Dare he try and crawl into the cave, to ascertain how the land lay? Thad
was anything but a coward; but he could be excused for hesitating, and
taking stock of the chances before deciding this important matter. But
after a little he must have made up his mind; for he crept past the
guardian rocks, and slipped into the entrance of the bear's den!



CHAPTER XXIX.

SPRINGING THE TRAP.


When Thad Brewster was thus making his way into the hole in the rocks,
perhaps he may have remembered reading what old Israel Putnam, the
Revolutionary hero, did when a mere stripling, entering the den of a
savage wolf, and dragging the beast out after him.

Well, in a way Thad was doing just as brave an act. True, those whom he
had reason to fear, were human beings like himself; but they must be
cruel men, since he knew them to be desperate characters; and if they
discovered him invading their retreat, no doubt they would attack him
with the ferocity of wolves.

He found himself in a passage-way among the rocks. It had evidently been
well traveled by the feet or knees of the men who may have long
concealed themselves in the snug retreat; while officers were searching
the surrounding country in a vain quest for clues to their hiding-place.

Thad started when he suddenly heard a gruff voice; it sounded so very
close by, that his first thought was he had been discovered. But as he
caught the words that were spoken he realized his mistake.

"Mebbe ye'll be sorry now, ye bothered a couple of poor fellers atryin'
hard to make a few honest dollars a takin' game out of season, an'
sellin' the same to the rich folks what jest has to have it any ole
time. Jest sit up, an' tell me what yer friends are thinkin' of doin'
'bout it."

Then Thad was thrilled to hear the voice of his chum respond. Evidently,
if the men had kept some sort of muffler over Smithy's mouth during the
time they were bringing him to their underground retreat, it had now
been removed, as if they no longer feared that he would bring the others
down upon them.

"Why, you see, we just wanted to explore this queer island, and that's
all there is to it. Yes, we did rather guess that somebody must have
been taking fish or game when the law was shut down on it; but then, you
see, that was none of our business. We're just Boy Scouts off on a
camping trip; and nobody's employed us to bother with game poachers, or
send word to the wardens."

"Game wardens, hey? Ye seem to let that slip off yer tongue, younker,
like ye might be used to sayin' the same. What we want to know is, why
are ye so pesky anxious like to look this here island over? Lost
anything here?"

"Well, a boat we had seems to have disappeared in a funny way," Smithy
said; and Thad could not notice anything like a tremble in the
tenderfoot's voice, which fact pleased him greatly.

"Huh! thet boat belonged to us in the fust place, younker, an' ye hooked
it from us. Spect ye thought boats jest growed in the bushes like wild
plums, when ye run acrost that un. Wall, they don't, an' ye had no
bizness to take it. An' what's more, me and my pal think ye mean to let
the wardens know 'bout what we've been adoin' up this ways."

Smithy made no reply, and Thad knew why. The tenderfoot was well aware
of what his chum had been doing while wigwagging Allan. He also knew
that in all probability Giraffe must even then be on his way over to
Rockford, to get the Faversham Chief on the 'phone, and give him a
message that would bring the whole police force hustling over to Omega
Lake, bent on making a big haul.

"Don't try to deny it, do ye, younker?" the man continued to growl; and
from the fitful light that rose and fell Thad found reason to believe
that there must be some sort of fire around the bend in the passage.
"Well, let me tell ye what we mean to do about it. We'll jest keep ye
fast here till night sets in, while yer friends hunt around, and git
more an' more skeered, believin' ye must a fell inter the lake. Then
we'll cut stick out of this place, and leave ye behind. P'raps so ye cud
yell loud enough to draw 'em in here. Better be asavin' of yer breath,
boy; 'cause ye'll have to do some tall shoutin' if ye wants to get out
alive, arter Bill'n me vacate. Now roll over, and go to sleep. I'm
hungry, and mean to cook a bite or two."

After waiting for a few minutes, and hearing nothing more, Thad ventured
to peep around the rocky bend. He saw that he had sized up the situation
perfectly. One man bent over a small fire, and seemed to be busily
engaged in cooking himself some food, which already began to scent the
cave. From the quarter where the rumbling sounds came, the boy could see
an indistinct form huddled on a blanket.

The man at the fire seemed to have a bandage around his left leg, and
hobbled as he walked; from which Thad supposed he must have met with an
accident of some kind. This might in a measure account for their having
taken refuge on the island, rather than make their safety sure by
flight.

He looked further, and was soon able to make out another figure lying on
the rocky floor of the place. This he had no doubt must be his chum,
Smithy. Yes, once, as the limping man threw a handful of fresh fuel on
the fire, causing the flames to leap up, and for the moment illuminate
the place, Thad's eager eyes discovered the well-known khaki color of
the Boy Scout uniform worn so jauntily by the particular new recruit.

Oh! if only he could creep across the space that lay between, and set
the bound boy free, how gladly would he attempt it. And the more he
contemplated the thing, the better satisfied did Thad become that he
could accomplish it.

Why, there did not seem to be any great obstacle to prevent him. Surely
the man who snored so deeply would not be able to interfere; and the
second fellow at the fire was so deeply concerned with getting himself
some lunch that apparently he had thought for nothing else.

So Thad decided to make the attempt. Even if it turned out to be a
failure he believed he could elude any pursuer in the gloom of the cave
entrance, and manage to reach the open in safety.

And the possible result was so pleasant to contemplate that he just
could not resist trying for it.

Accordingly, Thad started to creep around the bend. He kept as flat on
his stomach as possible, and always made it a point to watch the man at
the fire. If the hungry one seemed to be looking that way, Thad
flattened himself out as near like a pancake as he could, and did not so
much as move a finger until such time as he felt convinced that the
enemy had his full attention again taken up with his work.

In this cautious way, then, did the scout draw closer and closer to the
figure of the captive. He hoped Smithy would be sensible, and not betray
him by an incautious exclamation, when he learned of his presence.

Now he was within a foot of the other, and could hear him breathing
softly as he lay there. Thad had figured it out that if he kept quiet,
and merely tried to feel for the other's bound hands, Smithy might let
out a whoop as he felt something touch his wrists, under the belief that
it might be a crawling snake. So, to avoid this chance of betrayal, Thad
had determined to get his lips as close to the ear of the prisoner as he
could, and then gently whisper his name.

Watching for his chance, Thad found it when the man at the fire was
humming a snatch of a song to himself, as though care set lightly on his
shoulders.

"Smithy--'sh!"

Thad saw a movement of the bound form. Smithy even lifted his head, and
turned his eyes toward the spot from whence that thrilling, if soft,
whisper had come. But fortunately he did not attempt to make the least
sign, or try to whisper back.

Now that his chum had been warned of his presence Thad believed he could
proceed to the next step in his carefully-arranged programme. This was
to reach over, find just how Smithy was tied, and with the use of his
pocket-knife, which he held open in his hand, effect his release.

The most risky part of the entire affair must lie in their retreat. Here
Smithy, being a veritable greenhorn, was very apt to make some blunder
that would draw the attention of the hungry man, and result in
discovery.

But there was no need of wasting time when the choice lay only in one
selection.

Thad fumbled around until he could locate the bonds that had been tied
around the wrists of Smithy. These he quickly severed, at the same time
trusting to luck that he did not cut the boy with the sharp blade of his
knife.

Next in order he crawled a little further, and managed to saw apart
another piece of old rope that had been wound around the ankles of
Smithy.

The latter knew what was expected of him. Perhaps it was mere instinct
that told the tenderfoot, since he had never gone through any such
experience as this before. But at any rate, no matter what influenced
him, Smithy had already commenced to move backward. Thad was greatly
"tickled" as he himself expressed it later, when he saw how Smithy
maneuvered, keeping his head toward the enemy while moving off, as if he
just knew he ought to watch the man, and lie low in case he looked.

Thad had waited only long enough to fix the blanket upon which Smithy
had been lying, so that it would look like a human form reclining there.
This he did by causing the middle to remain poked up a foot or so in the
air, by deftly crunching the folds in his hand.

At a casual glance in that uncertain light, any one over there, with his
eyes dazzled by looking into the flickering firelight, might be deceived
into believing that the prisoner still lay where he had been left.

Foot by foot the two scouts backed away. Why, Smithy was doing as well
as any experienced fellow could have shown himself capable of
performing. Smithy had certainly all the qualities in him to make a
first-class scout; and Thad meant to encourage the ambition of the other
to the utmost, given the opportunity.

Now they were turning the bend, and everything seemed to still be going
smoothly. It began to look as though Thad had accomplished a task that
at one time he feared would be beyond his capacity; and that freedom lay
ahead for the late prisoner of the old bear's den.

Just as they reached the outlet there sounded a loud shout coming from
the interior. It could have but one meaning, and this, discovery. The
hungry man had possibly walked over to say something else to Smithy, and
found that the prisoner had taken "French leave."

"This way, and give me a hand, quick!" exclaimed Thad, as he leaped out
of the mouth of the den, and toward the pivotical rock that hung so
temptingly above.

Smithy seemed to have noticed the same stone, for he threw himself
against it at the very instant Thad did. Their combined weight, added to
the force with which they struck the trembling rock, proved to be
sufficient to start it moving. It appeared to hesitate just a second,
and then went crashing over, making the very ground tremble with the
tremendous shock.

And so the mouth of the old bear's den was sealed, imprisoning within,
the two fugitives from the law.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE MYSTERY SOLVED--CONCLUSION.


"There!" exclaimed Thad, as he panted for breath after his supreme
effort which resulted in the toppling of the boulder over the mouth of
the rocky retreat of the two desperate characters; "if only there is no
other way out, I reckon we've got those birds safely caged till the
officers come."

"Well," remarked Smithy, who actually had some color in his usually pale
cheeks, and whose blue eyes were sparkling with excitement; "from
certain things they let fall when they were conversing, Thad, I am of
the opinion that this is the only exit, as well as entrance to the
place."

Smithy had been fed on big words, and very exact language so long, that
as yet his association with other boys less particular had failed to rub
away any of the veneer. In time, no doubt, he would fall into the
customary method among boys of cutting their words short, and saving
breath in so doing.

"Yes," remarked Thad, smiling broadly, "and from the way you can hear
those two fellows on the other side of the stone carrying on, I guess
you must be right; for they seem to be some angry I take it."

"You don't think they could upset this rock, do you?" asked Smithy, a
little anxiously.

"Not in a thousand years, without crowbars to help them. There they stay
till we get ready to invite 'em out. When the officers come, they'll
find a way to do the trick, never fear, Smithy. But how do you feel
about taking a trip across to the camp right now?"

Smithy started, and turned an anxious face out to the water, where the
waves were still running fairly high, though the wind had died down.

"I'm willing to do anything you say, Thad," he replied, with a sigh.

"Even if you never swam fifty feet in your whole life," remarked the
scout-master, admiringly, for the pluck of the tenderfoot appealed to
him strongly; "but make your mind easy, Smithy, for I don't want you to
swim, this time."

"But Thad, how else can I go?" pursued the other. "We have no boat; I
never did learn to walk on the water, you see; and so far, my wings
haven't sprouted worth mentioning; so how can I get over to our camp?"

"Why, I didn't think to mention it to you, and I really haven't had the
chance, to tell the truth; but I happened to discover where those men
hid _our_ boat in the bushes as I came along on the trail you left. And
Smithy, while I think of it I just want to say that was a clever dodge
of yours, making all the mess you could with your shoe every time you
came to a patch of dirt. It helped me a heap, and saved me a lot of
time."

Smithy fairly glowed with pride. A compliment from the scout-master was
worth more to this boy than anything he could imagine.

"I don't know what made me think of that, Thad; it just seemed to pop
into my mind, you see. And I'm delighted to hear you say it helped some.
As to my going over to the camp in the boat, I'm ready, as soon as we
can launch the canoe. While I have had only a little experience in a
boat, I've managed to pick up a few wrinkles, and ought to be able to
get ashore safely. What do you want me to do, Thad?"

"Explain the situation to the others, and then have Allan and Bob White
paddle over; yes, Step-hen might as well come with them to take back the
boat again, for the officers will need it when they arrive."

The canoe was easily carried down to the water and then Smithy with a
few directions from his chief, started across. He managed very well,
though once Thad had a little scare, thinking there was going to be an
upset.

In due time Smithy was seen to land, with the other boys crowding
around, doubtless plying him with eager questions. Shortly after the
boat started off again, this time holding Allan, who plied the paddle
with wonderful skill, Bob White, who might have done just as well if
given the chance, and Step-hen.

When they reached shore Thad breathed easier. If the two men should
break out now there would be four stout fellows to oppose them; but all
the same no one was anxious to have such a thing happen.

The boys had brought something to eat along, and they all sat down to
have a bite. Everything was quiet inside the old bear's den. Bob White
said he hoped the rascals had not been smothered; and Thad declared they
could get plenty of air through the crevices between the rocks. On his
part he was secretly hoping that the fellows might not be able to cut
their way out before help came.

The time dragged slowly. Again and again did some impatient fellow ask
Thad to look at his watch, and tell him how much longer they must wait
before the officers might be expected.

As the westering sun sank lower and lower, Thad himself began to grow
anxious; and could be noticed listening intently every time the faint
breeze picked up; for it was now coming exactly from the quarter whence
the assistance they expected would come.

"There, that was sure an auto horn, tooting!" he exclaimed about
half-past four in the afternoon.

Every one of them listened, and presently sure enough they agreed that
it could be nothing else, though the loon out on the lake started his
weird cry about that time, as though he considered it a challenge from
some rival bird.

"Get aboard, and pull for the shore, Step-hen," ordered the
scout-master; and as he had been expecting this, the long-legged scout
pushed off.

They watched him paddling, and when he had almost reached the spot where
Smithy and Bumpus, together with Davy Jones stood, a car came in sight,
loaded with some four or five men in blue uniforms; Giraffe, and
another, wearing ordinary clothes.

Step-hen brought two of the officers, and the extra man over, and then
went back for another pair, while Thad talked with the Chief of the
Faversham police, and the man whom he recognized as the guest they had
given a cup of coffee to at the time the owner of the bear claimed his
property.

The story was soon told, and it thrilled the scouts as they had seldom
been stirred before. It seemed that the two men were notorious
counterfeiters, known to the authorities as Bill Dalgren and Seth Evans.
They had been surrounded by officers a month before, at a place where
they were engaged in the manufacture of bogus half dollars; but had
cleverly managed to escape with some of their dies and other material.
One of them had been injured in the fracas accompanying this failure to
catch them at work.

Since then their whereabouts had become a matter of considerable moment
to the authorities at Washington, and one of the cleverest revenue
officers was put on the case. He had disguised himself, and hiring the
owner of the dancing bear, had gone around the country trying to get
trace of the men, one of whom he knew wore a shoe with an oddly patched
sole.

This gentleman, Mr. Alfred Shuster, assured the scouts that they were
entitled to the heavy reward offered by the Government to any one giving
information leading to the capture of the two bold rascals; and he
declared that he would see to it that this amount was paid into the
treasury of the Cranford Troop of Boy Scouts, as they had certainly
earned it.

When the big rock was finally rolled away, with the aid of heavy wooden
bars, the trapped men came meekly forth when ordered. All the fight
seemed to have been taken out of them. Indeed, the one with the lame leg
declared he was glad that he might now have the assistance of a doctor,
for he had of late begun to fear that blood poisoning was setting in. In
the place plenty of evidence to convict the two men was found.

So by degrees everybody was ferried over to the camp, Bob White taking
turns with Allan in wielding the paddle. Afterward the big auto whirled
away, taking the wretched prisoners, as well as their exultant captors
along. Then the camp of the Silver Fox Patrol settled down once more to
its usual peace.

Until late that night, however, the boys, unable to sleep after all this
excitement, sat around the blazing camp-fire, talking. From every angle
the story was told until each fellow knew it by heart. And all united in
praising Smithy for the part he had had taken in the capture of the men
for whom the officers of the law were searching.

For two more days the scouts remained in camp, and during that time many
were the things Allan and Thad showed them. No one ever missed the real
scout-master for a single minute. And when the hour arrived for the
tents to come down, since a wagon had arrived to bear them back home,
the eight members of the patrol united in declaring that they had had
the time of their lives; and did not care how soon the experience might
be repeated.

On the way back Thad ordered a halt at the identical spot where that
little spring bubbled up, and ran away with such a cheery sound. While
the fellows were drinking and sitting around, Thad called the attention
of them all to some peculiar sort of fruit the small tree close by
seemed to be bearing, in one of the lower crotches, where three limbs
started out, forming a sort of cup.

"Why, I declare, if it isn't my compass!" cried Step-hen, turning very
red in the face, as he eagerly reached up, and secured the little
aluminum article.

"Yes," said Thad, severely, "I saw you put it there, carelessly, when we
were all here, and said nothing at the time; for I wanted to teach you a
lesson. And now, all the time we were in camp, you've been accusing
Bumpus here of losing, or hiding your compass. I think you owe him
something, if you're a true scout, Step-hen."

"You're right I do," said the other, jumping up, and hurrying over to
where the fat boy sat, his eyes dancing with delight over being cleared
so handsomely; "and right here I want to say that I humbly apologize to
Bumpus, who is the best fellow in the whole lot. I hope he'll forgive
me, because I really thought he was playing a joke on me. You will,
won't you, Bumpus? I was just a silly fool, that's what."

"Mebbe you were, Step-hen," said Bumpus, calmly, as he gingerly accepted
the other's hand; "and I hope that this will be a lesson to you, as our
patrol leader says. When a scout gives his word, he expects it to be
believed, Step-hen. But it's all right; and I hope you find right good
use for that fine little compass when we get off on that trip into the
Blue Ridge mountains."

And at that every scout snatching off his campaign hat, gave three
cheers, as though right then, with the coals of their first camp-fire
hardly cold, they were looking forward with eagerness to another outing
that would bring new adventures in its train.


THE END.



THE JACK LORIMER SERIES

5 Volumes By WINN STANDISH

          Handsomely Bound in Cloth
          Full Library Size--Price
          40 cents per Volume, postpaid

       *       *       *       *       *

CAPTAIN JACK LORIMER; or, The Young Athlete of Millvale High.

          Jack Lorimer is a fine example of the all-around
          American high-school boy. His fondness for clean,
          honest sport of all kinds will strike a chord of
          sympathy among athletic youths.


JACK LORIMER'S CHAMPIONS; or, Sports on Land and Lake.

          There is a lively story woven in with the athletic
          achievements, which are all right, since the book
          has been O.K.'d by Chadwick, the Nestor of
          American sporting journalism.


JACK LORIMER'S HOLIDAYS; or, Millvale High in Camp.

          It would be well not to put this book into a boy's
          hands until the chores are finished, otherwise
          they might be neglected.


JACK LORIMER'S SUBSTITUTE; or, The Acting Captain of the Team.

          On the sporting side, the book takes up football,
          wrestling, tobogganing. There is a good deal of
          fun in this book and plenty of action.


JACK LORIMER, FRESHMAN; or, From Millvale High to Exmouth.

          Jack and some friends he makes crowd innumerable
          happenings into an exciting freshman year at one
          of the leading Eastern colleges. The book is
          typical of the American college boy's life, and
          there is a lively story, interwoven with feats on
          the gridiron, hockey, basketball and other clean,
          honest sports for which Jack Lorimer stands.

       *       *       *       *       *

  For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
  publishers
  A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York.



THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS SERIES


By HILDEGARD G. FREY. The only series of stories for Camp Fire Girls
endorsed by the officials of the Camp Fire Girls Organization. PRICE, 40
CENTS PER VOLUME

       *       *       *       *       *

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN THE MAINE WOODS; or, The Winnebagos go Camping.

          This lively Camp Fire group and their Guardian go
          back to Nature in a camp in the wilds of Maine and
          pile up more adventures in one summer than they
          have had in all their previous vacations put
          together. Before the summer is over they have
          transformed Gladys, the frivolous boarding school
          girl, into a genuine Winnebago.


THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT SCHOOL: or, The Wohelo Weavers.

          It is the custom of the Winnebagos to weave the
          events of their lives into symbolic bead bands,
          instead of keeping a diary. All commendatory
          doings are worked out in bright colors, but every
          time the Law of of the Camp Fire to broken it must
          be recorded in black. How these seven live wire
          girls strive to infuse into their school life the
          spirit of Work, Health and Love and yet manage to
          get into more than their share of mischief, is
          told in this story.


THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT ONOWAY HOUSE; or, In The Magic Garden.

          Migwan is determined to go to college, and not
          being strong enough to work indoors earns the
          money by raising fruits and vegetables. The
          Winnebagos all turn a hand to help the cause along
          and the "goings-on" at Onoway House that summer
          make the foundations shake with laughter.


THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS GO MOTORING; or, Along the Road That Leads the Way.

          The Winnebagos take a thousand mile auto trip. The
          "pinching" of Nyoda, the fire in the country Inn,
          the runaway girl and the dead-earnest hare and
          hound chase combine to make these three weeks the
          most exciting the Winnebagos have ever
          experienced.

       *       *       *       *       *

  For sale by all booksellers or sent postpaid on receipt of price by
  publishers
  A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 6, "Granford" changed to "Cranford". (bugler for Cranford)

Page 9, "geniue" changed to "genuine". (a genuine scout-master)

Page 9, "Calikns" changed to "Calkins". (medicine with Dr. Calkins)

Page 13, "Sop" changed to "Stop". (Stop again, and)

Page 17, "examing" changed to "examining". (Allan were examining)

Page 34, "Omerga" changed to "Omega". (word Omega means)

Page 44, "week" changed to "weak". (of a weak mamma)

Page 45, "conneced" changed to "connected". (connected with a)

Page 51, "befel" changed to "befell". (that befell the)

Page 63, "Bumus" changed three times to "Bumpus". ("Bumpus! Bumpus, good
boy! here supper for Bumpus!")

Page 96, "Allen" changed to "Allan". (remarked Allan, as they)

Page 122, "emormous" changed to "enormous". (with that enormous)

Page 125, "sterness" changed to "sternness". (sternness in his)

Page 125, "draging" changed to "dragging". (along and dragging)

Page 144, "owuld" changed to "would". (would some day)

Page 149, "Allen" changed to "Allan". (Master?" asked Allan)

Page 158, "freigner's" changed to "foreigner's". (foreigner's native
country)

Page 173, "semed" changed to "seemed". (seemed tickled at)

Page 175, "arrnging" changed to "arranging". (arranging for the)

Page 186, "remarkd" changed to "remarked". (way," remarked the)

Page 199, "Haversham" changed to "Faversham". (get Faversham the)

Page 214, "the" changed to "he". (for he found)

Page 214, "Smihty" changed to "Smithy". (let Smithy know)

Page 230, "yeielded" changed to "yielded". (have soon yielded)

Page 231, "conforting" changed to "comforting". (that comforting cudgel)

One instance of both game-keepers and gamekeepers was retained, as was
makeup/make-up. The title and copyright pages both use Camp Fire, while
the remainder of the book uses camp-fire. This was retained.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Boy Scouts' First Camp Fire - or, Scouting with the Silver Fox Patrol" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home